Tag Archives: spinoff

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016 Movie)

Heyday Films

My rating: 4 of 5

1926, New York City. Something magical is wrecking havoc, and the magical community is desperately trying to keep the whole thing under wraps and the muggles out of it all . . . which would be easier if there weren’t obsessive, outspoken muggles crying witchcraft from the street corners. Enter into the mix a bumbling young idealist from England carrying a suitcase (bigger on the inside, naturally) full of magical creatures just dying to get out and roam the city. Obviously, trouble is going to ensue, especially when said wizard manages to get himself and his (possibly illegal) creatures seen not just by a muggle but by a straitlaced ex-Auror as well.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a fun jaunt in the world Rowling’s creation. It’s clearly Rowling’s work, but on the other hand, it’s most definitely not Harry Potter, by any means. And it was odd to me that there was this big plot involving the entire local magical community and tying the story into the whole Harry Potter storyline . . . but that part of the story felt almost artificial or forced to me. Like it was there to tie everything together and to make Newt’s story bigger and more exciting, only I wasn’t really interested in that part of the story. But there were other parts of this movie that definitely made up for my not loving the big plot part. For one, the setting was really interesting–1920’s New York, with the added bonus of getting a peek into American wizardry, what’s not to love?! And all of the creatures . . . there’s a sense in which parts of the story almost feel like just a catalogue of magical creatures, but they’re so interesting/cute/wonderful that it’s totally okay. Even better (absolutely without a doubt my favorite part) are the main four characters and their interactions. Newt Scamander himself is the best. He’s a hearty helping of Eleven, a touch of Merlin (especially the sass and attitude), a bit shy and awkward, but thoroughly idealistic and devoted to his creatures and his mission to protect them and educate people about them. I don’t know; I just really enjoyed his personality and the unusual friendship he develops with the others. Jacob, Tina, and Queenie are also rich, well-developed characters who were cast brilliantly. I really loved that they weren’t your typical likeable protagonist types, none of the four were; they’re awkward or bristly or just unusual, and I loved them for it and for the friendships they formed. I would really love to see more of these characters. I think their small (but significant) personal story was what made this movie, and it is certainly what would make me recommend Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to anyone looking for a quirky, magical tale.

Written by J. K. Rowling/Directed by David Yates/Produced by David Heyman, J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, & Lionel Wigram/Music by James Newton Howard/Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, & Carmen Ejogo

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The Legends of River Song

Authors:  Jenny T. Colgan, Jaqueline Rayner, Steve Lyons, Guy Adams, & Andrew Lyonsthe-legends-of-river-song

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Professor River Song. The mysterious woman who traipses backwards through the Doctor’s life, growing younger even as he grows older. Archaeologist, psychopath, convicted murderer. Child of the TARDIS. A veritable lifetime of spoilers and secrets and untold wonders. Little surprise then that her diary is her closest and best-guarded confidante. And luck those who get to sample its contents.

The Legends of River Song is a collection of short stories set in the same universe as Doctor Who, but focusing particularly on the fabulous Professor River Song. I believe (haven’t taken the trouble to go back and check) that they’re all written as though taken from the pages of her diary; at any rate, the memorable ones were. The collection is quite a mixture of tales, but I think all will appeal to those who enjoy Doctor Who and River’s character in particular. “Suspicious Minds” by Jacqueline Rayner was probably my favorite Doctor/River story both because the story was interesting and, even more so, because she nails the characters of Eleven and River so well, particularly the unique dynamic between the two. (And it’s really interesting to have Eleven described through River’s eyes!) “Death in New Venice” by Guy Adams and “River of Time” by Andrew Lane were both excellent just River stories that flesh out her character nicely. “A Gamble of Time” by Steve Lyons is, while scientifically paradoxical, quite an interesting and exciting story as well. Personally, I found “Picnic at Asgard”  by Jenny T. Colgan to be the big disappointment of this collection (which is really tragic, since it’s the first story in the volume; don’t be discouraged, and push past it). Mostly, I felt that Colgan just missed River’s character, perhaps only by a hair, but enough for the story to feel off the entire time I was reading it. Still, overall The Legends of River Song is a nice little collection that I enjoyed and would recommend.

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Necromancer: A Novella

Author: Lish McBridenecromancer

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Matt didn’t have many friends when he was little. Actually, Ashley might have been the only person who he really clicked with, ever. That is, until she died. . . . But recently, she’s been coming around to hang out again–as Death, or as she says it, as a Harbinger. Whatever that actually is. Not that Matt actually has a clue what she does as a Harbinger. But this evening, on a trip to a diner for waffles, he might just get to find out.

Okay, so clarifications first. Necromancer isn’t actually a novella; it’s a short story “Death and Waffles” along with previews of two of McBride’s other books. The short story is a tie-in to Lish McBride’s amazing story, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I really enjoyed the short story. You see a good bit of Ashley in the other Necromancer books, but this story shows a bit more personal side of her. It’s nice to see more than the Harbinger in the school-girl uniform who demands payment in waffles . . . well, okay, some things never change. Point is, I love McBride’s writing and her characters. They’re fun to read, and they’re memorable long after you’ve finished reading. Plus, Necromancer is a great chance to give her writing a try at minimal risk–you can pick it up for free on Nook or Kindle (probably elsewhere too). Definitely recommended.

 

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The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery

Author: Justin Richardsthe angel's kiss

My rating: 3.5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*: This book ties in to the seventh series of Doctor Who, and there may be spoilers for those who haven’t seen this series yet. And really, a huge part of the appeal of this story will be exclusively for those who have seen the series.

Melody Malone–sole detective and owner of the Angel Detective Agency. You could say that she specializes in a certain sort of case. Not that she isn’t intrigued when Rock Railton, one of the most attractive actors around, comes by–flirting atrociously and claiming someone’s out to kill him. But Melody isn’t hooked, not until she hears the phrase “kiss of the angel”. But when she comes around to a party–at Rock’s invitation–she encounters an ancient hobo who begs her assistance and a Rock Railton who doesn’t even recognize her. Something very strange is going on. . . .

Fans of Doctor Who will likely recognize The Angel’s Kiss as a book that showed up in the show–a book written by River Song under the pen name of Melody Malone, which ended up playing a large part in the plot of an episode or two. (As a complete aside, there’s got to be a word for that, right? Books that show up in other stories but that previously didn’t exist in the outside world? Like the Simon Snow books, and Carry On in specific, since it became an actual physical book afterward in a slightly different form. It’s been bugging me, so if you know, please comment.) In any case, the text of this actual e-book isn’t the same as what you hear in the TV show. But there’s a definite River Song tone to the whole story which totally makes it. The entire book is written in first person, and you can hear her bad-girl vibe coming through strongly throughout. That and the humor, sass, and attitude with which the story is told are what bring this mystery from dime novel to dazzling, really. (And it is very funny. I caught myself laughing aloud in public several times. Oops.) The Doctor Who references are also a definite plus. As you can imagine, the story involves the Weeping Angels as a major plot device . . . so it was weird to me that their mechanics were different from what I’ve seen previously for them. But then, they’re an intelligent alien species, so I guess they can pick different ways to do things. It does work with the plot–although let’s face it, the plot is always secondary to Melody’s brilliance. Which is just the way I like it; River is a favorite of mine. I’d recommend The Angel’s Kiss for Doctor Who fans . . . I think it would probably fall a bit flat without the context, even though it doesn’t really play directly into the plot. More like, it plays way too much into the humor, so you’d miss all the parts that make it really good. But yeah, for fans, very much a recommended read.

Note: As far as I know, this is only available in e-book format (but if you find a hard copy, let me know).

 

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My Little Pony: Humble Bundle

Authors: Jeremy Whitley & Ted Andersonmy little pony humble bundle

Illustrators: Tony Fleecs & Brenda Hickey/Colors: Heather Breckel/Lettering: Neil Uyetake

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Just to clarify, this post is not about the recent Humble Bundle deal on My Little Pony comics (addressed here). Rather, this is a review of the physical comic that was offered as a part of that deal exclusively for Humble Bundle, titled My Little Pony: Humble Bundle. This book consists of two stories. In the first, the Cutie Mark Crusaders–Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, & Scootaloo–find themselves completely out of ideas for trying to find their special talent . . . until Discord comes along to “give them a hand”. The second tells of Twilight’s early days of getting to know Spike, back at magic school when he was just a baby dragon.

I was truly thrilled with this comic. The stories are original and interesting while still being consistent with the television series completely. Rather, you might say that they are stories that have needed to be told; they’re very satisfying. The characters are consistent, and the stories are great fun. Discord even makes a Q (Star Trek ) reference–which you have to admit has been due ever since Discord first appeared. The art is slightly different in style than the TV show, but it works well and is attractive. Ooh, and the covers and pin-up art by Sara Richard are just gorgeous, seriously. My Little Pony: Humble Bundle was a lot of fun to read. I know it was an exclusive, so it will be hard to find, but if you happen to get your hands on it, definitely read it.

 

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Torchwood: The Lost Files

BBC Radio 4torchwood the lost files

My rating: 4 of 5

Spinoff of Torchwood

Following the dramatic conclusion of season 2 of Torchwood, Capt. Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, and Ianto Jones are still on the case protecting Earth from alien threats. Whether it’s close to home or at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, Torchwood is ready to do whatever it takes–hey, most of the time they enjoy the challenge and the adventure. They’re that sort of people.

So, The Lost Files is a BBC Radio 4 audio drama set shortly after the conclusion of season 2 (mostly) of the TV series. It stars the original cast members, which is a big plus for me (I love John Barrowman and Eve Myles’ work on this show). The audio drama consists of three separate episodes of around 40-45 minutes each. Is it strange that I actually like this better than I liked the original TV series? I think the plots are fairly similar to what you’d see in the show, but the ideas are adapted to work well in a full-cast audio drama sort of setting. The actors adapt well to being off screen, too. One of the things I liked was that, while still consistent with the original TorchwoodThe Lost Files isn’t quite as sexually oriented, or even maybe quite as cynical, although it still maintains a much darker tone than, say, Doctor Who. Speaking of, there are a number of fun Doctor Who references thrown into the stories, which is always fun. And the third episode of The Lost Files, I must say, is kind of cathartic after watching Children of Earth; that was unexpected and nice. I guess mostly I would only recommend this drama to those who have already watched and seen at least the first two episodes of Torchwood, although there aren’t a ton of spoilers, so it might be OK as long as you’re familiar with the basic setting and plot. Either way, it was interesting; I wish they’d done more than three episodes.

Directed by Kate McAll/Written by Rupert Laight, Ryan Scott, & James Goss/Starring John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, & Kai Owen/Based on Torchwood by Russell T. Davies

 

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A Fall of Stardust

By Neil Gaiman & Charles Vessa fall of stardust

My rating: 4.5 of 5

A Fall of Stardust is a unique little collection that I got as part of Gaiman’s recent Humble Bundle. It’s kind of a reader alluding to his (incredible) novel Stardust. Remarkably, it’s only about 14 pages long, including the cover, yet it packs quite the punch. The majority of the volume is a short story (almost more of a vignette) about a girl named Jenny who watches as magpies gather around her, recalling a superstitious poem about them and truly experiencing that one precious moment of her life. It’s a truly beautiful piece. The remainder is a short group of poems that somehow or another connect to the world behind the Wall. My favorite is the last, which is a pantoum–making the repeating lines actually work in context and make sense is somewhat mindblowing to me. And of course, the whole collection is illustrated in Charles Vess’ skillful hand, which I always enjoy seeing paired with Gaiman’s writing; it just fits. So yeah, if you’ve enjoyed Stardust in the past and get a chance to read A Fall of Stardust, I think you’d likely find it enjoyable (plus it’s a quick read).

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