Tag Archives: mystery

Reminiscence

It’s not really clear to me what Kevin Feige is going to do when he tries to introduce the X-Men into the MCU. Not only has Hugh Jackman refused to play Wolverine again, but he apparently got the mutton chops in the divorce with Fox. Seriously, bro looks within an approximation of no differently than he did in 1999.

Okay, dumb mutton chops joke out of the way. Moving on…

Reminiscence is not really the movie I expected it to be, but in a good way! See, what I expected was a riff on Inception but memory instead of dreams. What I got was future noir, every bit as dark and gritty[1] as the stuff from eighty or ninety years ago when the genre arose, wrapped up with a neat little sci-fi bow. Hugh Jackman is the detective, even though that’s not quite his actual job, it’s something more like memory tour guide? And he has a secretary (again, not really, she runs the memory machine in real life) and a femme fatale nightclub singer in a red dress walks through his front door as the first act opens. Someone knew what’s what.

I’ll save you some trouble and say that the story is almost entirely told from a linear perspective, even though the nature of delving into memories again and again makes it feel like that’s not the case, at times. So, call it linear with flashback digressions? And if you like the genre[2], this is a pretty fantastic example of it.

[1] Well, less grit, more water, but “dark and wet” isn’t going to work as a replacement catchphrase.
[2] I don’t actually know whether “future noir” is a genre, or something I made up just now, or what? But what I have in mind is traditional noir, but less sexist than that, set in a no more dystopic future than original noir was set in a dystopic version of its present; just a future that is predicated on the outcomes of our own moderately dystopic present.

Powers: Gods

This is the last book in the Powers series!

Okay, it actually isn’t, but at the same time, if you’re going to figure out a way to wrap up the apparently third run of your series before rebranding it as something slightly different, and your series started out as “What if cops had to investigate when superheroes get murdered, and also what if one of those cops used to be a superhero but lost his powers?”, then it stands to reason that you have to end bigger.

Bigger, in this case, is solving the murder of a god, Damocles. Which… okay, it felt a little cheap, and here’s why. If you’re going to have had Greek (in this case) gods hanging out throughout the history of the series, there in the background all along, then you can’t wait to mention it until one of them is going to be your plot device. You especially cannot have your commentary track TV show that everyone (or possibly no one) watches, Powers That Be, talk about said gods and whether people believe in them as gods or as fancier heroes or not at all, like it’s a whole big theological issue, and also never have mentioned them in the previous thirteen volumes of your ongoing series. It’s a problem!

BUT: if you can ignore all that, which I was able to do until the composition of this missive you see before you, they act as a good plot device to reveal a lot of closely held character secrets and catapult the series into its next phase, which I will no doubt discuss next time, whenever that may be.

Fairest in All the Land

The last Fables story was also a Fairest story, I guess? Also, the last actual Fables story was kind of a big deal, with repercussions still echoing around the margins. (These are the margins, since this wasn’t a main sequence story, you see.) Downside being, I read that a year and a half ago and only barely remember what happened. Which beats not remembering at all, don’t get me wrong!

Anyway, echoing repercussions aside, Fairest in All the Land is a murder mystery in which a certain mirror that may be evoked by that phrase and Cinderella (who has previously been the star of her own Fables spin-off spy series) square off against… and here we run into a wall called What Exactly Do You Think a Murder Mystery Is, Anyway? But the victims are a who’s who of, er, the fairest… in all… you know what, I’m going to pretend like I didn’t just get that reference.

Plot and plot arcs aside, this book was weird. It’s not that every story segment was drawn and colored by different artists. It’s that the story segments on average lasted three pages each, which… it’s just too many hard corners, is the thing. Whiplash, I’m saying. But the plot was fine, as was the plot arc progression. (And whoever was the artist for the bits that included the Page sisters is good at drawing the Page sisters. Sexy librarians equals best trope.)

Peace Talks

The first thing to say about the new Dresden Files book is, unfortunately, damned near the only thing to say about it. Peace Talks is half of a book.[1] I don’t mean that it ends on a cliffhanger, although it does that. (And I think it may be the only book in the series that has ever done that, including Changes.) I mean that things I want to talk about, although they would be spoilers, I can’t. Well, I could in person, if it were a TV show and we were on the same episode, or if the person I was reading along with was on approximately the same chapter.

But I can’t say that Harry’s actions lack [spoiler here] in a review of the book, because maybe they stop lacking that spoiler a few chapters from now, in the second half of the story. That’s what I mean when I say it’s half a book. The main plot advanced to a cliffhanger, which is fine, and one interpersonal plot actually found resolution that has been waiting for something like sixteen books, which is, uh, pretty awesome. But the mystery of the week plot is just as big of a mystery as it was when it came onto the scene, and the other interpersonal plots are just as half-baked, and how do I review the book when I don’t know whether my complaints will be addressed in the second half of it or not, until I’ve read that half?

[1] The good news is, less than 60 days until the second half is released.

Gwen

So there’s this movie called Gwen, in which Gwen and her sister and her mother, and also her father (in flashbacks mostly), wander around the hills of 1850s Wales, either being happy when they’re all together or moody and atmospheric and brooding when they aren’t. Also, some other things happened?

The sad part is, I’m not even joking. I watched this movie a day or two ago[1] and kept trying to pay attention to it, but realized at the end that I legitimately had no idea what had happened, outside of my description above and one or two specific events untethered from any ongoing narrative, like, oh, those neighbors died of cholera, or, huh, all the sheep are dead.

So instead of writing a probably unfairly empty review saying that, I watched it again this afternoon. This time, I felt like I really had watched the whole thing, and I for sure picked up a lot more. Is it all a land grab? Is the mother crazy? Or possessed? Is there a mysterious third party causing all these problems? Like, there was nearly enough plot there to mix in with the moody atmosphere[2], but then I watched the climax of the movie, and, uh… what?

So I went and found the Wikipedia summary of the movie, and sure enough, I missed nothing at all. The stuff that happened is just the stuff that happened. Which is to say there’s a subplot I did not mention above because it did not seem to be the main driving force of the film, but then haha surprise I guess it was.

I think I’m trying to talk myself into having hated the movie, which I did not do. I’m not even unhappy I watched it twice. But it is for certain not the movie that I wish it had been. Because what I understand this to be is a tripod of beautiful and unsettling and prosaic.

[1] I don’t even know which. Time, man.
[2] Folk horror, they’re calling it. The Witch is another such example, and at least there I understand why that appellation applies? This was also a limited cast, moody photography, and minimal dialogue, but I’m not sure that makes it “folk”, in the sense of folk tales I had previously assumed.

Summer of 84

I watched another movie this week, which was Summer of 84. This is a pretty basic horror movie which combines Gen X childhood nostalgia for the summer of our youth with Rear Window. And now I have to come up with more to say.

It is not a complaint that I can sum up the movie that succinctly. There’s something to be said for nostalgia, especially when it’s nostalgia for what other people had. I never really made friends in my neighborhood, the way I read about in Stephen King novels or see in kid movies from the 1980s and earlier. Like, I definitely had friends, but private school through elementary (or, and this is plausible, most of the kids my age in my neighborhood were just assholes) meant that I never made close local bonds with those people. So any hanging out was a carefully scheduled affair, not just going outside on a summer evening for a giant game of hide and seek, or constant contact via walkie-talkies no matter how late at night. Also, the suburbs are different from small towns.

Anyway, that’s really the movie. Teenage newspaper boy and friends in a cluster of small towns where a serial killer has been murdering tween and teenage boys, even though tween was not a word that existed at the time. And one of them (guess which one!) thinks he saw something suspicious happen across the street, at the home of the bachelor cop on the cul-de-sac. And either the kid has an overactive imagination, or the cop is legit terrifying, which all depends upon your perspective and your expectations about how the movie will go, and I wish I could add something I found offputting, but it would guaranteed be a confirmation spoiler about which movie they’re making. Maybe in a comment, if anyone cares. (Note that this being a horror movie does not inform that tension’s outcome, because there’s definitely a serial killer, no matter whether it’s the neighbor cop or not.)

Death Masks revisited

So, uh, massive spoilers for not so much this book but for the entire series through Peace Talks, which is not yet published as of this review. Don’t read farther unless you don’t mind.

Without yet having checked my previous review of Death Masks, I assume that I liked it quite a bit[1], since all of the Dresden books have hit me pretty favorably. And yet, reviewing the audiobook relisten in my head, mostly what I think of it is… well, that’s not fair. It’s still extremely positive. The war with the Red Court is really heating up, we get the first real glimpse of the Denarians, Marcone is humanized[2], there’s some big movement with the Knights of the Sword that, if I remember my timelines correctly, has only recently paid off. Plus, they finally introduced Molly, who appears to have set off the chain of events leading to Harry’s procreation. A lot of really important things happened!

The problem, if there is a problem, is that everything I’ve said (or almost everything) is groundwork for future books. Whereas my actual experience of Death Masks as a book was: you know, it was fine. Butcher has already written better single book mysteries and anyway it only reached half-resolution, and only via deus ex missourian at that. I mean, unless you care how the Shroud of Turin thing turned out, which I suppose is fair enough. The problem, briefly expressed already a paragraph above, is that this makes me sound sour on the book, and I’m not! It was, y’know, fine.

Anyway, the by far more important part, my timeline update. The book occurs in February of year 3, seven months after the book prior. And various events lead me to conclude that okay, probably Harry’s daughter was conceived during this book, rather than being 6 months old already. Which makes her birthday in November of year 3 rather than Augustish of year 2. (Because, see, I’m still making this calculation easy on future me. Woohoo!)

[1] Guess: correct! Shockingly.
[2] Which has stuck with me ever since even if the details of how it happened had not.

The Canal (2014)

When I started thinking last night about my review of The Canal, I was pondering whether I could really capture the spirit of the the movie’s slow disintegration of reality without delving deep into spoiler territory. See, there’s this sad faced Irish film archivist, played by a guy I had never heard of before a couple of years ago, but who plays an oppressed Jew in The Man in the High Castle and also the Watcher-equivalent in the Charmed reboot, and so basically he’s all over TV now, reliably playing the same sad faced character type (although to be fair the meat behind each of the characters is substantially different). And he learns that his house was the scene of a sensationally grisly century-old murder the same week he receives an emotional shock, which sends him into a haunted (whether literally or metaphorically is at the heart of what the movie is about) downward spiral.

It’s basically treading the same ground as Paranormal Activity, except if it’s not found footage so much as an external camera recording the guy creating the footage, and if it were crossed with a crime drama. Which, that’s not a “crossed with” I personally have seen before, and it’s fair enough. Only, while I was back at the beginning of the first paragraph thinking about how to explain all that in non-spoiler fashion, I came to an unexpected realization, which I can only explain by for sure getting into spoilers: it is that I don’t actually care about any of that, because of a critical flaw at the heart of the film’s conceit.

Thusly, a spoiler space break.

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Knives Out (2019)

As you cannot in any way ascertain from my shoddily maintained review site, it’s been a little while since I saw any movies, and so when Thanksgiving and its multiple days off and/or light work load came along, it thusly became movie time. Of course, that’s been nearly a week, so I can not remember what other movies were in contention anymore, only that what we actually saw was Knives Out, a (per the previews) rollicking mid-century Agatha Christie style whodunnit country house murder mystery.

And, okay, except for the part where it’s a modern setting instead (which means, alas, no butler), the previews run to the accurate. Which is nice, in that a) they looked pretty great, which of course explains how I got here, but also b) there was not the slightest sliver of a clue about the eventual outcome. The premise is basic enough: rich old mystery novelist turns up dead after the night of his 85th birthday party, and either everyone or no one is a suspect, with no one taking an early lead because of how he appears to have cut his own throat.

Obviously, I can say no more about the plot, but I can say a fair bit more about the movie, which is mostly this: you can tell that everyone involved had an incredibly good time. Most especially Daniel Craig playing against type as a consulting detective whose biggest action scene is a jog through the woods, and Chris Evans playing against type as an entitled asshole whose negative qualities are thoroughly masked by being hilariously above the rest of his equally entitled family. If I find a way to phrase that better I will, but I’m not holding my breath. “We’re all entitled assholes here, but the fact that you think none of you are and it’s really only me makes you, in some ways, worse, and in all ways worthy of my scorn-filled sarcasm.”

Yeah, that’s only barely better, and it needed the first part to make even as much sense as it does. Long story short: he is A++ at being the polar opposite of Steve Rogers, and I can dig it.

And anyway, those are just the two I chose to mention. I could go on, but there’s no point. Just go see it, unless you hate the genre, because it does not surpass genre at all. It might just have brought the comedic side of the genre to its peak, though.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

During the credits for Detective Pikachu, I learned that the movie was based on a video game of the same name, which I had not been aware existed. So I guess this is technically a video game movie? Well, I guess Pokémon in general are from a video game, so that’s not really a revelation after all. Nevermind.

This is a kidmovie, mainly inasmuch as Pokémon is a kidgame. The good thing about this is that it doesn’t really reveal its colors until the too-neat denouement, and if I’m being realistic, lots of movies are wrapped up with a bow that are not strictly speaking aimed at kids. Still, this was, and its too-neat bow-wrapping was definitely kid-oriented.

Except for that, it turns out to be really good? Well, important caveat: if you like the tiny pokemen upon which its hat is hung. I am just barely the target audience for this movie, mostly because of all the Pokémon Go I’ve played. But they did an incredible job both of making the creatures that I guess replaced animals in the evolution of this particular world seem completely alive and real and part of the scenery, and also of giving those creatures personalities that were, at least on a per species scale, unique and identifiable. Okay, the last thing sounds less cool than it is, because there’s not much involved in making a monkey pokeman act like a monkey. But trust me: they did an amazing job of bringing the world to life, in every particular.

The plot? Well, our hero, Tim Goodman[1], who has given up on his dreams of being a Pokémon trainer to start a career in insurance, goes to a place not literally named Pokémon City to investigate his policeman father’s mysterious death. Well, no, to settle his estate, there’s no way the guy I just described would be investigating anything, except that his father’s Pokémon partner (everyone in the city has one, it’s not a cop thing) is Ryan Reynolds wearing a pikachu suit and a detective hat. Together, they… well, you know. Like I said, it’s a kidmovie at heart. It’s just a really excellently executed one, if you are down with the P.

[1] No, really.