Movie: Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows

If you liked director, Guy Ritchie's first outing with Robert Downey Junior and and Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson respectively then Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a must see.

As per usual this is not a complete review of the film. If that's what you're looking for then head on over to the Internet Movie Database where you'll no doubt find many user reviews. This is just a few of my thoughts post seeing the movie.

Warning there could be spoilers to follow - stop reading now if you intend to see this film and don't want to go in with too much prior knowledge.

I've seen a few reviews of this movie saying it's not as good as the first and I can understand why. The first film was a whole fresh take on Sherlock Holmes that main stream audiences were not familiar with.

Guy Ritchie, according to him, brought Sherlock Holmes back to the super genius, action hero that he read about in the original  books. It was a far cry from the stuffy English detective we've come to know through many other films - and it was exciting!

However in Game of Shadows we're now familiar with this Sherlock Holmes and his world so it tends to be 'more of the same' rather than a feature in the second film. Guy Ritchie is obviously aware of this and knew that this film needed to have a bigger story to help bring the extra wow factor. Going after Dr Moriarty, Sherlock's arch nemesis, in a plot to send the world into war is probably as about a big a story as you can get for the late nineteenth century.

Unfortunately it's revealed early on that Holmes has been following Moriarty's activities for quite some time and there in lies the main problem I had with this film. You don't get the same sense that Holmes is ahead of everyone in this film as you did in the first. You also don't really get the same sense of trying to solve a mystery either.

In this film it's more a race against time rather than trying to solve a mystery. Even though Holmes is joining the dots on Moriarty's plan as he goes. If you look at the film as an exhilarating ride then it's fabulous fun.

If you were hoping to match wits with Holmes, attempting to spot the clues and solve the crime before he does, then the first film allowed you to do that much better. There's not too much to solve in the second. It's a game of chess not a mystery. You're basically watching to see what each person's next move will be.

I can say I did enjoy the film but I hope, if they decide to make a third film, they take a leaf out of the humongous book that is The Pirates of the Caribbean movies. In that series, the makers realized they'd gone about as big as they could go with At World's End so for the next movie they scaled everything back and just told a good Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirate tale in On Stranger Tides

A third Sherlock Holmes movie would be great if they scaled it back and just told a good story with a real mystery to solve. It can still have all the action - as the first film demonstrated - but it kind of needs that challenge of trying to solve the mystery before the greatest detective in the world does. Even though you probably won't because that just wouldn't be right.

A few other thoughts...

I love that Sherlock's older brother, Mycroft Holmes (played by Stephen Fry) calls Sherlock 'Shirley'. I don't know why but, in all the years I've known the character, I've never thought of that as a nickname - but it just works with Stephen's delivery and Downey Junior's interpretation of the character.

There's a scene where German troops are firing a cannon into the woods, as our heroes are making a hasty getaway, whilst being pursued by troops. It's amazing how accurate the cannon fire is considering the troops firing the cannon have no idea how far away to aim and that their target is moving. Spectacular scene though. Probably wouldn't be anywhere near as exciting if the cannon fire was falling far short.

Sherlock's experimentation's with camouflage clothing. Whilst effective for cinema audiences viewing a scene from a specific vantage point, that kind of camouflage is less effective once you start changing the vantage point. The second time you see Holmes utilize a camouflage suit I just didn't buy that he'd be able to pull that ruse off in the relatively well lit room he's in.

Overall I did like this film. It's a fun second outing for this version of Sherlock Holmes. It does, however, make me want to actually read the books, just to see if Holmes really is the action man Guy Ritchie says he is.

I'm Not a Geek

Computer and I
Amiga 600HD animation
I'm not a Geek. At least I don't consider myself to be one. I know that would raise an eyebrow with a lot of people who know me and surely they'd protest...

"But you know so much about computers and technology and people are always asking you to help solve their computer problems."

It's true, I do know a lot about computers and technology - and people do ask me to help solve their computer problems (which has started to extend into digital camera and mobile phone problems too).

However a lot of what I know is because it's stuff I have to know in order to do the work I do. Much of my creative time is spent in front of a computer because computers have made massive in roads into the creative arts.

In the past, as a writer, I may have used a pen and notebook a lot more. These days, if I want to write something longer than a shopping list, I'll go straight to my computer.

Although I still draw, sketch and paint with my own two hands using traditional tools, more and more of my art is becoming digital. Whether it be photographing my paintings so I can sell prints, right up to drawing and painting with my Wacom digital graphics tablet... not to mention animation, which I create entirely on a computer thus far.

When I started making videos I filmed with Super8 VHS camera (I think that's the  format? Video tape anyhow) and used to edit it all together with two linked VHS video recorders along with a stereo player hacked into the audio line so I could add a music track mixed with a live or taped mic recording of the narration. All of this because I couldn't afford a proper editing desk. Now all of that can be done with a digital video camera and my laptop computer.

If you want to keep all this technology running and have all your devices linked to home network so you can share a wireless internet connection then you need to learn about how all this works. How to set it up. How to install things. Otherwise you'll spend a lot of time sitting around paying someone too much money to fix something that you probably could have fixed in a few minutes if you bothered to learn how your technology works.

Hence I know a lot about Geeky stuff like computers, cameras, mobile phones etc. but only the technology I actually use.

My partner has an iPad and an iPhone neither of which I use very much at all. I kind of know my way around them - since they're Apple products and designed to be easy to use by almost anyone - but I'm not as confident with them as I am with my own phone, Android tablet and computer.

I tend to think of Geeks as people who are impressed by the best technology you can buy. They walk into a computer store and look dreamily at that high end laptop that they're going to buy one day. They look at your sucky laptop computer because it's nowhere near as good as theirs and they're quite happy to tell you why. You know what I mean right?

As far as I go, I buy the best technology I can afford then use it. I don't concern myself with what I can't afford or what I'd like to own if money allowed. I walk into a computer store and head straight for whatever it is I plan to buy. I don't stop to admire all the display computers.

I own a Toshiba Laptop that I bought new for under $500 on ebay. It's the first new laptop I've ever owned and was the best I could afford. It may not be as streamlined, powerful or flashy as a Macbook Air that costs two to three times more but it gets the job done. That's all that matters.

I've also got a number of older computers that date back to the beginning of the century (which makes them sound really ancient but that's only 12 years ago) that I try to keep running and find a use for because nobody would actually buy any of them.

It's actually the number of computers I own that makes me seem more of a Geek but really, I'm sure many people have a trail of old computers in the shed or wherever. It's not that Geeky.

When I was young I may have taught myself computer programming and spent a couple of years in College learning to business program. That doesn't make me a Geek... anymore... all that stuff is outdated. Anyway, I failed my computer programming course because I wanted to write games and there was no such course for game programmers back then. I can't really program now other than make minor hacks to java script code - even then it's all trial and error.

As usual I'm rambling now, so I'll end it here. I'm not a Geek really. However I know what you're probably thinking...

"Yes you are."

Movie: We Bought a Zoo

Seeing a movie like We Bought a Zoo there is two very predictable things about the plot, that you can assume before going in, without so much as reading a single review.

Right away, just from the title, you know the main characters are going to be buying a zoo. No matter what happens in the lead up to that moment, you pretty much already know they're going to buy.

The film is based on a true story which immediately suggests these people didn't buy a zoo and then fail. No one wants to see a movie where they fail to make the zoo work. There probably isn't a filmmaker that would make this film if it wasn't an inspirational story of success.

It's one of those films that you really do watch for the journey and not how it ends. 

It's also a chance to see Matt Damon play a some what naive but optimistic single dad to two slightly  challenging young children rather than an action hero. I think he does a pretty good job at it. He doesn't quite get you believing he's a real battler - because you already know his character succeeds - but he does pull you into the characters emotional journey and keeps you invested in finding out how he succeeds.

As you'd expect the zoo comes with a bunch of colourful and quirky staff members who fill out the rest of the story with supporting sub plots, some humorous and others more in-depth and tugging at the heart strings. Some of the animals get their moments on screen too.

Of course, every film needs a villain. In this movie it's the Zoo Inspector with his extremely intimidating, powered, roll out tape measure (when I first saw that tape measure I couldn't believe you can really buy such a thing). Although the Zoo Inspector (played by John Michael Higgins) does an excellent job of being intimidating and unlikable the character's attitude seems a little unlikely.

This guy seemed to want the zoo to fail despite what that might mean for all the animals. I could understand a strict Zoo Inspector but ultimately I'd expect a person in that position to be more helpful and going out of their way to help get the Zoo up to scratch.

As always, this isn't so much a review of the movie as a few thoughts I had about the movie after seeing it. Follow the link above to the Internet Movie Database where I'm sure you'll find some user reviews.

I enjoyed it as a film but it's not one of those films I'd rush out and buy the DVD. If the story does inspire you then you might go out and buy the book or research which zoo the story is based upon.

Overall, it's a pleasant journey. Not too challenging and you should be happy with the end result.



Captain Proud Paddle Steamer, Murray Bridge, South Australia

The Captain Proud.
I've been to Murray Bridge before but I don't think I've written about it. This trip, Enigma and I booked a three hour, two course, lunch cruise on the Captain Proud Paddle Steamer that sails on the River Murray and is based at Murray Bridge.


The Time Machine from
Back to the Future III?
In the car park Doctor Emmet Brown's Steam Train Time Machine was looking something the worse for wear and I was kind of hoping he'd done a conversion on the Captain Proud. No such luck however. As the paddle steamer pulled away from the jetty it didn't suddenly levitate out of the water and take us back to the old west or 1955.

The trip starts out with a good humored introduction by the vessels Captain with the expected orientation of where everything is. He notes that the boat is the 'tiger moth' of boats, with the people acting as ballast, so, if it starts to develop a lean to one side, it just means a few people need to move to the other side of the boat. Though the Captain did assure us that the boat wouldn't tip over.

For those interested in such things the Captain Proud does not have independent paddle wheels. It can only use the wheels to go forward and backwards.

Dining Room. 
The lunch menu is pretty limited. On our trip the menu was fish or roast beef served with vegetables and for desert, Pavlova or Brandy Baskets with fruit salad. It's the first time I've ordered a meal simply by raising my hand on my preferences (since there were eight people per table and this was quicker than asking everyone individually) but the food was very nice all the same.

As you cruise down the river the Captain does give you a commentary on various interesting facts along the way, such as how much some of the river front properties are worth and pointing out where the banks collapsed, completely submerging a road and several cars.

Enigma takes some photos
from the upper deck.
I must admit the scenery isn't the most scenic you'll ever see, mostly flat-ish bush land, river front houses, marinas and plenty of house boats.

The real attraction is that it's a great way to spend a relaxing 3 hours with friends on the water. You're completely free to move around the boat's three levels (with exception to the staff only areas), take a few photos, chat with your friends or get to know anyone else you're sharing your table with. You can also relax on the outside balconies and just enjoy the sensation of cruising down a river.

Me on the upper deck.
Enigma and I had a pleasant afternoon. The weather was a little overcast but it was nice and not too cold on the outside decks. We thought it was good value for the price.


Hillocks Drive, Butler's Beach, Marion Bay and Port Vincent, South Australia

Homestead and Store.
It's all a matter of perception as to how much you'll enjoy a stay at Hillocks Drive Homestead. I'd describe it as  a compromise between camping and caravaning.

The site is fairly remote, on the bottom of the Yorke Peninusula, South Australia, and requires driving down 19 kilometres of extremely bumpy dirt road once you leave the bitumen.

There is also no mobile phone reception so if you're not used to being 'unplugged' from the 'Matrix' (i.e. internet) then this is a great place to discover all those other features your phone has - like the camera.

The less bumpy dirt road from
Hillock Drive to Marion Bay.
My partner, Enigma, booked our two night trip probably thinking it would be more like a caravan park holiday - even though she knew the caravans had no power. Upon seeing our accommodation she soon realized her expectations were a lot higher than the reality.

What you get is a camping ground on the top of the plateau that drops down hill to an extremely pretty fishing spot known as Butler's beach.

If you want the premium experience you can book to stay in the homestead as a house guest (we didn't so I can't really comment on this) but the real experience of Hillocks Drive is fishing and for that you need to be on the camping ground near the beach. However being close to the homestead means you're right next to the homestead's shop where you can buy bait, tackle, ice etc.

For the budget experience you can book a camp site and bring your own tent or van. The sites are fairly well protected from the wind by the trees and the hillside. You'll be walking distance from a single Eco toilet (or drop toilet as they're sometimes called) and a short drive away from the four hot showers, sinks and flush toilet amenities back at the homestead - be prepared to queue for these if the grounds are busy.

Our van - The Hill Top Hilton.
Photo by Enigma.
Enigma and I went for the mid price experience of staying in one of several caravans, humorously named and distributed around the camp site. Ours was called the 'Hill Top Hilton' and I think it had the best view of the coast from the kitchen window.

Most of the caravans look liked they were dragged into place after they went out of style in the 1970's and their owners upgraded. Ever since then they've had patch up after patch up just to make sure they hold together. I think the only thing in our caravan close to new was the mattress on the double bed (which I have to say was pretty firm but comfortable).

Many of the windows on our van wouldn't shut properly and the screens were either missing or pushed out (which explains how the spider got in - more on that later).

As mentioned there's no power but you do get a gas stove and running water in the sink as well as a single solar powered light - so if you do forget torches you at least won't be sitting in the dark.

Now if these vans sound terrible remember, I said it's all a matter of perception. I didn't have any expectations other than I knew there was going to be no power. For me, while the van was the Hilton in name only, it was far more comfortable than staying in a tent - especially on the second night which was quite windy.

Enigma's disappointment was not eased by the van not having any sheets and - whilst we bought pillows we hadn't packed sheets. Fortunately a quick trip back to the shop and the homestead's owners, Pam and Lisa, were extremely accommodating and rounded  up a set of sheets for us that would normally be used by house guests.

Our dog Oscar munching on
a piece of cuttlefish,
Butler's Beach.
One of the reasons we decided to holiday at Hillock's Drive was that it's dog friendly accommodation. Our little dog Oscar made himself at home in the van and had no trouble sleeping in the new environment. In fact he had the best time out of the three of us - wearing himself out totally every time on the beach, running around and playing chicken with the waves.

Another couple of hits to Enigma's initial disappointment...

The presence of a mouse on our first day - which I only saw once as it made a high speed dash between the side of the bed. We heard it again later but made sure there was no food within easy reach. Never heard or saw anything from it after that.

Oscar's impression of the big, hairy Huntsman
Spider I caught in our van.
Photo by Enigma.
The first night I was looking for a place to hang our lantern torch and happened to find a small hook located conveniently beside one of the biggest Huntsman spiders I've ever seen in a long while. These spiders are quite big and hairy. I don't have a picture but on the right is Oscars impression of it at Marion Bay.

Enigma mentioned these incidents to Pam and Lisa who were aware of the Huntsman spider in the van and were quite happy to hear that I didn't kill it (I'm surprised they hadn't named it) but caught it with a glass and put it outside away from the van.

As for the mouse they said the traps they set had been empty when they checked them before our arrival.

Both of these things didn't really phase me at all. By this point I'd come to realize Hillocks Drive is firmly targeted at people who like to fish from a beach and generally, aren't too fussy about accommodation. Me, I'm just happy to try to make the best of whatever situation arises. I didn't think we'd be spending that much time in the van so the fact that it wasn't actually the Hilton wasn't that big a concern.

If part of your holiday experience is about how good the accommodation is then you might want to book a room in the Homestead rather than one of the vans.

Yes I know, another picture
of Oscar. Marion Bay, SA
Marion Bay

Aside from Butler's Beach we also went down the coast a bit to Marion Bay, where there is a small township, jetty, boat ramp and a very calm beach. There wasn't too much to do here if you don't have a boat and you've got your pet dog with you but we had a nice time walking along the beach and Oscar got some swimming lessons followed by vigorous rolling in seaweed (which he loves to do).

If you don't have pets with you (and Hillocks Drive has a very shady and spacious pen to look after your dog if you need to leave it behind) you can visit the sights at Innes National Park. The park is strictly no pets so we had to turn back.

Enigma at Meehan Hill Lookout.
A great photo opportunity!
Meehan Hill Lookout

On our way back to Butler's Beach we stopped at Meehan Hill Lookout which overlooks a private beach and lengthy stretch of coast line. The sign suggests you're welcome to walk down to the beach but strictly prohibits the use of motorbikes or four wheel drives on the beach.

Butler's Beach Again

Butler's Beach view from just
outside the Hill Top Hilton.
Photo by Enigma.
At this point you haven't really seen any images of Butler's beach. So on the right is a fantastic photo, taken by Enigma, of the beach from just outside the Hill Top Hilton. With a view like this who really cares if the accommodation is a little 'challenging'.

I'm not sure how good the fishing is but I did see one family catch a small fish. The mum 'screamed like a girl' trying to pick up the catch and I thought to myself - that's exactly what I'd do too. I'm definitely not a fisherman!

You can actually swim at Butler's Beach but be warned it gets deep fairly fast and the waves have a very strong pull - as Enigma discovered with this freakishly big wave in the photo below. One minute she was siting in the wash up that was covering just above her waist, the next she copped a wave in the face!

Enigma getting an unexpectedly large wave very close to shore and
nearly being pulled into the surf by it.
As I mentioned we only went to Butler's Beach, Hillocks Drive for a couple of nights so we didn't do a lot of sight seeing. In fact we spent a large amount of our time on the beach its self.

By the time we left I think Enigma was mostly happy with how the holiday went and would've stayed an extra day or so - but neither of us could be bothered to queue for the showers after not having a shower for our whole stay. We kind of wanted to get home to get clean again.

Port Vincent

Port Vincent from the beach in front of the
caravan park looking back towards the Yacht Club. 
On our way back to Gawler we made a stop for lunch at the small town of Port Vincent where Enigma had lived for quite a few of the earlier years of her life. According to Enigma the town had changed quite a bit since she lived there though some things were still the same.

Unlike Marion Bay the beach and coastline have been developed a little more to create a very pleasant foreshore with parkland, barbeques and a very calm swimming beach. Enigma and I contemplated possibly spending a future holiday here - perhaps in the caravan park right on the beach (with power and self contained units). Dare to dream.


Oscar and I at Butler's Beach.
Both of us were too chicken
to go swimming.
Photo by Enigma.
Overall, whilst this holiday was definitely a bit of a challenge on the accommodation side of things, I think if we had known exactly what to expect (and in hind sight), we'd still both have gone.

I know Oscar would be there in a second. He didn't seem to be that much of a beach fan when we took him to our local beaches but he really took to Butler's Beach despite the strong swell and windy conditions. He's definitely a beach dog now!
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