Doctor Who Audio Review: The Menace Of The Mega

The Mega is a Doctor Who audio drama released by Big Finish Productions in 2013.  It is an episode from the range known as The Lost Stories, which were initially written for the television series but never saw productions for one reason or another.  Jon Pertwee would have starred as the Third Doctor if he was still alive, however Katy Manning returns as Jo Grant and also shares narration duties with Richard Franklin, who also reprises his role as Captain Mike Yates of UNIT.  Bo Poraj and Derek Carlyle are the guest actors who play various other parts.  Bill Strutton either wrote the script or had the original story idea which was adapted by Simon Guerrier.  Ken Bentley serves as the director of this particular episode.

Essentially, there is a new alien menace known as the Mega.  The Doctor seems to have betrayed all of humanity, but Jo as usual doesn’t believe it.  This is another six part story which really does drag on a bit.

There wasn’t much that stood out to me as far as the story goes.  It’s pretty rare that six episodes doesn’t feel too long in a Doctor Who story as much as I love the series overall.  Once again, the story doesn’t stand out for being particularly terrible, but I was just ready for this to be wrapped up.  Manning and Franklin are fine in their roles, but that is not unexpected.  Manning stood in for the late Jon Pertwee. Although it is impossible for her to sound just like Pertwee, she nails the vocal mannerisms enough where it is not too distracting when she performs the Doctor’s lines.  The sound effects and score also work well enough, but yet again, that’s easy enough for Big Finish to accomplish.

The only brief impression I can come up with about this particular release is that it’s okay.  I will likely listen to it again several more times because I like Doctor Who that much, but I am not sure that I will find anything all that unique to appreciate when I do.

Film Review: Abigail Has A Secret To Tell

Review: ABIGAIL HAUNTING (2019) - Voices From The Balcony

Abigail Haunting is a horror film written by Kelly Schwarze and Charisma Manulat with Schwarze also serving as director.  Chelsea Jurkiewicz, Austin Collazo, and Brenda Daly are included in the cast.

Jurkiewicz plays a young woman who has fled an abusive relationship with some money and retreats to a former foster home.  Her former foster mother seems to be in some kind of catatonic state.  There are strange noises and a rather disturbing feminine figure lurks in a restroom menacing the young woman. A decade long secret is at the heart of the spooky occurrences.

This film was done with an obviously limited budget.  I have no idea who any of these cast members are.  It’s a somewhat interesting piece.  The effects were somewhat convincing.  The acting was fairly convincing.  It moves at a slow pace even though it doesn’t have a very long running time.  It could have been much worse considering the limitations, however there wasn’t much to make this all that memorable.

Film Review: Nothing Rekindles Romance Like A Murder

Netflix's The Lovebirds Review - IGN

The Lovebirds is an action comedy directed by Michael Showalter.  The screenplay is written by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall.  Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani star as a couple whose relationship is on the ropes.  When they get carjacked by someone claiming to be a cop and are unwilling participants when a fleeing bicyclists gets run down in their car.  Of course, they fear they will be suspected and go on the lam while trying to solve the murder themselves.

The cast also includes Anna Camp, Paul Sparks, and Kyle Bornheimer.

Actually, this movie has some charm to it.  Rae and Nanjiani  have some convincing chemistry together.  Not every gag or joke landed all that well, but some did.  The plot wasn’t entirely predictable and kind of held together pretty well.

It turned out to be a pretty serviceable cinematic diversion.  In fact, it was better than I anticipated.  Not a lot better but enough to be pleasantly surprised.

Book Review: Target: The Doctor

Doctor Who: The Target Storybook by [Terrance Dicks, Matthew Sweet, Simon Guerrier, Colin Baker, Matthew Waterhouse, Jenny T Colgan, Jacqueline Rayner, Una McCormack, Steve Cole, Vinay Patel, George Mann, Susie Day, Mike Tucker, Joy Wilkinson, Beverly Sanford]

The Target Storybook is a Doctor Who anthology released from BBC Books last year.  It is comprised of fifteen short stories crossing most of the Doctor’s incarnation, including a new story featuring the current iteration currently played by Jodie Whittaker.  I am not going to try to review every story here, but I will try to make my overall impression as riveting as I can.

The Thirteenth Doctor kicks off the collection with Gatecrashers by Joy Wilkinson, and it’s a decent enough start to this.  The now deceased Terrance Dicks had just enough time to contribute a story here entitled Save Yourself.  Since the idea is to celebrate the Target novelizations of the classic episodes, it would be a significant oversight to not have something from the man who penned most of those installments in that range.  It hits the right nostalgia chords to have him contribute to this one.  A couple of the series actors also had something to write.  Matthew Waterhouse, who had played Adric during the era of the Fifth Doctor, brings us The Dark River.  The Sixth Doctor himself, Colin Baker, joins in with Interstitial Security.  The Doctor has a little side journey within the Matrix during his trial where he has to outwit the Valeyard.  There are a few names not immediately recognizable to me such as Beverly Sanford and the previously mentioned Joy Wilkinson. More familiar names such as George Mann, Una McCormack, and Jacqueline Rayner are also included.

The idea here was to have stories that were in some way connected to the television series.  There was some effort to fill in a few plot holes that have floated around for decades for us fans.  The more notable attempt was Dicks’ contribution which attempted to explain how the Second Doctor was doing missions for the Time Lords when he was supposed to have been forced to regenerate and sent to Earth in exile.  This would be the fabled Season 6B which is an idea of further adventures for the Second Doctor where he was acting on behalf of the Time Lords before facing the sentence which is more familiar to the old viewers.

So how is this latest literary version of the infamous Time Lord?  It’s kind of fun in an underwhelming sort of way.  There is some creativity in some of the stories.  It’s something that turns out not to be awful, but I think prefer just brand new adventures in my Doctor Who novels and short stories.

It’s fine for the fans to check it out, but it wouldn’t be a very good introduction for those new to the series.

Sam Siciliano has returned to Titan Books pairing Sherlock Holmes up with his cousin, Dr. Henry Vernier.  The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes continue on with The Venerable Tiger.

Film Review: The Wrong Missy Is Just Wrong

The Wrong Missy On Netflix Stars David Spade In A Love Story Gone ...

The Wrong Missy is a comedy film released on Netflix recently.  It was written by Kevin Barnett and Chris Pappas and directed by Tyler Spindel.  David Spade and Lauren Lapkus are the leads in a cast that also includes Sarah Chalke, Geoff Pierson, and Molly Sims.  Rob Schnieder also has some minor obnoxious role.

Spade plays a company man who is introduced at the beginning of the film when a blind date goes disastrously awry with a woman who has serious deficiencies in boundaries.  He later meets a gorgeous woman at the airport and attempts to invite her to a corporate retreat, however the the two women have the same first name, and Tim Morris apparently has serious deficiencies with paying careful attention to his cell contact list. Anyway, the crazy unfettered Missy is the one that shows up and causes the typical chaos.

I was hoping this could be some hidden gem of entertainment.  Sometimes it happens even if the cast has some misfires in the past.  My hopes were dashed.  It could have been fairly entertaining, but once again, the creators decided to resort to toilet humor.  Lapkus just couldn’t pull off with whatever charm her Missy was supposed to exude toward the end of the film.  I am sure she can actually be funny if she had better material written for her.  Spade has always been a hit or miss for me whenever I have seen his films over the years.  This didn’t feel like anything new for him to do.

I saw this out of desperation for a new cinematic experience.  I could have turned it off,  but my determination to see something through that I started was a too string for me to spare myself the pain.  The humor was not that clever, and the story was very predictable.  It was kind of like the Hallmark Channel going to the dark side.

The whole thing was just what I call a misfire.  Anyway, my curiosity was satisfied, if nothing else.  Unfortunately, that’s all I got out of it, and maybe some fodder for this blog.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Story Of A Warrior Girl And Her Wizard

The Child is a Doctor Who audio drama released by Big Finish Productions and is written and directed by Nigel Fairs.  It is an episode from the range known as The Companion Chronicles.  Louise Jameson stars alongside Anna Hawkes.  Jameson reprises her role of Leela who has been given a new lease of life as an imaginary friend of a little girl named Emily, played by Anna Hawkes.

It’s kind of a strange, haunting tale that is not that straight forward, but the atmosphere created out of the tone of the performances and the masterful sound effects was very compelling.  The child known as Emily imagines the Fourth Doctor as some all-knowing wizard.  There is an uncredited male performer in this one.  I suspect that was Fairs himself. but I am not sure.

Anyway, in spite of it being a little hard to follow, the soothing tones of Louise Jameson, the sound effects, and the haunting score does make this one engaging.  Hawkes is a fine enough actress, but she really didn’t like any young girl that I have ever heard.

This episode works due to its creativity in the presentation.  Jameson is always a reliable and welcome presence, and that certainly helps as well.  Even if Hawkes lacks a voice that doesn’t much like the child she was attempting to portray, I found that I still liked her contribution.

The era of the Fourth Doctor was honored quite nicely, but Fairs manages to also create something pretty unique here even if it takes me another listen or two to fully grasp it.


Doctor Who Audio Review: The Twelfth Returns To The TARDIS

Doctor Who - The Doctor Chronicles: The Twelfth Doctor Volume 01

The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles is a Doctor Who audio anthology released by Big Finish Productions.  Jacob Dudman returns to the mic serving as narrator for four new stories and doing his best to reproduce the voice of Peter Capaldi.  Helen Goldwyn is the director for this latest collection.  Each story also has a guest actor to help out.

The set starts off with David Llewellyn’s The Charge of the Night Brigade. Mandi Symonds is featured in this one as Mary Seacole, who had some renown as a nurse serving behind battle lines during the Crimean War.  I guess she had similar notoriety as Florence Nightingale.  On top of the horrors of war, an alien infection is also complicating matters even further, and that’s where the Doctor steps on.  It’s an interesting piece of British history, and Symonds was a good addition to the story.  I did not find it to be a spectacular addition, however it did not strike me as something I would find that memorable.

War Wounds is the second story and is written by Mark Wright.  Samuel Anderson reprises his role of Danny Pink from the television series.  He was the boyfriend of companion Clara Oswald who ended up on the wrong end of a Cyber conversion.  Danny joins the Doctor in the TARDIS as they are taken to a war on a distant planet.  Danny and the Doctor have some pretty amusing moments as they argue their way through this adventure, however there isn’t much here that grabbed my attention and kept it either.  Once again, this is one that is not terribly written, but the only thing that warranted any special note was Danny Pink’s presence.  I was never one that found that character too compelling in the television series, but at least he was someone I recognized.

Distant Voices by Lizbeth Myles had a much more interesting premise.  Emily Redpath is the guest performer and is quite good.  Redpath plays a tour guide who is haunted by voices of the past, however it’s no ghost that is the culprit. The Doctor has found a serious wound in Time, and a young tour guide who seems to be at the center.  This one was pretty good, or at least more striking than the other stories in this set.  There have been other similar ideas in the series, however this one still resonated better than at least for the first two entries.

Finally, Field Trip by Una McCormack concludes this set with Ingrid Oliver returning as the Doctor’s most ardent admirer, Osgood.  Osgood finally gets a trip in the TARDIS where the Doctor enlists her assistance to stop an invasion.  First, they much stop by an intergalactic peace conference where matters take a much  more dangerous turn.  I actually liked Osgood from the television series, so it was a welcome return for her, in my opinion.

Dudman’s impersonation of Capaldi doesn’t quite come off as accurately as when he imitated David Tennant and Matt Smith in the previous Chronicles.  Fortunately, he is not so far off the mark that it distracted me from finding some enjoyment here.  Dudman is actually a pretty compelling narrator though, so that helped me forgive any lapses in his rendition of this version of the Doctor.  The sound effects were effectively realized, but that’s hardly news with Big Finish output.  None of the stories were really bad, but three out of the four just didn’t keep my attention all that well.  Big Finish is still the master of this manner of storytelling, and my being somewhat underwhelmed by this particular set does nothing to change my appreciation for the studio itself.

Classic Film Review: From Clemens To Twain

Another Old Movie Blog: The Adventures of Mark Twain - 1944

The Adventures of Mark Twain is a biographical film released in 1944.  Irving Rapper directed this particular piece, which was written by Alan Le May and Harold M. Sherman.  Fredric March stars in the titular role.  The cast also includes Alexis Smith, Alan Hale, C. Aubrey Smith, and John Carradine.

The film starts off with the birth of one Samuel L. Clemens and follows his life journey through his period as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi to a prospector to a newpaper reporter in Nevada.  Also, Clemens publishes his first story under his famous pseudonym Mark Twain.  Then we see his fame and family grow.

First of all, March is well cast as Twain.  He seems to impressively avoid a caricature performance well enough, given Twain’s well known flamboyance and bombastic mannerisms.  The set designs were quite well constructed.  There is some beautiful scenery throughout the movie.

It’s a little bit of a struggle though to sit through.  There are some moments that feel pretty slow.  I also had some difficulty keeping my bearings as to where in Twain’s life I was supposed to be viewing.  Of course, I actually don’t know much about his history.  There was a mixture of fantasy as well with the presence of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn near the beginning and the end.

There are a lot of merits to this film, but it could seem to be a little rambling at times.  The pacing could stand some improvement, but the film manages to hold together fairly well on the strength of the casting and the depiction of probably one of the most eccentric scribes in American history.

Film Review: Inspector Goole Has Some Questions For The Birling Family

The Stage - News - Watch now: Exclusive interviews with the cast ...

An Inspector Calls was originally a play by J.B Priestley that has been adapted a few times.  I saw the British television film first aired in 2015 and directed by Aisling Walsh.  The screenplay was written by Helen Edmundson.  The films stars David Thewlis as the mysterious Inspector Goole who calls upon the Birling family to discuss their role into what led up to the suicide of a young woman.  The cast includes Sophie Rundle, Chloe Pirrie, Miranda Richardson, and Finn Cole.

The story is an indictment on how those in lower societal classes are sometimes treated by those in more august positions.  As the drama unfolds, this inspector reveals how each member of the Birling family and a new fiancee have contributed to the desperate circumstances surrounding the young woman who took her own life.

There is a bit of an obvious preachy element, however the performances were compelling.  I liked the interpretation of this inspector by Thewlis.  Everyone else in the cast also did well.  The ending was a little more ambiguous than I would have preferred, but the journey to it was captivating enough.

The message is a little overdone and obvious, but the film is still well done.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Cold Beginnings

Lords of the Red Planet is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is an episode from The Lost Stories.  The original story idea was conceived by Brian Hayles for the television series during Patrick Troughton’s era.  John Dorney adapted this long buried work for the audio.  Lisa Bowerman is once again in the director’s chair or booth.  Frazer Hines reprises his role of Jamie McCrimmon as well as serving as co-narrator and filling in as the Second Doctor for the long deceased Patrick Troughton.  Wendy Padbury performs alongside as Zoe Herriot and as another narrator.  The guest cast has some telling family connections with Michael Troughton, the son of the aforementioned Patick, and Charlie Hayes, who is the daughter of Wendy Padbury.  Abigail Thaw and Nicholas Briggs round out the cast.  Abigail Thaw, as a matter of interest, is the daughter of John Thaw, who was best known playing one Inspector Morse.

The story revolves around the origins of the Ice Warriors. those well known denizens of the planet Mars, in Doctor Who canon anyway.  The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe arrive when genetic experiments are taking place.  Thaw is quite chilling as the ambitious Zaadur who is trying to breed a new species of warriors.  Briggs hisses his way through another turn as various Ice Warriors.  Once again, the cast appears to be well-considered.

I actually rather like the Ice Warriors because they are one of the few adversaries who weren’t always at odds with the Doctor.  They were one of those alien species with a complex sense of honor, and there were occasionally individuals that cropped up in their stories who were often allied with the Doctor.  Having them originated on Mars seems pretty campy, but other than that, I have come to appreciate them more over the years.

Dorney is a talented enough writer, and the performances were compelling.  The criticism of this one is that it’s a six part story, and I am not sure that was really necessary.  As much as I love the series, the longer tales really do tend to drag, and this one unfortunately had those moments.

It has an interesting premise and a talented cast, but it could have been served better with a bit more brevity.