Film Review: Ghosts And Nazis

Image result for ghosts of war

Ghosts of War is a horror film written and directed by Eric Bress. The cast includes Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Skylar Astin, Kyle Gallner, Alan Ritchson, and Billy Zane.

It appears that this little haunting tale is set in France during World War II. A group of American soldiers are on a mission to sit on a castle that was once occupied by Nazis. During their stay, a number of strange noises and shadowy figures start to disturb their already restless souls. Secrets are kept in a diary. Nazis could return at any moment. The soldiers are on edge and at least one may just be a tad crazy. However, there is a fairly impressive twist explaining how these strange manifestations are created. The men may not be who they think they are, and the castle may hold more secrets than they can comprehend.

As far as horror flicks go, I have seen worse. I think it’s sort of interesting to have a group of battle hardened soldiers the focus of supernatural shenanigans instead of the usual innocent family or something like that. This film is not for the delicate due to all of the blood and brains spewing everywhere. The performances were pretty good. The dialogue wasn’t too bad either. The film has a somewhat disappointing ending, but I usually notice that in this genre. The suspense was pretty good, and the story ended up not being as predictable as others of this sort. The film is not on track of being any sort of classic, however there was an effort at something with a bit more originality than usual for this type of movie.

Book Review: Sibling Rivalry, Salander-Style

The Girl Who Lived Twice is the third contribution by David Lagercrantz in his continuation of Steig Larsson’s Millennium series. It is reported to be his last contribution to the series, so I have yet to hear if another writer will continue the exploits of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

Yes, they are back in the fray. Lisbeth’s evil twin, Camilla, is still around causing trouble. Lisbeth is still hacking computers and on the hunt to end their feud once and for all. Blomvkist is looking into the matter of a dead beggar who had his card on his pocket. That may make for an interesting story for the crusading reporter. Sweden is just abuzz with all of this underworld crime and vengeance, in this particular novel anyway.

This one was a little bit of a slog to get through, but the climactic confrontation between the Salander sisters was kind of worth it. Lisbeth spent a lot of time in the shadows as Blomvkist was following leads and trying to control his frustration with his limited contact with his peculiar friend and ally.

It was fun to revisit this world started by the late Steig Larsson, but I am not sure Lagercrantz quite hit the mark left by the debut of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. My verdict was the novel was fairly entertaining but nothing that really blew me away. If the publishing house decides to commission another writer to continue the series, there is a blank slate for a new challenge and adversary, so that would be intriguing. It also makes sense to leave the story here and look forward to a new unique protagonist somewhere on the literary landscape.

So, the next novel I am going to read may hold some frustration for me, but it does feature Sherlock Holmes. In this recent pastiche work by Eric Brown, Holmes is engaged by Martians to solve a murder. Yeah, the Martians drop in at Baker Street. I have somewhat out this off, but it seems like a good time to see how Holmes does when he embarks on an adventure of The Martian Menace.

Doctor Who Audio Review: A TARDIS In Berlin

Doctor Who - The Companion Chronicles: The Alchemists

The Alchemists is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is an episode from the range known as The Companion Chronicles. Ian Potter is the writer of this episode with Lisa Bowerman serving as directing. Carole Ann Ford stars in this one with Wayne Forester providing a guest role.

Susan is writing to Barbara Wright of an adventure that took place not too long after she and her grandfather fled their home planet in an erratic TARDIS. The Doctor and Susan get caught up in an adventure in 1930’s Berlin when they find that they could be a catalyst for a major change in history during the time when the Nazis are getting a foothold in the country. The Doctor just wanted to meet some geniuses of that time such as Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrodinder. Of course, it’s the Doctor so a little indulgence never stays simple.

Other than this adventure taking place before the television series, not a whole lot stands out here. Ford still puts in a convincing performance, and Forester provides about three voices in this episode and does fine with all of them. The background effects were pretty good as well. All of the technical matters were handled with Big Finish’s usual precision, but the story didn’t quite keep me as interested as I hoped, at least not on the first listen. It may grow on me as time goes on. It’s still an interesting historical period to examine in Doctor Who, and nothing stood out as being terrible in this story. It just doesn’t really keep too enthralled as the story unfolds.

Doctor Who Audio Review: One Cathedral, Two Doctors, And An Army Of Daleks

Doctor Who: Out of Time 1

Out of Time is a Doctor Who audio drama released by Big Finish Productions. Matt Fitton is the script writer tasked with uniting the Tenth Doctor with his fourth incarnation. Nicholas Briggs serves as director as well as voicing the Daleks as they wreak havoc yet again. Tom Baker and David Tennant finally get to play in the same Doctor Who sandbox at the time. Kathryn Drysdale, Claire Rushbrook, Nicholas Asbury, and Glen McCready make up the guest cast.

The Tenth Doctor is facing the end of his life, at least his current one, and comes to the Cathedral of Contemplation where he can ponder something or other. The Cathedral exists outside of time and is an ideal retreat for the weary crusader with a TARDIS. The Daleks have their own purpose to visit, and contemplation is nowhere on their agenda. When time barriers break down, the Doctor finds a previous self also taking a break. The Doctor recognizes an amiable fellow with a mop of curly brown hair and a very lengthy scarf. The two Doctors find themselves pitted against their oldest enemy yet again.

I am usually a little leery of multi-Doctor stories, but Fitton comes up with a pretty good one. I liked the idea of the setting even if it was hard to imagine or understand at times. These two Doctors spend a little less time bickering than in previous adventures of this sort. but there is plenty of amusing moments to be had with these two. There are also one or two very profound moments as well. Baker seems to be having a good time as usual. Tennant certainly would be as well since he grew up watching Tom Baker as a young fan before he took on the role. The story itself is solid enough, but the real treat is Tom Baker, arguably one of the most iconic versions of the Doctor in the classic era, interacting with David Tennant, someone likely to be considered as iconic in more recent years.

Book Review: Collect The Spies And Run

Agents of Influence is the latest Star Trek novel from Dayton Ward. This is another one from the original series. The one with Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise. So, this particular story takes place in the final year of the initial five year mission. Everyone is still in the gold, red, blue shirts with the women in miniskirts. It’s great! We also get to know another starship crew under the command of Captain Atish Khatami of the USS Endeavor, and that’s not a bad thing. I believe this crew is featured in another original range of Star Trek novels created by the publishing company.

So, it is 2270, and three Federation operatives have been living as Klingons for a few years when circumstances force them to pull the plug on their operation early. They make their escape from the Klingon home planet and are scheduled to be rescued by the Endeavor. That ship survives an attack and has to hide out in an asteroid belt trying to dodge the attentions of both Klingons and Orions, who are working together. A high ranking Starfleet admiral calls upon Captain James Kirk and his stalwart crew of the Enterprise to determine the fate of their comrades and spies. The Endeavor is still out there but not in very good shape, and they also seem to have to contend with a saboteur in their midst.

Ward has been a significant contributor to the series of the past several years, and he seems to have scored quite well with this particular installment. At least, I liked it well enough. There are about three different threads of the story to follow here. Kirk, Sulu, and Uhura locate the Endeavor and lend some important aid to the crew there. Spock and the other Enterprise crewmembers have their own challenges with Klingons in the area looking to retrieve the spies that escaped. Ward also has the reader get a little perspective from the various bad guys circling the area and raising some hackles. Admiral Nogura has been featured in several novels, and it seemed somehow appropriate to have him in the action here. Nogura has been presented as one of the more enigmatic members of Starfleet’s upper echelon, and it was nice to have him portrayed as someone who does actually care for those carrying out his rather challenging orders. Ward still keeps Nogura in a certain amount of mystique despite his more tangible presence within this story.

The plot was pretty engaging for the most part. I have always found Kirk to be presented more clever in the novels than he often did in the television series, and Ward seemed to carry that intent quite effectively. Spock seems to have had a certain amount of character growth here that was not always evident in the television series. Ward still remains faithful to the character. Spock, in many ways, can be the easiest to write for, but I liked how he came across in this novel. There was kind of an interesting tension between Admiral Nogura and Doctor McCoy, but it was still coupled with the appropriate respect as well.

It’s a Star Trek novel, so don’t expect an incredible amount of literary greatness in the grand scheme of things, but that probably goes without saying. Ward does have a pretty engrossing story in this one, and many of the supporting characters were quite intriguing as well. It was a pretty fun diversion as meant to be when reading Star Trek, but it felt like there was something a little deeper as well.

So, David Lagercrantz is the writer who continued the exploits of Lisbeth Salander after her creator died suddenly and tragically several years ago. He has written his third and final entry into Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. I am not sure if Salander will have adventures under another writer, but it’s time to see how Lagercrantz ends his involvement with The Girl Who Lived Twice.

Doctor Who Audio Review: More Escapades In E-Space

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 09 Volume 02

The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 9 Volume 2 contains two more Doctor Who audio plays from Big Finish Productions. Tom Baker stars as the Fourth Doctor and is accompanied in this series by Lalla Ward as Romana, Matthew Waterhouse as Adric, and John Leeson as K9. Nicholas Briggs directed both stories. These stories during the period where the TARDIS had slipped through a Charged Vacuum Emboitment and was left wandering through another universe known as E-Space. Adric had recently stowed away aboard the TARDIS and joined the two Gallifreyans and the robot pooch as they attempt to find their way back to our more familiar universe. Still, as dire as things are, the Doctor doesn’t miss an opportunity to explore. Here are two more adventures created by the masterminds at Big Finish.

The Planet of Witches is the first tale up and is presented by Alan Barnes. The guest cast is comprised of Abigail McKern, Lauren Cornelius, Samuel Blenkin, Michael Simkins, and Samuel Clemens. The Doctor and his companions follow a spacecraft until it crashes onto a planet where they find people escaping a supposed Witchfinder. They encounter someone called Crone who is more than a mere witch.

This episode was pretty good. I think I liked the second one a little better, but there is a female villain here is portrayed quite well by McKern. It’s a solid piece of work from Barnes, but he usually does come through on these scripts. The main cast is quite good here as usual. Waterhouse benefits from some better writing than he was given when he was in the television series. He also seems to have been practicing on how to sound more like a teen-ager even though he is almost sixty. Adric is not really a favorite of mine of the Doctor’s companions, but I am actually glad that Big Finish decided to add to this particular part of the eighteenth season of the television series. It manages to be an enjoyable episode, but I found the next one to be the better one.

Which brings this, dear reader, to The Quest of the Engineer by Andrew Smith. Andrew Smith actually wrote the television story entitled Full Circle, which brought the TARDIS to E-Space and introduced Adric. The Doctor and his friends lose the TARDIS within the fissures of a planet that has a constantly shifting surface. A ruler known as the Engineer, played by Nicholas Woodeson, is a bit of a lunatic with depth. The rest of the guest cast are made up of George Layton, Sarah Woodward, Timothy Blore, and Richard Hansell.

Although there are a lot of familiar elements, there is also some interesting deviations from the traditional plot devices. Although the Doctor is far from sidelined, it ends up being Romana and K9 who have the most interaction with the Engineer. The Doctor has his own challenges, accompanied by Adric, alongside Woodward’s character mainly, but he does not actually meet the Engineer until the near the climax of the adventure. I rather liked the departure from the typical jousting between the Doctor and an adversary throughout the story. The Engineer seems to have a bit more depth and cunning than the typical despot the Doctor often encounters in his travels. Smith presents a pretty well developed background here, which is impressive considering he has written for Doctor Who for about forty years.

I was rather impressed with both episodes, although as mentioned before, the second one in this particular set was just a bit better. I am still impressed with how sharp and energetic Tom Baker sounds in his performance in spite of his getting a little closer his ninth decade. This set concludes the ninth series of Fourth Doctor Adventures from Big Finish Productions, and I am looking forward to many more with Tom Baker still in the lead.

Animated Film Review: Hush, Little Bat

Batman: Hush is Getting an Animated Movie | DC

Batman: Hush is an animated superhero film that was released in 2019. Justin Copeland is the director with Ernie Altbacker providing the script. It is based on a graphic novel written by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. Jason O’ Mara provides the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The cast includes the talents of Jennifer Morrison, Geoffrey Arend, Chris Cox, Jason Spisak, and Rainn Wilson. Oh yes, Jerry O’Connell plays Superman. Superman and Lois Lane show up as well. It’s actually quite a carnival of villains and allies of the Dark Knight.

A new villain is stalking the streets of Gotham manipulating some of Batman’s other enemies to kill him. The new guy in town, Hush, also seems to know the Batman’s other identity. In the meantime, Batman and Catwoman decide to try out a committed relationship of sorts. Everyone from the series is there. We get to see Poison Ivy, the Joker, a glimpse of the Penguin, the Riddler. Also, Superman and Lois Lane turn up. Superman and Batman have to fight it out yet again before they become buddies again.

It’s kind of a fun script though. The performances were fine. I thought O’Mara made a pretty good Batman. The animation was serviceable but nothing remarkable. A couple of fight scenes were pretty good. Hush has a secret identity of his own, which is not surprising, because who would name their kid Hush?

Anyway, this animated film isn’t for the little ones. There are a couple of gruesome murders. Overall, the idea is interesting, but there did seem to be too much of an effort to cram all of the favorite bad guys in a fairly short film. For some reason, I rather enjoyed seeing Superman in this one. There was kind of an amusing banter between the two caped do-gooders.

I enjoyed this particular installment in the Batman animated films for the most part.

Book Review: Hostages In Sweden

Anxious People is a novel written by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. It apparently involves a hostage situation when a bank robber interrupts a group of people in the middle of an apartment viewing. That is the simple way to explain this, but the novel goes much deeper than that. Backman does not really let this story unfold in a linear fashion, so the chapters alternate between the past of some of the characters and the investigation when the bank robber seemingly makes an escape.

Backman also has a whimsical humor peppered throughout, however it’s not exactly a comedic story. There is quite a bit of profound insights about the complexities of life and how many are connected by coincidence. The point of view shifts from each of the various hostages and the father and son policemen investigating the incident. Me trying to describe this makes this sound pretty disjointed, and it sometimes reads that way, but it does come together pretty nicely at the end.

I found that it does take a little patience at the beginning to get used to Backman’s style, but once the twists start appearing, I found that sticking with it paid off. This novel is worth the effort ultimately.

Next up, my literary journey takes me into the 23rd century and aboard the Starship Enterprise. Dayton Ward has a new Star Trek novel entitled Agents of Influence.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Doctor And The Daleks United

Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My Enemy

Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My Enemy is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and stars Paul McGann. This script was written by Tracy Ann Baines with Scott Handcock serving as director. Nicholas Briggs returns yet again to voice the Daleks. The rest of the cast is comprised of Rachel Atkins, Raj Ghatak, Samantha BĂ©art, Stephen Critchlow, and Jacob Dudman.

The Doctor has been taken prisoner by the Daleks….again. The Daleks are worried when they detect alterations in timelines. The propose an alliance with the Daleks to get to the bottom of such a desecration to cosmic balance. The path takes them a planet known as Wrax. This is a planet the Doctor remembers being an uninhabited rock, however the force changing the timelines actually now provides a population. A population that is in possession of a weapon in which the Daleks are interested. The Daleks then uncharacteristically propose a peace treaty, however the matter isn’t that simple. The Daleks are involved, and the Doctor is understandably suspicious.

So this story takes place on the cusp of the legendary all-consuming Time War. I am always glad when some new writing talent crops up at Big Finish, and this story from Tracey Ann Baines has an interesting premise. Some kind of Dalek Strategist ends up serving some of the purposes of the Doctor’s companion. This is rather a tall order considering that it would be hard to engage in the usual banter the Doctor would have with his usual choice of a companion with a Dalek at his side. This is also a recent recording done while the United Kingdom was in lockdown due to the COVID 19, but the post production work is solid enough where it is hard to tell. I only know it because it is mentioned during the cast interviews at the end of the CD. The guest cast is also well selected, as usual. McGann still sounds great as the Eighth Doctor, who exhibits a cheeky suspicion at his newfound alliance with the Daleks.

The Daleks are a bit overused sometimes, but this episode ended up being pretty intriguing. It will be interesting to see, or rather hear, if more scripts from Baines are soon to come.

And the contest between the Doctor and the Daleks continues….

Classic Film Review: Let The Dragon In

Enter The Dragon Review | Movie - Empire

Enter the Dragon is a martial arts action film released in 1973, the year of this not so humble blogger’s birth. Michael Allin is the scriptwriter while Robert Crouse serves as director. The film stars the late, great Bruce Lee alongside John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Jim Kelly, Betty Chung, and Shih Kien. A fellow named Keye Luke dubbed the voice of Kien’s crime lord Han.

Bruce Lee plays Shaolin martial artist named Lee, who is asked by a British agent to help out with an investigation into a crime boss named Han who holds martial arts tournaments on his private island as a means of recruitment for his empire of misdeeds such as drug trafficking and prostitution. There is some background indicating that Han’s chief henchman was responsible for the death of Lee’s sister some years before. Lee meets two Americans played by Saxon and Jim Kelly. He is not sure who to trust, but has to find another operative who had gone missing on Han’s island. Lots of fights and plenty of pretty girls help to hold the attention.

The plot of this thing is as ridiculous as expected, but I ended up rather enjoying this spectacle regardless. Bruce Lee was definitely too cool for school, and it is tragic that his life and career was cut so short in 1973. Saxon’s performance as a guy named Roper was also kind of intriguing. Roper was sort of a roguish gambler with a heart in spite of his formidable fighting skills. Jim Kelly plays a fighter named Williams and had a rather formidable presence. The character Han seemed to spoof James Bond villains, and the actor apparently enjoyed the campiness of his role.

Most of the film actually works if one sort of embraces the more ridiculous aspects of this. Bruce Lee is fun to watch even if one has to suspend their disbelief pretty significantly. I enjoyed this film more than I expected.