The Omnians Learn To The Obey The Daleks, But The Doctor Hasn’t

Doctor Who Monthly Adventures #254 - Emissary of the Daleks (Doctor Who The Monthly Adventures)

“Emissary of the Daleks” is a Doctor Who audio play and is the latest installment in the Monthly Range from Big Finish Productions.  It is written by Andrew Smith, directed by John Ainsworth, and stars Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. Nicola Bryant returns to her role of Peri. The guest cast includes Saskia Reeves, William Ellis, and Bruce Alexander.  Nicholas Briggs fires up the voice modulator to voice the Daleks.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet known as Omnia where they quickly find that it is occupied by the Daleks.  Reeves plays Magister Carmen Rega,  who is governing the population on behalf of the Daleks.  Since the Doctor and the Daleks are long-time rivals who cross cosmic paths with destructive results, the Time Lord finds this arrangement to be quite unacceptable.  There is an emotional element in that the Magister has an estranged son who rather resents the surrender that was negotiated to save their remote little world.

There isn’t much that feels groundbreaking in this particular Dalek story.  It’s competently written and even more enthusiastically performed.  Baker once again excels at leading the action with his energetic delivery.  He and Bryant continue to prove their worthy chemistry as performers.  Peri continues to come off better than she was allowed in her television appearances all those decades ago.   There isn’t really anything that felt wrong while listening to this, but I am not sure there was anything to help it stand out.  It’s pretty good, but that it likely more due to the cast performances rather than any ingenuity in the writing.  Still, Andrew Smith has a long history with the program and does have an impressive record of coming up with some intriguing adventures, and I do want to see him get handed with plenty of opportunities from Big Finish. The one just didn’t turn out to be one of is more memorable contributions.

 

 

A Joker Goes Wild

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“Joker” is the latest film to delve into psyche and origins of Batman’s greatest and most popular foe.  Todd Phillips directed as well as co-wrote the script with Scott Silver.  Juaquin Phoenix plays the hapless inspiring comic named Arthur Fleck who is barely making ends meet in 1981 Gotham as a clown for hire while living with his mother.  Frances Conroy, Robert De Niro, and Brett Cullen are also included in the cast.

Some are touting this as some sort of masterpiece. Although I would hesitate to go that far because I am just that cynical, I will say that it does have some fairly fascinating moments.  Phoenix was absolutely the right choice to take us on that journey with someone clearly struggling with mental health at the beginning and descends into utter psychosis.  Fleck is someone with whom one can have some sympathy for through much of the film until the killings start.

The cinematography was well thought as well.  The grime of some parts of Gotham were quite convincingly depicted.  Actually there wasn’t much seen of the more opulent sections of the iconic fictional city.  Although Batman is not seen or realized in this installment, the foreshadowing for one of the most famous comic book rivalries is quite cleverly laid out.

The film is a little slow at times though, and it’s a pretty depressing affair to sit through for the most part.  That may be the intent of the writers and producers this time, but it’s a comic book movie, so some break in the tension would still be welcome.  Heath Ledger may still be my personal favorite of Joker depictions in recent years, however the praise for Phoenix’s performance is also well-earned.

Even if I don’t necessarily agree with the masterpiece designation by some for this film, it still was a long way from being disappointing.

 

The Doctor Sets The War Right

“Fortunes of War” is a Doctor Who audiobook written by Justin Richards with Colin Baker reading the first person narrative from the perspective of the Sixth Doctor himself. It is released from BBC Worldwide and completes a trilogy in which the history of the First World War has been altered.  The Doctor faced this anomaly in his first and third incarnations, but it’s his sixth iteration that gets to bring this matter to a close.

The Doctor is reunited with two allies from the previous two installments.  He meets up again with Captain Mark Steadman and Nurse Annie Grantham to confront the force that is behind the devastating disruption.

Baker does pretty well as he presents this story, but there is not much remarkable about the writing here. That’s a little disappointing since Richards is a favorite contributor to the series.  Once again, Baker’s delivery does help quite a bit, but I am afraid this effort isn’t going to be the most memorable.

Every Runner Does Matter

“Overcomer” is a Christian drama film which is the latest offering from the Kendrick Brothers.  Alex Kendrick stars and directs and also is a co-writer with his brother, Stephen.  Priscilla Shirer, Shari Rigby, and Aryn Wright-Thompson are also part of the cast.  The Kendrick Brothers have had some success in prior Christian cinematic efforts such “Facing the Giants” and “War Room”.

Kendrick plays a basketball coach and teacher in a town facing an economic crisis causing people to move away.  Circumstances conspire to have him coach a young girl in a cross country running.  Of course, the girl is asthmatic and apparently an orphan.  She also has a bit of the sticky fingers.

Shirer plays the noble high school principal and does fine.  She is known as a writer and Christian evangelist and has acted in a couple of films.  She does well enough as an actress, but check out her speeches on YouTube. She is phenomenal in her evangelism.

The young runner played by Wright-Thompson is an interesting character as well.

The film is a little on the cheesy side in some areas, but the message is moving. It deals with how one can define themselves in regard to their faith in God.  Amazing revelations come forth when the coach meets a bed-ridden man at the hospital who was forced to give himself over to God after the breaking of his body.

Some of the supposed twists are somewhat predictable, however the film does depict some fairly complex characters and relationships quite effectively.

The Kendricks are not genius writers, but they’re competent enough to make an enjoyable movie.  Of course, this time the message and intent is far more important that the plot.

Another Court Date With A Boozy Attorney

“The People Against O’Hara” is a film released in 1951 and stars Spencer Tracy, Pat O’Brien, and James Arness.  John Sturges directed the piece which was adapted from a novel Eleazar Lipsky by screenwriter John Monks Jr.

Tracy plays an alcoholic attorney named James Curtayne who is asked to defend a young man from the neighborhood accused of murder.  Arness plays the hapless defendant who is not as forthcoming with his attorney as hoped.

This film isn’t bad, but it does seem to drag quite a bit for something that still doesn’t hit the two hour mark.

Spencer Tracy himself was fine, but I had some trouble staying with the film overall.  The performances from the other actors was fine, but the film just felt kind of just there, which is a shame.

Very young actors Charles Bronson and Richard Anderson were also in the cast, but as amusing as it was to recognize them, it was not quite enough to keep me consistently engaged in the movie as a whole.

The Abbey Still Stands

“Downton Abbey” is a big screen episode of one of the most rabidly popular British series.  Creator Julian Fellowes writes the script which ended up being directed by Michael Engler.  Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, and all sorts of other British actors return to the Yorkshire countryside as the family and staff receive notice of King George and Queen Mary are coming in for a visit in 1927.

So I have yet to watch the television series, but this movie just felt like a super long episode.  It is a super long episode that is well presented though.  There wasn’t much time spent on the background of the characters for the sake of new viewers, but that was a good decision.  This is a lot of great Britishness as expected.  My favorite character is one of the kitchen staff, Daisy, played by Sophie McShera.  I could see why this show was such a hit.  All of the main characters were amusing and intriguing.

The plot felt a little standard, even for someone who has yet to watch the show, however it was still quite engaging.  Fellowes is a pretty witty scribe.

The scenery was often pretty breathtaking.  The Abbey looked gorgeous during the long shots.

It’s a film that offers a pretty good continuation and yet a decent introduction for those who missed out on the series in the first airing.  Anyway, any newcomers to the show should still get some enjoyment out of it, and I imagine long-time fans were quite pleased with the end result.

Rambo Has Another Rampage In Him

“Rambo: Last Blood” is directed by Adrian Grunberg and stars  Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote the script with Matthew Cirulnick.  Vietnam War veteran John Rambo has been running his father’s old horse ranch with an old friend and her granddaughter.  The granddaughter runs off to Mexico to confront her deadbeat dad and gets herself captured by a Mexican cartel.

The film also stars Paz Beltran, Adriana Barraza, and Yvette Monreal alongside all kinds of other people.

If this does end up being the last film, it’s not a bad way to wrap up the franchise.  It’s a very different setting for the usually nomadic Rambo.  I sort of .like the idea of him settling down and finding a threat to his adopted family to rouse that vengeful streak fans love so much.

It’s a pretty gruesome film.  Stallone has entered his seventies, but he almost pulls off the action scenes as convincingly as if he were a younger man.  Stallone probably waited a little too long to do this film, but it wasn’t overly overdue.

There are enough interesting character moments to keep this from seeming too goofy.  But it does have some fairly ludicrous moments nonetheless.  There was just enough sentimental moments and competent action scenes to make it worthwhile.

Well, the film works as a decent send-off to a popular cinematic presence, but not  much more than that.

 

Don’t Just Put Any Ring On It

“The Rings of Ikiria” is a Doctor Who audio drama from Big Finish Productions and is one of the episodes in the range known as The Companion Chronicles.  Richard Dinnick is the writer here who provides the prose and dialogue to be performed by Richard Franklin and Felicity Duncan.  Franklin relates the tale as Captain Mike Yates as UNIT during the time when the Third Doctor was exiled to Earth.  Duncan voices the enigmatic and alluring Ikiria and a couple of other female characters who appear and she was pretty engaging.

This particular installment felt a bit bland and familiar, although that it is not the fault of the performers.  I like Franklin’s delivery and performance in these things when he participates, and he certainly does not fail in anyway to help lift the story.  The reason it feels familiar is that there is already a television story from the Third Doctor era where some seemingly benevolent visitor from the stars turns out to have more dastardly motives.  There are these rings being passed out that end up controlling the minds of the wearer.  The Doctor ends up disappearing for a time and is thought by Yates to be dead.  Anyway, it does not completely fall apart, but it does not leave much of an impression either.

So the cast and performances were enough to get some level of enjoyment, but the story ended up feeling too overused.

It’s All Theo’s Fault

“The Goldfinch” is a film directed by John Crowley with screenwriter Peter Straughan adapting the novel written by Donna Tartt.  The story centers on a young man named Theodore Decker, played by Ansel Elgort, whose mother was killed in a bombing Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was thirteen years-old.  A much younger actor with the distinctive name of Oakes Fegley takes on the younger Theo.  The film also stars Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman, and Luke Wilson.

Theo has grown up and sells antiques in New York, alongside a mentor, played by Wright.  This is one of those films which cuts back and forth between his adult years and his troubled childhood.  Theo has developed a substance abuse problem to go along with his other challenges.  After his mother’s death, the movie explores how Theo was betrayed by those who were supposed to care for him, and encouraged by those who had no such obligation.

I ended up liking the film, but it’s another one that still was a mixed bag.  It’s a long movie and it feels like a long movie.  The transitions between the two main eras of Theo’s life was a little jarring.  The cast was great though.  Reliable performers such as Wright and Kidman still managed to keep me engaged.  It was an interesting story for the most part and delved into the world of art history and antiques, which I didn’t mind.  I was rather distracted by some of the extraordinary coincidences that sort of kept cropping up on how the adult Theo kept reconnecting with aspects of his childhood.  I have yet to read the novel, so I can’t say for sure, but it really felt like a lot was left out of the adaptation which could have helped the screen version make a little better sense.

It’s a film I didn’t necessarily mind seeing, but I would say it’s probably something one doesn’t need to make a special effort to watch.

Welcome To The Hot Zone

“The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus” is a chronicle first published in 1994 by Richard Preston.  Preston first published an article two years before in The New Yorker entitled “Crisis in the Hot Zone” in which this particular book further expands.

Preston knows how to rattle the nerves with his accounts of the devastating effects the Ebola Virus wreaks on the body.  He also delves into the personal lives of  some of those researchers who faced this terrible affliction and does so quite effectively.

Preston not only comes off as a meticulous researcher and journalist, but he also is a pretty compelling writer without making the subject more complicated than necessary. There are times when it gets a little dry, but those pages are not too numerous.

I don’t read non-fiction on a regular basis, but I was glad to give this one a gander.  Preston does a great job of presenting the horrors and the noble efforts of the scientists to study the Ebola Virus in a manner in which laypeople can follow fairly easily.

I will next be delving into an American classic about one of the darker periods of this US history.  It’s going to be lengthy reading indulgence, but I am going to be taking on “Roots” by Alex Haley.