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Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

So we watched The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and, during the climax, my wife got off the sofa and sat elsewhere. “When you write this one,” she instructed, “make sure that you note that our son loved it so much that he kicked his mother in the head.” This I now do.

Thank heaven we didn’t see this one in a theater. The kid laughed and exploded so much over it that he thrashed and danced and punched the air and, indeed, kicked furiously. We don’t get in his way when he needs to hide from anything scary, and nor do we discourage his animated happiness, but we do chide him when he gets restless and can’t keep still. It’s never occurred to us before that we might want to tell him to calm down the happy dancing and laughing. It’s just so infectious that it’s never been an issue before! Then again, he’s getting bigger every day.

I did, however, see this one in a theater and I know all about happy dancing there. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was Aardman’s second feature film, following 2000’s Chicken Run. It seemed to be a big success, but studios, with their strange way of accounting, sometimes see these things differently and Aardman’s partner, Dreamworks, said that it wasn’t. But it made tons of money and won an Oscar and had me unable to breathe from laughing with a quiet throwaway gag right in the middle that pays tribute to Watership Down, another movie about rabbits. I don’t remember much of anything after that.

The film was directed by Nick Park and Steve Box, with a script by Park, Box, Bob Baker and Have I Got News For You‘s Mark Burton. Joining Peter Sallis in the studio this time out are Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Tottington, Ralph Fiennes as a big game hunter, and a great ensemble including Geraldine McEwen, Mark Gatiss, and Peter Kay as villagers who thought their rabbit problem had been solved by our heroes before the movie opens… and then a giant were-rabbit stalks the night.

The movie is just packed with fun allusions to old movies while also referencing the previous three shorts, for the benefit of audiences (principally American, I’d imagine) who’d never seen them. Wallace’s morning routine with the trap door floor and clothes-putter-onner gets another outing, there’s a new Thunderbirds-style launch sequence for their pest control van, and the climax is another unlikely madcap chase that pretends like it’s obeying the laws of physics. The story is Frankenstein by way of that sort of only-in-movies folk horror which features a vicar who has seen the beast with his own eyes and has a forbidden book that tells how to destroy it. It’s a great and hilarious movie, and it’s not possible to watch it without smiling and laughing, but hopefully you can restrain yourself from kicking your mother in the head.

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Thunderbirds are Go 2.14 – Volcano!

Earlier this evening, my son did the same thing he did about a year ago when Amazon UK sent the DVD of part one of Thunderbirds are Go‘s second series. Part two arrived today and he had the package in hand, knowing what was in it. He met me at the door, because he wanted that box opened immediately.

Because I’m ridiculous when it comes to scheduling, I’d calendared all this stuff we’re going to watch together over the next several months and wasn’t expecting this set until April, when something I’ve preordered ships, and then Amazon said I could have it early. Weird timing; these twelve episodes, along with an additional one that’s been omitted from the package, just debuted on Amazon Prime in the US this past weekend. I asked myself: do I want to stick to my meticulous and borderline insane spreadsheet of TV to watch, or do I want to make my kid happy? Blasted youngun wins out again.

Here we go with “Volcano!,” written by Benjamin Townsend. These episodes ran from September to December of last year, and this one’s mainly a solo outing for Brains, with his loyal robot Max. Mark Gatiss guest stars as Professor Quentin Questa, who’s convinced that a volcano in Iceland is finally going to erupt after several years of false predictions, and forces Brains to check it out by way of a scientist honor code called Newton’s Fourth Law.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Thunderbirds if Questa was wrong, and so Thunderbird 2 gets to bring two Moles for twice the drilling fun to vent some escape shafts. The present-day multi-use machines are smaller, you certainly couldn’t fit two of the giant Moles from the original series in Thunderbird 2’s cargo pod. Moles and lava: two of my son’s favorite things.

It really has been a heck of a long time between batches of episodes. They’re already promoting the third series in the UK, or at least the first thirteen episodes from it. It’s great that we’ve got so much of this show to enjoy, and we’ll sprinkle these twelve here and there in our rotation over the next couple of months.

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Doctor Who: The Green Death (part six)

Getting the bad out of the way, this story features one of the all-time lousy special effects sequences, where Jon Pertwee and John Levene react to an allegedly menacing giant mosquito. But I think the big explosive climax at Global Chemicals, which is awesome, more than makes up for it, and besides, our son was completely thrilled by the big bug and didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Back in 1987 or whenever it was that WGTV started showing the Jon Pertwee serials, I surprised myself by getting a little tearful over Jo’s departure. Doctor Who wasn’t really known, then, for having emotional farewells. These days you can’t spend three episodes in the TARDIS without the universe ending over an overblown Murray Gold orchestral fanfare while somebody drops to their knees when it’s time to stop traveling. I guess since the same production team had just blown right pass Liz Shaw’s departure when the actress Caroline John left, they wanted to do right by Katy Manning.

Jo’s departure is really wonderful. She’s been falling head over heels for the scatterbrained Cliff Jones and happily accepts his fumbled marriage proposal and even though the Doctor knew in his hearts of hearts that she would be flying the coop before he went to Llanfairfach, he’s still devastated that she leaves him. The only time prior to this 1973 story where we saw the Doctor actually hurting that a companion has moved on was back in 1964, when he forced the issue and left his granddaughter Susan behind on future Earth to stay with David Campbell. Jo’s happiness is countered with a shot of the Doctor, sitting sadly by himself in his car. Quietly. Even when the end theme music starts, it does so at a very low volume, not wishing to intrude on the visuals. It’s really, really unlike any other departure in the whole of the series.

Incidentally, there’s a fantastic extra on the DVD called Global Conspiracy? in which Mark Gatiss, in the guise of BBC reporter Terry Scanlon, looks back at the strange goings-on in 1970s Llanfairfach. It’s incredibly funny and full of in-jokes. This “documentary” explains that Jo and Cliff divorced in the 1980s. Happily, this was retconned in a 2010 episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures which notes that the couple are still married and had lots of kids.

Katy Manning didn’t become the star that she should have become after Doctor Who, but she did have a few memorable roles, including the comedy film Eskimo Nell and the one episode of the BBC’s Target that anyone remembers. Before she moved to Australia, she did a celebrated pinup session with a prop Dalek that served much the same function for teen fans in the eighties that Karen Gillan’s appearance in the movie Not Another Happy Ending does these days, I think.

Uniquely, Manning also portrays a second ongoing character in the Doctor Who mythology. Iris Wildthyme is a character in spinoff novels and audio plays who might be a Time Lord and might be the Doctor’s old girlfriend, and, in a postmodern way, is used to suggest that many of the Doctor’s so-called adventures are actually just rewritten versions of her own exploits. Her TARDIS is smaller on the inside, which never fails to make me smile. Iris was created by Paul Magrs, who has written many of her adventures. Manning has played Iris off and on since 2002.

That’s all from Doctor Who for now, but stay tuned! We’ll start watching season eleven later this month!

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