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.
Open Season was first published in 2001 by C.J. Box and introduced Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett to mystery readers. Box has enjoyed a pretty long writing career, and he likely is still along way from being finished.
Joe Pickett accepts a position as game warden in Twelve Step, Wyoming and runs into trouble when he loses his weapon to a local poacher. Pickett survives the encounter, but the incident leaves a black mark on his career. Some months later, the poacher is found dead near a woodpile in Pickett’s backyard. Pickett finds himself enmeshed in local politics as well as a growing body count. There also seems to have been a resurgence of a species thought extinct. On top of that, his third child is on the way. Pickett has a very busy first outing in this particular novel.
For a first novel, Open Season actually works quite well. In many detective series, the protagonist often has a plethora of personal and self-destructive challenges. Pickett is pretty much a straight shooter and devoted family man. Some may label him as rather boring, but I ended up rather liking him as the story progressed. Pickett does end up displaying a formidable grit when the answers start flowing. I also liked his wife, who is certainly no pushover but has an unshakeable loyalty to her husband. Pickett has some struggles but has plenty of reason for others to envy him.
It should be interesting to see how Box’s writing flourishes as he continues to flesh out the Picketts as the series progresses. Box is already quite popular, but I imagine there are those slower than I am to sample his works, I would recommend to not put off a perusal of at least this novel. I plan to move forward and see how Joe Pickett and family face other challenges presented by the evil intent of some people and wilds of Wyoming.
Next up, a return to 221 B Baker Street is in order. Although the creator of Sherlock Holmes is long deceased, other writers over the decades have attempted to add their own flavor to the consulting detective. One of the better authors is Bonnie MacBird who has recently written The Devil’s Due. Once again, the game is afoot.
Enola Holmes is a film recently released on Netflix and is based on a series of novels by Nancy Springer. Harry Bradbeer is the director of this film with Jack Thorne credited as the screenwriter. Millie Bobby Brown plays the title role, who is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin play the better known Holmes brothers. Helena Bonham Carter, Burn Gorman, and Louis Partridge are also included in the cast.
With older brothers already living in London, young Enola Holmes has her mother all to herself as she comes to age. Enola’s intellect is about what’s expected from this particular Holmes family. One day, she awakens and finds that her mother has disappeared. Sherlock and Mycroft believe that they need to send Enola to a boarding school. She has other ideas and makes her escape so she can search for her mother. Along the way, she encounters a young runaway viscount who has an assassin on his trail. She must dodge the efforts from her brothers to find her as she tries to fulfill her own mission.
I had a bit of a mixed reaction to this film, but I think it works out fairly over well. In order for me to get any enjoyment out this, I had to let go of my purist tendencies when it comes to Sherlock Holmes.
So Enola Holmes likes to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the viewers. I found that to be a nice touch for this type of film. There is quite a bit of humor. Although I have my doubts about the decision to cast Cavill as Sherlock Holmes, I thought Millie Bobby Brown was quite engaging in the lead role. I was not that keen on how Claflin’s Mycroft Holmes was presented. Mycroft was quite a bit more rigid and somewhat crueler than he was presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I think this takes place before the good Doctor Watson enters the scene. He wasn’t a part of this story.
So, it actually turns out to be a charming film. It looks great visually. Victorian London is well realized by the set designers and so forth. They got the right actress in the lead. It’s not all that faithful to Doyle’s creation, there is enough to enjoy for me to forgive that. I ended up enjoying it a little more than I expected.
Murder on the Blackboard is a comedic murder mystery that was first released in 1934. Willis Goldbeck adapted the story for the screen from the novel by Stuart Palmer. George Archainbaud directed the film. RKO Radio Pictures is the distributing studio. The cast includes Edna May Oliver, Bruce Cabot, James Gleason, and Gertrude Michael.
Oliver plays teacher and amateur sleuth Hildegarde Withers, who featured in several mystery novels by Start Palmer. Ms. Withers gets drawn into the investigation when the music teacher is found by her. Then the corpse is whisked away once she goes to the police to report the dastardly crime. Of course, Ms. Withers isn’t going to let the police do their job without her input.
The film is not devoid of charm, but there is not that much to keep one fully engaged. Oliver is a talented comedic performer and carries the film fairly well considering some silliness peppered throughout. The murder itself is not all that original. The body disappearing when Ms. Withers goes to the local constabulary seems a bit trite and overused even for a film released in 1934. It may be amusing to run down one of the novels penned by Stuart Palmer. It is very far from being a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s far enough from being an utter cinematic disaster for me to not regret sitting through it.
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin first came to life as a newspaper serial and was then released as a novel in 1978. It takes place in San Francisco and introduces the readers to the denizens of 28 Barbary Lane. The first major character we meet is a young woman from Cleveland who arrived in San Francisco as a tourist and decided to stay. She meets many of her neighbors in the apartment complex run by Anne Madrigal. There are lots of intersecting stories going on here. There are a lot of threads to follow in this volume. It’s a twisted path to read this thing sometimes.
Now, this is not really my genre of preference, but I can see why this got so popular. It seems to have been some kind of precursor to the 90’s drama Melrose Place.
It’s a fairly easy read with very short chapters for the most part. I suspect that my reticence about this is more due to my literary tastes not quite aligning to this sort of fiction. I also didn’t really feel drawn to any of the characters. There were some interesting and sometimes shocking moments, especially toward the end. For the most part, I just felt like I was just plodding through this thing trying to remember all of the various storylines and what happened when I last saw this person or that.
Still, it wasn’t like it was an awful reading experience. Maupin is an interesting writer, but I just tend to like following one person trying to resolve one or two problems in my fiction reading. For those with more agile imaginations, I would still recommend giving Maupin a try.
I will be returning to my more familiar literary preferences but with an author I have yet to read. Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett was first introduced in Open Season by C.J. Box and has since appeared in several more mysteries. I will start from the beginning and see how this goes.
Original Sin is a Doctor Who audio play which was adapted by John Dorney from a novel which was written by Andy Lane. Sylvester McCoy stars as the Doctor and is joined by Lisa Bowerman as Professor Bernice Summerfield. Yasmin Bannerman and Travis Oliver play Adjudicators Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej who ended up joining the TARDIS crew in the range of Doctor Who novels known as The New Adventures. Andrew French, Philip Voss, Amrita Acharia, Robbie Stevens, and Jot Davies make up the guest cast. Ken Bentley directed this episode.
The Doctor and Bernice are drawn to Earth in about the thirtieth century where the law s being enforced by Adjudicators. Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester are looking into a rather alarming increase in murder and find a dangerous conspiracy. Behind the curtain is someone who has waited a very long time to meet the Doctor again.
This turned out to be quite good. It was fun to hear a different character dynamic in audio. The cast is well chosen. I had read the novel by Andy Lane some time ago and enjoyed that as well. Big Finish is pretty reliable when it comes to this range and being faithful to the source material. McCoy is in fine form in this one as usual. Bowerman continues to impress with the development of the character that was first created for the same range of novels by Paul Cornell. There was quite a bit of time to get to know Forrester and Cwej in this piece. They are conducting their own investigation apart from the Doctor and Professor Summerfield. Bannerman and Oliver seem to have pretty good chemistry. Of course, the music and the sound effects were well realized, but Big Finish almost always gets that right. Quite a few cast members play several parts and do so quite effectively.
I wouldn’t mind if Big Finish revisits Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej in future releases.
Thin Time/Madquake is a Doctor Who double bill audio release from Big Finish Productions. This release is directed by Scott Handcock and features Peter Davison as the Doctor. Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, and George Watkins return as Tegan, Nyssa, and Marc respectively. There are two stories in this release that continue from the release where the Doctor has left his companions on a planet as he flies off in the TARDIS racked with guilt over his tendency to place his companions in constant mortal peril. Marc is a Big Finish creation as a companion. He is a former Roman slave who was almost completely converted by the Cybermen in a recent release. Obviously, that was not something he could just shake off all that easily. The guest cast includes Dona Kroll, Kate Isitt, and Nicholas Khan.
It is Dan Abnett who presents the first story, Thin Time, where the Doctor turns up in London 1892 and finds certain inconsistencies in established history that may be the work of another alien presence. It turned out to be a pretty interesting piece. There is a nice unexpected encounter which is quite a treat for the fans. Davison is actually quite good here. It takes place in an isolated domicile with a small group of people, which in my opinion, provides the most interesting setting for the Doctor. Really, it’s the final scene that makes me smile the most, but the rest of the episode works pretty well too.
Madquake is written by Guy Adams and features the companions in their own little caper. Marc is not coping well with his recent encounter with the Cyberman which ended up with him still somewhat enhanced after their attempt to convert him. Tegan and Nyssa are at odds a bit over the Doctor’s abandonment of them. The serenity of the planet where they have been marooned is interrupted by the arrival of the Slitheen. So, the companions have their moment to shine without the Doctor coming to steal the victory. The Slitheen are not really my favorite of the Doctor’s adversaries, but it was kind of fun to have that connection to the revived television series of 2005. The performances from Fielding and Sutton were quite engaging, as expected. I am still getting used to Watkins as Marc.
I liked some of the ideas and dynamics explored in this release. There was an attempt to do something a little different yet still in keeping with the Fifth Doctor era. I am interested to see how the situation with Marc comes to a resolution. Yeah, this turned out to be a pretty enjoyable release from Big Finish.
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.
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.
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.
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.