Film Review: So What’s Your Superpower?

The New Mutants (2020) - IMDb

The New Mutants is a horror superhero film that is part of the Marvel franchise. It is based on a Marvel comic series created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod. Josh Boone and Knate Lee are the scriptwriters for this film that ended up being directed by Josh Boone. The cast includes Maisie Williams, Alice Braga, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt and Adam Beach.

A group of teen-agers with superhuman abilities are in an isolated hospital under the care of the mysterious Dr. Reyes, who claims to be trying to help them control their powers, however unsurprisingly, there may be a darker intent. When a young Cheyenne woman arrives, even stranger events start to occur.

I like the set up of a group of people in an isolated, spooky mansion dealing with what appears to be spectral intruders. The cast did well for the most part. Howver, much of the story does not make much sense. There is one doctor alone dealing with tumultuous, angst ridden kids that could kill her at a moment’s notice if someone’s powers get out of control. There is some corporation funding these experiments. The visual effects were quite good, but there is nothing unexpected about that. There were a few cool moments when the teens started to show some camaraderie toward the climax of the film.

This film may not be the best offering of the Marvel series, but it still isn’t the worst film overall. Not all of it made sense, but it did manage to keep my attention well enough.

Film Review: The Madness Returns To Gotham

Batman The Killing Joke Review (2016) | Phenomenal Stories | Found Paris  Franz

Batman: The Killing Joke is an animated superhero film released in 2016. It was written by Bob Azzarello and directed by Sam Liu. Kevin Conroy voices the Dark Knight with Mark Hamill returning as the Joker. Tara Strong, Ray Wise, and Brian George are also included in the cast.

There is a fairly long prologue exploring the relationship between Batman and Batgirl, who is really the daughter of Commissioner James Gordon. A rather stressful chase of a criminal with the unlikely name of Paris Franz leads Barbara to hang up her cape and cowl.

Then, the Joker makes his escape from Arkham Asylum yet again. He kidnaps the Commissioner and subjects him to his insane brand of torture. Also, we get an origin story for the Joker courtesy of some intrusive flashback scenes.

I guess this is a very celebrated graphic novel Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. I also would presume the source material was much better than this adaptation. It isn’t that nothing worked in this film, but it just didn’t draw me in as much as I had hoped. It takes too long for the Joker to show up. It did not seem clear how he pulled off this latest escape. The performances were fine, but these actors have been playing these roles for several years now. I do enjoy Hamill’s take on the Joker. It also amuses me greatly that this is Luke Skywalker who has had such a solid career as a voice actor. Conroy is fine as Batman. I don’t know much about him, but he has voiced the Dark Knight for quite some time now. The animation was fine. I found this film experience to be an average effort. I think the hardcore fans might find more enjoyment than I did.

I didn’t exactly dislike this film, but I was a little disappointed for some reason. I guess it’s one of those that I will shrug off and let fade from my memory.

Book Review: A Lot Of History In A Small Country

Ireland: 1001 Things You Need To Know is a very comprehensive guide to the Emerald Isle written by Richard Killeen. There is a lot packed into this thing. It’s not a hard read, but the prose style is not all that eye-catching. It does cover quite a lot of different aspects of Irish culture and history. I was a little surprised to notice that Bram Stoker is not included in this volume. It does make me wonder who and what else may not have gotten a mention that others would assume would be noteworthy. For anyone interested in Irish culture and history, this book does well enough in that exploration, but I doubt it should be considered some kind of definitive resource.

Since this looks like this will be one will my shorter blogs, I will just move on and announce that my next reading indulgence will be Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Hopefully there will be a little more to share once I finish that one.

Doctor Who Audio Review: A Mirror Of Destruction

The Apocalypse Mirror is a Doctor Who audio presentation from the range known as The Companion Chronicles. Eddie Robson serves as the scriptwriter with Lisa Bowerman in the director’s chair again for Big Finish Productions. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury are reunited as Jamie and Zoe as they present this story from what would have been the era of the Second Doctor, as played by the late Patrick Troughton.

The Doctor and his two friends arrive in a city known as Tromesis and found that some calamity has stricken it. As they explore the ruins, they keep seeing ghostly images of the city before the disaster. They also learn that people have vanished and giant metal birds are on the attack.

Hines, as usual, does well with playing Jamie McCrimmon and his impression of the Second Doctor. Padbury does well in this one. The story is pretty good. It’s an enjoyable yet unremarkable episode. It’s just a nice little addition that features a favorite early Doctor.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Doctor Wanders Off

Doctor Who: Time Apart

Time Apart is a Doctor Who audio anthology from Big Finish Productions and stars Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor. There are four little vignettes that comprise this collection which is directed by Jamie Anderson.

Ghost Station is the first story written by Steve Lyons and takes place in East Berlin around the events of the Second World War. Timothy Blore plays a soldier on patrol who has strange visitors of all sorts, including a young man in a cricketer’s outfit. This is a somewhat spooky story, but nothing much stood out, which is a little disappointing since Steve Lyons usually has some intriguing ideas when he contributes to Doctor Who.

The Bridge Master is the second one on deck and is written by Jacqueline Rayner. The Doctor arrives in a medieval village where his shadow is sacrificed. The Doctor usually dismisses such troubles until he finds himself not feeling all that energetic. Once again, it isn’t a terrible installment, but there is not much here that I found terrible unique.

What Lurks Down Under is written by Tommy Donbavand and has the Doctor aboard a prison ship transporting English convicts to Australia. There is a strange affliction aboard the ship and something menacing beneath the depths of the Indian Ocean. This one was rather good. Unfortunately, the author died of cancer not long after he submitted this piece. Anyway, this one was probably the better story in this particular collection.

Finally, it is Kate Thorman who wraps things up with The Dancing Plague, a rather strange occurrence in 16th century France, before it would be known as France. This was apparently some kind of mass hysteria event in 1518. Anyway, the Doctor finds himself in the middle of this rather strange phenomenon and may actually be the cause. It’s an interesting story but I didn’t know enough about this period in world history for it to really resonate.

This collection deals with the Fifth Doctor traveling on his own after he left Nyssa, Tegan, and former Roman slave, Marc on some other planet after a traumatic encounter with the Cybermen. Davison does well enough in his performance. Although the stories in this collection are competently written, nothing really kept my undivided attention. Anyway, it’s an interesting notion to have this particular Doctor on his own since that did not happen at all onscreen. Davison is a fine actor, but he really does not sound anywhere as young as his particular Doctor appeared. Saying that, I am glad he is still participating in the Big Finish releases and hope he has plenty of performances to go.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Library Of Death

The Library of Alexandria is a Doctor Who audio presentation from Big Finish. It is another episode in the range known as The Companion Chronicles and is written by Simon Guerrier. William Russell reprises his role as Ian Chesterton and has Susan Franklyn helping out as an ancient mathematician and philosopher in 5th Century Egypt known as Hypatia. Lisa Bowerman directed this particular episode.

This is a story in the era of the First Doctor, as played by the late William Hartnell. The Doctor and his companions have stopped off in 5th Century Alexandria, which is apparently the site of a renowned ancient library. What historians may not have known is that ancient alien sea creatures are also lurking around. It is Doctor Who after all.

There is not a lot to say here. I didn’t find it to be all that memorable. William Russell is fine as Chesterton and does a decent enough Hartnell impression. This is a little unusual in that it turns out not to be the purely historical episode as was known in this particular era. Guerrier writes a competent enough story here, but nothing much to say beyond that.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Darkest Of Minds

Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion

The Lovecraft Invasion is a Doctor Who audio play released from Big Finish Productions and is written by Robert Valentine. Scott Handcock directs this episode which stars Colin Baker alongside Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood. The guest cast is comprised of Robyn Holdaway, Alan Marriott, David Menkin, and Jonathan Andrew Hume.

A curiously overlooked encounter in Doctor Who has finally occurred when the Time Lord finally meets Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The TARDIS crew is joined by a bounty hunter from the 51st century chasing down a mind parasite known as the Somnifax which is able to bring a host’s darker imaginings to reality. And someone with the darkest of imaginations is HP Lovecraft. Holdaway plays the bounty hunter known as Calypso Jonze who lends a hand. The Doctor and Flip Ramone have to enter the mind of Lovecraft, played by Alan Marriot, and face the horrible creations such as the Cthulhu. The story also deals with Lovecraft’s known racism and xenophobia and yet manages to make him a bit more complicated than his more unkind views. While Flip and the Doctor are trapped in Lovecraft’s imagination, Constance Clarke and Jonze deal with the physical presence of the legendary master of horror fiction.

There are some interesting elements explored that were new to me about Lovecraft, but I was never an expert on the man or his writings. Anyway, the cast as usual was well selected. The script was pretty good but does not really stand out as anything all that remarkable. Once again, the performances are well executed. Flip and Constance Clarke still continue to provide excellent foils to the more bombastic of the Doctor’s incarnations, although Big Finish still makes this iteration of the Time Lord much more likeable than he often appeared in the television series. There was a real attempt, which was quite successful, to make Lovecraft more realistically complicated in spite of his bigotry of the times. Remember, this story is set in Rhode Island 1937, a time where such views were more accepted.

This release is competently written, but it sort of feels like Valentine is checking off a box by having the Doctor meet a literary figure he had yet to meet. The sound effects are as usual well presented, although the voice modulation for the creature voices really sound overly familiar. I guess there isn’t much diversity on how nightmarish creatures actually sound. It’s an enjoyable enough Doctor Who audio experience with some flaws that are not all that hard to forgive.

The Shadow Of Las Vegas

Carrier Commercial Service | Las Vegas, NV

I have just returned from my first excursion to Las Vegas, Nevada since this COVID 19 business has started. I have been there several times over the past twenty years or something along those lines, so I know the town quite a bit. I am not sure I would want to live there mainly because of the unbearable, oppressive heat during the Summer months, but I love going there. I love the choices of entertainment, the variety of eateries, and the general vibe.

I often tell people who tell me they have never been to Las Vegas that yes, it does earn the moniker of Sin City in a thousand different ways, but there is plenty to do where one can enjoy the many of the offerings and still be able to live with themselves. Las Vegas is one of the most unique cities in the United States, if not the world. Of course, there are many cities that could likely legitimately make that claim.

This past weekend, I saw a Las Vegas which made me think of someone with a bad limp. The restaurants were open, and people were able to risk their fortunes in the casinos well enough. Everyone was in masks and some effort was made to encourage the recommended social distance. I have learned that lounges and bars are going to be allowed to do business again this coming week.

I found that knowing about the dark theaters and lack of live shows still dampened my enthusiasm. I was there to visit an old friend, which did happen, and certainly made the trip itself more than worthwhile. It is still Las Vegas, so I found quite a few treats anyway. The Mob Museum is still a favorite diversion after my friend had introduced me to that little gem a few years ago. I still recommend to my friends here in Amarillo to check that out whenever I hear about them planning a trip out that way.

I was then brought to the National Atomic Testing Museum, while it may not spark the same interest in me as the cops and robbers exhibits, was certainly worth the time. It’s a chronicle of the nuclear testing done in Nevada from 1951. It apparently is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute. I will likely be mentioning that to friends who are seeking an escape to Sin City and appreciate a new piece of American history.

So in spite of the restrictions imposed because of COVID 19 pandemic, Las Vegas has some less obvious treasures to discover. Although I am still very pleased to have taken the most recent trip, I am anxious for a return there after a time that all of the amenities and diversions are available. I will not attend or participate in all that is offered since I need to practice some kind of restraint, but I will be glad when the theatres, concert venues, and buffets are in use again.

Hopefully, Las Vegas will recover along with the rest of the country as we try to get a handle on this bug. And it will not be too much longer before I can return and recognize the vibe from the days before COVID 19.

Book Review: False Accusations

The Mystery of Three Quarters is a novel written by Sophie Hannah and is her third effort to feature the Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie, Monsieur Hercule Poirot.

The story has an intriguing start when no less than four people come to Poirot and claim to have letters written by him that accuse each of them of murdering a elderly man named Barnabas Pandy. Poirot has no idea how Barnabas Pand died or even what sort of life he had lived. He certainly has never written letters accusing people of murder. Poirot gains the aid of Scotland Yard Inspector Edward Catchpool as they try to find typewriters and connections between the recipients of the letters.

I am not sure what Christie’s reaction would be to this latest effort to provide new additions to Poirot’s casefiles, but I think the estate has found a competent enough writer to pull it off. I rather like that Hannah has created her own Scotland Yard inspector as an ally to the fastidious Belgian. She also seems to respect the original author’s presentation of Poirot. Not much new ground is discovered, but that was fine with me. Poirot’s sense of justice and his ego are quite intact.

I don’t feel as if I can say that Hannah’s efforts are a match for Dame Agatha’s, I will say that this particular effort is strong enough for me to appreciate a new story with Hercule Poirot.

Earlier this year, I was in Ireland and came across a little bookshop where I picked up what is to be my next reading indulgence. I will see what Richard Killeen thinks I need to know about the Emerald Isle in his book, Ireland: 1001 Things You Need to Know.

Book Review: Meet The Maji Clans

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha (1))

In 2018, author Toni Adeyemi publishes the first novel in a trilogy. Children of Blood and Bone introduces the readers to the Maji clans of Orisha. Magic was thought to have been banished from this land until a scroll is stolen. It’s another story about a group of young rebels trying to bring magic back to their land despite the oppression of the kingdom. The novel is presented in first person, but the point of view alternates between each chapter. There is a girl called Zelie who seems to be the main protagonist, but two or three other characters are presented as well.

Full disclosure here: young adult fantasy is not my genre of preference when it comes to leisure reading. That bias likely was a major contributor to my difficulty in finding enjoyment. Also, I am well beyond what would be considered a young adult. Adeyemi is not a bad writer, but there was not much found all that distinctive in her prose style. Also, there was not much distinctive about each character’s voice when they were featured in the chapter. I often had to double-check the chapter heading to make sure I was in the right character’s head.

I actually found Adeyemi’s heritage and background as a Nigerian-American more compelling than the actual story. To be fair, she is a new author, and her writing was not noticeably bad. Hell, I am not a master of the written word either, so Adeyemi and I both need the practice. Still, I have read other published works that are considerably worse than this novel. This is likely one of those novels where I would still recommend others to try out since my perception is likely tainted by my lack of experience and interest in the genre overall. It’s not bad, but it just didn’t impact me as much as I was hoping.

Now, I will be returning to more familiar territory for my leisure reading. A few years ago, Agatha Christie’s estate allowed more stories featuring Hercule Poirot to be created by Sophie Hannah. I am more of a fan of the late Dame Agatha and of course, Hercule Poirot. So Poirot has a baffling start to his involvement in The Mystery of Three Quarters.