Tuesday, 10 January 2012

An Interesting Alternate History:

I've been reading a very interesting Alternate History timeline on a board I participate in http://www.alternatehistory.com this website is really intruiging for people who are interested in history and thinking about how things could have gone the other way.
The TL (timeline) is called "Storm in the East v2.0: The Second Russo Japanese War"


The thread starts off with an explanation of the Soviet and Japanese head butting in the Far East over territory, especially around Mongolia. The author (sreen name The Red) explains how each side was constantly skirmishing over the border territory and how tensions were always high. the POD is interesting as it revolves the battle of Khalkhin Gol getting out of hand and escalating into a full scale war. The battle is a great Soviet victory (more so than OTL- Our Timeline) which makes Stalin decide to exploit it by sending in more soldiers and thus widening the war.

This results in a general invasion of Manchuria with the Soviet aim being to conquer the region and absorb it into the USSR. It gets off to an excellent start fast and does a wonderful job of comparing the two military doctrines of the opposing sides. For instance the Japanses are relatively defenceless against Soviet tanks, their own tanks being designed to fight against infantry. It also shows how the Japanese were not used to having to fight an enemy with firepower equal to their own. The Soviets on the other hand have communications problems, bumbling officers and are struggling to obtain supremacy in the air as superior Japanese planes and pilots whittle them down. The biggest difference between the two sides is that the Soviets can afford higher losses, the Japanese cannot.

It also gives the Soviets more experience on all levels of command and strategy. This should prove to be valuable as the TL progresses into WW2 where Hitler is going to face a Red Army that is much more competent than he is expecting...

It makes for a good read and there are many others like it on the site. I highly encourage readers to check it out.

A Game of Shadows: Review

I recently saw the new Sherlock Holmes film A Game of Shadows. I've seen it twice now and I have to say that both times I really enjoyed it. I have been eagerly anticipating this sequel since I saw the first one waaaay back in 2009. That film has since become one of my favorite movies and I have probably seen it well over twenty times now. Since then I have been wondering and hoping that this movie would live up to my expectations. Well I'm pleased to say that it has, and it hasn't.

Though before I go on I am going to warn you that I will reveal some early spoilers.

I went and saw the movie with a group of friends and we were all extremely pleased about going to see it. First the opening previews, then the film itself. It began with the usual Holmes antics that the real Holmes in Sir Doyle's original series would have certainly enjoyed. First he meets his on and off again love interest, Irene Adler, and is promptly ambused by a series of goons where his phenomenal mind is shown off. I really loved the way the first film did this with the slow motion, showing how his mind analyzed the best way to come at an opponent and how it made him tick. It worked well in this fight as we didn't see the whole analysis he preformed merely flashes of it in order to keep the flow going. Another well choreographed fight scene in which Holmes bashes baddies in a humorous manner.

We then see Irene has delivered a package to a doctor, at the behest of Moriarty who has been expanding his criminal Empire since the events of the last film and doing much evil in the world. We then see that this package delivered is a bomb intending to kill its recipiant. Holmes skillfully manages to outwit Irene and take a letter from her and then finds an ingeneous way of thwarting the bomb. Unfortunately before he can further interview Irene or the packages recipient, Irene escapes and he finds the recipiant murdered from a poisoned dart. Meanwhile Irene meets with Moriarty (played by Jared Harris) reveals himself and upon discovering of Irene's blunder *SPOILER ALERT* -- has her poisoned and killed-- *SPOILERS END*

From there we learn Dr. Watson is to be married.

From then on follows a series of spirited adventures across Europe and a whirlwind tale of the Game of Shadows.

I think that both Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law did wonderful in reprising their roles of Holmes and Watson respectively. Downey superbly captures the arrogance, creativity, eloquence, and genius of Holmes, along with all his attendent flaws. Law does a great job portraying Watson as a character who is a good friend and an almost brother to the intrepid detective. He seems to be swept along by the events he finds himself caught up in which makes for a humorous sub-plot. Noomie Rapace does a wonderful role playing the gypsy woman Sizma, this adds another great film to here repertoire. And Jared Harris does an amazing job of playing 'the Napoleon of crime' Moriarty. Stephen Fry's appearance as Mycroft Holmes is also a delight as he makes a witty and fun character for us to follow.

The film does a good job of portraying the stylish and gritty feel of 1890's Europe, complete with interesting and distinct dress and regional tensions. The implied build up to war is done very well and quite believable. The pacing was good and it had enough dramatic tension to pull the audience along by the nose and leave them begging for more. The dialogue was well done and everything Holmes uttered was pure gold! The fights were, of course, well choreographed and well filmed. I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire movie.

Now for the bad. Moriarty's overall plan is not explicitly stated until the middle of the film, and even then in the way they expose it I felt rather underwhelmed. He seems very smart and very capable, but it seemed his intentions could have been easier played out through legitimate schemes or smuggling. But I suppose that he was just greedy, the film might have done well to mention that, like Holmes and his insatiable need for detective work, Moriarty had an insatiable need for crime. Otherwise the whole "bad people do bad things because they can" feels very weak. I also mentioned slow motion earlier. This was actually something I didn't like about the first film, they used it to great effect in the opening of the first, but then abandoned it completely for the remainder. In this film they simply use too much of it. At one particular point the ammount of slow motion action seems extremely egregious. It broke pacing and then seemed to slow down the plot more than was required. Their use of it at the end however, was well done. Then the subtle hints, like the first one, were either hard, or impossible to pick up on. I needed to watch the movie twice before I even realized some things they were talking about were in the movie. I did pick up on some but I think others should have been better stated. For a mystery film it does not let one try to solve the mystery as we go along, which is something I really appreciate in these kinds of films.

Overall though, the film is extremely well done, and the sequel hook at the end had me begging for more. I give this movie three and a half stars, just shy of four as it was just a bit over the top.

I eagerly reccomend that people who enjoyed the first film see this one.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Current Reading Project

Despite being in school I have taken a number of reading projects. The most recent was a novel called "The Temple" written by Cameron Mitchell whom I know as "Milford" from an online forum. It is his first full novel and was a very interesting read.

After that I finsished a book called Julian Comstock, but I shall post more on that another time.

Currently I am reading a novel called "Lucifer's Hammer" This novel is about a comet that is streaking towards Earth. It is post-apocalyptic but I have yet to arrive at the apocalypse. I'm only a few pages in but I am enjoying it thus far, especially having heard so much about it from others online. I can't wait to get more into it as I go along.

I hope to be able to post about it more as I continue.