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Great adaptation of a classic premise!
I never got to see this show when it came out in 2010. I usually watch most of the Mystery! Masterpiece shows, but somehow this escaped my scrutiny.
The first thing that struck me was the idea that Sherlock Holmes could be dragged kicking and screaming from his Victorian roots--it's an odd thought, to see the root of many a 20th century detective story becoming a fresh thought, even to the point of imitating its own followers. The writers and creators have succeeded. As those producers are already savvy to the whims of witty and peculiar characters from the Dr. Who series, they "get" it and know how to mold a story for love and enjoyment. You can tell the show is well crafted in ways that are remarkable.
Currently, the series is either filming or soon to be filming its third series. In England, each year of a show is called a series, while a show in the US is based on a season. Since TV has changed drastically over the course of time, the idea of a "season" is losing ground, but ultimately, it's the same concept. As part of Masterpiece Mystery, "Sherlock" is a mini-series. There are 3 90-minute long episodes. The first season was comprised of three episodes: Study in Pink, The Blind Banker, and The Great Game. The second series was comprised of Scandal In Belgravia, Hounds of the Baskerville, and The Reichenbach Fall. Each episode (for the most part) has its root in an actual Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes short story, modernized for the show.
Some things remain the same: if you've read Conan Doyle's stories based on the character, you will be in familiar territory for the most part. Instead of Dr. Watson keeping a journal, he blogs. Mycroft still works for "queen and country," Sherlock is still a bit on the odd side, though nowadays with some of the troubled detectives in literature and on television, he seems positively normal.
The actors are another key to its success. Mystery has always had rich, well carved characters on its many shows--this isn't much different. As I watched a featurette on its creation, the producers remarked on the chemistry of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman together as Holmes and Watson. It shows. You would think they'd been mates for ages by the interaction between them.
Actually, all the actors are excellent in their roles, even Mark Gatiss, one of the show's creators, as Mycroft Holmes hits his stride as a pompous overachiever that grates on his younger sibling's nerves.
I'm a late-comer, to my shame, on the show's fan lists, but now that I've become a rabid fan, I can't wait until mid-2013 for the third series of the show. We were left with a massive cliff-hanger that needs resolving, and I, for one, can't wait to see it return.
Overly melodramatic at times, a roller coaster ride with highs, and lows, but very little middle ground.
I confess. I read the book about a dozen times in the past few years. It's not like I don't do anything else, but I do. In a year, I probably get through about 25-30 books. So reading HP and the DH was just something I was enjoying. There are clues in various places in the books, and you just have to marvel at how Jo Rowling tied up all the ends so nicely in the last one.
The one thing, though, that I felt was off in 7 was how she portrayed Hagrid. In a few cases, it seemed like she was treating him like a buffoon, but that's a personal opinion, not something that critically could be considered wrong with the book.
But the last book kept elements close together. It brought in all the old characters, added a few new ones, but basically held together things with bonds of steel. The relationships were both old and new, with a true feeling of family and friendships. And we all celebrated the good times in the book and lamented the bad times.
So when Mad-Eye Moody gets killed so early in the book, a feeling of loss goes with him. When Fleur is so happy to be marrying Bill, we're all happy for them both. When we see Kreacher turn from a foul house-elf to a fine house-servant, we're happy for him. When Tonks tells us she is pregnant, we celebrate! But almost none of that is in the movie. We know instinctively that those things happened in the book, but if you haven't read them, you're going to go WTF? an awful lot.
Mad-Eye is killed in the chase, but there isn't a toast to this memory. When Fleur is so intense about the wedding, we see no real emotion, but for one brief moment. When the trio leaves Kreacher for their exploits at the ministry, we have no idea how much he has changed. And when Tonks and Lupin go off, there is nothing to suggest the very sad and aching love they have for each other, and about Remus's hesitation about his upcoming fatherhood.
There is no investment in these characters in the film. It's like "strip the souls from everyone but Ron, Harry and Hermione, make the others more melodramatic with no attachment to the real story, and voilà! you have Deathly Hallows Part One." I confess: I don't like David Yates' direction. There has been something off about it since OOTP, though I might be one of the few who think that. I think his often amateurish direction is quite obvious in this film. The film is often like a roller coaster, with giddy high points, either in the action or the tone, but there are also many very low points, and there is nothing in the middle. We don't LEARN anything from the characters--we follow them on their journey, yes, but we have to inject too much of the overall plot from the book to see what has been left out, and what is still present. There are times when a collage filming of the many places the trio (and in the middle, the duo) went could get that section speeded up without weighing it down (a friend with me found the middle WAY too slow), and at times, a more polished director could have found ways to make the scenes pack a lot more information into them. It certainly didn't look like the kids weren't eating a whole lot, or how much Hermione actually fit into her small pocketbook. The scene that could have managed that would have been the scene in the book where Hermione packs the full sized painting of Sirius Black's relative, Phinea Black, former headmaster of Hogwarts, into her bag. But it was not to be.
I think if there had been a consistent tone during the film, it would have helped bring a more cohesive tone to the film, interlocking all the elements into one. But there wasn't that kind of a feeling in it, and I am disappointed that it didn't happen.
I might be one of the very few fans who feels the film wasn't a very good one. Yes, it's only half of a whole, and the second half might be a totally different one, emotionally, and dramatically. But I just need to say to fans, go with the warning that there are a lot of faults with this installment, and accept it just as a nice visual film, with very, very little to do with the entire HP legacy. It probably won't help, and you will be filling in the blanks from the books, but it's certainly better than nothing.
Great show with great moral dilemmas to work through
Every now and then, I peruse the Sunday morning listings to see if it's there. It hasn't been there for quite some time, but old habits die hard.
I can't remember many of the episodes, but if I saw them again, I might remember them.
One of the few that still occupies my brain is one of the Christmas episodes, with William Windom, James Cromwell, Tim Matheson and Paula Kelly (Jesus B.C. (1976)). It was amazing the talent they used to employ! The show, from my recollections, was shown into the early 90s. I don't remember watching them from the 60s or even 70s, but I do recall them airing later.
I'm not religious, despite my growing up as a Catholic. Over time, I've become an atheist, but it really shouldn't matter. Morality, whether you are religious or not, shouldn't depend on what faith you come from. Morality should come from the heart, and be something you do without any reward, recompense or favor. And I think this show promoted that as much as it could, within the confines of its format and design. That's why it resonated with people who weren't particularly religious--it took common values and brought them to life. And every one of us who has ever cared about another person could find themselves in the midst of the situations presented.
I think the show should be available on DVD as well, as I think we could all remember the messages they told us. While there has been dating in some episodes, the vast appeal of the format, as a single one act play, could be a nice addition to the Sunday morning shows, and certainly as appealing as all the political shows on at that time!
The Water Horse (2007)
I saw The Last Mimzy and The Water Horse on two consecutive nights, and now I have forgotten many elements of the former simply through watching the latter. The Water Horse has a few inconsistencies, but overall is the better of the two films. It is not as aimless, nor does it have the presumptive air of the former, either.
The CGI is practically flawless. It works, however, in making Crusoe the Water Horse as real as possible: as we watch, we see Crusoe growing from the size of a box turtle (which it resembles early in its development) to that of a true king of the deep, the Loch Ness "monster." Having been fortunate enough to have traveled to Inverness, Scotland and visiting the Loch itself, I was delighted to see some of the places nearby, including Uruquhart Castle (the ruins on the south side of the Loch). Seeing the Loch itself gives one pause to wonder if a creature could exist, and in one of my own personal slides I have a shot with a black rock on it that I always tell people is one of the humps on the real monster. Regardless if one believes the "monster" is real or not, there is something in the air which makes one feel as though there are infinite possibilities no matter how much we think otherwise.
As it goes so often in life, we want so much to believe in something outside of ourselves, that we cherish those moments in life when fantasy is solid enough to appear real. Most of us lose that sense of wonder as we grow up and grow old, so when something comes along that restores that wonderment, if even for two hours, we should be quick to jump at it, allowing childlike acceptance take control. We can't journey back in time to those days of innocence, but we sure can recapture the feeling of them, if even for just a little while, with a vessel like The Water Horse leading the way.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
A character driven comedy excellently played
My Cousin Vinny could be a mess in the wrong hands. Thanks to Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne and the other main cast members, and to Jonathan Lynn, the film's director, it succeeds and is quite entertaining.
Much has been said in a non-complimentary fashionabout several of the acting efforts in the film, but it's the acting that elevates the film from run of the mill ho-hum fare to one which keeps you laughing on repeat viewings.
Recently, I watched the film on DVD and listened to Jonathan Lynn's audio commentary. I found his anecdotes to be charming, insightful and informative. Getting inside the mind of the director and reasons he used particular shots and dialog was fascinating and engaging, and I think listening to someone, other than one of the performers, is also educational.
I would recommend the film to anyone who wants some light entertainment that really isn't mindless, but infused with good performances and a well done film.
Pig Sty (1995)
A fun show that wasn't given much of a chance
We've seen bad shows last long times on TV, but too few really different shows get much of a chance, especially when they're on a new network. This UPN series has a bit of a dark core, but didn't get much respect at the fledgling network. In addition, some of the dialogue was a bit more grown-up than other shows, so it was never going to be a lead-in show. One could only have hoped that Pig Sty had greater exposure before a final decision to kill it went into effect.
It was positioned right after Star Trek: Voyager, which was a good opener, but the style of the show did not fit the audience that preceded it. I don't think that UPN had much of a sense of programming strategy early on, so there was never a lot of compatibility between shows on a given night. A night of all sitcoms might have been a better bet. It's interesting to see that most of the regular actors on the show did manage to move on to other projects, but there was a certain amount of chemistry in Pig Sty that will never be matched.
Even the title of the show showed a bold move--of course it reminded me of my own housekeeping habits!!
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
A nice thriller from start to finish
I went into the film cold, without having read the book, and I enjoyed it. It stands on its own, apart from the book, which I will likely read now to compare the two.
The performances for the most part are understated, though at times the dialogue is too expository, and doesn't lead to any new actions, however much it gives background. I think that perhaps a rolling "credits" scene in the beginning might have helped make some points clearer, though I can understand the need for the characters to learn new elements as the story moves forward.
In comparison to other films in the "treasure hunt" type of action films, it is a lot more cerebral, but whether that helps or not depends on your point of view! There is very little in the way of graphic violence, though there are some scenes which might frighten smaller children. There was also very little profanity. I could compare it with "National Treasure" in some ways, but a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" it isn't.
The film (and obviously the book) pour down heavy criticism on certain historically religious groups, and I suppose this is one of the reasons why some are boycotting the film--however, since the whole thing has been designated fiction, I can't understand why people just don't accept it for just that--a "fictional" story.
The mood is dark, and there is some humor, too, though it's almost whispered at times. Perhaps this tone of "reverence" is in the novel, too, I don't know; Ian McKellan's character is the only one audacious enough to laugh out loud.
I recommend the film, but if people aren't prepared to check their own beliefs at the door, they might be disappointed in the film's outcome.
Sole Survivor (1970)
A haunting film long after viewing
Considering how long ago I saw this film, it still remains in my memory as special. The story focuses on an investigation of a downed plane in the desert, which is thought to be a plane from World War II that was not supposed to be over land when it crashed.
When the plane went down, it was supposed to be over the ocean, and only one crew member escaped from that accident--a man who is now a general, and is on that identifying mission to determine if it was his former assignment. The general, played by Richard Basehart, embodies a lot of conflicting emotions, some of which are ambiguously depicted until all is made clear toward the end of the film.
The thrust of the film centers on the former plane crew members, now seen as ghosts who hang around the wreck, wondering when they will be discovered, and their bodies found. After so many years as ghosts, hanging around such a limited terrain, they have become cynical and discouraged. It is only when the team arrives to survey the wreck and the surroundings that they gain some hope that the truth will be discovered, and that they will no longer have to stay with the plane for eternity. When they find their former teammate part of the investigation team, and now a general, they feel that they have been let down, and that the lies told by the now general will threaten their hopes of getting out of the desert hell they have been stuck in for far too many years. They discover, too, that it was the general's lies which has kept them from being discovered sooner.
Performances by all involved are great, and your sympathy for the doomed crew members grows with the film. Richard Basehart does an excellent job as the haunted crew member whose lies enhanced his own status, but whose conscience has never been clear since the accident so many years ago. William Shatner's character is a bit over the top, but Vince Edwards acts as a stabilizing presence, and whose respect for the history of the plane lends compassion to the fate of those who died in the wreckage. It is through his presence that much of the humanity in the film is made clear and kept constant.
As an aside: both William Shatner and Richard Basehart worked together on another venture around the same time as this film, The Andersonville Trial, directed by George C. Scott, which won an Emmy. If you are interested in seeing both in another setting, where Shatner really shows his very real acting ability, you should consider seeing that presentation as well.
A slick documentary about the greatest corporate scandal in the country.
A well produced and slick documentary about Enron and its trip from 7th richest corporation to its final bankruptcy.
The film traces the humblest beginnings of Ken Lay and the other major executives of the corporation, Jeff Skilling and Andrew Fastow. It also shows the involvement of many others through the 20 years of the company, and how many people contributed to the ultimate downfall of the company.
The only complaint I had with it was the involvement of some of the people that were interviewed on screen and their identities. It was often difficult to understand who was who, and why they were part of the group being interviewed--whether they were former Enron employees, or the team that helped write the books and screenplay of the documentary and their role in the drama.
Overall, something I would recommend highly to anyone interested in corporate greed, hubris and arrogance, and why the company managed to pull the wool over the employees of the company so long.
From Hell (2001)
Okay Drama from What I Saw of it
Perhaps it's because I didn't catch the whole film, but there didn't seem to be a whole heckuva lot new in this film that hasn't been said in other movies, and in better ways. I like Depp, Holm, Coltrane and the other major performers for the most part, but I found Heather Graham too pretty to be playing a prostitute in Victorian England. The thought that they were beautiful, relatively naive women is rather misleading.
The film I found that handled many of the same theories, and in a lot better fashion, was Murder By Decree with Christopher Plummer and James Mason. The whole angle of the Freemasons was pursued there, as well as the theory that the Royal Physician was the real Ripper. The comments about the "Juwes" was also given, connecting them directly to the Masons. The thing is, Freemasonry was not (and still isn't) as well known as it appears to be in From Hell--it's preposterous that in that day, without the amount of knowledge and information as available as it is now, that every cop on the beat would know about it. Also, the film seems to have also read most of the same source material as Murder By Decree with Annie Crook and the illegitimate child fathered by the Royal family member.
The ending was confusing, though perhaps as I said it was because I didn't see the beginning.
Overall, I suppose I need to see the film from the start, but if there wasn't any significant revelations in the 2/3 of the film that I saw, I would say that seeing Murder By Decree again would be preferable.