Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009 Movie)

I'm a little late to the party here, I'm afraid. It seems most everyone has seen the brand spanking new, Robert-Downey-Jr.-and-Jude-Law-starring Sherlock Holmes, and liked it too. There's a reason. It's good.

These are just my thoughts. I'm not going to tell you the story, because that could give away some of the great twists and turns the movie has in store. And there are a lot of them. This reboot doesn't try to dumb down the characters of story for ease of audience enjoyment. If you hate thinking, leave the theater now. Watch G. I. Joe again, or maybe Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. They're fun, light entertainment that will leave a nice buzz that lasts all the way until you leave the parking lot. Will you remember most of what happens in a week? Nah, but that shouldn't bother you. I'm not being insulting, because those movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. But this is different. There is some great action, but Sherlock Holmes is first and foremost a mystery.

Holmes (Downey Jr.) is portaryed wonderfully, adding a nice edge to the eccentricity and brilliance already exhibited by the classic Rathbone. But the character is great, and could be no one but the great detective. I love the moments where the film lets you get inside Sherlock's head, with a nice wit and precision.

Jude Law's Watson is a very different bird from the original, but it works. Watson here is accomplished, able, and very, very smart. Jude Law turns the sidekick into a real partner, and for taking the risks he did, I commend him.

The film moves along at a good pace, keeping the audience at the edge of their seats with action, intrugue and humor. The mystery, while blessedly complex, could truly be solved by the audience. All of the clues are there, and they make sense... if you're as smart as Holmes. And every time you guess something right, you get to pat yourself on the back.

The film ends with solid setup for a sequel that could prove to be even better than the first, with a nemesis I need not name for all of you knowledgeable ones out there. I mean, it's elementary who it is. All in all, bravo to the cast and crew for delivering a great piece of entertainment.

My rating: 9.5/10

Coming Soon: Last Argument of Kings

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Janeal Mikkado is a gypsy. Some of you just stopped reading this review, thinking this will be another one of those heavyhanded "traveling gypsy stories" that are so cliche. I promise it's not what you think. The gypsy element is merely present for the introduction. And it's another fantastic collaboration by New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker and Erin Healy.

She escaped the fire, but not the effects of the Burn...

Back to Janeal Mikkado. One day, she goes wandering off, her head filled with thoughts of possibly leaving her old life behind, and encounters a man known as Salazar Sanso. Sanso is a Mexican criminal mastermind of sorts, and he's gotten tangled up in a situation involving Janeal's father. His way out: get Janeal tangled up in it too.

But things don't go according to plan. Do they ever, especially in a Dekker book? Things get so far apart from the intended plan, events are set in motion that culminate in a fire that ravages Janeal's longtime home. The survivors are so few they are almost nonexistant, all very fragile, and all keeping their identities secret.

Fifteen years pass. Janeal, now under the alias Jane Johnson (might as well make her last name Doe) is working in New York City, clawing her way to the top of the corporate ladder, trying to leave her old life and the shames that go with it behind. She finds this impossible when a news report surfaces that confirms her once boyfirend is alive-- and there is another survivor, one whose life was traded for Janeal's. And when Sanso gets involved, things will certainly turn out to be messy...

Burn is quite good. Is it Dekker's best? No. Is it better than Kiss? In pretty much every way. The twist is played up over a longer period of time, the pacing has a great build to it (one of the sections is actually titled "Slow Burn"), and the climax frames the story nicely.

Dekker has a deft hand for quick characterizations, but his bluntness, which has long polarized readers, is refined somewhat by Healy's prescence. The book is still gripping, it's just not quite as gritty. It gets quite dark, but Healy manages to soften the virtual bruises Dekker's writing sometimes leaves.

It's a nicely balanced book which, while it lacks some of the storytelling kick and vigor of other Dekker creations, still is endlessly engrossing and well worth a read. If you were... um... burned (no pun originally intended) by some of Dekker's harsher work, give this one a try. If you love his harsher work (like me), give this one a try. It'll make for great conversation after you're done, too.

All in all, bring on the next one! Which is The Bride Collector, coming this April. Yeah, he's a really fast writer.

My rating: 9.5/10

Coming Soon: Last Argument of Kings

Monday, January 11, 2010

Most. Awesome. Thing. Ever.

I don't think words can describe how amazingly, awesomely... awesome this is. I literally stumbled across this five minutes ago, and it made my day. That's saying something, because there's another episode of Chuck on tonight.

They're making a Mistborn movie.

Yeah, that's right. See the full story, as told by Brandon Sanderson, here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chuck Season 2

Well, it's time for the continuation of Chuck reviews. Especially since Season 3 starts TONIGHT. The tagline for the new season is "No More Mr. Nice Spy"... and I'm beyond excited. No series on TV's return could bring such a fanboyish reaction as that of Chuck. Well, except for Firefly, but that's not gonna happen. Except in my dreams.

Chuck is still trying to get used to life as a human Intersect. He's being used more and more on missions, and the stakes, they just keep a-raising for everybody's favorite member of the Nerd Herd. To be perfectly honest, Chuck just wants his old life back. He wouldn't cry if Sarah was included with his "old life," but even if not, he wants to be able to live his life to its fullest. Not that anyone can blame him. He's full of potential, and the Buy More isn't exactly the best place for people with potential.

And he finds a way to get that old life back. It turns out the government is building a brand new Intersect computer 2.0, and once it's finished, Chuck can finally put all of the spying and danger behind him. Downright appealing for someone who has a wealth of options before him. There's just one catch, but it's a doozy: when the new Intersect is operational, the old Intersect must be... neutralized. In other words, no matter what happens, Chuck will probably die.

Not so fun after all.

This show has quite simply taken off. Season 1 was great, some of the best stuff on television at the time, but Season 2 outdoes its predecessor with even more humor, explosions, and dramatic reveals. The full-length season allows the show to delve deeper into the mythology of Chuck's world. Without getting too deep in the explanation, some of this involves Chuck's dad, a Dark Intersect, a major secret (or 27) about Fulcrum, Sarah's past, Chuck's ex, Chuck's past, the creator of the Intersect, and an even more impressive and dangerous upgrade to the Intersect. Yeah, this season has a lot to offer, even more so than the outstanding Season 1.

Perhaps the biggest draw to this series is the characters, and the writers and actors don't let us down here. Chuck and Sarah's relationship grows both more complicated and deep, and his family and friends provide a great foundation of semi-normalcy for the show to always fall back upon. Yes there are a few missteps, one involving a less-than-excellent episode about Casey's past, but they are, as I said, few. Big things happen more and more often as we get to the end of the season, and the finale presents us with an interesting change of direction that should provide for some new freshness in Season 3.

Some favorite episodes of mine:

Chuck vs. the Cougars: Nicole Ritchie guest stars in an episode where Sarah goes back to her high school reunion... much to Chuck's amusement.

Chuck vs, the Fat Lady: Chuck's ex, Jill, and the opera. What more could you ask for? How about one of the funniest moments from Casey in the show's history?

Chuck vs. the DeLorean: Chuck encounters a con man with his eyes set on something huge. Oh, and he's Sarah's dad. That's kinda important too.

Chuck vs. Santa Claus: Christmas at the Buy More, complete with a car chase that ends up in the store and Morgan in an elf costume.

Chuck vs. the Colonel: Chuck and Sarah run away, Fulcrum gets closer than ever to their goal of having an army of Intersects, and Casey gets promoted. Don't miss the midnight showing of Tron.

Chuck vs. the Ring: A shocker of a season finale. Ellie and Devon have an Awesome wedding, people leave their jobs, and Chuck knows kung-fu. A true game changer.

It's absolutely great, and that's the simple truth. Every episode, even the one I mentioned earlier as being my least favorite, has moments of greatness, and it's obvious everyone involved loves their jobs. It's a fantastic viewing experience that I'd recommend to anyone.

My rating: 10/10

Coming Soon: Burn and Last Argument of Kings

Chuck Season 1

I've never reviewed a TV show on this blog before, but I think this gem deserves a mention. No, I haven't forgotten Burn. It's coming soon. But this is the perfect time for a post about the fantastic show known as Chuck.

The titular main character, last name Bartowski (played by the fantastic Zachary Levi), is rather pathetic when the series starts. He went to Stanford, but was kicked out due to allegedly cheating on a test. So he's now living with his older sister, Ellie, and her boyfriend/fiancee/husband (it changes from start to finish) Devon Woodcomb (nicknamed Captain Awesome by Chuck). He works as part of the Nerd Herd at the Buy More electronics store in Burbank, California with his lifelong best pal Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez). Dead end job, hopelessly geeky (he wears Band-Aids at the start of the pilot episode from playing Call of Duty too much)... things aren't that exciting.

But that changes in a major way when his old college roommate Bryce Larkin (remember that name) sends him an e-mail on his birthday. Chuck opens it and discovers to his immense surprise that it contains a wealth of government secrets hidden in encrypted images-- the Intersect. The next morning, he finds that these images are still in his head. Enter two agents: Sarah Walker (the beautiful Yvonne Strahovsky) from the CIA, who catches Chuck's eye before he's caught up in espionage; and John Casey (played excellently by Firefly veteran Adam Baldwin) from the NSA, who would find it much easier if he could just kill Bartowski and be done with it. Things will never be the same again.

Don't panic.

The series started with what is perhaps my favorite pilot episode ever. The rest of the show lives up to it, thankfully. It's action-packed, funny, and has great characters that you come to know and love more and more. Even Casey. Chuck and Sarah's relationship is a well-handled will they/won't they situation, and there's a lot of interesting tension that comes with this (only to be ramped up in Season 2). And the show consistently manages to juggle drama with all of the lighter material, something rarely achieved, and both actually work.

Some favorite episodes of mine (besides the pilot):

Chuck vs. the Alma Mater: Chuck has to go back to Stanford... because he "flashes" on his student ID. And it turns out Stanford and the CIA have a good working relationship.

Chuck vs. the Truth: A poisonous truth serum leads to hilarious results, but not when Ellie becomes involved.

Chuck vs. the Undercover Lover: Casey has a past after all. And it's romantic. And he was called Sugarbear. Oh yeah.

Season 1 was cut short due to the writer's strike, but it still left us with a tantilizing promise of more to come, and not all of it was so nice. Very fulfilling, even though it ended midseason.

My rating: 9/10

Season 3 airs Sunday the 10th with two hours straight of new material. I'll be watching.

Coming Soon: Chuck Season 2 and Burn.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's Poll Time!!!

Nothing like starting off the year with a good poll. I'm having some trouble on figuring what to read next. Well, Burn is next, but you get the idea. It's about time for another epic fantasy. I've been reading through The Wheel of Time slowly, but surely, and when I'm done with all of them, I'll post up a series of fifteen reviews for the entire series plus the prequel. So that's taken care of.

Here are the candidates:

Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks. I've already read and enjoyed the first book in Weeks's Night Angel Trilogy and found the tale of an assassin to be nicely character driven. I would love to see what happens to Kylar next in this twisted series.

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. I enjoyed the start of his First Law Trilogy, and I absolutely adored Before They Are Hanged. I doubt the ending to this series will be truly happy, but I have a feeling it will really satisfy.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson. I've heard many a wonderful thing about Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen epic of soon to be ten books, and I really want to see what everyone's talking about. It sounds unorthodox and exciting, and I'll read it soon even if it doesn't win. Just not as soon.

Last Battle of the Icemark by Stuart Hill. I only have one book to go in the Icemark Chronicles, and I want to see what happens to the cast in the end of it all. My guess: a lot of dying, a lot of mythology, and a lot of glory. And it's all good.

It's up to you. You hold my fate in your hands.

The Writer


Ted Dekker teams up with his longtime editor Erin Healy to deliver a thrill ride readers won't easily forget. You could have just said that and millions would buy it. Well, all you really needed to say was Ted Dekker. Period.

She steals more than your heart...

All she remembers of the last six months is her name. Shauna. Not her loving boyfriend. Not the identity of the mysterious figure who keeps showing up. Not the secrets of her abusive family-- no, those are just out of reach. But she soon realizes she's in danger. Her only weapons are her fractured mind... and something too frightening to comprehend.

All in all, this is a very nice bit of writing. The suspense of Dekker's writing is ever present, but the innermost thoughts of the heroine get more screen time here. The style is more subdued, allowing for a slower build to a somewhat subtler climax. That's not to say the book isn't exciting. Because it is. It's exciting and intriguing, and there's at least one moment that's quite chilling. I'm not going to give away the Big Twist (every Dekker novel has one), but it's very cool, and the repercussions of it are nicely handled.

The book is described as heart-pounding meets heart-warming. For the most part, that's right. Dekker, with the help of Healy, gets into the mind and heart of the female protagonist, and it provides for a great character study. Sometimes, the two don't mesh together completely, as one of the major relationships in the book didn't work convincingly for me, but it's a lot less than you'd expect from such a risky venture. It's an interesting concept well-exectued, and although it's not quite up to some of Dekker's later work, it's worth a read.

My rating: 8.5/10

Coming Soon: Burn.