Shake Things Up: A Work In Progress by Brad Cotton

Title: A Work In Progress

Author: Brad Cotton

Genre: Literary Fiction

Where I Got It: Free ebook copy in exchange for review

Score: 5 out of 5

So.  On Monday morning my internet stopped working.  Just DIED.  A technician came to fix it, and about three hours later was still flabbergasted as to why it wasn’t working.  He left.  I spent the night without internet (and those who know me know that that’s like  not breathing for twelve hours!).  The technician came back Tuesday, and it was two pm before he finally got the internet working again.  By then I had gone approximately thirty hours without internet, and I was definitely feeling the withdrawal symptoms.  The point of all this is, however, that this period of internetlessness left me with some free time.  During which I read all of A Work In Progress in two or three sittings.

And let me begin by saying: this is a good book.

A Work In Progress, by Brad Cotton, is about a writer named Danny Bayle.  Now, Danny Bayle’s life kind of sucks.  Four years ago he wrote a mediocre novel and hasn’t written much of anything since.  His girlfriend of five years, Carah, has left him and moved to France.  His grandfather, who was like a father to him, has died.  And he’s barely done anything in months but mope, and drink, and complain about his inability to write.

Then, one day, he decides its time to take control of his life, try new thing, meet new people, etc.  He starts a casual relationship with a woman.  Joins a support group for depression.  Makes friends with an artist named Katie.  And even decided to take drum lessons at one point.  Of course, none of this makes his life easier, exactly, especially when Carah starts calling from France out of the blue.  But it certainly makes his life a whole hell of a lot more interesting.

So, what I like about this novel… you know what, let’s start with what I didn’t like:

There are a couple summary exposition passages that feel a tad awkward and unnecessary to me, but this only happens a couple times, and doesn’t really hurt the story at all.  The other thing that bothers me is more of a problem, but still not enough to really hurt it:  I get the feeling that despite the fact that Carah dumped Danny and ran off to France we’re still supposed to like her, or at least sympathize with her to some extent.  One more than one occasion, in fact, Danny comment that the whole mess might have been his fault because he took her for granted.  But you never really get any sense for HOW Danny might have taken her for granted, whether this is a true assessment of their relationship, or why we the readers should have any sympathy for the woman who broke our “hero’s” heart.  We get some hints, and she seems nice enough in their phone conversations that its not completely out of the realm of possibility, but some more concrete evidence from their relationship would have helped me along here.

Now, on to what I liked:

Pretty much everything else.  The characters, all the characters including the many secondary characters, were well-written and well-rounded.  The best secondary characters: Casey – Danny’s best friend; Katie – the 19-year-old artist Danny befriends; and Mrs. Tierney – the owner of the sorta-kinda foster home where Katie lives.  These characters are interesting, fun, and eminently likable.

And then there’s the main character, Danny Bayle.  This is a character that I think many people, especially fellow writers, can relate to.  I know I certainly did.  And that’s not to say that I’m a guy, or that I’ve published a novel (mediocre or otherwise), or that I’ve ever been in a relationship for anything close to five years, or that I’m a drinker or have ever had weed (Danny does a lot in this book, whereas I thankfully skipped that lesson in my high school and college education).  But, I could very easily relate to the writer who is trying so hard to write and not getting anywhere, who is lonely and completely dissatisfied with his life, and who desperately needs to change things, find new outlets, meet new people, and really shake things up.  I feel like that all the damn time.

I think at least one or two things about this character should appeal to most people.

As for the plot, well this is literary fiction, so of course its extremely character-driven.  In fact, it doesn’t feel so much like a plot with clearly defined beginning, middle, and end, as it does a momentary camera focus on a point in Danny’s life when a series of somewhat unrelated events and people all conspire to make Danny the person he was meant to be.  And this is a good thing.  Because real life is not like a well-planned clearly-defined plot.  It is, of course, verisimilitude and not fact, but this book does a very good job of mimicking real life.  It’s one of those stories that makes me want to ask how much of it is based on the author’s life, even though I know that from a craft perspective that’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to ask.  You’re supposed to take a story on its own merits, not as some kind of extension of the author’s biography. Still, a story that feels this real kind of makes it impossible not to ask.

In other words, folks, this is a very good book, that you should definitely check out.  I really really enjoyed reading it, and I think you will too.

Here’s a link to Brad Cotton’s website, and here’s where you can buy the book on Amazon: A Work In Progress.

Review of Dominant Race by Elisa Nuckle

Title: Dominant Race

Author: Elisa Nuckle

Genre: Fantasy/Scifi

Where I Got It: bought a Kindle copy

Score: 3 out of 5

Dominant Race is a novella by Elisa Nuckle, one of my blog and Twitter buddies and a fellow Houstonian.  It is the first in a series about a race of genetically modified humans who have been spliced with various animals.  Dominant Race focuses on Lilia, a wolf modified who leaves the safety of her family’s cabin hidden in the woods in order to help a modified militia that includes her love interest, Avari.  The modified militia faces enemies on two sides: the normal humans who fear and sometimes oppress the modified, and Sanders – a rogue modified who kills humans and modified alike in his crazed pursuit of war.

What I Liked:

The premise of this novella is intriguing and fun.  Genetic modification is a subject I find absolutely fascinating, and it can usually make for some cool stories and fun characters.  The dystopian setting was also interesting.  The way Elisa took American city names and deconstructed him (like Neyork, for instance), and also made mentions of “old” technologies and customs throughout the story was a nice touch.

The main character, Lilia, was likable and easy to relate to.  She’s feisty, stubborn, and intelligent.  I always like tough female characters, and Lilia fills the role nicely.  There is a point near the end where she behaves in a way that seems out of character to me, even given the extenuating circumstances of the scene, but for the most part she is a consistently-written and enjoyable character.  You’ll definitely be rooting for her.

What I Didn’t Like:

Okay, the basic idea of the plot works well for the most part, but I think it suffers from its length.  I really believe this story needed to be a full length novel rather than a novella.  There is too much going on too quickly, without enough exposition or description, and with too many character names floating around, attached to secondary characters that are sometimes fine and sometimes just don’t have enough description or importance attached to them for me to keep track of everyone.

I think the novella as a whole should definitely be decompressed, as it were, with a little more exposition and description here and there, a bit more space between events for the reader to sort through what’s happened and who’s been introduced and where its going next.  Still, the first two-thirds of the novella are manageable, and were certainly still interesting enough to keep me reading.  However, the last part of the novella, Chapter 14-18 to be exact, were very difficult for me to read.  I had to re-read a few sections several times to make sure I’d understood what had just happened.  And while SOME of that may simply have been my fault for reading too quickly or something, at least some of it could have been helped by slowing down the prose a bit.  Things sometimes jumped from one sentence to the next without enough concrete description.  And the appearance of at least two characters is so sudden and without any kind of foreshadowing that they felt a little too “dues ex machina” (or even non sequitur) for my taste.

As for the love sub-plot: it was… okay.  There was some effort to develop the relationship between Lilia and Avari in a natural way, rather than having them fall into instant lust.  But I don’t feel like I know enough about Avari and why Lilia would love him, for it to completely work for me.  He’s also out of the picture for a good chunk of the story, and their reunion is just a touch too easy to be entirely believable.  But, again, I think much of this is a problem of the length.

I know the “What I Don’t Like “ section is a quite a bit longer than the “What I Like” section is, but I really do think most of the problems with this story could have been solved by simply making it longer and more detailed.  With more time/space to develop the characters and relationships, to bring in more description and more transition from one plot element to the next, the interesting premise could have been a much stronger story.  However, I think the intriguing premise and the likable main character are able carry a lot of the weight of the problems.  Dominant Race is an admirable first effort, and the world-building is interesting enough that I will be back to read the next installment in the series.  I’m really looking forward to watching Elisa Nuckle grow.

Please check out Elisa Nuckles’ blog, and the page for Dominant Race, with all the options for buying.

And the Dark Knight Rises Again

I would like to begin by saying that the violence in Aurora, Colorado is a horrible shock and tragedy, and my thoughts are with all the victims and their families.  I saw the news this morning, and I have trouble comprehending how such a thing can happen.  I just don’t understand how a person can do such a thing.  I understand that some people are nervous about the possibilities of a copy-cat, but some of the comments from people who think that Warner Bros. should pull Dark Knight Rises from theatres just do not make sense to me.  You can blame the movie or the movie industry for the actions of a madman (and this man clearly has mental issues), and it would be unreasonable to penalize the movie or the industry because of this.

My brother and I had made plans to go see Dark Knight Rises today, and even after we heard the news about the shooting, we decided to go anyway.  We went to an early afternoon IMAX showing, and it was still a sold-out show.

I’m afraid I won’t actually be able to say much, because I’m TERRIFIED of accidentally revealing too much — and this is NOT a movie that should be ruined for anyone.  So I’m just going to say a few vague words and assure you all that it is DEFINITELY DEFINITELY worth seeing.

Let me start with the obvious: I love Batman, I love Christian Bale, and I love Christopher Nolan movies.  I was BLOWN AWAY by both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.  And while I had been watching the casting for this third movie with some trepidation (it seemed like Nolan was casting too many big names, which hinted to me that he might have bitten off more than he could chew), I was still extremely excited to see this movie.  I had some pretty high expectations.  This movie met (and in some cases exceeded) all of them.

As always, Christian Bale was brilliant.  I was also seriously impressed by Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selena Kyle.  Of course, Tom Hardy is also amazing, and he was fantastically threatening as Bane.  And Joseph Gordon-Levitt was wonderful as Blake as well.  I especially really liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, in fact.  He’s a younger cop, working with Gordon, and he’s just really REALLY likable.

Visually, this movie was STUNNING.  I saw it in IMAX, and the cityscapes: OMG! Seriously. AMAZING.  Also, one of the complaints I’ve had about Nolan in the past is that his fight scenes are often extremely difficult to follow.  He uses ultra-close close-ups so that everything is blurry and you’re too close to the body to see who’s hitting who, etc.  He seems to have learned his lesson in this movie, and the fight scenes were MUCH more clear and easy to follow.  They were also BRUTAL.  The fight scenes between Batman and Bane: oh WOW.  INTENSE.

And, of course, the writing was fantastic.  I have a few small complaints, but I don’t want to get into them because they would all reveal too much, and they were small enough not to injure the movie much.

A couple other complaints I have: another problem that seems to be common with Nolan is some imbalances with the sound.  There are a number of places in the movie were the score drowns out the dialogue so you really cannot tell what the people are saying.  Also, despite Nolan having gone back in to fix things after initial complaints, there are a few points where it is difficult to understand what Bane is saying through the mask.

Also, there was not NEARLY enough Michael Caine as Alfred.  I won’t get into why, but he just didn’t get as much screen time as he deserved.  I also have some detail-oriented issues with a few plot devices, especially at the end.  One thing about Nolan: he is a fantastic, brilliant “BIG ideas” man, but he sometimes trips up on the details.  That is obvious in a few places in this movie.

And I haven’t quite decided how I feel about the ending.

Despite these small complaints (and they really are only small complaints) this was an absolutely brilliant movie.  Intelligent, intense, visually gorgeous, with some great writing, and just about perfect casting/acting.  It is a fitting end to this particular Batman era, and definitely does justice to the hopes and expectations raised by The Dark Knight, and you should all go see it as soon as possible.

As for me: I’ll probably be seeing again soon.  It’s definitely a more-than-once kind of movie.  That’s for damn sure.

Side note: I had a pretty cool experience on Thursday night (which is why I didn’t go to a midnight release showing of Dark Knight Rises in the first place), and hopefully I’ll be able to write it all down on sunday.  ‘Cause it was pretty damn cool.

This Is Your Brain on Awesome

Title: This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

Author: Daniel Levitin

Genre: Non-Fiction, Popular Science

Where I Got It: Bought it

Score: 6! out of 5

WARNING: Gratuitous use of ALL CAPS and cursing, lots of cursing.  Sorry, I try not to curse on this blog too much, but when I get really excitable I drop the F-Bomb. A LOT.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 

I don’t read non-fiction books very often.  Or rather, I don’t voluntarily read non-fiction books that are required for my graduate classes very often.  I used to in high school and early in my college career, but when you’re in graduate school and most of what you read is heavy-theory, or historical criticism, or some such thing, you really just want to read fun popular fiction on your off-time.  And that’s mostly what I do.  I read fantasy, scifi, YA, and so forth.  But I’ve been meaning to get back into reading science books (reminder: I used to be a Physics major and I MISS my science classes), and I’ve actually had this book sitting on a shelf for three years now, so I figured I’d finally get around to reading it.

I bought it way back then because a) it was a science book and I’m always like: Yay, science! and b) because it was about music, and my life RUNS on music.  Seriously.  So, I was pretty certain I was going to love this book once I got around to it.

But OH. MY. GOD.  I cannot tell you how awesome this book is! It BLEW MY MIND!

Okay, okay, before I devolve totally into gratuitous cap letters, here’s what This Is Your Brain On Music is about:  Daniel Levitin started out as a member of a mediocre rock band.  But when he was in the studio recording with his band, he discovered he was actually a very good music engineer/producer, and eventually that’s what he became.  And he worked with some VERY BIG names in the business, including (just as an example): The Who.  Yeah. THE FUCKING WHO.  (Can I have this man’s life?)  Well, eventually, Daniel Levitin got more and more interested in exactly how the brain processes music, where music comes from, why it’s so universally important, etc.  And he went back to college and GOT A PHD IN NEUROSCIENCE with a specialization in music cognition.  Because apparently he is just that fucking awesome.  He then went on to work with some VERY BIG NAMES in neuroscience, including, just for the sake of name dropping: OLIVER SACKS.  (If you’re into science, you’ll realize how BIG that name is – and OMG can I please have this man’s life?)  AND THEN he started his own fucking lab to study music and the brain.

And after all that was done, HE WROTE A FUCKING BOOK ABOUT IT ALL.  And voila.  Here we are.

Of course, it’s difficult to give reviews of non-fiction books.  There are no plots and not often many characters, exactly.  This book goes through the basic units of what turns sound into music.  It talks about how the brain processes and understands music, why we couldn’t have music without the memory systems are brains are built with, why we get earworms – those songs that stick in your head forever, how music may have evolved from our caveman days, why it takes aprox. 10,000 hours of practice to become an “expert” at anything, and why there might not be any such thing as “natural talent” after… just to name a few topics.  He covers neurobiology, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, empirical philosophy, Gestalt psychology, memory theory, categorization theory, neurochemistry, and exemplar theory in relation to music theory and history.  All in about 300 pages.

And he does all of this with great metaphors to explain the more complicated and less intuitive science concepts, plenty of examples for real music that most people should recognize, a wonderfully light, humorous writing style, and an enormous love and respect for music that shines through every single word.

I cannot express how much I LOVE this book.  I have been raving about it to anyone who listen.  Most of my friends.  My mother.  My brother.  I have told practically everyone I know that THEY NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.  And I’m telling you all now too.  YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.  If you like science.  If you like music.  If you just like GOOD non-fiction.  YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.

IT WILL BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND.

You will probably come out the other side wanting to be a neuroscientist.  Or a musician.  Or both.  If you ever played an instrument and let it fall by the wayside, I guarantee you this book will make you at least WANT to start practicing again.  It might actually get you ACTUALLY PRACTICING AGAIN.  You will have a new appreciation for not only the amount of work it takes to play music, but also the kind of brain power and evolutionary luck it takes JUST TO LISTEN TO MUSIC.  You will be amazed by how many different parts of the brain have to be in operating condition just to understand what you’re listening to.  And HOW AMAZING IT IS THAT WE CAN REMEMBER ALMOST EVERY SONG WE HERE MORE THAN ONCE.  Apparently babies ACTUALLY REMEMBER THE SONGS THEY HEAR IN THE WOMB!!!!  FUCK YEAH!

BUY THIS BOOK.  Go to Amazon right now.  Here.  Here’s the link: This Is Your Brain On Music.

AND ENJOY THE MIND-BLOWING EXPERIENCE.

Come see me when you’re done and just try to tell me it wasn’t worth every fucking penny.  I DARE YOU.

They Finally Got It Right: A Review of The Amazing Spider Man

On Sunday I went to see The Amazing Spider Man, the newest reboot of the Spider Man franchise.  When I first heard that Marvel was once again trying to make a Spider Man movie I was pretty skeptical about it.  But when I saw the first full trailer I got pretty excited, and I had pretty high hopes going into it. And, for the most part, I’d say this movie met them.  They’ve finally done Spider Man RIGHT.

The Amazing Spider Man (directed by Marc Web) once again revisits Spider Man’s origin story, this time paying a bit more attention to the original comics than the Tobey Maguire movies did.  I assume by now that most people (if not everyone) knows what the basic origin story is, right?  I don’t want to give too much away, but I think it’s safe to talk about the basics: Peter Parker’s parents disappear one night when he’s young, leaving him in the care of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and never returning.  It’s presumed they are dead, though it is never confirmed.  Peter Parker, now a teenager in high school, is a bit of a geek/outcast, with more smarts than he really knows what to do with, and who has a crush on beautiful, popular Gwen Stacey.  Then, in a series of events that I’ll let you watch (the way they did in this movie was actually pretty funny), Peter is bitten by a genetically-altered spider, and everything gets crazy for him from there.

One of the main things this version did right was the simple fact of Gwen Stacey’s presence in the movie.  Most non-comics fans are only really familiar with Mary-Jane as Peter’s love interest, but in the comics Gwen Stacey is around first and for a long time before Mary-Jane shows up.  Mary-Jane only because the love interest as Gwen has died – no, I’m not giving away anything, I swear: Gwen does not die in the movie, and I have NO IDEA how or even IF the movies will deal with that plot line from the comics.  In any case, I was so happy Gwen was in this movie.  I’ve always found Mary-Jane to be a fairly annoying character, actually, and I’ve always liked Gwen much MUCH more.  And, of course, Emma Stone did a superb job portraying her: she’s whip-smart, spunky, and compassionate.

Then, of course, there is the casting choice for Peter/Spider Man.  Andrew Garfield was the PERFECT choice.  He looks right – he’s got the long, thin, wiry look to him that just works for Spider Man.  He gave the character so much of the sarcasm and feistiness that was missing in the Tobey Maguire versions, and while he has a few moments of angst, he’s not whiny like Tobey Maguire’s version was.  He really just did a fantastic job with the character. Also, the suit looks AWESOME.

And the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone! I’ve been reading comments about it on various pre-release comments and reviews for a while, and they are not exaggerated.  The chemistry was wonderfully palpable.  It’s easy to believe that these two actors ended up dating in real life.  They just look RIGHT together.

The one complaint I’ve heard is that while the scenes between Peter and Gwen are well done: well-written, well-acted, etc, the constant back and forth between the slower relationship scenes and the more action-y plot-important scenes slows the pace down too much in the movie.  I haven’t decided yet exactly how I feel about it.  For the most part I disagree.  As I was watching it, I didn’t feel that the pace suffered much, if at all.  However, when I think about it, I can still see how someone might make that argument.  I myself was fine with the way they did it: the movie is, to me at least, more about the relationships, and about Peter’s personal growth, and the focus doesn’t necessary NEED to stay exclusively on the action/adventure stuff.  But if you go into really wanting it to be a high-energy action film (like Avengers, perhaps) you will be just a touch disappointed by the slower pace.

That is, however, the ONLY criticism I think anyone can really make about the movie.

The plot, despite the relationship stuff, is still important and tense.  And I really like the villain, Curt Connors (aka, Lizard).  What I liked is that he’s not REALLY a villain.  I mean, he’s not evil.  He’s sympathetic, and we as an audience get to watch his slow slide into bad decisions and madness.  He feels very human and flawed and desperate, rather than some kind of cliché, over-the-top, one-dimensional comic book villain.  And I really appreciated that.

And then, of course, the cinematography (by John Schwartzmann) was wonderful.  Absolutely GORGEOUS to watch.  Rich color, detailed settings – with some really great shots of New York City, and some great angles and panning shots too.  I’ve read a criticism about the musical score (by James Horner, of course) somewhere (I can’t remember where now) but I don’t really agree.  I thought the score had great power and emotion, some dark lows and some bright highs, and a big epic feeling.

All in all, The Amazing Spider Man was a fantastic, wonderfully enjoyable movie, and I highly recommend it to anyone who looks comic book movies, or just a good adventure film.

Now, for a look at some of the science behind the movie, please check out my friend Andrew Kincaid’s discussion: “Comic Book Science Is Right For Once (Sort Of) – A Qausi-Review of The Amazing Spider Man.”

Family Troubles in Disney/Pixar’s Brave

So, I saw Disney/Pixar’s Brave on Sunday.  And let me just say: it was gorgeous!  Visually it was absolutely stunning, and every other review I’ve read so far agrees on that point at the very least.  The scene design, the colors, the lighting, the character design – all rich and detailed and full of depth and emotion.  A feast for the eyes.  Art in motion.  Seriously.  It’s obvious that the animators took a lot of time to study Scotland’s landscapes, fell in love with it, and decided to share that love with the world (of course, who doesn’t fall in love with Scotland’s landscapes?)

Now, as for the rest of it.  I’ve read a few reviews that have been absolutely and completely glowing, but I think most people seem to agree with my general impression: while Brave was definitely enjoyable, and I liked it, the storytelling was simply not up to par with Pixar’s usual work.

The previews give you the basic premise: Princess Merida, with her boisterous, somewhat goofy father, the king, and her strict, prim and proper mother, the queen, is supposed to choose a first-born son from one of the other clans to marry.  But Merida is head-strong and boisterous like her father, enjoys the unladylike pursuits of horseback riding and archery, and has no intention of getting married any time soon.  So she goes to a witch (always a bad idea) to get a spell that will “change her fate.”  As always in these things, she doesn’t quite get what she’d intended and things go downhill from there.

What I liked about this movie was that it was family-centered.  The drama and conflict is between a headstrong daughter and her strict mother; it is about a family that is tearing itself apart because the mother believes in upholding tradition and the daughter wants to break away and “make her own fate.”  There is no prince in this story, there is no romance sub-plot and there isn’t even really a “real villain.”  It’s all about the family.  And I liked that.

I also really liked Merida.  She’s feisty and strong and stubborn and smart.  And, of course, she’s flawed and makes some less-than-stellar choices.  However, I don’t think the writers give her enough to do, quite frankly.  While I liked the idea of a conflict centered on the family, there just wasn’t enough going on in this movie.  And I think the mother, Queen Elinor, kind of steals the show.  In a lot of ways she’s as much the main character as Merida is.

Some people have complained about the way the father, King Fergus, is portrayed.  He is a bit goofy, a bit hapless, and it is clear very quickly that Queen Elinor is the one in charge of that particular household.  And some people have not been happy about that, complaining that this portrayal makes the father an idiot, which is an insult to fathers (I would imagine that complaint mainly comes from men).  But here’s the thing: I don’t think they make King Fergus an idiot.  He’s big and loud and friendly.  He’s a warrior who’s more comfortable on the battlefield or hunting, rather than playing diplomat or administrator.  Queen Elinor just happens to be the one who’s better at the social niceties, the administrative duties and the public speaking.  That doesn’t make Fergus an idiot.  And, let’s be frank, it is very common for the father to be the fun-loving, I-don’t-want-to-discipline-the-children type, and for the mother to be the one in charge of keeping the family under control.

All that being said, the plot was a bit formulaic.  A princess that refuses to choose a husband, making a wish that backfires, etc… it’s all be done before.  Of course, everything’s been done before, and there’s nothing wrong with taking an old premise and building something new on top of it, but I don’t think Pixar did a particularly good job of building something new on top of it this time around.

While I enjoyed the movie, and it was certainly a pleasure to look at, it was not particularly riveting, or emotionally impactful, or even particularly new.  And it certainly won’t be replacing any of my current favorites.  In terms of family-centered drama, it comes nowhere close to either Finding Nemo or The Incredibles (my two favorite Pixar movies).  And in terms of feisty female leads, or humor, it can’t even touch Mulan or Tangled.

So, in recap: Brave was fun, it was beautiful to look at, I enjoyed it, and I definitely recommend it if you like Disney/Pixar movies, but don’t expect it to blast any earlier Disney/Pixar movies out of the water.

My Theory on “The Reichenbach Fall”

Okay, hopefully this will be the last Sherlock-related post you have to deal with from me for awhile.  Maybe…  We’ll see.  I’ve watched the whole show twice through now, and I’ve watched the final episode, “The Reichenbach Fall,” three times.  (I’ve also gotten both my mother and my friend, Nathan, to watch the first episode, and will soon be making sure they watch the rest of the series too.)

While watching “The Reichenbach Fall” I actually sat down and took THREE PAGES of notes (and my handwriting is small, so that’s a lot of notes).  And I THINK I may have found a small detail/clue that might be the one Steven Moffat was hinting at.  Now, I haven’t read every single comment, tweet, blog post, etc ever written on the subject of the last episode and theories about how Sherlock faked his death, and I doubt I’m the only who to ever notice this.  HOWEVER, based on the blog posts, comments, etc. that I HAVE read, it doesn’t look as if many people have noticed it yet, at least.  This little detail, that I’ll actually tell you about in a minute, doesn’t (I think) really change the basic theories that have been thrown around about how Sherlock faked his death, but I think it does help to confirm the theory (at least if I’m not seeing things).

So, before I get into explaining my theory, here are a few of the things that I took notice of while watching the episode that directly impact my theory.  All of these are things that others have mentioned/noticed before, though some people don’t notice them all at the same time.  I’m just laying them all out for you here. (Don’t worry, I’m not typing out all three pages of notes, just some of the major things).

- we know that Moriarty creates an alias, Richard Brook, who is an actor; we can assume he had access to other “actors”

- Molly notes, long before Sherlock admits that he knows that Moriarty is trying to ruin his reputation, that he looks sad when he thinks no one is looking (or more specifically when he thinks John isn’t looking), thus implying that Sherlock already suspected that the end game would be his death

- the girl who was kidnapped by Moriarty (or more likely, Moriarty’s men) sees Sherlock and screams, thus implying that Moriarty has some kind of Sherlock impersonator (an actor?) who looks enough like Sherlock to convince a girl she has seen Sherlock before

- we, of course, know that Sherlock goes to Molly for help – though he does not, of course, specify what he wants her to do, we know that Molly is the coroner, which gives us some ideas

- and of course it is obvious that Moriarty does not think about Molly and so can’t anticipate Sherlock’s plan, because he claims to be threatening the only three people in the entire world that Sherlock cares about: John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade (one would assume he doesn’t bother with Mycroft because Sherlock ACTS as if he doesn’t care about him, AND Mycroft would be ridiculously difficult to get to, even for Moriarty)

- I have watched and watched and watched and I’m almost certain that Sherlock and Moriarty are alone on that roof top (of course, if they were playing tricks with the camera angles, we’d have no way of knowing, and that’d be cheating)

- I’m almost certain that Moriarty is really dead (though no one mentions finding his body at the end of the episode, so who knows?): Sherlock is standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM when he shoots himself in the head, they show the body quite clearly at several angles, and there is no one else on the roof, so I’m pretty damn sure Moriarty is staying dead

- Sherlock is definitely the one who jumps off that roof, (in other words, there is no way he just threw an already-dead body off the ledge): they show him quite clearly standing on the roof with the phone, talking to John who’s standing below (and the camera angle again leaves little doubt that there is no one else on the roof, and Sherlock is not holding up a dead body in front of him or something like that); his arms and legs are actively flailing as he falls (so its definitely not a dead body) (Also, on a side note, Sherlock is crying in this scene. CRYING. It’s so hard to tell how much of that is real with him, though.)

- The camera actually blinks out for a second right before the body hits the ground and changes angles, so we DO NOT see one straight shot of Sherlock jumping, falling, and landing.  AND there is a truck full of bags – trash? old hospital gowns? – RIGHT beside where the body lands.

- John is standing below, near the building, but he’s at an angle to the point where the body lands, and he has to round a corner to actually see the body.  Plus, he is struck by the man on the bike (which I am, like everyone else, assuming was planned – perhaps one of Sherlock’s homeless network?), so that he is not the first to reach the body.  By the time John gets up and over to the body the truck has driven away and the body is surrounded by other people.

And now we come to the detail that none of the other theories/blogs I’ve read have mentioned: in all the scenes prior to Sherlock jumping off the roof (sitting in the lab with John, telling John to go check on Mrs. Hudson without him, and going up to the roof to meet Moriarty), he is wearing his purple shirt.  Now, I could be wrong, and I want some others to take a look and tell me what you think, but I’ve looked and looked and looked, and I’m pretty sure the shirt the body is wearing a dark navy or gray shirt.  What do you think?  Am I just seeing things?

This, to me, confirms that the body John sees on the sidewalk is NOT Sherlock.  Obviously, plenty of people had already assumed that (though I also read one or two theories that he said he took something to make his heart slow to near-death), but this would seem to be proof.

So, here’s my theory, which is not at all different than most of the others, though perhaps a bit more specific.

Having figured out what Moriarty intends, and having guessed that Moriarty must have had some kind of Sherlock-impersonator in order to frighten the kidnapped girl – Sherlock finds (or has someone) find the impersonator (who, I would assume, Moriarty had already had killed and hidden somewhere).  He enlists Molly’s help to prepare the corpse, and to later (after the jump) to make sure she is the one who does the autopsy/coroner’s report.  He enlists the help of his homeless network or others to have the body ready in the truck (and to keep John distracted for a moment).  When Moriarty kills himself, taking away Sherlock’s last ditch effort to avoid the faking-his-death scenario, Sherlock does in fact jump from the roof, landing in the truck, at which point the person helping him throws out the body of the impersonator (dressed, of course, in Sherlock’s clothes), which John does not see because it’s around the corner.  And then the truck drives away, with Sherlock probably injured but relatively whole.  John, being distraught and, of course, looking into a face that’s smashed and bloody, is fooled by the impersonator – though I would guess that a very thorough report on Molly’s part to keep him from suspecting after the fact.

So, there’s my theory.  At least for now.

I’d like to think I’ve got it figured out.  But I have no delusions of grandeur and I have no doubt that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are WAY smarter and way more devious than I am, so they’ve probably got something up there sleeve that I’ll never see coming.  But it was a ton of fun trying to figure it out.

For an even better run-down, check out this beauty from Flick Filosopher.

There are plenty of other little things of note through out the episode that are fun to point out, but don’t bare specifically on my theory.  For instance: the “I O U” message spray-painted on a wall across the street of 221B Baker Street when John is jumping into the cab to go after Sherlock.  Moriarty’s ring tone is “Staying Alive” which cracks me up and plays to the whole theme of the episode.  I’m wondering if the gunman who was trained on John might be Sebastien Moran (maybe?).  All the references to Bach seem important: Reichenbach, Rich Brook (Brook being “bach” in German); “Bach couldn’t stand an unfinished melody,” the fake key code is a melody by Bach (Partita #1, I think Moriarty says) – but I’m not entirely sure what all of that points to.

Of course, I still have questions.  For one, the sudden introduction of the Chief Superintendent, who orders Lestrade to arrest Sherlock, seems important to me.  When you’re dealing with the kind of economy of time/movement/character that you are in a movie or tv show, every new character needs to be there for a good reason.

Also, WHY IN HELL’S NAME, if Mycroft had Moriarty captures and in a secure facility, would he EVER let him go again? I keep wondering if Mycroft has more to do with this than we realize.  Perhaps he orchestrated the whole thing to get Sherlock out of the country for some covert job?  He would certainly be able to get a hold of a Sherlock look-alike for the body-swap.

And lastly: how in hell’s name is Sherlock going to clear his name?!

Okay, I’ll stop bothering you with posts about Sherlock for awhile now (maybe…).  Oh, except to give you the best Sherlock fan-girl Tumblr blog EVER: We’re Basically Filling In For Your Skull; which is the perfect thing to help keep you sane while we wait for the new episodes.  Just be aware that there is some spoilery stuff on there if you haven’t seen season 2 yet.

God, those EYES! I can’t even–! GAH!

Wizards and Wolves: Review of Fool Moon, Dresden Files Book #2

Title: Fool Moon (Dresden Files Book #2)

Author: Jim Butcher

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Detective

Where I Got It: Borrowed from my mother

Score: 5 out of 5

So, my mother’s been reading The Dresden Files for a few years (though she’s a few books behind now).  Back in 2007, when the tv show came out on Scifi Channel, I watched it, though I hadn’t read the books, and I really liked it.  I know some fans of the books don’t much like the tv show, but I really enjoyed it.  I like Paul Blackthorne, the stories were fun, and I was sad when it wasn’t renewed for a second season.  Still, I knew I needed to read the books eventually, and last winter break I FINALLY got around to reading the first book (which I did not write a review for, sorry).  Though I can tell you this, I like almost everything about the book better than the show (especially Karrin Murphy – I have no idea why they changed her so much in the tv show), EXCEPT for Bob.  I miss Bob from the tv show. *sigh*

Anyway, I finished book 2 almost two weeks ago (I know, I know, it took me long enough to get around to the review), and I thought I’d share my thoughts on it, though it is far from a new book for most everyone else.

For those who aren’t familiar, The Dresden Files series is about Harry Dresden, a real-life wizard who lives in Chicago and works as a private investigator of a sort.  He will find missing people and things, take care of hauntings, etc… but no, he will NOT do love potions.  Of course, most people think he’s a crackpot, but Detective Karrin Murphy of Police Special Investigations believes him just enough to often ask for his help on cases that just don’t make conventional sense.  There is also the problem of the White Council, a ruling body of wizards with very strict rules about how wizards should behave – who don’t like Harry much.  There’s way more, of course, but I won’t go into now.

So, we come to book 2, Fool Moon, which finds Harry helping Karrin to investigate a series of extremely vicious murders that he suspects may be the work of werewolves, while also trying to keep ahead of the FBI, who have come to take over the case, don’t trust Karrin because of her past dealings with Harry, and don’t like Harry much at all.  Things get extra complicated in this book, as Karrin and the rest of the police begin to suspect Harry might be behind the murders, at least three different people want Harry dead, and he realizes that there are at least FOUR different kinds of werewolves involved.

What I Liked:

This book is so fast-paced its just ridiculous! I mean, my God, good luck catching your breath on this one! (I’ve just started reading book #3, Grave Peril, and that one looks to be the same way.)  I’ve mainly been reading YA so far this summer, this reading a more mature, darker, more fast-paced urban fantasy has been a joy.  I love how smart and dark this series is as a whole.  Butcher balances the fantasy elements and the detective story elements very well – because The Dresden Files ARE as much detective story as they are fantasy, and it’s obvious that Jim Butcher has a great love for both (and you all should know by now that I love both as well).

This books throws a lot of information at you very quickly, and runs through some pretty intense action scenes very quickly as well, and respects the readers enough to assume you’re going to keep up without having to slow down too much or over explain (though I do actually think there are one or two points where Butcher does over-explain, they are few and not too intrusive).

I did find in the first book of The Dresden Files, Storm Front, that it was obviously a first book.  Not to say that Storm Front isn’t a good book, because it is, but it was still obviously a freshman effort, so to speak.  I also had to take some time to get used to the first-person narration.  While first-person is common in some detective novels, it’s not so common anymore in fantasy, so that threw me off in the first book.  However, it is obvious that Butcher’s writing is improving steadily as he dives into Book 2, and I was more prepared for the first-person narration this time around.  I suspect each book will be just a bit better than the last.

Of course, I adore the main character, Harry Dresden.  While the plot lines are exciting and fun, and all the magic trappings are interesting and well thought-out, the real appeal, the only real reason people continue to read these books, is because of Harry Dresden.  He is a fantastic character: intelligent, gritty, sarcastic, chivalrous, very self-aware.  He’s self-deprecating, but he also has at least a basic idea of his own worth and skills.  He’s often scared, but brave enough to work past it.  He’s powerful, but not so powerful that everything comes to easily for him.  He’s endearing and sweet, and a hilarious bungler with women.  He’s honorable to a fault, despite himself.  And all the smart-ass remarks he either says or thinks, are just plain funny.

But,  of course, the plot – fast-paced, complicated, filled with dark motives and crazy-strong magic – was awesome too, but it’s hard to talk about without giving too much away, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

What I Didn’t Like:

Actually, I can’t think of much.  Again, there are a couple points when I think the narration falls into over-explanation, but that only happens a couple times.  And I do think the “wrap-up” chapter at the end is a bit too fast and cut-and-dry and sort of like reading the summarized conclusions of a science paper (okay, that’s a bit mean, but you get my drift).  But other than that, this book was pretty damn fantastic.

I have no doubt that many of you are already on board the Dresden Files bandwagon – I was a bit late to this particular party.  But still, if you haven’t read any of these books yet, I definitely recommend them. They are an absolute BLAST.  Here’s the Goodreads page; and here’s the Amazon page. Have at it!

As I mentioned, I have started reading Book #3 now, but I’m reading 3 books at once right now, and I’m also going on a trip at the end of the week, so it might be awhile before I finish it.  I’ll post a review of it whenever I do, though, I promise.

You can expect a review of Disney’s Brave tomorrow or Wednesday.  Til then, Bye!

Totally, Completely, and Ridiculously Obsessed With Sherlock, Pt 2

Totally, Completely, and RIDICULOUSLY OBSESSED with Sherlock, Pt 2: 

*drools*

Okay, where was I?  Oh yeah, raving about Sherlock like a lunatic.  That sounds about right.  Again, I want to remind you, if you have not watched Sherlock yet and intend to, DON’T read this.  There is absolutely no way to talk about this show without giving away too much, and these are MYSTERY stories after all.  It’s no nearly as much fun if you know what’s coming.  So, once again, if you haven’t seen this show yet, you can watch season 1 on Netflix streaming and season 2 on PBS.org (but PBS only has season 2 on their website for a limited amount of time, so you might want to get cracking).

As for me, I just caved and bought the DVDs on Amazon so I could watch the series again straight through, even if PBS gets rid of their videos.  Also, I want to show it to my mother and she doesn’t like watching things on the computer, so the DVDs will be useful.

And just to prove how obsessed I am, I also bought the Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows movie on Wednesday and watched it straight through twice.  And I’ve got a new hobby browsing through Sherlock fanart on DeviantArt.  Yeah, I’m pathetic, I know.  But that’s okay, I’m used to it by now.

So, let’s get down to business, shall we?

Next episode: “Hounds of Baskerville” –

Now, anyone who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes knows that The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most famous of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  It’s the third of the four novels Arthur Conan Doyle wrote along with the short stories about Sherlock Holmes.  Basic premise of the original novel: When Charles Baskerville, a baronet, is found dead on his estate of an apparent heart attack, his doctor James Mortimer fears that the only heir, Henry Baskerville might be the next to die.  It is revealed the Charles Baskerville believed in the legend of family curse that claimed a hellhound would kill all of the Baskerville family in retaliation for the death of a girl several generations ago.  Sherlock Holmes is called in to find out what really happened to Charles Baskerville, investigate the mysterious threatening letters Henry Baskerville has received, and decipher the truth behind the reports that a gigantic hound has been seen out on the moor.

In this modernized version of the story, Mark Gatiss has written something AWESOME. (Also, apparently Mark Gatiss the co-creator is the series is also the actor who plays Mycroft Holmes! Why didn’t I notice that before? WTF is wrong with me?)  In this incarnation, Henry Baskerville is a man who suffers from severe PTSD after seeing his father killed by a gigantic hound as a child twenty years ago.  He has been convinced by his therapist to return to the moor where his father was killed in order to jog his memories and prove to himself that he didn’t really see a monster.  However, when he goes he find enormous paw prints and is convinced that the monstrous hound is still there.  So he goes to Sherlock for help, who does not at first seem interested, until he learns that the moor is near Baskerville, a top-secret military facility where all kinds of scientific experiments are reported to take place.

Mark Gatiss takes a somewhat convoluted story about a pair of greedy people trying to literally scare a man to death in order to inherit his wealth, and turns it into a crazy awesome story about genetic experiments, the moralities of science, coming to terms with truth, AND greatest of all – Sherlock dealing with self-doubt and fear for practically the first time ever.

And Sherlock is definitely the highlight of this episodes (well, okay, all the episodes, but you know what I mean), because in one scene he is convinced that he has also seen the monstrous hound, even though he knows logically it cannot possibly exist.  He is actually afraid, and begins to doubt his senses, which practically never happens.  He takes it out on John more than a bit, which was part-sad, part-funny, but it was just so fascinating in terms of character development to witness Sherlock having to deal with doubt and fear even though he constantly claims to be in perfect control of his emotions.  The scene in the inn, when he’s sitting in front of the fireplace and freaking out (those of you who’ve seen it know the scene, I’m sure) was fantastic!

Of course, I felt REALLY bad for John in that scene too.  When John says that, as a friend, he’s worried about Sherlock, Sherlock shouts at him, tells him he has no friends, and to leave him alone.  It was SAD, damn it!  I just wanted to jump into the tv and hug Martin Freeman.  He’s just so damn adorable and likable!   Gah!

Ahem… anyway… yes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were wonderful as always in this episode (I am more than little in love with both of them), and they had a chance to stretch their emotional ranges a lot, which was a joy to watch. This is especially true for Benedict Cumberbatch, obviously, since he had to show Sherlock afraid and shaken, but still arrogant and sharp-tongued as ever. But Martin Freeman has this fantastic scene inside the Baskerville labs, where he thinks the hound has gotten loose inside and he’s locked in with it.  I love the way he tries so hard to stay calm and in control, but eventually completely panics and calls Sherlock to help him.  His voice cracks because he’s freaking out so bad, and it’s so funny!  And then it turns out that Sherlock was doing it all as an experiment, while he watches it on a CC-TV, and that made it even more hilarious.

There’s also a little part when John gets to use his army training, and pulls rank on the military base as he and Sherlock are pretending to be inspectors.  We don’t get to see the soldier-y side of John very often, and it’s always a pleasure, because John is completely bad-ass in those moments.

And the plot of the episode was absolutely awesome.  I tip my hat to Mark Gatiss for making the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles into something new and exciting and clever.  It fit the times, it fit the characters, it kept enough elements of the original story to satisfy all of us old-school fans, and it was just plain COOL.

And now – drum roll please – we come to thing we’ve all been waiting for, the big season finale, the epic episode of epicness: “The Reichenbach Fall” – (THERE ARE SO MANY SPOILERS IN THIS YOU WILL PROBABLY WANT TO KILL YOURSELF IF YOU READ IT BEFORE YOU WATCH THE EPISODE)

“The Reichenbach Fall” is based off the Sherlock Holmes story “The Final Problem,” one of the most famous stories and the one of only two stories in which Moriarty makes an actual appearance.  As you may have noticed from some of the comments I made on Facebook and Twitter, this episode was MIND-BLOWING. Just… just… MIND-BLOWING.  I can’t even…! Gah!

Okay, okay… deep breaths.

It opens with Sherlock becoming a minor celebrity as he helps solves higher-profile crimes, with higher-profile clients, and with the media and paparazzi taking notice and following him around.  While the title of the episode comes from the Riechenbach Falls (the waterfalls from which Sherlock Holmes falls to his apparent death in the original stories), in the context of the episode it comes from the name of the famous Turner painting he helps to recover, after which the press call him “The Reichenbach Hero.”  His growing fame apparently irks Moriarty, however, who (in order to get his attention, among other things), breaks into The Bank of England, Pentonville Prison, and the case where the Crown Jewels are kept – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  Like I said, MIND-BLOWING.  The scene, as he dancing around in front of the Crown Jewels and pressing buttons on his cell phone to open the prison, is hilarious and fantastic.  And then he climbs into the case with the jewels, sits on the throne, puts the crown on his head, and just SITS THERE waiting for the police to show up.

I mean, MY GOD, the man is INSANE.

All of this leads up to the main point, though, which is that Moriarty is slowly and subtly poisoning everyone against Sherlock, so that one a couple children are kidnapped, all the evidence could be construed to point to Sherlock.  And Sherlock and John go on the run.

In an interview, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss claimed that they thought they’d actually gone one better than Doyle himself had, in their version of The Final Problem. This is, of course, the height of hubris and probably said at least partially in jest, but honestly – THEY’RE NOT WRONG.

Sherlock’s brilliance turned against him?  Sherlock made a fugitive?  Moriarty’s perfect revenge being the destruction of Sherlock’s legacy?  Totally and completely BRILLIANT.

It was nice to see Lestrade trying to stay on Sherlock’s side even though the rest of the police force has turned against him.  And, of course, John is the only who completely believes in him, and stays with him, and even goes on the run with him.  Would we have it any other way? Of course not.  It was also fascinating when John realized that Mycroft is the one who gave accidentally gave Moriarty all the ammo he needed against Sherlock, as Moriarty uses bits of truth and his abilities to fake records and change identities, to make it look as if Sherlock has fabricated Moriarty as a fall guy to cover up the fact that Sherlock is the real perpetrator of all the crimes he attributes to Moriarty.  And then he tells Sherlock to kill himself.  Or Moriarty will kill John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade.

BRILLIANT!  And, okay, I sound (and feel) a bit like Sherlock when he’s admiring a particularly clever crime rather than lamenting the evil of it, but SERIOUSLY.  BRILLIANT.

I mean, my God, Moriarty in the books is a genius, but all he’s really after his money.  In the movies, it’s the same thing.  He’s not crazy at all, just very greedy, very smart, and very willing to hurt people to get what he wants.  But in THIS series, Jim Moriarty is NUTS.  Seriously, seriously NUTS.  And it is AWESOME.  (I have thing for really crazy villains – The Joker and Knives from Trigun are the first two that come to mind – the whole chaotic evil alignment category.  I LOVE IT.)  Anyway, I was a bit unsure about Moriarty in “The Great Game,” but this episodes won me over completely.

And then there’s the ending. OMFG.  Now, I’ll admit, I have a hard time figuring out what to make of Sherlock’s little phone call “suicide note.”  Obviously, when he tells John that the accusations are true and he’s a fake, that’s the lie, but what about the fact that he’s getting choked up?  Is he really getting emotional, or is that part of the act for John’s sake?  And then again, even though he knows he has to “kill” himself to protect John and the others, why doesn’t he TELL John that’s the reason, rather than claiming that he really is a fraud?  I suppose it could be to spare John the thought that it’s John’s fault he’s dead, maybe?  And why demand that John watch him as he jumps?  (I am again assuming that everyone still reading this has seen the episode already, so don’t blame me if I’m ruining anything.)  My initial thought is that Sherlock wants John to be a witness, to be able to say definitively that yes, Sherlock did jump from that roof, yes, he saw it with his own eyes, yes he’s certain that Sherlock is dead – thus, insuring that Sherlock can fake his death in safety.  But it still seemed a little weird – and cruel, to make John watch it.

And John’s face!

(both gifs from this Tumblr page – thank God for gifs!)

His expressions in that moment were pretty brutal.  But it was just as bad later on at the cemetery, when he asked Sherlock for one last miracle, to not be dead.  OMG! I nearly cried (it takes quite a lot of work to actually get me to cry, but my eyes did sting a little).  Martin Freeman does such an amazing job conveying powerful emotion without going overboard.  No screaming, no bursting into tears. He speaks quietly, just starts to get choked up, and then he does that soldierly stoic thing, suddenly straightens up and turns on his heel away from the grave as if he was in uniform, and walks away.  And my God, it was hard to watch!

So, now I get to wait probably a year or more for the next season to come out – which is RIDICULOUS, by the way! They aren’t even starting production until NEXT January.  WTH?  And I have so many questions!  I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how Sherlock faked his death.  We know he enlisted Molly’s help, who probably found a body in the morgue that could be a replacement for Sherlock.  But when did the switch take place?  Because as far as I can tell, Sherlock really was the one who fell from the roof.  It doesn’t LOOK like he threw a dead body off.  Though maybe they did something in that shot to trick us.  It’s hard to tell.  But they don’t just show that scene from John’s point of view on the ground, they show it from Sherlock’s, up on the roof, as he leans forward and lets himself fall.  It really does look like its actually Sherlock falling.  So then, okay, there’s a moment when John is trying to reach the body and he is hit by a man on a bicycle (which yes, I’m definitely assuming was planned) so he’s not the first one to the body.  So maybe the switch happened then?  But then we’d have to assume that Sherlock actually landed, in which case even he managed to survive he would be a mass of broken bones and there’s no way he could moved that quickly.  So I go back to the switched-before-the-fall thesis, though I’m not convinced that’s possible.

Then there’s the fact that in an interview, Moffat claims that “there is a clue everybody’s missed … So many people theorising about Sherlock’s death online – and they missed it!” (from this article).  So, I’m flummoxed. (Also, I have never used that word before in my life! Cool!)

Then, of course, we have to wonder HOW THE HELL Sherlock is going to clear his name.  AND what happened with Moriarty?  Is he really dead?  I’m guessing he is, but its not outside the realm of possibility for him to have faked his own death as well.  I’m also DYING to know how long Sherlock will be gone.  In the books his faked death lasts for THREE YEARS.  Honestly, if the writers do that to John I may break the tv (or my laptop, whichever), because that would be CRUEL!  Really REALLY cruel.

And now we’ve come to the end. This post is ridiculously long, and I should probably cut it in half again, but I’m not going to bother.  If you’ve stuck around through the whole thing, I’m impressed and grateful.  And if you haven’t actually watched the series yet and you read this, well, I pity you, because you just took half the fun out of the experience of first-time viewing.  But you should go watch the series anyway.  SERIOUSLY.  Now I’m going to shut up.  See you folks later!

I leave you with one last image of John, sitting with his therapist a month after Sherlock’s “death,” looking quietly, stoically heart-broken.  It’s about the same way I feel having to wait for a year or more until the new episodes appear (except I’m not stoic at all…).

Gorgeous, Intense, and Creepy: A Review of Prometheus

So, let’s talk about Prometheus (and then I’ll get back to my insane fan-girl raving about Sherlock, I promise).

For those who are unfamiliar with the background of Prometheus, it is a science fiction film produced and directed by Ridley Scott (director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, to name just a few) and is considered a prequel of sorts to the original Alien movie.  Prometheus (which is also the name of the spaceship the cast lives on) takes place in the year 2093 (Alien takes place in the year 2122), and follows a group of scientists who believe that aliens called Engineers seeded life on Earth, and who are in search of those aliens in deep space, on a moon called LV-223.  Of course, as anyone familiar with the Alien movies would expect, things do not go according to plan, as the scientists find nothing but death on the moon (and boy, it’s going to be hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away…).

Okay, so let’s start by talking about the direction and cinematography in this movie, because it was BRILLIANT.  The opening sequence is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in ages and ages.  The camera pans through images of wild, almost-but-not-quite barren landscape: rocks, mountains, snow, waterfalls, etc.  It’s like something out of the Planet Earth nature documentaries, in astounding high definition, with a powerful score building up around you.  And then it focuses in on what is clearly an alien – mostly human in shape but with musculature that no human could possibly have, and a slightly different shape in the nose and forehead.  The alien drinks something, and then starts to dissolve, his DNA literally breaking apart – one would assume, to seed the earth.  The image of the alien dissolving is pretty cringe-worthy, but so well-shot and so fascinating and creepy.  It was the perfect way to open the movie, that’s for sure.

Throughout the rest of the film, the cinematography is equally wonderful.  Ridley Scott, the screen-writers, the set designer, and the cinematographer all took tremendous care with the visuals of the story.  The visuals are highly important in this movie.  The attention to detail, the atmospheric nature, the grand scale and immensity of everything, not to mention how CREEPY a lot of it is.  And the camera captures all of it so beautifully.  Seriously, if nothing else, go see it for the visual interest – it’s like a moving piece of art.

Then there are the actors.  The casting for this movie was so well done.  Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist, who along with her partner/boyfriend Charlie Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green), are the scientists pretty much in charge of the mission on the Prometheus. Noomi Rapace is really making a name for herself.  She played Lisbeth Salander in the original film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and she was in the second Sherlock Holmes movie (and she only learned to speak English in time to film Sherlock Holmes!), and she is a very very good actress.  She does such an amazing job in this movie, with a character who is incredibly smart, more than a little naïve, sympathetic, and tough.

Then there’s Charlize Theron.  My GOD, she looks GOOD in this movie.  It’s just not fair.  And, as usual, she is phenomenal as the cold, calculating, self-serving corporate leader of the Prometheus mission, Meredith Vickers. This character walks that fine line between being emotionless and self-serving to the point of being almost-but-not-quite evil.  She’s CREEPY, and she’s not even really a bad guy.  Just kind of a bitch.  And Charlize Theron plays it so well.

Last, but certainly not least among the main characters, there is Michael Fassbender as David, the android (like Ash, from the original Alien movie, though in Prometheus, everyone already knows he’s an android).  This character was absolutely fascinating, a total enigma.  And Michael Fassbender was EXCELLENT.  Seriously excellent.  David is an odd character – childlike in ways, sometimes sympathetic, but also with this weird underlying… I don’t know, jealousy? bitterness? arrogance?, because of the way the humans treat him.

No one pays much attention to him or is even mildly polite to him except for Shaw – and, of course, we should all know by now that is a BAD idea to mistreat a robot who is WAY stronger and smarter than any human.  You get this weird sense that David wants people to acknowledge how smart he is, and feels superior to humans because of his strength and intelligence, but also wants to be human at the same time.  He does some pretty despicable things in this movie (I’m trying very hard not to give away too much!), but you can’t quite hate him and you can’t really blame him, because the humans do NOT treat him well.  And Michael Fassbender plays him with this kind of blankness, this vacancy in his face and movements, and yet with very subtle touches of expression, of tone, or movement, that hint at something lying just beneath the surface, as if David can feel more than he or anyone else imagines – despite the fact that androids purportedly have no emotions.  Michael Fassbender’s light touch is just so well done, so balanced and subtle.  It’s definitely impressive.

All of the other actors, including Idris Elba as the captain of the ship, do not get nearly as much screen time and are not nearly as important to the plot, but they still do a good job.  They give the whole film a sense of realism and immediacy, a sense of real people in real crisis situations, that would not be believable with a less talented cast.  All without overtaking the film, being too melodramatic, or stealing the scenes from the important characters (and Idris Elba’s interactions with Charlize Theron are pretty fun too).

As for the plot itself…  It’s complex and it keeps you guessing, keeps you on your toes, without every getting so convoluted that it risks bogging itself down – at least not to me, others might disagree (after all, where I found Inception totally lucid, though complex, some people complained that it made no sense whatsoever – of course, I worry about people like that, but that’s beside the point).  There is a LOT going on in this film.  The first half-hour or so is a little slow-moving.  It’s not a BAD thing to me, it’s not slow as in boring, more as in atmospheric. It’s like a slow crescendo at the beginning of symphony.  Just because the music isn’t fast or frenetic doesn’t mean it’s not full of power and interest.  And you know your patience will be well worth it anyway.  So, yes, the opening is slow in pace, but it WORKS, at least for me.  And then, once it picks up, OH BOY does it pick up.  The last forty minutes or so?  CRAZY INTENSE.

All of this is helped along quite liberally by a very well-written, beautiful, and intense score by Marc Streitenfeld.  The music fits the movie so well: atmospheric, creepy, with slow build-ups and intense explosions of power and sound.  I already mentioned how the score bolsters the opening sequence.  The whole movie is like that.  I’m definitely going to have buy the soundtrack later.  There are few things I love more than a really good movie score.

Last, but certainly not least, is the long list of connections to the original Alien movie.  Now, there is not a 1 for 1 correlation between things in this movie and things in Alien.  It doesn’t quite work like that.  But if you’re a fan of Alien and pay attention, it is a TON of fun to catch all the little references.  I had to have my brother’s help with that.  I love the first and second Alien movies, but I have trouble remembering as many of the little details as my brother does.  Still, here are justa couple things to keep in mind.

First, Prometheus takes place on the moon LV-223, whereas Alien takes place on the moon LV-426 – so the ships the Prometheus finds and all the details in this movie do NOT correlate with actual scenes from Alien.  The alien ship that the Nostromo finds in Alien is a DIFFERENT SHIP than the one that the crew of the Prometheus find.  However, it is the same KIND of ship.  And the Space Jockey from Alien?  Yeah, some kind of alien as the main aliens in Prometheus.

Second, because Prometheus focuses on the Engineers, the humanoid-looking aliens who seeded the Earth (and who are the same kind of alien as the Space Jockey) you are NOT going to see the traditional black-skinned long-faced alien or the face-huggers and chest-bursters from Alien.  However, because it is a prequel, it is easy to guess that the plot of Prometheus leads INTO the aliens from the Alien movies (and oh my god, I’m getting sick of typing the word “alien”).

For a more in-depth look into the connections between the movies, check out this explanation Screenrant: “Prometheus – Alien Connection Explained.”

I could probably go on and on if I really wanted to, but I think this covers all the big stuff, except for the ending.  Without giving too much away, I will say that the ending is a bit cliff-hangery and you are left with WAY more questions than you had the beginning of the film, but I think this is intentional.  My brother and I have been debating how many of the holes and questions are intentional for the purposes of leading into a sequel and how many are accidental due to holes in the writing itself.  The only way to find out, of course, is to wait for a sequel, which we’re both PRETTY sure is in the offing.

The main thing you should get out of all of this is: if you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, YOU NEED TO.  GO NOW.  It is absolutely phenomenal.  The intensity, the attention to detail, the beautiful cinematography, the excellent cast, the fun references to Alien… it all equals a movie that is WELL worth the money and the time.  In fact, I recommend seeing it more than once.  I’m hoping to go again soon and see how many small details I may have missed the first time.

Seriously, just go see it.  You can thank me later.

Also, you should check out Andrew Kincaid’s rundown of the biology behind the film over on his blog.

AND, here’s the trailer again, too, just to cover all my bases: