Today in Geek History: Doctor Who Regenerates

Ten years ago today, Doctor Who was revived… and my life hasn’t been quite the same! Has yours?

I wish I could say that I watched that first new episode when it aired. But although I had heard of Doctor Who, it had never been something I was interested in. I guess the memories of cheesy-looking episodes aired on PBS when I was a kid had stuck with me.

Fortunately, I did decide to give the new series a try while flying home one day. Thank goodness for free sample episodes on iTunes!

I can’t speak to how it felt to be a longtime fan when Who was reinvented.  I don’t know if fans were horrified or delighted at a revamped version, or how Eccleston’s Doctor stood up to their own favorites.  I knew nothing of companions or assistants or regeneration or sonic screwdrivers or why the spaceship looked like a phone booth.  I was one of the new generation of potential fans that I’m sure producers were hoping to see show up.  And show up, I did.

In my first viewing of “Rose,” I loved the accessible Average Joe (Jane?) companion through whom we met the Doctor.  I loved the running and the series’ ability to not take itself too seriously (“Lots of planets have a north!”).  I loved Christopher Eccleston’s lanky, slightly odd alien who loved life and just wanted to travel around having adventures instead of missions.  It was irreverent and fun and fantastical.  It was not trying to solve the meaning of life or hold viewers hostage to the next character death.  It was, in short, something I could just enjoy the heck out of.

tenth-doctor-doomsdayLittle did I know that it would quickly become something I’d become sadly codependent with, of course.  By the time that David Tennant arrived (and blinking, stepped into the sun… oh, wait, that’s not right…), I was totally hooked and couldn’t get enough.  I put off watching Tennant’s last episodes because I couldn’t deal with losing my Doctor.  Then, I learned that bow ties are cool and all was right with the world again.  I plunked over my money and stood in line to see the 50th Anniversary Special at the theater, despite having watched it on TV the day before.  And then I tried to be stoic when that Doctor left, too, and a grumpy set of attack eyebrows took his place.

I know there are those of you who have been with Doctor Who through thick and thin, good and bad, renewal and cancellation, and I bow before you.  I’ve only had a few years of Who fandom, and it’s a heck of a roller coaster.  I’m sure the next 10 years will bring more Doctors, more Companions, more controversy, more swearing I’ll never watch the show again, and more returning each year despite the potential trauma it’ll bring me.

Allons-y!

Movie Review – ‘Insurgent’

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If you’re not busy getting your taxes done or enjoying a string of great post-snowmaggedon weather, you can head out to the theater to see the latest in YA fiction adaptations: Insurgent.

So, does it pass initiation or will it end up factionless?

First of all, just in case you didn’t have a Divergent viewing party to get caught up on the story, here’s where we left off.  Tris and Four brought havoc to their orderly post-apocalyptic world that’s divided into 5 personality factions:  Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite.  Having discovered a plot by Erudite leader, Jeanine (who has a stick up her butt that would make Gamora very unhappy), to destroy Abnegation and thwarted it, Tris and hunky boyfriend Four fled the city for parts unknown.  As the sequel begins, they take refuge with peaceful Amity but Jeanine’s hunters soon catch up with them.

You can catch my review of Divergent, both in book and movie form.  As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t particularly attached to the book version so I enjoyed the movie more than the book.  This is a plus once again, because Insurgent the film isn’t exactly attached to the book version either. It’s an adaptation more in the spirit of the book rather than the letter of it.

Like The Maze Runner (and probably The Scorch Trials soon to come), Insurgent takes big liberties with plot and character in order to streamline the story and make it easier to sell to a mass audience.  And, as with The Maze Runner, some of these sacrifices to the god of mainstream media are worthy sacrifices and some are real losses.

Overall, I think fans of the first movie will like this second one despite the changes. It shares many of the same highlights as the first movie: great chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Theo James, a group of good actors who ably sell the strange plotline, nifty simulation visuals and a fun trip through the various Factions.

However, it’s also a darker chapter that focuses on Tris’ inner demons, guilt and PTSD. It has little humor to relieve the tension. Whereas the first story is a coming-of-age story about a girl finding her place in the world, this is a story of a young adult fighting in a civil war who doesn’t have a lot to guide her in dealing with the trauma. So, not a laugh fest.

The best reason to see this movie if you’re not already an avowed Divergent fan is the cast. Shailene Woodley has to sell the audience on Tris’ mental state without a narration, which she mostly does well (with one unfortunate exception in the Candor trial). Theo James doesn’t get a big character arc, but he’s always enjoyable to watch. Naomi Watts’ Evelyn looks to be a very interesting addition to the story (even if she’s a little too close in age to 30-year-old ‘son’ Theo James!).

Unfortunately, several supporting characters don’t get a lot to do (notably Octavia Spencer’s Johanna, Zoe Kravitz’ Christina and the unnecessary addition of Uriah). But their loss means a better focus on the remaining ones: Tris, Four, Jeanine, Peter and Caleb. Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort bring the only bits of light to this story and we’re fortunate to have them.

So, what’s my final take? Once again, I liked the movie more than the book. The plot is simpler and Roth’s diversions into unnecessary characters have been excised. The movie gets a little caught up in its bigger budget, spending a bit too much time in Inception-style simulation graphics, but uses that money to build its post-apocalyptic world. It has a bigger feeling than the first movie – widening out to include more of the city, the Factions, bigger simulations and the Factionless – but still focuses on Tris’ very personal inner conflicts.  While not the excellent sophomore outing that Catching Fire was, it’s true to the spirit of what Roth created.

For my discussion of some of the changes made for the movie, check out my Spoilers Page!

Review – The Flash, “Out of Time”

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Wow, this episode did a 180° turn almost as fast as Barry can! Let’s recap the mayhem, shall we?

The main plot involves Clyde Mardon’s (aka the guy who controlled weather) brother returning to avenge his brother’s death.

While Mark Mardon goes about terrorizing Joe for Clyde’s death, Barry and Iris’s obvious feelings are getting in the way of their respective love lives.  Further complicating things, Iris confesses her feelings to Barry and they kiss.

And Cisco is spurred on to further investigate the Man in the Yellow Suit. He eventually discovers that the events of that night were orchestrated… by Dr. Wells.

Realizing Cisco is on to him, Wells confesses his true identity – that he’s really Eobard Thawne from the future – before callously killing Cisco.

Meanwhile, Barry’s battle with Mardon comes to a head. In a desperate attempt to fend off a tidal wave headed for the city, Barry speeds faster than ever.

And then he breaks the time barrier.  He’s thrown back to a point earlier in the episode, meaning that everything that happened in this story might just be reversible.

What Broke the Barrier

Cisco’s behavior in his big scene with Dr. Wells/Thawne was brilliantly played.  For a character who is often a little over the top, this was verbally underplayed but filled with a great, raw emotion by Carlos Valdes.  I’m not always his biggest fan, but this scene knocked it out of the park.

As I recently mentioned in a post, I’ve loved Tom Cavanagh’s Harrison Wells and his mysteries.  It was awesome to learn who he really is and just how psychotic he can be.  But at the same time, I was worried that everything was happening too fast, so I’m equally happy that the episode ended up being (potentially) a big fake-out.  I can’t wait to see where his story goes next!

As the episode progressed, it seemed like everything was happening way too fast.  And then the time travel element coasted in at the end to show why the writers had such freedom to do whatever they wanted with all the major characters.  Personally, I love a good reset button due to the fun ‘what-if’ scenarios that shows can pursue.  It might become tiresome eventually, but the surprise way it was used in this story was spot-on fantastic.

What Just Hit a Wall

Catilin Snow is the worst actress/fibber in the world.  She can’t even manage to believably schmooze her boss over a cup of coffee?

It wasn’t a particularly good night for the ladies of The Flash, as Iris’ incessant waffling back and forth about Barry cheapens her character and risks burning through the will-they-wont-they storyline way too fast.

The Final Tally

This episode starts out a fairly typical Metahuman-of-the-Week story and then takes a hard left turn into AwesomeLand towards the end.  Just when you think you’ve seen the Big Twist with Cisco’s horrifying demise, the final minutes bring something even bigger to shock you.  It’s downright Arrow-worthy.  And so, time travel is here… where will it take us?  Next week should be a really crazy hour of television after this one.

How to Throw an ‘Insurgent’ Viewing Party

insurgent-2015-movie-posters01Ready for Insurgent‘s premiere weekend?  I am!  I’ve been obsessed with all things YA lately, and the Divergent series is my latest thing.  Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the books, I loved the first movie and am really excited about the second.  How about you?

Of course, as real fans, this requires a proper viewing party.  I love a good viewing party.  Where else can you get together with your friends, geek out and dress up in costume just to watch TV or go to the theater?

If you’re still planning your viewing party, I’ve got some suggestions to help out.

Invitations with a quiz.  Start your party early by sending out Divergent-themed invites.  It’s not hard to DIY your own fan-themed invitations using images culled from the internet.  My favorite Divergent-related invitations were found at CheckMyParty.com.  What’s best about these invitations is that they include a Divergent party manifesto – patterned after the manifestos created for the first book – and a Divergent quiz so each guest can figure out what faction they belong to.

Hold a Choosing Ceremony.  One of my favorite suggestions for any Divergent party is to begin with a Choosing Ceremony.  Having provided your guests with their quizzes, place five bowls filled with items similar to the ones in the book:  stones, charcoal, water, dirt and glass (you can get something close enough to glass at any craft store).  Each guest chooses his or her faction and then changes their clothes to represent their new faction colors/style.

Temporary tattoos.  Of course, you can’t discuss Divergent without talking tattoos.  Any real Dauntless in your group might be willing to go for real tattoos, but you can easily find temporary ones on the internet or at craft stores.  There are a few places where you can custom-design your tattoos in a Divergent theme, but providing a variety of generic tattoos makes for a fun way to learn about each other.

Truth or Dare.  Faction-themed games are a must.  Truth or Dare is a perfect example because it combines elements of both Dauntless and Candor.  Trivial Pursuit or a similar brain game would be a good match for Erudite.  For Amity, try a social game like charades or pictionary.

Food.  Surely, Dauntless chocolate cake is an easy thematic dessert.  For dinner, try hamburgers.

divergent-ferris-wheelFerris wheel centerpiece or cupcake holder.  A Ferris wheel as the centerpiece of your buffet?  Yes please!  You can find them all over the internet.  For extra points, get a cupcake holder and fill it with Faction-themed or -colored cupcakes.

More decoration ideas.  In addition to the famous Ferris wheel, why not try making some of these fabulous raven decorations out of black paper?  The trains from the book, of course, make a good decorative addition that’s easily available on the internet.  If you don’t want to spend the money on a Ferris wheel centerpiece (or want one that’s a little more updated), try stopping by a floral shop or garden center and looking for a bonsai or other small shrub to make an Amity Tree centerpiece instead.

These are my favorites.  What are yours?