BREAKING DAWN, Part 2 (2012) is one of the livelier entries in the franchise as the Volturi become convinced Bella’s unnaturally fast-growing (is there any fantasy where they grow normally?) daughter is actually a vampirized child (strictly forbidden), which gives the Volturi leader the chance to crack down on the family. The Cullen response is to recruit allies among the world’s other vampires, along with the werewolves—but will it be enough? Livelier, certainly but also flawed—lots of time spent gasping at Bella’s new superhuman powers, the climactic battle turns out to be a cheat and having the daughter age fast doesn’t make Jacob imprinting on her any less creepy. The sheer variety of vampire powers also makes the vampires even less vampiric—the big battle could almost be X-Men vs. Brotherhood. Still, there are series that have bowed out on worse. “I prefer to meet my—special clients—in public.”
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) gives us the novelty of a female fantasy protagonist who doesn’t wear skintight leather and doesn’t wind up falling in love with anyone; that aside, a delightful film as Mia Wasikowska’s Alice falls down a rabbit hole into “Underland” to help White Queen Anne Hathaway and Mad Hatter Johnny Depp overthrow Red Queen Helena Bonham Carter and Knave of Hearts Crispen Glover; Alan Rickman plays the Caterpillar, Stephen Fry Voices the Cheshire Cat, Michael Gough does the Dodo and Christopher Lee voices the Jabberwocky on the Frabjous Day when he and Alice have their smackdown (thereby confirming the tradition of All-Star Casting in film Alices, but to much better effect than usual). “Six impossible things—count them, Alice.”
SHARPE’S SIEGE has the scheming spymaster Ducot try to abort Wellington’s invasion of France by convincing him Bordeaux is dying for the chance to rise up against Napoleon. When Sharpe and his Rifles go ahead to investigate, they wind up trapped in a useless fort (guns spiked, gates gone, powder supplies ruined), struggling to fend off the French army and warn Wellington of the trap. That Sharpe’s new wife may be dying of malaria doesn’t improve his mood … Good, as usual.
DOCTOR WHO: The Web Planet has the TARDIS mysteriously dragged down to a barren planet dominated by the ant-man Zarbi whom the mind-controlling Animus is employing to destroy the world’s rightful owners, the man-moth Menopterans. Unique in having no humans other than the regular cast, this is a weirdly alien story (in a good way) though it does suffer from the limited budget (the Zarbi look like a pantomime horse converted into an ant) and William Hartnell’s forgetting his lines a lot. Even so, this is a really good one; Barbara remains a strong companion (as discussed here) and Vicki is much livelier than Susan. For more thoughts on Web Planet, check the TARDIS Eruditorum. “The Animus are evil—but the Menoptera are stronger than evil.”
Finally finished the second season of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: Following the appearance of Elena’s vampire lookalike Katerina at the end of last season, this has Elena enmeshed in a scheme by the ur-vampire Klaus to lift the curse that confines vampires to darkness; on top of the world’s toughest vampire showing up we get more witches and a few werewolves to liven up the mix. A very good ending (I won’t spoil it) has me looking forward to S3 (I should be starting it soon).