Louise Brooks: Detective - Rick Geary

I greatly enjoy Geary's works, especially his historical recounts of murderers. Perhaps because of this I am less enamored by his fiction (especially one wherein certain plot details are hidden and the ending feels rushed). While this was a fine work about a has been actress who stumbles upon a mystery, I'm more eager to read about real people and real mysteries. Sorry that you've been typecast, Geary, but if you do something great why not stick with it? Louise Brooks

State of Play

I had never heard of this movie, or perhaps I simply blocked it out, as it is far too filled with pretty people, but I greatly enjoyed it. Two reporters (well, one's a blogger) are trying to unravel a mystery of a government intern suicide/murder, and what, if any, it has to do with a government probe of what amounts to the privatization of military forces (Think Blackwater). I was very impressed with the relationships between characters, commentary on the state of newspapers, and the fact that there was no gratuitous violence, only subtle romance, and no big action shoot them up scenes. Then again, perhaps that's exactly what killed the movie and made it so I never heard of it. state of play

All The Wrong Questions: "Who Could That Be At This Hour?" - Lemony Snicket

Snicket attempts to follow his successful A Series of Unfortunate Events (which I did some reviews for but, unfortunately, did not create a series of) by taking his author/narrator character and making him the center piece. So maybe the correct question is: Why isn't this story nearly as good as the last series? Well, the cast of characters are not as defined, there are less clever references to literature and language, the villain is obfuscated--a word here that means unclear and thus uninteresting--and the plot doesn't have the same drive for completion: There is nothing here to keep me on edge and hoping for success. The tale gives the early years of Snicket and how he became involved in a bizarre world of crime and deceit and how his cleverness gets him through it. He is teamed with an incompetent adult to recover a stolen statue for its rightful owner, except that it isn't stolen and the rightful is up to debate. Seth's art is always fun, but it is rare, with his main picture being of events not depicted in the story. Sadly, there is no reason for me to continue with the series.

Neil Simon's Murder by Death

I've seen this movie as a kid but only in part and, being a kid, did not know who the characters were supposed to be and couldn't really enjoy it (interestingly, I did remember a good deal of it including the fact that the DVD that was lent to me of it had one missing scene, and it wasn't even included on the special features!). It is a cute little story about thinly veiled great detectives of fiction put to the test to solve a murder. Still, probably cause it is dated, it isn't hysterically funny, and the mystery involved isn't clever enough for those who read enough mysteries to find the meta-contextual commentary particularly interesting. Not bad, but certainly not good enough to fully recommend.   

2 Guns

You may have read my post on the original, comic book version here. Regardless, the general plot is that two guys rob a bank, only to discover that they are both undercover government agents and that the robbery is the least of their problems. If they want to have a chance to get out of their situations alive they have to work together and unravel the conspiratorial web they are stuck in. Not a bad movie with some parts better/worse than the comic.

The Adventures of Tintin & Tintin: Inside Herge's Cartoon Archives

This is the movie version of the Tintin adventure The Secret of the Unicorn, which was the first, and perhaps my favorite, Tintin adventure comic. Tintin written by the racists Herge, is about a journalist in about the 1930s of the same name (and by journalist I apparently mean someone who never writes anything down), with his super clever dog, who is friends with twin dimwitted detectives and goes (or maybe gets sucked into) adventures, solving various mysteries. In this one he teams up with a drunken sea captain to hunt down lost treasure and right ancient wrongs. I found the stories likable as a kid although I haven't read any for a long time, and actually thought the film was pretty good and pretty accurate to the comic, up until about 45 minutes in when the fun, silly aspects turned to pointlessly ridiculous. I also feel the comic illustration is superior to the strange CGI animation being done here--presumable many agree as I've heard of no other films attempting this style, or more to the point, any additional Tintin movies under production. Oh, well, there are always the comics.  I'm adding  a quick review of an equally quick film about the history of Tintin and Herge as I think it is important to know "little" things such as a Chinese man named Chang, who would show up in one of his comics, was the person who really taught Herge how to draw (and via him, half of Europe's comic artists) and to take the Tintin comics into a more developed story line. This really was very enlightening for only 25 minutes! 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Actually the Swedish title is really Men Who Hate Woman, but that probably won't sell as well in the US. The first book of the Millennium Series trilogy, tells us about Mikael Blomkvist just after he loses a libel case against a rich and powerful industrialists (go figure, huh?). Mikael strangely gets a job uncovering the truth behind an old disappearance (read: murder). Needing help he is teamed with Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant hacker who has some serious mental issues (my guess is Asperger syndrome although it is never clear). Together they attempt to uncover the mystery. Popular in Europe and the US, both in book and movie forms, it is a shame the author didn't live to truly enjoy his success. I did like the book and thought it a lot of fun. I haven't read the rest of Larsson's work as I hear it isn't as good, but maybe I should judge that myself. I do have a problem with the Lisbeth character--who is central to everything--as she is presented as both completely divorced from reality, oblivious to people's general thoughts and ideas and even seems detached from being sexual assaulted (did I mention this book is not for kids?), and at the same time shown as a genius when it comes to both computers and impersonating character types. I find this too much of a stretch as how can someone who is confused over the idea that most people acknowledge the existence of each other can be so in tune with the every nuance of different cultures and classes as to perfectly portray them? Still, if you aren't as fussy as I am you will see past it.

Filler - Rick Spears & Rob G

This is a story of John, a filler, you know, a guy that stands in line-up wherein a victim picks a criminal out from amongst the crowd. Then one day it is John that gets involved in a crime and his whole boring world gets very complex. For a rather short graphic novel, with very few words, this well and simply drawn comic is filled with excitement. I truly enjoyed it. If I would have to name a fault it is that the story could have been longer without losing anything (that's how much I liked it: I wanted more) and it did seem as if it were a pitch for a movie--which a lot of comics are like, so let's not judge. If anything, I hope it does get turned into a movie.

Famous Players: The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor - Rick Geary

Yes, I didn't know who he was either, but he was once a big shot Hollywood producer (and also perhaps a closet homosexual, petty criminal, and drug user, amongst other things). Geary just keeps cranking out these lovingly produced comics about near forgotten and once headlining murders in America. Taylor's murder is just another one that is, sadly, never solved. Always good to read his work and I wonder if they are useful in getting people interested and/or knowledgeable about American history. Perhaps a study could be done, although the fact that Cej got hold of this "discarded" work from a library and it appears to have never been read, might answer my question. 

Trouble Maker (book 1): a Barnaby and Hooker graphic novel - Janet & Alex Evanovich

Sassy blond Barney, and also sassy blond Hooker, try to rescue their sassy but not blond friend Rosa from a Voodoo cult. It is a cute story with key elements of romance, humor, adventure, a big dog, etc. with nice cartoony art by Joelle Jones, but nothing particularly ground breaking. Perhaps the authors should stick to the novel forms of this series. Good for younger readers but at $18 for a short hardcover?! 

Homeland (season 1-2)

I've almost watched through the second season of this show about a smart but crazy CIA officer who is trying to figure out if a POW who becomes a national hero and fast-tracked into politics is actual an active terrorist and trator. I think this show must work better as its original Israel incarnation because, despite its popularity, it is a ridiculous mess that only Bush administration officials could think is realistic. It might be worth watching the first season if only to see two of the world's hotest women topless (sorry, that doesn't include Claire Danes, who thinks acting is creasing your brow in different ways).

Britten and Brulightly - Hannah Berry

Britten is a private eye--sorry, "researcher," who is seeped in ennui due to his tendency for telling lovers bad news. Together with his, er, unusual partner, Brulightly, he gets involved in a case wherein a women questions the suicide of her fiancé. This was a very interesting mystery story, with dreary art that fit well with the tale. I do protest that there was not enough information to actually allow a reader to deduce the truth on their own, but it was still a good job and wish there were more comics like this. Worth being depressed over. 

Sailor Twain ~or~ The Mermaid in the Hudson - Mark Siegel

For the most part I absolutely loved this comic. The pencil art, cartoony characters, mysterious situation, clever mythology, and intriguing characters all lead to an exciting tale about a ship's captain (named Twain, no--possible!--relation), a philandering ship's owner, and a mermaid in late 19th century NY. I write "for the most part" because I feel the last 20% or so felt rushed (especially considering the leisurely pace to begin with and overall length of the tale) and led to some confusion rather than  illumination. Still, maybe you will have a better grasp with the ending and thus see this as you should: an amazing work of comic narrative. 

Orphan Black

What a role of a lifetime. Tatiana Maslany plays a woman who is a series of clones, that is she gets to play (so far about) a dozen different personalities that all look just like her, well, with cosmetic differences. The show is rather over the top in its ridiculousness, with clones from all different walks of life getting caught up in various conspiracies of cut-throat groups trying to unravel the secrets of the cloning process (and more), but that is part of the fun. While it is annoying that the clones are so much more capable than, well, just about everyone else, what really disturbs me is the idea that one of the clones is a lesbian. The inadvertent implication behind this is that homosexuality is determined by one's upbringing, since, after all, the clones are all biologically the same, but all have unique upbringings. Therefore, narrow minded homophobes might be correct when they say that a gay couple will produce a gay child, or that gays might influence straits, or that a gay person can be made straight. I realize that this is far beyond what the creators were thinking, but I do want to point out the dangers of sloppy writing.

The New Deadwardians - Dan Abnett

Chief Inspector George Suttle, last of the homicide detectives of a post Victorian England wherein the upper classes are vampires and the 99% are, well, the same as always, but some sort of plague has set off a zombie epidemic. Suttle attempts to unravel the inexplicable murder of a vampire only to find out unwanted truths. This is an interesting idea, but I felt the entire story was designed as a set up for a future story, and that all the characters were only there to fulfill archetypes, in other words that were flat or Edwardian.  

RASL: The Drift, The Fire of St. George, Romance at the Speed of Light, & The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla - Jeff Smith

I was a big fan of Bone and thought I'd give this more adult comic a try. The oversized formate and strong b/w art actually makes this seem like a coloring book until you read it. The story is about a scientist (as unlikely as he first seems), Rob, who is using his invention to cross into alternate universes to, well, rob them. While we know little of this character, we quickly learn that he is in way over his head. This first volume has many more questions than answers, but you'll want to learn more ASAP. Smith is a great storyteller and wonderful artists. It is good to see him back.  The second book, The Fire of St. George, give us more detail to the history of our hero scientist as well as my hero, the scientist Nikola Tesla, and the technology that allows Rob to cross dimensions (if that IS what is happening). Still a strong book, but I getting sick of ever gorgeous woman who meets Rob desperately wanting to instantly sleep with him. 

The creepy cover of the 3rd volume takes us to some new characters, or rather further presents some past one, but since about half this volume is notes on the creation of the comic (which can be great for some), we don't get a lot of new info. The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla concludes our story, which I didn't expect as I thought this was an ongoing series (or at least for a while longer). I admit I am somewhat disappointed with the ending; while most of the threads of this story are tied up the key word is most and I felt it would have been better to extend the ending and more fully delve into the various ramifications of all that had been brought up. Still, it has been an enjoyable ride and it is definitely worth reading. Again, this volume has some behind the scenes insights which is always cool. I would suggest you try to read RASL in one sitting as it is easier to keep track of various elements.

 

2 Guns - Steven Grant

You probably seen the movie by now, but first it was a comic. Considering the cover has two white guys on it indicates that it may be at least slightly different from the film. In any event, two guys rob a bank, only to discover that they are both undercover government agents and that the robbery is the least of their problems. If they want to have a chance to get out of their situations alive they have to work together and unravel the conspiratorial web they are stuck in. It isn't a bad comic although I felt there were some leaps of internal logic (either you're a great shot or you can't hit the guy standing in front of you, pick one) and very little emotional resonance and can totally understand why such a fast paced, action-mystery would make it to the big screen.

Moriarty: The Dark Chamber – Daniel Corey

This could have been good. Take the reclusive villain of the Sherlock Holmes saga and have him attempt to uncover a diabolical plot that only a master criminal like himself could unravel. Now stick in a sexy female ninja and lots of unnecessary ass kicking and you've just ruined a good comic. I should have realized I was headed for disappointment  as Corey's introduction, which pretends to be a newspaper article from 1914, is full of anachronisms.

The Complete Bite Club - Howard Chaykin

Vampires are just another mob family in Miami, and Chaykin does have moments where the brutality of soulless, undead, supernaturally powerful beings really shines in his mystery tale of treachery, even if it falls short in the final analysis. There is also a short sequel but it is total crap wherein the characters just don't make any sense.

The no. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith

"Precious" Ramotswe is Botswana's only lady private detective, and a darn good one, too. It's an interesting book, the start of a series, that provides some information about one of the more stable African countries as well as a few interesting mysteries, but don't expect a masterwork of literature. I remember HBO was going to make a show out of it but I don't know what happened with that.