Movies: Sherlock Holmes (2010)

titleNo, no, no, you’re not allowed to say that!

Director: Rachel Goldenberg
These people are in it:  Ben Snyder (Holmes), Gareth David-Lloyd (Watson), Dominic Keating (Thorpe Holmes)

collarOh for the love of … and what’s up what that ^ collar?!

I did it, I finally did it.  I actually watched this movie.  It’s been haunting my every move for months (on Netflix).  However, I knew I could not do it alone.  No, if I was going to watch this, I was damn well going to take someone down with me.  Indeed, I found two willing someones (the poor sods never stood a chance).

whatfreshWhat fresh Hell is this?

Yes, this movie is truly abysmal.  It was produced by The Asylum, so I had fair warning.  The acting is a disgrace; I’d say the two leads were miscast, but that would be to acknowledge that what Helen Pritchard did was “casting”.  I thought maybe the prospect of dinosaurs terrorizing London would be amusing, but I quickly began to root for them to eat Holmes and Watson.

toothyFaster Toothy, kill, kill!

There are several low-budget ways in which this movie could have been made acceptable, but I’m already too tired to enumerate them.  I’m going to go try to forget I ever watched this.

robertRobert Holmes?!  Excuse me while I go cry in a corner …

 

The Bottom Line:  Our attempts to riff this movie quickly devolved into groans of mental anguish and Stockholm Syndrome-esque nervous laughter.  Avoid at all costs–do not let our suffering have been in vain.

Next time:  I can’t let this year’s Sherlock Holmes-fest end on such a bad note.  I’m unilaterally extending it until such time as I have recovered from watching the aforementioned (and I am unanimous in this).

Movies: Murder by Decree

cover

(1979)
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Christopher Plummer (Holmes), James Mason (Watson), John Gielgud (Prime Minister), Geneviève Bujold (Annie Crook), Donald Sutherland (Robert Lees)

 

Remember a little while ago when I said this movie was “dignified”?  Well, I must have been thinking of something else.  By the time Donald Sutherland showed up, I threw my hands in the air and sighed, “oh fine, whatever.”

whynotI guess when you have the opportunity to add a crazy-eyed, mustachioed clairvoyant to your film, you take it.

My last review, Case of the Silk Stocking, was a “Jack the Ripper-esque” murder mystery.  Murder by Decree, though, features the *actual* Jack the Ripper–indeed, it’s a Jack the Ripper conspiracy!  In all fairness, there are plenty of people who like this film, so I won’t spoil the ending should any of you wish to go judge it for yourselves.  Instead, I’ll merely quote Click and Clack from NPR’s Car Talk:

“BO-o-o-o-o-gus!”

jtrpovWhaaaa!  Jack the Ripper POV shot!

Christopher Plummer and James Mason are good actors, but they are both miscast here and this changes the Holmes/Watson dynamic greatly.  Plummer plays the most warm and empathetic Holmes I’ve yet seen.  His smiles and sentimental expressions are just too much.  In my review of Jeremy Brett’s work last year, I remarked that Brett captures the warmth of friendship that Holmes feels towards Watson.  It is a side of Holmes we do not see a whole lot in the text, though, and often adaptations will err on the side of omitting it altogether.   Where the Brett/Granada Holmes does well, Murder by Decree goes too far the other way.

However, the warm and friendly Holmes would not have been as much of a problem for me if there wasn’t such a great age difference between Plummer and Mason, who is the oldest-in-relation-to-Holmes Watson I’ve yet seen.  But even this might not have been a problem if the script and direction were better, but they weren’t, so Watson comes across as a doddering old man, and Holmes as his doting care-giver.

Case in point: the famous “pea scene” (I wasn’t aware this was particularly famous, but IMDB says it is, so I’ll go with it).  It’s quite an odd scene, a scene where you stop and ask, “wtf?”

ummm

The scene opens back at 221b Baker St.  Holmes is trying to summarize the case so far, but Watson is noisily using a fork to try and stab the solitary pea left on his dinner plate.  He keeps missing.  Holmes asks Watson what on Earth he’s doing.  Watson tells him … more dialogue … clank clank clank.

peas

Finally, Holmes walks over and takes the fork from Watson and uses it to crush, thus picking up, the pea.  A very sad and dejected Watson looks down and says:

squashed

I guess this was supposed to be amusing, and the dialogue tried to turn it into a clever metaphor, but the scene really just comes across as an old man being humored.  I half expected Nurse Hudson to walk in with Watson’s medication and a bowl of pudding.  (No, it’s not lost on me that I, like this film, have now spent an inordinate amount of time on this scene).

two

Murder by Decree is a film very much of its time, which means lots of slow motion (and even some bright red blood).  There are several shots of an ominous black carriage making its way around London, very, very slowly.  The dialogue is quiet, the sound effects aren’t very good, and the camera is stuck in a permanent soft-focus.

 

The Bottom Line:  Huggable Holmes, James Mason being James Mason, and a silly conspiracy theory.  I got bored and couldn’t make it through a second viewing.

 

Next time:  Sherlock Holmes and dinosaurs?  Hmm, this won’t take long …

TV: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking

font

That’s totally the same font as Sherlock.

(2004)
Director: Simon Cellan Jones
Starring: Rupert Everett (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Hart (Dr. Watson), Neil Dudgeon (Lestrade), Anne Carroll (Mrs. Hudson), Perdita Weeks (Roberta Massingham), Michael Fassbender (Charles Allen)

221b

This adaptation is a “what-if” episode:  what if Sherlock Holmes allowed Dr. Watson to put him on a heavy regimen of anti-depressants? 

Because that’s what Everett’s literally lack-luster performance feels like: Holmes on Valium.  Lots of it.  He’s so heavy-lidded and soft-spoken throughout the entire thing–he even occasionally slurs his lines.  Usually, Everett is great for the role of an erudite character in a period piece (loved him in both An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Ernest), but not here.

Speaking of anti-depressants, this adaptation’s treatment of drugs is my main complaint.  The movie starts out with Holmes hanging around smoking opium.  As far as I know, he only used opium once in all of Doyle’s writings, and that was merely as part of his cover whilst looking for someone in an opium den (“The Man With the Twisted Lip”).  This would be a minor complaint, though, if they had merely replaced his “off-season” cocaine/morphine use with opium.

loungingGet out of that opium den, you!

However, Case of the Silk Stocking has Holmes injecting cocaine while on the case, and uses it to inspire himself to find the solution, no less!  Holmes doesn’t need to go on a drug-trip in order to solve cases, it’s just the opposite.  The whole point is that Holmes’ mind is so sharp that he can find what others miss and put those pieces together without the aid anything of more than some exotic tobacco (no, that’s not a euphemism).  This is a huge piece of what makes Sherlock Holmes who he is!

Substance abuse notwithstanding, the over-all story is pretty good and has a decidedly Jack the Ripper feel to it, but of course it’s Jack the Ripper Holmes-style.  Instead of prostitutes as victims, it’s young noblewomen.  Instead of violent physical mutilation, it’s a more cerebral violation of the victims and their identities.  The writers have laid out a decent mystery, including elements from various stories and some dialogue lifted directly from the original texts.

Like pretty much everything the BBC does, the production values are high and the costuming is excellent.  While I’m sure the wardrobe artists for these productions work hard, I sometimes like to imagine a huge, magical BBC costume warehouse, where the wardrobe staff can stroll down the aisles of beautiful clothing, pick up a few things, and then spend the rest of their day sitting around drinking pinot grigio.  (Ok, strange fantasy, I admit.  I just want to go play in a costume warehouse.)

urnEveryone say it with me: “one … Grecian … urn!”

Ian Hart plays a pretty solid Watson.  He doesn’t *do* anything with the role, which is good–he’s introduced the Watson Constant to this production.  The Watson Constant helps to keep the audience grounded so that we don’t get lost when a film does something odd like, say, play Holmes as an effete drug-addict.

watsonThank you, Ian Hart, for being there for us.  For the children.

The rest of the cast is fine, but there are two who really stand-out.  One is Perdita Weeks as young Lady Roberta, in the continuing tradition of strong female characters who aid Holmes in solving cases.  The other is Michael Fassbender as a suitably creepy foot-man (go watch it and you’ll see how clever that pun is … ).

 

The Bottom Line: Subtract the hazy Holmes and this is a decent period-mystery. I’d mostly recommend this to anyone who wants to see Michael Fassbender acting like a psychopath, which is entertaining in its own way.

beware

Beware the creeping Michael Fassbender over your shoulder.

Next time:  Christopher Plummer and James Mason in Murder by Decree!