Sherlock: The Sign of Three

So, the new Sherlock TV show. Not to be confused with the new Sherlock Holmes TV show, Elementary, which actually isn’t that bad if you sit down and watch it. Its opening sequence is a dozen times better, for a start – am I really the only one who completely despises that loud, tuneless rock track that Sherlock has?

But yeah, Sherlock, the one with Martin Freeman of Hitchhiker’s Guide, and that very British, very popular, very tall institution that I’ll just call “Big Ben” from here on out. It’s hard for me to state a single opinion on Sherlock. On one hand, it has a blisteringly high entertainment value, with top-notch acting, stylish presentation, witty and clever interplay between consistent and well-developed characters, excellent adaptation of the classic stories I’ve read many times…

On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to call myself a Sherlock fan, because that invariably associates me with Big Ben’s legions of squealing ladies (and quite a few cheering men; I am nothing if not tolerant in my vaguely hypocritical condescension). The fans have been responsible for most of the worst moments in the show, most of which have been in the most recent, third season – and yet that also had most of my favorite moments in the series too, so I’m not sure what to think.

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Ender’s Game

Note: This review will contain no discussion of Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card. I already have plenty of things to grouch about with this, adding the largely unrelated views of a one-hit-wonder author would make this way too long.

That's one big X-Wing.

That’s one big X-Wing.

Ender’s Game is – let’s be clear here – a classic of our times. Aside from being a deeply affecting and surprisingly prophetic sci-fi story, it’s the premier work of the age on the complicated mix of duty, pride, loneliness and angst felt by students and children the world over. Seriously – Adrian Mole? Tom Brown? Arthur Read? Freakin’ Harry Potter? They have nothing on Ender Wiggin.

The problem with this is that no one seems to realize it, least of all author Orson Scott Card. Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide – the sequels to the story – are much more traditional cosmic sci-fi stories, to the extent that the latter has the exact same plot as Halo 4 – and again, I’m being completely serious. All you console gamers who like Halo? Have you played the decently-received video game Halo 4, and paid attention to the story? Great, now you don’t need to read the award winning novel Xenocide.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

I am a Star Trek fan.

I won’t say I’m a Trekkie, because I’ve recently discovered quite a few people of my generation and below don’t even know what Star Trek is. I’m not joking about this – take my good friend Daniel. He’s smart, likes video games, has friends, and is a pretty good representation of modern geek/nerd/plain ol’ pop culture. And when I first asked him what Star Trek was, he responded “Oh, yeah! The spaceship show that had George Takei on it, right?”

I’m just gonna let that phrase hang there. Daniel’s a great dude, but sometimes I just have to look at him and stand back, and…whatever. Point is, I’m a Trek fan – I know my Romulan Ale from my Saurian Brandy, and my multi-modal reflection sorting from my multi-spectral subspace engines. So this review of the latest Star Trek piece, Team Abrams’ no-one’s-sure-what-to-call-it-quel Star Trek Into Darkness, will be heavily grounded in my long experience with the franchise. (more…)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a deeply unnecessary film, but unlike some other unnecessary films  (cough, cough), I was perfectly willing to see it, and meet it on its own terms. Say what you will about the Lord of the Rings movies, but you can’t deny that they built one of the most rock-solid and epic worlds in modern cinema – and I didn’t mind the chance to see another story in that world.

And speaking of saying what you will about LOTR, I’d like to do just that. So permit me to blaspheme for a moment: I think that J.R.R. Tolkien was an amazing writer, but a horrible storyteller. I really don’t like how exhaustive and minutely detailed his writing style can get, and I much prefer the movies to the books because of how they remove the restrictive filter of the narration between the story and my perception of it.

The Hobbit’s main problem is that Peter Jackson and company try to make it another Lord of the Rings, but the original children’s book can’t really bear the weight of a sprawling, three-hour epic, much less three in a row. It’s fun to watch, but it’s a bit less brainy than the original trilogy – though that’s not saying much, and the wonderfully dedicated team behind the first trilogy really brings their A-game in every way they can.

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