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.
Savage Run is the second novel by C.J. Box to feature Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. It was first published in 2003. The caper starts off with a notorious environmentalist and his wife getting killed when a cow bomb is detonated. Yeah, a bomb tied to a cow is the means of murder. So that bit does seem rather ridiculous. however the overall novel is better than it sounds. Pickett has become a rather unusual protagonist in crime fiction because he does not seem to have any serious vices and has a stable family life. The environmentalist seems to have a past that intersects with Mrs. Pickett, so that is rather interesting.
There is a rather harrowing chase through the wilderness that takes up a good deal of the story. There are some pretty dastardly lawyers and politicians in the background as well, and they help keep Pickett rather busy as well.
This isn’t really a stand-out novel that should be lauded for its brilliance, but the setting is captured well, and Pickett remains a likeable enough hero, although not the most memorable, I suppose.
Even if Box falls short in stoking any major enthusiasm for his works, he does have my respect and just enough of my interest to have me wander back from time to time.
Next up, I am currently reading another murder mystery by Charles Todd. Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge learns the folly of A Divided Loyalty.
The Doomsday Contract is a Doctor Who audio play and is the latest episode from the range known as The Lost Stories. It was first conceived by John Lloyd and has been adapted for Big Finish Productions by Nev Fountain. Tom Baker returns as the Doctor and is accompanied by Lalla Ward as Romana and John Leeson as K9. Nicholas Briggs serves as director and as one of the guest cast which also includes Christopher Naylor, Julian Wadham, Paul Panting, Richard Laing, Jeany Spark, and Spencer Banks.
The Doctor is subpoenaed to testify as to whether or not Earth has intelligent life. Of course, the Doctor is both pleased to offer his expert knowledge and wary of the bureaucracy of such proceedings. The matter gets a bit more complicated when the Doctor is the target of an assassination and most be secured in another universe for his safety. There he meets the Lost Jury and face other challenges.
So this particular episode is presented in a style similar to what the late Douglas Adams would write. It has a bit more slapstick humor than usual. Tom Baker appears to be enjoying himself immensely. The villains are pixie-like killers who are quite persistent in their rather affectionate and lethal in their methods of elimination.
This story works pretty well and represents the era pretty well. Nev Fountain is a talented writer and does well bringing life to Lloyd’s original idea. As expected, the sound effects are quite good. Although the actors are likely recording in isolation, the post-productions work make that hard to tell. The humor works well, and Tom Baker’s performance is quite good.
I did not know anything about this particular episode before its announced release, but I am glad I did not overlook it.
The End of the Beginning is a Doctor Who audio play written by Robert Valentine and released by Big Finish Productions. Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Paul McGann all come together with Sylvester McCoy entering the fray at the climax of this story. Of course, they are all various incarnations of the Doctor coming together for some super big universal threat. Miranda Raison returns as Constance Clarke alongside the Sixth Doctor. India Fisher reprises her role as Charlotte Pollard. Mark Strickson also returns as Turlough alongside Davison. Youssef Kerkour, Kevin McNally, and David Schofield are among the guest cast.
The format hearkens back to the format of the very first audio drama entitled The Sirens of Time. A Doctor will have a brief adventure on his own and then unites with some of his other incarnations in final part of the story. He wins the day and the universe is saved yet again. This time, there is a mysterious figure that turns up in each story, and the Doctor is spirited away where other versions himself awaits.
The multi-Doctor stories are kind of fun but not always well thought out. Although Big Finish tends to do a little better than the television series ever did in these situation, I was a bit underwhelmed by this one. It was still fun to hear the Doctors banter and bicker among himself.
This title is the 275th adventure recorded for what has become known as the Monthly Range. This is also the last one in this range, however all of the Doctors will continue their audio exploits in boxsets and other formats though. The enjoy the monthly releases, but I understand the need to shake up the schedule a bit at times.
Anyway, it wasn’t the most spectacular ending to a long-running range of Doctor Who audios, but I am heartened to know there is plenty more to come from Big Finish Productions when it comes to the Doctor.
A Quiet Place Part II is a horror film written and directed by John Krasinski, who also reprises his role as the patriarch of the Abbott family in a flashback sequence at the beginning. It is also a sequel to the film unsurprisingly entitled A Quiet Place. Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe return as the surviving Abbotts. Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou are added to the cast as they are able to provide some help to the Abbotts.
So Earth has been invaded by monstrous aliens who are sightless and hunt by sound. Regan Abbott is the hearing impaired daughter who has figured out how to turn her hearing aids into a weapon. She also becomes instrumental in being able to help her other family members survive the attacks. In the previous movie, Mrs. Abbott had just given birth, so the family has an extra blessing and obstacle to avoiding the attention of the aliens. Actually, each of the family members get to show their heroic sides, except for the infant, but I am sure he can be forgiven for that. Even Jupe’s jumpy little Marcus gets his moment to shine.
This is one horror sequel that holds up pretty well and still manages to leave some questions in the air. Blunt is a good actress and the children are well cast. Murphy plays this old friend of the Abbott family who has become disheartened and distrustful of others during his time hiding out from the terrifying intruders. He looked pretty different in all of his scruff and I was not sure it was him until the cast credits rolled.
I am not sure a sequel was necessary here, but it was still full of suspense, and the main characters were just as likeable as in the first one. Anyway, for those that enjoyed the first movie, I am sure that there would be little reason to consider this latest effort to be a disappointment. Well done, Mr. Krasinski!
Kirsten Beyers continues to exploits of the crew of the USS Voyager in her latest Star Trek novel entitled To Lose The Earth. Voyager has returned to the Delta Quadrant with a group of starships knows as the Full Circle Fleet. Lieutenant Harry Kim is assigned to the USS Galen. He and his girlfriend are trying to keep their daughter alive in an incubator. A mysterious device has hurled the Galen across the galaxy. Fortunately, Kim has gone through this before. Meanwhile, Admiral Kathryn Janeway and rest of the Full Circle Fleet have other mysteries to solve on a planet which may explain the origins of Species 001 and their relationship to the Borg. So, there is a lot to unpack here, but you will have to read the novel to see if any of this makes sense. It would also help to be familiar with the overall series.
Beyer has been writing in this range for a while now. This particular novel is pretty interesting for a variety of reasons, although it can seem a bit repetitive considering another ship is now cut off from the rest of Starfleet. This is another installment that is fairly good but just stops short of feeling unique because of that sense of being there before. It was pretty cool to see Kim in command though while the Galen captain was incapacitated. Kim was the youngest of the main characters in the series, so his growth did seem rather natural. He is also dealing with a good amount of crisis in his personal life as well. Some things will change quite a bit if the series goes forward in this novel range, and I will likely be keeping up with it.
Next, I will return to a series I have just recently started reading. It was not long before I was curious enough to check back in with game warden Joe Pickett and his family with C.J. Box’s Savage Run.
Return of the Cybermen is a Doctor Who audio drama released by Big Finish Productions and is the latest from the range known as The Lost Stories. This story was going to be aired as a serial in the 1970’s, however this one was reworked into what the fans know as Revenge of the Cybermen. This is the original script by Gerry Davis and has been adapted to this audio drama format by John Dorney. Nicholas Briggs returns to the director’s chair as well as voicing the dreaded Cybermen. Tom Baker returns as the Doctor and is accompanied by old friends voiced by new performers. Sadie Miller takes on the role originated by her mother, Elisabeth Sladen, which is Sarah Jane Smith. Christopher Naylor steps in for the deceased Ian Marter and resurrects Harry Sullivan. The rest of the guest cast is comprised of Nicholas Asbury, Nickolas Grace, Amanda Shodeko, and Robert Whitelock. Okay, so that is the background and important credits observed.
The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry have been separated from the TARDIS for a bit and have returned to Space Station Nerva to retrieve it, however it isn’t going to be that easy. They have arrived in a different time zone and find a crew that has been decimated by a mysterious plague. The Cybermen were thought to have finally died out, however that it is not the case either. They have plans to return to their efforts of conquest and assimilating others into their stoic ranks. First, they want to destroy an asteroid made up of a precious metal that is their ultimate weakness.
Revenge of the Cybermen is not one of my favorite stories in the classic television era, and this version is not much of an improvement. Tom Baker does sound great in this one and seems to be having quite a bit of fun. Miller does not quite have the same vocal quality as her mother, but she does do a good job. There were a few moments where Sarah Jane Smith came through. Naylor’s version of Harry Sullivan is passable but could use some work. Although the plot is not all that impressive, I am rather fond of the idea of another important era in the series being explored. Sadie Miller has said that she took on the role to honor her mother, and I do think she has managed that well enough. I look forward to Sarah returning in more original stories. I like Harry Sullivan, and I appreciate Naylor’s attempt to being that role to life once again, but Miller does a little better on hitting closer to her character.
This may not be the greatest idea to recycle a story already well known to the fans. but I was still glad to get it. The performances were fine. Tom Baker had some great moments as usual. In spite of the flaws, enough elements are there to gain some pleasure from it. If nothing else, the history surrounding that era and this script is still quite fascinating.
The Time War Volume Four is a Doctor Who audio boxset from Big Finish Productions and stars Paul McGann as the Doctor. He is joined by Rakhee Thakrar as his companions, Bliss. Terry Molloy reprises his role as the mad, crippled scientist Davros, Nicholas Briggs returns as the Daleks. He plays the Dalek Emperor and the Dalek Time Strategist as well. Basically, he still just voices the Daleks. Helen Goldwyn directs this whole saga. There are three stories that comprise this collection.
John Dorney starts off this set with the two-parter entitled Palindrome. This focuses on Davros and his various guises throughout various realities. Molloy gets to play the role as a pleasant chap who was never injured during a war with the Thals on Skaro and therefore does not have the creepy mechanical voice. Not to worry though, that version of Davros shows up from another reality. The Time Strategist is making its own plans, which would explain the moniker. The Doctor and Bliss are caught up in various realities where they sometimes don’t surprise. It’s all gloriously confusing, but Molloy’s performance is compelling enough for me to not care that I am struggling to follow the plot. Of course, McGann knows his Doctor and is great as usual. I have no complaints about McGann and Thakrar. Bliss as a character is fine, but she does seem a little too similar to a couple of the Doctor’s previous companions. In particular, companions who have traveled with this version of the Doctor. I have yet to dislike a Dorney script, but he does go for broke on these epic confrontations. It’s a solid start to this collection, but it may take a couple of listening sessions to fully grasp what is going on.
A newer contributor to the Big Finish scripts is Lisa McMullin and is the writer of Dreadshade. Julia McKenzie returns as the Twelve, who was formerly the Eleven, the Time Lord whose previous personalities remain in prominence at the same time after each regeneration. McKenzie is considered an acting legend in England and was recently playing Ms. Marple on television not all that long ago. She’s great, although the Twelve isn’t my favorite Big Finish idea as a villain. The Doctor and Bliss arrive on Gallifrey with no memory of each other, and the Time Lords know some kind of war took place, however they had not memory of who they thought. Dreadshade is some woman frightened of Time Lords who is also a mysterious weapon. This was an intriguing story idea and may actually be my personal favorite in this particular collection. So I am hopeful that McMullin will have some further opportunities to add to the Doctor Who universe.
Restoration of the Daleks is the concluding episode written by veteran Doctor Who writer Matt Fitton, The Daleks have re-emerged from the multiverse and they and the Daleks go at it tooth and claw. The Doctor has a confrontation with both the Time Strategist and Davros. Once again, it gets a little hard to interpret what is exactly happening among the sometimes dizzying sound effects.
With this, The Time War saga concludes, however it also sets up the Doctor for further confusing and compelling adventures. This fourth volume had some ambitious ideas which are realized quite well. Of course, the performances and the post production work really gets the adrenaline going. McGann is still a compelling presence. He plays off well against Molloy, but the performers are old hats. The writing from all three stories varied pretty minimally in the quality. I may have enjoyed Dreadshade a bit more than the other two, but the whole set was an enjoyable ride. Fortunately, Big Finish is a long way from being done with Paul McGann’s version of the Doctor.
Reign of the Supermen is an animated superhero film that follows The Death of Superman. The film was directed by Sam Liu and was written by Tim Sheridan and Tim Krieg. Some of the cast lending their vocal talents here are Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Jason O’Mara, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Tony Todd, and all sorts of other Hollywood folks.
So the film starts off six months after Superman died at the hands of the creature known as Doomsday. Metropolis is suddenly besieged by other supposed alternative versions of Superman. Superman’s remains are missing, so who knows if one of the four latest visitors is the genuine article? Except it won’t be that simple. In the meantime, another alien power is preparing to launch a new attack on Metropolis. The Justice League is there doing their best to make up for the loss of their most powerful member, but they may have further tragedy to endure.
So this is based on the events in the comic series that was written around 1993 or thereabouts. It’s a comic book movie, and Superman isn’t exactly my favorite superhero. This was still pretty entertaining but nothing I find too inspiring visit. Some of the fight scenes felt a little too dragged out. The acting was fin. The artistry in the animation was acceptable, although I am no expert there. The script was not terrible, but it also was not all that memorable.
The movie works well enough as an animated superhero movie that just retells a saga that was already well known to the readers of the comic books. In the end, it was fairly entertaining but nothing to write home about. It’s really only barely worthwhile to compose a blog over.
The Apostle is an antiterrorist geopolitical thriller by Brad Thor. Thor has a series that features counterterrorist operative Scot Harvath. Now this is the first time I have tried a Brad Thor novel, but I for some reason did not get the introductory one for this series.
Scot Harvath is engaged by the US president to trade a captured al-Qaeda terrorist for an American hostage who happens to be the daughter of a media mogul who was quite helpful to the recent presidential campaign. Harvath does not mind helping a lady in distress, but he does have some reservations about releasing terrorists, the very sort of people he has spent his life hunting down. What Scot does not know is that the president has a secret scandal that could be exposed by an intrepid Secret Service agent, and that his mission may have some dire political consequences along with the threat of his violent demise.
Well, Thor has been writing about this character and in this genre for quite a while. I have read one or two other authors in this field of literature as well. I may have to try out some of his other novels to get a better feel, but I did not find anything too extraordinary here. I did find that it was engaging and entertaining enough for me to not regret spending time with Mr. Harvath. It probably would have been better to start at the beginning of the series, but there wasn’t a whole lot I felt I was missing out on. The subplot of the secret service agent who started investigating the death of some woman who had been visiting President Arden was pretty interesting. I wouldn’t mind if Agent Elise Campbell were to resurface in later novels. Thor actually doesn’t really have Campbell and Harvath cross paths directly in this one, which was a rather interesting decision to make here.
Thor writes a satisfactory novel but nothing that keeps me hungry for more. Although since I do enjoy this genre and did not get completely turned off or frustrated by The Apostle, I will still likely catch up with Scot Harvath fairly soon.
It has been a while since I have dropped in the twenty-fourth century, so I think a Star Trek: Voyager novel will be the next port of call. Kirsten Beyer adds to the ongoing saga of the Starship Voyager with her latest installment entitled To Lose The Earth.
I Care A Lot is a film written and directed by J Blakeson. Rosamund Pike is in the lead as Marla Grayson, as an advocate for elderly people who may need to become wards of the state. Marla makes a bit of an extra living basically helping herself to her wards’ possessions and belongings. Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Dianne Wiest, and Alicia Witt are also included in the cast.
Marla decides that an elderly woman named Jennifer Peterson should be added to her collection of victims. What she does not count on is that Ms. Peterson’s son is a diminutive yet dangerous crime boss played by Dinklage. Marla has an impressive stubborn streak which prevents her from cutting her losses and letting the mother go. Roman Lunyov has his own stubborn streak laced with psychotic violence, but at least his love and loyalty for his mother seems genuine. He isn’t that bad of a guy apparently.
It’s a strong cast and a fairly decent plot idea. It does get to be rather absurd toward the end, but the film is classified as a black comedy. Dinklage seems to be oddly cast as a super gangster, but I kind of got used to it. I like Dinklage enough to actually want to go with it. Pike is quite good as the manipulative, conniving Marla. Really, the movie does work pretty well for the most part. It was pretty fun to watch Dinklage and Pike finally engage fully in their contest of wills.
Pike did win a Golden Globe for her performance, and I didn’t see any reason to object to it. The film isn’t going to top any listings of classics, but it has quite a bit that works in its favor.