The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 11 – “World Enough and Time” – The Failure of the Good

    Steven Moffat as a showrunner as usually always been great at Penultimate episodes during his run in regards to two-parters. “Heaven Sent” was a brilliant exploration of the 12th Doctor’s psychology, self and drive and “Dark Water” gave us a great reveal of what the Heaven was during that season as well as the identity of Missy. His Finale’s on the other hand are more of a mixed bag but I’ll get into that when we review the finale for this season. This is an episode, like the others above that gives us that same level of threat, character development and reveals leading to one of my favorite Doctor Who stories.

“World Enough and Time” was directed by Rachel Talaley and written by Steven Moffat.

The story involves the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and Missy answering a distress call of a giant ship that is trapped above a black hole. The Doctor has Missy lead the mission, hoping that she can prove she is good but things soon get out of hand when a mistake from a civilian they are trying to help leads to unintended consequences and a darker plot at hand.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Doctor, the Master and Bill – There is a scene early on where Bill is expressing how she doesn’t trust Missy and the Doctor recounts his memories of the Master being his best friend at the Academy. It is wonderful as we see how close Bill and the Doctor are (the fact that he is sharing his past with the Master) as well as his trusting in the good in people, even with all he knows. It is powerful and I loved how this was explored and kicks off the episode.

Creation of the Mondas Cybermen – In this episode we learn the Master created the Mondas Cybermen when he he used a large colony ship trapped near a black hole to make people wish to live even if it was painful since life was hell and infection already. After a mistake Bill is shot and his Proto-Cybermen capture her as he pretends to be the assistant as he pulls the strings of the colonists. In the end he uses Bill’s trust to trap her and change her into the first of the Mondas Cybermen. The episode works really well as all are trapped at the bottom of the ship, infected by radiation for the ship. It is a living hell where all are sick and dying, which is a prime world for the philosophy of Cybermen (strength over feelings and emotion) rules the day.

The Death of the Good and the Master – The theme of the episode is the fight or trust in the good and the better nature in others. This episode has this end in a few ways, Bill becomes a Cyberman trapped in a living Hell, Missy joins forces with the Master and the triggering of the events in the episode happen when an alien shoots Bill when he panics. Fear and despair rule the episode…from the colonists who want to become Cybermen, Missy missing her past ways and having the chance to be that way again and Bill losing her humanity…for the Doctor all that is left is the good he chooses to do because the episode has killed it everywhere else.

This is an episode where there wasn’t much I could find wrong with it besides brief moments of pacing. It begins with a stinger with the Doctor leaking energy on a ice planet before we jump to the past and set up the themes of mortality, death and choice. This is all handled beautifully and I really enjoyed the reveal of Simm’s Master and the fact that he’d been manipulating Bill the entire time in order to get the Doctor and his future self Missy. The setup is beautiful and the Doctor and Nardole are left in a state where anything bad can happen as the Doctor failed to protect Bill and must face the consequences from that.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Shimmer Lake (2017): A Mystery Told in Reverse

I have yet to see a truly great film that is a Netflix original. Almost always the films go from bad to decent, though this is the first one I’ve seen since “Beats of no Nation” that was truly good. “Shimmer Lake” is very Coenesque in execution but doesn’t quite rise to the farcical comedies that pervades most of the Coen works. It is this lack of humor that really brings it down and keeps it from becoming great, though it is still worth checking out.

The film was directed by Oren Uziel who also wrote the film, while being produced by Adam Saunders and Britton Rizzio.

The story a small town sheriff named Walker who is investigating a bank robbery that involves his brother and two ex-friends. The story is told in reverse.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a small town bank robbery that turns into something bigger (being told from when the crime is done and the outcome to how it came about) is really cool. The setup was a large part of what kept me watching because I was waiting to learn more the different characters and their relationships. Rainn Wilson has so much charisma and I think having him be one of the first characters we meet who is so connected to the incident really strengthened the film.

The Cons: The Point of the Characters – This is a story full of betrayal and reveals, and at times does have comedy and even real drama between characters before many of them go full evil. It is this full range of character actions and types that fail to be a theme that are the largest con of the film. This film needed a focus for the mystery to truly be more than simply good.

I wish there was more to say about this film, but this is a film that doesn’t really have a larger point. It is a thriller and mystery where the catch is how the story is told (mystery in reverse) versus the point and themes of the story. I’m avoiding spoilers since the reveal is one of the few reasons to see this film but I also found that because it lacked a larger farcical bent or any major theme that was consistent across the board makes it a story that I will recommend but do not consider great. This film strives to be a Coen film when it should have sought more of it’s own voice.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solid mystery.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) – An Enjoyable Animated Adventure in the 1960’s Batman Series

  Adam West is a man who has left quite a legacy on the world. I knew primarily as the neighbor of Quahog on “Family Guy,” but got an appreciation for him when I reviewed the film that came out of the  Batman 60’s TV show, which I’ll post later in the review. The longer I’ve been with dark and gritty Batman the more I’ve come to appreciate the anti-fascist Batman. The one who is a public servant and at the end of the day is honorable, rather than the sometime psychopath of the modern incarnation that has existed since at least Burton’s Batman. West is a man who is going to be missed and this review is in honor of him.

“Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” was directed by Rick Morales and written by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker.

The story takes place within the same universe as the 1960’s tv show as Batman and Robin face off against Catwoman, The Riddler, Penguin and the Joker as they come up with a plan to turn Batman evil in order to pull of an devious heist and steal a powerful device.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Writing – The writing is clever, from Robin’s word play and the articulation of Adam West to the many visual and verbal puns that cover this film like music…I really enjoyed the dialogue in this film and it is a big part of what kept me watching.

Batman and Robin – The dynamic duo are the only competent ones in Gotham as the Police Chief and Commissioner Gordon don’t know how to do anything but call Batman and Robin for help. I really like the duo, they have a great mentor/student and father/son relationship that is only further developed over the course of the film such as when Robin has to save Batman and we see Batman take his crime fighting to a fascist degree after he gets infected by Catwoman’s concoction. West’s Batman is wonderful in this as he always appeals to the villains’ better natures before fighting them. Like how Superman once was in film, he appeals to the good in people and Robin is the one striving to do the same. This innocence and lack of cynicism really lends power, especially in all the crap going on currently.

A Stand Against Vigilantism and Fascism – When Batman gets infected her turns into a dictator and takes over every role in Gotham City with the Replicator gun. He arrests everyone or takes their jobs and makes everything about him and his great nobility. It is a great critique of the Batman who does this and is rewarded for it…the Nolan, Snyder and Burton Batmans at the end of the day are not public servants…they are vigilantes that have no regard for the law outside of what they get out of it. This makes Batman an anti-hero, which isn’t bad but I hardly consider him a hero anymore…even though he is one of my favorite comic book characters. This Batman is an actual hero and his corruption to becoming like modern day Batman illustrates the flaws in the ideology of the current incarnations of the Dark Knight.

Okay: The Villains and their Plan – The villains just want to steal art…that is it and there is Penguin creeping on Catwoman. They are okay in that Joker just wants to have a good laugh and the Riddler needs clever Riddlers but they never become more than the one note villains which was a waste. I enjoyed when other classic villains from the show face off against them (an early Mr. Freeze!) as they each had potentially a bit more going on, given they were working with Catwoman and Robin to defeat the evil Batmen.

The Cons: Catwoman and Sexism – Catwoman pretty much only uses her sex appeal and the heroes’ chivalry as a weapon. This was a shame as her master plan to turn Batman evil is successful though she switches sides after being betrayed and again randomly wants to kill Robin and run away with Batman, implying she never changed before killing one of her lives? She is the only woman in the film and she is entirely defined by the male gaze, whether it is Batman or Penguin. This was a damn shame given how central she is the story. I really was hoping for better from her character and it was this issue that kept the film from being good, even though I found it enjoyable.

The film was a lot of fun and a lot better than the 1960’s film, which in many ways had camp that didn’t quite work and was really unfocused (https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/batman-1966-fun-camp-that-doesnt-quite-work/). This one was self aware but wasn’t insulting as I could tell how much passion was put into this project. I really hope that “Batman: The Caped Crusaders vs. Two-Face” which has Shatner playing a 60’s Two-Face. I really enjoy this Batman now and plan on checking out the show as whole, knowing that I’ll probably being seeing more of the sexism in regards to Catwoman, but I’ll also see Eartha Kitt who is one of the people I highly admire and of course Adam West in one of his most iconic roles. R.I.P. Adam West, may the good always defeat evil.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

 

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 10 – “The Eaters of Light” – Connection in Conflict

     “The Eaters of Light” was an episode that the trailer made look terrible. Giant monster hunting soldiers…it didn’t look like it was going to be deep in any way and the monster looked uncreative as hell. Suffice to say I was gladly disappointed. This episode deals with similar themes as “Empress of Mars” and Capaldi’s Doctor excels as the peace Doctor. Without getting into spoilers, this is an episode worth checking out, as it gives justice to it’s characters, story and theme.

The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and written by Rona Munro.

The story involves Bill, Nardole and the Doctor investigating the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion in Scotland. They are separated and discover a creature is hunting the people in the region.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Factions – The native faction and the Romans are given a lot of humanity in this. You get why each is in the situation they are in, whether it was the tribe leader summoning the best to protect her people from the Romans or the Roman soldiers who had to follow orders or die. It is a bad situation and shows the tragedy in conquest as the people we meet are the few surivors from the war.

The Characters – I enjoyed the characters in this…we have some wonderful moments with Nardole becoming part of the trible, Bill helping the Roman soldiers find courage again and the Doctor as the peacemaker getting the two factions to stop fighting so the creature won’t kill them all and the world.

Coming Together in Conflict – There is hate and rage that has to be worked through by our characters as fear is what released the creature and since there are so few left of the tribe and Romans that they can only build it by coming together. It is very well done as they choose to fight the beast rather than let the Doctor do it in their place. It is a powerful scene and showed that even though the past wasn’t erased, to save the future the soldiers could come together. They even stop the Doctor from doing his heroic sacrifice as they realize that this was their battle to face.

Okay: The Magic Elements – There is music around the stones where the battle happened. I thought this was alright but also wasn’t needed. I wouldn’t call it a con though.

The Creature – The creature is kind of boring. It fears light and kills quickly and has a reptile mixed with an insect look. Apparently it is a space locust as they feed and eat across universes as they jump through dimensions. I would have liked to know more as what we’ve got is okay, but not great.

This is an episode worth checking out. I thought it would be a boring survival story with a misunderstood monster, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case. The minor and main characters get fleshed out and the Doctor doesn’t get to save the day. Capaldi’s Doctor is one who excels as the Peacemaker as some of the greatest episodes during his run have been like this one where he helps factions come together. I’m going to miss him after he regenerates.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10. Only reason it isn’t higher is the monster wasn’t all that interesting and the magic elements brought it down.

 

Top 5 Ways I Would Fix “Twilight”

    “Twilight” is a film in a movie that in my opinion are just awful. I got a third of the way through the book and only got through the movie because I was watching it with close friends so it was fun to make fun of how cheap it all looked and how hackney the writing was and how problematic many of the themes are. Now usually I’d do a review with a score but criticisms of “Twilight” have been done to death so I decided to take a different approach. Why not instead of just critiquing it I offer solutions to fix it, and well here are my Top 5 Solutions to make “Twilight” a good movie. Keep in mind that I am just going off the movie and not the extended universe. I don’t care about that stuff. These are just 5 solutions to fix the film based off the characters that make up the film. So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Ways I’d Fix “Twilight.”

 

5 – Make it About Laurent 

The film I imagine is more akin to “Interview With a Vampire,” with Bella getting the story of Vampires from an actual vampire who eats people but keeps it on the down low. This is exactly what this character does and because of it he never stops being threatening and cool. I wanted more about this guy as he was traveler so had no doubt seen a lot. The fact that he was based in the States means he could have been a former slave and seeing that perspective, especially in a vampire film would be something completely new. This side character was the best part of the film and if the film had bothered to be about him could have been great. This is more of a traditional vampire story and is a whole lot better than “Twilight” and it leaves Bella with the choice to join or fight against what he is doing. Keep in mind, I don’t know his story in the books or in later films, this is based off the first impression I got from “Twilight” the film.

4 – Give a Reason for Wanting to be a Vampire – Terminal Illness 

Bella needs a reason to risk everything including her life possibly…having mortality or suffering at stake makes that possible. Whether it is Bella wanting to turn so she can save her father or simply to save herself it gives a dilemma as it shows the Vampires as selfish if there are no real consequences to becoming a vampire (there aren’t any downsides in the film really), though if we get that becoming a vampire is an actual curse because like traditional you become a parasite who kills or turns others and needs humans as a source for food…well that is different and it takes the same premise as stated above and raises the threat. This isn’t a romance, though there can be some romance there…it is a matter of survival and the choices of desperation and mortality.

3 – Cullen Civil War 

Vampires are ancient beings so you get that there would be different ideologies. The Cullens are bland and are the weakest part of this film. What could have fixed that is giving a dilemma. We can still have the vampires who don’t eat humans, but there should be conflict over that. Some of the family should hunt humans making the romance more dangerous as well as making Bella pulled into something much bigger than herself. I think they do this in later movies but we don’t need other vampires when you can achieve the same thing with the Cullens. Make them scary and give different ideologies that are in play, those who want to get along with the humans and remain invisible (Professor X mentality to some degree) or to subjugate the humans and who plot to enslave or control the food source (Magneto’s mindset to some degree). This drama alone could be explored in a fascinating way through the film, you don’t even need the romance for it to work as Bella could be our audience insert into exploring this conflict through her friendship with one of the people (Alice or Edward most likely).

2 – The Cullens Attack the School – Survival Horror film 

This could have been a horror film. Bella’s friends are some of the more interesting characters in the film. Anna Kendrick is the popular girl, she’s friends with a jock, a stoner and quite a few nerds. Hell I wanted to see a film about this group of kids fighting vampires in their school. This is a book that could have gone full Buffy. What if the Cullens decide to use the school as a feeding ground during the eclipse or a dance…this could be a fun and campy horror film with actual tension and the characters who I liked could become fully fleshed out rather than being left behind to explore the bland Cullens, Bella and Edward. More Vampire films and stories need more “Buffy,” one of the best shows that made vampires scary and complex. If you truly have to throw in a romance make Edward more than a cipher and have him actually dealing with the curse and being a murder rather than the moody guy who hunts deer. Hell he can be our Angel in the story if there “has” to be a romance rather than the organic romance between friends in a survival situation.

1 – Leaving a Toxic Relationship – An Empowerment Story

       The final way that “Twilight” could be fixed is being more explicit in the toxic nature of the romance going on. This could be a story of Bella escaping abuse from a controlling stalker boyfriend and her realizing that he is those things is what happens as well as her taking control of her agency to free herself. He is vampire so the threat is even greater as we see her slowly put her life back together, find allies in her school friends and in the end take out Edward when he doesn’t take no for answer, since the character we meet is a toxic, controlling stalker anyway. This is a story about empowerment and a fully fleshed out Bella rather than the cipher who rewards toxic behavior and abuse that we see in the film and in the book.

I hope you liked my list. If you have ideas if your own I’d like to hear them. I plan to do more lists like this in the future as simply scoring a bad film and ranting about it gets old, and it is so much more fun coming up with solutions rather than just ranting about problems.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 9 – “Empress of Mars” – An Amazing Exploration of What it Means to be a Soldier

   The Ice Warriors are one of my favorite aliens in “Doctor Who.” These are a species who are amazing warriors with a code of ethics that makes them complicated. They are driven by honor and I love seeing how that plays out in their interactions with humanity…be it in Classic Doctor Who or “Cold War,” their first time returning in the new series, which was an episode also written by Mark Gatiss. Non-spoiler thoughts, I really enjoyed this episode. Mark Gatiss is great at writing these guys and I can’t wait to see more of them in the future as so far I have yet to see a bad Ice Warrior episode.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Mark Gatiss.

The story involves a legion of Victorian British on Mars who are transporter there after they help Friday (an Ice Warrior they discovered and helped heal) who was alone on Earth. All as not as it appears to be as they discover the Tomb of the Ice Empress. Trouble begins to unfold as fear and greed create conflict between humanity and the Ice Warriors.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this story as we have Friday who is a warrior who was a prisoner of war in way and made friends with his enemies, you have the Empress caught in the old ways wanting to restore an empire that no longer exists, you have Catchlove who is blinded by pride and personal honor and Godsacre a man who was hung for cowardice who is ready to lay down his life to protect his men and in turn saves them because the Ice Queen sees the honor in his act and makes his men part of her Empire. It is a powerful scene and shows just how complicated conflicts based around honor can become.

First Contact – First Contact is shown in two different ways. The Ice Empress kills one of the soldiers who awakens her as he is still jewels from her tomb and over the course of the series it involves holding back her anger as well as the fear from some of the soldiers who Catchlove is leading given how outmatched they are by the Ice Warriors. We also see peaceful first contact too when the Ice Warrior beacon is awakened at the end  and the alien Alpha Centauri welcomes them to the Universe (setting up the group they will be a part of Classic Doctor Who later in their timeline).

A Conflict of Honor – The driving issue is one of honor and understanding as both Catchlove and the Empress want territory for their respective powers and live for the fight and domination, while the Doctor, Friday and Godsacre have been hurt too much by what honor has done…Friday was last of his people until the Empress was awakened, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords at one point and Godsacre was so terrified at what he had to do in war that he ran. It is those who have lost and who realize the horror who are willing to submit their honor and in turn find a higher form of honor in the process. Catchlove is killed and it is Godsacre’s submission along with Friday’s protecting of those he can (the Doctor, Bill, the soldiers) that lead peace and a union between the two species. There will always be fights but there is no reason that personal and greater honor can be met rather than it leading to the destruction of all.

The Cons: The Ending Scene – Missy appears at the end after the TARDIS pulls Nardole away and there is this awkward almost sexual scene where the Doctor says she has to go back into the Vault. It is just strange and breaks the tone of the entire episode.

I really liked this episode. It was on par with “Oxygen” from this season but not as good as “Extremis” but I still consider it a favorite episode and hope that Gatiss can write more episodes like this. Like “Cold War” he is in his element when he is writing about conflicts of honor between soldiers and finding resolution and hope amidst fear. This episode is a shining example of the writing he is capable of on this this show and I look forward to more adventures like this in the future.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 8 – “The Lie of the Land” – Great Idea that Chokes a Bit at the End

“The Lie of the Land” is an episode that could have been great. If we’d spent more time with the Monks as occupiers and seen more of what they were doing that was beneficial it could have caused more conflict…or if there had been more setup on how there defeat could occur. Both these issues were not explored as well as they could have been which created a really rushed episode that in the end failed to be great, even if it was enjoyable.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Toby Whithouse.

The premise involves the Monks now control the world and everyone believes they have always controlled it. The Doctor is putting out propaganda videos that the Monks see as subversive and Bill is searching for the Doctor as she holds onto her sanity through her only connection left, the one to the memory of her Mother.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of the Monks ruling through mind control is actually pretty neat as it makes those who rebel not knowing who to trust (which the episode does do some stuff with). I liked Monk occupied Earth as it felt fearful and threatening and well off…and that was a good draw.

The Occupation – The occupation is full of Monk propaganda as they insert themselves throughout all human history and advancement. Those more prone to follow authority are also the greatest threat as the Monks themselves are usually the ones who never kill, it is their human followers. This adds a level of threat we haven’t really had in a Doctor Who invasion as often times it is the alien threat, rather than us as the threat.

The Monks – From their subversive occupation to mind controlling the human population through the power of a single act of consent…the Monks are truly an amazing threat and I’d like to see them in the future. They were a good invention and I got the idea from this episode that what they desire most is power and control and having that through the galaxy.

Missy – Missy comes up to help the Doctor and Bill and lets the Doctor know that the only way to stop the occupation for good is to kill the one who caused it, aka Bill. How she says it is without malice, just a fact and she blames the Doctor’s sentimentally for causing problems in the long run…though to contrast this she is recounting sorrow as she remembers the names and faces of all she has killed. The Master is growing and changing.

Bill and the Doctor – Bill and the Doctor are the leaders of the rebellion as we see each of them have gone about fighting in different ways. Bill by holding onto the truth and the Doctor by slowly recruiting and deprogramming others. I love their dynamic as both feel they can’t trust one another and first and through reveals find trust again. I wanted more with these two in the episode.

The Cons: Defeating the Monks – The Monks are defeated by Bill remembering her mother and using it break the propaganda Monk at the center of the Pyramid, which is the headquarters of the Monks. The Doctor takes responsibility for it claiming to have left Bill pictures of her Mother…we never see him actually do this. This peeved me off as it stole from Bill’s moment and we never saw the Doctor do it. This is what kept the episode from being great.

“The Monks Trilogy,” was mixed. The first episode is one of the best episodes of “Doctor Who,” while the second is one of the most annoying and disappointing. This one is mostly good but also has some of the problems of the second episode, which makes this Trilogy hard to recommend. Overall I enjoyed the Trilogy but you don’t need to watch the second one. The first and third are strong enough episodes on their own that you’ll at least get decent stories that reveal an intriguing enemy that I hope we see again in the future.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Solidly good.