The Woman in the Window Review

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It’s time to look at an old school film that shows how one dangerous decision can put you on the path to ruin. I’ll give the credit for not making the main character be an obvious cheat who you can’t sympathize with as he stays classy for the most part. I would still argue that he knew how his decision was pretty iffy though by how many times he mentions that he really shouldn’t be here. At the very least he doesn’t actually do anything serious. It’s a fun movie overall even if you aren’t rooting for the lead.

The film starts off with Richard making small talk with two of his buddies. Richard is sad that he can’t be reckless anymore since he has gotten to be too old. His friends point out that this is true so Richard better not get any ideas. That’s when Richard notices a lady behind a portrait and she invites him to her place for drinks. It’s nearly midnight but Richard doesn’t care so they head upstairs. That’s when a guy runs in and attacks Richard. Richard quickly murders him and hides the body in a forest, but can he stay out of the papers? After all, his friend is a detective so this can get very messy.

While the film is played straight for the most part, I do think it had a little fun with Richard’s character during the early part. Richard is so oblivious to life that he keeps on tipping off the cops on how guilty he is. When the detective finds out that the culprit has a cut on his palm Richard quickly points out that he has an identical cut. I suppose being over the top like this could throw the cops off the trail…but it’s just such an unnecessary risk. Realistically nobody suspects him at all at this point so why put himself out there. There is literally nothing to trace him to the murder as far as he knows. Then he continually says things that he shouldn’t know and even walks over to the spot where the corpse was before the cops officially show him. He makes a ton of rookie mistakes. The film did say early on that he is usually scatterbrained but this is taking that to a bit of an extreme.

He also leaves his pen at the scene of the crime which the villain naturally gets his hands on. So, there was a bodyguard assigned to the victim and now he has decided to blackmail Richard and Alice. This is definitely the weakest aspect of the film as it wasn’t really needed and I would have preferred the tension to be that the cops are slowly zeroing in on the heroes. Instead this guy works well as the fall guy I guess, but naturally the plot turns into Alice having to use her charms to get him to lower his guard. That’s still one of the most tired film cliches out there and it makes the plot pretty bad. Still, the film doesn’t go too far with it which is good so it doesn’t hurt the movie all that much. At most it takes 1 star off. I’m also glad that Richard realized that paying the guy off wouldn’t solve anything since he would just return for another installment at some point. Calling his bluff would be best, but the guy would probably just end up murdering them.

Initially I figured that Alice intentionally set up the meeting with Richard and the other guy to bump him off, but the film never really goes in that angle. As far as I can tell it was just coincidence and the film doesn’t make Alice appear to be malicious. I do like the fact that she is also fairly smart though as she gets some extra insurance from Richard in case he ends up ditching her. That’s definitely the kind of thing you want to do in these films because you can’t trust anyone. She handled the situation much better than Richard in general as she got all of the hard jobs and didn’t panic the way that he did.

As I mentioned I wasn’t a big fan of Richard. He was a much better character than he could have been, but at the same time you still were never going to root for the guy. He also decided to take the easy way out at the end which is definitely never the right call. The ending can be seen as a bit of a cop out but you can also look at it in a more meta sense. It’s pretty clear that the film was not supposed to end the way that it did and since the movie is an indie you always look for the hidden meanings. You could make the case that the ending is actually the dream as he passes over to the next plain. It’s like the film has its direct ending and then the layered one that you can add on. Either way it doesn’t look good for the lead. I do appreciate that the ending gave the film a quick humor moment that actually worked though. In general I thought the film had a good balance of humor and mystery.

What the film could have improved on to be even better would have been to focus on the detective plot more. The scenes with the detective were some of the best in the film. I liked how Richard kept giving himself away and the detective would act as if he started to suspect something. His boss was also pretty solid in that regard with the constant banter. Seeing more of them would have been a lot of fun and that could have ended up being the main plot instead of the black mail guy. There will always be a lot of “Could have” moments in a film of course, but this would have been a pretty easy alteration with a good result. Maybe even throw in a court scene since those are always awesome.

Overall, The Woman in the Window was a solid film. The writing is on point and the cast is pretty good. The film is never too exaggerated and stays realistic without being dreary. You’re able to root for the cops without necessarily rooting against Richard because you can at least make the case that he was never going to cheat and he certainly didn’t expect things to go sideways the way that they did. I’d also say that he had to defend himself the way that he did because he definitely wouldn’t have lived through the night otherwise. As the film explains in the beginning, self defense is certainly way different from murder. This would definitely be the former. If you haven’t seen a good noir film yet then this is the one to watch. It’s not the best one out there or anything, but it’ll give you a good idea of what the genre is all about and holds up well for itself.

Overall 6/10

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Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman Review

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It’s time to look at the next Sherlock Holmes case! This is definitely one of the better ones as we see Holmes match wits against a new adversary. Interestingly enough, he knows who the culprit is right away so the main objective in the film is gathering evidence. Whether you would consider this as more of a thriller than a mystery or not will be up to you. Nonetheless, I’m always up for seeing a villain walk right up to Holmes to make threats and that ended up being pretty entertaining.

The film starts with Holmes deciding to retire from the criminal business. He has been having headaches as of late and so he won’t be of much use to the Police. Watson protests this, but then Holmes accidentally murders himself by falling into the water. Watson mourns, but then Holmes shows up and lets Watson know that it was all part of the plan. Watson isn’t thrilled about being used like this, but he has no time to pout since the Pajama murders are still going strong. Holmes figures that the best way to get in contact with the murderer is to go undercover as someone who is down on his luck. He will have to be careful not to go too far into this disguise though or it could cost him his life!

The villainous Adrea makes for a fun villain with over confidence and smug personality throughout the film. Saving people from despair only to murder them after they get life insurance is certainly a clever play. She also isn’t afraid of anyone and that includes Sherlock Holmes. She sees through disguise pretty quick. It’s not even that it was a bad disguise but she is naturally wary of anyone who shows up and does what she can to prove whether the person is legit or not.

What really legitimized Adrea as a big threat was when she went to Sherlock Holmes’ office to file a missing report for the guy Holmes was pretending to be. It was a nice, subtle way to threaten him while Holmes fired back. Watson doesn’t seem to pick up on any of this, but he was busy reading so I guess it is to be expected. Adrea certainly wins this round as she gets her nephew to throw a poison wrapper into the fireplace which nearly finishes off Holmes and Watson. Admittedly I was a little surprised that Holmes didn’t see this coming. After all, a villain wouldn’t just go to his base to gloat right? Well, some might I suppose but with how suspicious the kid was I was certainly expecting something to happen. This just goes to show how important it is not to litter as getting the kid to throw the wrapper in the trash would have prevented this from occurring.

Even at the end she managed to outwit Holmes as she pretended to leave an opening which allows Holmes to follow her into a trap. He tries to save face by pointing out that if he didn’t take the bait she would have gotten away, but it just shows that she got him into an impossible situation. It’s only luck that allows Holmes to ultimately keep his life. Adrea was definitely the standout character here and while Holmes is still my favorite, she gives Moriarty some competition as far as the villains are concerned.

Holmes is still a fun lead as always. Once again he does appear to be on the losing side when it comes to fighting another genius. Perhaps even though Holmes is the most intelligent hero he still isn’t quite as smart as the villains. Granted, villains always have the edge in these battles since they get to make a move whenever they want while the heroes end up playing catch up at first. Holmes deciding to have a sudden retirement would have hurt his character but as long as it was just a ruse then it’s okay. I doubt he could resist the allure of a good mystery for very long.

Watson is a mixed bag as you would expect. He has some nice moments like when he gets some clever burns in or when he believes that a man is actually Sherlock Holmes. On the other hand, he is still a little too weak and bad at his job considering how long he has been with Holmes. Allowing the villain to knock the gun out of his hand was quite unfortunate since the heroes really had the upper hand there. I just don’t see how you can lose your gun so easily.

As a minor villain I also liked the fake Spider expert. He did a good job of pretending to be the genuine article and at least he had a gun at the ready. The little slip ups that he made while talking were fairly small ones so at least it wasn’t something that you could really blame him for. He got his revenge for losing to Holmes later on as well so this wasn’t your average 2 bit criminal. The rest of the usual supporting characters like Lestrade were around as well and looked about as good as you would expect. He’s always a fun guy to have tagging along.

Overall, This was definitely a fun Holmes adventure. I want to say that it’s Top 3 for sure. Once I finish the 14 films in the series perhaps I will do some kind of official rankings for all of them. Nonetheless, this is definitely a film that you will want to check if you are a Holmes fan or just like a good film with a lot of suspense. The writing is on point as always and the pacing is really good. The film is very short, but still manages to give a good amount of development to all of the characters involved. It doesn’t feel rushed which is important. It’s going to be tough for the next film to beat this one.

Overall 8/10

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death Review

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It’s time to look at the next Holmes mystery. This one goes back to the more classic days of Holmes as there is a murder and various suspects. He has to find out which one is guilty after talking to them all and evaluating the evidence. The case is extra personal though as it occurred within Watson’s own professional workplace.

Watson gets some extra background in this film. He is always referred to as a doctor but we never actually get to see him at work. Here we find out that he has taken in quite a few patients who need some slight help. They are all rather eccentric but supposedly harmless. Their current home is that of a fairly wealthy jewel evaluator who doesn’t get along with anybody. He definitely likes to be the leader of the household. Well, he is murdered and since nobody liked the guy that doesn’t help Holmes narrow the list of subjects.

First we have the man’s younger brother. This guy seemed content to follow his senior’s orders and thought whatever he was told to think. This didn’t stop him from eavesdropping though and curious enough he also had a tendency to crack his knuckles when asking questions. That could be seen as a threat.

Then we have the Butler and the Maid. The Butler is always eavesdropping and as such he knows a little bit about everyone. He also likes to get very drunk and maybe this is just to throw Holmes off the case. Who can say for sure eh? The maid seems less suspicious at first glance but she keeps trying to convince the Butler not to say anything to Holmes. Does he know something that he shouldn’t?

We can’t forget the other two guests either. One is an old guest from out of town who threatens to beat up the latest member of the deceased. On the other hand, the cops grab him as the one they picked as the culprit so that gives him a huge chance of being innocent. There is also the heroine who is with him but her role isn’t all that large once he leaves the picture. With a colorful cast of suspects it looks as though we have quite the mystery on our hands.

As always Holmes is the best character here. He learns of the mystery and quickly gets to work on solving it. He wastes absolutely no time here and that’s what makes him so good at his job. He isn’t here to make friends so he is able to walk into any house with a lot of confidence and look for the clues. This time his plan actually involves having a fight with the main villain and pulling a gun on him. Holmes doesn’t get to fight very often but when he does it is always fun. He does seem to be quite proficient in hand to hand to the point where he is able to alter the battle to whatever direction he wants.

Then we have Watson who is back to his old self. He isn’t quite at Holmes level but he is earnest and always has a lot of confidence himself. Despite Holmes constantly hitting him with subtle insults Watson never lets it get him down. As this mystery takes place in his place of work he actually can move around like he owns the place. Although, Watson typically does anyway. He’s definitely a very good character and the films wouldn’t be the same without him.

We can’t forget the Police Chief Lestrade either. His rivalry with Watson continues as neither one of them cares much for the other. I do feel bad for the Chief since he always tries deductions of his own but they never seem to go very well. He just has no luck in finding the secret mystery that is underneath the obvious one. At least you can’t say that he doesn’t try hard though as Lestrade even heads into a dark tunnel on his own to catch the culprit.

As always the writing is on point. One of the strengths of this Holmes film series is that the dialogue is always fast and snappy. This is part of what has helped this Holmes become the definitive one. He just embodies the character so completely and faithfully. Every character does their best to contribute as well though. Then the humor is on point as well which usually comes in the form of some sarcasm. I find that this is consistently the best kind of humor.

Overall, This Sherlock Holmes film was pretty fun. It brought the series back to its roots and it will be nice if this style has been brought back for good. The thrillers are fun as well of course but the series certainly made its mark on the world through its mysteries. If you haven’t seen a Holmes film yet then this is as good a jumping on point as any. So far you never really need knowledge on previous films to get the gist of what’s happening. They do a good job of explaining the plot right away.

Overall 8/10

The Hound of the Baskervilles Review

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It’s time to look at a really retro Sherlock Holmes film. The franchise has always been rather enjoyable since I do like a good mystery. I also like it when the detective is incredibly smart and tends to know what is going to happen at all times. It’s why Detective Conan is so good since he is always the smartest guy in the room. The same can be said for Sherlock Holmes who typically knows the guilty party right away and is only slowed down by a lack of evidence.

The film starts with Holmes trying to make Watson feel bad as per usual by showing him a cane and asking the assistant to try and glean some information from it. Watson does learn some information and seems rather proud of himself, but Holmes quickly points out that Watson was sloppy once again. That’s when Mortimer shows up and tells Holmes about a demon dog who has been going around murdering a family for generations. The next victim will be Henry who is inheiriting the estate. Holmes had actually figured that Henry was going to die, but didn’t particularly care. Now that it is an official case he has to make sure to see it through though. Can Holmes solve this supernatural case or will this mark the beginning of the end for the famous sleuth?

Naturally I was rather worried about having a dog be the main villain. It’s why this story has never sounded quite as interesting as some of the others. It was inevitable that the heroes would have to fight the dog after all. Fortunately the dog only really shows up once, but naturally the scene is pretty tragic. Especially since it wasn’t the dog’s fault that he was an antagonist, it was all the owner’s fault. The film definitely lost some points on account of the animal violence even if it was a solid film otherwise. It’s just hard to fully make a comeback after such a plot.

Beyond that, it’s a sound mystery. Holmes decides to stay in London, but as you may expect this doesn’t mean that he is gone for good. His disguise in the film is actually rather genius. He plays the role perfectly and is certainly the best character in the film. The person he was pretending to be had been my favorite prior to the reveal so it just makes sense that Holmes earned the top spot. His detective work is flawless as always. If anything you may find it a little suspect how he was tricked so easily into falling down to the basement, but I suppose you could maybe try and argue that it was all part of the plan. He still made it back quickly enough to help the characters who were less intelligent.

While Watson may not be as smart as Holmes, at least he tries hard. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy since he is insulted quite a bit, but that’s because being around Holmes all the time just sets a rather high bar for him to top. At least he was armed and ready for a majority of the film and never seemed like he would be an easy mark for the villain. Watson can either be a fun character or an annoying one throughout the various adaptions and fortunately this was in the former category.

Then you have Henry who is not smart in the slightest. He knows that people are out to murder him, but he doesn’t care one bit. He is too interested in romance for any of that and even heads to the swamp when nobody is around. There’s no point to this other than to try and taunt the villains by showing that he isn’t afraid of them. I’m sure the culprit would have been thrilled since Henry would have just fallen into the quick sand and died if not for a timely rescue by one of the neighbors. Henry nearly gets shot in the opening scene and doesn’t even realize it either. It’s hard to find this character likable in the slightest since he is so slow on the uptake the whole time. This character would have benefited quite a lot from a little more intelligence or common sense. Even accepting a drink at the end was rather sketchy on his part.

Then we have the suspects. First there is Mortimer who is the first character to show up. He puts Holmes on the case, but then seemingly lies about owning a large dog as his cane has big teeth marks. The guy says that it was just a small dog that he used to own. Is Holmes wrong for once or does this guy have something to hide? Then there is the Butler. What more needs to be said about this guy? The butler is always prowling around the corridors at night and naturally has quite a lot of good excuses at the ready in case anyone asks him why he is there. It’s simply his job. Then there is the butler’s wife who is a psychic. She doesn’t like to talk to the ghosts but always has a change of heart off screen. Is it all part of her plans? There are also the 3 neighbors. The sister who is romantically entangled with Henry. Is she simply trying to get him to lower his guard? There’s her brother who is super glad to have Henry show up so perhaps he is overcompensating so that he won’t seem suspicious? Finally we have an old man who seems to know things about all of the cast. Perhaps these secrets include some financial ones about the estate so he will need Henry out of the picture. Of course we also can’t forget the dangerous guy running around the moor trying to flatten everyone with rocks.

Definitely a lot to think about as you try to solve the mystery before Holmes does. The pacing is rather good so something is always happening on screen. The film doesn’t feel long either and we should also give some credit to the writing for that as well since the script was sound. Sherlock Holmes certainly earned its rep as a solid book series and this was a good film to start the retro movies out on in that sense. A shame about the dog scene, but since that likely wouldn’t return for future movies, it’s still a good sign for the film series as a whole.

Overall, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a solid mystery film so long as you can get past the dog scene. If you can see the dog as simply an antagonistic monster then maybe it won’t hurt quite so much. The Sherlock Holmes and Watson dynamic is always fun, especially when Holmes whips out his violin and begins to troll his assistant. Of course, they aren’t together for most of the film since they used a divide and conquer strategy this time. We’ll see how the team goes about it next time.

Overall 4/10

Spiral Alive Review

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It’s time to look at a prequel to one of the best mystery manga on the block, Spiral Alive. A long time ago I had read most of the series but then the last chapters took a few years to get scanned. I decided to re read the series from the beginning since there were quite a few gaps in my memory. This was definitely a good move since I forgot about 95% of the plot. It’s definitely a great series that I’d recommend as the cast is solid and the art is really good. Those are the solid foundations you need for a good series.

The series starts off as a typical school drama. Imari has been trying to get Shirou to notice her but it’s tough goings as she has to work up the nerve and whenever she does something happens which gets in her way. Months pass and she finally has a chance when a mysterious girl known as Yukine lets her know where he is. Unfortunately this girl is currently his girlfriend so Shirou has to turn Imari down. Imari is pretty upset of course since she was trolled so thoroughly but finding Yukine will be difficult since the girl is the lead suspect of a string of murders that have begun to occur. Shirou vows to stop her, but he will be in a race against time with the police as well as the world’s greatest detective Kiyotaka. There are also a bunch of third parties who aim to get involved as well. The series definitely changes quite a bit from the happy beginning.

Naturally as this is a prequel there are quite a few characters from the main series who show up. The main character even makes a cameo in the final chapter and the heroine also appears as a guest star two or three times. Most of them don’t get too large of a role except for a handful of the blade children who are always popping up. For reference, there exists a group of teenagers known as the Blade Children. They are all around the same age since that is when the period of experimentation was until it was stopped. Kiyotaka and the special ops have a list of all the Blade Children to ensure that they keep tabs on them. The sad fact of life for these children is that once they turn a certain age a trigger is unlocked which turns them into murder weapons. Effectively they are all sleeper agents and they know this, but are unable to stop it. One group seeks to destroy all of them before this happens, another group aims to save them and finally we have Kiyotaka’s group which just observes and steps in when things get messy. Given that he knows all about them anyway, a good number of the Blade Children work for Kiyotaka in exchange for safety.

There’s a lot more to all of this, but you get the general idea. Imari is the main character of the first bit of the series, but then the role switches to Kousuke. All of the characters are after Yukine because she holds within her the information on the missing Blade Children. There are a few who actually managed to keep their names out of the official database which is a huge concern for the government since just 2-3 would be enough to take down a whole country from the inside. (Yeah, I feel like this is hyperbole, but maybe they become that dangerous?) Kiyotaka is determined to get the list and this begins his long game of cat and mouse with Yukine. Yukine will have to stay sharp throughout though because Kiyotaka has yet to ever be defeated in a game of wits.

By this point you may be wondering who to root for. Well, it’s a tough call because none of the sides are objectively all that good. I suppose Shirou is probably the least shady and Imari is shady, but in a comical way to you can root for her. It’s hard to particularly root for Yukine or Kiyotaka. Lets get into some of the tough issues the manga presents and where I stand. Hint, I don’t side with Kiyotaka on anything.

One of the big situations that happened in the past is a Blade Child took Shirou hostage. She murdered a bunch of other people as well, but seemed sad about it. Shirou tried to help her and things were looking all right, but then Kiyotaka granted her permission to destroy herself so the girl did and Shirou held a grudge about it ever since. He wants to find his own answer so that he can tell Kiyotaka what other option there was that day. Unfortunately, the manga ends with Shirou seemingly believing that Kiyotaka may have made the right choice after all. Kiyotaka’s reasoning was that the girl was going to be destroyed as soon as she left the building anyway or would have done the same act at a later point so he simply let her go out peacefully.

Definitely a lot of justifying going on there, but I definitely couldn’t roll with it. Encouraging the girl to destroy herself there is never the right answer. The lives of the Blade Children may be tragic since they have a short life span and lose control of themselves, but as long as they live there is always a chance for a cure. Dying prematurely like that just destroys any possible hope that was left. As you can guess, Kiyotaka could never bounce back from this.
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Either way he was never going to though as the guy just isn’t likable. He knows everything and is always a step ahead of the rest, but always likes to act as if he isn’t very smart anyway. He jokes around a lot and likes to dress up as various animals. It’s heavily implied that he just does all of this because he is supremely bored from being right all the time so he may as well amuse himself. The series does go all out in trying to show that this guy is barely even human with how effectively he plays everyone. He starts his plans years in advance and they still turn out all right. The guy’s annoying and definitely not the kind of genius that you want on your side. Even the cops get fed up with him since the guy always does as he pleases.

You’ll feel bad for the other characters as well since they all try to out think him. Almost all of the Blade Children also possess above average intellect and so they make thorough plans of their own, but it always seems as if Kiyotaka is still in their heads somehow. From the Blade Children, the worst character is probably Kousuke. That’s not to say that he is a bad character, but he’s just a little more bland than the others. He is sent in as Kiyotaka’s right hand man (Totally not why I’m not a fan of the character of course) and he is dealing with his self esteem as the guy is always getting played. He also wants to get along with Ryoko but can’t stop himself from insulting her every time. I can’t say that I have too much sympathy for that kind of character so I was rooting for the inevitable friend zone. Kousuke can fight to a reasonable extent but even then the final fight is rather cheesy.

As for Ryoko, she is definitely a lot more reasonable than Kousuke. She has led a normal life so far despite being a blade child which is admirable since it appears like she was the only one able to do so. Her role wasn’t all that large, but she was a reasonable character. She did her best to foil Kiyotaka’s plans and seemed more heroic than the others. At the very least she wasn’t as interested in fighting as the others. Kanone was her polar opposite as he thoroughly enjoys taking down the human oppressors. He takes on a whole base on his own. His role here is strictly limited to a handful of cameos, but as he gets a big role in the main series that makes sense.

Now it’s time to look at the actual main character of the series. Imari almost feels out of place here with how energetic she is. Imari doesn’t care about thinking things through of all this Blade Children stuff. She just wants to defame Yukine so she can have Shirou all to herself. She goes to rather extreme measures for this like challenging Yukine to a death match and constantly trying to get Shirou to two time Yukine. While this could have been a little dicey if it was played more seriously, Imari’s comedic subplot ends up working really well. When she shows up at the end of the series it’s a pretty intense moment since she had been gone for a while. It would have been nice if she could have put up a better fight but technically she is only human so I guess this was accurate. Definitely a unique main character.

Shirou is also one of the main characters although his quest seems to get less screen time than the others. He wants to save Yukine and has the brains to achieve this plan but isn’t very strong. There are a few similarities to the main character of the other Spiral series here. Shirou is typically a little annoying though since he relies on others quite a lot considering that he makes a bunch of speeches about being a total loner. He is willing to lose himself in his journey and acknowledges that dying is a real threat, but takes no steps to protect himself. Even when some guys break in and hold him hostage the guy doesn’t really react. He’s rather bland in general so I’m definitely fine with him getting the shaft for the most part. I will give him some credit for staying loyal to Yukine though.

We can’t forget about her of course since the whole series really revolves around her and her quest. Yukine has begun murdering everyone yet leaving a lot of clues so she is playing the game both ways. Some of her actions are rather hard to rationalize, but the in universe reason seems to be that she was hoping someone would stop her which makes a little more sense than usual since the blade persona within her also has some control. Her backstory is certainly tragic and explains her quest for revenge pretty well. Naturally I was rooting for her in this case. Arresting the villain is the best move of course, but since all of the “heroes” were trying to protect the guy then I have to go with the vigilante. That’s another reason why the heroes are pretty annoying half the time since they aren’t actually interested in stopping the villains. Too much politics between the 3 groups so they all have diplomatic immunity, but just putting them all behind bars would be effective if you ask me.

Regardless of her reasons, Yukine is still firmly an antagonist of course. 2 wrongs don’t make a right and even if you root for the character trying for revenge of course they aren’t actually in the right. Yukine is definitely a compelling character though and I do like how she intentionally trolls Imari the whole time. She just makes life hard on the lead for no particular reason and admits that it is just for amusement. It’s nice to have the villain get a sense of humor.

Madoka is another one of the Blade Children and she gets along with Kiyotaka more than the others. They are actually friends and maybe that is because she seems to be the smartest of the group. She is seen as one of the best fighters as well and is a good all around character. Madoka tends to have a bit of a rivalry with Imari so their banter is fun. I’d say that Imari always has the edge though. Then we have Imari’s friend Moeki. (Possibly spelled as Moiki but the scanlation made the letter hard to see) Imari technically has another friend but that person never actually did anything so there’s no need to talk about her. Moeki didn’t do much either, but was always fun in her brief screen time. She was definitely the smart member of the trio and did a good job of keeping Imari in line. If any of the normal characters could keep up with the blade ones it would be her. Still, her role is very minor so don’t expect the character to do much. She’s just a low key hype character.

Finally we have Professor Sheffield who talks a good game, but seems out of his depth the entire time. Kiyotaka is always one step ahead of him and I believe you could even say the same for Yukine. His plan in the past backfired just as horribly as in the present. He does a lot of panicking and I can’t say that he was ever a likable character. He may not be threatening, but he does give the series a real villain to oppose so I guess that’s good.

The art is really good as you would expect from this series. A lot of thought and detail clearly went into it. The fight scenes are great as well when they show up. Naturally this is a series that is more about the dialogue and story than the fights, but we still do get a few of them. The art does a good job of keeping the exposition interesting and it’s never hard to follow. The writing is also quite solid so there is really nothing to hold this series back. There are no real negatives to be had here. Even the tragic backstory isn’t really gritty or anything as it’s mostly off screen and just handled as business per usual kind of thing. At most I do have an issue with nobody destroying arresting Kiyotaka or at least pointing out that his reasoning was wrong. In the end everyone basically agrees with him and it’s heavily implied that he got the last laugh. A shame, but of course the big villain couldn’t lose in the prequel.
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Overall, Spiral Alive is definitely a fun series. It’s certainly got a very intense plot that will keep you guessing all the way through. It does a good job of mixing together the light Imari plot with the more serious Yukine one. Everything here is high quality from the art to the writing and you’ll breeze through the volumes. It’s definitely best to read the main series first since this one spoils some things, but if you read this one first you’ll still understand what is happening. One day I’ll be sure to review the main series as it’s been a very long time since I’ve read that one.

Overall 8/10

Murder on the Orient Express Review

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Murder on the Orient Express is definitely a classic book turned into movie format that was a lot of fun in its original version and keeps the same level of quality in the remake. It’s a pretty faithful adaption as while it does take liberties it doesn’t do anything that drastically changes the outcome or the way that the story unfolds. If anything the first change helps legitimize Poirot as a great detective who can predict the actions of the villains pretty well. We didn’t actually see much of that in the original version and had to take their words for it. I mean, he did solve the main case so we know that he is good, but seeing him solve a real case at the beginning was a really good move.

The plot of the film is about the world renown detective known as Poirot who is finally on vacation after having solved a bunch of tough cases. He is interrupted though when a case pops up overseas so he quickly snags a ride on the Orient Express. Once aboard however it turns out that a new case is on the horizon and this may be the most difficult one yet. A bunch of suspicious characters are aboard this train and they all have secret agendas. They all insist on lying to Poirot directly as well which doesn’t make his job any easier. He needs to solve this case fast since the train will be up and running again within 2 hours which isn’t really all that helpful to him.

Poirot is definitely a fun main character. He definitely is very smart and I’m glad that he isn’t afraid to admit it as he even states for the record that he is the greatest detective in the entire world. That’s quite the claim and I like how bold he is. Poirot also shows that he has kept in shape despite being quite old at this point as he chases someone across the train tracks outdoors and actually manages some pretty good jumps and agility. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I guess if he uses his tactics to know where to jump and how to corner the opponent it is a little more believable. I’m guessing he found out about the money stealing himself in the original or it was just admitted instead of actually chasing the man down, but either way works pretty well.

One thing I always have to give credit to the film with is that they don’t go into the actual murder case much. It’s a pretty dark case for sure so we just need to know of its existence, not any actual details. That would certainly be a jumping the shark moment for the film so I have no qualms with this part. It also gives everyone a pretty good motive here so that makes them all good suspects. Even if the ending might be well known I won’t spoil it here in case you don’t know about it.

Now, I guess the question is how you feel about the ending? I definitely agree with Poirot’s initial response which is that there is good and evil and ultimately the guilty party made a choice. There is nothing left to do but to take this to the cops. Taking revenge is a pleasure in itself so of course it makes sense that this would come with some kind of repercussions. They may have felt justified about this in the end but it doesn’t change anything about how the action was wrong. 2 wrongs don’t make a right after all and that’s one of those facts that cannot be changed. So, my view on the ending is that the guilty party should be arrested and that’s the end of that. On that note the ending isn’t all that satisfactory, but it wouldn’t hurt the score all that much. Now, if the villains had actually destroyed a few more people or something then that would have been an issue. I also think Poirot should be holding a little more of a grudge considering that the doctor was very close to murdering him in the end. It’s fortunate that Poirot’s friend was here.

Poirot’s friend certainly was the best character in the film. He came through when it counted and really felt dependable. He got Poirot a seat on the train last minute like he said that he would and was just a great backup the whole time. It would have been extremely difficult if Poirot had been on his own so even having just one person around to help him out was absolutely crucial.

The location looks pretty good as the scenery of the mountains is quite realistic and I do like the scenery. After seeing a bunch of films take place in hot environments the cold is a great contrast. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the cold as well so naturally that appeals to me more in films as well. The actual train looks quite refined as well and while I am not a fan of taking a train overnight like this I wouldn’t mind on this one as long as the Wifi is good. The food should really be complimentary if you ask me instead of purchasing everything once aboard. Of course, I’m sure that this is how the railroad makes the bulk of their money.

Usually I would talk a bit about the suspects, but they don’t really stand out all that much. There are so many of them that each suspect only gets one scene to themselves for the most part. Of course with a train this big it makes sense that there would be a bunch of suspects. If anything I have to question how there aren’t more suspects running around. They did say that the train was filled to capacity after all and I feel like a lot more people would have fit on the train based on how large it was. Perhaps that is just how it was back in those days though as adding more people would potentially sour the experience.

Overall, Murder on the Orient Express is a solid remake. Fans of the mystery genre will certainly enjoy it even if everyone probably already knows the ending at this point. It’s fun seeing everyone try to give Poirot the run around. There is even a teaser for the sequel at the end of the movie which should be interesting since I am not familiar with any of the other Poirot books. It’ll be tough for the Nile to top this film, but maybe it can pull it off. The thing is, this film didn’t really make any actual mistakes which makes it tough for a sequel to possibly top it since not making a mistake is incredibly difficult. Of course I would still recommend you watch the original version first, but both are very close overall.

Overall 8/10

Laura Review

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It’s time to look at a very retro mystery film. The cast is actually smaller than I thought it was as Wikipedia only lists 6 people in the film. Naturally, some of them may just not have been big enough to have their own section, but it goes to show that if the story is quick enough you won’t even notice this. It’s a solid movie that really does a good job of throwing in a lot of twists and turns without getting redundant. The cast is solid and this film really flies by. This review does have some big spoilers depending on what you count. It’s a big plot point that happens around halfway through the film so it’s pretty debatable.

The basic premise of the film is that a lady by the name of Laura has been murdered. She went up against a shotgun and didn’t exactly win the encounter. A private eye known as Mark shows up to get to the bottom of this. Waldo wants justice because Laura was a close business associate of his and he had been helping her rise up the business ranks until this happened. Mark continues his investigation which leads him to Shelby, a rather suspicious man who has many affairs and always seems to be after people with money. This mystery will be a piece of cake for this baseball master, but unfortunately Mark starts to realize that this case is quite personal. Can he put his feelings aside or has he always been on a path to destruction?

Ironically, the weakest character here may be Mark. Shelby is certainly more unlikable as he’s just a bad guy, but it’s incredibly difficult to sympathize with Mark’s plight. How can you possibly start to fall for a picture? If someone’s dead, they’re not exactly going to make for a very attractive prospect. What the film should have done was just doubled down on his tough demeanor to show that this guy was one detective who wouldn’t get pushed around by anyone. He would solve this case no matter how tough it got. By making him distracted it took away from his whole character. I did like his Baseball gimmick though. Right when he started taking out the game I knew that it would be the best part of his character.

At least the detective doesn’t look downright bad for the most part. His only unfortunate moment was at the very end of the film where he assures Laura that she will be safe and then runs out of the building so fast that you’ll think he’s a blur. This gives the culprit plenty of time to waltz in and finish the job. Laura is just lucky that the villain is such a poor shot or else this could have been the end.

Wait, why is Laura even being mentioned? Well, that’s one of the big plot points of the film. Laura isn’t actually dead and merely went to the forest for a while. Since these were the days before radio and internet nobody actually knew where she was and when they went to the house she had stepped out for a moment. Definitely some interesting logic there, but I can buy it to an extent as there wasn’t much else to do back in the day aside from walking so she may have just been adventuring all day. Laura isn’t a very likable character as she does lead everyone on and doesn’t even mind playing second fiddle after a while. It gets rather complicated, but she knows from the start that Shelby can’t be trusted and also allows Waldo to treat her to many meals. They may be platonic friends, but then she should pay the bill, otherwise things get dicey. She just seems rather easy and Mark should be careful what he’s getting himself into. Her web of deceit will continue to stretch farther and farther.

As for Waldo, he’s certainly the most amusing character in the film. He’s always got a snappy comeback at the ready and certainly doesn’t get intimidated by anyone. To think that he started out as a rather snobbish businessman before he got involved with Laura and changed quite a bit. You can’t deny that the guy does his homework though. He didn’t even need to make up lies about the people Laura hung out with, he just dug up the dirt that they left around the house. They made his job easy, but he always went the extra mile. Naturally a person this obsessive tends to be fairly dangerous in films like these but if the detective is going to make a move he better be careful about it.

Finally there is Shelby. It’s certainly different to see Vincent Price in a young role for a change. The character is fairly quick witted, but can never quite keep up with Waldo. He does make for a good rival though. He’s not exactly a man of principles, but isn’t ashamed to admit as much. Everyone knows what kind of a guy he is, but they don’t care because of his charisma. It’s definitely a credit to his character that he is able to deceive people so easily and he makes for a solid antagonist.

The only weak aspect of this film is naturally the romance. It’s just not handled very well at all. Laura basically plays everyone and they all fall for the game quite easily. It would have been nice if the same had been true for them and at the end they all admitted to just manipulating the others for personal gain. That’s practically what the situation was for most of them anyway. A film like this one should have everyone stay purely platonic as that would certainly add to the suspense and make the characters look a little tougher and more savvy on how things usually play out here.

Still, the writing was certainly great beyond that. The film did a good job of making everyone seem suspicious at times and having all of the characters stay on guard. The banter between all of the characters was on point as you would expect it to be. Dialogue is crucial for a noir film like this one and I’m happy to say that it did indeed deliver. It’s why its so hard to do a film like this one nowadays. The writing just isn’t up to par with the good ole days and it’s very rare that a film proves me wrong. There were just higher standards in the past and that’s why there were so many well written films like this one hiding in the cracks of time.

Overall, Laura is a really fun film. It’s a murder mystery that still has quite a bit of humor and solid pacing to go along with it. The romance is rather weak, but what else is new right? The twist of Laura being alive could have been rather disastrous if handled wrong, but since it rarely tends to happen the twist worked really well. I can definitely recommend this film to anyone who likes a little suspense and danger. There’s never a dull moment in this film so you’ll end up being on guard from start to finish. In a film like this one, you really can’t trust anyone.

Overall 8/10

Calling Dr. Death Review

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This review has been on the blog back burner for a very long time so it’s good to finally get it out. It’s a retro murder mystery with hypnosis in it. The latter isn’t all that common so it gives a pretty original hook to the plot. I don’t really buy into hypnosis myself as every time I’ve experienced it in real life, it’s been a fraud. Naturally, as this is a film, it is exaggerated as well. Still, it’s a fun concept and if it was real, it would certainly be a very dangerous tool.

Mark is a pretty well known neurologist. He has done a good job of helping people over the years, but unfortunately his private life is a bit of a mess. His wife has been openly cheating on him and Mark can’t go for a divorce without her consent. As he drowns in his sorrows, Mark wakes up one morning to find that the cops have arrived. They tell him that his wife has been murdered and Mark is the main suspect. Mark doesn’t remember murdering her, but he can’t really remember anything. The only chance is if he hypnotizes himself, but what if the murderer is closer than he thinks?

It’s safe to say that this film would have probably lost some points if Mark had actually destroyed his wife. A good murder mystery should never revert to having the main lead actually turn out to be evil. On the other hand, there aren’t a whole lot of suspects here so you have to try and make your guess right away. The wife isn’t a suspect even if she was a very unlikable character. There’s the rebound guy I suppose. Bob is another unlikable character and like Maria, he is married as well. I guess both of them wanted to cheat so they just met up together. Apparently it seems like Bob was doing it for the money or something. There were some twists about that, but it didn’t really matter much and I didn’t care for the subplot.

If we can count him as a suspect, there’s also Officer Gregg. He’s a detective who comes over to Mark with this revelation. I may as well say that he is the best character in the film by the way. He has a pretty good idea of what’s going on and at the very end of the film, he admits that he knew who the guilty party was the entire time. He had basically just been playing the entire cast like a fiddle because he knew that he could. He needed the hard evidence and this was the best way. Gregg just stole the show as far as I’m concerned.

We’ve also got Mark’s secretary, Stella. I can’t say that I was a fan of Stella either. Granted, Mark wanted to get a divorce from Maria, but he didn’t yet and it felt like these two were trying to make a connection anyway. Stella was pretty quick to lie to the cops in order to protect Mark so that’s a good thing I suppose. This does give her a motive for taking out Maria, but is it a red herring?

As for Mark, I can’t say that he’s a great character either. He didn’t handle the whole situation all that well at all and if his memory were better, everything could have been a little different. He wasn’t a terrible lead or anything like that and did ultimately make the right decision in not letting someone get the death penalty for a murder that wasn’t his. I don’t like the guy, but he at least had some decency.

Now, it probably sounds like this film is pretty bad based on the cast. Gregg’s the only character that I liked after all, but granted..this film had a very small cast so maybe that’s understandable. I’d still say that this film was decently good. It was an interesting film first and foremost. It was easy to stay interested in the plot and it never dragged on for a very long time or anything like that. The hypnosis angle didn’t happen for too long so it didn’t get boring and it was a decent way of looking at flashbacks. Hearing the main character talking in a bored voice was a little boring, but the scene wasn’t all that long either.

Overall, Calling Dr. Death is a fairly short film that is straight to the point. The cast is very small so there aren’t a lot of guys running around and as a result, there’s not a whole lot to say about it in the end. It doesn’t go for cheap shock value or anything like that. The way that the wife died was a little violent, but it’s never shown or anything so it’s not as bad as it could be. I’d recommend this to people that like a slow burner mystery thriller. It’s not going to be as high octane and nonstop excitement as a modern thriller like Taken, but it works pretty well within the budget that it had. At the very least, it’s still fairly memorable so the film did something right. Just be on the lookout for Gregg, you’ll see why he completely outshines the rest of the cast. It’s also another cautionary tale for people who are rich and don’t suspect a thing as they marry someone super quickly. As in this film, sometimes the person is just after the money.

Overall 6/10