Film Review: Dr. Fox Needs To Get Out More

The Woman in the Window is a thriller directed by Joe Wright. The screenplay was written by Tracy Letts. It is based on a novel by A.J. Finn. Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Jason Leigh are included in the cast.

Adams plays an agoraphobic child psychologist named Anna Fox. Dr. Fox never leaves her house, watches old movies, and probably drinks more than she should. A new family moves across the street, and she meets who she believes is the wife one night. She also has gotten to know the troubled teenager named Ethan. While looking out her window one night, she sees her new friend stabbed at the house, however her medications have been known to cause hallucinations. Her mental health is on shaky ground after her apparent separation from her husband and daughter. The woman who is later presented as the wife of the man across the street is not the same one who spent an evening with her as a new friend. It all gets very confusing for poor Anna, and the audience gets to find out a few secrets she has of her own.

The film was not as bad as I have heard. Of course, I had read the novel not all that long ago, and the film stayed fairly close to it. The performances were pretty solid. Of course, with talent like Adams and Oldman, one should not expect anything less. Somehow, the film still falls short of being anything special. Basically, the book remains the better option. The film has taken some poor reviews by the pros, and some of it is deserved. It’s a mediocre cinematic experience, but mediocre is still not terrible.

Doctor Who Audio Review: A Planet Of Ghosts

Ghosts is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Nicholas Briggs. David Tennant and Alex Kingston reunite as the Doctor and River Song. The guest cast is made up of Tim Bentinick, Mina Anwar, Emma Swan, and Sam Benjamin.

The Doctor meets up with River Song on a planet known for its population of ghosts. Even the ghosts are disappearing, and a strange mist seems to be responsible. They meet other survivors who are also being pursued by the mist, and the pair of travelers find that there is a deeper truth to be uncovered that could have them question of the nature of their existence.

This turned out to have some interesting twists. The banter between the Doctor and River Song remains as quick and amusing as ever. There are some moments that evoke the appropriate sense of the spooks. It’s a strange yet solidly entertaining episode.

Book Review: Sheriff Brady’s Daughter Brings A Case

Missing and Endangered is a recent mystery novel written by J.A. Jance and features Sheriff Joanna Brady of Cochise County, Arizona.

Joanna Brady has been married to her second husband for a while and has two young children while her oldest daughter has just started college. She is facing staff shortages and budget concerns in her department. She is happy at home despite the recent death of her mother and step-father. but there are plenty of other pressures of her job that keep her on edge. Her professional and personal lives crash together here. One of her deputies is seriously wounded in a shoot-out. Two young children may be in danger from their unstable mother who may have been plotting a murder. Jennifer Brady has a very young roommate who has fallen victim to a very dangerous cyber predator. Although she has picked up some of her mother’s courage and fierce protectiveness, she is sharp enough to know that she is going to need some help from the elder Brady.

It is interesting to have some of the spotlight on the sheriff’s daughter. All of the regulars remain as likeable as ever. The readers may be saying good-bye to one of the more stalwart of supporting character. I have enjoyed seeing Joanna Brady grow into the profession that was somewhat thrust upon her after the murder of her first husband. She has a somewhat complicated blended family these days, but Jance makes it work since she has such likeable yet authentic characters. There are times when things seem to work out a little too pat in this series, but it’s nice to see some growth in the characters. Many times, writers put through protagonists through all manner of hellish situations, however Jance likes to share some joy with her readers as well.

I liked that there were essentially two plotlines to follow, and Joanna ended up being important to both. This was no literary masterpiece, however it provided a solidly enjoyable diversion.

Moving on from the perils of Arizona, the next reading indulgence will take place in the wilds of Alaska with Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Two More Adventures For Three

The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 8 contains two more episodes featuring the Third Doctor as performed by Tim Treloar. Of course, he does his best to sound like the late Jon Pertwee and succeeds for the most part. The set was directed by Nicholas Briggs, one of the executive producers at Big Finish Productions.

Katy Manning reprises her role of Jo Grant in Conspiracy in Space written by Alan Barnes. Sam Stafford, Imogen Church, Barnaby Edwards, Aurora Burghart, and Issy Van Randwyck make up the guest cast. This a sequel to the television serial entitled Frontier In Space. The Draconians are back. Twenty years before the Doctor and Jo encountered them the first time, they find themselves caught up in another attempt to stir up a war between the Draconians and humans. There are rumors of some kind of super weapon and a mysterious group known as The Eyes complicating the Doctor’s efforts to intervene for the sake of peace in the galaxy.

This story is pretty average. I am not a huge fan of the television serial from which this follows. Treloar and Manning continue to hone their performances together. I just found much of this to be more repetitive. There also seemed to be some odd editing choices when it came to transitioning through the three cliffhangers. There were times when I wasn’t sure the sequence of events came across all that clearly. I think I was bothered by the television serial by the Doctor and Jo constantly moving from one period of captivity to another through the whole escapade. This revisitation isn’t quite that obnoxious, but it just didn’t have enough to make me reconsider my reservations about its preceding story.

Fortunately, The Devil’s Hoofprints by Robert Valentine was a much more appealing addition. Treloar is paired with Sadie Miller, who is resurrecting her mother’s role of Sarah Jane Smith. Miller doesn’t always sound just like her mother, Elisabeth Sladen, however she gets close enough for me to not be too distracted by the differences. Jon Culshaw returns to stand in for the late Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The guest cast for this one is comprised of Barnaby Kay, Robert Daws, Derek Griffiths, Carolyn Seymour, and Nicholas Briggs, who is providing the snarls and growls of some creature known as the Icewalker. Okay, I am not sure about calling some alien an Icewalker, but most of the other elements in this story work well. Kay plays a scientist known as Chilton who has already met the Doctor a century or so before, however the Time Lord has yet to meet him. The Doctor’s examination of a new scientific center gets a bit more harrowing as he and Sarah have to travel back to 1855 during a time when a strange phenomenon in the snow caused some superstitious panic. The Doctor then discovers how Chilton knew him in the future. The Brigadier has his own battle for survival as he tries to avoid the crosshairs of a skilled alien hunter throughout the compound.

The Brigadier gets to be pretty much an action hero, which actually comes off rather well. The legend of the Devil’s Hoofprints is actually a real piece of British folklore. Kay plays the main villain and is actually rather compelling. This particular drama ends up coming out rather well. There is enough originality in the story without deviating from the feel of this era.

The two episodes did give me a very mixed reaction to it. Even though I may have a harsher opinion of the first episode, it still has some merit. I was actually rather mixed on the Third Doctor’s era on television as well. I was not a fan of the idea of confining the Doctor to at the time of broadcast would have been present day Earth. I am rather pleased that Big Finish seems to be working around some of that and having more adventures where this Doctor gets to explore other times and civilizations. I commend Big Finish for having the courage to explore this old era with some new talent. Jon Pertwee himself is what keeps me wanting to watch the Third Doctor era in spite of my reservations about some of the production decisions at the time. Treloar’s homage to his legacy is more than adequate for me to appreciate new stories with this particular incarnation. The work that goes into the casting and the post production effects seems to be getting better and better. Even if I have a few curmudgeonly thoughts about this release, no regrets here with the purchase.

Doctor Who Audio Review: A Peaceful War Is About to Heat Up

The Well-Mannered War is a Doctor Who audio play. John Dorney has adapted a novel written by Gareth Roberts. Ken Bentley is in the director’s seat. Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, and John Leeson reunite again as the Doctor, Romana, and K9. The guest cast includes John Banks, Jane Slavin, Russell Bentley, Michael Troughton, and a brief appearance by David Troughton as the Black Guardian

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and his companions to a planet known as Barclow where a war is being fought without a shot being fired. There is a presence that is going to escalate the matter into something a good deal more lethal. K9 goes into politics, which is a rather amusing turn. Romana and the Doctor are separated and working to prevent disaster from opposite sides.

This is a rather strange adventure in some ways even for Doctor Who but is worthy of attention. Tom Baker maintains a stellar performance here. The idea of K9 running for office is pretty amusing, and Leeson seems to enjoy the twist even while playing a robot. Lalla Ward maintains her elegant uppity demeanor as Romana. The whole main cast performs with their usual charming chemistry. It has been a while since I read the original novel, but it feels like the producers were pretty faithful to it. In spite of my enjoyment of this production, it still does not appear to be that special. In spite of how well the fundamental elements come together in this episode, it can still be a little hard to follow.

Its still by no means a waste of time to give this one a listen, and reading the original novel may be a better way to follow the tale.

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Doctor Makes A Trade

Damaged Goods is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions and is adapted by Jonathan Morris from a novel written several years ago by one Russell T. Davies. Davies was of course the executive producer behind the resurrection of the television series in 2005. Ken Bentley serves as director for this play which stars Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor. Travis Oliver and Yasmin Bannerman are cast as companions, Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester. The guest cast includes Peter Barrett, Denise Black, Tayler Marshall, and Robert Duncan.

A young girl witnesses a mysterious meeting between her mother, a very tall menacing figure, and a smaller man in a cream jacket carrying a distinctive umbrella. In London 1987, a dangerous new narcotic is tightening its grip on a community. The Doctor and his friends encounter a local gang that is connected to an alien presence. A young boy with unusual powers is also at the center of a dangerous bargain that appears to be at the behest of the Doctor, however he has no memory of that night.

The cast is well chosen as usual. McCoy is quite enthusiastic and compelling. I have a hard time getting that enthralled with Cwej and Forrester. Those characters seemed much more interesting in the novels. It’s not really the fault of the actors. McCoy’s performance is as compelling as ever though. I guess I wasn’t into this particular story as some of my fellow Whovians. There is little else to say here, so I will just move along.

Film Review: Dr. Morbius Has A Thirst

Morbius is the latest cinematic offering from Marvel Entertainment about the living vampire. Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless are the screenwriters with Daniel Espinosa sitting in the director’s chair. Jared Leto plays the lead role of Dr. Michael Morbius. Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson are included in the cast as well.

This is a bit of a familiar story. A genius doctor with a debilitating illness experiments with vampire bats to find a cure for himself and his surrogate brother. He actually succeeds in finding a cure, but develops some dangerous abilities in the process. He kills some mercenaries on a ship and makes his escape. He becomes the first living vampire, however he is not alone for long. When the brother learns of the cure, he ignores the virulent side effects and enjoys his newfound mobility a bit too much. Morbius has to stay ahead of the authorities and stop his longtime friend from slaughtering innocent people in order to quench his thirst for blood.

I am not sure where this thing goes a bit off the rails. Most of the cast I usually respect as actors, however there was not much that worked here. The visual effects and some of the fight scenes were engaging enough. There were times that I was not sure what abilities I was actually seeing from Morbius though. The characters seemed a little flat and predictable. Most of the problems seems to stem from the writing and editing. Gibson and Madrigal play these two FBI agents trying to track down Morbius, however I was not sure they were actually needed. I had some trouble buying Matt Smith as this formidable villain. Of course, I know him from his time on Doctor Who.. Smith is a talented guy, but I am not sure he was served all that well by this script. There just ended up being almost nothing memorable here.

I have seen worse films of course, but this one felt sort of bland in spite of the impressive visual effects. I was not expecting that much greatness, however the disappointment was a bit more pronounced than I anticipated.

Book Review: Consequences And The Doctor

Short Trips: Repercussions is a collection of Doctor Who short stories edited by Gary Russell. There are sixteen short tales tied together by a thread in the shape of Charlotte Pollard meeting various people aboard a mysterious airship who had prior encounters with the Doctor’s earlier incarnations. This has been a while since it was first published in 2004 by Big Finish Productions.

This collections explores the notion that even good people can face some consequences from meeting the Doctor. Charley is given the chance to meet people whose encounters with the Time Lord can threaten the Web of Time. Charley has her own concerns since she was supposed to have died in a famous airship crash.

I would usually go through individual stories and offer some thoughts, however there are sixteen tales here. Plus there was not much that really stood out. Once again, there was nothing truly grueling to get through, however it was also pretty empty of anything truly compelling. It was fun to visit the range that is now out of print, and I would still recommend the Short Trips range overall for Whovians. It’s also not a bad way for new folks to get to know the Doctor.

Cochise County, Arizona would appear to be a peaceful place to reside at least until J.A. Jance has a story to tell. Sheriff Joanna Brady has a new case involving her daughter’s college roommate in Missing and Endangered.

Book Review: A Sickle In The Back

Who Speaks For the Damned is a recent entry into the mystery series featuring Sebastian St, Cyr, Viscount Devlin by C.S. Harris. It is June 1814, and the Viscount Devlin has now been married for a while. His son is getting a little bigger. Sebastian’s domestic situation has yet to dampen his drive to help out if an interesting murder goes down in London.

Nicholas Hayes was an offspring of the deceased Earl of Seaworth, however that did not keep him from being convicted of murder and sent off to Botany Bay. He was thought to have died as well, but he actually escaped his exile and returned to England with a child. He may have returned for revenge against four men instrumental in framing him for murder or he may have evidence of his innocence. Either way, he does end up getting murdered with a sickle stuck in his back. The mysterious child he had been seen with has disappeared into the city. Sebastian has to resurrect the facts of a case eighteen years old and is once again a thorn in the sides of several fellow members of the aristocracy. He has some help from his wife and surgeon Paul Gibson. Once again, he is warned off by his ruthless, cunning father-in-law. It’s a new case but with many familiar obstacles. Sebastian remains as determined and unruffled as ever. as he starts piecing together the last several years of Hayes’ life.

C.S. Harris used to put Sebastian through some earth-shattering personal upheavals, however it has been a while since she has knocked her protagonist for a serious loop. In some ways, I don’t mind, but the stories are getting a little predictable. There is still plenty to enjoy for the dedicated mystery reader. Harris does blend her tale nicely into the historical events of the time. The war with Napoleon has come to an end, and the British government returns to the usual business of empty platitudes and crushing taxation.

Harris proves to be a competent writer, yet there is not much that stands out other than Sebastian’s elegant machismo. Harris seems to be getting a little formulaic. The sparring between Sebastian and his wife’s father is fun, but not much has happened lately for the two to really go at each other. I am not sure what sort of upheaval I would want for the pugnacious viscount, but it does appear that Sebastian is due for one.

The book overall is a fine addition to the series, but it’s another situation where there is not much when it comes to new land being uncovered.

Speaking of probably too familiar territory, time to take some short trips in the TARDIS. Several years ago, Gary Russell compiled a collection of Doctor Who short stories for a volume entitles Short Trips : Repercussions.

Doctor Who Audio Review: There Is No Peace On The Planet Comfort

The War to End All Wars is a Doctor Who audio play from Big Finish Productions. It is an episode from the range known as The Companion Chronicles. Simon Guerrier wrote the script which has Peter Purves reprising his role of Steven Taylor. This audio play was also directed by Lisa Bowerman. Alice Haig is the guest actor playing the role of Sida, a young woman who listening to a story that influenced Steven to give up his throne some years after he left the Doctor to help rule a world that needed a firm yet compassionate ruler.

Steven tells the story of the TARDIS taking him, the Doctor, and Dodo to a world they learn is designated Comfort with an unending war, which is a rather uncomfortable irony. The Doctor has disappeared, and Dodo and Steven are forced to fight in a war that seems to have no cause. Steven learns that the war is part of a cruel system where victory or defeat is impossible.

This is one of the better episodes in this range. Purves give a pitch perfect performance here. His interpretation of the First Doctor, originally played by William Hartnell, is quite compelling as usual. The Doctor doesn’t appear all that much in this story, but I was impressed enough with Guerrier’s skill here to not sweat that much. Guerrier basically weaves two stories together because the audience learns that Steven was no longer a ruler, but there is an interesting twist to what would be his present day circumstances.

Guerrier has contributed a lot to Doctor Who and has plenty of Big Finish plays under his belt. He is a steady, interesting writer anyway, but this episode really showcased his talent and imagination a bit more than the rest. Well done, Simon Guerrier and Peter Purves!