Category: Reviews

Doctor Who Season 11 Premiere: A Quick Review

After much anticipation, the world was finally introduced to the first female Doctor. And, to the credit of the writers, the Doctor accepts the change and immediately moves on to the action. However, being part of a group that always has an eye on how women are portrayed in the world of popular culture, I couldn’t help but want to add my voice to those discussing this “first” for the Doctor Who franchise.

So, I give you a mini review of the first episode of Season 11’s “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” Buckle up and consider this your spoiler warning.

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End of Summer Reading

While many of us are currently finding ourselves staring Fall in the face as we start school, enjoy our last beach day, or prepare for Ladies Con, it’s hard to remember that summer is technically not over yet.  Well, at least it isn’t over officially until September 23rd, the first day of Fall. So until that time, there might be those of you out there holding onto summer with everything they have – and I’m here to help you with that. I have three get reading suggestions that will not only help you remember how the warm summer sun feels, but also how it can make you feel like no other season can.

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Summer Reading 2018 – Mixing It Up

For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
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3 Spooky Podcasts for Summer Listening

Summer is often a time for sitting. Sitting on the beach, sitting in a fishing boat, sitting in traffic. Not all these situations may be conducive to indulging in summer reading. As the person who is often the driver for summer travels I can confirm, reading and driving, super frowned upon. (Note: This is a joke, I don’t even talk on the phone while driving).

There are tons of educational and current events podcasts out there, but summer is also a time for escapism and I think we could all use a break from the daily assault of what’s going on in the news media. So, here are 3 serialized story podcasts for you to enjoy while staring at a either body of water, or the break lights in front of you.

The Black Tapes Podcast

Despite being a pretty avid podcast listener and this absolutely being in my wheelhouse, I was a bit late to the party on this one. The Black Tapes Podcast is presented by Pacific Northwest Stories (PNS), and Minnow Beats Whale. It’s a docudrama hosted by Alex Regan, and presented as a journalist investigation rather than a narrative story. Alex begins her podcast series by looking at unusual jobs, but it very quickly takes a new direction when she meeting Dr. Richard Strand, head of the Strand Institute and his black tapes files. The Strand Institute’s mission is to debunk the supernatural, but what happens when they come across things that can’t be easily explained away?

I binged this one hardcore. It’s 3 seasons and seems to be completed. Shout out to it for being responsible for me cleaning out my closet because I just put my headphones on and next thing I knew, I had a nice pile of items for donation.

Check this out if you like: The X-Files, Serial, Supernatural


Tanis

This is another one from PNS. After loving The Black Tapes so much I decided to further explore the PNS offerings (and there are still others I have in my queue). Tanis is similarly structured as a journalistic investigation, and hosts who are familiar from The Black Tapes are featured. The central question of this investigation is What is Tanis? Is it a place, a person, a feeling? Nic Sliver sets out to answer this question and is quickly pulled into a terrifying mystery that affects him and everyone he interacts with.

I’m still listening to Tanis, it’s 4 seasons and it still going. It took slightly longer to grab me than The Black Tapes, but once it did grab me, I always make sure I have at least 3 episodes downloaded on my phone and ready for listening.

Check this out if you like: horror based mystery, things about cults, and salty hackers


Deadly Manners

Did you know that AMC/Sundance were into the podcast game? Me neither until I happened upon Deadly Manners. Deadly Manners is also a murder mystery, but much more of a “who done it” done in the style of a classic radio drama. There is a fancy dinner party at a grand house during a snowstorm. Soon enough people start dying, and with no one able to leave, and a host who insists the party must go one, will any of the guests survive the night?

What makes Deadly Manners so much fun is the voice talent. You will hear some very familiar voices including Kristen Bell, RuPaul, and LeVar Burton. This is another completed podcast so very bingeable.

Check this out if you like: Clue, some over the top voice acting, and twists.

All of these podcasts  – plus our own podcast – are available via iTunes. Let us know any others that we should be checking out!

Theater Review: Jagged Little Pill

Earlier this month the American Repertory Theater (ART) started previews of Jagged Little Pill, a new musical directed by Diane Paulus featuring the music of Alanis Morissette and a book by Diablo Cody. Previews are essentially try-outs. Creators work on the show as the performances go along. Some things get cleaned up and expanded on, others get cut. The one thing we can almost be certain of is this: if the show makes it beyond Cambridge (on tour or to Broadway) it will be a different creature than it was in the beginning. And this is a good thing because I saw Jagged Little Pill during the first week and while there are some interesting moments, I think this show has a lot of transformations to go through.

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Taking place in modern-day suburban Connecticut, Jagged Little Pill strives to prove the timelessness of Morissette’s music by creating a story very much in the middle of today’s social complexities and challenges. If you take some time to check out the internet buzz about this show, you’ll see the word “woke” bandied about a lot. And I suppose that’s what the show’s trying to show us…that it, in itself, is “woke.” But is it really? And for that matter, is the show any good?

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Kickass Fictional Ladies: Ruby and Kelly from Ash Vs Evil Dead

I’m perfectly fine admitting that I never thought that I would be writing this post. I was never a huge fan of the Evil Dead films and as a person who has seen many of her favorite intellectual properties canceled or rebooted with less than stellar results, the absolutely perfect Ash Vs Evil Dead series kinda annoyed me.  The tone is spot on, the horror elements are both unique and hilarious, and Ash is the same kind of person he’s always been. This series is proof that reboots can be done, and done well… And almost as if to add insult to injury, Ash Vs Evil Dead accomplishes the very thing that the previous films lacked – interesting and capable female characters.

What? An article arguing that Ash Vs Evil Dead is feminist and contains not one but two notably kickass female characters? Indeed. So here we go.

 

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Image: STARZ

 

 

For those of you not as familiar with the show, when we first meet Ruby Knowby (played by the suspiciously ageless Lucy Lawless) she claims to the be the daughter of Raymond Knowby – the professor in the Evil Dead films who discovers the Necromonicon and Kandarian dagger. I don’t think I would be spoiling too much to say that Ruby’s history is much more, um historical? complicated? spooky? than that.

What makes Ruby a great character is that she’s smart. Smart enough to connect herself to Ash’s past and insert herself into this life. She’s also smart enough to adjust her plans to the circumstances around her. You almost feel shocked when an idiot like Ash gets the better of her, but I think that’s the point. It’s engaging because Ruby is formidable and interesting in her own way. She gets annoyed at Ash but always manages to keep her goal in sight. A well-written villain (and acted – Lucy Lawless is GREAT!) is one that you’re excited to see, love to hate, but also find appealing on some level…even when you know you shouldn’t. Ruby is one of those villains. Oh, and she’s a woman. Well done, TV show.

 

Ash vs. Evil Dead Key Art and Marketing Shoot 2015

Ruby, Image: STARZ

 

The other awesome female character in this show is Ash Williams’ friend/teammate Kelly Maxwell. In many ways, Kelly starts off as a basic “strong female character.” She puts Ash in his place when he tries to flirt with her and is basically angry all the time and bitterly sarcastic. In a lot of shows, this would have ticked off all the boxes for their required strong female elements, but over the seasons of the show, Kelly has proven to be more than that. Her attitude is linked to her life and past rather than just it just being a personality trait. Better yet, she even becomes more comfortable showing other parts of her personality including extreme loyalty to her friends and loved ones.

 

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Kelly, Image: STARZ

 

Kelly becomes even more interesting as a character when you compare her with her counterpart on Ash’s team, Pablo Simon Bolivar. Rather than just having Kelly fill in what may be considered the more feminine role on the team, most of that role sits comfortably with Pablo. Kelly is the one who takes to fighting more naturally and it’s Kelly who formulates a lot of strategy and planning. Additionally, when it comes for the group to take a break, Kelly is the one who grows restless with no demons to battle while Pablo is perfectly content to stay in town with Ash to both support him and set up a food cart. Pablo is the one serving as the emotional heart and team cheerleader. Best of all, it isn’t a bad thing and he still is a force to be reckoned with on his own.

 

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Pablo and Kelly, Image: STARZ

 

I personally find it very exciting to find awesome ladies in surprising places. Ash Vs Evil Dead proves that you can not only reboot an older male-focused property but also update the story to include more women characters who serve as much more than plot devices. There are rumors that the third season of this show could very well be the last, so if you’re a fan of kickass ladies and inventive horror action sequences, you should be getting your hands on this in hopes that the series might continue a bit longer. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. I certainly was.

 

 

Ready, Player One?

Hey all – Today we bring you a guest post from Honorary Lady, The Goog. He went to see Ready Player One this weekend, and since Tiny Doom opted out on this one, we asked him to share his thoughts. Ready? Go…

This is going to be heavily laden with spoilers about the plot (or lack thereof), and less spoilery about the movies easter eggs.

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Hello internet, it’s The Goog, aka Castle Thunder Graphics, aka Dan and I enjoyed Ready Player One.

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I’m Mario, Donkey Kong is the Internet, the barrels are opinions.

 …okay, I see some of you are still here, so let’s chat.
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Love to Hate: Rock-a-Doodle

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Edmond the kitten and his animal friends. Copyright MGM

Author’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on my old site, The Ink and Pixel Club.

Back when I was blogging solo, I posted about a “How many of these animated movies have you seen” meme. Afterwards, I got an e-mail from my dad.  He mostly wanted to share his reactions to animated films he had enjoyed, such as The Incredibles, The Triplets of Belleville, and WALL-E – which Dad thinks should have won Best Picture.  (Have I mentioned that I love my dad?)  But it wasn’t all praise.  Dad also wanted to chide me for awakening his long dormant and thoroughly unpleasant memory of Don Bluth’s Rock-a-Doodle, a movie which he now remembers as being “god awful.”

After reading his e-mail, I decided that I had to rewatch Rock-a-Doodle and write about my impressions.  Despite Dad’s negative memories and my own vague recollections of it being less than stellar, I tried to watch it with an open mind. I hadn’t seen it in over fifteen years.  Had my father and I been unfair?  Was this movie actually a flawed gem like The Secret of NIMH?  Or was it really the cinematic disaster that my dad remembered?

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The Red Menace’s Top Five Books of 2017

By all accounts, 2017 has been a difficult year, one plagued by natural disasters, tragedy, and a polarizing political climate. Yet, in spite of it all, or in some cases even because of it, we’ve been privy to some incredible stories this year – books that challenge, enlighten, inform and inspire. Here are a few of my favorites – some I’ve reviewed here before, some I haven’t. All of them are written by women.
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Smalerie Reads Christmas Comics: The Return

While it’s very possible that I’m the only one getting a kick out of these seasonal comic creations, this year I decided to revisit the ghosts of blog posts past and share some more holiday themed comics with you all.

 

The Last Christmas – Story by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, Art by Rick Remender

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Image: Image Comics

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