Doctor Who: The Magician’s Apprentice Review

September 28, 2015

Peter Capaldi’s second series as the alien timelord, The Doctor, begins with a bang. The first part of a two part story reunites The Doctor with the timelord he has known his entire life, The Master, revealed last year to have regenerated into a timelady now going by Missy, or The Mistress. She received The Doctor’s confession dial, which is the timelord’s last will and testament, and as she can’t open it until The Doctor dies, she realizes that The Doctor believes he only has one day left to live.

Missy recruits The Doctor’s current human companion, Clara, to help her try to search throughout space and time to find The Doctor. Clara’s massive intelligence, which is nice to see utilized again, as well as Clara and Missy’s knowledge of how The Doctor thinks, allow them to find the exact moment in time and space where The Doctor is spending what he believes to be his last day.

I really enjoy the Michelle Gomez as The Master, so I was pleased to see that she has returned after her apparent death last year.  She’s just as delightfully twisted here as she was in her debut season.  We also get to see more of how The Doctor and The Master view their relationship, which has been a big part of the new run of Doctor Who, ever since John Simm’s turn as The Master during David Tennant’s tenure as The Doctor.  Having Clara involved makes for an interesting dynamic, as like his relationship with The Master, The Doctor has also known Clara since childhood.  They are truly the two people who know him The Doctor the best, although their relationships with The Doctor couldn’t be more different.

The new villain, a humanoid made out of snakes, is satisfyingly creepy, but it is the returning villain who is center stage in this episode.  Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor seems to be about embracing the classic series, from his choice of clothing, to the villains he faces.  Nothing is as true here, as he meets his long hated foe, the Kaled creator of the Daleks, Davros.  We learn that The Doctor did something in his past regarding Davros that he regrets, and Davros calls him out on it on his deathbed.  We’re then left with a haunting finale that draws parallels to a story during Tom Baker’s time as The Doctor, that is widely named as one of the best Doctor Who serials, Genesis of The Daleks.

I quite enjoyed this episode.  It was great to see Missy again, along with Davros.  The cliffhanger ending works exceptionally well, and does its job in making you anticipate the finale.  Some things went by a bit too quickly though, such as the appearance of the Shadow Proclamation and the sisterhood of Karn.  While it made sense to show them in a way, since it showed that Davros had his servant searching everywhere for The Doctor, it would have been nice to see more than a few seconds of each location.  In addition, Missy’s survival is never explained, although its possible it will be in the finale.  Everything else in this episode though, was top notch, especially The Doctor’s huge use of anachronisms to make his appearance in the past known.  If the next episode is as thrilling as this one, the rest of the episodes of this series will have a tough act to follow.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Book Review: Mr. Monk Helps Himself

June 20, 2014

I just finished Mr. Monk Helps Himself, the 16th book in the Monk series, but the first one that’s written by Hy Conrad instead of Lee Goldberg.  I really liked Lee Goldberg’s continuation of the Monk series after the finale, and his evolving of the characters (especially Monk’s brother Ambrose, who was woefully under-utilized in the show, and Randy Disher, who was given much more respect in characterization in the novels than he ever was given in the television show), so I was curious to see how Hy Conrad would continue that.

Luckily, he manages to do so quite well, handling both the characters from the show respectfully as well as the original characters created in Lee Goldberg’s Monk novels.  The characters were always my favorite part of both the television show and the books, even moreso than the mysteries, so I’m glad to see that they’re still being characterized well, 125 episodes and 16 books into the franchise. Hy Conrad even has a few character evolutions and major changes himself already (including a major one in Natalie’s treatment of Adrian Monk, which I could totally see the television show Natalie doing if the show was still on the air in 2014).

Hy Conrad’s excellent treatment of the characters shouldn’t be a surprise though, since he has been writing for the Monk television series since season one.  Mr. Monk Helps Himself is actually a story that was originally pitched for the television show, but wasn’t used as the idea morphed into something completely different.  I’m glad to see that they did finally get to use the idea though, since it was quite good.  The main mystery surrounds the death of a clown (which is one of Monk’s top 100 phobias) who was well known for entertaining for the children of celebrities.  As the mystery unfolds, they find that it’s somehow connected to a cold case that made national headlines years ago.  And, of course, the connection is not obvious, so it takes the detective work of everyone involved to work it out (which are the stories I love the most, since even though Monk is a brilliant detective, Captain Stottlemeyer and his lieutenant aren’t slouches either).

At the same time, Natalie is trying to prove herself to make good on her recent ultimatum that she become full partners with Monk, rather than detective and assistant as they have been for almost a decade.  She goes to a retreat of a self help guru from which both herself and Monk’s current girlfriend have purchased self help CDs.  After a meet and greet, the self help guru does a yoga stretch and jumps off a cliff, right in clear view of everyone at the resort, including Natalie and Monk.  Her body is later discovered, and Natalie is able to make a positive ID, but she’s convinced that she was murdered, despite the fact that everyone saw her jump.  Of course, Monk, the captain, and the lieutenant aren’t convinced since everyone saw her jump and the coroner ruled that her death was consistent with a fall and then ultimately drowning.  So, Natalie has to work on the case alone, with only Monk’s girlfriend as her temporary assistant, while the rest of the police force works on the clown murder case.

Mr. Monk Helps Himself has a great storyline, with two intriguing mysteries, and contains some great characterization and character development, as well as the subtle humor that you expect from the franchise.  After reading this, I’d say this is one of my top ten favorite Monk stories, from both the novel series and the television show.  Hy Conrad truly knows these characters well, and does them justice in his first outing as author of the novel series.  It’s well worth the read.

Final Verdict: 4½ out of 5

Back to the Future: The Game Episode 1 Free for All!

April 6, 2011

Back to the Future: The Game episode one, It’s About Time, is now available free for everyone for the PC and Mac through Telltale’s website. The game is an adventure game that takes place 6 months after the end of the movie Back to the Future: Part III. The puzzles are easier than Telltale’s usual fare, and it’s not quite as polished as I would have hoped, but the story, music, and voice acting are great. Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Doc Brown, and sounds as zany as ever, and newcomer AJ Locascio does an excellent Michael J Fox impersonation. You can read my review of the game at my adventure game blog, The Adventuress.

Revitalizing this Blog

April 6, 2011

I’ve decided to bring back this blog, since I’m getting into reviewing again and my blog The Adventuress only allows me to review adventure games, which is only a very narrow piece of what I enjoy.

Torchwood Season Four Details

November 6, 2010

Russell T. Davies has announced new details about Torchwood: The New World, the fourth season of the Doctor Who spin off, Torchwood.

It will be set two years after Children of Earth ended, and will be set globally rather than in Cardiff, since Torchwood Three was destroyed after the events of last season. According to Davies, the characters “had no base, no authority and no mission… except to survive. They’re very much underground [now] and trying to survive. They’ve taken extreme actions. They have friends, they have enemies and they have betrayals.”

Some more information is already known from a Starz press release back in August. The remaining three characters will return: the immortal leader Jack Harkness, former police woman Gwen Cooper, and her husband Rhys Williams. As the series takes place two years after the events of last season, Gwen will have given birth to her and Rhys’ child. New cast members will be added, including a CIA agent named Rex Matheson, who has not been cast yet.

Some of the episodes will take place in the United States, including Washington D.C., but it has not been announced where filming will occur once they start shooting early next year. The season will be a ten episode mini-series, and will air on BBC One in the UK and Starz in the US next summer.

Buy an Episode of Strong Bad, get an Episode of Sam & Max Free

October 18, 2008

From now until Halloween, Telltale Games is giving an episode of the Horror movie-spoof episode of Sam & Max, “Night of the Raving Dead” away for free with the purchase of any episode of Strong Bad for the PC, including the season pass.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors Review

October 16, 2008

Allow me to switch gears for today’s 20 Days of Halloween review with a video game.  I present for you the horror spoof developed by LucasArts and published by Konami, Zombies Ate My Neighbors.

The game stars either Zeke or Julie (or both if the game is played with two players), as they scramble to save their neighbors from certain doom.  The animations of the characters and enemies are well done, and still even today look good, as they were presented in a pleasing cartoon style.  The music suits the game quite well, although it wasn’t overly memorable.  The gameplay however is a lot of fun.  The game is a top-down run and gun game, where the player has to navigate around the neighborhood and fight various B-movie monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and of course, zombies.  Zeke and Julie can pick up potions that will turn them into monsters for a short period of time, giving them more strength.

There are 48 standard levels and several bonus levels.  As was standard for LucasArts for the time, quite a few in-jokes that only fans of LucasArts would get, were included in the game.  One of the bonus levels was themed after a point and click adventure game that was released at the same time as this game.  Another bonus level was themed after the LucasArts office building and featured LucasArts employees of the time.

The game is a great spoof of horror B-movies, and it does things well to feel like a B-movie itself.  It’s a fun arcade-style run and gun with great humor and pleasing graphics.  There was a rumor a while ago that the game was coming out on the Wii Virtual Console.  It would be great if this game did get rereleased for a modern audience, because it is definitely well worth playing.

Final Verdict: Four out of Five

The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Review

October 15, 2008

Treehouse of Horror is the annual Halloween-themed episode of The Simpsons.  It has become a place for the Simpsons’ creators to do wonderfully bizarre things to their characters without having to worry about series continuity.  But, here, in the second season’s Treehouse of Horror, things started off much more innocently.

This episode takes place in Bart’s treehouse (hence the name 🙂 ).  The Simpsons kids (Bart, Lisa, and Maggie) are up in the treehouse telling scary stories while Homer eavesdrops on them.  The episode is really a series of three short cartoons, interspersed with scenes showing that the kids are the ones telling the stories.

The first story, Bad Dream House, has the Simpsons family moving out of their familiar home on Evergreen Terrace in Springfield.  Their new house turns out to be alive, and decides to get the Simpsons family out by possessing the family members, turning them into psychopaths who want to try to kill each other.

The second story, Hungry are the Damned, parodies the episode of the Twilight Zone TV show called “To Serve Man”.  The Simpsons are abducted by two aliens known as Kang and Kodos.  They give the Simpsons huge amounts of food, and take pleasure in watching the family stuff themselves.  This makes Lisa suspicious, so she searches the ship to find out the aliens’ true intentions.

The last story is a retelling of the short story “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe.  This is easily the most memorable segment of the whole episode.  Here Bart is the raven that drives the main character, Homer, crazy while he thinks of his lost love Lenore (who is shown in a portrait as Marge).  The story is spoken from the text directly from Edgar Allen Poe’s story, and is narrated by James Earl Jones.

As I mentioned in an earlier review, the first episode of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror is excellent.  But, the best episodes in the series are still to come.  Even so, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror has become a Halloween tradition in many American households (mine included), and this is the one that started it all.  Everyone should see this at least once.

Final Verdict: Four and one half out of Five

Beetle Juice Review

October 15, 2008

It seems I missed yesterday’s 20 Days of Halloween Celebration, so today I’ll review two pieces of Haloween themed entertainment.  I’m going to start with Beetlejuice, from the master of the horror-comedy, Tim Burton.

Beetlejuice features a newly-wed couple who die in an accident as soon as they move into their new home.  Before the couple even realizes they are dead, their home is put up for sale.  The new family, the Deetzes, move in and turn out to be quite opposite to the folksy attitude of the deceased couple.  They decide that they want to scare the Deetzes out of their home, but turn out to be too nice to do so.  They decide to hire a self-proclaimed “bio-exercist” named Beetle Juice, who turns out to have his own ulterior motives for helping them out.

The cast is brilliantly cast.  Michael Keaton is perfect as the wise-cracking, foul-smelling undead con-man Beetle Juice.  Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are the kind, folksy newly-dead couple.  Jeffery Jones and Catherine O’Hara are wonderful as the pretentious Deetzes.  Winona Ryder plays probably the most memorable role of her career as Lydia Deetz, the daughter of Charles Deetz, a gothic girl who has an obsession with the morbid.

The musical score by Danny Elfman is wonderful, and very memorable.  The film also contains a memorable song and dance comedy routine to the tune of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).  It happens so abruptly, and is so delightfully strange, but somehow manages to not feel out of place.

Beetlejuice is a comedy classic.  The music is great, the comedy is wonderful, and all of Tim Burton’s trademark nightmare-like sets and creature designs are here. If you haven’t seen it yet, take the time to watch it.

Final Verdict: Five out of five

Sam & Max Season One on Wii Today

October 14, 2008

Sam & Max Season One, Telltale Game‘s six episode 3D point-and-click graphic adventure game, is out in stores for the Wii today. For those who liked the classic LucasArts adventure games like the Monkey Island or the original Sam & Max Hit the Road, this will be right up your alley. 🙂