The Grey Man of the Mountain is a Doctor Who audio play released by Big Finish Productions. LIzbeth Myles wrote the script in which Samuel Clements serves as director. The character of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is resurrected once again by Jon Culshaw. Culshaw does a pretty impressive vocal impersonation of the late Nicholas Courtney, who played the role for a couple of a decades in the television series and in a couple of Big Finish episodes. Sylvester McCoy is once again behind the mic as the Seventh Doctor with Sophie Aldred returning as Ace.
The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Ace to a Scottish mountain of Ben MacDul in which they are reunited with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The Brigadier is investigating the disappearance of hikers which seems to be tied to a legendary presence on the mountain known as the Grey Man. Ace and a young woman known as Kristy are separated from the others and face their own challenges as the Doctor and the Brigadier join an expedition that could bring them into the presence of the Grey Man of the Mountain.
The guest cast is also made up of Lucy Goldie, Youssef Kerkour, Vivien Reid, and Guy Adams. They were all well selected as expected by Big Finish casting.
Myles actually uses a well known Scottish legend as an inspiration for her story. Well, the legend is apparently familiar in Scotland anyway. It’s a bad idea and common in the series to utilize such inspirations. Myles does a pretty good job with it.
McCoy and Aldred continue to display their impressive chemistry. It was fun to hear the Brigadier even if he was not performed by the original actor. Culshaw is known in the United Kingdom as a very talented comedian and impressionist, and Big Finish is right to utilize that.
This episode is a solid story with a some very nice treats for the long-time fans and followers of Scottish folklore.
The Death of Superman is an animated superhero film released in 2018 and was written by Peter J. Tomasi. Sam Liu and James Tucker share the director duties on this one. This film was based on a story done by DC Comics several years ago. Jerry O’Connell voices the Man of Steel in this one. Renecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Nathan Fillion, and Jason O’Mara are also included in the voice cast.
Clark Kent is in love with Lois Lane and has yet to tell her about his extracurricular activities wearing a cape and blue tights. As they navigate their romantic situation, a deadly alien intruder has landed on Earth. The creature would come to be known as Doomsday, and Superman will face the bloodiest contest he has encountered.
I knew of the story and remember reading some of the comic book version many moons ago. The animation is pretty good as far as I can tell. It isn’t like I am an expert in this sort of thing. There was quite a surprising amount of blood and death throughout this thing. The cast appeared to be well chosen. I am not normally a viewer of animated movies of this sort, but I have been trying something different lately. Superman also is not a favorite superhero for me, but it still ended up being an interesting diversion. I almost found the climactic scene of Superman’s death to be almost touching. I probably would have have been more touched if Superman still wasn’t around. I trust I am not giving too many spoilers away.
Not a whole lot of analysis is needed here, but it was a pretty well done film overall. For those who really get into this type of entertainment and really know the mythos of Superman and Doomsday, I am sure there are many more observations and discussions to be had. Ultimately I liked it well enough to see the follow up film.
The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki to an attic in which they find themselves unable to leave. The attic ends up being a labyrinth affected by some sort of time distortion. with alien fungi being at the center of the problem. They are also surprised to find that they at 10 Downing Street in London, the headquarters of the Prime Minister.
There was rather a curious decision made to have O’Brien perform the Doctor’s dialogue as opposed to Peter Purves who does often provide a passable impression of Hartnell. O’Brien actually does a pretty decent job with it. The story is fairly interesting. The sound effects are convincing. I like that it was a somewhat claustrophobic setting. Purves and O’Brien continue to perform well together.
This episode is fairly entertaining. In spite of the rather unusual story premise, it didn’t quite enthrall me as much as I hoped. It didn’t really frustrate me either, so that’s an accomplishment of sorts. I will likely listen to it again, however it may take a while.
The Ranger is a crime novel written by Ace Atkins and introduces Army Ranger Quinn Colson into the pantheon of literary crime busters. It was first published in 2011.
Quinn Colson has returned to his home state of Mississippi to attend the funeral of his uncle, who served as sheriff of Tibbehah County. It was said that the sheriff had taken his own life, but one of his deputies is not buying it and mentions as much to Quinn. Quinn gets curious enough to uncover all manner of corruption and meth dealing. He has been in the Army for a long time and has plenty of skill and a few allies to help him survive the nights.
Colson is one of these stoic tough guys with a rather traumatic family upbringing. He is a fairly interesting protagonist, but there is nothing extraordinary that stands out all that much. On the other hand, this is Atkins’ debut of what was a new character at that time. Atkins also is the writer who continues the Spenser series on behalf of the late Robert B. Parker. I was intrigued enough to try out his original works. Atkins is a talented writer and is well suited for this genre. There is not much that makes him a standout in this genre, but he is competent, and Quinn is just interesting enough for me to see what else is in store for him.
Andy Weir had some significant success with The Martian, which I enjoyed reading a few years ago, Hopefully, the enjoyment will be matched with Artemis, which is the next reading indulgence.
Plight of the Pimpernel is a Doctor Who audio play released by Big Finish Productions and is written by Chris Chapman. John Ainsworth serves as director of this episode which stars Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as the Doctor and Peri, respectively. The guest cast is made up of Jamie Parker, Anthony Howell, Joe Jameson, Stewart Clarke, Rebecca Crankshaw, and Becky Wright.
So, this adventure features the Doctor and Peri meeting someone in 1793 France claiming to be the Scarlet Pimpernel. Before Batman, there was the Scarlet Pimpernel who was created in early twentieth century by Baroness Orczy. The Scarlet Pimpernel was a masked figure who rescued French aristocrats from the guillotine during a period known as the Reign of Terror. The Doctor is somewhat troubled by this since the Scarlet Pimpernel is a fictional character, unlike the Doctor, for the purposes of this story anyway. Matters get even more problematic when murderous androids turn up,. The Pimpernel, played by Jamie Parker, seems to have all kinds of secrets which puts Earth in trouble. Of course, the Earth is often in trouble when the Doctor is on the scene.
This story starts off as what appears to be a pretty fun romp. There is quite a bit of humor at first. The Doctor and Peri have gone undercover, and Peri is apparently posing as the Pimpernel’s wife when this adventure starts. The second half of the story gets a bit grimmer as the identify of the man playing the Pimpernel is revealed. There are some great performances here. Colin Baker’s version of the Doctor really shines in moments of righteous indignation, and he gets a particularly memorable moment when a rather profound betrayal is uncovered. Peris gets to indulge in a profound telling off, which is performed beautifully by Nicola Bryant. The guest cast is pretty well selected. Jamie Parker has a very distinct voice and was well chosen to play the Pimpernel. This episode has one of the most surprising twits I have heard in some time. The sound effects were also convincing. This is another episode which was recorded while the United Kingdom was in COVID lockdown.
Although it seems that I have not heard an episode from Big Finish that was really bad in some time, I do find this particular episode to be one of the better ones recorded in recent years.
You Were Never Really Here is a thriller film released in 2017. It was written and directed by Lynne Ramsay and is also based on a novella by Jonathan Ames. Joaquin Phoenix is in the lead as some private mercenary known as Joe, who specializes in retrieving young girls who were kidnapped and trafficked. The cast also includes Ekaterina Samsonov, John Doman, Judith Roberts, and Alessandro Nivola.
So, the mysterious Joe is a dude with a lot of violent trauma in his past. He was abused by his father, he joined the military and saw combat, and was also some kind of government agent. He apparently does freelance work that involves finding girls who were taken to be trafficked. He also doesn’t have much concern for the civil rights of these perpetrators and indulges in some pretty brutal revenge. Anyway, a state senator’s daughter has fallen victim to a ring of kidnappers, and Joe is let off the leash. He succeeds in finding the girl, after leaving a plethora of bodies in his wake. However, the aftermath follows him home. He has to find the girl yet again when a couple of phony cops haul her off again.
The film has an intriguing premise, and who doesn’t like watching kidnappers and weirdos getting their heads cracked by traumatized yet noble warrior? The film got some acclaim from the Cannes Film Festival 2017, in which brings us to the other dropped shoe. It’s one of these films that often appears disjointed and does not make a whole lot of sense at times. Some aspects have been compared to Taxi Driver, and I get where that is coming from. Joe is a little too brooding for my taste. Phoenix does fine in the performance as he usually does in some of these weirder roles. He is the guy to pull this off. I didn’t really like this one much. This may have worked better in the original work. Joe was a little too weird at times. I think the sudden scene changes and flashbacks were a little too jarring. I had to work a little too hard to piece together Joe’s past, and I lost interest in that fairly quickly.
It’s safe to say that this is not one I will be revisiting anytime soon.
The Alchemist is a novel written by Paulo Coelho. It was first published in Portuguese in 1988 and was then translated in 1993 where it gained some international success.
The story centers on an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who embarks on a journey from Spain to Egypt after he has a recurring dream interpreted as a prophecy concerning a buried treasure. He has all kinds of setbacks and meets all sort of people on his journey. Of course, one of those people is an alchemist who teaches of finding one’s true self. Santiago learns of the Personal Legend and how he fits uniquely into the world.
This actually turns into one of the more charming and interesting novels I have read in some time. There are not many names belonging to the various characters. In fact, Santiago’s name is mentioned very sparsely. The prose style is pretty simple, but the imagery it invokes in the imagination is quite profound. The particular novel is a bit of a departure from my usual reading preferences, but it turns out this was a pretty rewarding path to explore.
Next up will be the first novel to introduce Ace Atkins’ tough guy Quinn Colson, which is simply entitled The Ranger.
The Martian Menace is a Sherlock Holmes written by Eric Brown. It is published by Titan Books and one of the recent additions in its range known as The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Brown has concocted a world where Martians now occupy the Earth in the early twentieth century and have done so for a number of years. Holmes is engaged by the Martians to solve the murder of an ambassador. He manages to complete the investigation and is summoned to the Red Planet a few years later to work another case. Holmes and Dr. Watson are soon informed that they are about to be pawns in a more concerted effort from the Martians to fully take over Earth and destroy humankind. They encounter several literary figures of the time including Herbert George Wells and G.K. Chesterton. An old adversary of Holmes’ also seems to be at the heart of the Martians’ genocidal intentions.
Yes, there is another one where a pastiche author takes the crime solving duo into other genres and other realms. It is obviously supposed to be rather ridiculous, but there was not much in this effort to make this unique. Of course, I am biased against these efforts that has Holmes and Watson cross paths with aliens and other historical and literary figures of their era on a regular basis. Brown doesn’t stand out as an especially terrible writer. The story does move pretty quickly, but there is not much that even sounds like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s prose. Of course, Doyle never had had his best known creation go up against aliens. In spite of the absurdity of this plot, it still seems like an idea that felt overdone, or at least not that well considered. Sorry, but there is not much I found terribly enjoyable or memorable about this particular indulgence of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stepping outside of their usual Victorian surroundings.
My next read will carry a bit more acclaim as I meet The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Ghosts of War is a horror film written and directed by Eric Bress. The cast includes Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Skylar Astin, Kyle Gallner, Alan Ritchson, and Billy Zane.
It appears that this little haunting tale is set in France during World War II. A group of American soldiers are on a mission to sit on a castle that was once occupied by Nazis. During their stay, a number of strange noises and shadowy figures start to disturb their already restless souls. Secrets are kept in a diary. Nazis could return at any moment. The soldiers are on edge and at least one may just be a tad crazy. However, there is a fairly impressive twist explaining how these strange manifestations are created. The men may not be who they think they are, and the castle may hold more secrets than they can comprehend.
As far as horror flicks go, I have seen worse. I think it’s sort of interesting to have a group of battle hardened soldiers the focus of supernatural shenanigans instead of the usual innocent family or something like that. This film is not for the delicate due to all of the blood and brains spewing everywhere. The performances were pretty good. The dialogue wasn’t too bad either. The film has a somewhat disappointing ending, but I usually notice that in this genre. The suspense was pretty good, and the story ended up not being as predictable as others of this sort. The film is not on track of being any sort of classic, however there was an effort at something with a bit more originality than usual for this type of movie.
The Girl Who Lived Twice is the third contribution by David Lagercrantz in his continuation of Steig Larsson’s Millennium series. It is reported to be his last contribution to the series, so I have yet to hear if another writer will continue the exploits of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.
Yes, they are back in the fray. Lisbeth’s evil twin, Camilla, is still around causing trouble. Lisbeth is still hacking computers and on the hunt to end their feud once and for all. Blomvkist is looking into the matter of a dead beggar who had his card on his pocket. That may make for an interesting story for the crusading reporter. Sweden is just abuzz with all of this underworld crime and vengeance, in this particular novel anyway.
This one was a little bit of a slog to get through, but the climactic confrontation between the Salander sisters was kind of worth it. Lisbeth spent a lot of time in the shadows as Blomvkist was following leads and trying to control his frustration with his limited contact with his peculiar friend and ally.
It was fun to revisit this world started by the late Steig Larsson, but I am not sure Lagercrantz quite hit the mark left by the debut of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. My verdict was the novel was fairly entertaining but nothing that really blew me away. If the publishing house decides to commission another writer to continue the series, there is a blank slate for a new challenge and adversary, so that would be intriguing. It also makes sense to leave the story here and look forward to a new unique protagonist somewhere on the literary landscape.
So, the next novel I am going to read may hold some frustration for me, but it does feature Sherlock Holmes. In this recent pastiche work by Eric Brown, Holmes is engaged by Martians to solve a murder. Yeah, the Martians drop in at Baker Street. I have somewhat out this off, but it seems like a good time to see how Holmes does when he embarks on an adventure of The Martian Menace.