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.
Let Him Go is described as a neo-western drama. The script was written by Thomas Bezucha, who also decided to direct the thing. It is also based on a novel by Larry Watson. The cast is led by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner and includes the talents of Jeffery Donovan, Lesly Mansfield, Kayli Carter, and Will Brittain.
Lane and Costner play Margaret and George Blackledge, who lost their only son in a tragic horse riding accident. The son’s widow later meets and marries Donnie Weboy. Margaret becomes concerned for the safety of her grandson when she witnesses the new husband being quite aggressive with his wife and the child. Things get even more troubling when Donnie whisks the wife and kid off to parts unknown to be closer to his family. When the Blackledges finally track them down. it seems that Donnie comes by his violent tendencies quite honestly. Mansfield is quite convincing as the dastardly matriarch. It was also great to see Donovan onscreen, even if his character was rather slimy.
Anyway, the film could get a little slow at times, but the performances of Lane and Costner helped to offset my impatience a bit. The scenery of Montana and North Dakota was beautifully shot. The story took place in the 1960’s and that era seems to be convincingly recreated as well.
There are some explanations I would have liked to have gotten. For example, the Weboys seemed to have some sort of influence on the town of Gladstone, North Dakota but it was not clear as to why other than them just being rather nasty. It was clear after a rather brutal assault on the intrepid grandparents that they had some pull with the local law enforcement but there was no real explanation as to how that came about. The Weboy family did not seem to be particularly wealthy and lived way out in the hills.
So the ending was a little far-fetched and not quite what I wanted to happen, but the film isn’t bad overall. It does a great job of showing both some of the challenges and the joys of a long marriage. Costner and Lane are just great together. Not all of the story elements made sense, but it did manage to remain quite suspenseful. The performances were all solid. The film has a few weak points, but not enough for me to regret seeing it.
Lethal Agent is a recent novel by Kyle Mills which continues the black ops thriller series created by the late Vince Flynn. Mitch Rapp is back at his never ending crusade to take as many terrorists off the board as he can. In this novel, he has to head off an effort by a ISIS leader to introduce a dangerous strain of engineered anthrax. Rapp has figured out that an adversary has a Mexican drug cartel on hand to help smuggle the virus into the United States. He decides to make it apparent that he has betrayed his country so he can infiltrate the cartel. If Rapp can get both an ISIS leader and a head of a drug cartel, so much the better. He also has to contend with a very ambitious female senator with her eyes on the Oval Office who is less than approving of Rapp’s attitude and methods. It’s a powder keg ready to explode with Rapp in the blast zone, right where he works best.
Vince Flynn died way too young, but Kyle Mills does well enough to keep Rapp in the fight. The body count at the hands of Rapp is quite high in this one. He just seems to get deadlier with age. There is nothing all that extraordinary in the novel other than Rapp getting mixed up with a drug cartel. It does seem that Mills likes to imagine what Rapp would do in the midst of all of the unsavory characters that the US seems to hesitate on in real life. The last Red War pitted Rapp against the Russians. It is kind of fun to see Rapp tangle with some of country’s enemies other than Islamic terrorists. Yes, it all gets rather far-fetched and a little formulaic at times.
Of course, Rapp meets the senator with the major beef, and that does not disappoint when it finally happens. The novel was written well before the global COVID 19 situation, but there were some striking similarities peppered throughout the story. It’s an enjoyable enough entry into the series, but I still miss Vince Flynn.
Next up, I will be getting to an author of whom I have been aware for some time but whose works I have yet to explore. Time to get introduced to Matthew Scudder in Lawrence Block’s When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.
Time Lord Victorious: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is part of a much larger saga that crosses all sorts of mediums on the franchise. Paul McGann stars as the Doctor in this particular piece written by Carrie Thompson and directed by Scott Handcock. Silas Carson has returned to voice the Ood assassin known as Brian. Misha Malcolm, Melanie Stevens, Pauline Eyre, Martin McDougall, and Jack Devos make up the guest cast with Nicholas Briggs appearing very briefly voicing the Daleks.
The Doctor, in what is known as his eighth incarnation, arrives on a planet called Atharna in search of one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. He instead finds an injured woman with an Ood named Brian accompanying her. The planet is a wasteland, but an inhabited one. The setting is supposed to conjure up images of some sparsely populated Old West town. What the Doctor discovers is that Brian is an assassin hired by some wayward daughter’s wealthy and oppressive father to kill the wife of his offspring and bring her back to his nest. There is a sheriff who holds the town doctor responsible for the death of a deputy and friend. There’s a bar owner who just wants to stay out of trouble and make a buck. It’s a very strange, which could shrug and say that was par for the course for the whole series.
Although, the performances are to be commended, as well as the post production work, especially since this was done mostly while the United Kingdom was experiencing the nationwide quarantine brought on by our ever present COVID 19 situation, the story itself just didn’t grab me. I was distracted by the phony American sounding accents even though this did not take place on Earth. An Ood working as a contract killer was a novel enough approach where I should have liked the episode better than I did. Unfortunately, not everything worked much for me in regard to the story, however I could not tell this was done outside of the usual method of recording done by Big Finish. The sound effects all sounded good. The actors did indeed sound like they could have been in the studio together instead of each at home holed up in some closet or cupboard. Even if I had some reservations about the episode itself, I do tip my hat to the ingenuity of the Big Finish staff to present post production work that belied the challenges brought on by this pandemic.
Council of War is a Doctor Who audio drama from Big Finish Productions and is an addition to The Companion Chronicles range. It took two writers to come up with this story featuring Sergeant Benton of UNIT starring John Levene. Simon Barnard and Paul Morris are the co-writers of this particular installment with the ever reliable Lisa Bowerman in the director’s seat. Sinead Keenan joins the fun as the guest actor.
Sergeant Benton is in the spotlight for this one. He has taken up the guise of some kind of town councillor for a town known as Kettering. The Doctor has asked him to look into strange ghostly manifestations which could be the precursor for an alien invasion. Also, some of the locals have disappeared. Benton has his hands full, especially when he finds whisked away to a distant planet and has to jump start a rebellion. Keenan plays a woman named Margery Phillips and shares the narration duties.
Benton is fine for the most part, but I don’t really find him interesting enough to have him at the forefront of a story. Keenan does well as the audio foil for Levene. Levene’s performance is solid enough though. This episode isn’t anything to dread, but it sure missed the mark on making me care about it all that much. I guess there was not enough of the Doctor as a character. Levene’s effort to evoke the spirit of the late Jon Pertwee when he was performing the Doctor’s lines worked fairly well. Levene is no impressionist, but he did his best, and I have no criticism of the attempt. I really have no criticism of Levene himself, but the story just didn’t make Benton all that more interesting to me.
The Flying Dutchman/Displaced is a Doctor Who audio double feature from Big Finish Productions and stars Sylvester McCoy accompanied by Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier. Big Finish just can’t seem to let Hex go, and that’s okay with me. Olivier reprises the role of Thomas Hector Schofield in a pair of adventures that apparently occurred early in his time in the TARDIS. Hex already has a departure story in the Big Finish archives, but it was decided that there were stories that we had yet to hear with him. Samuel Clemens directed this pair of adventures. The guest cast is comprised of Nicholas Khan, Stephen Wright, Nigel Fairs, Carly Day, Patience Tomlinson, and Alexander Bean.
The Flying Dutchman is written by Gemma Arrowsmith and has the TARDIS crew aboard what first appeared to be a deserted ship in the 1740’s. The trio finds the crew in hiding after an encounter with a ghost ship on the high seas known as The Flying Dutchman. The Doctor, of course, is skeptical that there are actually ghosts wandering the deep blue sea. This was a pretty good pirate tale in the end. There was an ocean battle that probably would have worked a little better as a visual experience, but it was fine. No good sea tale is complete without a mutiny and that happens as well. It’s a fun romp on the high seas with a main cast that I have come to appreciate more over the years. It was fun revisiting the chemistry between Ace and Hex with their strange monikers.
As good as the first story was, I think I preferred Katherine Armitage’s Displaced. It probably is because it takes place in a spooky, deserted house, and our intrepid time/space travelers are trapped with a puzzle to solve. There is a family that is dead, and an Artificial Intelligence that may or may not much help. There is some tension between the Doctor and his companions when they suspect that he had somehow arranged the situation as some kind of test. This version of the Doctor is the manipulative cosmic chess player, and his companions’ concerns are not unfounded. Olivier’s performance here is quite compelling when Hex expresses disgust and frustration at how the Doctor behaves sometimes. The character moments is what really holds the interest here, but the story itself was also pretty interesting.
I said that I preferred the second story by Armitage, but this was a pretty solid release overall. McCoy, as expected, does a great job with presenting his Doctor. His era on television had some creative troubles, but Big Finish has gone a long way to raising my appreciation for the Seventh Doctor. Aldred is no longer a teen-ager as Ace is supposed to be, but she still sounds pretty well like she did almost thirty years ago in the television series. The addition of Hex in the mix is fine, but I would prefer if some new ground was broken here. Even if I want a bit more forward movement with each of the Doctors, the stories were good enough for me to not mind the return of Hex much. I certainly want more stories with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor.
Bodyguard is a film noir, directed by Richard O. Fleischer, that was released in 1948 by RKO Radio Pictures. Frank Noblo, Jr. and Harry Essex are the credited screenwriters while George W. George and Robert Altman apparently conceived the story. The film stars Lawrence Tierney as a fired LAPD detective named Mike Carter who is approached by a man who is wanting to hire him as a bodyguard for his wealthy aunt. The cast also includes Priscilla Lane, Phillip Reed, and Steve Brodie.
Carter finds that he cannot disconnect from the Dyson family as easily as he imagined. Carter is compelled to investigate when he is subsequently framed for the murder of a former colleague. He also learns of an unsolved murder of a meat inspector connected to the Dyson family and has to look into that matter as well.
Tierney apparently had a reputation as a hard case which resulted in a very tumultuous relationship with Hollywood elite. He was a smart casting choice for this film, but working with him was apparently not likely going to be a smooth experience. The film is another one that is not too bad, but it’s not one that will be easily recalled on the off chance someone asked me about it. It didn’t make any real impact on me as I was watching it. It is mildly interesting in that it provides another glimpse to the society in LA at that time. Tierney’s biography is of more interest than this particular film. It is possible, if not likely, that many others could appreciate this a bit more than I did, and God bless them.
There was a pretty good fight scene in the climax of the film. I thought Priscilla Lane was a charming leading lady, but I had learned that this was her final film before retiring from the movies. Really, the performance of the cast was solid enough. No one stood out as being terrible on the screen.
It’s a pretty average film for the most part, but it’s possible that others may find an overlooked gem when watching this. I would still recommend that others take a look at it, but I would also urge them to take a look at Tierney’s often outrageous behavior offscreen. Anyway, Bodyguard is not a must-see, however it does not qualify as being a total waste of time either.
Knock Knock is a thriller directed by Eli Roth. He also shares screenwriting credit with Guillermo Amoedo, and Nicolas Lopez. The story was conceived by Anthony Overman and Michael Ronald Ross, which is a little confusing since this film is a remake of a film called Death Game. Keanu Reeves stars as architect and doting husband and father, Evan Webber. The cast also includes Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Ignacia Allamand. and Colleen Camp.
Evan Webber has the weekend to himself when his family take a little holiday to the beach, leaving him to work and attend some physical therapy appointment for an injured shoulder. A storm rolls in and bring two ridiculously attractive young women show up at his doorstep claiming to have been stranded by a taxi at a wrong address. Evan, being ever the gentleman, invites them in to dry off and make other arrangements for transportation. The devious pair of beauties have other plans when they seduce Evan into a threesome and stay into the next day. Then comes the psychological and physical torture at the hands of two women who are now claiming to be underage.
It’s an interesting idea to have a man fall victim to two bewitching women, but the absurdity is also a bit much at times. There is a morality lesson at the heart of this about Evan’s lapse in fidelity. It probably would have been more interesting if Evan didn’t fall for the initial charms for whatever reason. It’s just another jab at men in general by Hollywood, I suspect. There are times that the performances are engaging enough. The film very much earns its R Rating and probably deserved a mature designation. The sex scenes are pretty intense. After a while, the film also does get somewhat predictable. Some of the dialogue made me cringe as well, but that also could have been Keanu’s delivery at times. After a while, the mania exhibited by the two intruders gets to be more grating than terrifying.
Finally, this film has moments that are semi-compelling, but it fails to leave any real lasting impression that made the time worthwhile.
Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes is the latest contribution by Ace Atkins to the Spenser series. Of course, Spenser was created by the legendary Robert B. Parker, but since he has been deceased for over a decade, there was little reason to not have Spenser continue his escapades as a Boston private eye. Of course, the Parker estate has allowed various series created by the author to continue. Anyway, Atkins continues his efforts to keep us readers satisfied with new tales of the sardonic yet sensitive gumshoe.
Spenser has gone to visit Los Angeles to find a wandering daughter who has disappeared. He has teamed up with an apprentice named Zebulon Sixkill, who has made a decent life out there as a private investigator. Spenser’s search leads him to movie mogul, an obsessive ex-boyfriend of the missing girl’s, and a woman’s empowerment group led by a rather a creepy dude. Most other people would be daunted by such obstacles, but that would make for a most unsatisfying Spenser tale. Spenser does enlist some help from a couple of local tough guys with whom he has developed something resembling a friendship over the years. Chollo and Bobby Horse bring their own guns to the cause. Sixkill doesn’t hesitate to needle his mentor to keep him somewhat humble. The lovely Susan Silverman flies out from Boston to support her man as well, and of course keep his ego grounded.
There have been previous cases that have taken Spenser to LA before, so it’s not exactly new territory, but it is still unusual enough to have him outside of Boston to see this as a little bit of a treat to see the modern knight errant out of his usual kingdom.
Spenser novels are hardly ever all that profound, and this one is not an exception, but it’s a fun romp. Some elements are a little far-fetched, but I am in this for the jokes. Atkins is a talented writer and seems to be the right choice to continue the series. I am sometimes distracted by the notion, that Spenser would likely be in his seventies, if not eighties by now based on some of the biographical details created by Parker way back when. I would have liked to have seen Hawk turn up in this one, as was promised in a blurb printed on the very first page. Hawk, Chollo, Horse, and Sixkill together are always fun when they aim their collective macho wit at Spenser, but it’s all in good fun. I know there are likely some purists who would be critical of continuing something after the original author’s demise, but I am not one of them. Atkins does stay true to the spirit of the character. I also have a bit more respect for Atkins has a pastiche writer since he also has his own series of detective novels featuring someone named Quinn Colson. I have yet to read those books, but I will likely get to them before long.
If anyone who reads this blog is new to the character to Spenser, I would definitely say read Parker’s novels starting with The Godwulf Manuscript, but this Angel Eyes is an installment that it not really groundbreaking, but satisfying enough of a diversion nonetheless.
I am apparently in the mode of reading continued series from original authors who are no longer with us. Next up, Kyle Mills has continued the exploits of Vince Flynn’s super duper anti-terrorist operative, Mitch Rapp, with Lethal Agent.
The Devil‘s Due is the most recent Sherlock Holmes novel written by Bonnie MacBird. It take place in 1890 London at a time when anarchists are lurking within the city. A series is troubling murders has the attention of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Holmes figures out that a number of philanthropists are being killed off in alphabetical order. A loved one of the victim soon follows them to the grave. Things have changed for Holmes in that Scotland Yard is now being run by a new commander who has little appreciation for his deductive abilities. A journalist is also indulging in his own vendetta against the consulting detective. The case hits a more personal note when it appears that Mycroft Holmes may be on the list of potential targets.
Out of the several Sherlock Holmes pastiche writers, MacBird is one of the better ones. I enjoyed this novel since it did seem to remain pretty faithful to the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, just in case someone frightfully ignorant of classic and popular literature reads this blog.
I ended up enjoying this latest installment in MacBird’s series. I did find that the ending was a little more far-fetched than what is usual in even a Sherlock Holmes story. In spite of that, I was pretty engaged in the story. I want to make note of a character MacBird invented for this novel who I hope turns up again. The sixteen year-old street urchin known as Heffie was pretty cool. She is a sassy, tough sometimes agent of Holmes who has singular talents of finding out much needed information at the time. Holmes was sometimes employ a group of street orphans known as the Irregulars. Heffie seems to be even more productive. Anyway, it was rather fun when she turned up throughout the novel. There is girls’ school connected to all of this, and Heffie infiltrates this place at the behest of Holmes and finds out all kinds of dastardly deeds going on. MacBird is pretty good at throwing out many threads in her novels for Holmes to follow and they all get tied up rather neatly when the adventure is over.
The novel isn’t really flawless, but it was solid enough for to enjoy another new story featuring Mr. Holmes of 221B Baker Street and the good doctor who chronicles his escapades.
Next up is another continuation of a popular mystery series that was extended after the original author’s demise. Robert B. Parker’s Boston tough guy, Spenser, is back and still under the care of Ace Atkins in Angel Eyes.
The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 6 resurrects the Third Doctor with this recent offering from Big Finish Productions. Two new audio plays are featured in this set with Tim Treloar reprising his improving impression of the late Jon Pertwee’s version of the Doctor’s third incarnation. Katy Manning returns as Jo Grant. Nicholas Briggs returns o the director’s set as well as voicing the Daleks in one of the episodes once again. Fans of this era of Doctor Who should be quite satisfied with the tropes and traditions peppered throughout this set. Although Jon Pertwee made for a great Doctor, this was not really my favorite era of the show since I did not care for the decision to have the Doctor stuck on Earth in exile. The whole UNIT family thing was not something that revved my enthusiasm all that much. There were some decent stories, and Pertwee’s elegant bombast was entertaining enough for me to find quite a bit of enjoyment in spite of my reservations about some of the writing and production decisions of the time. Of course, Big Finish contributions even when revisiting some of the more problematic eras of the television series are almost always welcome.
The first of the two adventures here is Poison of the Daleks by Guy Adams. This is the real treat for the more avid fans of the era. John Levene returns to the role of Sergeant Benton of UNIT. Jon Culshaw returns to the mic, channeling the late, great Nicholas Courtney, as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Abigail McKern, Elli Garnett, Clive Hayward, Alexandria Riley, and Nicholas Briggs make up the guest cast. So this is another story where the audience is somewhat bludgeoned with dire warnings of the dangers of pollution. I am not for pollution, but sometimes in entertainment, a little more subtlety when addressing these social issues would be appreciated. So an air filtration company s hiding a secret portal to another world in which the Doctor, Jo, Benton, and the Brigadier are whisked off and find the Daleks waiting for them. The Doctor meets another genius scientist on this planet and immediately lets his ego overcome his manners. Actually, the barbs traded between him and Abigail McKern’s Skwoj are actually pretty amusing. In spite of my exasperation over the environmental hazard warning elements to the story, it turned out to be a pretty decent episode. It did represent the era well enough and added some freshness to the old characters. We got to see….or rather hear a bit more of Benton being a competent and heroic soldier here. Benton had some fine moments on the television series, but it was nice to have that explored further by Big Finish. The performances were all quite strong. I’m not necessarily a fan of the Daleks, but Briggs does a great job voicing them, and his enthusiasm can be rather infectious. There was plenty of satisfaction to be found here, but I preferred the second story a bit more.
Operation: Hellfire is written by Jonathan Barnes and takes this specific Doctor into a realm that was not really explored in the television series. The Third Doctor rarely went back into Earth’s past during the television years. I can only recall one story where he did that. Also, this story did not have the usual alien menace lurking in the shadows. There was an alien artifact from the Doctor’s home planet he had to find during the height of the Second World War. By the way, Ian McNeice reprises his role of a certain Prime Minister who led Britain through that particular kerfuffle. Mark Elstob, Terry Molloy, Samuel Clemens, Jeany Spark, and Beth Goddard join Treloar and Manning in this one. The Doctor is actually still serving his exile on Earth during this time, but a Time Lady enlists him to find a missing relic from Gallifrey. The Doctor and Jo are allowed to travek back in time to 1943 where spies are aplenty, and there is some subsect of Nazi occultists lurking in the shadows. Actually , they may not have been lurking in the shadows so much, but they certainly filled in quite nicely for the alien menace who is usually there in Doctor Who episodes. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one more than expected.
Overall, I think this one of the better sets in the Third Doctor Adventures range. Treloar does manage to pull off an impression of Jon Pertwee, that is convincing enough to serve the nostalgia fans have for this era. Even though Pertwee can no longer participate in these episodes, Treloar does him a great honor in the efforts to recreate the era with brand new adventures. Manning’s talent has yet to diminish in spite of her age. I can sometimes almost forget the woman is in her 70’s now. She may not sound exactly the same as she did in the 1970’s obviously, but her enthusiasm and affection for her time on the show makes up for it. Culshaw’s impression of the great Nicholas Courtney is a welcome addition since the Third Doctor and the Brigadier together is about as iconic as any other pairing in all of comic and sci-fi lore. In spite of my frowning on some aspects of the Third Doctor era, still enjoy revisiting it, especially when Big Finish continues to find a way to tell new stories. I have enjoyed all of the sets in The Third Doctor Adventures rage, but Volume Six turned out to be one of the better ones.