Tag Archives: crime

Ouroboros (2015 TV Series)

TBSouroboros

Status: Completed, 10 episodes

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Growing up together in the orphanage of Mahoroba, Danno Tatsuya and Ryuzaki Ikuo found love, inspiration, and strength in their caregiver, Yuiko-sensei. . . . That is, until one night when she is murdered and the case is covered up by a police man wearing a gold watch. Young Tatsuya and Ikuo vow to find Yuiko’s murder and exact their own justice. Twenty years later, Tatsuya is a leader in the yakuza and Ikuo is rising through the ranks of the police, working together to ferret out any clues as to Yuiko’s killer. But will they be able to handle the truths they find?

Ouroboros is probably the best J-drama I’ve seen to date. Of course, part of that is the fact that it stars both Shun Oguri and Toma Ikuta, two of my favorite actors. They have a really great dynamic when they work together, and their part in this show was definitely a huge plus for me. But I think that even for those unfamiliar with these two, the show has a lot to offer. It’s a cops and yakuza story, with lots of interconnecting plots, tragic backstory, and a nice balance of drama and action. There are some nicely choreographed fight scenes, even. And an adorable but tragic love story (more than one, depending on how you look at it). Of course, being a J-drama, there’s a certain amount of just plain goofiness, especially at the beginning (then again, can you put Toma in a show without some goofiness?). But again, it balances out, and by the end of the show, it’s just plain heartbreaking. This is a tear-jerker, to be sure, but I think the writers did a great job of making the story fall the way it needs to, not the way you necessarily want it to. . . . It feels like hitsuzen when you get down to it, I guess. Also just have to mention that the character development is remarkably well done–especially for this sort of show–and even the relatively minor characters are interesting. And one last point of note: the casting for the childhood versions of Tatsuya and Ikuo are fabulous. So often, kids seem just picked at random, but the kids chosen for the roles here are perfect, both in appearance and in how they act. Ouroboros is high on my list of recommendations, both for those who enjoy J-dramas and for those who like detective stories in general.

Note: At this point, I don’t know of an official English version of this show, but there are some quite decent fan-subs available.

Based on the manga by Kanzaki Yuya/Directed by Yasuharu Ishii/Music by Kimura Hideakira/Starring Toma Ikuta, Shun Oguri, & Juri Ueno

 

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iZombie (2015 TV series)

izombieThe CW

My rating: 5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience (16+)

Medical resident Olivia Moore’s life takes a drastic turn when a boating party she attends goes crazy, leaving most of the party-goers dead . . . and Liv with a taste for brains. To cope with her new undeath, Liv distances herself from everyone close to her and takes up a job in the morgue–what better place to find a ready supply of brains? But she can’t keep her secret from everyone; soon her (amazing) boss Ravi discovers her secret and, instead of freaking out (except in a purely scientific and nerdy kind of way), becomes Liv’s accomplice, ally, and friend. And along the way, Liv discovers something that may just lend some meaning to her life–when she eats someone’s brain, she re-lives some of their memories (as well as taking on some of their personality traits). Useful when you’re trying to solve that someone’s murder.

Okay, no summary of this show is ever going to do the story true justice. It’s amazing, truly. I love that iZombie defies any normal explanation, any attempt to shove it into a genre. Because it’s so much more than your typical show. It’s part cop show, part romantic comedy, part nerdy drama, part paranormal but with a scientific/geeky twist. All inspired (loosely) by a comic series and all executed with aplomb by an incredible cast and infused with the perfect amount of humor and sass. The acting is phenomenal, and the characters are spot on, every single one. Of particular note is Rose McIver’s brilliant work on Liv’s role; the way in which she pulls characteristics from each of the brains Liv eats while still maintaining Liv as a cohesive character in herself throughout is phenomenal–at least on par with Eliza Dushku’s execution of Echo in Dollhouse. I also really enjoy the way Blaine’s character is being developed, going from villain to . . . I’m not quite sure, maybe awkward family member? It reminds me of Spike in Buffy or Crowley in Supernatural, that kind of change, it’s really nice and I’m interested to see where it goes. On that note, the show is currently ongoing at two seasons (with a huge cliffhanger ending on season 2) and a third season due for release next year. The only caution I have regarding this series is that it is definitely a more mature show–sex, violence, language, etc.–so I would recommend at least a 16+ audience. But seriously, iZombie is a show that I would recommend giving a chance even if you don’t think it looks like your sort of thing . . . I had no interest until my brother forced me to watch it, and I’m super grateful that he did.

Developed by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero-Wright/Based on the comic by  Chris Roberson & Michael Allred/Starring Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley, David Anders, & Aly Michalka/Music by Josh Kramon/Produced by Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero-Wright, Dan Etheridge, & Danielle Stokdyk

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Sherlock (TV series)

BBCSherlock

My rating: 5 of 5

Dr. John Watson has come home from Afghanistan due to a war injury, and he’s having trouble adapting to civilian life . . . financially and psychologically. So when an old friend introduces him to Sherlock Holmes–a most interesting and unusual man who is willing to share the rent for a flat–John finds himself rapidly accepting the offer. Life with the self-proclaimed “consulting detective” soon draws Dr. Watson into a whirlwind, solving crimes and assisting Holmes in whatever capacity he can–certainly in a medical one. Perhaps even as a friend, whatever the sociopathic  Holmes may say.

Why do I love this series so much?! I’m a huge fan of Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories–I grew up reading them. As such, I usually hate movie/TV versions of the stories since they almost always get important stuff wrong. Sherlock gets it right. Rather than trying to re-create a Victorian setting and Victorian characters while still making it interesting for a modern audience, the creators immediately scrap all that and go for a modern London setting. Instead of trying to pull details from the classic stories, they pull feelings, ideas, and inspiration. So it feels right–but also fresh and exciting. The plots are intriguing, and I really love they use of hour-and-a-half episodes to allow a full development of individual plots within the episode. Steven Moffat’s touch on the show is pretty evident, which I (as a big Doctor Who fan) really love–you’ve almost got a Doctor-Companion dynamic going between Sherlock and John, and it works beautifully. The characters and the character dynamics are spot-on perfect–very, very fun to watch. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But I really think Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson is the heart of the show, the one who makes you really care. And the interactions between the two . . . priceless. The other characters/cast members are brilliant as well, from those who show in nearly every episode (like Mrs. Hudson & DI Greg Lestrade) to Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty to those who only show up briefly in one episode. I loved the camera angles, the production, and the creative use of screen text to show Sherlock’s though processes. All around, Sherlock is just brilliant–highly recommended!

Created by  Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat/Written by  Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, & Stephen Thompson/Starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman/Based on the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Note: Currently this series is ongoing, with three (3-episode) seasons and one special currently available.

Update 02/12/2017: I just finished watching the fourth season (which brings the series up to a whole 13 episodes. Yay! I definitely enjoyed this season and found it to be in keeping with the previous seasons in most regards. There were definitely some surprises though, and I found the almost surreal quality of the episodes to be unique and intriguing–difficult to follow sometimes though. I’ll be interested to see if a fifth season comes to be; the end of this season almost felt like a good-bye, but I haven’t heard an official announcement that the series is completed. We’ll see, I guess.

 

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Broadchurch (2013 TV show)

ITV/Created by Chris Chibnallbroadchurch

My rating: 4.5 of 5

When the body of 11-year-old local Danny Latimer is found murdered on the beach, the small seaside town of Broadchurch is torn apart. Suspicious fly madly as neighbors who have known each other their entire lives begin to mistrust each other and deeply kept secrets begin being unearthed. Local policewoman and close friend of the Latimers, DS Ellie Miller finds herself assigned to the case, working under the leadership of an outsider, DI Alec Hardy. Not an easy task, as Hardy challenges Miller to doubt everything she knows, to look at her friends and neighbors with a cold cynical eye. But as the two watch the rifts growing in the tightly knit community, they vow to do whatever it takes to catch Danny’s murderer, whoever it may be.

I have to admit, I originally only tried watching Broadchurch because David Tennant has a starring role (which he performs admirably). I was very impressed, and by more than just Tennant’s acting. Chris Chibnall’s work in crafting a murder mystery in a small, contemporary British seaside town is impeccable. The suspense is kept up really well, feeding the audience clues while keeping the identity of the murderer a close secret. Even more impressive than the mystery (to me at least) was the way in which the show portrayed the effects of the murder and subsequent investigation on such a small community, as well as on Danny’s own family. The psychological and dramatic development was really well done, touching and unsettling without being overdone. I think a huge factor in how the show turned out is the excellent casting work and character development that was put into it. Each character plays an important role, and the actors chosen for the roles are perfect. Of course, Tennant makes for a great detective–cool and cynical, with a dark past. And Olivia Colman’s role as Ellie is a perfect counterpart, sweet and fiery and all too trusting. And Arthur Darvill as the local vicar–I swear, I would watch an entire show just devoted to Arthur Darvill being the local vicar, it’s fantastic. As an added bonus, Eve Myles joins the cast in the second season; I love her work. On the whole, I didn’t enjoy the second season as much as the first–the first being devoted to the criminal investigation of Danny’s murder while the second is split between the trial and the re-opening of Hardy’s dark previous case, the Sandbrook murders. Both series are excellent, I just felt that the second series wasn’t quite as strong as the first. Still, for anyone who enjoys crime fiction (or a good British drama), I would highly recommend Broadchurch.

Written by Chris Chibnall & Louise Fox/Directed by James Strong & Euros Lyn/Starring David Tennant & Olivia Colman/Music by Ólafur Arnalds

Note: Currently this TV series consists of two seasons of 8 episodes each. I’ve heard rumor of a third season, but haven’t seen anything particularly official or final yet.

 

 

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Torchwood

BBCTorchwood

Created by Russell T. Davies/Starring John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori, Gareth David-Lloyd, Kai Owen, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, & Bill Pullman/Music by Ben Foster & Murray Gold

Spin-off of Doctor Who

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Police officer Gwen Cooper finds herself intrigued when she stumbles upon a small group of individuals calling themselves “Torchwood”–individuals who seems to be a special ops team above the law and who, when she first encounters them, temporarily raise the dead. Unable to let her fascination with Torchwood go, Gwen manages to get herself entangled and then recruited as their newest member. Under the leadership of Capt. Jack Harkness, she finds herself working with a brilliant but troubled team to do something she’d never imagined doing before: protect the earth from aliens! Gwen encounters impossible things and endures unimaginable challenges . . . but the hardest thing of all may be maintaining a normal relationship with her boyfriend Rhys outside of work, especially when she won’t even tell him what she’s really doing.

As much as I have enjoyed Doctor Who and the role of Capt. Jack Harkness in that story, it seemed natural to try Torchwood, Russell Davies’ spinoff series. And I did enjoy watching it, although not nearly as much as I did the original. I would say that the relationship between the two is something similar to the relationship between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The first is more innocent, more original, while the spinoff (in both instances) creeps into the realm of the adult police series (think CSI) with a paranormal tendency. Not necessarily a bad thing in either instance; just I’m personally less drawn to police sorts of shows. Also, Torchwood is definitely more adult in content–nudity, sex, language, etc. are definitely present, but it’s more than that. There’s a darkness, an existential depression to the story that can tend to make it, well, depressing. But I must say that, while the series doesn’t offer warm happiness all the time, it does inspire a feisty, determined spirit. And the choice of actors for those sorts of roles works very well, I have to admit. (Bonus points to the series for guest starring James Marsters in a very fitting role on more than one occasion.) I guess in the end, while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend watching Torchwood, I wouldn’t say “don’t watch it” either, as long as you’re over 18 and mentally stable (if you struggle with depression, don’t do it to yourself, really!); it really just depends on the individual whether you would like it or not.

Note: This TV series has 4 seasons. The first two are full seasons with the original cast. The third season, Children of Earth, is more like a long (very depressing) movie that’s been split into parts, and the fourth season, Miracle Day, is similar only longer and with a distinct American influence (which I didn’t really like). I would probably recommend the first two seasons much more than the latter two.

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A Scanner Darkly

Author: Philip K. Dicka scanner darkly

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Talk about confused identities! Fred is an undercover narcotics agent living among drug users and dealers as Bob Arctor. And Bob Arctor is a drug user himself–a user of Substance D, a drug that eventually causes separation of function between the lobes of the brain. It can also cause users to be dually (or half, depending on how you look at it) aware, with each side of the brain functioning independently, unaware of what the other half is doing. So it is with Agent Fred, who is assigned to cover a group of users including Bob Arctor . . . and who is becoming less and less coherently sure that he in fact is Bob Arctor as he takes more and more of Substance D, becoming an addict in the course of doing undercover work. Of course, there is the possibility that even that was in the plans somewhere.

A Scanner Darkly was an interesting read, but I guess mostly it just wasn’t what I was expecting. This is old-school science fiction, but it doesn’t really read like sci-fi–actually, it reminds me of Steinbeck’s social commentaries more than it does, say, Verne’s steampunk sci-fi. There are certainly some science fictional elements (like suits that make your identity indiscernible), but this book is much more a commentary on the effects of drub abuse–from someone who lived through the experience, as Dick mentions in the author’s note. It was moving and horrifying but also somewhat draggy, in my personal opinion. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had liked the characters better, although they were quite well written, and the dissolution of Fred/Arctor’s identity was effectively portrayed. Also, I have to note that the random German quotations scattered throughout were a detraction from the story for me . . . because honestly, I can’t read German, and I don’t want to take the time to find a translation in the middle of reading. In all fairness, this is the first Philip Dick book I’ve read, and I’m really not familiar with his style, so I’ll probably try to find a different book of his to read before I give up on his writing . . . but I can’t say that I would particularly recommend A Scanner Darkly except for readers who like that social commentary sort of story and who don’t mind some weird sci-fi elements mixed in.

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The Big Over Easy

Author: Jasper Ffordethe big over easy

Nursery Crimes Series, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In a world where detective work is valued as much for its entertainment value as for the actual societal benefit of bringing criminals to justice, detective sergeant Mary Mary dreams of becoming Official Sidekick to a recognized, published detective. Instead, her transfer to the Reading branch lands her in what seems to be a career dead end, working under Detective Inspector Jack Spratt in the Nursery Crime Division. But things pick up a bit when the death of Humpty Dumpty–originally believed to be accident or suicide–is discovered to have been a murder. And not just any murder, but one steeped in schemes, plots, and old loves lost. This will be a case that will try DS Mary’s loyalty and skills to the max, but it might just be the case that will win her loyalty for her sometimes bumbling superior as well. And you never know, it might even get them published.

Yet again, in The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde has crafted a strange and unpredictable world . . . one oddly reminiscent of our own. I love it! It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a detective story as much as I did this one. As I said, the alternate universe he presents is unique, quirky, and interesting–full of mysteries and oddities at every turn–and yet is similar enough to reality to bring poignant perspectives on our own lives. I love the multitudinous (and sometimes subtle) allusions to nursery rhymes and fairy tales that are mixed throughout the story, as well as the tongue-in-cheek way they are used. The plot itself is solid and surprising, bringing in a number of unexpected elements . . . and also pleasantly intermixing the detectives’ own personal lives. The characters themselves are well written, although again, full of that quirky, tongue-in-cheek style–some more than others. Jack and Mary, at least, are more normal, credible individuals–and because of that, more full of real individuality and character, which is nice. I would definitely recommend The Big Over Easy to those who like detective stories (as long as it doesn’t have to be too particularly realistic) and to those who enjoy a good romp in fantasy–or in Fforde’s quirky worlds, at least. It was a very good story.

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