Archive for the Crime Category

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Posted in Action/adventure, Crime, Movies with tags on June 1, 2014 by Cara Marie

Dolph Lundgren stars as a baby white guy who was raised in Japan and takes the culture very seriously. Brandon Lee stars as a part Japanese-American dudebro who gets to quip a lot. Together, they are the worst cops I have ever seen on film!

No, really, they are dreadful. Entering buildings without warrants, setting fire to people who have fallen in vats of flammable liquid … there’s not much in the way of due process going on.

Because they are such shitty cops, they have both had trouble keeping partners in the past. When they meet, Lundgren has been beating up the gangsters harassing the owner of his favourite restaurant – Lee walks in, and, not knowing this, immediately starts trying to beat Lundgren up as well. Cue super awkwardness when they realise they are both cops! And what’s more, each other’s new partner.

Screenshot of Lee in a superfly suit, arms open wide, and Lundgren in a leather jacket, looking dubious.

Dolph Lundgren is not impressed.

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Movie night: Creatures from the Abyss vs Ace Attorney

Posted in Crime, Horror, Movies with tags , on March 16, 2014 by Cara Marie

Our last movie night featured what is possibly the worst movie I have ever sat all the way through. Creatures from the Abyss is a really awful Italian exploitation film, brought along by H of course.  He has promised to vet the films more thoroughly in the future.

Creatures from the Abyss is kind of like Alien if Alien were set on a scientific research yacht with mutant fish instead of aliens, and with the sex scene from Prometheus, if halfway through the sex scene the guy had turned into an alien mutant fish instead of only impregnating the woman with alien mutant fish babies. Except worse than that description makes it sound.

Also none of the characters are likable, the editing is near-incoherent, there is no budget, and really I don’t know why anyone would inflict this monstrosity on the universe.

Thankfully one of the other films H brought along was Ace Attorney, which restored my faith in film-making/humanity. Such a good movie! I enjoyed it, without ever having played the games (we were a Playstation family, okay!), and H enjoyed it, having played the games; and I think L enjoyed it too although he got quite worked up about how ridiculous the court system was.

I think the best comparison I have in terms of adaptations is to Scott Pilgrim vs the World – it takes some of the very stylised elements of the source medium and replicates them entertainingly. I mean, you have to respect this level of dedication to replicating cartoon hairstyles:

Phoenix Wright has his trademark pointy hair, despite not being a cartoon.

Unlike Scott Pilgrim vs the World, though, Ace Attorney is actually a successful movie. (Apologies to anyone who likes the Scott Pilgrim movie.) It’s not a serious movie. But it also doesn’t make fun of its source material. It takes the characters’ emotional arcs seriously.

Overthinking TV pilot blurbs

Posted in Comics, Crime, Fantasy, TV with tags on February 1, 2014 by Cara Marie

iZombie, from Warner Bros TV and Rob Thomas Prods, is a supernatural crime procedural that centers on a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective, she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head.
Deadline

I’m not sure what to make of this. Asides from the zombie-who-has-to-solve-crimes aspect, it doesn’t seem like it has that much in common with the comic. If I were going to write that kind of summary for the comic, it would go more like this …

iZombie, the comic, is a supernatural apocalyptic adventure story that centres on an art student-turned-zombie who takes a job as a gravedigger to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her ghost friend and werewolf friend, she deals with the deads’ unfinished business – and on the way discovers that the end of the world is nigh, and she may be the only one who can stop it.

The fact that the impending apocalypse isn’t mentioned in the TV summary makes me think that they’ve scrapped that element. Sure, in the earliest issues of iZombie, it’s not obvious that’s where things are going, and it does seem as if the series might just be episodic – but it’s not. It gets apocalyptic fast, and it’s always been going there.

Based simply on the summary, it sounds to me like they’re not adapting the comic at all, only using it as inspiration. Like they just needed a quirky new premise for the procedural they were going to make anyway. Which is a huge disappointment to me, because I love the comic series, and the route it takes.

Recent movie nights

Posted in Action/adventure, Crime, Horror, Movies with tags , on December 8, 2013 by Cara Marie

Kung-Fu Chefs

Two brothers, both excellent chefs, have a falling out that ends up with one never being able to cook again, and the other, played by Sammo Hung, getting kicked out of the family for serving a dish that made everyone sick.

Years later Hung starts cooking again, which causes his nephew to try and avenge his father’s honour by ruining Hung’s restaurant, beating everyone up, and also by hiring chefs that can defeat Hung’s protege in a reality TV show cooking contest.

Kung-Fu Chefs was hard to follow at times – not because the plot was especially convoluted, but because a bunch of connecting scenes seem to have been cut out, leaving you to wonder how people got from here to there, and why aren’t they in the refrigerator any more?

Despite that, it was a really fun film. The action scenes were enjoyable, and we all got really hungry while watching it. Which is really what you want out of a movie called Kung-Fu Chefs.

Also watched that night: Tai Chi Zero. Will leave talking about that until we’ve seen Tai Chi Hero as well.

Hard Boiled

It took a while to really get into this movie. I think it suffers from the two leads not actually meeting till quite a way into the movie. (It also suffers because after a certain point, you can’t help but compare it to another movie, which anything would suffer in comparison to.)

So: Chow Yun Fat plays Tequila, a cop driven to revenge after his partner dies in a horrific shoot-out in a bird cafe. (I mean, everyone seemed to have birds with them. I’m not sure what that was about.) Tequila is in trouble with his boss for killing the gangster they were after during the shoot-out; he’s going to be taken off the case altogether and that is not okay with Tequila.

Our other lead is played by Tony Leung (the character’s name is also Tony), and he’s a hitman being seduced into a rival gang. (I say seduced, because the rival gang boss expresses some rather romantic sentiments when he’s trying to convince Tony to join him. Maybe it was the translation, but S and I were both like, um.)

Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung have great chemistry, and the film really picks up once the two of them are on screen together. (They’re both so young in this!) Sadly, it’s not for a while.

The action scenes are shocking and brutal, and some of the choreography is very impressive … but they go on too long. There’s a point where there’s been so much shooting you can’t tell why they’re just not all dead yet, and you’ve lost what the point of the scene was.

The final action sequence spices things up by forcing Chow Yun Fat to fight while carrying a baby, though, so I suppose I can forgive it for that ;)

Also watched that night: Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Experimental stop-motion metal-fetishist bizarrity. S told us there was no weird sex stuff. There turned out to be a lot of weird sex stuff. It was an experience.

Dragon Heat and The Viral Factor

Posted in Action/adventure, Crime, Movies with tags on October 15, 2013 by Cara Marie

Two Hong Kong action flicks edited by Chung Wai-Chiu, a fact I only bring up because one of them was so shockingly edited we had to IDMB the editor afterwards. Here we go …

Dragon Heat

A Hong Kong action movie staring Michael Biehn! What could go wrong?

… a lot. Luckily, this was the kind of movie that was hilarious while it was being awful. It suffered from an excess of characters (six good guys, plus miscellaneous cops to serve as canon-fodder; four bad guys on one team, two bad guys on another, plus miscellanous flunkies and an ex-girlfriend). The movie did make an effort to introduce most of them … with little introduction cards and characteristic dramatic shots. (The characteristic dramatic shots get used again whenever a character does something especially cool.) There were also title cards for each ‘chapter’ of the movie.

Dragon Heat is one of the most incoherently edited films I have ever scene. If you can think of an editing technique, it’s in here. (At one point, L asked me why I was complaining about a bizarrely placed fade when we’d just crosscut between the present-day action scene and a black-and-white clip of the character’s signature dramatic shot. The answer is, because it was just another unnecessary thing.)

At first, L and I were impressed that the bad guys were actually decent shots – but it turned out that only applied to people other than our heroes. We were told – in the introductions, and in a particularly memorable scene featuring a duck-shooting game – that our heroes were good shots, but we never saw any evidence of this outside of the duck-shooting game. (Later, there is a close-range sniper battle!)

There was also a cringe-worthy moment when the only woman on our team of heroes actually killed one of the bad guys (no-one had managed it till then; you have to pretend it’s a cop’s job to kill bad guys to watch this movie) and she takes a moment to smile goofily at the team sniper who has a crush on her. They have a *moment*.

… and then Nikita shoots her in the head.

(I’m kidding, it’s not Nikita. It’s Maggie Q playing a much less competent female assassin! And being wasted in general.)

The rest of the team get a little moment of bonding-in-grief, and we move on. Luckily, she wasn’t one of the characters we were expected to care about.

Sadly, I don’t think I ever managed to care about any of them. Which, given the size of the cast, isn’t really a surprise.

The Viral Factor

I watched this while I was in Malaysia, but it turns out it was edited by the same guy who edited Dragon Heat, so I feel like I should talk about it now. Unlike Dragon Heat, this movie seemed competently edited.

This is one of the many movies I watched while I was in Malaysia; I’m talking about it now because turns out it was edited by the same guy who edited Dragon Heat. This surprised me, because The Viral Factor seemed competently edited.

The Viral Factor is the sort of movie that is competent without ever achieving anything greater. The region 4 DVD case is misleading – it makes the movie seem far more action-y than it actually is. Which isn’t to say there’s no action, but at its heart this is a drama about two brothers on opposite sides of the law. It wasn’t until I realised that that I actually started to enjoy the movie.

The action plotline was the least memorable part – someone had manufactured a virus in order to make money selling the vaccines; Jay Chou had to stop it. Also Jay Chou was dying. Also he’d just been reunited with his estranged gambling addict father and criminal brother, and met his criminal brother’s adorable daughter. Awkward family bonding! Things resolved much as you’d expect them to, and I teared up at the end.

The only action scene that really stuck with me was the car chase, and that was for the wrong reasons. See, they were in KL at that point. And I’d just been in KL. More specifically, I’d just been in a KL traffic jam. And I had trouble suspending my disbelief that the roads would ever be that clear.

More terrifying than the human mushroom patch

Posted in Crime, Horror, TV with tags on June 24, 2013 by Cara Marie

The heartbreaking thing about Will Graham is how completely people fail him. Hannibal hardly even counts; he’s on a while other level. Hannibal doesn’t count – we’ve known all along that he doesn’t have Will’s interests at heart. But when in the final episode Jack tells Hannibal, ‘He’s not your victim, doctor,’ and Hannibal replies, ‘Nor is he yours,’ – well, neither of those statements are true. Will is just as much a victim of Jack’s utilitarianism as he is Hannibal’s curiousity. Jack fails Will utterly, both as a manager and as a human being.

And there’s Dr Sutcliffe, who in episode ten falsifies Will’s results and thus enables Hannibal to continue his manipulation. That episode is probably the most horrifying one in the series for me. Because it is two people who Will is supposed to be able to trust – two people who have a duty and an obligation to care for him – completely disregarding his health and wellbeing. They’re looking only to satisfy their own curiousity and ambition.

Hannibal is the show’s villain. But Hannibal wouldn’t be able to do what he does without the complicity of others. If Jack hadn’t failing Will, if Dr Sutcliffe hadn’t failed Will, Hannibal couldn’t have done what he did.

As complicities to evil go, eating human flesh at Hannibal’s dinners is relatively minor.

End-of-year book meme

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Cara Marie

How many books read in 2012?

76 books. This includes novellas, so they were not all very long books. It doesn’t include comic books.

Fiction/non-fiction ratio?

I read eight non-fiction books … that’s one for every 8.5 fiction books.

In other genre distinctions, 60% of the books I read were sci-fi/fantasy (not including JD Robb, as they’re primarily crime and the SF element is usually just the setting). I read four adult fiction books that weren’t SFF or crime stories! Which is … the same number I read every year.

Male/female authors?

I read 18 books by male authors (including half-marks for cowritten books or anthologies) and 58 by female authors.

I always find it weird when people challenge themselves to read more books by female authors, because my bias is so far the other way! Clearly it is my inner misandry showing through.

Favourite book read?

Michelle Sagara wins this year, because I would be hard-pressed to choose between her YA standalone novel, Silence, and the eighth book in ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’, Cast in Peril.

Silence is a book that, when described, sounds like your typical paranormal YA, complete with antagonistic love interest. But it’s not typical at all.

I really loved that the teenaged characters in it were so sensible and kind to one another. That no-one made stupid decisions to generate tension. There’s a lot of YA that goes the other way, and it always annoys me, because that’s not what my experience of being a teenager was like. I don’t mean to say that there’s no conflict between the characters – but it’s not showy, and it rings true.

This isn’t a complete summary of why I liked the book; just one of the things that made it for me.

Cast in Peril I wrote about at the time, in contrast to one of the books covered in the next question. I went through a period of avoiding series fiction; this book serves as an example of how well fantasy series can work. How you can really dig into the world-building, and discover new things. How a book can be the opposite of standalone and still be completely satisfying.

The part of me that still wants to avoid series fiction is freaking out a little – how on earth did I end up reading an 8+ book series? There weren’t that many when I started!

Cast in Peril was also the book that made me realise me and this e-books thing was going to work out, and that I didn’t need everything I loved in hardcopy.

Least favourite?

Not sure whether to go with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken (as discussed in ‘Where (not) to end a book‘) or Tanith Lee’s Piratica III: The Family Sea. The former I probably enjoyed more for the first two-thirds, so it was a greater disappointment when I turned out to hate it. But I might say Piratica III anyway – I think I’m quite glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, when I was more invested in the characters, because I would have been hugely disappointed. (skip) I think I can see what Tanith Lee was trying to do, having Art’s marriage fail, and her ending up alone and free. But I didn’t feel that freedom in the end – it just felt bleak to me.

Oldest book read?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also the first book I read last year. I was quite bewildered afterwards – not about the stories, but about the Sherlock interpretation of Holmes being kind of an asshole. (I’ve never actually watched Sherlock; this is just the impression I’ve received.) Book!Holmes is not an asshole at all! He might not be that interested in people, but he’s still considerate to them.

Also, I was proud of myself because there were a couple of mysteries I figured out before they were revealed. I like to pretend that’s an achievement.

Newest?

The Silvered, by Tanya Huff. Came out in November and I read it in December. I wrote a not-very-deep review at the time.

Longest book title?

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress. Long title, short book. This is such a pointless question I feel like I have to talk about the book, now. The three parts of the title refer to the three POVs the book switches between. ‘The fall’ refers to an apocalypse. I enjoyed this quite a bit at the start, but I think overall the pay-off wasn’t there. It had the sort of conclusion that could work for me in a short story, but doesn’t work for me in a longer work.

Shortest title?

Silence or Mastiff. I’ve talked about Silence already, so … Mastiff was the third and final book in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog series. It was also the least memorable of the three. Enough so that I don’t know if I really have anything to say about it. The first book was my favourite, because it was the one that was most a ‘school story’, with a supporting cast I really enjoyed. And that doesn’t really get carried through into the later books. Which make sense re: the ‘school story’ aspect, but I miss Rosto and Kora and Aniki. (You will note I remember their names, but not the names of the supporting cast in Mastiff.)

I guess Pierce was more interested in the crime novel aspect for this series, but that’s not what I read her for, and it was at the expense of the elements I really love.

How many re-reads?

Only three, which seems low. But then, I guess this is the first year I’ve had a full-time job the whole time, so I’m more inclined to read new things.

Most books read by one author this year?

I read ten JD Robb books – I guess I used these as my comfort fiction, rather than re-reading things. Her ‘In Death’ books are basically a procedural in book form. Except the main couple got together in the first couple of books so there’s no ridiculous ‘will they, won’t they?’ (This shouldn’t necessarily be a procedural trope, but it seems to be.) Also, they’re set in the future! My favourite mysteries are probably the ones that have the most to do with technology – although I think Witness in Death has been my favourite overall, and that one does not, so.

They’re standalone books, and I’ve read them completely out of order. They do benefit from being read chronologically, because of the way the characters and relationships develop over the long-term. On the other hand, there’s more than forty of them. So I think picking the ones with the most interesting-sounding mysteries is probably the best route to reading them.

Any in translation?

Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake was the only translated book I read this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library?

About six. For which I accrued some ridiculous fines, so I’m avoiding the library at the moment.

Where (not) to end a book

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy with tags , , on October 16, 2012 by Cara Marie

I read Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Peril last week. It’s the eighth book in her Chronicles of Elantra. As of the last book, the Hawks have agreed to send our heroine Kaylin on a journey to the West Marches – perhaps it is more a pilgrimage – to observe a Barrani ceremony that takes place there. This book, for the most part, follows that journey.

The Elantra books all have mystery/crime novel elements, but in this book they’re not at the forefront. It’s not quite as eventful as some of the others, but that’s not a bad thing – it’s actually quite relaxing, and for the characters too I think. We learn a lot about the world, about the history of the Barrani, about Kaylin’s friend, colleague and mentor Teela. Also Kaylin gets an awesome dragon familiar. I enjoyed it a lot.

And, as the book drew to a close, I realised – hang on, they’re not actually going to get to the West Marches in this book, are they?

So, in some ways, it’s half a book: because the end of the journey, and its goal, have yet to come. On the other hand, it does resolve the mystery from the beginning, and connects it to what’s been going on in the background of the earlier novels. And because it concludes that element – we get a confrontation, and see Kaylin survive it – the book is still satisfying on its own.

Also, once you’re eight books in, I think you’ve earned the right to cut a major narrative arc in half!

The reason I point this out is because the feeling I had at the end was so different from that I had at the end of another book I read recently. With Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, I had that same feeling of: hang on, this isn’t actually going to finish, is it?

(Non-specific spoilers ahead.)

I hadn’t realised Unspoken was the first book in a series; I was expecting a stand-alone. For the most part, it’s the story of a teenage wannabe-journalist, Kami Glass, who sets about uncovering a mystery in her town. But towards the end, the whole scope of that mystery widens. The novel doesn’t end with our heroine winning, for today: she and her friends survive, but they haven’t defeated anything, and the conspiracy is bigger than they had realised.

So that’s a downer. But on top of that, the person who is closest to Kami in the world basically dumps her. Sarah Rees Brennan could not have picked a lower point to end on.

This didn’t make me excited for the next book to come out. Instead, it spoiled the whole thing for me. And I had been enjoying the book. But it’s not a complete story, and it ends in such a dark place that I cannot accept it as the first novel in a series.

It’s half a novel instead. You can chop a book in pieces if you’re Tad Williams and your novel is several thousand pages long. But it didn’t work for me in Unspoken.

And with the story split in half like that, I feel like the second book is going to be quite different from the first one. Which is a natural part of changing the scope like that, and which I wouldn’t mind if I were reading straight on. But it’s not what I signed up for when I started Unspoken, and the ending of that soured me enough that I don’t really want to read on.

I haven’t been this annoyed at the ending of a book since The Knife of Never Letting Go, which tagged on a cliffhanger in the last scene. It would have ended quite satisfyingly without, and I would have looked forward to the follow up. I don’t need to be tricked into reading a sequel with a cliffhanger, or a false ending. If I enjoy a book, I’ll naturally want to read the next one. But if you end at a place where the story is unfinished (and if you’re not an ongoing series with enough going on that you’ve earnt that) … well, that just feels like a cheat.

The Talented Mr Ripley

Posted in Books, Crime, Movies with tags , on June 9, 2012 by Cara Marie

So, my flatmate was telling me the other day about seeing The Talented Mr Ripley, and then walking out during the scene where Tom bludgeons Dickie to death in the boat.

Which is fair enough – it’s an unpleasant scene. (Patricia Highsmith is very good at blunt, horrific, everyday violence.) But it’s not the one that disturbed me.

That’s the one at the end, where Ripley murders his would-be lover, on the chance that he could expose him. My mind wouldn’t let that rest. How could he have done that? I didn’t want to believe it. I thought about getting the book out the library, hoping it would have a different ending. I didn’t dare, because I knew I wouldn’t.

This was when I was maybe fourteen.

Earlier this year, I read The Talented Mr Ripley for the first time. (I’d read some of its sequels and other Highsmith books before.) And I braced myself.

Only …

Tom Ripley never murders Peter at the end of the book. Peter is but barely in the book.

It was both a relief and a letdown.

*

There is a moment, in the book, where Ripley thinks that the same thing that happened with Dickie could happen with Peter. And, he doesn’t want to go there again. And he doesn’t.

But in the movie he does. And it is all the more awful when the same thing does happen – because Peter, unlike Dickie, really does like Ripley back.

*

The movie begins and ends with a sense of regret. ‘If I could rub everything out, starting with myself.’ Whereas in the book …

But supposing they got him on the fingerprints, and on the will, and they gave him the electric chair – could that death in the electric chair equal in pain, or could death itself, at twenty-five, be so tragic, that he could not say that the months from November until now had not been worth it? Certainly not.

Ripley is wary of being caught, but as the book ends, he has not been. He’s got away with, is no longer under suspicion, and is a good deal richer to boot.

As the movie ends, Ripley is no longer under investigation, yes, and he is a good deal richer also – I assume (it’s not made explicit, but it certainly sounds to me like Mr Greenleaf is saying, I get it, you two were totally in love, it’s cool, you can inherit his money, I reckon he would have wanted that.)

But, he is a murderer and he cannot go unpunished. So when there is someone who loves him – well, it’s inevitable that Peter should maybe find out about the impersonating Dickie thing, maybe realise, and that Ripley should have to kill him for it. Ripley has horrible marks upon his soul, see; he can never be happy.

(God, that scene at the end. It is bloody heartwrenching, and my brain does not want to reconcile it.)

But the Ripley in the books can be. He can set aside his guilt and go on to lead a long and interesting life. Which might lack poetic justice, but it’s certainly less traumatic, and less predictable.

Honestly, to have spent so much of the book bracing myself, and that was not even in it. God, Anthony Minghella, why?

Revenge 1.15

Posted in Crime, TV with tags on February 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

Revenge! My show, omg. Read more »