'Ides' examines political races; Dr. Who revival offers nostalgiaFeb. 13, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
This week in the DVD review column, there's a drama perfect for this year and a fistful of "Who."
The Ides of March
With Americans finding themselves knee-deep in this year's presidential race, George Clooney's latest effort as a director certainly hits home with a powerful look at how campaigns are run and the morality of those who run them.
Clooney plays a sitting governor, Mike Morris, who's running for the Democratic nomination. He is facing a tough race in the pivotal state of Ohio. If he can win that state, he will be the frontrunner and an almost cinch for the nomination.
What we start to learn is that it doesn't matter what ideas Morris presents to voters, but how his campaign manager Paul Zara (played with a realistic combination of competitiveness and fatigue by Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his second in command, Stephen Meyers, (Ryan Gosling) do behind the scenes.
Where Zara is the seasoned hand, Meyers is still the idealist, who declares he wouldn't work for Morris if he weren't ethical and moral. Morris shows early on a willingness to buck conventional wisdom to stick to his philosophical guns.
Something happens, though, and I'm reluctant to provide too many details so I won't that causes Meyers to question his own beliefs and descend to a level to which he never thought he would go.
Clooney is not the central character in the film. It is Gosling's picture and he does well portraying a guy whose life and livelihood is very much hanging in the balance. Like Clooney, much has been made about Gosling's looks, but also like Clooney, he can carry a film well.
"Ides of March" features a tight script, co-written by Clooney, as well as effective direction. There is a ring of truth throughout the film including the central theme: should you support a flawed man who would do the right thing as president?
Although I though the ending of the film was premature there was the potential for more of the story I did think this was one of the finer political films I've seen in a long time.
Dr. Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Dr. Who: The William Hartnell Years
Dr. Who: The Peter Davison Years
BBC Home Video has recently released not only the most current Christmas special for the venerable British science fiction series but also two other DVD collections of two of the other 11 actors who have played the time lord.
If you're not familiar with Dr. Who, summing up more than 40 years of programs, movies and specials will be a somewhat difficult task, but I'll do my best. The Doctor is the last of his kind, an alien from a destroyed world who can travel through time and space in a vessel known as the Tardis, but looks like a British policeman's box.
Always eccentric in his dress and demeanor, he is accompanied by at least one human companion and is often at odds with a number of reoccurring villains, perhaps the most notable are the Daleks, creatures who live inside robotic bodies and bent on universal domination.
"Dr. Who" has the most original and handy plot device to explain the change of the actor in the lead role. The Doctor changes into a new person with residual memories every time he dies.
Although originally designed for children, since the series revival in 2005, the emphasis has been on more adult stories resulting in a new audience, some of whom were fans as children and some who have discovered the show recently.
"Dr. Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" is the latest Who production, broadcast this past Christmas. Matt Smith plays The Doctor with a lot of humor, but at the same time, the ability to express anger as well. In this show, set in the midst of World War II, he attempts to make the Christmas of a widow and her two children as happy as he can by constructing a time and space portal to a world where the snow-covered trees look like an image from a Christmas card.
The curious little boy opens the package early and The Doctor finds out more is happening on this planet than meets the eye.
Like any great pop culture property Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, and the Lone Ranger there is no effort to explain who is The Doctor, which might put off some new viewers, but this production is well worth the time of neophytes.
Although I'm not a great "Dr. Who" fan, I do enjoy many of the episodes I've seen and this one was first-rate with an interesting premise and some heart-felt emotion.
The other two collections feature the first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, and the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison are for dedicated fans. The slow-moving black and white Hartnell shows are short on action and on budget, while the show selected for the Davison collection shows a marked improvement in budget and technology, but is a little confusing.
Nostalgia probably helps the viewing of these collections.