Doctor Who Series 10 Brain Droppings

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Soon, in less than a couple of weeks (premiering between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as a matter of fact), we Whovians will finally have a new series (referred to as a “season” here in the States) of Doctor Who. To say the wait was a long one may be exaggerating a bit; lest we forget the Wilderness Years between the original cancellation of the show and the 1996 television movie, followed by another nine years until it was officially brought back in 2005 (not counting the brilliant 1999 special “The Curse of the Fatal Death”). A year and a half really wasn’t that much of a slog; besides, we had the two Christmas Specials to provide a break in the waiting. Not to mention all the books and radio dramas being produced.

Anyway, we are finally near the 10th Series of Doctor Who. This one purports to be the final one for Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. Which is a pity, as I thoroughly enjoyed his take on the Time Lord, bringing to mind the best of the First, Third and Fourth Doctors, with a smattering of the Eighth, all while making it his own whimsical beast. I dare say, Capaldi’s Doctor had replaced Eccleston as my second-favorite Doctor.*

There’s a new companion for the Doctor as well, and it looks like, according to reports**, that there’s going to be a refreshing lack of romantic tension between the Doctor and the companion this time around. I understand the logic of getting some forced romantic tension to bring in the younger demographic (which also favors making the Doctor younger every time he regenerates), but in my not-so-humble opinion, the Doctor works best as an asexual character, and not having to rebuff his companion (or companions) while trying to save the world from whatever threat is besotting us this week. That’s part of the reason why, since the relaunch of Doctor Who, the companion of Donna Noble is listed high up as one of my favorite companions: she never fell for the Doctor. If anything, she was a much-needed foil to the Doctor’s ego. But, I digress.

The previews and teasers show promise. There seems to be a return of the classic Cybermen from the First Doctor serial “The Tenth Planet” (creepy), an obligatory Dalek episode, Missy pops up, and some kind of Emoji-based robot, I think? There’s also seems to be more inclusion of the character Nardole, which is awesome, as I think he plays off of the Doctor perfectly. Why not make him the companion? Because we need a female companion every time? I don’t know.

Anyway, the wait is almost over, and I anxiously await April 15th to see where the final adventures of the 12th Doctor brings us. Cheers, all.

* – Tom Baker is my all-time favorite, in case you were wondering. You’re welcome.
** – source

Movie Review: POWER RANGERS

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power rangers movie posterLionsgate
2017
PG-13

“I’ve killed Rangers before.”

Five ordinary teens must become something extraordinary when they learn they learn that their small town of Angel Grove–and the world–is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

Let me try to explain my history with the 90s phenomenon that is the Power Rangers franchise: as I would mention in the podcast the Exalted Geeks and I would record after watching this reboot of sorts, I was 19 when the original iteration of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit the Fox affiliate in my neck of the woods. Even though I was still religiously watching shows like Animaniacs and the most excellent Batman The Animated Series, the Power Rangers didn’t seem all up my ally. Then, while staying at a friend’s house, I was made to watch an episode of the show, to which I remember thinking, “Wow, this is terrible…when’s the next episode?” It was a combination of a bad soap opera and Voltron. On the one hand, I knew it was horrible, but I couldn’t stop watching. Soon I found myself catching every episode; well, up until the middle of the Turbo version of the show. That’s when I decided this was too much camp for even myself to care about. And that really does say a lot.

Anyway, all this to lead up to the fact that I watched this recent reboot of the Power Rangers in movie form. Since the big thing now is to reboot everything from everyone’s childhood, it was inevitable. With the Power Rangers, while I was very much familiar with the source material, I didn’t have as close a personal connection as I would have been had I been a child when the show came out. As such, I can’t really complain that Hollywood is destroying my childhood, or whatever. Which is why I kind of lean more toward the “it was all right, I enjoyed it” side of the split reaction this movie is having.

Power Rangers, the movie itself, is what it is, and that is an action movie with “teens” and a strong sci-fi bent and giant robots fighting giant monsters and stuff. Sure, the tone is quite a bit darker, and the teens suffer from the put-upon angst that every teen and young adult seems to have in movies nowadays. But, I do find that better than the goody-goody do-gooders of the television show. And here, Zordon isn’t the all-wise, all-knowing head inside a giant terrarium; he’s more of a cranky jerk trapped inside a wall of a space ship. And Rita Repulsa was originally the Green Ranger before she turned on her Rangers, which was lead by Zordon, who was a Red Ranger, and not a space witch that was trapped in a dumpster on the moon. But…I like that angle. It works here, I think.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my points of contention. Like, for instance, the over-abundance of Krispy Kreme product placements. I mean, it was to the point where it was part of the dialog and factored into the search for the MacGuffin Crystals. There’s a scene where, while the Rangers are busy tussling with the giant monster outside, we cut to a shot of Rita sitting down to try out a couple of donuts inside the Krispy Kreme. I haven’t seen this level of blatant shoehorning of product placement like this since the Mountain Dew soda machine turned into a robot in the first Transformers movie.

Overall, though, I did enjoy the movie for what it was. It didn’t try to be a carbon copy of the source material, yet didn’t crap all over it as well, unlike certain recent movies involving giant transforming robots or mutated reptile martial arts enthusiasts. The story was good, the cast had some good chemistry between them, and had just the right amount of cheese to keep the whole “grim n’ gritty” in check. Yeah, if you’re a fan of the series, go ahead and check it out. Results may vary.

Movie Review: THOR The Dark World

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movie-review_-thor-dark-worldMarvel / Disney
2013
PG-13

“If you even THINK about betraying him…”
“You’ll kill me? Evidently there will be a line.”

Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

As mentioned in the previous Thor movie review, I waited a bit after it was released onto DVD to get around to watching the movie due to the usual reasons I didn’t go see it in the theater, then after watching it found that I enjoyed it far mor than I thought I would. So, with that thought in mind, you would be forgiven if you thought that I then went out and watched the sequel, Thor: The Dark World opening weekend. You would be wrong, actually. I also waited until this was at least available for streaming on NetFlix or on DVD before I got around to watching The Dark World as well.

This time, though, it was for a far different reason than mere ambivalence, a reason I’m not going to go into detail here. Needless to say, I did have it on the list of movies to get around to watching; I just was only able to do so after it was out of the theaters and on that round, flat disc of plastic that only plays in that movie watchin’ device that replaced my old Beta Max the week prior. In related rants, I just got around to replacing my tried and true waxed cylinder player with one of those new-fangled reel-to-reel contraptions you young people insist on using all the time.

Anyway, Thor: The Dark World is, befitting of its subtitle, is a rather dark entry into the Thor movie series, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe all together. It begins with a flashback to a battle between the father of Odin and a Dark Elf that’s played by a nigh-unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston (between this and Guardians Of The Galaxy, I’m beginning to think that the Marvel Universe likes to take Doctor Who alumni and make them all but unrecognizable), which ends up with the Dark Elf leader and his minions going into suspended animation and Odin’s daddy hiding away the movie’s McGuffin. Fast forward a number of centuries, and the Nine Realms are beginning to converge again, which results in playing with physics like a drunken kitten. It also reawakens the Dark Elf, who tries to go after the McGuffin to plunge all of the realms into darkness (or something like that). Only, it seems the McGuffin has inadvertently bonded with the Odinson’s love interest. The Odinson being Thor, in case you’re not up on your Norse mythology, here. So, now it’s up to Thor and his band of friends and his brother Loki to try and take down this rather ambitious Ninth Docto…er, Dark Elf before all of reality is brought down to mood lighting.

Of course Thor: The Dark World was far more awesome than it should have been. If I remember correctly, this installment wasn’t supposed to have Loki in it, for whatever reason. I think we can all agree it was a good idea to end up having him part of the story. Chris Helmsworth and Tom Hiddleston play off each other so well, I couldn’t imagine not having him part of the movie.

Thor: The Dark World–aside from being one of a handful of other movies that were released that year having the word “Dark” in the title–is a dark movie, or at least darker than the first Thor movie. What really stands out here is the development of most of the characters, including both Thor and Loki. Especially Loki, as we see much more depth to him rather than that he’s evil and mischievous. He really loved his mother, it seems. Also, spoilers: Thor and Loki’s mom dies. I figure it’s been long enough. Of course, the effects and the action are top notch, along with the general story itself being rather epic in its fantasy-by-way-of-SCIENCE! style. It’s because of this movie, I feel it’s high time for a properly made He-Man and the Masters of the Universe movie. Let’s get on this, people. But, I digress.

Overall, Thor: The Dark World was a very good movie. It certainly entertained me more than it was supposed to, and is yet another example of Marvel Studios knocking so many out of the park, I hope the momentum doesn’t trip up too bad.

Movie Review: ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story

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movie-review-rogue-oneLucasfilm/Disney
2016
PG-13

“I’ll be there for you. The Captain said I had to.”

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key even in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Ever since Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise, and began to produce more movies set in the Star Wars universe continuing the story of the space opera set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we’ve known that there was going to be a pattern where there would be a movie set in the Star Wars saga proper, then followed by a kind of side story to fill the gaps between the long-awaited Star Wars movies. Since Episode VII dropped last year, and while we wait for Episode VIII in another year, this year we got the side story of Rogue One.

Rogue One tells the tale of how the plans for the Death Star managed to get stolen and in the hands of the Rebellion in Episode IV. Going into this, I was expecting a decent enough movie, but something that, since it wasn’t a full-on Star Wars episode that features none of the main characters, maybe wouldn’t have been given the same kind of attention as those would. Fortunately, I was way off about that.

I’ve decided to go with a Spoiler Free review of Rogue One. I think the reasoning behind it would be self-evident. Nerd rage is never a good thing to endure. Anyway…

The story of Rogue One takes place pretty much immediately before the events of A New Hope. And by that, I mean that you can edit out the end credits to Rogue One and edit out the opening crawl to A New Hope, splice them both end to end, and it would flow together continuously. Construction on the Death Star has finished up, and the Empire is itching to take its new toy on some test runs. The Rebellion was informed of said weapon, and enlists the help of a young lady to try and get her former mentor to help out with getting intel. When that goes south, and when it looks like the Alliance is about to crumble, it’s up to this scrappy young lady and a group of scruffy-looking Nerf herders (and one reprogrammed Imperial droid with some serious gallows humor) to sneak into the facilities where the Death Star plans are kept and try and get them to the Rebel faction.

Rogue One is another example of why it was a very, very good thing that Disney took over the franchise. While this was really just a supplemental side story, the movie was nonetheless made in the same quality as if it was one of the main Star Wars movie. The story and the visuals were great, the characters were engaging, and while the tone is a very dark one (it brings out the “war” aspect of the Star Wars theme, making this the Dirty Dozen, or Inglorious Bastards of the franchise), there are some lighter spots, mostly with the awesomeness that is K-2SO. The movie is also doesn’t shy away from presenting the members of the Rebellion as having a bit of tarnish on their shining armor. And finally, in case you haven’t read any of the other reviews, Rogue One re-establishes Darth Vader as the intergalactic badass once again. I got chills.

On the parts that I didn’t really find all that great, though…well, let’s just say there’s a couple of instances where CGI was very much used to resurrect the dead for one, and de-age for another. While these were way better renderings than was done on, say, Tron: Legacy, there still was that Uncanny Valley effect that was a tad off-putting. Also, there were a couple of cameos that served pretty much nothing but fan wankery, but whatever. Minor quibble.

Overall, Rogue One could have been just a quickie side story in the Star Wars cannon (kind of like those two Ewok TV movies back in the 1980s), but instead it turned out to be a Star Wars story (see what I did, there?) of the same high quality of the others, something that ranks near the high-water mark which is The Empire Strikes Back. Highly recommended that you see this in the theaters while you can.

Movie Review: HONEYMOON

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honeymoon_film_posterMagnolia Pictures
2014
R

“Before I was alone, but now I’m not.”

Young newlyweds Paul and Bea travel to a remote lake cottage for their honeymoon, where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods.

Having never been married (though coming close a couple of times), I’ve never been on a honeymoon of any sort. I’ve often wondered what the holiday would be like, you know, outside of the usual things everyone assumes happens during the time immediately after the wedding. Like taxidermy. I presume this is a common thing that happens during the honeymoon? Well, I can guess and fantasize no longer, as having watched this helpful documentary that was released in 2014, I now know that a “honeymoon” consists mainly of your significant other getting taken over by an alien parasite before they tie an anchor to you and toss you into the lake. Honeymoons are always held by lakeside resorts, right?

Anyway, all kidding aside, as it stands, Honeymoon always seemed to pop up on quite a few lists of independent and little-known horror movies that were considered frightening enough to warrant a watch. So that’s what I did (obviously), and having watched it myself, I have to agree that, while not exactly a mind-blowing experience (and not exactly a straight horror or psychological thriller, as you might be lead to think), Honeymoon was a nice slow burn of a movie, using what little resources it had to build up the tension and really get under your skin. Until the end, when my joke guess going into watching this turned out to be completely true. I really need to stop making joke guesses.

Anyway, after being made nauseated by watching clips from a young newlywed couple’s wedding video, we then arrive at the cabin by the lake in which they’re spending their honeymoon at. Then, after some more nausea-inducing acts of affection, the young wife begins to act rather odd: She’s given to suddenly sleepwalk into the woods, she forgets how to make a basic breakfast, she’s rather distant to her husband and doesn’t react to things like she used to before. Also, she begins to write down “My name is Bea”, “My husband’s name is Paul”, and other normal memories in her journal over and over again. You know, your basic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers type of stuff. Which, turns out to be closer to the truth, as, after extracting what looks like a Stargate alien from a place I never want to see extracted from again, she has just enough time to tell him that she’s full of those things, and she’s slowly losing her self to these entities. Then she completely loses it and tosses Paul into the lake, and then meets shadowy people in the woods. The end.

As you may have guessed, my very thoughts as I first pressed play to watch the movie was, “I hope this doesn’t turn out to be they’re invaded by alien parasites.” Which, to be fair, the outcome would have been either this, or demon possession. Which doesn’t necessarily disqualify Honeymoon from being a good movie; far from it, as the movie relies more on the actors ability to really ground the characters in a way that actually does make you care about them, and what is happening to them. Rose Leslie especially, as the freshly minted wife, is just…adorable as well as earnest. Yes, I admit to developing a bit of a crush on the character. The actor, as I understand, appears on something called Game Of Thrones; since I’m not a fan of game shows, I haven’t seen the series or her work on it. Here, both she and Harry Treadaway as her husband have a very thick chemistry that sells the situation. And like I said, it’s a slow burn, and will get under your skin in a way that no mere gore-infused slasher will do.

Come to think of it, I would also like to point out that I’m glad Honeymoon didn’t turn out to be another slasher. Or had psychobillies in it. Kind of puts that whole alien parasite ending thing into perspective, really.

HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 6 – Stranger Things

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stranger-things-title-card

Yes, I realize this is still fresh in the minds of everyone who raved about this Netflix original series. I don’t care. This 8-episode series came out of relative nowhere, and showed us that an original story can be visibly told that has elements of science fiction, horror and a certain whimsical nostalgia that hearkens back to the halcyon days of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. Stranger Things will enchant you while simultaneously scare the crap out of you.

No, I’m not going to tell you what the story is. Personally, I had my doubts about watching the show, and held off until long after it made waves. But, when I did manage to watch it, I was hooked.

Stranger Things is perfect Halloween binge watching. And at only eight episodes, an hour or so each, it’s only half a day. A half day well spent. Go to it.

And yes, I got this year’s HALLOWEEN’ING font from the Stranger Things generator. You’re welcome.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: X-MEN: Apocalypse

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x-men_-_apocalypse20th Century Fox
2016
PG-13

“I’m just saying Empire is still the best. It’s the most complex, the most sophisticated. Wasn’t afraid to have a dark ending.”
“Yeah but come on, if it wasn’t for the first one, you wouldn’t have any of the rest of the movies.”
“Well, at least we can all agree the third one’s always the worst.”

Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse becomes the firt and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X and Raven lead a team of young X-Men to stop the seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.

It’s been another two years, and here we are at the third movie in the second X-Men trilogy, this are set in the 1980s and involving the Apocalypse storyline.

Of all the comic book exploits that have been adapted for the big screen for Marvel’s Merry Mutants, the one involving the oldest mutant Apocalypse is the one I’m least familiar with. I’m not completely ignorant of the story arc, just not as much as the Days Of Future Past story. So it was, going in to watch this movie with the other Exalted Geeks (we then recorded a podcast about it, right here), I didn’t have a very high expectation, except for having it as good a quality as both First Class and Days Of Future Past.

X-Men: Apocalypse seems to continue on in the grand Hollywood tradition of having the third in the trilogy be the one that’s either underwhelming or outright sucking so hard no light can escape its event horizon. Fortunately, this one only falls under the former category, meaning that while I found the movie entertaining enough, it just didn’t feel up to the level that the previous two entries in the series were.

And yes, I realize they lampshaded this in the movie itself (see above quote).

The story involves a millennia old mutant that, over the eons, has been worshiped as a god in older cultures. His secret to staying alive for so very long? Well, it’s not exactly living right, not smoking or drinking, and exercising daily, let’s just say. Eventually, he’s finally betrayed by the ancient Egyptian empire he was lording over, and was entombed until some FBI agent accidentally lets him loose in 1983. Apocalypse decides that humanity has lost its way, and thus sets out to destroy the world and remake it into his own image, gathering together his “Four Horsemen” (of course), which includes Magneto, who recently discovered how true the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” is. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Professor Xavier has his own hands full with some new entries in his school for gifted children, when rumblings of this ancient mutant’s desire to do an episode of Extreme Makeover: Planet Earth Edition comes through (among other things), and he has to band together his X-Men to try and take down a god. Easy peasy.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about X-Men: Apocalypse. The visuals were up to the high standard, yes, the interaction between the characters were stellar, and I didn’t really see too many anachronism to the period it was set in. Mainly, the use of the Metallica tune, “The Four Horsemen”; while very much apropos (it played over a scene where Apocalypse was recruiting one of his Horsemen), I don’t know exactly which month this is set in the year 1983, and thus have no idea if the scene in question was set before July of 1983, which is when Kill ‘Em All–the album “The Four Horsemen” appear on–was released, and thus have no fuel for my NERD RAGE!!1! On the other hand, favorite scene, hands down. Also, I feel that this is the one time in all the series where they got the right person to play Storm.

But, when it’s all said and done, X-Men: Apocalypse felt like a lot of build up to a bit of a let-down. For a mutant with aspirations of destroying the entire planet and rebuilding from scratch, there wasn’t a lot of that to be had. At least, not in the “oh, crap, we’re boned” sense that I had with Days Of Future Past. That, and the fact that the method of bringing Magneto back to the dark side was rather arbitrary.

That all said, in the end X-Men: Apocalypse is a good movie for pure sci-fi escapism. It’s an X-Men movie, what more can I really say? If you like the X-Men movies, you’re gonna like this one.

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