Review: <i>Madness Treads Lightly</i> by Polina Dashkova Review: Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! Discount: <i>The Prisoner of Hell Gate</i> by Dana I. Wolff Discount: The Prisoner of Hell Gate by Dana I. Wolff Crime HQ Get a digital copy for $1.99 through October! Cover Reveal: <i>Not Her Daughter</i> by Rea Frey Cover Reveal: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey Crime HQ See the beautiful cover & order your copy today! <i>Dying to Live</i>: Excerpt Dying to Live: Excerpt Michael Stanley The sixth Detective Kubu Mystery, set against the richly beautiful backdrop of Botswana.
From The Blog
October 17, 2017
Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Adam Wagner
October 15, 2017
Executed 100 Years Ago: Who Was Mata Hari?
David Cranmer
October 13, 2017
6 Eerie, Mysterious, and Unsettling Unsolved Mysteries
Angie Barry
October 13, 2017
Man Arrested for 28th DUI
Teddy Pierson
October 12, 2017
Celebrating Robert Mitchum’s Centennial: Mitch Goes to War
David Cranmer
Showing posts by: Joe Brosnan click to see Joe Brosnan's profile
Mon
Sep 18 2017 5:30pm

Three Clowns Talk About It

Grab the closest rock. Leave the silver bullets. And cue the New Kids on the Block. It's time to discuss It. Let's start with some background info—how familiar were you with the story coming into the new film?

Adam Wagner: I knew there was a clown. And some kids. And a newspaper boat for some reason. I knew Tim Curry was the original Pennywise. And I knew there was an awkward pre-teen gangbang we were thankfully spared.

Other than that, I hadn't read the book or seen the original until last weekend. I watched the 3-hour miniseries first, then I went and saw the new version a few days later. So I'm coming at this with fresh eyes for both films. No irrational fear of clowns stemming from watching It too early as a kid for me. Just a good ol' rational fear of clowns because they're face-painted murder devils.

[Clowns, kids, and a discussion of It...]

Mon
Aug 28 2017 2:15pm

Game of Thrones Season Finale 7.07: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Move over Red Sox – Babe Ruth has officially been dethroned and a new “Worst Trade Ever” champion has emerged. When you boil it all down, Daenerys and Jon traded a dragon and the goddamn Wall for a one-handed Jaime Lannister. They didn’t even get Bronn in the deal!

As the snow settled in the south, it grew clear just how ill-prepared the realm is for war with the White Walkers. Cersei is content to let her two enemies battle it out – a move that, while easy to ridicule, really does give her the best shot of remaining on the throne.

Daenerys and Jon know who the true enemy is, but they have no idea about the Night King’s new pet dragon. Yes, Daenerys still has two of her own, but it's hard not to imagine another one of her dragons dying, and probably soon. And worse, if one does die, it will then likely be reanimated by the Night King, giving him even more of an upper hand.

Moving on from the Great War to Come, there were plenty of smaller moments scattered throughout the episode. We were treated to wonderful acting all around, especially from Lena Headey, Alfie Allen, and Aiden Gillen. Cersei is officially alone and untethered, a frightening notion. Theon died ages ago in the dungeons of the Dreadfort, and he was reborn on the beaches of Dragonstone. He’s headed to Pyke to rescue Yara, but he won’t find her there.

This entire season I’ve complained about the Theon storyline and the unimportance of it all, but it looks like there is still hope. When Theon arrives at Pyke and finds no sign of Euron, he’ll be able to get word to Jon, and that should tip them off that Cersei has no plans to uphold her end of the agreement. This should also align with Jaime’s arrival – giving him proof that he has, in fact, abandoned his sister’s side and wants to protect Westeros.

We also concluded our Winterfell storyline in the same way it developed all season – drawn out and illogically. Season 7’s Winterfell storyline is akin to Season 5’s Dorne. It was botched, its characters were written sloppily into corners, and a lazy death was the only way to make amends. With everyone important seemingly en route to Winterfell, here’s hoping for some improvement in Season 8.

[Now onto the riser of the week…]

Mon
Aug 21 2017 1:30pm

Game of Thrones 7.06: “Beyond the Wall”

Like Jaime Lannister, “Beyond the Wall” was equal parts good and bad. And that has been the unifying theme of Season 7: good and bad. For every Drogon incinerating the Lannister army scene, we get a eunuch sex scene. For every Arya avengement, we get an Arya bafflement. With every Queen of Thorns mic drop comes a plotline ball drop.

So sure, it’s easy to question the showrunners – David Benioff and Dan Weiss – and ask why it was a good idea to have seven men take on the army of the dead just on the off chance of capturing a wight so they can convince the honorable Cersei Lannister to pause her fight for the throne and help out in defeating the White Walkers. But it’s not exactly fair to Benioff and Weiss. For six seasons they’ve had their hands held by George R. R. Martin and his brilliant source material. But now they’re on their own, with only the general destination in mind. So while it’s not perfect, be glad that we have it at all, because if it were up to Martin, we might never get to see how this story unfolds. And if you're going to blame anyone, blame Martin. It's his fault we're not getting to experience his version.

[Ice, ice, dragon…]

Mon
Aug 14 2017 12:30pm

Game of Thrones 7.05: “Eastwatch”

For too long, Jon Snow has been the only character in Game of Thrones to properly grasp the gravity of the situation presented by the White Walkers – or at least the only character who understood that and could actually do something to prevent it. But after “Eastwatch, ” it seems as if Daenerys will help Jon, as long as he can provide proof that the undead army exists. 

So just like that, the fate of humankind rests on the shoulders of seven unlikely men. There's Thoros, the suddenly sober red priest; Beric Dondarrion, the red god's OG puppet; Jorah Mormont, the man who conquered grey scale but not the friendzone; the Hound, a man so scared of fire he’s fled north of the Wall; Tormund, a wildling who fights today so he can love Brienne tomorrow; Jon, a resurrected King about to take on another king’s resurrected army; and motherfucking Gendry, a bastard, a smith, and the only possible choice for…

[As if it could be anyone else…]

Mon
Aug 7 2017 12:30pm

Game of Thrones 7.04: “The Spoils of War”

Game of Thrones is the last great unifying television series. Everyone watches it. Everyone talks about it Monday morning. And everyone tries to out-predict their friends and colleagues. Game of Thrones arrived at the perfect time – right at the forefront of streaming and piracy but well before our viewing options turned innumerable. Today, it seems that every week there’s a new Netflix or Amazon original series with a notable cast and impressive CGI. But in 2010, that wasn’t the case. Game of Thrones was original and refreshing. And most importantly, it was given the opportunity to grow up uncontested these past few years. With prior Sunday stalwarts like Mad Men and Breaking Bad long gone, Game of Thrones is the last remaining case of appointment television. While its popularity continues to rise astronomically and shows no signs of slowing, I can’t say the same thing about its level of writing.

So far, it seems like the writers had one goal for Season 7: fan service. With all of their focus being on showing fun things like Ed Sheeran and Arya play-fighting Brienne, they’ve lost the reigns of their most important horse – plot. We all knew that this season would have to move at a breakneck pace, but what I didn’t expect was for the show to rush itself into a standstill. I’m already tired of Jon and Daenerys. I think we all know that Arya thrives on being underestimated. I want to spend as much time with a Braavosi banker as I do with an actual banker. And I will seriously consider hiding some wildfire underneath HBO’s headquarters if we get another love scene between Grey Worm and Missandei.

But I was ready to forgive all of that the moment Drogon soared into battle. The ensuing 20 minutes typified everything we’ve come to love about Thrones: chaos, destruction, and big-budget visual effects. So when Jaime began his charge at Daenerys, I was on the edge of my seat. Odds were that he wouldn’t kill her, but everything else was in play, including his death. I wasn’t expecting Jaime to die then – I’m still a believer in the school of thought that he’ll eventually be the one to kill Cersei – but as he grew closer and closer to our plot-armored queen, I braced for it. Death by dragon seemed the only acceptable outcome. But I was wrong. I overestimated the writers. Of course, Daenerys wouldn’t kill Bronn or Jaime. Those are fan-favorite characters, and killing them might result in a little less YAAAS QUEEN and a little more Mad Queen.

[Onto the risers and fallers…]

Mon
Jul 31 2017 12:30pm

Game of Thrones 7.03: “The Queen’s Justice”

Queens are to Westeros as cooks are to kitchens – things work best when there is only one. Unfortunately for Westeros, we currently have two. And as “The Queen’s Justice” makes painfully clear, neither option looks all that great right about now. In one corner, you have Cersei Lannister – the wine guzzling, brother nuzzling psychopath with as much affinity for wildfire as she has antipathy for the livelihoods of literally everyone else in the world. And in the other corner, you have Daenerys Targaryen – the dragon taming, Baratheon blaming conqueror who, if current wartime strategies are any indication, might very well soon have more titles than allies. Neither queen has proven that they're suited to lead, but that doesn’t matter. The fighting has already begun. So, Westeros, ARE YOU READY TO CRUMBLE?

[One queen rises; the other falls…]

Mon
Jul 24 2017 12:30pm

Game of Thrones 7.02: “Stormborn”

Stormborn” is as close as Game of Thrones will ever come to a full-on clip show. A clip show, for those who didn’t take Intro to Film, is an episode of a television series that consists primarily of flashbacks from previous episodes, and it’s a staple of most long-running sitcoms.

I bring all of this up because everywhere you looked, “Stormborn” reminded us of the past. There was the storm at Dragonstone that harkened back to the night Daenerys was born. We saw Jon Snow choke-slam Littlefinger in the exact same fashion as Ned did in Season 1. Arya, clearly feeling the reverberations of said choke-slam, was reminded of how Ned wore his hair and styled accordingly. Hot Pie returned. Nymeria returned. Randyl Tarly returned. Reek returned. And the Sand Snakes returned – cringy dialogue and all. There was talk of Robert Baratheon. Of Jeor Mormont. No one remembered Gendry. We dedicated a frustrating amount of time to a sex scene between a eunuch (insert Grey Worm can’t be the Riser of the Week joke here) and a girl who is eight years old in the books. Then, we ended all of this with an epic battle where the bad guy came out on top. Goddammit if it didn’t feel like home.

[The storm is coming…]

Mon
Jul 17 2017 12:00pm

Game of Thrones 7.01: Season Premiere “Dragonstone”

The most highly-anticipated season premiere in television history began with a tomboyish teen committing mass murder, followed that up with some Ed Sheeran product placement, and concluded by fulfilling a plotline first teased seven years ago. In short, Game of Thrones is back!

“Dragonstone” wasn’t a sexy episode (though Tormund would disagree), but just like Janitor Sam cleaning all those the maesterly chamber pots, our season premiere did the dirty work of making sure everything runs smoothly in the future. We checked in on many of the season’s upcoming characters and learned of their varied plans. Arya is headed to King’s Landing to kill Cersei. Cersei and Jaime are surrounded by enemies except for Euron Greyjoy, who has two good hands. Bran and Meera have made it back to the Wall. Jon and Sansa participated in a long-overdue sibling fight. Littlefinger is currently Googling where the burn unit closest to Winterfell is located. Jorah checked into the realm’s premier inpatient program. The Hound hates man buns. And Daenerys played in the sand IN WESTEROS!

Clearly, there are a lot of moving pieces, but it’s only a matter of time before these scattered groups come together. I hear Dragonstone is nice this time of year…

[Onto this week’s risers and fallers…]

Mon
Mar 27 2017 4:20pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.15: “Something They Need”

Last night on The Walking Dead: Search for the Fish People, the showrunners finally caught the viewers up with the inevitable. Tara flipped on the Fish People, Sasha's idiotic plan yielded predictable results, and Dwight made a (surprise?) appearance in Alexandria.

Also—rejoice, all ye put-upon viewers hate-watching due to sheer obstinance! The season finale is nigh, and odds are good it'll be about as satisfying as most of the rest of this season has been so far. In most other shows, Rick's crew would've come together a couple of episodes ago, last night would have been about everyone arriving for the final showdown, culminating in a 90-minute battle of ups and downs between the Saviors and Alexandria, et al. But TWD, in all its infinite wisdom, is eschewing convention.

Anyone want to lay odds on whether we even get to see the beginning of this fight next week? We're about 70% convinced the finale is going to end with everyone assembling and staring at each other before the show peaces out for another year. If last season proved anything, it's that TWD is not at all adverse to anti-climactic finales.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Mar 20 2017 4:30pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.14: “The Other Side”

In last night's episode of The Walking Dead, we were granted a few characterization moments in an attempt by showrunners to make a wildly unpopular character making stupid choices a little more human, and to make a wildly popular character making stupid choices a little less ... well ... stupid. Daryl's apology and confession to Maggie provided an elegant window into his tortured mindset this season, while Rosita's heart-to-hearts with Sasha helped slightly redee— who are we kidding, she's still Rosita. Meanwhile, Eugene's true colors began to show, tequila stock is up in the apocalypse, and the Hilltop is undergoing an unspoken coup d'etat.

Onward!

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Mar 13 2017 4:45pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.13: “Bury Me Here”

Last night's episode of The Walking Dead brought us cobblerus interruptus, an extremely poorly hidden cantaloupe, and one of the better episodes of this half-season. Though the writers still seem stuck on staying with one group for whole episodes, at least this episode moved the story forward. 

Through some pretty forced symbolism with the weevils and “royal garden,” it seems like Ezekiel is finally onboard with fighting. Carol and Morgan played house-swap, but they also seemed to drop their collective pacifism for being badass again. It seems like all we need now are the Fish People and their guns. With three episodes left, let's hope all this lead up actually brings us the war it's been leading up to...

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Mar 6 2017 4:30pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.12: “Say Yes”

In another prime example of how to draw things out, “Say Yes” gave us an entire episode that centered exclusively on Rick and Michonne’s scavenging Adventureland. While Rosita only found a play gun, Rick and Michonne were busy playing find guns, and in the end they didn’t swipe enough for the Garbage People anyway.

It seems we’ve fallen back into the hole of long-winded episodes that feature heavily on a particular storyline, giving us tons of filler and leaving us wondering why each of the last few episodes couldn’t have simply been a quick C or D storyline in an episode with some actual substance. I feel like someone could edit this entire season into one two-hour movie without leaving out anything important. And, after all, isn’t six seasons and a movie the ultimate goal?

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Feb 27 2017 4:30pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.11: “Hostiles and Calamities”

Last week, after Rick emerged from the Octagon victorious, he made a promise to the Garbage People that he'd go searching for guns. With that, the Garbage People would take their mangy hair and fight alongside Rick's group against The Saviors. 

We're not sure if we should be thankful that we were spared that follow-up episode, but it's completely unsurprising that we diverted and focused on a group of characters not normally used to the attention. Rather than watch Tara inevitably confide in Rick the existence of the Fish Women, we're left watching Dwight play CSI, Negan honor Fat Joe by promising to always serve as the physical embodiment of “Lean Back,” and Eugene found some pickles. Sounds about right.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Fri
Feb 24 2017 6:30pm

Carnage Count: Ranking 2017’s Best Picture Nominees

It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth time writing this article. What started out as merely a brainstorming joke has turned into my favorite singular piece of writing I do each year. On Sunday, February 26th, the Oscar’s return, and with it comes nine nominees for Best Picture. While I’m not necessarily worthy of judging these movies on the cinematic level that the Academy does (Spoiler: I’m going to do that anyway), I am definitely worthy of judging them on how they fare as a crime film.

For those not familiar with how this works, let me break it down for you. Here at Criminal Element, we put three things above all: murder, mystery, and mayhem. So in keeping with the site’s themes, I’m ranking all Best Picture nominees on these three categories.

Each movie will be judged on its three categories on a scale from 1 to 10, which will then be added together to give a final ranking. I’ll also be squeezing in some general predictions and opinions throughout the post, so when you inevitably disagree with me, take your pitchforks to the comments and let’s have at it.

[Let's get to it, shall we?]

Mon
Feb 20 2017 4:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.10: “New Best Friends”

This show is rapidly approaching a Game of Thrones level of characters, but not in a good way. We get that it’s building towards an epic showdown with the Saviors, but every week we get a new batch of “Who the hell are they?” We’ve got Fish People, Garbage People, Renaissance Faire People, a Jack-of-Many-Trades Jesus, and more—it’s almost like The Walking Dead took a look at what’s currently successful with television and movies (Marvel Universe, GoT, Mad Max, Hoarders?) and tried to mash it all up into one season. 

Here’s to hoping it’s worth it and the showdown with Negan justifies the hours we’ve invested to get there.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Feb 13 2017 5:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.09: “Rock in the Road”

Last night's episode of The Walking Dead had more of a familiar feel to it, as a number of our (anti)heroes fell back into their comfort zones and began doing what they do best—in stark contrast to the relentless dread and misery they (and we, the viewers) experienced throughout the entire first half of the season. Rick is wheeling and dealing (hopefully in a more measured way than aggro-Alpha-Rick from last season), Maggie (and the Hilltop) has had enough of Gregory's shit, and the Alexandrians are ready to fight back.

Will this renewed sense of hope and winds of rebellion end up spelling disaster for our heroes? Probably. But until then...

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Dec 12 2016 6:30pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.08: “Hearts Still Beating”

Last night's midseason finale of The Walking Dead ended on a ... well, we can't quite call it a high note, but at least it was something in the treble clef. For perhaps the first time all season, storylines progressed at a speed beyond glacial, certain fundamental dynamics finally saw some change, and another annoying character found out he didn't quite have the stomach to survive the apocalypse.

On the downside, Negan remains incredibly two-dimensional, Rosita took over the idiocy mantle from Spencer, and Carl continued to mope around glaring impotently at Negan whilst not doing anything of note.

Onward!

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Dec 5 2016 5:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.07: “Sing Me a Song”

Finally an episode that remembered different storylines can be featured in the same hour and a half. While we thankfully returned to the world of competent storytelling, we were still met with a pretty weak episode. You'd think after introducing a brutal new villain and two new societies, we could get some sense of variety. Nope—Daryl's gonna Daryl, Negan's gonna Negan, Jesus's gonna ninja, and everything remains the same.

With shows that follow the weekly format, the audience usually forgets the filler episodes with time, remembering only the crazy scenes rather than the 8 hours of setup it took to get there. So, TWD ... I'ma let you finish—but you better bring your A-game next week or people just might not return after the break.

Ach, who are we kidding? What the hell else are we going to watch?

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Nov 28 2016 5:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.06: “Swear”

Clearly The Walking Dead felt America hadn't eaten enough this Thanksgiving weekend, as it gifted viewers with a turkey of its own last night, accompanied by a heaping side of who the fuck cares?

On last night's episode, Tara washed up on what appeared to be the island from Lost, met a band of survivors hiding from the Others the Saviors, jumped from timeline to timeline unnecessarily, and ... well, that was about it. The showrunners subjected their long-suffering audience to yet another hour-long plotline that would have been best served as a 5-minute C or D storyline in an episode containing actual substance. If it feels like we're repeating ourselves here, it's because being shallow on substance is pretty much the only overarching theme TWD has managed to establish thus far into the season.

At least the title of the episode felt spot on, as we found ourselves swearing a lot this week.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mon
Nov 21 2016 4:30pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.05: “Go Getters”

We used to wonder how they stretched The Hobbit into a trilogy of three full-length feature films—now all we can think about is how The Walking Dead has stretched what is essentially one episode into four. Every episode since “The Day Will Come When You Won't Be” could have been told between one of the show's constant commercial breaks. Instead, we get full-hour breakdowns of each camp that tend to induce a zombie-like state of boredom.

We get that a good amount of setup is necessary for a show with so many storylines and subplots, but for every forward-moving plot device, we get a sandwich montage and a roller-disco. Sunday night television has too many good options for The Walking Dead to continuously trot out these clunkers.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]