Film Review: Brahms Finds A New Friend To Possess

Brahms: The Boy II is a horror film written by Stacey Menear and directed by William Brent Bell. Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, and Ralph Ineson are included in the cast. It is a sequel to a film called The Boy, in case that was not obvious to anyone.’

A young family has a quite nice life England that is abruptly shattered by a violent home invasion. The young boy, Jude, is stricken with selective mutism and now communicates by pen and paper. The concerned father convinces his family to try a respite in the countryside. Of course, there is a spooky, abandoned mansion nearby. That should have been the first clue for this family. Jude finds an antique, porcelain doll buried in the ground. The mother cleans it off and straightens the tie and finds that it seems to be harmless, welcome company for her traumatized son. She certainly gets that wrong. The doll is known as Brahms and houses an ancient evil behind its blank stare. The trouble brought on by a couple of house breakers is pretty small potatoes compared to the chaos Brahms can bring down on this family.

Demonic dolls are not really a new trick for this genre, and there is no real genius behind the conception of Brahms. I have a soft spot in my heart for spooky English mansions, so I can’t bring myself to totally trash this film. Unfortunately, there is not enough to really encourage anyone to put much of an effort to see this thing either. The visual effects were well done, but that’s hardly a surprise these days. I was reading that Katie Holmes was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst actress. I am not sure that is really fair, since I fault the writing more than the performances. Nobody really stood out as a brilliant actor; however, I think they tried. I am not exactly sure that I can buy into the selective mutism being the result of the trauma at the beginning of the film. I understand this genre requires an incredible amount of suspension of disbelief, but I just couldn’t muster up the interest.

Film Review: Enola Holmes Has A New Game Afoot

Enola Holmes 2 is a mystery film based on the series of novels written by Nancy Springer. Jack Thorne is the screenwriter with Harry Bradbeer in the director’s seat. Millie Bobby Brown returns to the titular role. Henry Cavill serves up his version of the master detective, Sherlock Holmes, Enola’s older brother. Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Hannah Dodd, and Susie Wokoma are also included in the cast. Sharon Duncan-Brewster and David Thewlis also add their talents.

Enola has decided to start her own detective agency, however it is Victorian London, so not many potential clients have much faith in the abilities of a young girl. When a younger girl shows up right when Enola is being forced to shut down her efforts, the business gets a shot in the arm. Bessie Chapman is wanting to find her sister who has gone missing. Sherlock Holmes has been engaged to hunt a blackmailer of government officials and has an uncharacteristic roadblock in his efforts. Enola’s case brings her in the path of her brother. The Holmes siblings discover that their cases are connected. A secret enemy lurks in the shadows, and a corrupt police superintendent has his own reasons to stop them. Enola finds new enemies out to stop her, but some old friends are also in her corner as well as her formidable brother.

This was a fairly charming cinematic effort, but it is not too memorable. Brown does appear to be a great casting choice. She slips back into the role effortlessly. I still found it hard to stay all that engaged at times. The plot touches on a real historical strike of a match company. Dodd’s character, Sarah Chapman, was apparently a real person who led one of the early strikes against a company in 1888. That was kind of interesting to realize.

This movie ends up not being terrible, but it falls pretty short of being terrific.

Film Review: Adonis Creed Isn’t Quite Done Yet

Creed III is a continuation of the Rocky franchise and stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed. The script is written by Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler with Ryan Coogler getting some credit for the story. Jordan also serves as director. Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris are included in the cast. Jonathan Majors plays the old childhood friend who has a score to settle with retired boxer, Adonis Creed.

Creed is retired from the ring and runs a boxing academy and is living the life as wealthy husband and father. Mila Davis-Kent joins the cast as the young daughter of Adonis and Bianca. She’s appropriately cute and charming and does well. Bianca has some difficulty with her hearing, and it seems that the daughter has inherited the problem as well. In spite of the parenting challenges, Adonis seems to have done well for himself and is trying to leave a troubled childhood in the past. Except the past shows back up in the form of “Diamond Dame” Anderson, a childhood friend of Adonis’. I guess they were actually foster brothers. Anderson has just been released from prison and wants to resume a boxing career that was curtailed by his legal troubles. Adonis seems willing to help out an old friend, however Anderson isn’t exactly truthful about the reasons to his reaching out. The reunion goes a bit awry, which leads to Creed and Anderson settling their past in the ring.

First of all, Jordan remains quite compelling in this role, as expected. I am not too familiar with Jonathan Majors, but he turned out to be an excellent casting choice as the embittered Damian Anderson. It was great to see Wood Harris and Phylicia Rashad as well. Tessa Thompson remains as gorgeous and talented as ever. There were some interesting flashbacks to Creed’s childhood as well. The absence of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa ended up not being too noticeable due to the strong performances of the main cast. The script was not free of some irritating plot holes, which

Book Review: Death Frozen Solid

Iceberg is an early adventure novel by Clive Cussler and features Major Dirk Pitt of the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Cussler has been quite an acclaimed author in the adventure genre for decades. This novel was first published in 1975.

A luxury yacht frozen in in ice is found in the North Atlantic. Dirk Pitt is able to board and found that the crew was burned alive while at their posts. Pitt finds himself at odds with dangerous Russian crime bosses and few other nefarious characters. He loses a friend in the process and takes a nasty beating a time or two. Nothing that Major Pitt can’t handle.

I think I need to accept the likelihood that I am not going to be a Clive Cussler fan. The story had some promising elements such as a ship trapped in ice and full of corpses. How could that go wrong? It’s not that Cussler is a bad writer here. I just found Pitt to be a pretty standard action hero without much nuance or eccentricities to make him all that riveting. Of course, this is only the third entry into a very long series. I don’t begrudge Cussler his overall success and popularity, but I have some doubts that this novel was major contributing factor to all of that. The novel is merely an adequate diversion.

Next up, Tim Major has made another visit to 221 B Baker Street and presents a new Sherlock Holmes novel entitled The Defaced Men.

Film Review: Dangerous Blondes For An Old Gumshoe

Marlowe is an old-fashioned thriller directed by Neil Jordan and written by William Monahan. It is based on the novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde, by John Banville. Liam Neeson is in the lead as Raymond Chandler’s best known literary creation, private eye Philip Marlowe. Diane Kruger, Alan Cumming, Jessica Lange, and Colm Meaney are also included in the cast.

Marlowe receives an enticing visitor in the form of a gorgeous blonde who wants to hire him to find a former lover. What seems to be a pretty straight forward assignment gets more complicated as Marlowe encounters shady Hollywood types and crime bosses. His client’s mother wants to hire Marlowe for her own devious reasons. Marlowe risks his life for what could be his most dangerous client.

I love Philip Marlowe. I love this genre of film. I usually enjoy Liam Neeson films. The problem is that I did not enjoy this movie all that much. I found it slow at times. None of the characters were very interesting. Alan Cumming’s role was somewhat engaging. I am not sure that I could buy into Neeson as Philip Marlowe. He seemed to be phoning in this performance somehow. The costume design and setting were eye-catching enough. This is another film that manages to not be utterly terrible, however I was underwhelmed by this latest iteration. Some elements of the film sort of worked sometimes, but it wasn’t enough for me to regret the occasional moments where I zoned out.

Classic Film Review: The Priests Work Overtime Here

The Exorcist is a 1973 supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin. William Peter Blatty wrote the script, adapting his own novel for the silver screen. Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller, and Kitty Winn are included in the cast of the most iconic of possession movies.

A 12-year-old girl begins exhibiting violent behavior and gruesome sores. It gets pretty wild before the doctors start prescribing an exorcism. Father Damien Karras is a priest who needs some convincing, however he also has a lapsed faith. Max Von Sydow’s Father Merrin shows up to lend a hand, and the demon plays for keeps.

This is a film with a pretty notorious reputation and apparently disturbed the first audiences to see it back in the day. Unfortunately, I have seen other possession films before this one, so I was already familiar with the usual tropes. We have the cute girl who goes completely berserk. The priest with a shaky faith is bit overused, although this movie may be the beginning of these overly familiar elements.

I was not that impressed, truth be told. The plot seemed rather slow at times. I was rather bored with the demon’s forays into extreme and profane behavior. The special effects may have been more impressive at the time of release, but these don’t age very well. There are a couple of moments of some clever verbal sparring between Father Karras and the demon. Some the screeching and cursing just seems to go on too long.

I did rather like the somewhat reassuring presence of the more experienced Father Merrin. He had a pretty cool hat too. I may have waited a little too long to see this film to really appreciate it the same way the initial audiences did.

I am likely in the minority when I suggest this movie has been somewhat overhyped over the decades.

Book Review: Beaumont’s Nose For Trouble Hasn’t Retired Along With The Rest Of Him

Sins of the Father is a mystery novel written by J.A. Jance and features retired Seattle homicide detective J.P. Beaumont. Beaumont works as a private investigator these days, and an acquaintance from the past shows up at his door. Alan Dale wants Beaumont’s help to find his drug-addicted daughter so he can have legal guardianship of his granddaughter. The case takes on a new wrinkle when Beaumont recalls that he had a one-night stand with Dale’s wife before their marriage. Beaumont suspects that he has a closer family connection to the wayward daughter and the baby than he wants to admit. Beaumont also learns that the daughter, Naomi, is not the only missing person here. It does not take long before he realizes that murder plays a part in this latest family drama as well. Murder is something that J.P. Beaumont will also find to be familiar territory.

Somehow, these latest family revelations that Jance introduces does not appear that shocking. The story is fairly interesting, but it’s hard to really care about the murder victim since the reader never really meets the guy. Beaumont is a man still trying to atone from his days as an active alcoholic and is in a pretty good place in life. The character is still pretty likeable but still a bit predictable. He has married again, and his latest wife, a police chief, is nice enough. The last few novels seem to have Beaumont revisiting aspects of his past. I wouldn’t mind if a whole new client shows up with whole new circumstances.

Anyway, the novel is a competently presented as is typical of Jance. My chief complaint is that I am not sure I found this situation with the long-lost daughter as shocking as Jance had intended. I guess it does give some new dynamics for Jance to explore with this long-established character, but I would just prefer that Beaumont continue to encounter new cases with new killers and avoid these trips down memory lane.

Next up, I will return to an author whose works I have read only a few, but it seems time to give him another look. Iceberg by Clive Cussler is the next selection for some leisurely reading.

Doctor Who Audio Reviews: Dangerous Waters For The Doctor

Water Worlds is a Doctor Who audio boxset presented by Big Finish Productions. The three episodes are directed by Helen Goldwyn and stars Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. He is joined by Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush. They are joined by a new companion, Hebe Harrison, played by Ruth Madeley. Hebe is a smart, sassy young woman who happens to be in a wheelchair. Yes, Hebe’s disability is what makes her so unique from all of the other smart, sassy women who have joined the Doctor in his travels through time and space. Anyway, how does this latest trio of adventures stand up?

The Rotting Deep by Jacqueline Rayner introduces the audience to Hebe Harrison. The Doctor and Mel arrive on an oil rig in the North Sea. They find that many of the crew have died. The birds are more aggressive than usual. Something in the water is causing the survivors to go mad. It’s not too bad of a story, but it seems a bit too familiar at times. I may have seemed a little dismissive of Hebe in the earlier paragraph, but I do sort of like her. She is a marine biologist and will have some knowledge of marine life that will be useful to the story and to the Doctor. This story isn’t quite an outstanding kickoff to this set, but it is acceptable and reasonably enjoyable. That is probably down to the performances of the leads and the post-production work. There are a few effectively chilling moments that help make this worthwhile.

The Tides of the Moon is written by Joshua Pruett and sees the TARDIS crew visiting an ancient civilization on the moon affected by gravitational forces emanating from the blue-green planet nearby. Also, there are creatures in the vast ocean on the moon that have a close connection to the inhabitants known as the Gilleans. This turns out to be pretty good, although some of the action sequences are a little hard to interpret. This story was pretty interesting, but I sort of had the same reaction as I did with the first episode. It’s a reasonably enjoyable story but nothing too spectacular. The audience gets to know Hebe a little better, and other than her being confined to a wheelchair, I have a hard time seeing her as being terribly unique in the Doctor Who catalog of companions.

Maelstrom by Jonathan Barnes finishes out this set and actually is much more interesting. The Doctor, Mel, and Hebe arrive on a planet where a small group of people traverse the seas in a large floating township. Strange experiments are being done to implant minds in other people’s bodies. This is probably the oddest story in this set, but it is also the best written. Threats are coming from all directions, and Hebe’s intelligence gets to shine here. Barnes has contributed a lot of scripts over the years to Big Finish, and his skills have not diminished. This is a bit of a chaotic episode, but it’s an enjoyable mess. I think Barnes wins the contest for this blogger’s approval on this collection.

The performances are quite good. Colin Baker’s performance is predictably energetic and enjoyable. Big Finish has also made some great improvements to Bonnie Langford’s character, and her enthusiasm for this not exactly new but much improved version of Mel is quite evident. Madeley is new to me, but she performs well enough, and I am not in a hurry to see her departure. It seems she will be around at least for the next collection of Sixth Doctor episodes, and I am good to see how she develops. The first two episodes are solid with the final entry by Barnes bringing it to a more than satisfactory close.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Daleks, Russians, And The Doctor

The First Doctor Adventures Volume Four is another audio boxset from Big Finish Productions and continues their vast Doctor Who catalog. There are two adventures in this set directed by Ken Bentley. David Bradley is back on the microphone with his version of the First Doctor, who was originally portrayed by the late William Hartnell. Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell, and Jamie Glover join him again as Susan, Barbara, and Ian, respectively.

The first script is written by Andrew Smith and sees the TARDIS crew Return to Skaro after the Doctor tries again to return Ian and Barbara to their home of twentieth century Earth. This is a direct sequel to the serial known as The Daleks, where the Doctor and audience was first introduced to the mechanical tyrants. The crew encounter the descendants of the Thals who first fought the Daleks alongside the Doctor and his companions. The Daleks were thought to be destroyed; however the Doctor learns that is not going to be as easy as it first appeared.

Nicholas Briggs once again is performing the voice of the Daleks. Alisdair Simpson, Tracy Wiles, Nigel Hastings, and James Camp comprise the guest cast.

This particular adventure isn’t bad, but it felt repetitive and not all that needed. Bradley’s performance is great. I was a little distracted by that sense of “been there, done that”. The story isn’t really bad, but I was not as captivated by the idea of revisiting the Daleks, the Thals, and Skaro yet again.

Next up, Jonathan Barnes gives us a little history lesson with Last of the Romanovs. Leighton Pugh, Dan Starkey, George Weightman, John Albasiny, and Alex Tregear perform the guest roles for this one. The historical event witnessed by the Doctor and his companions is the upcoming execution of the last Tsar of Russia and his family in 1918. The story is rather slow. The historical significance is somewhat interesting. Yet again, the performances help make this episode tolerable, however it doesn’t quite make it all that memorable.

The set is reasonably entertaining, but there was not much to help it keep my attention riveted. The range itself is still worth the effort though. Hopefully, the next volume will be more engaging.

Film Review: Meet The Not So Friendly Neighborhood Otto

A Man Called Otto is a drama film with some comedic moments sprinkled in. It is based on a bestselling novel out of Sweden called A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. David Magee wrote the screenplay while Marc Forster served as director. Tom Hanks plays the grieving, curmudgeon, Otto Anderson, a retired engineer and the neighborhood enforcer of the now defunct HOA rules. The other cast members include Mariana TreviƱo, Manuel Garcia-Rufo, Rachel Keller, and Truman Hanks. Truman Hanks is the son of the elder Tom and plays a younger version of Otto in some flashback scenes.

Otto Anderson recently lost his wife to cancer and has become rather surly, which is understandable. He does his best to enforce the rules of the neighborhood, which is the midst of some kind of redevelopment. He meets his new neighbors and is especially perturbed by the pregnant immigrant wife, who seemingly can’t take a hint. Otto just wants to be left in peace so he can finally be at peace with his deceased wife, however the neighbors keep unwittingly saving his life. He ends up adopting a cat, teaching the pregnant neighbor how to drive, and going against the real estate developers to help a former friend.

Tom Hanks does exude his usual charm and talent in making this piece fairly enjoyable, although there are some heavy topics. The suicide attempts are somewhat disturbing and almost graphic. There are times that the story feels pretty predictable. The performances are pretty solid throughout. There was some witty dialogue peppering the script. However, there were also some clunky moments such as when Otto tries to walk back a somewhat politically incorrect accusation aimed at a delivery driver.

I think it’s great when the actor’s offspring gets to play the younger version of their parent’s character. Truman Hanks does a competent job of portraying the younger Otto as the audience gets to see how he and his beloved wife meet and the troubles they faced in their long marriage. I am not sure if his talent will be on par with his father’s, but he did well enough in this particular role.

Otto’s tragic past and his suicidal tendencies does make for a heavy load at times and is at stark odds with some of the more comedic moments. Still, I found some enjoyment out of some of Otto’s verbal sparring matches. Hanks continues to display his usual reliable charm even if the character is meant to be anything but charming.

Anyway, it’s a pretty good movie in spite of a few missteps in the writing.