Doctor Who Audio Review: Don’t Meddle With History

Doctor Who: Subterfuge

Subterfuge is a Doctor Who audio play released by Big Finish Productions.  Samuel Clemens is the director of this story which was written by Helen Goldwyn.  Sylvester McCoy leads the tale as the Seventh Doctor.  Ian McNeice reprises his role as Winston Churchill, which he has played in the revived television series as well as other Big Finish releases.  Rufus Hound returns with his version of fellow renegade Time Lord known as the Meddling Monk. The guest cast is also comprised of Brian Capron, Mimi Ndiweni, Philip Labey, Jonathan Forbes, and James Joyce.

In London 1945, Winston Churchill is seeking reelection as Prime Minister of Britain. A new strategic advisor assures him of victory, but that’s not the way history went at that time, and the Doctor knows he must intervene to make sure it all stays on course.  There is another alien presence that needs to be returned home.

It’s a pretty enjoyable episode, but there is a lot going on and visualizing it all in the mind’s eye is not the easiest tasks when listening to this one.  I enjoyed the verbal sparring between the Monk and the Doctor.  Rufus Hound is a pretty good casting choice.  The Meddling Monk is a character who dates back to the era of William Hartnell’s Doctor.

I don’t consider this to be a brilliant entry, but it’s a solid adventure.  I am starting to think that this era in world and British history does get a bit overdone in Doctor Who, but I typically enjoy McNeice’s take on Churchill, and that helps me to not get terribly put out.  Also, I have come to enjoy McCoy’s performance over the years with Big Finish, so he has become a reliably welcome presence.

Goldwyn is a pretty talented writer.  She has actually performed and directed some of these audio adventures over the years. I don’t recall any previous scripts actually being written by her, but I do look forward to either being reminded of earlier works or seeing if what she comes up with in future stories.

Film Review: The Lighthouse Of Lunacy

The Lighthouse Is One of 2019's Wildest Movies | GQ

The Lighthouse is a film that was presented in black and white and was released 2019.  Robert Eggers is the director who also co-wrote it with Max Eggers.  Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star in what is essentially a two-hander.

Two lighthouse keepers in nineteenth century New England are rather stuck together for several weeks on a remote island.  It’s a contentious relationship between the two lead characters.  It doesn’t help when Pattinson’s Winslow starts having disturbing visions of mermaids and tentacles. Dafoe plays the crotchety somewhat abusive senior worker named Wake and does so effectively.

The film is done in black and white, which was a good decision.  The performances from both men were quite solid.  The film is a bit slow though and takes quite a bit of patience.  I found it to be a pretty peculiar movie in many ways and a little hard to actually enjoy.  It is a unique cinematic experience and does little to cheer one up during a global pandemic.  There is likely a lot to admire from a cinematographic standpoint, and it seemed to be pretty well-written.  It’s just a hard movie for me to keep my attention totally devoted due to the pacing and the limited scenery.

Although this movie may not have appealed to my cinematic preferences, I bet more studious viewers would get something more out of it.

Book Review: Inspector Rutledge Gets A Cold Case That Ignites Quickly

The Black Ascot (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries Book 21)

The Black Ascot is a historical mystery novel by Charles Todd.  It is a recent installment in the series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard.  So, Rutledge is a veteran of the First World War who suffers from what was known as shell shock and has resumed his duties as a detective for the Yard. What few people know is that Rutledge is plagued by the voice of a comrade he executed for disobeying orders.  That would be Hamish MacLeod who at times can be helpful as well as tormenting as Rutledge is working on another case.  MacLeod’s apparent haunting is more of a psychological break instead of a supernatural occurrence.  Yet, what makes this series so fascinating is that Rutledge is still a competent investigator.

The other interesting facet to this series is the glimpse of other historical and cultural references that are touched upon.  In this one, Rutledge gets an unexpected lead on a case that is a decade old.  During a royal horse race in 1910, known as the Black Ascot, a  murder occurred and the lead suspect disappeared.  Now Rutledge has learned that Alan Barrington has returned to England, which prompts him to reexamine the case.  During the course of the investigation, he ends up in hospital after a suspected suicide attempt which could end his career as well as expose his deepest secret to those who do not have his best interest in mind.

I don’t know if this is the one to blow me away, however there was a lot I liked in this one.  Rutledge being shaken up a bit with his condition was quite interesting.  His tenacity in spite of his brokenness was once again showcased when he resumed his inquiries after he was released after his gunshot wound.  There’s a somewhat expected yet welcome twist toward the end when Rutledge was getting close to the truth.  A certain event was introduced that I had never heard yet is apparently to British history and culture.  I didn’t mind that.  The Royal Ascot was a yearly horse racing event that was quite well attended.  The reader actually gets to meet Dr. Fleming who is usually mentioned in flashback or expositions reviewing Rutledge’s condition.  Fleming was the one who suggested that Rutledge engage the presence in his mind so some degree rather than hope to ignore it entirely.  He may have indeed saved the inspector’s life with this idea.

It’s still an engaging series, but the dynamic between Rutledge and Hamish needed a little shake-up.  I try not to be too liberal with spoilers, but I think it’s still fair to say that Rutledge isn’t done yet, and I expect to enjoy the next case just as much.

Well, due to the pandemic disrupting my usual reading settings and schedule a bit, this one took a little longer to finish, however I am going to commit to adjusting and getting through my growing backlog of new reading material a bit quicker.  Next up is a new Doctor Who anthology from BBC Books entitled The Target Storybook.

Film Review: Mara Is The Girl Of Your Dreams Who Will Leave You Breathless And Lifeless

Mara | Netflix

Mara is a horror film that was released in 2018.  It was directed by Clive Tonge from a screenplay provided by Jonathan Frank.  Olga Kurylenko leads a cast that includes Craig Conway, Javier Botet, Rosie Fellner, and Lance E. Nichols. So the idea of the film is based on some myth about a sleep demon.  Mara apparently preys on those with guilty secrets. so he choice of victims is aplenty.

Kurylenko plays a criminal psychologist who is asked to look at a situation where a wife seems to have killed her husband in an unusual and gruesome fashion.  As her investigation progresses, she finds herself in the group of sleep paralysis and a frightening female figure lurches around making strange clicking noises and asthmatic hisses or something.

This is just another B movie with an interesting idea as the main story.  The performances are fine.  The writing is fair.  It is reminiscent of some of the Japanese horror films I have seen in recent decades.  The visual effects are creepy enough, but that doesn’t seem so hard for these studios these days.

I ended up not hating this film, which is an accomplishment of sorts, because it did sort of introduce to me a previously unfamiliar peace of folklore.  The film was mildly engaging but only just barely.

Classic Film Review: The Phantom Strikes And Inspector Clouseau Just Strikes Out

Buy The Pink Panther (1963) - Microsoft Store

The Pink Panther is a comedy heist film that was first released in 1963.  Blake Edwards directed this film that he also co-wrote with Maurice Richlin.  Peter Sellers, David Niven, and Robert Wagner lead a pretty impressive cast.  Sellers plays the iconic and clumsy detective, Jacques Clouseau as David Niven takes on the role of master jewel thief Sir Charles Lytton, also known as the Panther.  Wagner plays Lytton’s nephew, George, an irrepressible playboy with some amoral ambitions of his own.

The Pink Panther is an exotic jewel that has its origins in some fictional Middle east region.  The Phantom has his eye on it, and Inspector Clouseau has his eye on finally capturing him.  Clouseau’s wife is also not all that interested in fidelity since she has a fling going on with the notorious phantom.

In many ways, I found this film to be very overrated.  I could just lack the proper taste for this kind of occasional slapstick comedy.  I found the pace very slow.  I did appreciate the cinematography.  There is some striking scenery presented here throughout.  Some of the gags went on much longer than I appreciated.  I understood the reputation for idiocy Clouseau carried, however I didn’t have much fun actually seeing it.

Maybe this type of film with this type of humor just doesn’t age well.  Maybe I am never going to be a Clouseau fan.  The film has moments where it can look gorgeous at times, and the talent that was cast is formidable, but it moves too slowly at times and just failed to keep my attention as much as I had hoped.

Film Review: The Chase Of Several Decades

42 Management & Production IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON

In the Shadow of the Moon is a science fiction thriller released on Netflix last year and is directed by Jim Mickle.  It was written by Gregory Weidman and Geoff Tock.  The cast includes Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, and Michael C. Hall.

Holbrook plays a police officer in 1988 Philadelphia when several people suddenly keel over after hemorrhaging quite grossly. Officer Lockhart identifies a suspect as a young black woman in a blue hoodie.  When she is killed during the pursuit, the matter is thought to be closed.  Until people start dying again, and she appears nine years later.  As Lockhart’s life and sanity apparently start to unravel over the years, the woman keeps turning up every nine years, drawing him closer to the heart of the mystery.

This is actually a fairly interesting movie even if it becomes a little more predictable once some of the reveals come to light.  The performances were pretty solid.  I am not that familiar with Boyd Holbrook, but he turned out to be a decent lead actor.  It was good to see Michael C. Hall, who is best known from Dexter.  It’s not anything that could be considered to be on the road to some kind of classic status, but it was an adequate diversion if one is having to shelter in place due to an inconvenient pandemic.


Doctor Who Audio Review: Two Doctors Collide And Changes His Lives

Daughter of the Gods is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions.  It is the latest episode from the range known as The Early Adventures.  It is written by David K. Barnes and directed by Lisa Bowerman.  As displayed on the cover, the First and Second Doctors encounter each other in one of the more ambitious tales.  Peter Purves shares narration duties with Wendy Padbury as well as reprising his role of Steven Taylor and providing a pretty impression of the First Doctor, who was initially played by the late William Hartnell.  Padbury also plays Zoe Herriot and stars alongside Frazer Hines, who is quite busy with reprising his role of Jamie McCrimmon and also filling in for the late Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor.

One of the other more intriguing elements is that a short-lived companion named Katarina gets a new lease on life with the performance of Ajjaz Awad.  Laura Elphinstone, Ian Crowe, Max Keeble are also in the guest cast.  Nicholas Briggs fires up the voice modulator again grating out threats and orders as the Daleks.

Katarina is rather a significant figure in the television series in that she was the first companion to have died onscreen during the story known as The Daleks’ Master Plan which was first broadcast in 1965. Awad takes on that role which was originally played by the late Adrienne Hill.

I sort of had some trouble following the story on this one, but the chemistry between the actors sort of made that irrelevant.  There was a poignancy to the idea of centering this around Katarina that made this seem rather special.  The fun of the two Doctors finally meeting and bickering as expected was welcome, if not surprising since this is what usually goes down during multi-Doctor episodes.

This is probably one of those I will understand better when I listen to it again, but I found it to be rewarding due to the performance and the effort to explore a character that did not get much screen time but could still be considered a companion.

The sound effects were quite convincing.  Briggs still seems to bring great joy menacing his cast mates as the Daleks.

I also enjoyed that this story sort of mixes up the pairings of companions as well.  Even if the immediate coherence of the episode could stand a little improvement, I still enjoyed the effort and imagination Barnes out forth here.  As always, I want to enjoy new adventures with the earlier Doctors and their companions.  Purves, Padbury, and Hines are not getting any younger, and sometimes that shows in their voices, however their obvious enthusiasm and energy they still exude will hopefully be used for some years to come.



Film Review: Officer Coffee Needs Some More Training And A Lot Of Family Counseling

Coffee & Kareem | Netflix Official Site

Coffee & Kareem is an action comedy that was released on Netflix.  It is written by Shane Mack and directed by Michael Dowse.  It’s got some pretty solid actors with Ed Helms, Taraji P. Henson, Betty Gilpin, and David Alan Grier.  A kid named Terrence Little Gardenhigh plays the brazen foul-mouthed Kareem, the son of the woman with whom Helms’ Officer James Coffee is in a relationship.

James Coffee is a police officer in the city of Detroit and is in a relationship with Vanessa, played by Henson.  He has yet to bond with Vanessa’s son, Kareem.  An afternoon with the two of them goes awry when young Kareem walks in on a murder and brings a gang of drug dealers and corrupt cops on their heads.  Kareem and Coffee have a very antagonistic alliance throughout the misadventure.

This is way more raunchy than necessary.  There were a few moments I found mildly amusing, but those moments were scant.  Coffee is an utter goofball, and it’s a complete mystery as to what Vanessa would ever see in this guy.  Gardenhigh, the kid, has most of the filthy dialogue spewing out of this thing.

I don’t necessarily mind a raunchy comedy as much as I should, but this film just crossed a few more lines than needed.  It’s a waste of some talented actors.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Tickets, Please!

The Psychic Circus

The Psychic Circus is a Doctor Who audio play released by Big Finish Productions written by Stephen Wyatt and directed by Samuel Clemens.  Sylvester McCoy returns to his role of the Seventh Doctor.  The guest cast includes James Dreyfus, Ian Reddington, Chris Jury, and Anna Leong Brophy.

Now this is a fairly special episode for the fans.  It serves as simultaneous prequel and sequel to the television serial entitled the The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.  The Doctor returns to the Psychic Circus as it was starting but another evil and familiar influence hovers over it that is forcing him to face his past.  The author of this audio play also introduced the television viewers to this troubled circus as well as Paradise Towers.  Although the Doctor knows the future of the Psychic Circus, he is rather surprised to find that he was present in the past as well.  Back when the Chief Clown achieved his ambitions which twisted him into something considerably darker.  This was where we get to meet Kingpin before he was Deadbeat.

This is a little bit of a confusing tale at times, however it’s still a pretty good time.  McCoy puts in his usual engaging energy into the performance.  Some of the cast members of the television serial reprise their roles.  Wyatt does quite well keeping the continuity intact.  The episode hits the right chords of nostalgia for those of us quite familiar with the earlier story.  It plays with the pitfalls of time travel for the Doctor.  The verbal sparring between McCoy and Dreyfus is also worth the price of admission.

It’s a solid adventure with a few aural delights for the long-time fans familiar with the television stories that intersect.



Film Review: This Game Should Not Have Been Started

Film Review: Game Over, Man! Treads Over Too Much Well-Worn Comic ...

Game Over, Man! is an overly raunchy action comedy directed by Kyle Newacheck.  Anders Holm concocted this screenplay with story credit being shared with Newacheck, Adam DeVine and Blake Anderson.  Anderson, Holm and DeVine also star in this alongside Daniel Stern, Neal McDonough, and Aya Cash.

The basic premise is that three friends  who work as housekeepers at a ritzy hotel are aspiring video game designers.  They are about to make it big when their plans get hampered by terrorists taking the hotel by hostage.  It’s an obvious rip-off of Dir Hard, however I think the comparison was supposed to be intentional.  There are a few mildly interesting plot twists, but that’s overshadowed by the gross humor.

I should have not bothered to hold out any hope for this to be redeemable once I saw that Seth Rogen was one of the producers in this one.  There were a couple of surprising cameos, but it only knocked any respect I had for these individuals down a notch instead of raising my appreciation for the film.

If you come across this on Netflix, no need to indulge your curiosity.  I already sacrificed a couple of hours so you can be properly warned.