Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: "The Adventure of the Three Students" (Doyle, 1904)

“Well, Soames, I think we have cleared your little problem up, and our breakfast awaits us at home. Come Watson!”

--Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Three Students”

Leigh: In Sherlock Holmes' latest adventure, him and Watson go back to school but not at all in a fun way, more like news reporter going back to high school to try to find out about youth culture kinda way. 

Holmes and Watson are at Generic University using their library to look up information about some case that sounds incredibly interesting but Watson thinks the one he is telling us is more worthy of our time. Holmes has a friend come and find him and tell him all about how the answers to the upcoming Greek scholarship test were not where he left him and how it was obvious that someone had broken into his room and copied the answers, a plot point that seems more appropriate for Animal House than Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is intrigued and goes to investigate the crime scene. 

There's a reason why Sherlock Holmes was brought in.

We eventually go and meet all of the possible suspects and this is where I began to have problems with it. I know it was probably written to be a mirror of the time, but the insistence that Watson had about the Indian student being the obvious culprit felt misplaced and disingenuine, almost like an attempt at a red herring but more of someone pointing and saying, "Look! Over there!" I also felt that the clue of the weird clay blobs laying about was obvious too. 

I enjoyed the brevity of this story and made for a nice one to get back in the swing of things but I didn't think that this was Doyle's best effort. 

What say you, Lugar?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In-Class Movie: "Zero Effect" (Pullman, 1998)

“Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?”
My friend bowed and smiled. “Mr. Sandeford, of Reading, I suppose?” said he.
“Yes, sir, I fear that I am a little late, but the trains were awkward.”

--Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Six Napeleons”

Austin: We’re finally back! Many apologies for our hiatus. It’s entirely my fault. I was distracted with a number of things and now I’m able to be back on a proper schedule.

After many rescheduling, we’re finally ready to talk about the underappreciated Zero Effect, the first film by Jake Kasdan (The TV Set, Walk Hard, TV’s New Girl). It’s a little bit Nero Wolfe and a lotta bit of Arthur Conan Doyle. Bill Pullman plays the brilliant but difficult Daryl Zero. Ben Stiller is his often annoyed partner, Steve Arlo. Ryan O’Neal is the client and the always wonderful Kim Dickens is the woman.

Backwards cap > deerstalker?

What struck me this time watching it was just how damn American this is. Obviously we have many thoughts on Elementary, but that is a Sherlock that is literally imported from England to live in New York. Zero is American through and through. Americans seems more obnoxious in how they break their taboos so Zero’s rudeness is often seen as exhausting instead of quirky. The whole mystery plot is definitely influenced by Doyle, but it also reminds me of American neo-noirs. This isn’t as cynical as something like Chinatown, but the blackmailers do feel dirtier and more personal than we read about in Victorian times. There’s more of a willingness to delve into the emotions of our characters than sticking with the seemingly calm, collected Brits.

Most importantly, this all worked in the movie for me. I still get lost in the connecting the dots element of the mystery, but I really liked watching all of these characters interact especially Stiller’s Arlo. It’s a nice subdued film that is able to accomplish some impressive things without being tied down by canon.

Did you like it? Or was this long wait ruined by a lackluster movie?