Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

So I've been getting into the comics scene lately. The downside to this is trying to insert myself into the ongoing ever-changing hydra (LOLGEDDITGEDDIT) that are comics, especially when the recommended comics for newbies are...kind of dumb. (See: Frank Miller's Batman)

I think this is why the comic book movies are increasingly popular. They represent an alternative to trying to figure out the best place to start in comics that have been going on and rebooted over and over for decades. Comic book movies tend to take bits and pieces of each "reboot" to create their own universe. (Which works, as comics apparently exist in a multi-verse. To quote Linkara, "Comics are strange and confusing.")

The idea of Suicide Squad always intrigued me, although I wanted to get into the more basic comics before reading them. So I was pretty excited to see previews for the movie. The plot, for those two people who have been living under a rock:

Amanda Waller, an intelligence officer, sees a very real problem with the increasing number of "metahumans" in the world. Piggybacking off of Batman v. Superman, what would happen if another Superman-style threat occurs? Or, to put it another way, what would happen if these popular superheroes decided to use their powers against humanity? Gather up a team of supervillains to fight them. Granted, this doesn't make a lot of sense given the kind of villains we are given. Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc are all unique, but hardly super-powered. The only character that really has any major skills is Diablo, and, well...spoiler alert, he dies.

There is one other super powered character, and she is the one Waller uses to convince the government to give her idea the green light. The Enchantress is, simply put, a Great Old One that was reawakened by the world's worst archaeologist, June Moone, who touches artifacts with her bare hands just to see what happens. The Enchantress shares a body with her and can take over. Waller controls their resident eldritch horror by stabbing at her heart. But, the Enchantress manages to get away with the help of her brother, Eldritch Horror #2. Together, they decide to destroy the world by, like, smooshing cars together in the sky, which the Enchantress does through random twitching and writhing, or something.

The plot falls apart when you think too hard about it. I can understand a lot of the criticisms about the movie. However, the movie is really about character interactions.

I thought it did a good job of giving us sympathetic characters who are, nonetheless, seriously screwed up in many ways. Front and center, of course, is Harley Quinn, the animated series character whose popularity exploded, making her a mainstay of Batman comics. Her particular arc involves waiting for the Joker to get her out of prison, while going along with an admittedly crazy scheme. Of course, that translates to "every day" for her. Flashbacks show us her screwed up relationship with the Joker. Recently the film has come under more criticism for cutting a more straightforward abuse scene, but let's face it, their relationship was never healthy. What bothered me most was that the film attempted to romanticize this relationship. Fantasy it may be, but when you think about all the young girls who genuinely want a man like the abusive controlling Christian Grey, it seems irresponsible for the movie to do this. They may show us the screwed up parts, but the end scene is clearly supposed to make us feel this is a happy ending.

The other characters are less filled out, but nonetheless they are compelling enough. The second important character is Deadshot, the sniper-for-hire who just wants to spend time with his daughter when he isn't killing for money. He isn't a heroic person, but he is probably the most relatable. Captain Boomerang, unfortunately, was a walking Australian stereotype (I'm fairly certain the beer he kept drinking was Foster's), and Killer Croc was easily forgettable. Katana had potential, but they gave us very little to work with when it came to her.

Diablo is the other character that draws unexpected attention. He thinks of himself as a monster due to his pyrokinetic abilities, which get out of control when he is angered. He spends most of the movie trying not to commit any violence at all, something that stands out considerably in a team of villains. In fact, he is the only truly heroic character; the ostensible "good guys" are the government, looking for super soldiers to do their dirty work; Amanda Waller, who kills her assistants when they are unexpectedly thrust into a situation they weren't "cleared" for; and Colonel Rick Flag, who is forced into working with people he has no respect for.

The real enjoyment came from seeing these people trying to work together and making a connection in spite of themselves. By the end, they work together because they want to, not because they have bombs implanted in them. Diablo sacrifices himself for them because they are the only family he has.

The fact is, it wasn't a bad movie. It wasn't a great movie, either, but it was very enjoyable. I feel like DC found what it's been looking for. The movie is dark as their movies tend to be, but it had plenty of dark humor to match.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

You know how I complained that the Civil War movie had no real conflict; that there was obviously a reasonable side and an unreasonable (see: Tony being Tony) side? Well, we have that exact same problem with Batman v Superman.

Except, see, Civil War's conflict still made sense. In Civil War, even though Tony was misguided and the government was simply being interfering, they made a good point about an American-based group meddling in other countries' affairs. Their resolution was ridiculous, restrictive, and Tony had too many feelings, but the criticisms themselves made sense.

In Batman v Superman, we have one good criticism, and the rest is Batman being even more paranoid than usual. The beginnings of Crazy Steve? After all, at one point I was absolutely waiting for Superman to declare "I am a man" and punch him.



ANYWAYS

I thought the movie was okay. Just okay. Not as horrible as everyone else thought it, but not really that good either. We start out by seeing the events of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne's point of view. He has to tell his employees to evacuate their building. Why they hadn't done it already, we don't know. Either way, some old dude dies, and some other kid gets his legs crushed. It sucks, right? They make a great point about the absolute destruction caused by Superman refusing to just kill Zod in the first place and instead fly all over the city punching him through buildings and being punched through buildings in turn.

However, this is turned into Batman becoming absolutely insane. Like I said, he was nearing Crazy Steve levels. He becomes obsessed with Superman as a threat. He doesn't bother to, you know, go talk to the guy about what he did. Nope, he has to hunt down information about him, beating up and, basically, torturing bad guys. Because he thinks Superman might maybe possibly be a threat one day. To paraphrase, he thinks if there's even a slightest chance Superman might be a threat, they should just kill the guy.

Did I say he wasn't Crazy Steve yet? Never mind, he's Crazy Steve.

Thank God Bonkers Betty didn't happen.

Let's skip to the end. It's revealed that this is all being orchestrated by Lex Luthor Jr., who apparently decided he wanted to be the Joker that day instead. He giggles and twitches the entire time, and one wonders why anyone would give him access to alien technology, no matter how many Starbursts he offered them.

Throughout this, Wonder Woman is just hanging around in the background, doing...well, not much. Ostensibly trying to steal a picture of her posing with the boys in World War I (AM I THE ONLY ONE PUMPED FOR THAT MOVIE), but really just there to be available when Doomsday happens.

LEX LUTHOR IS A MONSTER

The entire problem with this conflict is that it is predicated on Batman refusing to talk about his problem, and just become increasingly paranoid until a Flashpoint paradox makes him even crazier. Dammit Barry!

And here's the kicker, the thing that made EVERYONE LAUGH SO HARD.

Batman stops trying to kill Superman because their moms share a very common name! I mean, I get what they were going for-hearing his mother's name jars him to his senses-but it was so narmtastic that it was hard to take it seriously. Plus, that solves all their problems right there. Not explaining their motives, just...moms.

For the record, Batman rescuing Superman's mom was AWESOME. I loved that scene.

The final fight was also pretty cool, although Lois, unfortunately, just made things worse.

But let's face it, you didn't come here to see Lois be cool.

You wanted to see Byron get punched in the face again.


It's okay, we all did. And he does more than get punched. He gets stabbed! Unfortunately, the combination of kryptonite and explosions seems to kill Superman.

We also get some cameos from the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, who decided to rule the real sea instead of the grass sea.

So, it was...kind of a mess. Not horrible; it gave us a good set up for Justice League; but...not the best.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain

Author's Note: The author provided a free ARC of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.



Rurik, scarred and freakishly strong from being struck by lightning twice, works security at the Zorka circus. Normally that involves just keeping general order, but lately he has noticed children disappearing. After saving a boy from a murderous clown, he begins an investigation into the child's disappearances. However, even though the circus is supposed to be a family, Rurik finds that the subtle divisions and tensions make his job much harder.

Meanwhile, Sylvie, a bloodwalker of the Skomori clan, has come to the circus to be married by the Zorka ringmaster's wife. While there, she discovers a horrible secret, and must decide if she should risk being cast out of her clan to warn others.

This was a very compelling read. One thing I've complained about in the past was that it was hard to distinguish the different voices of the characters. But Cain does an excellent job of giving her characters unique narrative voices. Rurik is terse but often sensitive. He is treated as a monster due to his scars, and he knows he has a tentative link to the circus as his father can no longer work and he is there only because the ringmaster of the circus favors him. Despite his outwardly "monstrous" appearance he is a deeply compassionate character; often flawed and sometimes reckless, but his main motivation is to prevent the death of any other children.

Sylvie was a very relatable character. She seemed to be an anxious kind of person, which I can definitely sympathize with, and in her character arc she must overcome her natural hesitation and timidity to act. I found it difficult to read the chapters in which her new husband abuses her because they were very well written. I loved that the book depicted her escaping from an abusive relationship and coming to understand that her husband was in the wrong, not her.

The supporting characters were colorful and well-written as well, and I enjoyed that otherwise unsympathetic characters were complex.

Finally, the twist at the end was very creepy. I started working out who the actual "villain" was about halfway through; I think it's a fairly obvious twist. But that was only half the fun. The entire revelation was incredibly bizarre and very unique.

I did find Rurik's immediate feelings and jealousy for Sylvie a bit odd, but their connection was based on mutual human sympathy rather than the lust often depicted in fantasy books. I found their eventual relationship to be believable and sweet.

I also enjoyed the little blurbs from the Bloodwalker book at the beginning of each chapter. Bloodwalkers are, basically, those who prepare bodies for burial in a traditional way. I was unable to find out if these were real Romanian practices; when I tried to Google it I got a lot of sites about Orthodox funerary practices. I'll keep looking. Anyways, it helped build a picture of the Bloodwalker culture, and it was easy to understand why Sylvie cared deeply about her job as Bloodwalker even though her society was flawed.

Overall, it's an excellent and strange book-part mystery, part horror, and lots of fun all around.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review: Jurassic World




I expected this movie to suck. I expected it to suck horribly. I have sequel skepticism. I went in for the dinosaurs and nothing else.

But...it actually wasn't that bad. The idea of the theme park finally coming together, with all the tourism it involves, was a good idea. What better way to do a dinosaur movie than to give the dinosaurs a huge buffet? There was a rather disappointing scene where our first sweeping view with sweeping music was...a bunch of tourists. Last time we had that music, we saw dinosaurs.

In fact, overall the movie was cheesetastic, but that didn't make it bad. We had a token character that was obviously a shout out to the nerdy "original" fans. You had the infamous "Raptor Whispering" scene, which was in fact silly, but also kind of adorable. The characters were decent, standard movie characters, except for Hoskins, who practically carried a literal villain card to show to everyone. His arc, wanting to use the raptors as "super soldiers", is a shout out to the narmtastic original script, which called for raptors to be carrying guns. Which would have been amazing, but also even more ridiculous.

So, was it a great movie? No. But it was good. And fun. And it had a T-Rex! Everyone loves T-Rex.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie Review: Sinister

For some reason I thought I had made a blog post making fun of Sinister and how it was basically a Slender Man rip off. I thought of it at the time, so it's possible my thoughts were so loud I thought I actually posted them. Who knows?

Anyways, I was in fact wrong about that assessment. Sinister did manage to be its own thing. Unfortunately, it was just...underwhelming.

A very important aspect of horror is the build up and the suspense. Timing is everything, and the movie does that well. It unfolds slowly, and becomes more frightening the more you know. That was done well. The innocuous sounding titles of the videos the character watched became scarier the more you saw what they really meant. As such, the movie built anticipation.

Unfortunately, the second important aspect, the pay off, was a let down. For one thing, I still don't think the monster, Bughuul, was that scary looking. It looked like a guy in a raggedy shirt making an attempt to look like the Joker. I thought he looked a bit goofy.

The other problem was the children themselves. Their "stalking" the main character through the house wasn't scary. It was hilarious. It looked like exactly what it was-kids being silly and trying to prank someone. It was the supernatural equivalent of knock and run.

Plus, some of the logic just doesn't hold up. Why film everything (except because Slender Man vlogs were, in fact, popular at the time the movie was made)? Why go through this elaborate set up where the children must kill their families (under mind control) before Bughuul takes them/eats their souls/whatever? Also, Bughuul finally taking the main character's daughter was a let down. When you have a threatening monster, you expect them to act threatening. So when the monster doesn't drag the child into the screen, and instead picks her up and gently carries her in, it looks rather narmy.

The final problem was the characters themselves. I just couldn't care about them. The main character is, simply put, a selfish jerk. In order to write true crime, he thinks he has to move his family around to these different murder sites. Why? How many true crime authors actually do that? He does this knowing the impact that moving the kids around will have, as well as the way locals will treat his family. The other characters were two dimensional. What do I know about the mom? She's...umm...British. The kids? The son has night terrors that aren't related to anything, and the daughter is an artist who draws the creepiest stick figures and unicorns ever, even before she starts using blood for her art. That's it. I couldn't find it in my heart to care what happened to these people.

So, the movie succeeded at build up, and failed at pretty much everything else. What could have been genuinely scary was just...well...boring.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stranger Things review: Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers

So, everyone's been talking about a new thing. A new, strange thing. (gedditgeddit) So I decided to jump on the rapidly passing bandwagon to see what it was all about.

As I've said elsewhere, timing is one of the most important aspects of horror. And Chapter 1 does it well. The very first scene, a man fleeing from something, hits every note perfectly. The camera pans between the man and the long, dark hallway over and over. You're waiting for something to appear, and the anticipation is built up just enough.

So now, we have one plot going. We know there's a monster of some kind out there. So when we get introduced to our characters, we know they're going to be affected in some way.

Here is where we get the other draw of Stranger Things. In a way, it's a love letter to 80s horror, a combination of Stephen King and The Goonies. The four main characters are four boys that love to play D&D and are accosted by the rather stereotypical bullies at school. So far, the boys don't have very strong characteristics that set them apart from the usual "80s nerd" type.

When Will is taken (per the title), his mother goes to the sheriff, who is kind of like a permanently drunk Ron Swanson if he decided to become a cop. However, all they find is Will's bicycle out in the woods. Later, the family gets a strange phone call with breathing and distortion. This whole time, you have investigators in hazmat suits wandering through the building from the beginning, looking for the monster (and finding an oozing pod thing); and also looking for a "her".

Who is "her"? A little girl in a hospital gown and a buzzed head arrives at a diner. The owner catches her trying to steal, and gives her some food while trying to get answers out of her. But she barely talks and refers to herself as "11". When "Child Protective Services" arrives, she pulls a Carrie and runs away.

So the first episode not only sets up a scary plot, it also sets us up with five zillion questions that probably won't be properly answered for a long time.

Friday, August 12, 2016

This Is What Happens If You Can't Handle Disagreements

I normally stay out of sticky, uncomfortable topics. The world is crazy enough, and I feel like I make my corner of the Internet happy with my stupid Doctor Who reviews and nonsensical babbling. However, as a reader, and as someone who would like to return to a library career, I have some strong disagreements with Book Riot.

They recently posted an article about how librarians should read diversely to expand their knowledge. I have no problem with this idea. It's a good idea to grow your knowledge in your chosen career. It is also a good idea to call attention to authors who may not be noticed otherwise. I agree that racism does in fact still exist; I can cite numerous examples of that.

However, the problem I have with this article, with the original tweet (which, can I just mention how Twitter with its 140 character limit is not a good place to discuss deep controversial issues? Why do people keep doing this?), and the subsequent moderator replies on the original article, is the condescending tone it takes.

I can't find these seemingly horrific responses to the original tweet. Most likely they were taken down, because if you disagree with anyone today, you get attacked, as demonstrated in this article.

For example, they take one argument, that many librarians don't have much time to actually read, and make an immediate assumption that the librarians in question are deliberately limiting themselves. I can attest that this is not always the case. When I was working in the library, I didn't have much time to read. One, we're not allowed to read on the job. Obviously. Two, I was taking classes. This meant much of my reading time was required college reading. Three, sometimes, after a busy day where I had to interact with a lot of people, I just needed to re-read Jane Austen. Or watch Doctor Who. Libraries are a magnet for introverts, and we need to give our minds a rest.

I completely agree that librarians need to make a concentrated effort to know more about the collection, especially those in charge of collections; but assuming that anyone who doesn't must be secretly racist is ridiculous. (More on that in a minute.)

As I said, I can't speak to the other arguments made. I didn't see the original tweets, and they are gone, so for all I know these are exaggerated versions that the article author made up for the article. (No, I'm not saying that is what happened. But I have no proof one way or the other, and some of these arguments sound nothing like any librarian I've met.)

Now, let's talk about how Book Riot handles comments. On this article, we have someone thoughtfully pointing out that making people feel like they must read something is not conducive to joyful reading. Through the entire exchange, the moderator keeps going back to the phrase, "if you don't want to read something because it's written by a brown person, then you're racist". Nowhere does the commenter ever say this; she simply says that people may have other reasons for not reading an author. Yet the moderator ignores then and goes back to her phrase. (I've seen this moderator reuse the same phrases over and over again in other arguments; I think she forgot that repeating yourself is not an argument, but a refusal to engage with the other person.)

This entire problem comes from the new idea that if someone thinks something is offensive, then it is offensive. No wiggle room, no gray area, no possibility that the other person might have their own biases.

In this exchange, the moderator could have gone into further detail on why it would be helpful to the commenter to read more diversely, or even give specific recommendations in various genres (as she says that there are diverse authors in every genre). But, she chose not to. She chose to respond in a condescending fashion, as the article did, implying that anyone who doesn't automatically agree or has a slightly different opinion is horrible and they must be put in their place.

We can no longer have deep discussions about issues, because ad hominem attacks come out immediately. Because people don't want to think about how they frame their arguments. Because we're supposed to mindlessly agree with any solution to a societal problem. I could blame Internet culture, but I think the Internet simply exposed and enhanced the tendency to be this way.

Race is a ticklish and often divisive issue, especially now. However, we aren't going to make any more progress with the issue if we use a hammer for every interaction about it. And for an article that encourages librarians to make a difference in their communities through reading and education to use that hammer is pure hypocrisy. The ideas behind this article were great. The way they were put forward has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Update, 2 hours later: The comments I was just speaking of have been deleted. I knew I should have taken screencaps of all of them. Unfortunately, I chose not to, thinking that the commenter was not saying anything abusive or against the rules, and therefore would be allowed to remain. I was wrong. The comments were deleted because the moderator disagreed with them. And this was her response to criticism:



I'm done with Book Riot. If they cannot handle disagreements or make logical arguments beyond repeating phrases and silencing anyone who disagrees, then I can't continue reading their articles with a good conscience. This doesn't encourage open-mindedness; it just encourages mindless agreement.

Now I just sit back and wait for people to call me racist.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

NuWho Reviews: The Crimson Horror, Nightmare in Silver, The Name of the Doctor

The Crimson Horror

TROUBLE AT THE MILL!



Madame Vastra and her crew are investigating strange deaths in which the victims' skin turns red. To their surprise, they discover that their eyes do indeed show the last thing they saw-and the last thing one of them saw was the Doctor.

TO THE PLOT!

Mrs. Gillyflower has a weird little cult thing going on, showing off her scarred daughter as proof that society is terrible (because Mr. Gillyflower abused the girl). Also, she's predicting the end of the world. Big deal, lady! The Earth has an apocalypse every week or so in this universe! Ada, the scarred, blind girl, has a pet, a monster chained up within the Sweetville mill. Jenny discovers that it is the Doctor, suffering from the Crimson Horror. Once he's restored via a super magic wizard chamber, he gives us some backstory. But not before kissing Jenny in gratitude, who doesn't swing that way and slaps him.

He and Clara joined the mill; the Crimson Horror was a way of preserving people for a post-apocalyptic YA novel. It didn't work on the Doctor, but Ada became attached to him. Now that he's free, they rescue Clara (confusing everyone, since last time they saw her she was dead), and Madame Vastra discovers what is causing the "Crimson Horror". Mrs. Gillyflower is harvesting venom from a red leech. She plans on spreading the poison over the world (via a steampunk rocket, because everyone loves steampunk rockets). Only her "perfect" people, preserved in houses, will survive.

Mr. Sweet of Sweetville is a red leech that has attached himself to Mrs. Gillyflower, because Doctor Who loves having bugs attached to people. The Doctor also reveals that Ada wasn't blinded by her abusive father; she was blinded by her mother's experiments on her. The crazy woman tries to take her daughter hostage, but Madame Vastra and Jenny already nicked the vat of poison, and Strax is an angry potato with a gun. He misses, but Mrs. Gillyflower falls to her death. Ada smashes the leech with her cane, as everyone except the Doctor would do.

Behold our villain. Tiny, and infinitely smooshable.

Clara returns home, only to find the kids she babysits have discovered pictures of her past selves. When Clara gets confused, and says she was in Yorkshire, not London...the game is up. They use this to blackmail her into letting them take a time travel trip. She didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition!

I loved the focus on the Paternoster gang in this episode. From what I understand, this was supposed to be testing the waters for a spin-off, but nothing came of it. Alas. Strax apparently gets sugar rushes from eating sherbet. He also obtains a GPS named Thomas Thomas. Those waifish street urchins were all the rage back then.

It was also straight up creepy: it's basically a Victorian temperance/morality campaign dropped into the middle of a penny dreadful, and it works so well. Mrs. Gillyflower is appropriately horrible, and Ada was a very engaging character.

Also, the Doctor remembers spending too much time trying to get a "gobby Australian" to Heath Row.

Look, the joke payoff finally made it!


Nightmare in Silver

Last time on Doctor Who, Clara's delightful charges were blackmailing her for eventually will have scattered herself throughout space and time. Children are jerks. So the Doctor takes them all to a famous theme park.


NO NOT THAT ONE

But it doesn't matter, because the theme park is under...military occupation. That's gotta be a fun assignment, right? Anyways, the Doctor uses his psychic paper to convince the captain that he is an ambassador from the emperor. They get a tour from the theme park operator, meet a dwarf named Porridge who sometimes teaches Charms, discover that the Cybermen were TOTALLY AND COMPLETE DEFEATED A THOUSAND YEARS AGO AND THESE CYBERMEN CANNOT BE ACTIVATED AT ALL, FOR REALZ YOU GUYZ

Oh, let's just cut to the chase. The Doctor finds Cybermites, which are kind of like tiny Cybermats, which are adorable. The Cybermen reactivate, because we all saw that coming a mile away, and the theme park operator Webley, along with the kids, are partially upgraded. Cybermen do only partial upgrades now? What a bunch of slackers. At least they've gotten an Iron Man aesthetic going on. They're Marvel fans! Good on them. The military is no help; they're actually on punishment duty, because they're basically the worst of the worst. Why are they even allowed in the military then...?

Apparently the Cybermen were defeated by blowing up an entire galaxy. Blowing things up is the go-to solution.

There's a reason he's nicknamed "John Nukem Sheridan".

The Doctor puts Clara in charge of the army and asks her to make sure they don't blow anything up.

I...have something to say about a later episode in which Clara is in a similar situation, but let's just wait till we get there, shall we?

The Doctor gets himself partially upgraded too. He is now Locutus of Borg the Cyberplanner, Mr. Clever. Yes, an upgraded Doctor still has his ego and sense of humor fully intact.

RESISTANCE IS FEZZES. Wait, what? YOU HEARD ME.

So the Doctor and Mr. Clever play a chess game, and yes everyone made Pixar chess game jokes. Luckily the Cybermen are still bizarrely vulnerable to gold. You'd think they would have fixed that by now?

Meanwhile, Clara takes away the bomb detonator, and the Cybermen kill the captain before she can use voice command. The army struggles, but unfortunately the Cybermen's foray into the Star Trek universe allowed them to have tea with the Borg, and now they're actually effective. Their collective consciousness allows them to upgrade and adapt very quickly. So the Doctor saves the straggling army by using his own ego against him. I bet you I can win in three moves! Mr. Clever promptly diverts his entire army to figuring out a chess game. This gives the Doctor enough time to activate a pulse which gets rid of Mr. Clever.

I love the power glove. It's so bad.

They fetch the TARDIS, and Porridge, who is actually the emperor, voice activates the bomb and teleports everyone away to his ship. He then proposes to Clara, who finds the idea of ruling a galaxy to be a bit overwhelming.

So this was awesome. We always wondered what would happen if the Doctor were ever upgraded, and here it is. With all the logic of the Cybermen he is...even more ridiculous than before. And I loved every minute of it.


The Name of the Doctor

We open on a very confusing montage of Claras. Clara on Gallifrey, redirecting the First Doctor to the TARDIS. Clara trying to chase down Bessie. (As we all would.) Seeing the Second Doctor on an adventure with the Eighth Doctor (a reference to the first Eight Doctor novel, in which he met his previous incarnations?) Clara watching the Seventh Doctor climb over a railing for literally no reason at all.

Meanwhile, Strax is hanging out in Glasgow, because he loves the Scottish. This makes complete sense. Madame Vastra arranges for a psychic meeting-everyone has to be unconscious for this, so Clara gets a letter covered in a soporific substance, which isn't creepy at all, Madame Vastra.

ALSO RIVER IS THERE, RIVER I THOUGHT WE WOULD NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN

"Don't mind me, I'm just being better than all of you right now."


The point of this meeting? Something is trying to alter the Doctor's reality, and to stop it, he has to go to Trenzalore. Before they can get much further, Jenny remembers that she forgot to shut the front door...and is nearly killed by the Great Intelligence, and his HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THINGS HE CALLS WHISPERMEN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU YOG-SOTHOTH, GET BACK TO YER NEW ENGLAND PLOTS

WHYYYYYYYYYYY

Clara pulls herself out of the meeting, and finds that the Doctor is playing Blindman's Bluff with the kids. Except they left to see a movie, and he's been wandering the house blindfolded for a while. When Clara tells him what's going on, our poor 11 actually starts crying. See, Trenzalore is where his grave will be-he will die there in battle. It's also the grave for the TARDIS, and when they go there, the Doctor has to shut her off so they can land.

There, they find the future TARDIS, whose dimensional field is breaking down, and she has become enormous. She has actually merged with the ground, and her memories show up as gravestones. River, still in psychic connection with Clara, follows her and the Doctor into the tunnels under the fields.

There, at the entrance to the tomb, is the Great Intelligence, with the Paternoster gang held hostage by his Whispermen, WHO ARE STILL HORRIBLE MIGHT I REMIND YOU. He demands that the Doctor open the grave, which can only be done by saying his name. He refuses, but River does.

The Doctor's corpse is essentially his impact on the time-space continuum, which is really cool.

Everyone gets to become shiny in science fiction.

The Great Intelligence enters it and begins changing everything about the Doctor's life. Jenny disappears, since it was the Doctor who saved her; Strax reverts to being a typical Sontaran, and has to be killed by Vastra. The stars start going out. Is this like the stars being right? I'm not sure if Yog-Sothoth is even focusing on that right now.

That's when Clara realizes what her various incarnations mean. She has to enter the Doctor's timeline too, and fight the Great Intelligence every step of the way. She does so, and we get a call-back to the montage at the beginning.

Everything is restored. The Doctor reveals he was aware of River the whole time, and finally gets a chance to say goodbye properly. Then he jumps into his timeline after Clara to bring her back out.

And there they find another Doctor in amongst the ones we already know. He is in shadow, and the Doctor is terrified of him. But Clara already knows-this one isn't called the Doctor. He did something so horrible that he dropped that title...

HE IS JOHN HURT AND HE NEEDS ALL OF THE HUGS



I loved this for the explanation about Clara and the Great Intelligence, and for the introduction to the War Doctor. The Whispermen were incredibly creepy. No eyes! Too many sharp teeth! What is wrong with Steven Moffat? Everything, that is what. Also, the Great Intelligence name drops the Valeyard, just to tease the fans some more with the plot line that will never be.

"Sure is a nice series you have there Moffat. Be a shame if something...happened to it."

Also, Strax doesn't understand hair, so he assumes that River's hair just means that she has a very large head.

Strax is best Sontaran.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review: The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan

Genevieve Lenard has set herself up with a comfortable, routine, predictable life. As someone with high functioning autism, but who is also an expert at body language, she stays in the safety of her viewing room at an insurance company to observe people via video, catching scam artists for her boss, Phillip. However, when Phillip's friend Manny comes to him with a murder case connected to his own workplace, the EDA, Phillip offers Genevieve as the outside investigator Manny needs. What begins as a fascinating research project for Genevieve develops into a global conspiracy, and her routine life is disrupted by people on both sides of the law.

I found Genevieve a fascinating and sympathetic character. Her "quirks", as other characters call them, are both a blessing and a curse. Her research skills are phenomenal, but she can get so lost in the research she forgets about, well, everything-eating and sleeping included. She shuts down when overwhelmed, but her laser focus on certain subjects can hold it off. I feel like the author could have made her more consistent at times. For example, her allowing the "thief" Colin Frey to continue hanging around, based on being intrigued and some implicit attraction, didn't seem particularly in character for her; nor did her venturing into an extremely dangerous, stressful situation at the end. I also felt like her Mozart coping mechanism read more like a gimmick at times. Other than that, I really loved her character. As someone who can get really into research (although not as far as forgetting to eat or sleep!), I understood her desire to tell them about ALL THE DETAILS. Some may find her rather technical and pedantic explanations annoying; but I loved them.

I had trouble liking Manny, mainly because of how incredibly dismissive he could be of her. He constantly puts down her social skills and complains when she is too blunt; yet he acts exactly the same way. I didn't like that Genevieve kept justifying his behavior as stress. Stress shouldn't be a justification for regularly insulting and denigrating someone you work with in a professional capacity.

I found both Colin and his friend Vinnie to be rather supercilious. In fact, Colin, Vinnie, Phillip, and Manny all act like they know what's best for Genevieve, and she just tends to go along with it, although she had one great part where she got fed up with their behavior. (It didn't stick.) Colin and Vinnie both keep calling her by a nickname despite her insistence on calling her Genevieve. Sure, she is fine with it later, but until she was fine with it calling someone by a different name is insulting. Manny, too, regularly calls her "missy", and even though it becomes an endearing insult, again, he uses it as a means of control earlier. The overprotective behavior by all men involved, with the implications that both Colin and Vinnie were behaving this way due to attraction, was a bit irritating.

I also felt like the mystery's solution was, well, obvious. The reader, along with Genevieve, can quickly make connections and figure everything out. That might be partly due to being in Genevieve's head, but at times things seemed so obvious that the other characters' surprise and amazement at Genevieve's intelligence felt a bit ridiculous. For comparison, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries could be solved by the reader, but it was less obvious; and if you don't get it, at the end you're facepalming along with Watson because it was so easy after all.

One other part that bothered me was the villain's throw away line about "people like you shouldn't be allowed out in public" when Genevieve experiences a shut down. It felt like a shoe-horned anvil, just to drive home that this villain is really villainous and you shouldn't insult autistic people! We're already voluntarily reading a book in which the protagonist is autistic and lives a full life. We don't need to have that anvil dropped.

I realize I just spent a few paragraphs complaining about things, but really, I liked this book. Those bits and pieces annoyed me, but overall the character interaction was great, especially Genevieve watching with exasperation as the boys argue with one another. I also enjoyed how her world slowly opened up as she learned how complex all these people are. The characters truly become sympathetic to me, despite being annoyed with them. In this, the author did an amazing job, since that is the same path Genevieve takes-coming to appreciate these people, warts and all. I will definitely be getting the next book at some point, because I'd like to see where Genevieve's character goes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

NuWho Reviews: Cold War, Hide, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Cold War

So here we are in, the Cold War. A Soviet submarine is damaged by a frozen thing inside, and it isn't that crazy eldritch thing from Terminal Freeze. The Doctor and Clara arrive on board, confusing everyone. For some reason the TARDIS dematerializes to the South Pole.

It turns out the frozen thing is an Ice Warrior. You know, the jerks that made things bad for the Martian water virus thing, and made everything bad and scary.

Which makes you responsible for all the memes when we discovered water on Mars!

Anyways, they captured the Ice Warrior, Skaldak, because they think he is an evil capitalist. Sure, we'll go with that. Skaldak sends out a distress signal, and Clara tries to calm him because she's unarmed. We're doing Predator now? I guess we're doing Predator now.

After discovering he might be the last of his kind, Skaldak starts being a jerk and attacking everyone, and trying to destroy humanity for...um...defending themselves against him. But luckily, the other Ice Warriors show up, and now that Skaldak is happy he stops trying to fire ze missiles.

That's...really all there is. I wasn't particularly thrilled by it. Mainly because I think too much, and my thought on this is about sci fi warrior races in general. They consider war and fighting to be the most honorable thing ever, but when someone fights back against them they get super offended and rage-y. I mean, at least the Klingons LIKED fighting with everyone.

So, yeah.

Also, we can all agree that Professor Grisenko is the best, and we should all sing "Hungry Like The Wolf".

His love for the song became so great that he traveled the stars to teach others of its joy...



Hide

It was a dark and stormy night in the 70s, and Professor Alec Palmer, and his assistant Emma Grayling, are preparing for a haunted house mystery. Then the Doctor and Clara arrive, killing the mood. They pretend to be from the military, and the Doctor notices what the "ghost expert" doesn't: the ghost is in the same place in every single photograph. Also there's a romance thing going on with our two extras, and some implications for Clara and the Doctor, but who cares this is GOTHIC HORROR.

"If you faint half as much as Emily St. Aubert, I'M DONE."

Spooky things happen, and the Doctor and Clara pop up in the same place throughout history to take pictures of the ghost and see what's going on. Clara is freaked out by how calm the Doctor is about seeing the entirety of human history. Apparently he didn't tell her his first date with a girl was taking her to see her planet explode. Also, the TARDIS doesn't like Clara for...reasons.

Anyways, that doesn't matter, because the "ghost" is actually a time traveler named Hila, who is trapped in a time bubble that moves very slowly. The entropy of the pocket dimension would drain the TARDIS, because that would make the plot too easy to solve.

He has another blue crystal from the Planet of Death Spiders, and who knows why he went back there after his last experience. Using it, Emma can psychically open a gateway. The Doctor arrives there to find Hila being chased by a monster of some kind. The Doctor manages to get Hila out, but before he can leave, Emma passes out, and the gate closes.

Clara has to argue with the TARDIS, because...a sentient time machine that is devoted to her master won't help save him because she doesn't like the current companion? Look, this dynamic isn't even explained. It's just a bizarre side plot.

Just let this plotline make sense!

Anyways, they save the Doctor, it turns out Hila is Alec and Emma's great great great whatever granddaughter, and also the monster was separated from its mate and they brought it into their world, and it's a "love story" or something and

How did something that looked cool and creepy turn out so weird? I didn't really hate it, but...I felt like the plot degenerated as it went on.

But the real highlight is what the Doctor finds in the forest.




Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

First...I love British spelling.

Second...WHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHY

So the TARDIS has been captured by a salvage crew. No, this is also not another episode of Firefly. Cease your wishes, for the universe will always disappoint you. We have three brothers, one of whom is treated horribly and convinced he is only an android, which is kind of horrible, but they don't really play a big part in all this. Let's just skip to the punchline: the TARDIS is damaged, and everyone is trapped inside, and Sexy is scary when she gets a little crazy like this.

See, we have zombies on the TARDIS. Why? The Doctor doesn't know, and Clara is freaked out, because only bad guys have zombies on their ships! It turns out that the zombies are actually future versions of them, having been killed and trying to stop it from happening. Thereby making it happen.

7 Days to 7 Days to 7 Days to 7 Days...


LOOK TIME TRAVEL IS CONFUSING, AND I WAS JUST A LITTLE FREAKED OUT THE WHOLE TIME.

Anyways, the Doctor creates a literal Big Friendly Button for Clara to press so they can reset everything. Despite the reset, the abuse of the third brother has not happened in the past. And also Clara discovered the Doctor's name when looking through a book, which makes me wonder...I mean, has none of his companions ever tried to read the giant shiny book in the TARDIS? Did he mindwipe them all just like he did Donna? I have a lot of questions here!

Monday, August 1, 2016

X-Files: S1, E8: Ice

So, you got the Tingler.



And you got the Thing.



And also there were those weird aliens on Babylon 5.



Now, smoosh 'em all together and stick 'em in the Arctic.


A murder-suicide occurs among a group of geophysicists in Alaska studying ice that might have originated from a meteor. Mulder and Scully, along with a few others, fly to the remote outpost to investigate. They find a dog, who is highly aggressive, and its neck is covered in black nodules. Scully notices something wriggling beneath the skin.

(Side note: I had just been writing a short story involving people puppets when I watched this. and this severely freaked me out.)

The pilot is bitten by the dog, and starts developing the nodules as well. However, there is no sign of them on the bodies of the scientists. Bear becomes increasingly aggressive, and when he dies, they remove a worm that has been wriggling around underneath the skin on his neck. They also find that the nodules have disappeared from the dog. Even though they check each other's necks, there is no certainty.

With no pilot, a storm on the way, and the possibility of infection, this can mean only one thing...



They watch the last video log for the scientists, with a fight and final suicide. As the group tries to sleep, Mulder gets up and discovers that Murphy is chilling in the freezer (pun intended), throat cut. Everyone assumes Mulder was the perpetrator, and they start turning on each other. Scully tries to find a way to stop the infection, and discovers that two worms placed together will kill each other, with the implication that they cause aggression in their hosts, but can also destroy infection.

Epic Rap Battles of History presents!

They stick a worm in the dog's ear, and soon, he is acting like a normal, happy dog. If tired and cranky. The two others try to do the same to Mulder, but Scully objects, and noticing DaSilva's increasingly aggressive and hysterical behavior, They manage to get a worm in her, and it's all rest and relaxation from there!

Well, no, Mulder wants to poke at aliens some more, but the government blows the place up.


I really loved this one. I love bottle episodes for horror in general. Part of the anxiety comes from the idea that there is no escape-you're stuck there, and you have to face whatever the threat is. It's an amazing way to develop characters, and show their dark sides (see: the Doctor Who episode Midnight, which is still terrifying!). I also liked this episode simply as a homage to The Thing.

Also, on a related note, we have some mindworms in Beyond the Ice Limit too. Everyone loves mindworms!