Category: mystery

Veronica Mars Review and Thoughts on the Kickstarter Experience

I Kickstarted the Veronica Mars movie back in the day, along with tens of thousands of other people. It was a series I adored, and the thought of getting it back–even for a few hours–was too good to pass up. So I ponied up $35, which would give me “insider info” on the production, a t-shirt, some stickers, and a digital download of the film when it was released. At the same time, I realized I was taking a risk.

The movie could be junk.

Honestly, I’m a bit cautious of Kickstarters, because I’ve got this thing called a budget. Gotta watch them nickels and dimes, you know? And while it’s easy to make any concept look awesome on paper, you often don’t find out how good something really is until it’s in your hands. I’ve seen plenty of great concept board games on Kickstarter, but I’ve held back from pulling the trigger to support them. I’ve only got so much closet space, and I tend to devote myself to games that *are* awesome, as opposed to ones that *might be* awesome.

Why did I make an exception for Veronica? I actually don’t see it as an exception. It was already a tried and true product, as far as I was concerned. It was being done by the same creator, same cast. I’d seen three seasons and loved them. So it was much less of a risk than it could have been. (Though I suppose still a risk. See the Star Wars prequels . . .)

Days turned into months, and the movie finally came out. The actual downloading experience left some to be desired. I wanted to watch it on my TV through my Apple TV or PS3, but the movie was only available on Flixster (to redeem my free download), and there’s no way to get that on PS3 or AppleTV, and it wouldn’t let me broadcast it from my iPad to my TV via AirPlay. So I was stuck watching it on a laptop screen. Not ideal, but I think I actually watched a lot of the series on a laptop screen, so I suppose bonus points for nostalgia?

How was the movie itself?

I loved it, though it’s hard for me to judge it from a non-fan perspective, meaning I have no idea if you’d like it if you weren’t already a fan of the show to begin with. But you know what? That’s exactly what it should be like, in my opinion. The movie existed because fans paid for it to exist. So it has a prime audience: make all its fans happy. If they’d been throwing in too much to appeal to non-fans, I’d have been irritated. Instead, we got the same tone, same characters, same snark, same tensions as the first three seasons, now in an easy-to-watch season four (kind of)!

(If you’re not a fan, what should you expect? A snarky main character girl PI who sets out to solve a murder case. Light tone. Humor. Fun. You really ought to watch the TV show, though. Where have you been?)

Kickstarter is great for a number of reasons. It allows content creators to fund projects that wouldn’t get funded otherwise. It allows speculators to get a great deal on new technology that might (or might not) be awesome. It allows authors and artists to fund projects they’d like to make but haven’t been able to get funded through normal channels. I’d love to see some more projects like this coming down the pike–shows that disappeared too soon. Books that need sequels.

Am I happy with my $35? Well, I’m not sure if I would have bought a Veronica Mars movie normally. I’d likely have waited for it to come out on Netflix or Instant Watch, though I might have gone to theaters to see it if there was a chance I’d miss it. It’s a movie I wouldn’t have wanted to miss, but wouldn’t necessarily have seen opening weekend, if that makes sense. So if this had come through normal channels, I likely would have paid around $15 for Denisa and me to see it. I could buy it on iTunes now for $20.

So I essentially paid an extra $15 for a cheap t-shirt. In that light, it was a mistake. But more importantly, if we hadn’t all paid the money, the movie might not have been made. $15 to make sure it got made was a steal.

Then again . . . part of me worries about movie studios looking to cash in on this sort of thing in the future. Movie studios have lots of money. They shouldn’t need us to pay them up front to make movies we all want to see. I’d think Kickstarting a movie or show would be an exception, not the rule. As long as it stays like that, I’m good with the idea.

How about you? Seen the film already? What did you think?

Book Review: The Likeness

The LikenessThe Likeness by Tana French

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was a very unique book to read. It’s a mystery, and I have to say that the premise was so outlandish as to make me contemplate putting the book down before I got more than a few chapters into it. What is the premise, you ask? There’s this detective, see. And she’s a burned out murder detective who also used to do undercover work. And there’s this victim, see? And she just happens to be almost an identical twin with the murder detective. And there are no leads in the case. No leads at all. So . . . the detective returns to murder and undercover work, going undercover as the victim.


But here’s the thing. Once you get past that premise, it actually is a really good book. The author (Tana French) does a really good job portraying the main character and exploring just how difficult it would be to be put into that outlandish situation. There are some great scenes where the detective (Cassie) is interacting with the victim’s friends. Things are made more complicated by the fact that Cassie actually envies the victim’s life and is seriously tempted to lose herself in this new identity.

I found myself compulsively turning pages, and that’s always a good thing, with me.

So there you have it. If you can get over the premise, I recommend this one. Fun, interesting read.

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Book Reviews: Catching Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book, and I thought it was a great followup to Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins does a fine job extending the problems and challenges that were yet to be solved from the first book. However, it didn’t quite have the same OH MY GOSH THIS IS SO AWESOME feeling as the first book. The problem is, I can’t really get into why it lacked that feeling without spoiling the book for readers, and I firmly believe that spoiling this book would be wrong. Thus, I can’t really critique it effectively.What I will say is this: if you liked the first book, you must read this one, as well. I think you’re pretty much contractually obligated to. And if you read this one, you’ll need to read the next one, as well. If I had to compare this series to a film series, I’d say right now it’s coming off as the Matrix. The first one was mind blowingly good. The second one was good–but overhyped. I’m not saying Catching Fire was overhyped, but . . . it’s not Hunger Games.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millenium, #3) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think the highest praise I can give this book comes in the way I read it: in a single day, staying up until 3am–on a work night!–to finish it. It really is that good. Larsson’s characters are all compelling, and the conflicts they find themselves in compel you to keep reading–to find out what happens next. This is something I wish I could do a better job of as a writer–making my plots good enough that putting the book down is not an option.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that it lacks a tad in the realism department, although most of that is centered on the gripe I had from book two in the series, where the characters started seeming a tad superhuman to me. (Lisbeth particularly started seeming like the Terminatrix at the end of book two.) Some of that carries over to this book, but Larsson does the wise thing and starts using realistic approaches to solving the problems.

In the end, I was wholly satisfied with the book and the series. It’s not for the faint of heart–definitely chock full o’ bad language and violence–but it’s a great book. Very tragic that Larsson died before any of us got to see how good a writer he really was.

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Movie Review Hodgepodge

Sort of a backlog of movie reviews for you today. Quite the variety. Not a whole lot of time to give them a great deal of attention. I’m going from worst to best here, so those of you who are willing to hang around the post long enough will be rewarded.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes–We’ll start off with a Marilyn Monroe bit–the film where she did her Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend schtick. Nothing too remarkable about this one. Marilyn plays a girl who wants to marry a man for his money, but she’s attracted by money wherever she sees it, and the man’s father is suspicious. Jane Russell, a cruise, the American Olympic team and blackmail ensue. A fun movie, but just okay, despite being directed by Howard Hawks. Two and a half stars.

How to Marry a Millionaire–Another Monroe flick, and vastly superior. For one thing, it has Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable. How can you lose? The three of them play girls aimed at (surprise surprise) marrying millionaires. Naturally, things don’t go as they plan. A delightful romantic comedy, which Denisa and I thoroughly enjoyed. Three and a half stars.

Sherlock Holmes–The most recent version, with Robert Downey Jr. Holmes and Watson are much younger and more physical. This movie almost got four stars from me. I enjoyed every bit–there were just some small details here and there that held it back from true perfection. Still, a great film and lots of fun. Fantastic soundtrack by Hans Zimmer helped, too. Three and a half stars.

Inglorious Basterds–There are people in this world who love Tarantino movies, and people who don’t. I love them. This movie was incredible, but if you’re not a fan, it’s probably not for you. You already know if you want to see this movie or not, and nothing I say will change your mind. Four stars.

Bubba Ho-tep–And my personal favorite from the recent past, Bubba Ho-tep has what has to be one of the best plot descriptions on IMDB ever “Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy.” Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this–especially when you’ve got Bruce Campbell (of Evil Dead fame) as Elvis, and Ossie Davis (the limo driver in Joe vs. the Volcano) as JFK (yes, JFK is black in the film). It’s rated R (for some language, sensuality and a bit of violence). But it’s one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Right up my alley. Four stars.

So that’s it for this round–any of these movies strike your fancy? Seen any? Loved ’em? Hated ’em? Do share!

Book Review: In the Woods

In the Woods In the Woods by Tana French


My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are sometimes when I read a book and get insanely jealous of another writer’s ability. This is one of those times. French is able to put words together in a way that often left me stunned.

(The basic plot of the book, for those of you who don’t know, goes as follows (per Booklist): “Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, land the first big murder case of their police careers: a 12-year-old girl has been murdered in the woods adjacent to a Dublin suburb. Twenty years before, two children disappeared in the same woods, and Ryan was found clinging to a tree trunk, his sneakers filled with blood, unable to tell police anything about what happened to his friends. Ryan, although scarred by his experience, employs all his skills in the search for the killer and in hopes that the investigation will also reveal what happened to his childhood friends.”)

The book was full of twists and turns, and I believe it will stay with me for quite some time. I highly recommend it, but with one caveat: don’t go in expecting your typical police procedural. Honestly, this book felt more like I was reading Literature than a crime novel, if that makes sense. It’s a book you’re supposed to think about after you finish the final page. Read it and tell me what you think–I’d love to talk to someone about it.

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