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Wednesdays For Beginners

One of the greatest recurring characters during the Russell T Davies era was without a doubt Jackie Tyler, so combining Jackie with the all time greatest recurring character Captain Jack Harkness is a work of pure genius. I hope whoever came up with this idea, be it writer James Goss or the set's director Scott Handcock was given a decent pay rise for coming up with such ingenuity. When this pairing was announced, I was beyond excited and eagerly looking forward to what sounded like a truly memorable piece.

Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) has a stalker. Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) has been following her since he moved in at the Powell Estate, as a means of keeping an eye on Rose's mother whilst she's travelling through time and space with the Doctor. One day Jackie finds the Powell Estate totally deserted, with her only company being the stranger who has been stalking her for the last few months. Jack and Jackie team up to find out where has the entire neighbourhood disappeared to, and who is behind the disappearance.

In case you haven't already got the message, the biggest draw about this story is the pairing of Jack and Jackie - and it doesn't disappoint. They are absolutely hilarious together, evoking shades of the Tenth Doctor and Donna as they bicker and form a strong friendship. Jackie isn't shown as completely useless as she was occasionally on television either (I'm thinking of that infamous scene in Journey's End here when the Doctor wouldn't let Jackie help pilot the TARDIS). This Jackie is every much as clever as Donna Noble could be, showing occasional flashes of brilliance. It's Jackie who figures out how to bring the neighborhood back, and the solution strangely involves sausage rolls.

I never thought I'd hear John Barrowman and Camille Coduri form a duet, but that's one of the many pleasures this story offers. It also neatly sums up how much fun Wednesdays For Beginners is, adopting almost panto-like silliness with jokes about a neighbour's extremely boring CD collection and the completely barking mad idea (which works) of saving Jack from the story's monsters the harvesters by
WARNING: spoilers below
pouring a boiling pot of kettle over them.
I could easily listen to a whole box set of Jack and Jackie together - in fact, I could listen to a whole box set of Jackie Tyler on her own. She is extremely engaging to listen to, and lights up any scene.

The twist that
WARNING: spoilers below
Jackie Tyler is who the story's monsters the Harvesters are searching for and not Captain Jack
is predictable, but in this case I don't really care. The story is more about Jackie's world whilst Rose is travelling with the Doctor, and at times you really feel for this mother left on her own whilst her daughter's on some distant planet. James Goss's decision to isolate her even more by taking her entire neighbourhood away only highlights this even more. It's a good decision that helps us empathise with Jackie by bringing that loneliness to the forefront of the adventure.

You've probably noticed I haven't said much about Jack. Well that's because like the best Doctor Who stories, this Captain Jack story is more about Jack's 'companion' than Jack himself. Jackie Tyler is the main focus here, but Jack is still very much the main character: the hero who helps Jackie in her quest to bring her neighbours back. This story really plays to John Barrowman's talents with the humour and singing in the narrative, and with Jackie as the story's focus he still plays a vital part in the narrative. Without Jack,
WARNING: spoilers below
Jackie would have called the Doctor and Rose, and the Harvesters would have feasted on the time travellers.
John Barrowman's presence is always felt when he's stalking Jackie too; you get a sense that Jack is there, even when he doesn't talk.

Overall, Wednesdays For Beginners is just as much fun as you would imagine a story where Jack and Jackie team up would be. It is at times a wonderfully silly story, and at others a character piece that leaves you feeling sorry for the isolated life Jackie leads whilst her daughter travels across time and space. One day I hope Big Finish release a Lives of Jackie Tyler box set; judging by this release, it would be the audio set of a lifetime.

I might review the BBC series Trust Me at some point, because I feel like ranting about how that had the WORST ending to a television series ever.

I mean seriously, what the hell? Since when was committing fraud a good thing?

I might review the BBC series Trust Me at some point, because I feel like ranting about how that had the WORST ending to a television series ever.

I mean seriously, what the hell? Since when was committing fraud a good thing?
I saw a bit of that and I liked Jodie Whittaker; her acting was good. Funnily enough it was the "I'm a doctor" moment with the father. It will be interesting to see her as the Doctor, especially post-regeneration and in trailers. I don't feel like I'm going to get a light bulb over my head and think "that's the Doctor" but I won't rule it out. Being at the lowest possible ebb as a fan isn't a great place to be when they're ushering in a changeover .

I saw a bit of that and I liked Jodie Whittaker; her acting was good. Funnily enough it was the "I'm a doctor" moment with the father. It will be interesting to see her as the Doctor, especially post-regeneration and in trailers. I don't feel like I'm going to get a light bulb over my head and think "that's the Doctor" but I won't rule it out. Being at the lowest possible ebb as a fan isn't a great place to be when they're ushering in a changeover .
Jodie Whittaker was the one thing that was brilliant throughout all four episodes of Trust Me. She was the only part I enjoyed about episode four. The other three episodes were fantastic, but the fourth is one of the worst pieces of TV I've seen so far.

I really think Jodie Whittaker's going to make an excellent Doctor.

Trust Me

Oh, Trust Me. You started off so well, then you had to go and ruin it with that ending. First airing August 2017, this four part series by screenwriter Dan Sefton showed so much promise, yet failed to deliver on every level in the final episode. 'Woman steals her best friend's identity' is a strong premise for any TV thriller, but there are certain tropes that need to be fulfilled for it to prove a satisfying watch - one of those is seeing the web of deceit slowly unravel as more and more characters begin to find out who our lead really is - but we never get this with Trust Me. Instead the series in hindsight feels more 'meh' than 'yeh'.

After her concerns about patient neglect to the hospital board fall on deaf ears, Cath (Jodie Whittaker) loses her job in Sheffield as a nurse. Her best friend Alison Sutton (Andrea Lowe) holds a leaving party, having decided to move to New Zealand and upon finding her CV and references in the bin, Cath sees this as the perfect opportunity to embark on a new life in Scotland with her daughter Molly (Summer Mason) as 'Doctor Alison Sutton'. A romantic relationship with fellow doctor Andy Brenner (Emun Elliott)
WARNING: spoilers below
results in him discovering her true identity
, and when Molly's father Karl (Blake Harrison) follows his ex up to Scotland in order to be closer to his daughter,
WARNING: spoilers below
he begins to realise what Cath is up to
. Can Cath keep up her pretence, or will either Andy or Karl expose her lies?

The first three episodes of Trust Me were expertly directed by John Alexander and Amy Neil. You really felt the tension as characters had conversations in the hospital and turned to glance in Cath's direction. At times it seemed like her secret could be exposed any minute even though you knew whilst watching the series that there was a fourth episode to come. When Andy
WARNING: spoilers below
discovers her identity
its so tightly directed that there's a certain air of unease that isn't present in the fourth episode.

Unlike episode four these first three episodes proved extremely well-plotted and written by Dan Sefton. When Andy drives Cath to a remote location in episode three you have no idea what he's going to do. What is this guy we barely know capable of? Is he going to kill her
WARNING: spoilers below
(it's later made ambiguous in episode four as to whether he is capable of murder when it is left deliberately unclear as to whether Karl's death in hospital was caused by him or the car running him over as he saved his daughter)
? Leave her stranded? Well, it turns out he's just brought her to a holiday cottage he owns. But that tension that you need for a thriller is there. Until episode four.

Episode four unravels the build-up of the entire series, with only one more person discovering the truth -
WARNING: spoilers below
Cath's ex and Molly's father Karl. A man who is subsequently killed rescuing his daughter from traffic, leaving Andy the only other person who knows Cath's secret once more.
There are no consequences for Cath's fraud, instead the series bizarrely awards her for what she's done. Apparently now it's a good thing to commit fraud and if you attempt to steal somebody else's identity: don't worry, you'll be rewarded for your outstanding behaviour.

The excuse the series seems to give is 'Well, she's a good doctor despite not having the qualifications'. I'm sure that would wash in Judge Rinder's court. Or with the real Alison Sutton. Could you imagine if Alison discovered what her so-called 'best friend' had been doing and took her to Robert Rinder's court? That would be the show's quickest ruling, and it wouldn't be in favour of Cath.

Episode four is a mess. Cath even takes on another lie, covering for her friend Brigette (Sharon Small) even though she had been drinking during work and her clouded judgement had nearly resulted in the death of a patient they were both working on. This makes her getting away with her fraud even more unbelievable, and seem more like fantasy than any form of realism. Nobody would get away with this much in real life, especially when
WARNING: spoilers below
in episode two Andy discovers Cath's real identity by googling 'Alison Sutton'.
How come nobody else had decided to search her name by episode four? I could have accepted her other colleagues not searching for her online until episode four, but it seems ludicrous that nobody has tried to find her Facebook profile yet or contact her on Twitter.

WARNING: spoilers below
And why is Andy totally fine with it? I know he's her boyfriend but he only ever knows Cath as Alison until episode three (well technically the end of episode two given that's when he first discovers the truth, but Cath doesn't reveal herself to him as Cath into he calls her real name in episode three), and in episode four she goes against their decision to let Brigette take the blame. Surely that would make him trust her less?


And in the same episode he later sees Cath in his house with another man (who we know as her ex Karl but Andy hasn't met yet). Does that make him trust her less?

Nope. He still goes along with the lie. He even winks at her when she receives her job promotion at the series' conclusion.

Andy's character motives make no sense; his decisions are less about character and more about servicing the plot. He may as well be called 'Doctor Plot Advancement'.

The best thing about Trust Me is the performance by Jodie Whittaker. She is fantastic in all four episodes, effortlessly playing Cath as both Cath and Alison Sutton. You can tell from her role here that she is going to be the best Doctor since David Tennant; she is every bit as engaging to watch, and immediately attracts your attention in the way Tennant consistently does in any television show or film he appears in. I have a feeling many unsure of a female Doctor will soon be changing their minds about the concept once Series 11 airs.

Overall, if episode four had been as great as the first three episodes I would have given this series five stars out of five. Unfortunately episode four is arguably one of the worst endings to a BBC drama series ever, as it unravels much of the tension and build-up from the previous three episodes in order to deliver the questionable message that committing fraud is 'great'. Jodie Whittaker's performance on the other hand is consistently amazing throughout the series and highlights just why she is such a great choice to play the Doctor in Doctor Who. Trust Me had so much potential as a thrilling BBC drama but in the end it was all wasted on a lie which really needed to be exposed.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)

Nobody was asking for a Jumanji sequel. The first Jumanji, released in 1995, was a relatively unremarkable affair despite featuring an excellent performance by Robin Williams as Alan Parrish. I never particularly wanted to see a sequel to it, and if it wasn't for Karen Gillan's casting I doubt I would have seen this film at the cinema. So as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised when I found Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle to be more than just Amy Pond 'dance-fighting' video game henchmen in a revealing Tomb Raider-style outfit.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle begins exactly where the previous movie left off. In 1996, teenage gamer Alex (Mason Guccione) discovers the Jumanji board game washed up on the beach and upon arriving home chucks it to one side claiming 'nobody plays board games anymore'. Upon seeing Alex playing a video game, Jumanji transforms into a game cartridge. Twenty years later, teenage school kids Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Spencer (Alex Wolff), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) all find themselves in detention tasked with clearing out an old room in the school, where they find an old video game console and the Jumanji cartridge. The gang decide to play the game, and they are sucked into their avatar counterparts in the Jumanji world. Nerdy Spencer becomes the tough Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the tall and butch Fridge becomes Smoulder's tiny and useless sidekick Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), awkward book worm Martha (Morgan Turner) is the sexy badass Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and the self-absorbed Bethany finds herself in the esteemed academic Professor Shelby Oberon (Jack Black)'s body. The group are tasked with returning a magical green gem to its place in the eye of a stone jaguar, but the journey won't be easy: videogame villain Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) also wants the gem, and with his ability to control the animals of the Jumanji jungle kingdom he will use any means necessary to take it from the group.

The film starts off weak with scenes set at the teenagers' school, which largely feel cliche and derivative of other movies featuring teenage characters in an educational environment. You have an intelligent kid completing a fellow student's homework, the pretty one who is obsessed with her own self-image and the shy student who refuses to join in with the P.E. lesson. We've all seen this stereotypes countless times before; there's nothing new here. Thankfully these early scenes are not representative of the rest of the movie, which is much more inventive with its videogame format, but the school scenes do perhaps go on a little too long and the fact that these four characters all end up in detention at the same time comes across as more than a little coincidental.

It's when they find the Jumanji game cartridge and console, and the teenage characters are sucked into the game world where the film really takes off. The four adult cast members - Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan - are hilarious together and have much more chemistry than their teenage counterparts. Jack Black in particular brings many laughs as a self-obsessed young woman stuck in the body of an 'overweight middle-aged man', trying to get used to certain male body parts and teaching Karen Gillan's Ruby Roundhouse/Martha how to flirt. Speaking of which, Karen Gillan more than holds her own alongside these well-accomplished comedy actors; this film neatly showcases her knack for comedy demonstrated in her many funny moments from Doctor Who Confidential, especially in the hugely entertaining scene where she tries to flirt with Van Pelt's videogame henchmen, and completely fails. It's not hard to see why Karen Gillan has quickly become one of the most successful actors to come from Doctor Who, as she is instantly endearing to watch on-screen.

It helps that Karen Gillan appears to have extremely good taste, with both Guardians of the Galaxy and now Jumanji having proven to be solid films. Jumanji is clever in the way that it plays with certain videogame conventions; each player, for example, has three lives and upon their death (providing they still have lives left) they fall through the jungle skyline, back into the game with one life lost. There is also the nice integration of videogame stats, projected in front of them upon pressing their chests, and each obstacle faced by the gang forming a 'level'. So much thought and attention to detail has been paid to the structure of videogames, even to the point of non-playable characters having a pre-set number of responses, and cutscenes cutting into the gameplay. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle may not be based on a videogame, but it is more a videogame movie than, say, the live-action Super Mario Brothers film, which bared no resemblance to the Super Mario game series it was based on.

Unfortunately videogame villain Russel Van Pelt has about as much depth as Bowser in the Mario games: IE none at all. He is possibly the most two-dimensional villain of any film of 2017, his evil antics reduced to nothing more than generic villainry and his interesting ability to control the animals living in Jumanji's jungle not used to its full potential. Russel poses little-to-no threat in the film apart from in the last ten minutes, with his videogame henchmen featured more heavily as generic soldiers on motorbikes. The stakes as a result don't feel particularly high, and it is therefore no surprise when the group succeed with the help of Nick Jonas' Jefferson McDonough/Alex.

Still, whilst the villain falls flat the action sequences are fun. Dwayne Johnson with a flame thrower is as awesome as it sounds, and Karen Gillan's dance fight scenes make for a cool watch. Both examples are well-directed by Jake Kasdan, and don't feel like they would be out of place in a videogame. Although they did miss out on a trick by not making the dance fight song Welcome To The Jungle by Guns and Roses; criminally the song only appears in the credits, and never in the film itself, which seems odd given that the film's subtitle is blatantly named after the song.

Overall, this is the kind of film you should go into without thinking too hard about what you are watching. It's not going to change the world, and it's far from the best movie out there, but what it does give you is a fun two hour cinematic experience with four extremely funny actors. In much the same way as Disney's Wreck It Ralph, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is a stronger film adaptation of videogames than many movies based directly on pre-existing games, and many who play videogames will likely find something to like here. However the school sequences are dull and uninspired, featuring age-old cliches seen in many school-based movies. The videogame world of Jumanji is where the film comes to life, and it's worth sitting through the boring school scenes to see the clever way in which this movie incorporates videogame elements.