The Day of the Doctor

I don’t see a point in writing a detailed review because it would just be me babbling on and on about how much I enjoyed the special. Instead, I’m going to babble on and on about my random thoughts on it.

First off, I want to congratulate Moffat for making the 50th anniversary fantastic. As one of my friends so eloquently put it: “It had all the feels.” She’s right. Moffat’s always been good at playing off the audience’s emotions and this is no exception. He wrapped up a bunch of mysteries and plot points that he had been hinting at for years, and unlike some of his other big episodes, I didn’t leave feeling disappointed. The Wedding of River Song I’m looking at you. Hell, nearly all of season 6, I’m looking at you.

I feel like the show had been faltering for a bit, with only the guest writers really keeping the energy going. In fact, in season 6 every single guest writer episode was better than a Moffat episode. River song became an incredible annoyance and I began to dread even the mention of her name. When Amy and Rory were written off it felt like emotional exploitation used to make up for a lack of good plot planning. But when Clara came on things started to change. The chemistry was more genuine, and the stories were more enjoyable and entertaining. It was fun again.

The only problem was there was nowhere to go. I get that Doctor Who has always been a lot of running and chasing, but at the end of the day you need some kind of story to hold it all together. Davies was a genius at this. The overarching stories from his seasons were spectacular. From the beginning of Moffat’s reign however, it was apparent that he could tell a good story in an individual episode but had trouble tying a whole season together. The last half of season 7 was the best story arc that Moffat has done yet and The Day of the Doctor gave him a whole new direction to take the show in. Now that he’s basically found a way to reinvent the entire show, I have high hopes for the coming seasons.

Some random thoughts:

I loved the Easter eggs that were scattered about the special. The 4th Doctor’s scarf, the Coal Hill school, “Reverse the polarity.” It was a lot of fun just trying to find them all.

John Hurt is amazing.

I am way more excited for Capaldi to take over than I was before. After seeing Hurt and how he played the role of an older Doctor I am very interested to see how Capaldi does it. I was worried that the show would lose something by going back to an older actor, and I am seeing that those fears are totally unfounded.

I am curious to see how Clara’s chemistry with the Doctor changes when Smith turns into Capaldi. That alone is going to shift the entire feel of the show, especially with all the romantic sub-text that has been present since The Snowmen.

We better see the Master come back. Now that Gallifrey has returned it stands to reason that the Master can as well. After all, the last time we saw the Master he was throwing himself back into the Time Lock to prevent the other Time Lords from escaping. If they all got locked back up, then it stood to reason that they were all destroyed when the Doctor burned Gallifrey. But now that we know he didn’t it means not only the Master, but also Rassilon can come back. On top of that we can have episodes that take place on Gallifrey and show us Time lord society and have multiple Time Lords and Ladies. We can learn more about the Doctor, the regeneration process, the TARDIS, etc. It’s a great way to open the show back up to the types of stories from the previous generation of Who.

It was so nice seeing the 10th Doctor again. I miss him. And even if it wasn’t quite Rose, it made me very happy to see Billie Piper back as well.

I wish Eccleston had come back to play 9. I’ve read a bit about why he didn’t want to and I respect his decision, but he was so much fun and for a lot of us who got into the show during these new seasons, he was our first Doctor.

I’m glad that a good portion of the previous actors got involved. Colin Baker got to do the voice over for the behind the scenes feature, even after he bitched about how he got shafted by the current producers every single chance he got. Which actually may be the reason why he got to do it. McGann got his minisode that finally wrapped up the end of the 8th Doctor. Tom Baker completely blew my mind with the hints his character dropped as the Curator. And of course Moffat made sure to have every single Doctor present in some way, shape or form. Even Capaldi.

The only downside is that in four weeks, Matt Smith will be gone as the Doctor. He will be missed. All I can do is hope that the show keeps going and stays as fun as it has been.

Here’s to another 50 years!

- Tom

Parasite – Mira Grant

Mira Grant is probably best known for her Newsflesh zombie triology, a series that I have not read yet but will most certainly pick up after reading her latest work. Parasite is another take on the zombie genre, but it is quite different than any other zombie story I’ve ever read. The basic premise behind Parasite is that in the future humanity has cured all ills through the use of a genetically engineered tapeworm that people willing ingest. The only problem is the worms are getting tired of being slaves to their human hosts. It’s a pretty fucked up concept right from the start, and it only gets crazier from there.

The plot is fast-paced and interesting, there’s a ton of action scenes, mystery, horror, conspiracy and even some epistolary intros to the chapters. It seemed designed to be made into a TV show, and I seriously hope someone out there is working on an adaptation.

The main issue I had was that the biggest plot “twist” was extremely predictable and I already knew what the big reveal would be when I was less than a quarter of the way into the novel. However, there is a smaller twist in the middle of the story that I did not see coming in the slightest, so it makes up for it. The repetition of the “warm dark” is a bit overused and by the end of the novel I felt sufficiently beaten about the head and shoulders with the imagery. Finally, my only other critique is that the narrator (and primary character) isn’t nearly as engaging as the supporting characters. Most of the time Sally comes off as bland, dull and weak in comparison to characters like Tansy. I would love to read a story that focuses specifically on her, Adam and Dr. Cale.

Grant’s use of horror as a social commentary on the future of medical technology as well as ethical and moral responsibility is a refreshing throwback to the horror of the 60′s and 70′s when the genre was frightening because it truly reflected the world. Lately horror feels like its teeth have been pulled and replaced with crappy CGI and half-assed remakes. Zombies have been used to represent a myriad of social conditions including mass disillusionment, the dangers of mob mentality, the overwhelming desire for revenge, the fear of death, or even the fear of self. Grant is trying to reclaim zombies from the pop culture cookie cutter monsters they have become and transform them back into the symbols of terror they once were. In an era where privacy is non-existent, distrust of authority is widespread, and demands for systemic change have become a commonplace occurrence,  SymboGen and their incredibly creepy Intestinal Bodyguard™ provide a fantastic parallel.

All in all, the book is well-written and entertaining. It is the first in a trilogy (I’m seeing a pattern here) so there is more to look forward to. It may not be a redefinition of the genre, but it’s a fun read and worth picking up.

7/10

- Tom

Thor: The Dark World

I will come right out and say it: I loved this movie. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s all right. It doesn’t have to be.

Thor fully embraces what it is: an absurd combination of science fiction/fantasy/action movie about Norse gods, alien elves, teleportation, magical weapons, the destruction of the universe and some insane interpretations of quantum physics. Nothing about it is slow-paced and every scene is entertaining for one reason or another. The gorgeous scenery of Asgard, the hectic battle scenes, the pseudo-slapstick shenanigans, all of these things combine to make a hell of a gestalt. What’s most refreshing is that there is no pretentious air about it at all. Thor is not a serious movie and there is not a single moment where it pretends otherwise.

I feel like there could have been a bit more development of the villain, Malekith (played by the amazing Christopher Eccleston), and it seemed like the Warriors Three and Sif were included only to serve as a means to advance the plot, rather than have their own meaningful interactions with the main characters. In fact, Hogun only has about five minutes of screen time total.

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are perfect together, and the onscreen brotherly relationship is so accurately portrayed that it hurts. The subtle nuances of each character gives a depth to the story that I didn’t expect. There is a scene where Thor says to Loki: “I wish I could trust you.” Loki looks at his brother, pausing for a moment before responding with “You can trust my rage.” This could have been a throwaway scene, or just a ham-fisted way of inserting the familial conflict into a scene that needed just a bit more to be important enough to include, but it’s not at all. The pain in Loki’s face as he speaks to his brother is palpable. Hiddleston’s expression encompasses the guilt, shame, loss, love, and desire for acceptance that has been built up over the first  Thor and The Avengers and shines it out at the audience like a beacon. Thor’s desire to go back to a time when he could look at his brother with nothing but love and pride, and the way his boastful tone of voice dies as he speaks the line hits hard.

All of this happens in a fifteen second window.

Thor is about the moments, the bits and pieces, and not about the whole. From a macro view, it’s a perfect popcorn movie designed to help end the year and get the public pumped about the next film in the series (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) that comes out in the Spring. At the micro level though, Thor has enough intricate and intimate details to keep diehard fans busy making gifsets and posting on their blogs for a good long while. A movie can have serious themes; it can show love and loss and sacrifice, and not leave the audience with a bleak feeling when they walk out of the theater.

I applaud Christopher Nolan for his work on the Batman trilogy, and I don’t believe anyone will ever top his take on the character, but sometimes having a gritty or heavy interpretation is a hindrance. Look at how The Dark Knight Rises fell so short of The Dark Knight. This is not to say that The Dark Knight wasn’t dark or serious, but it swept up the audience from the opening scene and carried them through the entire story without forcing them to analyze what they had just seen. Nolan went too far with the allusions to socio-political happenings in The Dark Knight Rises and ended up sacrificing story for statement. In contrast, the Marvel cinematic universe embraces the sheer ridiculousness of its premise and runs with it. They are nearly all story and very little statement, and there is nothing wrong with that.

From Iron Man forward, the foundation of the films is built upon total suspension of disbelief and it offers a wondrous escape for the audience. There is a very good reason why these movies rake in cash by the fistful. They appeal to a huge portion of the global public, and they’re fun. I love Batman and Superman, don’t get me wrong, and Nolan and Snyder’s take on the superhero genre is brilliant and artistic. The thing is, most people don’t go to a superhero movie to watch the hero lose everything as the world does its best to beat them down. People go to a superhero movie to be uplifted. To watch something bright and shining that makes them feel happy. And that’s what Marvel and Disney have managed to perfect.

Go see Thor. You won’t regret it.

8/10

- Tom

Guess Who’s Back?

I have returned! For now…

I realized it has been far too long since I posted anything on here and since I’m paying for the domain name, I probably should do something with it.

I’ve decided to work on collecting my short stories (published and unpublished) into an eBook anthology that I’ll put on Amazon. I want to write at least two brand new ones to include though, so it may be a little bit before this is done.

I’ll try to post some new reviews and updates on here as well over the coming week. Thor: The Dark World was fantastic, and I’m currently reading Parasite by Mia Grant, which is surprising and definitely unique. I’m enjoying it immensely.

- Tom

For in that sleep of death…

I just read that Richard Matheson, one of my favorite authors of all time, passed away today at the age of 87.

If you didn’t know, Richard Matheson was a horror author who wrote some of the most memorable stories ever. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet? You know, the gremlin on the wing? That was him. So was I Am Legend, Stir of Echoes, What Dreams May Come, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hell House, and tons more.

I will never forget being a little kid, maybe about seven years old, and watching Twilight Zone reruns on TV. I was sick and lying on the couch with a bag next to me, just in case. And on the screen in black and white was William Shatner, screaming about “Some….thing! On the wing!” The moment he rolled up the window and that hideous face stared in at him is an experience that I will never forget. That scene horrified and intrigued me in a way that I cannot put in words, and I can credit my lifelong obsession with horror to that episode.

Later in life, after reading a quote from Stephen King hailing Matheson as an inspiration, I went out to the book store and grabbed everything I could find by him and read them all over a single weekend. He wielded short fiction like a scalpel, tearing through the years of horror I had spent a decade reading, and laying bare the tissue underneath. As I read his work it instantly became clear that so many of the authors I admired and enjoyed owed this man a great deal.

Matheson was an amazing author, and from what I have read a wonderful man as well. The caliber of his work stands out like a shining beacon in the genre. He will be sorely missed, and I am incredibly sad that he is gone.

Rest in peace.

Evil Dead (2013)

So I went to see this over the weekend and I figured I should write a review or something since it’s the first horror movie I’ve bothered to go see in theaters in well over a year. Also, I haven’t posted on here in forever and I feel like a slacker.

If somehow you don’t know what Evil Dead is, then shame on you. The original was titled The Evil Dead and it came out in 1981. It was directed by Sam Raimi and is one of the most famous indie horror movies ever. It’s also one of Stephen King’s favorite films of all time. It follows five students as they go to a cabin in the woods, find the Book of the Dead, accidentally unleash a terrible evil, and are brutally slaughtered. It is a freaking cult classic, and if you haven’t seen it it’s on Netflix Instant right now.

At any rate, this new Evil Dead was the cinematic equivalent of leaping from the top of a ten story building and landing in a dumpster full of garbage soaked in rainwater. By that I mean it’s heart-stopping, and utterly revolting. Hell, revolting may not be strong enough of a word for this movie. I’m not kidding;  when I sat down in the theater I noticed an employee in the back mopping up what looked like a pool of vomit with an entire roll of paper towels while two managers came in to check on the progress. So yeah. Take from that what you will.

I laughed my way through nearly all of it.

The intro was fantastically over the top, and by the time the opening title card flashed on the screen I had lost it. Now, don’t misunderstand me here; the campy, pitch-black humor of the original Raimi flick is gone and in it’s place is something entirely different. This new Evil Dead is relentless in how it bombards the audience with gore and panic inducing jump scenes, but those things are why I found the movie so hilarious. Evil Dead tries so hard to be scary (and I’m sure for some people it was flat out terrifying) but all it reminded me of was the Stephen King quote about the types of terror:

“[There are] 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there.

I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

Evil Dead goes for the gross-out at every turn and it does so magnificently. There’s no shame in making a movie that causes the audience to puke and run; in fact as a pseudo-author of the genre I would be honored to be a part of something that has such a visceral impact on people. The audience reactions were just as entertaining as the movie itself, and any horror film should count that as a badge of honor.

There are some groan-inducing moments of monumental stupidity on the part of pretty much every character throughout the movie, which did get a little irksome, but overall the writing was solid. Perhaps the best aspect of this version is that there is no hero; there’s no Ash. Which is exactly how it should be! The last thing I wanted to see was some half-assed, recast version of one of the greatest and most recognizable figures in horror history. This Evil Dead is just five people dropped into a horrific situation that they have no real hope of surviving, and it allows the audience to sit back and watch the train-wreck as it occurs before going home and having nightmarish visions of Mia peeking out at them from the basement door.

8/10

- Tom

Ready Player One

 

I finished this book a few weeks ago and have been too lazy to post about it, but here I am. Don’t expect anything too fancy.

This book was phenomenal. I recommend it to anyone and everyone who plays video games, likes cyberpunk, mysteries, action movies, fantasy novels, science fiction and/or the 1980′s. It is hands down one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read.

This book is simultaneously everything about my life and everything I want my life to be. It’s nerdy escapism at it’s absolute finest. It reminds me of when science fiction not only predicted the future, but helped shape it.

I will not spoil anything about the story. You do not get any details. Go pick it up right now and I promise you will not regret it.

- Tom