Film Review: The Secret’s Out

Spider-Man: No Way Home Review - Tom Holland Soars into the Multiverse |  Den of Geek

Spider-Man: No Way Home is the latest Marvel superhero film with Tom Holland in the familiar red and blue tights again. He is joined by an impressive cast that includes Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Willem Dafoe, and Benedict Wong. There are some other cast members that may reveal some spoilers I want to avoid in this entry. The script was written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers with Jon Watts serving as director.

At the end of the previous film, Far From Home, Mysterio has let the cat out of the bag regarding Spider-Man’s identity. Peter Parker finds out what happens when everyone knows his secret identity and it starts costing to those closest to him. In desperation, Peter turns to his comrade in arms, Dr. Strange. Strange starts to cast a spell that would have everyone forget, however it goes wrong when Peter tries to make some exceptions as to who should have their memories adjusted. When all kinds of monstrous figures start appearing. The audience recognizes these characters, but this version of Spider-Man had yet to encounter them. The multiverse is coming apart, and Spider-Man has all of reality to repair, and he gets some welcome yet unexpected help.

So there is a very basic idea of the plot. It sounds like that it should be an utter mess and frustrating to follow, however the ride is better than I expected. The performances are very compelling. The humor and banter between the characters throughout the film was very engaging and entertaining. Most of the wisecracks landed quite solidly. The film has been breaking records and deserves to. The film does well to steer away from heavy social issues that being embraced by other studios and productions which likely contributes to its success. There may be some lessons to be learned from the success of this particular installment, but I am not predicting that much of Hollywood will pick up on them.

Anyway, this was much better than I expected. With the overall direction of the more recent cinematic offerings, this turned out to be quite refreshing relatively.

Doctor Who Audiobook Review: In A Timeless Space…

Doctor Who: The Nightmare Realm: 12th Doctor Audio Original

The Nightmare Realm is a Doctor Who audiobook published by BBC Audio. The story is written by Jonathan Morris and read by Dan Starkey. It would feature Peter Capaldi’s version of the Doctor alongside Nardole if this were a television episode.

So the story is framed as if it’s part of an anthology series in the vein of The Twilight Zone or something like that The Doctor and Nardole arrive in a small American town that appears deserted and then suddenly appears to be under a nuclear attack. Strange people and an even stranger monster start to appear with a young boy being the consistent watcher of all of these things. The Doctor starts to wonder if his TARDIS has taken him to someone’s dark imaginings and how to escape a literal nightmare.

This particular installment steps into the arena of surrealism, and it’s a pretty entertaining step. I think this is one of the better ones from the prolific Jonathan Morris. The real treat is Starkey’s vocal gymnastics. He comes out with a fairly wide selection of voices for the various characters. He can even sound fairly close to Capaldi’s Doctor. Starkey may be moving up the list of favorite presenters for the BBC Audio series. He is of course best known as playing the Sontarans in the television series and for Big Finish Productions.

Anyway, this turned out to be a pretty intriguing idea. The idea of the Doctor landing in someone’s dream or imagination has sort of been done before, but Morris managed to pull off one of the better efforts for this kind of story idea. I was quite pleased to add this one to my collection.

Book Review: The Dawn of Death

The Knight, The Fool And The Dead is a novel that is part of the Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious saga and is written by Steve Cole.

The Doctor has traveled back to a time in the universe where Death was not as common. He goes up against a race known as the Kotturuh, which apparently brought death into the cosmic realm. The Doctor has to protect a young girl from the attention of the Kotturuh, and he has an Ood assassin as an ally. What could go wrong there.

The Tenth Doctor is the incarnation featured here. Cole is a competent writer here. There is not much to make this the most memorable of Doctor Who novels. Of course, I have not been reading the saga in order, so it could be that I am not following the whole thing correctly. Still, it manages to not be terrible, and Cole seems to catch the Tenth Doctor well enough.

Time to change gears and read something that could be of some help to me mental well-being. Stumbling Toward Wholeness: How the Love of God Changes Us. is written by Andrew J. Bauman and seems to contain much wisdom.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Himalayan Secrets

Doctor Who: The Secrets of Det-Sen

The Secrets of Det-Sen is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is one of the latest episodes from The Early Adventures range. This play is written by Andy Frankham-Allan with Lisa Bowerman back in the director’s chair. Peter Purves is quite busy here reprising his original role of Steven Taylor, performing an impression of the First Doctor, and narrating the tale. Lauren Cornelius resurrects the character Dodo Chaplet, who was originally portrayed by Jackie Lane in the television series in the 1960’s. Paul Courtenay Nyu, Kerry Gooderson, Jeremy Ang Jones, and Jamie Zubairi join the cast as well. The story also serves as a prequel to the television serial The Abominable Snowmen, which had starred Patrick Troughton.

The TARDIS has brought the Doctor, Dodo, and Steven to the Himalayans where they join a pilgrimage to a monastery where the Doctor will one day return. The Yeti are lurking up on the mountain, and bandits are also waiting to strike. The Doctor learns that there are other secrets Det-Sen keeps that he must help protect from traitors and thieves.

Purves does quite well in fulfilling his various duties. I am getting more used to other actors playing the earlier characters. Jackie Lane never chose to participate in the Big Finish recordings, and she has recently died. I am not sure how close Cornelius gets to capturing the essence of Lane’s portrayal, but it does open the door to explore a certain section of this Doctor’s era for Big Finish to play in. The story was somewhat interesting but not that captivating. The performances help greatly as usual. Purves can’t quite do a perfect impression of William Hartnell’s Doctor, but he gets just close enough to not make it terribly distracting.

Some of the purposes this story serves is more interesting than the actual plot. It brings Dodo back and does open some interesting door. It also fills a hole in the Doctor’s background that was mentioned in the The Abominable Snowmen. This turned out to be an episode that I don’t regret purchasing, but it ma just have to grow on me when I eventually get around to hearing it again.

Book Review: Spenser Goes To The Club

Someone To Watch Over Me is a recent addition to the Spenser series created by Robert B. Parker. Ace Atkins has been continuing the series for the past ten years.

Let’s see if you can figure out where Atkins got this story idea. Spenser has taken on a protégé in this one. He had helped Mattie Sullivan find her mother’s killer several years ago, and she has now been working at the Boston PI’s office to pick up some lessons in sleuthing. She has come to Spenser with a problem of her own. An underage girl was sexually assaulted at an elite club. Actually, some overly aroused man decided to relieve his tension in front of her. The girl had left her backpack behind. Spenser decides to look a bit further into this issue. He and Mattie find that there is a connection to an eccentric billionaire with a very disturbing proclivity in sexual partners. The rich weirdo even has his own island and a henchwoman who helps recruit the young girls. Just when Spenser is starting to understand the challenges of his latest caper, he learns that a very dangerous adversary from his past is lurking in the shadows.

Yeah, Atkins borrowed some elements from the Jeffery Epstein debacle. I could get a little annoyed at the lack of originality, but it does sort of stoke the imagination over how someone has tough and sardonic would respond to someone like this. Hawk is drawn into this as well, and he is not too keen on this pervert’s proclivities either. Part of Spenser’s appeal is his sharp wit and his apparent indomitability.

Mattie Sullivan is kind of fun to see again. She is able to hold her own when it comes to witticisms which she readily slings at Spenser. Fortunately, Spenser’s ego is quite durable.

Even though it is obvious what inspired Atkins to this particular plotline, it ended up being a solid entry into the series. Spenser has yet to close his casebook, so his next adventure is around the corner.

It has been a while since I have read a new Doctor Who novel, but Steve Cole has one ready for me to read….The Knight, The Fool and the Dead, from the Time Lord Victorious saga.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The TARDIS Breaks Down

Doctor Who: Stranded 1

Stranded is a Doctor Who audio boxset from Big Finish Production with four episodes starring Paul McGann. This collection is directed by Ken Bentley. McGann is joined by Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan as Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair, respectively.

The TARDIS has been completely disabled on twenty-first century Earth. The Doctor and his two companions have taken up residence at his place on Baker Street in London. They find that someone from the Doctor’s past had turned the house into a small apartment complex. The Doctor has become an unwilling landlord as he attempts to get his TARDIS up and running. Just when the Doctor is getting more frantic to get back to his travels and the dangers, the trouble comes to him.

The guest cast includes Tom Baker, Rebecca Root, Tom Price, and Clive Wood. Rebecca Root has the distinction of being one of the first transgender actors in this series. Her character Tania Bell becomes a love interest for Liv. Fortunately, there are more interesting things going on as well.

Matt Fitton starts off with his story entitled Lost Property. Liv and Helen encounter a peculiar old man who says that he is a Curator of a rather unique museum exhibit. Tom Baker reprises the role he had from the fiftieth anniversary special that aired on BBC in 2013. This is a pretty slow one, but it does introduce the other residence competently enough. It also has Tom Baker, so that raises the appreciation significantly.

Wild Animals is written by John Dorney. The Doctor has a mission when Liv Chenka is wounded in an armed robbery, and a new friend is murdered. The Doctor is becoming more stir crazy being stuck in one place and time, so this random crime becomes more an obsession. Also, it seems that the Doctor, Liv, and Chenka are not the only ones with secrets.

Must-See TV is penned by Lisa McMullin and introduces a peculiar new resident named Mr. Bird. It seems that there is some extraterrestrial surveillance going on. Tania seems to have a connection to an organization that becomes very important to the Doctor’s future. The Doctor is getting closer to more familiar territory when an alien presence is becoming more pronounced.

David K Barnes wraps up this set with Divine Intervention. Now, the aliens have arrived, and they are on a mission to kill the Doctor for something that occurs in his future. Of course, that could create the dreaded time paradox. The residents of Baker Street are about to get an up close and personal look at what the Doctor actually does when his TARDIS works properly.

This new series was actually more enjoyable than I anticipated, but it does take a little patience especially during the first two episodes. Paul McGann seems to have lost none of his enthusiasm for this role. Some of the character moments actually managed to be interesting. Overall, this latest turn in the Doctor’s journey has been quite interesting, but I hope to have him out among the cosmos quite soon.

Film Review: Family, Fashion, And A Dash Of Murder

House of Gucci is a crime drama centered on Gucci fashion dynasty. Ridley Scott directed the film from a screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivenga. It is based on a book written by Sara Gay Forden which was published in 2001. The impressive cast includes Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Salma Hayek.

This film starts off as a bit of a love story. Patrizia Reggiani meets Maurizio Gucci, the heir apparent to the fashion empire started by his grandfather. It does not take long for Patrizia to become enamored with the riches and luxury that such a family connection can provide. She ends up marrying Maurizio, however that starts them on a path which leads to murder and ruination.

Lady Gaga is quite good. Apparently there is some question as to the authenticity of the Italian accent, which does sound sort of Russian, but her performance was quite captivating otherwise. Driver was actually pretty engaging as Maurizio, and they both displayed a fair bit of chemistry. Unfortunately, some of the other performances ended up coming off as somewhat more of caricatures. Pacino was particularly distracting as Uncle Aldo. Jared Leto played Paolo Gucci and was pretty unrecognizable in his prosthetic makeup. His portrayal was even more over the top than Pacino’s. The film was also a bit too long and dragged at times. The murder of Paolo came toward the very end, but I wonder if the more interesting story would have been the aftermath. The film did have some bright spots occasionally, but I expected a little better consistency from someone of Ridley Scott’s acclaim. Basically, this was another film that left me with some mixed reactions. It’s not terrible, but it could have been so much better.

Book Review: A Most Peculiar Adventure

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols is written by Nicholas Meyer, who purports to be finding a long lost manuscript penned by Dr. John Watson. Meyer has a pretty distinguished career in pop culture in the worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek.

This tale takes place in 1905. Sherlock Holmes has gotten a bit older. Watson is on his second marriage or something like that. His marital history is a bit of a muddle, to be honest. They are summoned by Mycroft Holmes to the eccentric yet distinguished Diogenes Club. Holmes and Watson are tasked with determining the origins of a manuscript entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which supposedly outlines some Jewish plot for world domination. Of course, the documents are later found to be fraudulent, but they caused quite a stir back then. They are joined by a Russian activist who has some historical significance and board the Orient Express to Russia for their investigation.

This is one of those novels where a lot of history is blended into the world of 221 B Baker Street. Many of the guest characters are actual historical figures such as Chaim Weizmann, who later becomes the first president of Israel. There is some intrigue on board a train, which is something that always pulls on my macabre heart. There is kidnapping, murder, and torment which always adds some spice to Sherlock Holmes. The novel turns out to be solidly entertaining. I imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would not find Meyer’s efforts here to objectionable.

This one has lots that history buffs and Sherlockians can debate, discuss, or cheer over.

Several years ago, the world of crime fiction lost one of the heavy hitters, Robert B. Parker, but his estate has refused to allow his creations to languish without some new adventures of their own. Ace Atkins has been writing new capers for Boston PI Spenser and continues that effort with Someone To Watch Over Me.

Book Review: A Return Home Marred By Murder

Every Heart A Doorway is a dark fantasy novel by Seanan McGuire, and it was published in 2016. According to McGuire, there are times when a child can go their a portal and spend time in another world can either be wondrous or terrifying. When these children return, they can be sent to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. A new resident is named Nancy, and once she arrives, she is greeted by murder not long after meeting the other residents.

This is the first in a series by McGuire. Apparently these portals appear, and many of the children want to return to these worlds, but this isolated school is supposed to help them readjust to their home base.

It’s a fairly imaginative idea, but I had a hard time really connecting here. McGuire’s has won some writing awards, and she is not without talent, but I didn’t feel this enthralled me in any significant way.

Anyway, I don’t consider this to be anything that anyone should feel compelled to read, but I also don’t need to advise any real effort to avoid it. It probably just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Next on the unending path of literary indulgences is a return to a character I do have a great deal of affection for. Nicholas Meyer has found a new journal belonging to one Doctor John H. Watson, who has a new Sherlock Holmes story to relate in The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Vicki And The Psychic

Doctor Who - The Companion Chronicles: Starborn

Starborn is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is another episode in The Companion Chronicles range. This episode was written by Jacqueline Rayner and directed by Lisa Bowerman. Maureen O’Brien returns to the role of Vicki and is joined by Jacqueline King as a psychic named Violet.

Violet has a message for Vicki warning her that her next journey in the TARDIS will lead to her demise. Vicki gets the warning from what she is told a future version of herself. She is told the story of a world where the inhabitants literally turn to stars and ascend to the sky. Vicki has to determine if this message is genuine or if a dangerous trick is being played.

This had an interesting premise and was well performed. I don’t find this to be the most memorable of episodes, but at least I won’t remember it to be awful. This story is supposed to take place during the era of William Hartnell. It’s kind of fun to be hear how these other actors portray his dialogue. This is just two seasoned performers bringing to life a script that was interesting but not unusually so.