Author: Michael Cook

A theatre kid dabbling in the art of reviewing the things he reads, watches, listens to, and sees.

REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Eighth of March”

DWSP8MARCH_slipcase_1417SQI enjoy stories about the Doctor’s companions. The Doctor is always great and all, but they frequently pick up some pretty stellar companions, too. And some great friends in general. This year, on International Women’s Day, Big Finish Productions released a box set featuring four stories celebrating the ingenuity and all-around wonderfulness of the Doctor’s friends and companions and, I gotta say, it’s another home-run for the studio. This box set is great, featuring a variety of stories all showing off the power and brilliance of the women of the Doctor Who universe.

Scattered through all of space and time, there are many women whose paths have crossed that of the Doctor.

Some were once fellow TARDIS travellers, some staunch allies defending the Earth, and one was the Doctor’s wife…

From Victorian London, to an intergalactic convention, from the offices of UNIT, to an impossible university library – on the 8th of March, four very different adventures will unfold.

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REVIEW: “Stranger Things: The Other Side”

Stranger Things - The Other SideStranger Things is massively successful. It’s probably Netflix’s biggest hit in the past five years, or so. So, it was only a matter of time before it started branching out into other mediums. Earlier last month, the first official novel – Gwenda Bond’s Suspicious Minds (my review of it here) – was released, but prior to that, Dark Horse Comics released a limited series – written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Stefano Martino – telling the unseen story of Will Byers during the events of season 1. It’s a great idea for a tie-in comic, but is the execution as good as the concept? Mostly, yeah.

When Will Byers finds himself in the Upside Down, an impossible dark parody of his own world, he’s understandably frightened. But that’s nothing compared with the fear that takes hold when he realizes what’s in that world with him!

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E02 – The Beguiling Man

American Gods Season 2 2019I’d say this episode pretty much confirms those rumors about Gaiman being unhappy that season one of American Gods departed a bit from the events of the book as nearly half of this episode is stuff that didn’t happen in the book. This isn’t a bad thing at all; in fact, I like that the show is continuing to branch out from the source material. There is so much stuff in American Gods that wasn’t explored in the novel but can be explored in the TV show, so I am very happy with the show taking the occasional detour from the book. That being said, is this detour worth the time spent on it? Yeah, I’d say so. (Spoilers for episode 2×02!)

Episode 2×02: The Beguiling Man (written by Tyler Dinucci & Andres Fischer-Centeno, directed by Frederick E.O. Toye)
Promising vengeance for the death of a beloved old god, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) begins preparation for a great battle. Meanwhile Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) chase Shadow’s (Ricky Whittle) diminishing light after his disappears. The Jinn (Mousa Kraish) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) set out to retrieve the Gungnir spear, and Shadow encounters an associate, Mr. Town (Dean Winters), of Mr. World (Crispin Glover).

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REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “American Gods”, Volumes 1 & 2

Buffalo ManFirst, American Gods was an award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman. Then, it lingered in development hell for a decade – first as a film, then as a TV series – only to finally be picked up by Starz and given its first season in 2017 (and currently airing its second). Lastly, it was adapted by Dark Horse Comics – and P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton – as a comic book. American Gods is a story that lends itself very well to the medium of comics as it’s a very visual book, with characters and locales that are large than life. It’s an adaptation that many fans have desired for a long time – given Gaiman’s beginnings in the world of comics with The Sandman – so, with two (of three) volumes of the American Gods comic now complete, how is this adaptation holding up? Answer: very well.

American Gods: Shadows
Shadow Moon gets out of jail only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard–thrusting Shadow into a deadly world where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a god war is imminent.

American Gods: My Ainsel
The bizarre road trip across America continues as our heroes gather reinforcements for the imminent god war! Shadow and Wednesday leave the House on the Rock and continue their journey across the country where they set up aliases, meet new gods, and prepare for war.

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REVIEW: “Project Blue Book” – Season 1

project blue book_1We all know that I love a good sci-fi show. I love ones set in slightly alternate versions of the past even more. There’s just something so fun about taking a time period that has already happened and tweaking it some with some kind of sci-fi element. In the case of the History Channel’s newest show, Project Blue Book, that’s taking the real-life investigation into UFOs done by the Air Force in the 1950s and 1960s and suggesting that those UFOs might actually be extra-terrestrial and that there’s some kind of government conspiracy to cover them up. It’s basically The X-Files if The X-Files only focused on cases involving potential extraterrestrial sightings and took place in the 1950s and 1960s. So, it’s equal parts immensely enjoyable and really frustrating.

Created by David O’Leary, “Project Blue Book” is inspired by the personal experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen), a brilliant college professor recruited by the U.S. Air Force to spearhead this clandestine operation (Project Blue Book), alongside Captain Michael Quinn (Michael Malarkey), that researched thousands of cases, over 700 of which remain unsolved to this day. Each episode will draw from the actual case files blending UFO theories with authentic historical events from one of the most mysterious eras in United States history. Throughout the season, true to life, documented occurrences will be explored such as the Flatwoods Monster incident that took place in West Virginia, the Gorman Dogfight of Fargo, North Dakota, the Lubbock Lights of Lubbock, Texas and the Chiles-Whitted UFO Incident of Montgomery, Alabama among many others. Delving into themes such as trust, instinct, real news vs. fake news and government cover-up, “Project Blue Book” straddles the world of science and the exploration of the unknown.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E01 – The House on the Rock

American Gods Season 2 2019It’s been nearly two years since the first season of American Gods aired its final episode and a lot has happened behind the scenes. In November of 2017, original executive producers (and showrunners) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left the show after reported disputes related to the budgeting of the season. From there, Jesse Alexander was hired as showrunner and, with the help of Neil Gaiman, retooled the second season of the show a lot, tossing out the six scripts that Fuller and Green had written. For a while, everything seemed to be going fine until reports emerged in September of 2018 that Alexander had been fired from the show and the finale had gone through seven different drafts and everything was in disarray. Gaiman and various members of the cast and crew have disputed these reports, but, nonetheless, to say that the show has been mired by behind-the-scenes drama would be an understatement. Many were worried the second season of the show would never see the light of day, and if it did, that there would be a noticeable drop in quality from the first season. Well, it’s March 10, 2019, and the first episode of the second season of American Gods has premiered on Starz and I’m happy to report that there is no noticeable drop in quality and the show’s just as good as ever. (NOTE: Spoilers for episode 2×01 follow!)

Episode 201: The House on the Rock (written by Jesse Alexander & Neil Gaiman, directed by Christopher J. Byrne)
Following the epic showdown at Easter’s party, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) continues his quest to pitch the case for war to the Old Gods with Shadow (Ricky Whittle), Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plans revenge and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) goes on the hunt for Media. First stop — the House on the Rock, where Shadow is taken “backstage.”

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REVIEW: “Captain Marvel”

captain marvel_1I have had a lot of mixed feelings about the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. None of them are bad or anything, but I don’t feel like most of them are particularly great. With a few exceptions, most Marvel movies seem to live in this realm of utter mediocrity. They follow the same formula each and every time, with frequently underdeveloped villains, weak third-acts, and humor that tends to undercut the more serious moments. Recent Marvel films have continued to find themselves unable to buck this trend – even some films, like Black Panther, that have managed to have well-developed villains, still can’t quite get the other elements right. So, my expectations for Captain Marvel were pretty low. After all, it’s a film that takes place prior to all of the events in the MCU, existing only to introduce a hero who will, presumably, be important in Avengers: Endgame, but with a plot that takes place so far in the past that it can’t possibly connect to the overarching MCU storyline in any meaningful way. To be honest, the part of the film I was most looking forward to was the opportunity to see Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in a role that was larger than a glorified cameo. I wasn’t particularly interested in or excited by anything else about the movie. So, with all of that baggage, how is Captain Marvel? Well, it’s another bog-standard Marvel film that has some really nice moments, but ultimately falls victim to many of the problems most Marvel movies exhibit. (There will be spoilers for Captain Marvel in this review.)

Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel (Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (with additional writing by Geneva Robertson-Dworet) is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the maelstrom.

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A Spoiler-Free Preview of Season 2 of “American Gods”

key artSeason two of American Gods has had a pretty tough time getting to our screens. Originally renewed shortly after the first season began airing, season two suffered numerous production woes – first, the loss of its original two showrunners, Michael Green and Bryan Fuller; then the hiring and subsequent (reported) sacking of new showrunner Jesse Alexander; and, finally, countless delays to the show actually arriving on our screens. For a while, it seemed as though American Gods would never return to TV again or, if it did, it would return in a state that was dramatically less spectacular than its original season was. Well, thankfully, season two of American Gods officially premieres on STARZ this Sunday, March 10. STARZ has provided critics with the first two episodes of the season – and I have seen them – and I am happy to report that the show has, indeed, returned – and it’s returned without a significant drop in quality! (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Full, spoiler-filled reviews of each episode will be available on the Sundays that they air.) 

Starring Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, “American Gods” is a one-hour drama adapted from Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel about a war brewing between Old Gods and New Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two the battle moves inexorably toward crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide. While Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge on Cairo, Illinois: forcing Shadow to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The 13th Doctor – Volume 1”

Doctor Who - Thirteenth Doctor Vol 1Doctor Who has a long history in comics, branching all the way back into the earliest days of the show. That history continues in the present, with Titan Comics’ line of Doctor Who stories – the latest being a new series of stories featuring Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor. Just like the newest series of the show did, this comic – written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Rachael Stott – features an all-new adventure with all-new side characters and an all-new villain. Unlike a good chunk of the newest series, however, this story actually features a satisfying beginning, middle, and end.

Bursting straight out of her hit new television adventures, this first collection of the Thirteenth Doctor’s comic book tales is a scorchingly fresh incarnation, taking the show – and its comic strip adventures – where no Doctor has gone before!

Facing off against vile villains and misunderstood monsters in flavours both human and alien, the Doctor and her friends must push the limits of time and space, confronting evils deliberate and accidental all throughout history – and uncovering secrets long-hidden and wonders never-seen along the way!

Perfect for fans old and new alike, this is an awe-inspiring jumping on point to the Doctor Who comics mythos.

Buy it, read it, then travel back in time to read it for the first time all over again…!

Collects Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #1-4.

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REVIEW: “Miracle Workers”

101AMiracle Workers is the newest quirky sitcom from TBS. In a similar vein as my beloved People of EarthMiracle Workers tells the story of several angels in Heaven trying to save the world from being destroyed by an apathetic God (Steve Buscemi). The way they can save the earth? Get two specific humans to kiss each other. I reviewed the book the series is based on, What in God’s Name, a few weeks ago, so I’ve been excited to see how the series adapts the source material. Thankfully, it does a pretty stellar job at translating a very enjoyable book into a very enjoyable TV series.

Based on Simon Rich’s book, What in God’s Name, this seven-episode limited series turns the perception of heaven on its head while also making the case that humans are worth saving.

Radcliffe and Buscemi executive produce and star alongside Karan Soni (Deadpool) and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers). Radcliffe plays Craig, a low-level angel responsible for handling all of humanity’s prayers. Buscemi plays Craig’s boss, God, who has pretty much checked out to focus on petty hobbies. To prevent Earth’s destruction, Craig and fellow angel Eliza (Viswanathan) must answer a seemingly impossible prayer: help two humans, Laura and Sam (played by Sasha Compere and Jon Bass), fall in love.

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