Reviews and thoughts about movies, books, pop culture, and Doctor Who
Author: Peter Kanelis
I was born in Portland, Oregon and currently reside in Texas. I am an avid reader and movie watcher. I also am a long-time Doctor Who fan and collect the audio dramas as well as watch the television series. I have been writing reviews of this nature on social media for a few years now and want to expand on that practice.
Batman: Hush is an animated superhero film that was released in 2019. Justin Copeland is the director with Ernie Altbacker providing the script. It is based on a graphic novel written by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. Jason O’ Mara provides the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The cast includes the talents of Jennifer Morrison, Geoffrey Arend, Chris Cox, Jason Spisak, and Rainn Wilson. Oh yes, Jerry O’Connell plays Superman. Superman and Lois Lane show up as well. It’s actually quite a carnival of villains and allies of the Dark Knight.
A new villain is stalking the streets of Gotham manipulating some of Batman’s other enemies to kill him. The new guy in town, Hush, also seems to know the Batman’s other identity. In the meantime, Batman and Catwoman decide to try out a committed relationship of sorts. Everyone from the series is there. We get to see Poison Ivy, the Joker, a glimpse of the Penguin, the Riddler. Also, Superman and Lois Lane turn up. Superman and Batman have to fight it out yet again before they become buddies again.
It’s kind of a fun script though. The performances were fine. I thought O’Mara made a pretty good Batman. The animation was serviceable but nothing remarkable. A couple of fight scenes were pretty good. Hush has a secret identity of his own, which is not surprising, because who would name their kid Hush?
Anyway, this animated film isn’t for the little ones. There are a couple of gruesome murders. Overall, the idea is interesting, but there did seem to be too much of an effort to cram all of the favorite bad guys in a fairly short film. For some reason, I rather enjoyed seeing Superman in this one. There was kind of an amusing banter between the two caped do-gooders.
I enjoyed this particular installment in the Batman animated films for the most part.
Anxious People is a novel written by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. It apparently involves a hostage situation when a bank robber interrupts a group of people in the middle of an apartment viewing. That is the simple way to explain this, but the novel goes much deeper than that. Backman does not really let this story unfold in a linear fashion, so the chapters alternate between the past of some of the characters and the investigation when the bank robber seemingly makes an escape.
Backman also has a whimsical humor peppered throughout, however it’s not exactly a comedic story. There is quite a bit of profound insights about the complexities of life and how many are connected by coincidence. The point of view shifts from each of the various hostages and the father and son policemen investigating the incident. Me trying to describe this makes this sound pretty disjointed, and it sometimes reads that way, but it does come together pretty nicely at the end.
I found that it does take a little patience at the beginning to get used to Backman’s style, but once the twists start appearing, I found that sticking with it paid off. This novel is worth the effort ultimately.
Next up, my literary journey takes me into the 23rd century and aboard the Starship Enterprise. Dayton Ward has a new Star Trek novel entitled Agents of Influence.
Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My Enemy is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and stars Paul McGann. This script was written by Tracy Ann Baines with Scott Handcock serving as director. Nicholas Briggs returns yet again to voice the Daleks. The rest of the cast is comprised of Rachel Atkins, Raj Ghatak, Samantha Béart, Stephen Critchlow, and Jacob Dudman.
The Doctor has been taken prisoner by the Daleks….again. The Daleks are worried when they detect alterations in timelines. The propose an alliance with the Daleks to get to the bottom of such a desecration to cosmic balance. The path takes them a planet known as Wrax. This is a planet the Doctor remembers being an uninhabited rock, however the force changing the timelines actually now provides a population. A population that is in possession of a weapon in which the Daleks are interested. The Daleks then uncharacteristically propose a peace treaty, however the matter isn’t that simple. The Daleks are involved, and the Doctor is understandably suspicious.
So this story takes place on the cusp of the legendary all-consuming Time War. I am always glad when some new writing talent crops up at Big Finish, and this story from Tracey Ann Baines has an interesting premise. Some kind of Dalek Strategist ends up serving some of the purposes of the Doctor’s companion. This is rather a tall order considering that it would be hard to engage in the usual banter the Doctor would have with his usual choice of a companion with a Dalek at his side. This is also a recent recording done while the United Kingdom was in lockdown due to the COVID 19, but the post production work is solid enough where it is hard to tell. I only know it because it is mentioned during the cast interviews at the end of the CD. The guest cast is also well selected, as usual. McGann still sounds great as the Eighth Doctor, who exhibits a cheeky suspicion at his newfound alliance with the Daleks.
The Daleks are a bit overused sometimes, but this episode ended up being pretty intriguing. It will be interesting to see, or rather hear, if more scripts from Baines are soon to come.
And the contest between the Doctor and the Daleks continues….
Enter the Dragon is a martial arts action film released in 1973, the year of this not so humble blogger’s birth. Michael Allin is the scriptwriter while Robert Crouse serves as director. The film stars the late, great Bruce Lee alongside John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Jim Kelly, Betty Chung, and Shih Kien. A fellow named Keye Luke dubbed the voice of Kien’s crime lord Han.
Bruce Lee plays Shaolin martial artist named Lee, who is asked by a British agent to help out with an investigation into a crime boss named Han who holds martial arts tournaments on his private island as a means of recruitment for his empire of misdeeds such as drug trafficking and prostitution. There is some background indicating that Han’s chief henchman was responsible for the death of Lee’s sister some years before. Lee meets two Americans played by Saxon and Jim Kelly. He is not sure who to trust, but has to find another operative who had gone missing on Han’s island. Lots of fights and plenty of pretty girls help to hold the attention.
The plot of this thing is as ridiculous as expected, but I ended up rather enjoying this spectacle regardless. Bruce Lee was definitely too cool for school, and it is tragic that his life and career was cut so short in 1973. Saxon’s performance as a guy named Roper was also kind of intriguing. Roper was sort of a roguish gambler with a heart in spite of his formidable fighting skills. Jim Kelly plays a fighter named Williams and had a rather formidable presence. The character Han seemed to spoof James Bond villains, and the actor apparently enjoyed the campiness of his role.
Most of the film actually works if one sort of embraces the more ridiculous aspects of this. Bruce Lee is fun to watch even if one has to suspend their disbelief pretty significantly. I enjoyed this film more than I expected.
The Spider’s Web is the latest Sherlock Holmes novel from Philip Purser-Hallard and published by Titan Books. The story is set in London 1897 where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are at the conclusion of a murder investigation. They are immediately involved in a subsequent case when a corpse is discovered at a society ball. Holmes starts to interview the Moncrieff family and other guests to determine the identity of the dead man. It does not take long for Holmes to find the thread that leads to long buried family secrets and a rather complicated blackmail scheme.
So I have long lamented this tendency for these Sherlock Holmes pastiche writers to continuously have Holmes face an investigation into the supernatural or to have him encounter historical or other literary figures from the Victorian era. I thought Purser-Hallard had avoided the temptation to do either and then I read the Author’s Note at the end. Apparently, all the major supporting characters in this novel were actually taken from the works of Oscar Wilde. I have never read Oscar Wilde so I did not recognize any of the names.
Also, I had some trouble staying interested in the story anyway, which does not bode well for any interest I may have to try out Oscar Wilde stories. Purser-Hallard just didn’t grab my interest immediately with this one. Actually, my interest waned considerably as I trudged onward. He isn’t a bad writer, but this ended up not being one of the better Holmes novels I have read. Also, I was exasperated that the backdrop was the setting provided by another author.
Anyway, the 2021 literary indulgence continues as I learn what Fredrik Backman makes of Anxious People.
The Scent of Blood is a Doctor who audiobook from BBC Audio and is written by Andrew Lane. Dan Starkey performs the reading and is quite good.
A journalist in 1890’s Edinburgh named James MacFarlane has a line on vampires possibly lurking in the streets. He encounters a mysterious known as the Doctor on a hunt of his own.
This is an adventure featuring the Doctor in what is commonly considered his eighth incarnation, as played by Paul McGann. The script is solid but not really all that remarkable. What is remarkable is how well Starkey imitates McGann’s vocal mannerisms. Starkey does not do a perfect impression, but he does hit it well enough to imagine how McGann would say the lines. I liked the setting and time period even though the Victorian age is visited often in Doctor Who. It’s an enjoyable enough of an effort from Lane, but nothing that will stay in my memory for very long.
Mastermind is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is an episode from the range known as The Companion Chronicles. Jonathan Morris is the scriptwriter with Ken Bentley and Jason Haigh-Ellery sharing the director duties. There are actualy no real companions of the Doctor’s here, but there is one persistent enemy known as the Master, played this time by Geoffrey Beevers. Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso return to roles as Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato, respectively. Matheson and Sato are two UNIT soldiers introduced in a previous episode entitled Tales from the Vault.
For a number of years, the Vault has had one living occupant who would awaken from a coma every five years. This would be other renegade Time Lord known as the Master. This would be decayed husk version of the Master, played chillingly by Beevers. Sato and Matheson try to learn of the reason for the Master’s latest visit on Earth and the events which led to his discovery in a locked penthouse. The Master, in spite of his hideous appearance, still has the power of persuasion, which still could be underestimated in spite of the precautions taken by the UNIT guards.
This ended up being an intriguing departure for this series. Beever has such a compelling, malevolent silkiness in his voice that firmly keeps one’s attention. It’s amusing to hear Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso since they were both in the 1996 television movie which introduced Paul McGann’s version of the Doctor. Of course, they are playing two original Big Finish characters this time, and their performances hold up as well. Anyway, everyone does well, and the script is pretty well done. I am not exactly sure why there are two directors, but the episode still works. There is some exploration into the pasts of Sato and Matheson and an effort to present a piece of the Master’s long and complicated history. He certainly was not any less malevolent. I enjoyed this one even with the Doctor being absent here.
Shadow of the Daleks 2 is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions which continues the story of the Fifth Doctor following what he calls a temporal trail leading to another confrontation with the Daleks. There are four short plays directed by Ken Bentley that make up this compilation that was started in the previous release, Shadow the Daleks 1. The Doctor is played by Peter Davison. He keeps finding himself in the different situations and setting where he sees the same four faces in different guises. The guest cast is comprised of Jamie Parker, Anjli Mohindra, Dervla Kerwin, and Glen McCready. Nicholas Briggs fires up the voice modulator in order to rant and shriek as the Daleks. I was pretty enthusiastic about the first half of this saga, and this second half does pretty well. I think I liked the first one better since I was less familiar with the set-up.
The collection begins with Echo Chamber by Jonathan Banks. The Doctor curiously finds himself as a host of a radio talk show and is not sure how he got there. An rather interesting concept that seems pretty workable in only a one part story. A rather amusing beginning that turns rather dark toward the end, which is appropriate when the Daleks are involved.
Roland Moore follows that up with a pretty impressive story entitled Towards Zero where the Doctor arrives at an old country house in time to solve his own murder. It’s a pretty convoluted setup but an intriguing story that moves the Doctor in a direction where he starts to get answers.
Castle Hydra is the third story and is written by Lizzie Hopkins. The Doctor arrives at a castle that serves as a prison for some familiar faces and answers are coming to light as to why the Doctor knows the faces involved in his most recent adventures. Some of the action sequences were not quite as effective on audio, but Hopkins seems to be a competent enough writer, and I will be interested to see what else she comes up with in future scripts.
John Dorney brings the whole matter to a conclusion with Effect and Cause. Dorney is a frequent contributor to Big Finish scripts and does a very nice job of bringing this series to a close. The explanation for this confusion in time and reality is actually pretty creative.
The first volume is probably a little better, but I also had a better idea what to expect in this one. Peter Davison puts in a pretty good performance as usual. There was no explanation as to why this Doctor was on his own through this whole thing, but I found myself not caring much about that. This was an unusual set of adventures for this Doctor as I noted in my entry concerning the preceding volume, but I was glad some risks were taken by Big Finish in this.
The Night Fire is a crime novel written by Michael Connelly and reunites his most popular characters. Retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch is working with current LAPD Detective Renee Ballard on a case that was apparently in the unauthorized custody his mentor, who recently died. Ballard herself is working on a disturbing murder of a homeless man who had been burned alive. The Lincoln Lawyer himself, Mickey Haller, is defending a man accused of killing a district judge in a park. It’s quite the free-for-all of homicidal behavior in this one.
It will come as no surprise to say that I enjoyed this novel. I appreciate that Connelly has avoided the obvious cliché of having Bosch as some grandmaster mentor of homicide investigation to Renee. Ballard has plenty of experience and talent to offer of her own in spite of the lack of years compared to Bosch. Bosch is also having a personal crisis involving his health, but that ends up being of some use during his investigation. He also gets involved in Haller’s case when the client may actually be innocent, and Bosch wants to make sure that a real killer answers for the judge’s murder.
The title refers to the inner fire that burns in all of these protagonists that keeps them motivated to seek the truth in whatever crime they are investigating. Bosch and Ballard both have challenges in their professional and personal lives that potentially distract them from that goal, but they still focus on their various investigations and pursue the answers relentlessly.
Connelly will likely maintain a consistent quality in his works. It’s fun to see what direction his characters take, particularly Harry Bosch as he continues to navigate his new retirement status which competes with his desire to take more murderers off the street. Connelly has assured his fans that Bosch is not likely to disappear from the canon for quite a while. Also, he created someone worth following with Renée Ballard.
The Night Fire does have quite a lot going on, but Connelly does tie up the threads pretty nicely. So the streets of his version of Los Angeles are just a little safer now.
The next literary indulgence will involve a return to 221B Baker Street London inn 1897. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson will have their own crime to solve within Philip Purser-Hallard’s The Spider Web.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a superhero film with Gal Gadot returning to the title role. Patty Jenkins returns to the director’s chair and has co-written the screenplay alongside Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham. Chris Pine returns as the resurrected Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s lost love from the First World War and previous movie. Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal sign on as the main antagonists. Connie Nielson and Robin Wright are also seen in flashbacks to young Diana Prince’s childhood on the secluded island of Amazon warriors.
By day, Wonder Woman lives as Diana Price, a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution. At least that was what she was doing in 1984. A foiled robbery leaves a collection of artefacts to be identified by Diana’s department. Among the mysterious items is something known as a “Dreamstone” which actually has the ability to grant wishes, which leads to the return of Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, a slick business owner with a troubled oil company. Kristen Wiig plays a very insecure woman named Barbara Minerva, who later gains a lot more confident and lethal when she becomes an adversary known as Cheetah. So everyone gets a wish but there is a cost that is not immediately apparent. The whole planet starts to go nuts, and Wonder Woman is the only one there to sort it all out.
This thing is a mess, but Gal Gadot and Chris Pine help make it a watchable mess. I am not sure why this story needed to take place in 1984. There wasn’t much to help remind me of that this was supposed to be taking place in 1984. Of course, I may have been trying too hard to make sense of the plot to really focus on the details of the setting. There were some charming and amusing moments. Gadot is a good actress and incredibly beautiful, so that helped keep my attention. It was good to see Chris Pine again, although I am concerned that he is going to keep showing up in more implausible ways if this series continues. It is, of course, a comic book movie, so the implausible is actually quite routine. Anyway, the two leads and their chemistry is really the best thing about this film.
I was not sure that Wiig was going to be a good fit as someone who might be able to take down Wonder Woman, but she did fine overall. Pedro Pascal was also fine but rather unremarkable.
This film has taken some rather brutal criticism by the pros, but it was not quite as bad as I feared. It’s not that great either unfortunately. Much of the criticism is fair. This is just a film that left me with a mixed reaction. I liked it for the most part, but the previous film in 2017 was considerably better. I do want to see Gal Gadot continue in the part though. That casting decision was a stroke of genius. I just wish the genius flowed over into the plot of this particular movie.