Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Husbands of River Song Review and a Response to Criticisms of the Doctor/River Romance

I am going to give a little of my back story on how I came to know River and Dr. Who, present a review of the episode, and then try to refute some fan criticisms of the River story line.  You can better follow along if you have actually watched The Husbands of River Song.

Spoiler alert -- I like River Song.  I adore her.  She is strong, smart, fun loving, and sexy.  She is one of the primary reasons I started watching Dr. Who.  I remembered catching a few of the Tom Baker episodes when I was younger.  I could never really get into it.  I was a Trekkie.   Dr. Who just seemed so silly and amateurish in comparison to Star Tred.  Maybe if I had lived in the UK and grown up with it I would have thought differently.

Several years ago my children started watching Nu Who episodes  on Netflix.  I caught parts of  The Empty Child, Blink,  and Forest of the Dead/Silence in the Library.   The Empty Child totally confused me- why on Earth were people's faces changing?   I remember I only saw part of Blink -- which was also very confusing. Why did they have to not blink?  Weird.  Usually I only caught parts of episodes -- which really did not help.

I watched almost the entire episode of  Forest of the Dead.  The ending intrigued me.  Who was River Song?  I remembered catching glimpses of her in some early episodes with Matt Smith while the kids were watching and I was cooking dinner.   I read a little bit about her on Wikepedia - which did not help much because her story line is all over the place.  At that point, I decided to start at the beginning of NuWho to try to unravel the mystery of River Song.

And now it appears that River Song's story is complete -- although I think there may yet be a few twists in future episodes.  At least I hope so.

I thought this Christmas episode was better than last year's with Clara.  Danny Pink's death left a bad taste in my mouth.  I really thought Clara and he would end up together and his small part in last year's Christmas episode brought that home to me again.

The Husband of River Song was a fun episode, which everyone was sorely in need of after Season 9.  Peter Capaldi's reaction to all of River's antics with her husbands was a joy to watch.  And the fact that she did not recognize him even though he was trying his best to give her an 11 smile -- how goofily well done was that?    I personally think he should have done the giraffe dance but  in this stage of his life I guess he is more into guitars and sunglasses.

Many other reviewers are familiar with the supporting actors --  I assume that they are comic actors in the UK.  Their performances were good.  The majority of the time the supporting players were bodiless.  I don't know what it is with Moffat and heads.  I am really not interested in seeing bodies without heads and heads without bodies for a long time.  I guess the kids in the audience might have thought that was funny and cool.  I just thought it was creepy.

I absolutely loved River's monologue about how the Doctor could not love her. He is like the sunset and the sunset( sunrise?)  does not love you.   And then when she figured out he was standing right next to her - beautiful- and then the back and forth banter started -- like they had never been apart. Did y'all catch the comment about needing to do his roots and he whipped back that sunsets did not need to do their roots.

Then back to working together to try to prevent  the ship from crashing during a meteor strike.  The stock market thing with the cyborg really fell flat for me, although it was an easy way for the Doctor to escape and get back to River.

When they are working together to pilot the ship and arguing about all the husbands that River professed to have.   The litany of spouses that they throw at each other was just grand -- Stephen Fry?? Really?  Loved it.

There has been some criticism that the doctor would not approve of so many people dying on the ship.  Well all those people had killed many, many innocent people and they were fated to die anyway -- according to River the archaeologist.  It very well could have been a fixed point in time. I imagine that there were a few  escape pods anyway.  The Doctor has been in similar situations and has not been able to save  everyone. Actually most of the time, when he shows up, people die.

I was disappointed that there was just the kiss on the cheeks when she greets him on the balcony at the Darillium restaurant.  It was not the kind of kiss that eleven routinely received.  I assume that this was because of the sadness she felt because she had heard rumors that this would be their last night.

The ending brought tears to my eyes.  The way Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston look at each other at the very end of the episode -- love, acceptance, happiness, warmth.   You could see it all in their expressions.

A wonderful episode to wrap up River's story.  Now on to some refutations.

There are many fans that don't seem to like River.  They complain that she knows the Doctor's name but how and why does she know his name?  Some Whovians say that the two are not really married because he was a Tesalac when they were married.  Other Whovians are concerned that  Matt Smith was far too young for Alex Kingston and it was all so weird and that Peter Capaldi is a better match.

We know that she knows his name and she tells it to the tenth doctor, but we never really find out when she gives her his name.  The Tenth doctor said he would only tell it to a person for one reason. Most people assume it would be given to his wife, but since the doctor was married numerous times and I don't think he gave his name to Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth I, that probably is not the reason. Of course those were human wedding ceremonies.    Maybe it had to be a  Gallifriean or Time Lord ceremony?

And yes -- Elizabeth I probably insisted on his name too but the Doctor lies. And let's not even get into Rose -- that is an entirely different discussion.  Although I would like to think it gave the tenth doctor some solace to know that he did find love and have a wife after his separation from Rose.  Of course that is a lot of ifs.

The eleventh doctor told Amy and Rory that he gave River his name at the wedding ceremony, but we know that is not true.  I would think that he would have given it to her sometime afterwards.  And I do think they were married.  He called her his wife several times and did not seem to bemoan the fact that he married her as the tenth doctor did when marrying Elizabeth I.  Matter of fact the eleventh doctor seemed to quite enjoy being married to River.  I presume --knowing River - she would have insisted that he give her his name if she was his wife.  And I would imagine that she would have also insisted on consummating the marriage.

The Doctor has been seen naked several times by his companions and although they were all surprised by his nakedness,  none seemed to be shocked by his anatomy.  And when Twelve asked River how she liked the new body in the Husbands of River Song, she slyly commented that she had only seen the face so far.  I think it is implied that yes - they have had sex  -- of course what that means for two aliens even if they both have "normal" anatomy -- who knows??  For all we know the only way he can have sex is if his wife whispers his name to him.

And on too the supposed disparity of age between the Doctor and River.  I don't understand why people insist that Matt Smith was too young -- he was playing a time traveler that was over 900 years old!!  River was probably only in her 20s since she grew up with Amy but happened to regenerate into someone that appeared to be in their 40s.   Basically, get into the story and forget about stereotypical human behavior.  He is an alien, she is part alien.  Who cares about their age??  If it makes you squeamish to see an "older" woman with a "younger" man -- Get over it!   It happens in real life too.

Hope you enjoyed this and it gave you something to think about.  That is what the best stories and the best characters always do - leave you asking questions and wanting to know more about them.  I think this episode dragged in a few new people into the Dr Who universe -- Who the heck is River Song?  Why does she know all the doctors and have so many husbands?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Wholock: A Comparison & Review of Cumberbatch and Tennants Hamlets

(I will admit I first watched Sherlock and fell in love with Benedict Cumberbatch's acting skills, but then my children introduced me to Doctor Who and now I have come to adore David Tennant.  As you can see, I am either quite fickle or just lean toward the English actors. I have always favored Patrick Stewart over William Shatner.)

I am ashamed to say that David Tennat's Hamlet is the first I have ever watched.  I have read and watched other Shakespeare plays but never viewed  Hamlet, always telling myself  I would rent the Kenneth Branagh version at some point in my life, but thinking it might just be a drudge.  I was mistaken.   Hamlet has many layers  it would seem.

The Dane is Mad!! Or is he?

My initial reaction to David Tennant's interpretation of Hamlet was that surely he must be truly mad. Tennant appeared to know exactly what someone with rapid cycling Bipolar disorder might act like.  The sadness and weeping, the jumping about, fevered speech, and the need to grab and hold people and invade their space.  Then sudden solitude and quietness --- introspection. I thought possibly David Tennat had once been diagnosed with bipolar disorder he seemed to play it so spot on -- at least in my eyes.   I googled bipolar and David Tennat and came up with nothing except that he once acted the part of a Manic/Depressive in a series on the BBC called Taken Over the Asylum.  The series was filmed at an actual asylum and some of the patients were used as extras.  Possibly this is where he learned to play a mad man so well?

Their is a debate amongst Shakespeare scholars on whether Hamlet is truly mad or just acting as if he is mad.  I believe Tennant is playing him as truly mad and Cumberbatch as acting as if he is mad.  A couple of  scenes reveal a contrast of their style and how the madness may be interpreted.  When the Hamlets meet the ghost, Tennant's Hamlet rushes up to his father and hugs him, Cumberbatch cowers in fear- what a sane man would more likely do.  Tennant takes his sword and cuts his hand to swear a blood oath to his father  and Cumberbatch writes a note in a book.  Not only can the cutting of his hand be thought of as a sign of allegiance but often cutting and mutilating part of the body is used in mentally ill individuals as a release of emotions that are too overwhelming to bear. Tennant's Hamlet has this cut wrapped with a cloth through out the play to remind him of his oath to his father.

We see another contrast between true madness and play acting mad in the initial scenes with Ophelia and Guildenstien and Rosencrantz.  Cumberbatch's Hamlet dresses up in a toy soldier uniform hops on a table and walks slowly like a robot Toy Soldier.  When meeting Rosencrantz and Guildenstein he is in a play castle - playing the part of a Toy Soldier.  Although I believe in a manic state you might very well enjoy wearing the brightly colored uniform of a toy soldier,  the scene struck me as more of what "sane" people might think a mad person would act like.  And I noticed during this same scene, I could understand Cumberbatch's words far better. Often times it seems that Tennat's words come speeding out of his mouth -  he seems to have the more pressured speech patterns you might see in someone that is manic -- but of course as an actor -- Tennant has to be able to not talk so fast that no one can understand what he is saying.  After all the audience has to understand the words. In these scenes, Tennat's Hamlet just uses his actions and words to signify his madness instead of dressing up in the part. Although some reviewers believer that the muscle T-shirt and bare feet are dressing up a bit.   I read one review that stated that Tennat acted too manic. What the reviewer didn't understand that in madness you are often "too much" of everything -- too sad, too happy, too quick, too bright, too slow, too grabby -- and "normal "  people often hate too much of anything.  It seems our world  prides itself on mediocrity and sameness.

One might ask how either Hamlet could be mad because  they both do state that they are play acting as if mad.  And both Hamlets seem to "ham" it up at times and play act madness.  This hamming it up is often seen when the Hamlets are interacting with Polonious.  Actually the Polonious in Tennant's Hamlet would drive any one mad but we will speak of that later.   You can be mad and know that you are mad and still act even madder.  Their is a bipolar spectrum --  from mild hypomania to full blown  manic episode and psychosis.  Often times people know that they are insane but cannot control their impulses.  There are also those that are insane but are totally unaware of it.  I think Tennant's Hamlet knows he is insane and uses it to his advantage.  Cumberbatch's Hamlet is most likely extremely depressed about his father's death but I don't think he is manic.   He seems to use the play acting of his madness as a way to delay any action on his part while he decides whether or not to seek vengeance.

Now on to that famous speech -- "To Be or Not to Be"

Tennants speech is depressed, quiet sad and seemed very introspective.  Cumberbatch was more emotive, he uses a leather belt around his neck as a prop and he is wearing that silly toy soldier uniform but he does get across the fact that he is considering suicide.

How the characters contrast

There is a world of difference in the manner in which Polonius is played.  In the Tennat Hamlet Polonius is a fool and is played for laughs.  You wonder how such a man could rank so highly in the government ( probably wealth and birth) and I was not all that sad when he died.  In Cumberbatch's play he is no fool and he appears capable of  his office. Hamlet teases him but rarely does he appear to take the bait but seems to be more exasperated with Hamlet.  It is a surprise that Hamlet would be able to strike him dead through the curtains.

Patrick Stewart plays both Claudius and the Ghost in the Tennant's Hamlet.  I have to admit -- you just fall in love with that voice.  This Claudius does not seem to be so evil, although he does plot Hamlet's death and you can tell that there is some conniving going on.  In the end, though, he accepts his death by Hamlet's hand.  Cumberbatch's Claudius seems to be a real jerk.  He shames and embarrasses Hamlet at the wedding in front of many guests telling him that he is not being manly when he mourns.  Stewart's Claudius also entreats Hamlet to stop mourning but he seems to be gentler.

I think I enjoyed Cumberbatch's Ophelia better than Tennants.  She seemed so much more confused and seemed to be truly in love with Hamlet.  And boy does she know how to play bonkers after her father dies.  I never really knew what was going on with Tennant's Ophelia, maybe she just enjoyed the thought of having a Prince courting her.  It seemed to be that Tennant's Hamlet loved her -- even in the scene when he is telling her to go to a nunnery, it seems that he is trying to protect her  and get her away from the castle.

I didn't see much of a difference between the two Gertrudes and not much between the two Horatios. Except Cumberbatch's Horatio was covered in tattoos and always carried around a back pack. They both played good parts though and were stalwart friends.

Rosencratz and Guildenstien -- I definitely liked Tennants  duo better.   They would look at each at times and you could just see that they were thinking -- wowza - this guy is crazy - what have we gotten ourselves into?  You could also tell that in the past they had all once been friends.  I did not get that same feeling from Cumberbatch's  pair.  They just seemed to be there to listen to Hamlet's speeches.

May the better man win??

Which Hamlet was better -- they were both excellent and I enjoyed both actors portrayals.   I am hoping that they will come out with a DVD version of Cumberbatch's Hamlet.  If  I return to one or the other more often than I will know which one edges out the other.  I am in the middle of rewatching Tennant's Hamlet and very much enjoying it again.  If I can do that over and over again, then you know that you have a classic.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Martian -- A Book/Movie Review/Comparison( Major Spoiler Alert!!)

Major Spoiler Alert  -- Major Spoiler Alert _--- Major Spoiler Alert--- Major Spoiler Alert

(I have been busy this summer and I do have some pictures and information about some bookstores I visited during the summer. And I will be blogging about them in the coming weeks.  But I did mention that I would discuss books too in this blog, because, after all, you would not have bookstores without books! )

This week I did something I have never done in the past.  I finished reading a book the day I saw the "Major Motion Picture".   

Now, I have had The Martian sitting in my Kindle  for probably 6 - 12 months and had not gotten around to reading it yet, although I had noticed that it had great reviews and there was motion picture in development -- and I like science fiction.  But truthfully, I wasn't in a Science Fiction mood.  I have been reading a lot of  fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal.   Some good  -- many not so good. With the movie coming out and the great reviews -- I figured it was time. 

The book is extremely science oriented and the science actually seemed right on the money.   Since I am a veterinarian and majored in biomedical science, I could understand quite a bit of it, although, much of the physics and calculations went over my head.  The chemistry was a little daunting too. The botany part was great -- living science is more up my alley and I completely understood what he was trying to do.  

In the book they mention that Watney has both an engineering degree and  a degree in botany, which helped explain how one person could know so much about such varied sciences.   I did not pick that up in the movie but they did not go into as much detail into  all the calculations and physics in the movie either.  In the movie they made it look far easier to get the probe set up for communication and then NASA and all the science geeks at NASA and JPL were there to help figure things out.  This seemed to occur fairly quickly in the movie -- not so quickly in the book.   

I did enjoy how he was able to perform calculations and figure out so many things on his own while dealing with the oxygen and water reclamation issues in the book, but I understand how that would have slowed the movie down which was still over two hours long. I do wish that in the movie they would have gone into more detail on how complicated it was to grow the potatoes -- but I guess the fact that he nearly blew himself up in the movie while trying to make water suggests that it was complicated without boring the non science geeks to death.  

When the movie started it was a bit surreal to almost hear the dialog from the book verbatim during the evacuation of the HAB.  I  was happy that they were sticking so close to the book but the dialog seemed a little wooden on the screen.  After the initial five minutes, I did not continue to notice this as the movie proceeded  -- big sigh of relief.  

I did applaud the movie for using a skin stapler instead of suture to close Watney's wound.  It is far more easier, not as painful, and the fact that one came out -- also totally believable.  

Much of the funny elements from the book were still in place such as the 70s music.  Didn't really go into the 70s TV shows though except for the Fonzi thumbs up-- which seemed a little out of place without the TV show set up as in the book -- but the Fonz is somewhat iconic.   

The movie spent a large amount of time with NASA and JPL which was more enjoyable than I thought it would be.   It was amusing to see the JPL and NASA scientists testing things out at the lab and then seeing  Watney performing the tasks.  I also liked the wink to Lord of the Rings with the Council of Elrond which was in the book-- but the movie has Sean Bean in it as Mitch who also happened to play Boromir in Lord of the Rings and attended the Council of Elrond in the Lord of the Rings movie.  In The Martian movie it was pretty obvious that there was a nod and wink to Sean Bean but at the time I could not remember who he played in Lord of the Rings.  Anyway that was just brilliant and I am sure all the Lord of the Rings fans will just love it!!

The movie  did leave quite a few major and I thought pretty important things out of it.  They did not mention anything about the special glue used to seal the space suits, everything was just duct taped together.  Okay -- my 13 year old son has made some amazing things from duct tape but I don't know if I would rely on it to seal a large opening in basically a tent on a planet with extreme environmental conditions.  At least in the movie they suggested that Watney was a little nervous about it too.  

The pop tents and the modification of the extra rover were left out too.  Not such a big deal, but I think the reason why he used the pop tent in the book on his long journey made a lot of sense.  In the movie they just had him sitting outside Rover with his suit in place.  

When they did not have the large sandstorm or the tipping over of the rover  or the loss of communication with NASA-- I was like -- what?  Those were exciting parts of the novel.  They really had to make the rescue count for a big finish -- and they did.  Lewis replaced Beck and Watney got to play Iron Man after all -- not very believable but fun none the less -- and the change ups made you wonder if someone might die after all.  

The book ends with Watney in the Hermes but the movie has an epilogue and basically shows you what has happened to everyone involved in the mission several years after the rescue.  The epilogue was a pleasant addition, because the movie did make you care for these people.

One criticism that I have read in other reviews is that Watney seems too optimistic.  There is not enough angst and "woe is me" in the movie or the book.  Well -- we see a lot of angst in movies -- it is nice to see a character with a personality that is optimistic and extremely resilient.  

I give both the book and movie 4/5 stars.  I am not going to say one is better than the other -- they are both enjoyable.  What was your take on one or the other?  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chicago Downtown Bookstores -- a preview

I was very saddened when Border's Bookstore closed for business.  I love walking into the front of a bookstore and seeing what is new and then walking through the shelves of books.

I hope that  people will always be able to walk through shelves of books, checking out the covers and author's names.  I would miss the smell of a used bookstore - kind of dusty and musty -- sometimes sneeze worthy.

I am planning to record some of the bookstores I have visited, where they are located and the type of books they carry.  I will also mention the atmosphere about them and other amenities that might be available.  I will not limit myself to independent bookstores, but also the large big box stores.

Right now I am in Chicago and, lo and behold, a short walk from my hotel, I spied a bookstore.  It is called Selected Works and it is on the second floor of the The Arts Building.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  I plan to visit it tomorrow or the next day and will write about what I find.

The Columbia College Bookstore happens to be next to my hotel.   This university bookstore has a several rows  of new titles,  they also carry college memorabilia, and snacks for the students.

There are  many Barnes & Noble bookstores in Chicago-- about ten-- some of these may be in the suburbs, but there are a couple in the downtown area and one is associated with DePaul University.  I have never seen a B&N associated with a university and I am eager to explore it.

I will be back in a couple of days with info about these bookstores.  In future blogs, I will reminisce about the bookstores I visited in Portland, Oregon and Washington -- including Powell's -- and the little bookstore in Indianapolis I found at the end of a bike ride.

See ya next time and read a book for me!