-Spoilers!- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) -Spoilers!-

I remember the first time I watched Snatch. I popped it out of the DVD player, not entirely certain what to make of it. Then I put it back in and watched it twice more in a row.

That was, for a number of years, the best Guy Ritchie movie I’d ever seen. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels felt like Snatch reshuffled. It suffers from what I call the Austin Powers Theory: if you saw the first film first, that’s your favorite and you tend to think the second film is crap. If, however, you saw The Spy Who Shagged Me first, then the original film is, to your eyes, crap.

I mean – all rules have exceptions, but … generally.

Anyway. Revolver was disappointing. I didn’t even bother with Swept Away, and I wasn’t sure what to make of Sherlock Holmes, so I avoided it at theaters.

When I finally got around to watching it, however, I was very impressed. I felt the folks behind the film put together a unique take on the character, albeit mostly by mining the stories for information, and abandoning the deer-stalker hat. I thought the script was solidly built, the score delightful, and the visuals borderline steampunkish (wonderful combination).

Alas: the sequel kept the score and the visuals but abandoned story telling in favor of action sequences. Moriarty, a mysterious character in the first film, is not an unknown character in this film, in fact, he’s pretty well known to everybody: Holmes has his photo, Moriarty’s out signing books and giving well attended lectures, while trying to organize a world war to line his pockets. Moriarty comes across less as a brilliant manipulator and more as a guy who has a hard time getting anything to go his way. Not to mention that his whole scheme from the first film – stealing the radio device isn’t even mentioned in the sequel. ‘

Finally: a quick note about the ending. What could have been a really daring ending — and if you’re familiar with the Sherlock Holmes mythos, you probably have an idea — is cheapened by the final scene.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – totally Netflixable.

“There’s no dialogue in The Artist?!”

I was reading an article today that cracked me up – movie patrons in the U.K. were wanting refunds because they hadn’t realized there was no dialogue in the French film The Artist.

I got out to see the movie last Thursday (I know, I know, I’m very untimely on this). What follows is SPOILERS so please be careful about continuing to read (you know how I get).


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A Game of Thrones


I can tell you when I bought A Game of Thrones, and I can even tell you how much I paid for it. I bought it August 2nd, 2008, and I paid — including tax — thirty-seven cents for it. I can even tell you when I bought A Clash of Kings. I did that via Amazon.com. February 23rd, 2007. I paid $7.99 for it, and I also ordered a copy of Watership Down.

I remember that I’d tried to order A Game of Thrones, but later got an email from Amazon stating that it was unavailable.

I’d heard it about one afternoon at Towson University. So: quick recap. I’d dropped out of college, bummed around for a few years, then re-enrolled. Winter semester I had blocks of classes in the morning Tuesday and Thursday. I also had a night class on Tuesdays and would usually just hang out on campus for four or five hours — good time to get a bite to eat, and do studying and coursework. One late afternoon I was at The Brick, an underground cafe convenient to Linthicum Hall. I recognized a woman I’d had a lot of classes with my first time through, and we started talking.

Funny story: I used to actually have a copy of a paper she turned in for one of our classes. It was about Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and literary portrayals of vampire slayers. I also remember she once, semesters before this, came into class wanting to talk about the previous night’s episode of the show, and pointed at me and said “I know you watch the show!” I didn’t, at the time, but I since have.

She told me she was devouring a series of books by George RR Martin. They were being developed as a TV show by HBO. I ordered the first two books from Amazon, but as I mentioned, the first book was unavailable. Obviously, I wasn’t going to read the second book without having read the first, so I stuck it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Flash forward fourteen months. I’ve been hired at a job in Bethesda and I’m looking for an apartment and part-time work in the city. I found it at Borders. Flash forward to August. I’ve been at Borders for just under four months. I’ve never seen a copy of A Game of Thrones in our sci-fi section, but I’ve looked for it. I’ve never given it much thought. Since it was being turned into an HBO series, I figured maybe they’d just let the printings lapse to build up interest.

(I had no idea the show was in production for so long … it got to the point where I figured that woman had just lied to me).

Then I come into work one night, and passing through the stock room to the break room, I saw multiple copies of the book on a cart. At some point that night, I stuck a copy of it on the employee held shelf, and bought it after we closed. The receipt says I purchased the book at 9:08, which means it must’ve been one of those nights where we had to practically force the customers out at knife point.

I mean … not literally at knife point.

And so I had a copy of A Game of Thrones (my employee discount, plus “Borders Buck” pulled the price down to the .37 cent point).

And now it’s January 15th, 2012, and I’ve just finished reading it, having started at some point in December. Basically, it’s been a practically five year journey since I first heard of the book, until I finished reading it. I had actually tried reading it a year or two ago, but couldn’t really get into it.

Before you ask: I’ve got a few more books by other authors before I get to the next in the series. This year I’m focusing on George RR Martin, John LeCarre, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

So back to the book — I really don’t see how this story is going to be played across seven books. I also don’t know how far I’ll get into these books. I know how many George RR Martin fans came in complaining about the gap between the fourth and fifth books (like, five years), and if there’s any solace anyone should take, it’s this: if HBO wants to keep to adapting the books at the rate of one a season, and want to produce and air a season a year, then Martin’ll have to be finished by, what, 2017?

Back to Game of Thrones. My favorite characters:

-Jon Snow

Also, why bother calling people “Ser”? Why not just “Sir”? It just seems weird. Everyone dresses in armour and prances around on horses at tournaments, why that switcharoo? Also: I kind of hate that one of the nastiest characters has a bastardization spelling of my own name, and I can’t wait until Joffrey’s killed by somebody. I hope he cries like a little bitch.

For those interested: Storm of Swords I bought at Barnes & Noble a few months ago, and A Feast for Crows the day after Thanksgiving.

Quick note:

The first fantasy series I loved was The Chronicles of Prydain<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=malnusnay-20&l=ur2&o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" / by Lloyd Alexander, based on old Welsh legends. I re-read these most recently in 2007: the first three, and the fifth, are delightful. The fourth is sort of strong-armed morality tales.

The first fantasy book I read as an adult was Angus Wells' Lords of the Sky.

Not long after that Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy: a delightfully brilliant series of books.

I highly recommend all of them.

How I Almost Fell on Some Guy on the 42 Last Night

I bought a book yesterday.


It’s a gift for someone’s birthday. Remember the caveat in my New Year’s Resolution post: books for gifts are okay. With the unspoken provision that I actually GIVE the person the gift.

It’s a copy of Bill Bryson’s At Home, because we’d been talking about stuff in our apartments and I was laying down all this know-how about how guys used to jump on a bench with holes on it that were positioned all close so they could talk and poop at the same time. I could never have lived in the past, I don’t even like reading a book when I’m pooping. I’m afraid one of the characters is going to be like, “Woah, dude, your shit stinks so bad I’ve stopped being a fictional character with a fixed path to tell you to eat better smelling stuff!”

Or something.

I worked at the Cinecave until ten, and then began a three bus odyssey home. I jumped the D6 to Dupont Circle, where I disembarked, dashed to Kramer’s, found the book, bought it, and was at the stop to catch the 42. Next Bus showed one arriving in 0 minutes, and one arriving in two minutes. I couldn’t see the next one, so I figured maybe it was that weird counterpart of the “ghost” bus on NextBus (that’s a bus that is running the route but not showing on the application, so the counterpart would be a bus that wasn’t running the route but is showing on the application). Anyway, I got on the 42. The completely jam packed 42. Because everyone got on it. And more people got on it. And more. And more. And we weren’t going anywhere.

This was like 10:30 at night. More and more and more and more people. Always more people.

And then I’m standing in the back, and the bus starts moving, and I’m so unprepared I practically fell in the lap of some guy. Me? Oh, I was embarrassed. Beyond embarrassed. I was so happy to jump off at Columbia & 18th. And you know what I saw?

Another 42. Directly behind the one I’d been on. Completely empty.

I need to have faith in NextBus. And usually I do, and given the option, I’ll wait for the second bus because the rule of mass transportation is this: if two vehicles are traveling the same route with a short time span between them, everyone will crowd onto the first vehicle, and the second one will be nice and empty.

Anyway. I crossed two streets to get to the catty corner stop, and took the 96 the rest of the way home. Finally got in around 11-ish.

This is really only a story about how I almost crushed some poor guy because I wasn’t holding on to the bar tight enough. Sorry guy I almost fell on.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – 2011 (Spoilers)

Holy shit – those opening credits. Beautiful. Mesmerizing. And set to a cover of Immigrant Song by Karen O. and Trent Reznor? Amazing. I am not kidding when I say those credits were practically worth the admission cost by themselves.

(Kinda wish I’d known they were on YouTube before now…)

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It’s been close to two years since I saw the Swedish film, starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace as Blomkvist and Salander.

So: impressions.

Pretty damn good. And long. The change to the plot at the end of the film was kind of confusing — in the book, as I recall (and I might not) Harriet has fled to Australia where she’s lived under her cousin’s identity. Her cousin, meanwhile, lives in England. In the movie, Harriet’s cousin has been killed in a car wreck, and Harriet has assumed her identity and works as an investment banker.

I dunno – that seemed weird. Like fleeing your Nazi incestuous relatives from your home in Georgia by moving to South Carolina. See what I did there? Ned Beatty and Deliverance. If you’ve seen either of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo adaptations, or read the book, you know what I’m talking about. “Squeal piggy, squeal!”

The ending went on forever. For. Fucking. Ever.

I watched an interview with John le Carré once where he said that he judged an adaptation not for how faithfully it kept to the book, but how faithfully it kept to the medium. In other words: don’t follow the literal words in the book, follow the spirit. I agree (this is why Order of the Phoenix is my favorite Harry Potter adaptation – they butchered the plot, but kept the building terror of the book). Fincher followed the literal letter, but, in my mind, lost the spirit of the book.

Oh, who am I kidding. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a twist on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (eh, sorta – isolated island, someone’s killed, etc.), with a recurring theme of men betraying women, most visualized through all the crap that happens to Salander. She’s raped (repeatedly – orally, anally), robbed, and then betrayed romantically by Blomkvist. In the book, there’s also a lot of plot-stopping rants (like Larssen’s explanation of the Swedish custody system) and some really awful dialogue (“Lisbeth Salander, you’re a fucking hacker”, as I recall) that fortunately skipped the movie.

Well – I don’t know. I guess he kept the spirit. I think he could’ve just rushed the ending a little more. I had to pee, man.

Basically: there goes two and a half hours of my life. It was really too bad Christopher Plummer wasn’t in it more, but, hey, look, there’s that old dick from Lost who valued his Scotch more than his daughter’s happiness.

No, really, that was one of my favorite parts. When he’s all “Hey, when was the last time you ate?” and she’s all “Oh, I have a high metabolism, stop talking about my weight” and he’s like “Oh, well, when I show you these photos you asked for, you’ll probably vomit” and then she’d say “Oh, I hope we’ve both learned a lesson about assuming stuff.”

Well, Hello, 2012 – the requisite New Year’s Resolution Post


These are two of my bookshelves.

I have many, many, many more. Many, many, many more.

Okay – not all are used for books. Two I use for general storage in my closet. Three and a half are primarily for digital media – they hold a TV, and DVDs, and box sets, and DVD players, and receivers, and cables, and other things. One is half books, and half shoes. But the rest, of my total eighteen bookshelves, hold books.

They hold books from left to right. They hold books stacked. They hold books sitting on top of stacked books. They hold sock monkeys in front of books. Little clay penguins from atop a wedding cake. Ties on top of books, ties in front of books, ties on shelves. Why haven’t I put that hammer away? That’s on top of a bunch of books, too.

There is very little room left for books in my apartment. (There’s almost no room for me, either).

But that’s not why I’m stopping buying books in 2012. That’s my resolution (one of them, anyway): I will not buy any more books in 2012. Let me now, quickly, apologize to Second Story Books, Books For America, Kramerbooks, Idle Times, Bridge Street Books, Politics & Prose, and Capitol Hill Books. To a far less extent, allow me to apologize to Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. (I shall refrain from apologizing to Amazon, as I will still be buying vast quantities of cat food & toilet paper from them, and they’re set to conquer the world soon anyway so whatever).

So: no more book buying in 2012. I feel I need to go back to late February/early March, when I found out my dear part-time employer Borders, was closing the 18th & L store that I’d worked at for just shy of three years. I found another job and, sadly, left Borders in the dust. And it’s weird, because even though it has been less than a year, I really have no concrete memories of my last shift. I vaguely remember that a few of us went over to Mackey’s that evening for drinks but …

Anyway, so skip ahead a bit. I bought myself an Amazon Prime membership. And I began exploring all of the bookstores in DC. I got a bit … how do I put this … I got a bit hoardy.

I don’t know if it was because I somehow thought actual paper bound books would disappear. Maybe I just wanted one more book. But I started trolling Amazon’s used book listings, and scored some amazing deals: used and new books, in great condition, coming to my door with two-day free shipping. And I scored some great deal – a “used” trade of Lynn Olsen’s Citizens of London in practically new condition from Amazon for $1.90 the same week it was published in paperback. I stocked up on Bill Bryson’s catalog, and picked up several titles from Richard Russo and Arthur Phillips. I rounded out my Alan Furst spy novels.

And from used bookstores I was finding a treasure trove of titles. I picked up a bunch of classic Len Deighton thrillers from Second Story’s Rockville warehouse. From a handful of bookstores I found all of the Graham Greene books on my assorted shelves – Our Man In Havana, The Power & The Glory, Brighton Rock, The Quiet American, and more. The Sunday after Thanksgiving I found seven of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series on the outdoor carts in Dupont, and bought them for $3.50. I made a resolution to buy all of the books in the series used, and with two exceptions failed – I did not find a used copy of The Affair and declined to pick it up new, and I picked up Running Blind at Politics & Prose, only to find a used British edition at Idle Times this past weekend.

I bought used books because their covers looked beautiful, or interesting. I found a love letter in one. I don’t even know when I’ll read the book.

I own close to fourteen hundred books. In a four hundred square foot apartment. That’s a lot of books. And many, many hundreds of them, have been bought this year. If you think I’m exaggerating? Believe me I’m not.

So the problem is that I’ve been buying books far faster than I can read them. The other problem is all the money that I’ve been spending on books — a couple of hundred bucks a month, at least — is money that I could be, y’know, putting into my savings account or something.

So. I am not going to buy any books in 2012*. The goals are two:

First – to decrease the amount of books I own versus the amount of books I own that I’ve read.

Second – to increase my savings account. I am far too old to neglect that account as much as I do.

*With the caveat that I will still buy books for people as gifts. Otherwise, next Christmas would be really weird. (“You’re not giving us books?!”)