Month: July 2016

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary 1.19

Event: A man, feeling as though threatened, wields an Xacto knife against his would-be assailants.

Reference: This is admittedly a stretch, but bear with me here: 

In “Silver Blaze,” John Straker’s body is found with a peculiar knife stained with blood. It’s not a pocketknife or anything that would fold up in a pocket, but a “very delicate blade, meant for very delicate work.” It’s what Watson calls a “cataract knife” with a long handle and a small triangular blade. The investigators think it odd that Straker may have used it to defend himself, but he had kept it on his bedside table for awhile. Apparently it was the closest weapon to hand. Or was it?

I mean, is it too long a stretch? I don’t think so–I think the Elementary writers are savvy enough Sherlockians to have done this on purpose.

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NiB Re-post review: Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula

Another re-post of one of my book reviews from the soon-to-be-totally-defunct Nerds in Babeland. This on a Sherlock Holmes pastiche.


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Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman

What a fun romp of a book! I read this in one sitting, because it moves so very very fast. This book reads like a tight procedural detective TV show.

What I liked:

  • -Holmes’ characterization
  • -the friendship between Holmes and Watson
  • -so very very action packed!
  • -a wonderful array of tropes from Sherlockiana that we Sherlock nerds know, want, and love.
  • -references to Doyle. Quotes even.

What I did not so much:

  • -I dunno about the combination between Sherlock Holmes and supernatural forces. I mean, Estleman did a good job as far as it goes–I will say he keeps Holmes totally in character throughout, and does seem to have done his research.
  • -references to Doyle. Quotes even. It’s the so-close-to-a-quote thing throughout that I find a tetch grating. The dialogue after the boat chase scene is nearly verbatim from The Empty House. Why this irked me when the references of Moffatt, Gatiss, and Adams make me squee, I’m not sure. Actually, I need to re-read it and get back to you on that.

Bottom line: highly recommended.

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WATCH: First Sherlock Series Four Trailer Lands

I normally don’t reblog posts from here unless I write them, but. This.

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After months of waiting (and currently two and a half years since the last full series), Sherlock fans have at last got new material to gawp at. Yes, the first trailer for Series Four has arrive – oh, everyone’s already raced ahead to the video, haven’t they?

Moriarty teased! Mycroft and Mrs Hudson falling out! Molly all angsty! Sherlock with stubble! Things are definitely going to be darker this time around. Stay tuned for an in-depth breakdown of the trailer on this very site.

The video came courtesy of the Sherlock panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The same event previously gave us a second trailer for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Marvel movie Doctor Strange. See that here. 

Sherlock Series Four is expected to air around New Year’s. Until then, at least we now have this trailer to analyse ad infinitum.

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Oh. Hey. Didn’t see you there…

I’ve not been super active here, lovely lurkers, because I’ve been active here:


This is the Longmont Dance Theatre’s summer camp, and they take me on each year to teach the ballet students stage combat. Which is ridiculous, stupendous fun, as the ladies (and every so often a gentleman or two) range in age between 9 and 18. But because of this, it also saps every last ounce of my energy. Especially in such heat.

This year, the students rocked with their fantastic unarmed fights, and their amazingly quick learning of the sword drill. Good job, kids, and I’ll see you next summer.

They’re all the Same Man: panel review #8

they may be all the same man, but they’re not all the same companion…


I dipped my face into a few other Page 23 offerings at DCC, lovely lurkers, but didn’t stay long enough to really give you anything juicy. Other than that very good academic paper on Harley Quinn….

The last proper panel I witnessed at the con was called “The Women of Doctor Who,” and was a celebrity talky thing with Jenna Coleman and Alex Kingston. Very fun stuff, in that every single person in that room (including the two actors onstage and the host) all acted like total fangirls of the show.

Details? Meh, that’s not really the highlight of the panel. It was more the interaction of the audience and the celebrities, and the hundreds-strong fond nostalgia of the show as it used to be, with them on it. One of the last questions asked was (of course) Who is your favorite Doctor?

There was a pause, as both women attempted to respond diplomatically without dissing Smith, Capaldi, Tennant, or indeed any one of the wonderful Doctor portrayals who had come before them (whom they, personally, had never worked with. Through fifty years of television). 

Finally, Kingston responded, in her low, purring River Song voice, “They’re all the same man.”

Applause.

The Fight is the Story v.3.1: panel review #7

me fielding q & a after my lecture was concluded.


I was ecstatic to not only be added to Page 23‘s roster of panels, but as a solo presentation to the DCC proper list as well. My “lecture” called The Fight Is The Story found its full fledged glory on Sunday morning, with a healthy sized audience to enjoy it (especially so since I was booked parallel to a 50th anniversary of Star Trek panel).

I went over (as I usually do) the concept of Objective, Tactics, and Obstacles that we all learned in acting school, and then discussed my Genrification system of fight style classification, showing several clips to illustrate same. In retrospect, methinks I will stick to the first bit only in future iterations of this panel, and spend the time Roger-Ebert-ing clips to illustrate the concept. I just think it’d be more streamlined and a bit more in keeping with its title if I do so.

Anyway it was AWESOME and I do hope they include me in their rosters (both) next year again.

Retrospective Review #8: The Sign Of Three

My latest retro-review for these folks.

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Written by Prof. Jenn

As a reminder:  I am writing these as RETROSPECTIVE reviews, so I will be discussing reveals, revolutions of cliffhangers, ends of plots, etc. If you are reading these reviews without having seen the eps, a) what is wrong with you?? Go watch them now! and b) these reviews are not for you till you’ve seen them.

Ah, the Wedding Episode. What can one say about it which hasn’t already been said?

According to DVD documentary Sherlock Uncovered: The Women, the premise of this episode (beyond the novel that is its near-namesake) is the chortle-inducing idea that, of course, Sherlock Holmes would have to have been Dr. Watson’s best man. What would that best man speech have been like?

Before we get there, though, we open with a lovely build-up of a sequence of which the climax is Sherlock freaking out about writing that very speech…

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Nerding Out Via PowerPoint: panel review #6

I had no pic from this panel, so please to enjoy this from the mob at the Artists’ Alley. Now where’s my Snapericot ale??


Now I’m adjunct faculty for a living, lovely lurkers, so I perforce have little to no money for even the things I need, let alone any extras. This is why I’m not a huge con-goer in general, and my glib reply to those who ask if I cosplay is, “it cos too much to play.” /rimshot/ In fact, I only go to DCC because I get free admission, being a presenter. So. I’m asking you the following bc I don’t have the con frequenter’s experience behind me:

Is it just a normal con thing, for panels to be concocted from groups of fangirls-and-boys, instead of experts? It just seems… Well to me it seems odd that you have all these celebrity appearances and how-to type things from some experts (especially at DCC, where Pop Culture Classroom is such a central part), but are panels other than that just….geeks geeking out?

The panel called Worlds of Moffatt was a pretty fun premise: it was set up as an expose or overview, if you will, of the shows that Stephen Moffatt headed, besides Doctor Who (well they had a little of that too). So that was cool, in that we had exposure to and clips from stuff we may not have heard of, like Jekyll and Coupling and etc. 

But

Sigh

I mean all it was was a group of nerds nerding out about their thing with a PowerPoint and all of us watching. Which to me does not constitute a panel. 

But then like I said I don’t really know much about cons.

Thief 4 Review Re-Post

Since Nerds In Babeland is going the way of the dodo, lovely lurkers, I wanted to re-post some of the highlights of the many reviews I did for them back when they were all active and stuff. Here’s one of my favorites, from my favorite video game franchise. This will be the first of several re-posts. Please to enjoy.


Dual Review: Thief [4] / The Art of Thief by Eidos / Titan Books

Review by Prof. Jenn

It has taken me a long time, readers, to finally sit down and compose this review, and I’ll tell you why: it’s because I don’t feel like I’ve played through enough of Thief 4 (aka Thief) to give an expert’s opinion fairly. Even when I’m sent a book to review that I can’t stand, I make it a point to read it in its entirety before writing the review for Nerds in Babeland. I feel it’s only fair to the artists involved for me to do so.

It has been so long though, readers, that I want to tell you my thoughts about the game and also the art book that Titan Books were good enough to send me to look at as an accompaniment, and I want to tell you also why I’ve decided to do so with the game unplayed completely. Let’s start with the book, The Art of Thief:

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The Book

This is not the first time I have encountered a gorgeous coffee table style art book from the folks at Titan, and they really do a good job at it (even of franchises I have no interest in–remember the visual companion to Dark Shadows?). This art book, showing the many facets of the art for Thief 4 (not for any of the earlier games in the series unfortunately), is actually what’s making me want to persevere and continue the game after I have lost interest. It includes character design and development, concept sketches of character, loot, settings and weaponry and often shows said art from beginning brainstorm through to 3D rendering. Another very cool perk included in this book is the many storyboards laid out for various scenes from the game. It’s making me want to pick the game up again, just so I can continue to play to see those cool steampunky prostitutes and Garrett’s fence, Basso. He looks so cool! Which brings me to:

The Game

Now I am a huge fan of the Thief games. Huge. The first two, beyond being revolutionary as far as gameplay (the Thief franchise is widely touted as the originator of the sub-genre of the FPS called Stealth. Many call Deus Ex the original FPStealth, but it’s really Thief. But I digress), but offers an incredibly rich world, with an interactive story so well written it actually kind of pisses me off. So I know very well how Garrett lost his eye (a visceral cutscene I’ll never forget), what it was replaced with and what that does to make his vision special. The warring factions of Hammerites (later scarier maniacal Mechanists) and their opposites the Pagans (who can forget the creepy giggle as one navigated through Constantine’s mansion), and of course the enigmatic and ultimately political Keepers. I know the world well, and love it, especially our POV protagonist, Garrett. I’ve even written fan fiction for this world. Wow, I just admitted that online…

Having said that, I am not one to immediately go all Star-Wars-Fan-on-Episode-One when I learn the franchise I love is getting a reboot. I mean, it can work very well–witness the new Star Trek movies. Even with a different studio–I mean, Thief 3 wasn’t quite the rich stellar game its predecessors were, but it was a solid Thief game, firmly rooted in that universe; Garrett was himself and there exists in Thief 3 probably the most terrifying horror level of any game ever. Yes, I include Limbo. I mean EVER. (Read about the Cradle level here.) At the end of Thief 3 we notice our intrepid protagonist acquiring a young (we assume) apprentice. So when I saw that in Thief 4 it begins with Garrett and his now young-adult-aged apprentice bickering, I thought “huzzah.”

But this reboot is a pale, watery thing compared to the scotch that was the other Thief games. Where Garrett was cynical and world-weary, here he is petulant. Where he reluctantly found his heart of gold, here he’s soft and weak. Where before we had knowing banter with real parental strife between him and the Keepers, now his apprentice Erin whines and bitches and isn’t actually well trained enough to seem to be his apprentice in the first place. And speaking of Keepers:

There are no Keepers in this new rebooted world. No Hammerites, no Pagans. The City is a lovely-dingy steampunk place to live, similar to how it was, but the old fantasy world this is not. This more like post-apocalyptic Detroit than the rich world Thief comes from. Real-world swear words have replaced the “taffer” of the old dialect, and Garrett dresses less like a member of a Lieber-esque thieves’ guild than an emo early aughts Goth.

The retrofitting of his mechanical (now magical) eye and thereby powers of special sight is a weak version of the  eye he used to wear, designed by megalomaniac Karras. Why was the eye story changed?

And without the warring factions, the religious zealotry, the Keepers, the burricks even (we get a nod to them in the name of a tavern), we are left with a bitter protagonist with no reason for his bitterness. We get whiny teenaged goths. The reboot of the world has diminished said world irreparably.

As far as gameplay goes, the designers have made a mistake in not taking a lesson from those games that have surpassed Thief on the console. The controls are not intuitive, Garrett doesn’t have all the skills he would have as a thief of his caliber (why didn’t Eidos take a hint from the Assassin’s Creed folks?) and the simplest quests are difficult to follow based on the way the game is set up as far as objectives go. This game needs to be either a) a very open ended sandbox like an AC IV or heck even a Skyrim, or b) much more streamlined and story-driven than it is. Right now it doesn’t know which it wants to be, and that, coupled with all the richness stripped out of the world, I’d just as soon be a pirate with Assassin’s Creed than a thief with my beloved Thief game. And that makes me sad.

Now remember: I have admitted I haven’t played Thief [4] very far. The reason is because of the above, mainly: Garrett is no longer a likable POV character, the world isn’t as rich and interesting as it was, and the controls are annoying. Maybe it gets brilliant later on. Maybe I’ll find out.

Maybe I won’t.

Bottom Line: if you’re a Thief fan or a steampunk enthusiast, the art book is for you. If you’re not, check out the otherworldly beauty of it anyway–you’ll probably want it on your coffee table, regardless. If only the game had more than just surface prettiness. Skip the game and play Bioshock Infinite.

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