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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (2/20/12) 7:58pm - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  Bridesmaids
TV:  Doctor Who [2007 specials, 5x06-5x10]
Books:  <none>

This is the latest film from the Apatow Comedy Empire, written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, directed by Paul Feig, and remarked upon by a zillion blinkered entertainment pundits who all posted the same unfortunate "OMG WOMEN CAN BE FUNNY" headline.[1]

Like most movies from the Apatow factory, this one is heavily improvised/devised[2], and it has the pluses and minuses associated with that.  Individual scenes are really funny, and funny in a way that feels off the cuff, stays true to character, and still has bizarre, surreal moments ("there's a Colonial woman on the wing!") that you rarely get with something that's been written to death, but often get with improvised work.  That said, you get the big drawback of improv-heavy movies, which is that it starts to turn into a shaggy-dog story, an episodic thing where funny things happen scene-to-scene, but it doesn't necessarily feel like it's adding up to more than the sum of its parts.

And it ran into the same act-three problem you see in a lot of comedies in general, and a lot of Apatovian comedies in particular, where the movie has to jarringly shift gears into "plot mode" so that it can reach an ending that feels like a proper Hollywood ending.  You feel like they've moved from meandering through a loosely-themed sketch show to frantically checking items off of a checklist.  "Okay, have we given Annie a chance to save the wedding?  Crap!  No!  Okay, let's... I dunno, generate some sort of crisis for her -- and what about the love story!  We have to resolve that!  Okay, okay, get Officer Rhodes back onscreen, and... I dunno, have her win him back."

It also had the usual comedy problem where the romance plot is really the least interesting thing going on.  (This goes all the way back to the ingénue couples in Marx-Brothers movies.)  One watches the love scenes feeling like this team of brilliant comedians is doing their best in unfamiliar territory, but yes, please get back to the good parts now.

And the good parts are quite good.  Melissa McCarthy[3] is every bit as good as everyone is saying; if they want to make a spin-off movie about Megan, I'll buy myself a ticket.  And everybody blathered about the gross-out scenes -- "OMG THE WOMEN'S ARE BEIN CRUDE" -- but the main thing to notice is that even the gross-out scenes are still perfectly-constructed sketches.  And as a whole, the movie holds together better than the other Apatow-produced comedies I've seen.

Doctor Who [2007 specials, 5x06-5x10]
This week, I caught up on "The Waters of Mars" and "The End of Time", the two specials that finish off the Tenth Doctor's tenure on the show.

And what a disappointing end for that season it was.  "The Waters of Mars" was such a by-the-numbers "guys trapped on a base" plot that I knew all the story beats *before* I started watching it.[4]  It did end with a riveting scene where the Doctor 'goes rogue' and decides to correct a fixed point in time... but even that exciting five-minute bit got undone *immediately*, with the Doctor crying, "I've gone too far!" and sort of hitting the reset button on the character.

All in all, it felt like a bit of a waste of time.  One point in its favor:  only one tiny appearance from a Dalek.  (Both Daleks and Cybermen are starting to feel overused on this show.)  Another point in its favor:  Tennant's farewells at the end of "The End of Time".  It's a nice victory lap, reminding us of better episodes ("School Reunion", "Human Nature", and so on) to give this last, lackluster special a big finish.

With that disappointing finish behind me, I went back to the main run of the show, starting with the riveting "'Blink' meets Aliens" episode "The Time of Angels".  That was a great thriller, pure and simple -- the sort of thing you have to watch through the gaps between your fingers half the time.  True, it didn't do much more than that -- not much emotional development here, and only one major contribution to the season arc -- but it didn't have to.  Agonizing tension (plus an extra-creepy "Ringu angel") will do just fine, thanks.

Then it was back to business-as-usual, with pretty standard monsters-of-the-week.  To my surprise, I actually liked the love triangle (Amy/Rory/Doctor).  I suppose I've never seen a love triangle in which one of the vertices wants nothing to do with it.  And I liked that nobody involved seemed like a complete idiot.  Amy wasn't a mooning, Bella-esque "OH NOES I LOVES BOTH THESE BOYZ O MY FEELS" type.  Instead, she's a grown-up on the verge of marrying who realizes she's got feelings for somebody else.  And Rory, for all his bumbling, doesn't seem blind to what's going on, and he doesn't react with the adolescent macho posturing that's de rigeur for most of these stories.

That said, the individual stories didn't grab my attention much -- typical monster-of-the-week stuff, though the very very brief nods to the season arc (what the hell *is* that crack, anyway?) have been intriguing.  And Matt Smith, while he doesn't seem to give everything as much emotional weight as Tennant did (or maybe I just still have the end of "The End of Time" rattling around in my head), is still a welcome difference from the previous Doctor.

Ah well.  Just a few more episodes 'til the end of the stuff on Netflix Streaming.  We'll see how they pull together the finale.

For next time:  not sure.  More Doctor Who, I suppose.  And I'll keep listening to my audiobook of Rainbows End.  Dunno if I'll have any time for much else.

[1] To be fair, it's possible that these writers have neither met not talked to any women ever.
[2] "Devised" is the technical term for when you improvise a bunch of stuff, write down the stuff that works, and then pretend that that's what was in the script all along.
[3] Oh, right, she played Sookie on Gilmore Girls -- totally didn't recognize her.
[4] Among other things, they themselves had just done a story exactly like this with "42".

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