Tag Archives: review

Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden”

I originally hadn’t planned on writing a review of this 1979 serial, but it surprised me by going in an entirely different direction than I had expected. Featuring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, Lalla Ward as Romana, and David Brierly as the voice of K-9, “Nightmare of Eden” starts off with a standard ships-in-space-are-in-trouble motif but ends with inter-dimensional portals and drug smuggling. It’s been lambasted a bit for certain scenes coming off as cheap pantomime, but I didn’t really notice anything I would describe like that. Yes, there were some silly moments, but that’s often been the case with Doctor Who, especially with the Fourth Doctor.

Speaking of silly, the monster-of-the-week Mandrels have been criticized as well for not being scary–and they weren’t–but I really liked the idea that the powder into which they crumbled after death was the new source for the deadly Vraxoin drug. In a sense, I think that should qualify them for being scary, that their dead bodies produced a substance capable of destroying entire planets.

I also liked the inter-dimensional aspects that came into play with the Continual Event Transmuter. The technology was a bit like what the primitive Time Lords used (at least, that’s the impression I got from the Doctor and Romana), so in a way it was kind of like watching the development of Time Lord technology, albeit in the hands of a human who didn’t fully understand what he was working with.

Final verdict: it’s not the best Fourth Doctor outing, but it went down some paths I hadn’t expected and so turned out to be pretty enjoyable. This is one of those take-it-or-leave-it stories–you may enjoy it, but you won’t necessarily miss out on anything if you choose to skip it.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Reflecting on “Beren and Luthien”

I sort of feel as if I need to apologize for this post–I received this book for Christmas last year, but it didn’t occur to me until recently to write about it here. Not sure why, though, because it’s quite a fascinating read.

As pretty much anyone familiar with The Lord of the Rings is aware, one of the legends recounted therein is the story of Beren and Luthien. Beren, a mortal Man, fell in love with the immortal Elf princess Luthien, but her father King Thingol forbade the marriage unless Beren could steal a Silmaril from Morgoth. Recounted in further detail in The Silmarillion, this was an important story because it showed the very first human/elf marriage, a marriage whose descendants included Elrond and Aragorn. But the story we got in The Silmarillion was only the latest version of a story that had taken many different forms over Tolkien’s writing career.

Beren and Luthien is not a strict retelling of the version found in The Silmarillion; rather, it is a compilation of the various different versions Tolkien had written over the years. There are some rather surprising variations of the tale–for instance, in one of the earliest versions, Beren was an Elf, not a Man, and Luthien’s name was Tinuviel (instead of being the name Beren gave to her when he first saw her). Other versions are more recognizable but still deviate from the Silmarillion one. Some are told in prose, others in poetry.

Tying everything together is Christopher Tolkien’s commentaries on his father’s work, explaining certain changes and adding helpful notes on the Elvish language. Some people might find stuff like that a bit boring, but I was fascinated. Beren and Luthien might not be for everyone, but for die-hard Tolkien fans, it’s a must-have.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Star Wars Episode VIII Review: “The Last Jedi” *Contains Spoilers*

It was feeling like everyone else in the world had seen this movie already except me, but I finally made it out to the theater today and watched The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Star Wars saga. My thoughts…well, let’s review the plot first. I know I was happy to discover what it was since the trailers revealed few details (obviously spoilers are forthcoming).

According to the opening crawl, the Republic is no more. The First Order has crushed it completely; Leia’s band of resistance fighters is the only thing left of order and democracy. And Kylo Ren is leading the charge in a desperate attempt to prove to Snoke that he has what it takes to follow in Vader’s footsteps (apparently Snoke is conveniently forgetting the Vader destroyed the Emperor and returned to the light side). Poe, a freshly-recovered Finn, and their new friend Rose work on a scheme that will let them disable the First Order’s lightspeed tracker and allow the rest of the Resistance to escape unharmed. Meanwhile, Rey tries to persuade Luke to return to his sister’s side and aid her in their fight against the First Order. But as we heard Luke ominously warn in the trailer, “This is not going to go the way you think,” and he was right on all fronts. The best laid plans go horribly awry; Kylo Ren finds the strength to murder Snoke and claim leadership of the First Order, and Rey, who has searched for the truth for so long, finds it a bitter pill to swallow.

Is it true that Rey’s parents were nobodies, just junk dealers who sold her for drinking money? Who knows. We don’t know how much we can trust Kylo at this point; he clearly has his own motives. But something tells me Rey’s story isn’t over yet.

As for Luke–why was it necessary to kill him, Rian Johnson!? Why!? It was bad enough we lost Han in The Force Awakens, but now Luke is gone, too! Plus Carrie Fisher is dead, so no more Leia. Why are you taking away all of the happy endings? Is this your way of trying to make your own characters look better? If so, you needed a better tactic.

Not going to lie, the movie felt way too long. Part of the problem was the whole sub-plot of Finn and Rose trying to find a codebreaker. That felt like enough material to be its own movie.

I still can’t take Kylo Ren seriously as a villain. If he didn’t look like a big, sad puppy all of the time, he would probably be very effective. But Snoke was correct when he called Kylo “a child in a mask”, and unless he does some serious growing-up in Episode IX, I think that’s all he’ll ever be. The same may be true for Rey as well–in Empire Strikes Back, I felt that Luke had at least learned humility after his confrontation with Vader. With Rey, I don’t get the impression she’s learned anything after her encounters with Snoke and Kylo. Luke’s lessons were vital to his maturity in Return of the Jedi. Will Rey show the same maturity? I certainly hope so. While she’s not as impulsive as Kylo, she still does not control her emotions very well and is too easily swayed by the dark side. Perhaps she’ll read those Jedi texts she rescued from the tree and gain some useful knowledge.

I will say this for The Last Jedi–it wasn’t a carbon copy of an earlier movie. It was its own thing, and I liked that. I just would have preferred it if it had had a little more of a hopeful feel to it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Disney’s Live-Action “Beauty and the Beast” Review

It’s hard to believe it took me this long to get around to watching this. Part of it was my own fault; I was procrastinating a lot. I was afraid this movie would destroy my childhood love of the animated version, which is still one of my favorite Disney films. The good news is that it didn’t–it was much better than I was expecting although I did not find it to be the smashing success so many other people thought it was.

By now you already know the plot, so I’ll just skip that part and go straight to my opinion. My biggest complaint about the movie is that they really needed to cast someone other than Emma Watson as Belle. Her voice sounded more than half computerized, indicating a generous application of autotune. I don’t mind if autotune is used to tidy up a singer’s performance, but I do mind if it was so heavily applied that the singer doesn’t sound human anymore! Maybe you should, I don’t know, cast someone who doesn’t need so much post-production help. What made it particularly jarring was that it was obvious everyone else could sing with little to no autotune required. Her acting was fine, but the singing could have been so much better. Everyone else was fine, though, and I was pleased to see that Luke Evans was every bit as awesome as Gaston as I thought he was going to be.

This live-action version had some new songs added, and I’m sad to say they just weren’t in the same league as the originals–or even the songs from the stage production. “Evermore” was arguably the best of the lot, but even it lacked the emotional power and depth of some of the older songs. Personally I think the film would have been much better suited if it had kept “If She Can’t Love Me” from the stage production, which occupies roughly the same space in the story.

No spell has been broken;
No words have been spoken.
No point anymore
If she can’t love me.

No hope she would do so;
No dream to pursue, so
I finally know
That I shall always be
In this hopeless state
And condemned to wait,
Wait for death to set me free.

The good news is that the original songs were performed with every bit of passion and enthusiasm they deserved. My two favorite performances were “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest”; the visuals on the latter were especially amazing.

One of the things that I found surprising was the fact that I felt sympathy for Le Fou–he spent pretty much the entire movie watching his oldest friend turn into a monster and not knowing how to put a stop to it. There were times he tried to stand up to Gaston and get him to stop, but Gaston always ended up bullying him into complicity. In a way it almost felt that the story of the Beast’s redemption and Gaston’s fall were paralleling each other, and that was one of the things I genuinely liked about this version.

Final verdict: it’s not as good as the 1991 animated version, but it’s still a good movie in its own right. I also encourage you to check out the 2014 French version that I reviewed earlier this year. I spotted some similarities between that version and this one, most notably in set design and shot framing, so I wonder if someone at Disney watched the French version and got some inspiration.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Doctor Who Review: Twice Upon a Time *Contains Spoilers*

Well, here we are folks, the final Doctor Who review of 2017…and the final time I’ll be reviewing Capaldi’s irascible, incorrigible Twelfth Doctor. I’ll tell you what, though–there’s a part of me that feels as though he hasn’t stopped being the Doctor. I know Jodie Whittaker has officially taken over the role now, but it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It still feels that in some corner of the universe, Twelve is still roaming around time and space making wisecracks about pudding brains and playing riffs on his guitar.

Maybe it’s because his stubbornness from “The Doctor Falls” is a holdover of sorts, and we got a double dose of it in the form of the First Doctor (portrayed here by David Bradley). Both Doctors are refusing to change; both Doctors insist they have the right to die as they are. And this stubborn insistence is creating a paradox and interfering with the normal flow of time, which is part of how Captain Archibald Lethbridge-Stewart (none other than the Brigadier’s father and Kate’s grandfather) finds himself involved in their escapade. An organization known as the Testimony extracted Archibald from his timeline temporarily in order to harvest information about his life before he died, and when they tried to return him, the regeneration paradox caused them to accidentally strand him at the South Pole. The Testimony offers the Twelfth Doctor a deal–return the Captain to them, and they will return Bill to the TARDIS. But is it really Bill? And what exactly is the Testimony’s motive?

This wasn’t a loud, bombastic, edge-of-your-seat episode; it was quiet and understated, and that mood really seemed to fit the story. It allowed the focus to be more on Twelve and his final days, and it also served as a farewell tour for Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who has been both a writer and an actor on the show since the 2005 revival; here he portrays the Brigadier’s father Archibald). It was a fan’s farewell to the show, from the inclusion of the First Doctor to Rusty’s return to allowing Twelve to say goodbye to Clara and Nardole. There was passion and enthusiasm and genuine love…and Twelve’s final words are the most heartbreaking yet.

It’s difficult for me to give my impressions on Thirteen yet because, well, she didn’t really do very much. She saw her new appearance in the console screen, pushed a button, and triggered something in the TARDIS that results in her sliding out of the console room and plummeting to the world below. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed they’re going with the whole “The Doctor just regenerated, and now the TARDIS is wildly out of control” theme again–they’ve been doing this since Tennant, and it’s getting old! Do something different already!

It’s been a wild ride, and I will miss every moment of Capaldi’s tenure. Following his powerhouse performance will be no easy feat, and I wish Jodie Whittaker the best of luck. I hope for her sake that Thirteen isn’t an unlucky number.

I have to admit, though, that a part of my heart will always belong to Twelve. I could never choose a favorite; I loved them all…but Twelve, now and forever, is my Doctor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

“Star Trek: Discovery”: Was It Worth the Wait?

Back in 2015, CBS announced the premiere of a brand new Star Trek show, Star Trek: Discovery, the first since Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled in 2005. Set roughly ten years before the events of The Original Series, Discovery follows the journey of the impulsive young officer Commander Michael Burnham (who, confusingly, is a woman) as she comes to terms with her parents’ death in a Klingon attack on a scientific outpost and struggles to honor her logical Vulcan upbringing while still embracing her human heritage. Yes, after her parents died, Michael was somehow adopted by Ambassador Sarek…the same Sarek who is Spock’s father. This makes her Spock’s foster sister, and if you’re wondering how Spock can suddenly have a human foster sister after 51 years (let alone why Sarek would agree to adopt a human child), you’re not alone. Then again, I only watched the free premiere, so maybe it was explained in part 2.

This was only one example of the parts I found troublesome. Time and again the cast and crew insisted Discovery was set in the Prime timeline, yet everything about it looked and felt as though it belonged in J. J. Abrams’ Kelvin timeline. The tech and uniforms were way too modern to be just two years after the events of “The Cage” (TOS’s first pilot episode, later reused in the two-part episode “The Menagerie”). They apparently kept some of the sound effects from TOS, but coming from such highly advanced technology, it sounded jarring and out-of-place. Just because it makes the same boops and beeps as the Prime ships doesn’t automatically mean it’s set in the Prime timeline. Try harder.

I didn’t much care for the Klingon redesign, either. Their look is already so iconic, why mess with it? It’s like suddenly making Vulcan ears round and giving them funny noses instead.

And maybe I’ll catch some flak for saying this, but it’s my blog, so I’m going to–I found it vaguely annoying that they had a woman in command of the Shenzou. It’s nothing against Captain Georgiou–heck, I think the show should have been about her instead of Commander Burnham–but at this point in the Prime timeline, ten years before TOS, women were not allowed to command a starship (don’t believe me? Go watch “Turnabout Intruder”.). Obviously that rule changed, or else we wouldn’t have Janeway and Voyager, but at this point in the Prime history, a woman in command of a starship simply wouldn’t have been a thing. I could easily have overlooked this thanks to Georgiou being awesome, but it was just one more instance of non-canon-compliance they were asking the audience to overlook.

The episode itself actually wasn’t too bad–the show has a lot of potential. I would probably continue to watch it, maybe even overcoming my objections to the canon alterations, if it were broadcast on TV the way every other Star Trek series has been. But it isn’t. CBS has seen fit to make Discovery a paid-access show; the only way to watch the season will be to subscribe to their All Access streaming service. Although Discovery was good, it wasn’t great–certainly not great enough to make me subscribe to their streaming service. And it’s sad because it really feels that CBS doomed Discovery before it even premiered by making this decision. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other people out there who feel the same way I do, that the show was good enough that I would watch it on TV but not good enough to make me pay a monthly fee to watch it. If/when it has low viewing figures, Discovery will be pulled, and the powers-that-be will claim that audiences just aren’t interested in Star Trek anymore. No, what we’re really not interested in is your corporate greed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls” *Contains Spoilers*

Why, oh, why does Moffat hold out on us? He can write good stories when he wants to! And this was undoubtedly one of his best, from Missy and the Master’s interactions with each other to Nardole’s character development to Heather’s return to Capaldi blowing everyone out of the water and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the best of the modern Doctors.

Seriously, Twelve’s monologue about how he refuses to change yet again is one of the highlights of season 10 (and of his entire tenure as the Doctor). And I loved all of the callbacks to previous companions and regeneration scenes (including “I don’t want to go” and “I will always remember when the Doctor was me”). And that special appearance by One at the end–oh, man, I have never looked forward to a Christmas special so much as I am this year. My excitement is almost enough to drown out my sorrow at the upcoming regeneration.

I’m a bit sad that Bill and Nardole won’t be back with the new Doctor. I quite liked how Nardole’s character has evolved since we first met him in “The Husbands of River Song”, and as for Bill, I think this was her strongest performance in the show. I really wish she had stayed at least one more season. I didn’t start to like Clara until she was with Twelve, so I wondered if I might start to like Bill a little better if she was paired with a different Doctor. Either way, Pearl Mackie’s performance as CyberBill was outstanding and one not soon to be forgotten.

The Master and Missy together was every bit as electrifying as expected, proving that a multi-Master story has been long overdue. Part of me was hoping for a spinoff with the two of them causing havoc through time and space…up until Missy triggered her own regeneration, and the Master shot Missy with the laser screwdriver to prevent her going to help the Doctor. Are we ever going to see the Master again? He implied that Missy wouldn’t be able to regenerate because he shot her with the full strength…but that doesn’t mean Missy didn’t try after the Master left. I do hope we see the Master again. I guess the big question is will Missy continue being a woman, or will she return to being a man?

Well, folks, thus ends season 10. It has been my honor and my privilege to serve as your reviewer for these last twelve weeks. We’ll all just have to hang in there until the Christmas special (unless I find some Classic Who to review in the meantime).

Anyway, allons-y!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews