Film Review: The Dark Days Of Fantasy Island

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Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island is a horror film that is based off the television series that began in 1977 and starred Ricardo Montalban.  Jeff Wadlow directed this film which he co-wrote with Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs.  Gene Levitt created the original series in case anyone was interested.

The cast includes Maggie Q, Michael Pena, Lucy Hale, and Austin Stowell.  Michael Pena is cast as the enigmatic Mr. Roarke which was originally portrayed by the late Ricardo Montalban.

A group of seemingly unconnected people are invited to an island which will make their fantasies come to life.  There are rules though to this indulgence.  Of course, the fantasies are twisted into something much more malevolent by a mysterious presence.

Pena is a fine actor, but he does not quite capture the same enigmatic authority as Montalban could pull off with such ease.  I had a hard time caring about the rest of the cast.  There are these two brothers, where one of them is Asian and gay, while the other is a white overgrown frat guy or something.  Maggie Q plays a rather serious businesswoman who is wanting to pursue a second chance with her boyfriend.  There’s a young man who wants to fight in an war to honor his dead war hero father. All of these fantasies come to be in somewhat interesting ways.

There were some sparks of creativity when it came time to reveal the dark presence behind the fantasies going dangerously awry.  Unfortunately, the film still deserves the almost universal criticism from the professionals.  I could not bring myself to really care about most of the characters.  Actors such as Maggie Q and Michael Pena felt somewhat wasted.  Oh yes, Michael Rooker is in this one as well and does the best he can.  The other younger cast members seem to belong just fine and a substandard and unnecessary horror flick.

I found it to be not quite terrible but not even close to muster some kind of enthusiastic recommendation.

Doctor Who Episode Review: Mad, Bad, And Dangerous To Know

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The Haunting of Villa Diodati is the latest Doctor Who episode aired by the BBC in what is twelfth season of the revived version.  Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gill are still the main cast.  Maxine Alderton is the scriptwriter with Emma Sullivan calling the shots from the director’s chair.

The Doctor and her companions arrive in 1816 at Lake Geneva where a fascinating gathering of creative minds is taking place.  This is where the legendary gathering of friends which include who would be come Mary Shelley alongside Lord Byron and Dr. John Polidori. It is said that this where Mary Shelley conceived the legendary story of Frankenstein.  Lord Byron was at one time given the moniker of “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”  The Doctor is here, so events have taken a much more disturbing turn. Percy Shelley is not in attendance as history notes.  Strange apparitions are emerging from the space.  The house itself is behaving oddly.  A familiar foe of the Doctor’s has also crashed the party.

The guest cast includes Lili Miller, Jacob Collins-Levy, and Patrick O’Kane.  I have nothing too critical about the casting choice here.

I am a sucker for Doctor Who episodes with spooky houses and spectral phenomenon, so I was interested pretty quickly.  I am not a big fan of this particular era of Doctor Who, however this episode was not that bad.  Whittaker’s Doctor seems to be showing some range between the cheeky humor and the expected cleverness.  The companions are still a bit too numerous.  For some reason, I was a bit annoyed with Walsh’s Graham O’Brien, who I usually like, in this particular story.

It’s not a great addition to the series, but I found it adequately enjoyable.  It may end up being one of the stronger stories in the current series that is still being aired.  The visual effects weren’t bad either, which is saying something for Doctor Who.

The show’s ratings are still declining, and it doesn’t appear this episode helped much.  I thought the episode was better than what he have seen so far from head writer Chris Chibnall and current star Jodie Whittaker, however it was not much better.

Film Review: Listen To Your Sensei, Unless He’s Crazy

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The Art of Self-Defense is described as a black comedy thriller, at least by Wikipedia.  It is written and directed by Riley Stearns.  Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, and Alessandro Nivola are the stars of this unusual little piece.

Okay, this isn’t a well-known film that was released in 2019, and it really doesn’t need to be.  Eisenberg plays a uniquely timid bookkeeper who gets attacked by a motorcycle gang after he has to run out to get dog food.  Casey Davies, the main character, comes across a karate dojo and meets a rather intense and eccentric sensei.  But there ends up being more to the lethal lessons than Casey realizes.

This is just a weird movie.  It’s not completely devoid of interesting moments and revelations, but it also does not lack in more obnoxious elements.  Eisenberg has always been a hit or miss with me and this film didn’t really help me appreciate him more.

He chooses to communicate in this flat, staccato delivery that is not rally explained.  Everyone comes off as kind of flat as well.  It made the film something to be more endured than enjoyed.

Nivola was somewhat interesting in his performance.  He displayed some sudden shocking violence at times.

I basically sat through this out of a sense of stubbornness in honoring my self-imposed commitment to seeing different kinds of films.

It will likely appeal to someone of a different sort of humor and temperament, but I didn’t find much that was worth the time.

Reviews, Musings On Hiatus, But Not For That Long

Although I am well aware I don’t have anything near a vast readership. I am going to take a moment to pretend otherwise.  I am going to announce a bit of a break from this blog.  Not for reasons of poor health, although I do need to do take better car of myself.  I am not going to to rehab or anything like that.  The reason for this break is actually a pretty fulfilling one.  I am participating in a mission trip to Ireland through my church in Amarillo, Texas. It is a ministry I have tried to show consistent support.  There is a ministry in Dublin called Dublin Family Outreach, and their ambassador or contact is someone whose work with the families there I greatly respect.  The center has a property known as Drewstown where next weekend is going to be site of a women’s conference where they will be told about Jesus and maybe learn was where their relationship with Him can enrich their lives.  Now, on this trip is a group of men who will be doing some work projects around the property as well, so I will be doing appropriately manly activities such as assisting in room renovations or something.

Now I could take my laptop with me and probably find time to add to this blog, but the wifi can be a little spotty out there, and my level of patience is not quite reflective of my relationship with God at times.  Hey, nothing wrong with a little confession.  It would be easier to spare my fellow team members and the Irish the more darker aspects of my psyche of I just avoid trying to post new content during this mission.  God would also not appreciate my lack of patience trying to continue this effort through my cell phone.  The thought of attempting that makes me cringe.

I also had made myself to a vow to beef up the “musings and other things” aspects of this blog.  Although I enjoy expressing my views on movies, Doctor Who, and books that I reading, I am aware that I should be stretching myself more with my own writing efforts.  This has so far been an intriguing exercise, but I find myself playing it safe at times.

Anyway, if any other Christians happen to stumble across, please pray for out safety and well-being.  Pray for the people of Ireland.  It is as gorgeous as people say, but it’s a complicated society with a lot of needs, just like every other nation on this planet.  The Irish have had many struggles in their long, rich history and need that light only a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring.  Also, pray for me as I sometimes struggle in my own relationships with Jesus and with others.  This is a great group of people I will be joining for this trip, and I look forward to maybe forging new friendships with those on the Emerald Isle.  This is my third time to see Ireland, but I have yet to grow weary of it.

For the few that manage to take the time to peruse the reviews and musings, I thank you, and normal service will be resumed next week.

 

Film Review: Harley Quinn Is Available And Pretty Crazy

Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) is the latest cinematic offering from DC Films.  Margot Robbie returns as the Joker’s now ex-girlfriend, Harley Quinn, who was once Harleen Quinzel. Cathy Yan directs the film which was scripted by Christina Hodson.  It is part of the world of Gotham City where Batman is often on the hunt for the most psychotic of criminals.  Too bad Batman isn’t around in this one.  The cast members are talented and include Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell.

The lethally quirky Harley Quinn has just been dumped by the Joker.  During her understandable period of grief and anger, she blows up a chemical plant and gets herself targeted by all the various miscreants she has crossed and angered.  She also has found herself in the crosshairs of a zealous detective. A diamond has been taken by a pickpocket who Harley has sort of befriended.  As much as Harley can cultivate a friendship, anyway.

The fight scenes were pretty well choreographed.  The soundtrack was actually quite enjoyable.  The visual effects were quite well….effective.  I actually had a mixed bag sort of reaction though.  Not all of the wisecracks and repartee landed that well.  Robbie does seem to have a lot of fun with the character, which actually seems pretty easy to pull off.

McGregor plays a gangster named Roman Sionis who also goes by the dubious moniker of Black Mask.  McGregor does well enough in the role, since I guess it’s supposed to be an over the top sort of psycho.  I found the depiction of Black Mask to be rather cliche.  He certainly isn’t that memorable of a psycho.

It’s kind of a fun girl power superhero popcorn flick.  It seems quite a while since I saw Rosie Perez in a film of any type of box office significance, and I enjoyed seeing her.  Steven Williams is another actor I haven’t seen in a while, and he was there playing the typical by the book police captain.  I like Steven Williams, so it was pretty cool to see him even if there was nothing too spectacular about his role.

The movie was enjoyable enough for me to not regret seeing it, but I don’t imagine it’s going to be considered any great addition to the genre of comic book movies.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The London Fog Gets Deadly

The Creeping Death is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is written by Roy Gill.  Ken Bentley directs this episode which stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate.  The guest cast includes Helen Goldwyn, Lauren Cornelius, and Stephen Critchlow.

The Doctor and Donna Noble are brought to 1952 London in which the fog is a bit more oppressive than usual.  An alien threat lurks among the mist as well.  Apparently, there actually was an event known as the Great Smog of London which caused many severe illnesses among the populace at that time.  The part about the alien is artistic license of course.

The story is quite a bit better than what the title suggests.  The Doctor and Donna fall in with a small group of people trying to survive the encroaching smog and whatever is hidden within.

Tennant and Tate recapture their familiar chemistry and banter without much difficulty. The story isn’t bad but not entirely unique/  I did appreciate learning an interesting piece of London history that I had never come across before.

It’s an enjoyable enough tale taking place in a well-loved era of the series.  Hopefully Tennant will return to the Big Finish studio quite soon.  Catherine Tate can come along too.

Doctor Who Audio Review: A Late Christmas Adventure With The Doctor

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Blood On Santa’s Claw And Other Stories is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions.  It’s an anthology consisting of four stories, or is it?  What we do know for sure is that is directed by John Ainsworth and that it stars Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.  Peri has a boyfriend named Joe in this release.  Luke Allen-Gale joins the TARDIS crew, and the Doctor is a little put out.  That’s okay though, the Sixth Doctor is usually put out by something, but that’s what makes him so fun to listen to.

Blood On Santa’s Claw is apparently written by Alan Terigo and has the Doctor, Peri, and Joe find themselves in the 59th century where they find a murdered creature in a Santa suit and talking animals in Shakespearian garb.

Allegedly, Susan Dennom wrote The Baby Awakens Peri has a chance to see what parenting could be like when she, the Doctor, and Joe investigate a clinic that can create “designer babies”.  Of course, there is something a little more menacing lurking under the potential for a Christmas family gathering.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is rumored to be written by Andrew Lias in which the Doctor and his companions land again in the 59th century in the middle of the longest Christmas party ever held.  But a trap is waiting underneath the festivities.

All is revealed in Nev Fountain’s Brightly Shone The Moon That Night, and it’s not a bad twist.

Colin Baker’s version of the Doctor continues to dominate in the Big Finish stories much better than in his television era.  He and Bryant still show a formidable chemistry even after all these years.  There ends up being more to Joe than I anticipated.

The guest cast includes Heather Bleasdale, Dawn Murphy, and Cliff Chapman.  Everyone is well chosen, which is typical of Big Finish.

There is quite a few clever surprises and red herrings in this release which ends up with a decent payoff.

Doctor Who Episode Review: An Alien Infection Keeps The Doctor Busy

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Praxeus is the latest Doctor Who episode aired this past weekend on BBC.  Jodie Whittaker is still in the lead role alongside Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gill.  Jamie Magnus Stone directed this episode which was penned by Pete McTighe and Chris Chibnall.

The Doctor and her companions have to divide and conquer as they investigate a potential threat that has emerged on three continents throughout the world.  In Peru, Ryan Sinclair, played by Tosin Cole, meets a travel blogger who has just lost her partner while camping near a polluted coastline.  The birds have been behaving unusually aggressively.

The Doctor meets an American naval officer who has been overcome by a disturbing new infection.  She also picks up assistance from two medical researchers.  Yasmin and Graham are on the trail of an astronaut who has gone missing with the help of an ex-cop who has a personal stake in this venture.

A strange new bacterium has gotten out of control and ends up disintegrating those who have been infected.  It seems to be attracted by microplastics that have polluted this fair planet.  Anyway, this turns out to be an anti-pollution episode, which isn’t bad by itself.

It has an intriguing beginning, and then it sort of loses its way as the answers are revealed.  I think there were too many characters to follow.  I just started losing interest about halfway through.

Guest cast includes Warren Brown, Matthew McNulty, Molly Harris, and Joana Borja.  I liked Borja’s role of Gabriela as the sassy and intrepid travel blogger who first meets Ryan and gets pulled into the adventure.  I wouldn’t mind seeing her again.

As mentioned before, the episode started off on an intriguing note, however it ended up being merely an average addition to this current series.  I didn’t actually hate this one, but it just failed to make a lasting impression.  I already throw my trash away though.

Book Review: The Captain Faces The Consequences

Collateral Damage is the latest addition from David Mack to the range of Star Trek: The Next Generation novels.

There are a couple of threads going on here that delve into the notion of unintended consequences and responsibility.  First of all, Captain Jean-Luc Picard returns to Earth to answer for his part for the murder of a deposed Federation President.  The covert section of the Federation known as Section 31 has been dismantled, but the secrets are coming out.  The captain, of course, was not privy to the murder, but he was included in the plan to remove the previous crooked leader.  He encounters an old adversary and meets a new ally in the form of a formidable attorney.

Commander Worf, meanwhile is in the big chair on the USS Enterprise as he tracks a group of pirates in possession of a horrific weapon.  The pirates though may have a legitimate ax to grind.

There is also return of another mischievous character seen only once in the television series.  I won’t spoil that one for any potential readers, but I had to double-check the episode to remind myself of this guy’s demeanor.

There are some jarring shifts in perspective throughout the novel.  I am not usually fond of shifting viewpoints, but Mack kind of makes it work here.

‘This novel concludes the fall out of the latest Borg invasion and the exposure of Section 31 to the general public, and it wraps up these stories pretty effectively.

Now, I am not sure if the current course in these novels is going to continue after more episodes from Star Trek: Picard are aired on CBS: All Access, but I hope so.

I ended up enjoying this entry quite a bit.  It was intriguing to see Picard face a serious enough situation which could tarnish his reputation if not have him imprisoned.

Next up, I will be delving into something I am not sure how to describe in the next literary venture.  It seems to be a series of collected thoughts and vignettes for The Book of Disquiet by Francisco Pessoa.

Film Review: When Business Gets Bloody

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The Gentlemen is an action comedy written and directed by Guy Ritchie.  The story idea is conceived by Ritchie alongside Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies. The formidable cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, and Colin Farrell.  Eddie Marsan and Michelle Dockery also get to join in the mayhem.

There’s a lot going on in this film. It’s also one of those that doesn’t unfold in the most linear of paths,  McConaughey plays a marijuana baron living in England who has quite an impressive empire under his thumb.  The film starts off with a story told by a private investigator played by Hugh Grant to Charlie Hunnam’s lead henchman Raymond.  Mickey Pearson is the clever marijuana distributor who is looking to sell off his venture to retire with this tough, beautiful wife, played by Michelle Dockery.  There is a string of double-crosses and mishaps standing in his way.

This actually turned out to be pretty clever piece with all kinds of colorful characters.  I was impressed with the range demonstrated by Grant.  I generally like Hugh Grant, but I often find him to limited to a couple of basic characters.  He was actually quite convincingly sleazy in this one.

Most of the dialogue was pretty snappy and engaging.  There were some interesting twists that were sometimes hard to predict.  The cast was very effective pretty all the way around.

Keeping track of who was betraying whom was a little bit of a challenge at times, but it does come together pretty neatly when it is all said and done.  It does get a little raunchier than necessary at times, so it isn’t for the most delicate of audiences.

There are elements of the film such as the the liberal spewing of some pretty foul language and some implausibility in the plot, however there is some originality in the characters and how the events unfold.

Ritchie could have made a few different choices for a broader appeal, but it is still one of the better offerings from Hollywood in the past few weeks.