At home: At 8 half-hours, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg's Truth Seekers isn't a big investment, and rewards its audience with a humorous take on the spooky television trend we've gotten of late. Frost is a wi-fi installer who moonlights as a ghost hunter for his YouTube channel. His nerdy boss (Pegg) saddles him with an assistant just in time for supernatural activity to ramp up and in short order, a small cast assembles around him, including his dad played by Malcolm McDowell, the assistant's cosplaying, agoraphobic sister, and a girl haunted by ghosts. Each episode kind of has its own little story, but as it's all part of a greater tapestry, where each mystery is actually part of that grand scheme. It's funny and plays with horror tropes in a clever and fun way, but there are still some real chills, threading that genre needle quite well. My one complain, really, is that the ghost effects have a video look that maybe sends my mind down the wrong path, but it might be part of the whole wi-fi theme, I'm not sure. It's an interesting new visual, it just tweaks horror iconography in an odd way is all.
We'll see where this takes me, but I decided to watch one (as-yet-unreviewed) movie starring (or directed by) a different Star Trek: The Next Generation star this week...
According to the biography The Aviator is adapted from, Howard Hughes was suffering from pretty extreme obsessive-compulsive disorder, which explains his sinking millions and millions into both movie and aviation projects that, due to what at the time would have been considered "eccentric perfectionism" (fueled by unlimited funds), very nearly destroyed him. We're in good hands with Scorsese, obviously, and he's assembled a stellar cast (even if I'm unimpressed in terms of likenesses - I never see Cate Blanchet as Katharine Hepburn, or any of the Hollywood celebs portrayed, really, and it's especially tough to tell the stars from the normals, when even small parts are being played by Jack Donaghy (sorry, Alec Baldwin) and Brent Spiner. It's a well put-together film (the plane crash is especially well rendered, and it didn't feel nearly three hours long), but it's still a bloated biopic (I always wonder if we really need ALL that biographical detail for the story to WORK). Its spectacle is perhaps even distracting. A lot of the aerial stuff looks cheesy and fake, and every time someone new shows up, you're thinking "OH, Jude Law, or Alan Alda, or freakin' Gwen Stafani is in this", which pulls you out of what truth can be taken away from it.
I can see why, TV movie or not, The Midnight Hour is a fondly remembered Halloween movie. It's silly nonsense a lot of the time - even before the sudden musical number - but it's fun nonsense, and I think more than a little what Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have felt like had it been made in the '80s. A bunch of adults playing high schoolers - among them Shari Belafonte and LeVar Burton! - open a Hellmouth on a goof, and release a variety of undead types on their town on Halloween night. Depending on any given kid's experience, what ensues may be a ghost story paying tribute to Grease, a camp vampire movie, or a rampaging monster flick, and you're really not supposed to take any of it very seriously. Where I think it goes wrong is the epilogue, which abandons all plot lines but one, and fails to answer some important question and rob us of the happy ending the tone as up until then promised - or even a clear, bleak ending that would have acted as contrast or Twilight Zone point d'orgue.
Books: I'd been sitting on the second half of About Time 8 - this volume of the Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who covering 2007's Series 3 episodes (from The Runaway Bride to Voyage of the Damned and including The Infinite Quest and Time Crash) - for a while, namely because I don't find as much joy in these later volumes. The behind the scenes stuff is more boring and less mythical than for the classic series, and the authors have traditionally been more down on NuWho that the original flavor, as is evidenced I think by various "out of universe" essays in this volume questioning how the series gets MADE. But picking it back up again a year later, I got into a good groove with it, and since 1) the second half of Martha's season is the better half, and 2) we are in agreement as to how badly treated her character was, rather started enjoying myself. There is no more complete series of guidebooks than About Time, both in amounts of in-universe trivia, detecting influences on the stories, and critical thought, and we usually get very interesting big picture essays, in this case the likes of Why does every forget about the aliens?, How many times has this story happened (about Human Nature)?, and Which are the most over-specialized Daleks? I even quite enjoyed the nitty-gritty explanation of cricket and why it's the perfect sport for the Doctor to have played. On to Volume 9!