Category Archives: reviews

Sherlock: “The Sign of Three” (Initial Thoughts)

We have devolved into self-parody and fan fiction. Not that it much matters; if you feed ravenous dogs only three times every two years, they’ll eat whatever you give them and nevermind the taste.

I hoped “The Empty Hearse” had been meant as a nod to the fans and then we would get on with the show, as they say. And there was a promising enough start in which Lestrade was about to arrest the Waters (no connection to Brook? is it a theme or merely a lack of imagination?) band but was drawn away by a text from Sherlock begging for help. Anyone who had heard about the episode knew Sherlock’s plea would be about the best man speech for John’s wedding, but whatever. Even if a show can no longer surprise viewers it can still sometimes delight.

Still, when I see three writers listed in the credits, I know something is very wrong.

Were there good moments and good lines? Of course. But the episode felt interminable; I could practically hear the guests (extras, rather, or based on recent [lack of] casting, probably just the cast’s friends and family) at the wedding groan, “Oh, God, we’ve become a frame story.”

Where do I, personally, draw the line? Oh . . . Putting Sherlock with a kid (how precious, and not in a good way), Sherlock and John drunk and then attempting to take a case, fart jokes. And the need to have Benedict vault over set pieces in every episode. (Also, if we could refrain from standing on rooftops. I know that was last week, but still . . . Sherlock Holmes does not equal Batman.)

Yes it did all eventually come together, which tells me there was a good story in there somewhere that got crowded out by . . . Whatever the fuck the rest of it was. More fan service, I guess.

Look, leave fan service to the Internet and keep the show the show.

Of course, we all know Mary dies at some point. So is all this angst (Sherlock mourning John’s defection—funny when one considers Sherlock defected first) really just akin to yanking our chains? Actually, I almost want Mary to have been planted by Mycroft so as to get John out of the way. But that’s probably going a bit far.

And of course they set up—in quite clumsy, obvious fashion—the final episode of the series (“season” if you’re American; don’t panic there is supposed to be more at some point): “His Last Vow” . . . Let’s hope this series ends better than it’s begun.

Do remember this is merely my first impression, walking away after only one viewing. If I bother to watch again, I may feel differently. But I do find it interesting that I’ve re-watched the first series a number of times and yet have not even taken the plastic off my Series 2 DVD. Hrm. I’d say, based on my feelings about these past couple episodes, the trend is not a good one.

ETA: I had additional thoughts about this episode the following day. They are here.

Sherlock: “The Empty Hearse” (Initial Thoughts)

For all my coverage of Series 2, click here. It’s a bit of a rabbit’s hole to fall down, but . . .

It’s a terrible thing when a good show becomes too aware of its fans. It’s a worse thing when the show makes fun of its fans.

Remember the good ol’ days when Anderson was kind of an asshole? He’s now been reduced to pseudo David Duchovny, running a fan club conspiracy group called “The Empty Hearse” that theorizes that Sherlock Holmes is not really dead. Members gather and come up with increasingly complicated ways that Sherlock might have survived the fall from St. Bart’s. Lestrade figures Anderson is motivated by guilt, that he doesn’t want Sherlock to be dead because it would mean Anderson (and the rest of the police) was part of the reason Sherlock jumped. And that’s a valid psychological argument, but here it has been reduced to a poke at the audience, many of whom have spent the show’s hiatus coming up with the same kinds of scenarios as Anderson’s club.

(And no, I’m not angry on my own behalf. It’s not difficult to figure out how it was done—and he knew John would go that way because John is left handed—and I have better ways to spend my time than on Tumblr and Reddit. But I am angry on the behalf of Anderson’s character, which has been butchered here on the altar of fan service.)

As for the question of whether Mycroft was working for or against Sherlock, the answer appears to be somewhere in the middle. The rivalry continues, and Mycroft goes to the trouble of saving Sherlock in Serbia, but there’s still a sinister undercurrent. It seems Sherlock is Mycroft’s pet sociology/psychology project, and Mycroft puts his brother to the test by abducting John and putting him in danger—namely a bonfire. Is Mary trustworthy, btw? She sure jumped on that skip code quickly enough.

We got a glimpse of the Holmes parents as well. “Ordinary,” they are called. I’d say ordinary is one thing and prosaic another, given the parents’ dialogue. It was an odd moment and didn’t seem to fit. Was it just more for the fans, to answer some lingering Internet speculation? What a waste of scripting. Unless it comes back later?

As for the paper thin plot, something to do with a terrorist threat in London (which is why Mycroft went to the trouble to fetch his brother back) . . . I realize they mean to set up something bigger, of course. And is it possible Moriarty’s syndicate is not yet completely exterminated? Or that Mycroft is testing Sherlock on ever grander levels? But the bulk of the episode really went to all these interactions—Mycroft and Sherlock playing Operation—and while I understand the the character development, such as it is (and Mycroft is the one who is not changing; he is the bulwark), some of it was muddled here. Anderson, as I’ve mentioned, and the bizarre relationship between Sherlock and Molly, and finally the joke on John in the bomb carriage. It didn’t work for me. I mean, I like to think Molly has moved on, but the Almost Sherlock (aka Tom) merely puts Molly right back at the bottom . . . And then cutting the legs out from under John’s heartfelt words by having Sherlock trick him . . . I know Sherlock can be a dick, but he still needs to be likable, at least a little. Toying with Molly’s affections (is she really the one who “matters most”?) and laughing at John doesn’t play. It seems like one step too far in every direction. And for once, you know, it would be nice to see Molly and/or John get an upper hand.

Then again, maybe they have the upper hand and don’t realize it. If emotions make Sherlock uncomfortable, he’s going to hide them in order to keep his vulnerabilities hidden. And the best defense is a great offense.

So then we’re back to Mycroft’s curiosity about how his little brother would react to John being in mortal peril. Hmm.

I don’t mean to be down on all of it. Some of it did work quite well. I enjoyed John repeatedly choking Sherlock. And even Sherlock’s attempt to be playful by masquerading as the waiter. That was cute. I liked that Sherlock has John’s voice in his head when he’s working. But it was so obvious those basement skeletons were fake; I knew the minute I saw them, how could Sherlock not have done? (Well, it was either that they were fake or the art department had done an abysmal job.)

This is all just off the top of my head having just watched the episode. Maybe I’ll have more to say once I’ve slept on it. Maybe not.

Oh, and I know you’re going to ask about the Moriarty moment on the rooftop. More fan service, yes. The rule is to give the audience what it wants—or thinks it wants—without ever actually giving it what it wants. Right? (It’s the reason my “Martlets” script begins with Sherlock and John lookalikes in bed together. See? I did the lookalike thing already, back before Series 2. Get with it, boys. You’re behind the times.)

BBF Day 6: James Weber Reviews St. Peter in Chains

Last day of Blogger Book Fair! You can find some K-Pro stuff over on Kayla Curry’s blog and ML Weaver’s site as well. But here, today, I’m posting James Weber’s review of my novella St. Peter in Chains. Thanks, James, for taking the time to read it! And glad you enjoyed it!

If James Bond Were Gay!

He’d drink Scotch and Soda instead of a vodka martini. The irony here is that Scotch and Soda is somehow both more sophisticated and manlier than a vodka martini will ever be, no matter how you shake or stir it. Served tall, or in a low ball glass; you can be sure he’ll never low ball you. Even coloring to compliment his even temperament. And exactly three cubes of ice ensure he’s just the right temperature. Never frigid, brittle, or frozen. Always . . . Cool.

You can swirl the glass and perhaps catch some fizz swimming up for air. Proof that he can still get excited. But you shouldn’t stare into the glass for too long. It’s too obscure. You can see the bottom but you won’t truly be seeing him. Not as he really is. The arrangement of the ice, and the grain of the glass. Even the motion of the liquid as you swirl. All of it refracts the light. Casts shadows where perhaps there ought not to be.

If James Bond were gay his apartment would be white on white. He wouldn’t waste time with curtains or drapes. Just a sea of white daring you not to spill your glass of wine . . . or worse a drop of blood. He’d have a great view and lots of open spaces. You’d see the city and the skyline and all the rooftops and alleys. It’d be romantic yet functional. And maybe he’d flirt with some of the office girls at the company Christmas party. Keep them talking. Make them believe he was just a tough catch and not altogether unattainable.

If James Bond were gay, he’d be Peter Stoller.

But alas, James Bond isn’t gay and Peter Stoller is. It isn’t Bond, but Peter who must come to grips with his growing attraction for a blue eyed cab driver. Again, not Bond but Peter who must figure out why the company’s steady stream of intelligence is suddenly dammed up. Oh and if he isn’t careful, that same blue eyed cab driver will burn the tomato sauce and smoke up the apartment! (As if that red wine earlier hadn’t tempted fate enough, now tomato sauce?!)

It is this subtle change in perspective that makes M Pepper Langlinais’ St. Peter in Chains such an enjoyable read. It is as if all the pieces we know are there but just look a little different. Perhaps just a new vantage point is all. I won’t spoil the ending but I always enjoy when an author shows you an answer instead of telling it to you. Langlinais has a way of doing this which is almost cinematic in quality (perhaps it’s all that screen writing experience!) and it truly makes the piece more enjoyable to read. I ended up re-reading the ending to make sure it all worked out. It does so far as I can tell. The clues are there if you know where to look. Another sign of great writing. Well done.

Sorry, Archer. Not what a gay spy looks like.
Sorry, Archer. Not what a gay spy looks like.
James Weber is an English Graduate from the University of Maryland. He currently works at
McKeldin Library. In his spare time, he blogs
about books, publishing, music, television
and whatever else he happens to think
interesting or noteworthy @

Everyone should go read St. Peter in Chains
now because the sequel, St. Peter at the Gate,
is out next week. Don’t fall behind!

And while you’re at it, please vote for The K-Pro
and St. Peter in Chains in the Reader’s Choice.
K-Pro can be found listed under Fantasy–Mature (2)
and Peter is under LGBT.

Potpourri: Scripts, Reviews & Dreams

A kind of hodgepodge for the end of the week as things have been a tad chaotic. I continue to pick away at St. Peter at the Gate, hoping to finish it before I leave for London, but that’s less than two weeks away now!

Meanwhile, I’m excited to announce that a studio has requested to read my 20 August script with an eye to possibly producing it. They told me I’d know one way or another by the end of August. Either way, they’ll provide some feedback on the script, and that’s always good.

And I wanted to share a bit of some of the reviews for The K-Pro:

“Books mixing mythological characters and the contemporary world are quite popular if occasionally annoying for their excesses. This novel has it RIGHT. It has just enough of the mythological world to carry the plot to a satisfying conclusion and just enough underlying plot to mesh well with the modern world.”

“I read this in one sitting, too enthralled to put it down. The epilogue almost killed me, please write more in this world.”

(And no, I don’t know these reviewers.) I’m glad to say that I do have ideas for more K-Pro stories, so there are likely to be more in the series.

Finally, as a fun sideline I’ve started a little dream analysis site. Nothing major, and I’ve only had a couple people send things so far, but dreams have always interested me. Mine are so vivid, and I just can’t wrap my brain around the idea some people don’t even remember their dreams because I almost always remember mine. In fact, I feel disconcerted when I forget them, which happens mostly when I don’t have the luxury to wake slowly and naturally and go over the dream in my mind prior to starting my day. I’ve been analyzing dreams almost as long as I’ve been having them, and my friends and family often come to me to better understand their dreams. Then one friend asked why I don’t do this for a broader audience. Well, Sculpted Dreams is just that—me doing dream analysis for anyone who sends me an e-mail. (Note: I may edit your e-mail and/or fix any spelling and punctuation; the editor in me doesn’t let up.)

Birthday Treats

I’m off to clean myself up for an early birthday outing which shall include a very nice dinner at Wente out followed by an IMAX, 48 fps viewing of The Hobbit. (I know I should call it The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey just to differentiate from the forthcoming other Hobbit movies, but I won’t bother. Because everyone’s just going to call it The Hobbit, just like all three of those others were just The Lord of the Rings. And by “everyone” I mean normal people, not freakish purists who think it’s important for some reason to be exact—they are the hipsters of fandom—or studio folk who need to have a way of separating things out else they can’t manage the big picture. But I digress.) To sum up: happy birthday to ME!

This means, for those who frequent spooklights, you won’t get your regular Elementary infusion. BUT . . . You will get my thoughts on The Hobbit as soon as I’m Coked (as in ~Cola) enough to stay awake and be even semi-coherent. Though it would be far more entertaining, perhaps, for me to write the review half asleep and possibly hallucinating. Hmm. I’ll consider it.

What do you mean you wouldn’t know the difference?

Matchbox Twenty’s North (Initial Impressions)

I’ve been having a lot of dreams with Rob Thomas in them. This isn’t all that uncommon, as I’ve explained before; he turns up when I’m stressed out. And right now I have a lot going on in regards to my writing, and then there have been some disappointments too, so maybe I’m feeling a bit stressed.

But maybe it’s just that the new Matchbox Twenty album is out. And my subconscious is trying to get me to sit down and listen to it. Normally I would have already done so. I would have ordered an actual CD, too, instead of the iTunes download or whatever. But for whatever reason that hasn’t happened this time.

So I’m not writing a review yet because I haven’t actually heard the entire album. (Also, when I write reviews, they go up on spooklights—right now you can go over and read about how I’ve been mentally rewriting Parade’s End to be all about doughnuts.) It’s on my iPhone/iPod, and that is perpetually on shuffle, so a few of the songs have popped up while I’ve been driving around. (I do so love piping my tunes through my car stereo.) My iPod seems especially fond of this “English Town” song, which it’s played almost every time I drive somewhere. I’ve heard “Radio” and “Parade” and other nouns as well, I think. Oh, “Overjoyed”—I saw that video that was really more like a half video played backward then forward. And “Our Song” and “I Believe in Everything.” So that’s not even half the album, I guess.

Anyway, my initial impression has been, “What the hell is this shit?” But that’s always my initial impression of a new Matchbox Twenty album. They have a history of reinventing themselves; no one album sounds like another. Which is weird when you consider they continue to make the same sort of unoffensive pop rock they’ve always made. It’s not edgy. It’s not even original. It’s sort of . . . friendly? I’d say it’s comfortable, but it isn’t at first—always, when first listening to one of their new albums, I’m strangely uncomfortable, as if I’m putting on an unfamiliar piece of clothing, or something too starched. Eventually it wears in and becomes comfortable, though. Which is kind of the point maybe.

Okay, so some of what I’ve heard so far has a weird throw-back vibe. You know, like “Radio” is this sort of bubble gummy thing, and then so is “She’s So Mean.” A lot of the tunes have been catchy, but the lyrics are remarkably weak, being either vague or cliché (or both) . . . I like to be able to feel the music I listen to, I see music as a way to transfer emotion over time and space, and I haven’t really had that with any of these songs so far. Maybe I do really just need to sit down and focus and listen, but I’m not sure truly good music should require so much concentration. It should really grab you of its own accord.

I don’t know. I guess the jury is still out. I will post something on spooklights once I’ve heard the whole thing. (Would it help to think the entire album is about doughnuts, I wonder?)

Matchbox Twenty’s “She’s So Mean” Video

Normally I post this kind of thing over on spooklights. But then again, I’m really not going to review this video. What can be said about it? Except: why do they have a desk/table with a bunch of junk in a crate, all covered with a tarp? I mean, really?

It’s a catchy, dumb, bubble gum kind of song, which means the video is the kind of thing that makes my six-year-old son laugh like a maniac. Though he’s at least kind-hearted enough to worry about Paul once the drums catch fire. (“Is he dead?” my son asked. I assured him Paul would be fine and the band would be touring—intact—soon.)

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

I love the UK. It’s my home away, really, and I go back as often as I can. So I really wanted to like the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, but I just couldn’t.

I’m not sure what went wrong for me, exactly. If I had to guess, I’d say it was a lot of little things, like a lack of unison on the choreography—from what I saw, things that should have been done in time were a bit sloppy. I realize it’s extremely difficult to manage that many people doing something all together, but . . . I don’t know. It was just off somehow.

Too, I think the broadcasting and editing did the show a disservice. Better camera angles might have made the whole of it seem more impressive. As it was, I went to bed disappointed. Though Her Majesty was a good sport about allowing herself to be co-opted, even if she appeared a tad severe whenever the camera turned her way. And the Rowan Atkinson bit was funny.

It will be difficult for me to keep up with the Olympics the way I’d like, what with being on the West Coast at the moment. And there’s only the one television in the house besides. I’m not at the point where I love watching any of these things on my computer, either. Though if I get desperate enough . . . Well, and I can always go out to my sports club and watch while getting in a workout. I’ll never be an Olympian, but I can at least be fit.

Mister Frost

There was, many years ago, a Jeff Goldblum movie titled Mister Frost. It was an understated little flick, something I’m pretty sure only I, my best friend, and my father ever saw. And we didn’t see it in the cinema, no, it was something we found as a rental, back in the day.

Jeff Goldblum plays the title character, a serial murderer who might or might not actually be Satan. The bulk of the film (as I recall it; it’s been so many years since I’ve seen it) takes place in a mental institution where Frost terrorizes a psychiatrist played by Kathy Baker. The movie had lots of those terrible lines that are fun to quote. One of them came early on when Frost is found working in his yard. I can’t remember the exact context, but a visitor (he’s still at home at this point) asks him about something, and he answers in that offhanded, Jeff Goldblum kind of way: “Oh, the bodies. I was just burying them as you were walking up.”

That may not be the exact quote, but you get the gist. Later on Frost tells Baker’s character: “. . . But soon . . . Soon you’ll be on my side of the mirror.” It’s a dumb line, yeah, but Goldblum has made a career of delivering dumb lines quite well.

Like The Prophecy (which I talk a bit about here), Mister Frost is no great film, but I still like it. In both cases they got the right actors, which is key. Both Goldblum here and Walken in The Prophecy are spot on. Playing to type, sure, but a lot of actors build decent careers that way. They do the kinds of things they (a) know they’re good at (i.e., their strengths), and (b) know their fans, such as they are, will want to see.

Then again, sometimes actors take roles because the part is not a challenge and therefore an easy paycheck. And/or they have holes in their schedules to fill. Or nothing else in the offing. Or the movie sounded better on paper. Or it’s a director or co-star they’ve wanted to work with. Or they’re just bored.

And sometimes actors get offered roles not because they’re the best fit but because no one else would touch it.

Ah, Hollywood. Every movie tells a story—even if some of those stories are not very good or are not told very well—and behind every movie is another long story of how it got made.

Revisiting Sherlock

I’ve been e-mailed and asked by a few readers if I’m ever going to post my thoughts about Series (Season) One of BBC’s Sherlock. I had posted quite extensive coverage of Series Two (see below) but never much about the first series for the simple reason that this site began well after that had aired. So I don’t really see much point, though I’m happy to discuss anything about the show anyone cares to bring up.

For those catching up, here is a list of links to the posts about Series Two. I apologize in advance that it’s a bit of a rabbit’s hole of information:

The reason for the labyrinth of links is that I viewed the episodes when they aired in the UK, and then again when they aired in the US, so there were a number of pulse points to cover and different readers from different places to accommodate, &c. So everything is a bit disjointed, and some of it is repetitive besides, but if you’re willing to swim through it, I’m happy to chat about it—anything that’s there or anything I might have missed, and certainly anything about Series One as well.