Monday, 24 August 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows

Continuing on the series of posts where I take a magnifying glass to a certain Holmesian adaptation, today I look at the sequel in the hit Robert Downey Jr duology as the Great Detective.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Doctor Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madame Simza), Jared Harris (Professor Moriarty) and Stephen Fry (Mycroft Holmes) with Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler)

Synopsis: After a spate of bombings cause tensions to brew across Europe, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson travel across the continent on a hunt for the man who wants to create a world war for his own ends - the Napoeleon of crime, Professor James Moriarty...

Doyled or Spoiled?: While Doyle never wrote such a James Bondian adventure, many details of the film are lifted from the canon, as if to compensate. The story is extrapolated from 'The Final Problem' where we are told that Holmes and Watson travel across Europe in pursuit of Moriarty. The death of Irene Adler could be a reference to the unexplained mentions of The Woman being 'the late Irene Adler' in the canon. Watson marries Mary Morstan, as per Doyle and Sherlock (though Holmes is a far less obsessive Best Man here than he is in that version). And, finally, Colonel Sebastian Moran is Moriarty's right-hand man and assassin, just as we are told he was in 'The Empty Hearse.' Also, it's not Doyle, but one of Moriarty's victims is Professor Hoffmanstahl - the real surname of Holmes' love interest Gabrielle Valadon in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Highlight: For me, it's probably the several references to Doyle, as they help to remind you that you are watching a Sherlock Holmes film. The use of Watson's eulogy of Holmes being taken verbatim from 'The Final Problem' is a lovely touch and probably my favourite Doyleism in the film. Elsewhere, another highlight is Downey and Law's partnership. While they are not my favourite Holmes and Watson they have an enjoyable banter-masking-fierce-friendship relationship.

Verdict: Without a specific mystery for Holmes to solve - rather more of a globe-trotting manhunt - and the loss of London, this sequel lacks the the feel of a Sherlock Holmes story unlike the first film which cleverly trod the line between Sherlockiana and being a modern action film. Likewise, the cast is squandered - Noomi Rapace is in a thankless role as Simza, Jared Harris is nothing special as Moriarty and, worst of all, Stephen Fry is fantastic casting (he's a perfect match for Sidney Paget's drawings) but his Mycroft is sadly played for comic relief. Apart from Downey Jr's idiosyncratic Holmes then, it's a decent run-around with fights and explosions and other things people like in blockbuster films.*

*I really like the first one which is why I'm extra grumpy in this review.

Sherlock and friends run away from an explosion. They do a lot of that.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Another Doctor Who Series Nine Trailer Breakdown

Unusually, if memory serves, we've been granted two full-length trailers this year in the run-up to Series Nine (which is still a month away!). While a few clips are the same as the one released last month, it's mostly all-new material. Let's watch the new trailer and then take a closer look at what it has to offer...

A lot of the minute is made up of the Doctor and Clara doing Doctory/Claray things (I particularly like the Doctor apologising to the TARDIS for being late and Clara's clearly been taking lessons from Torchwood's Gwen Cooper on how to be an action-hero). On the supporting characters front, there's a shot of a scared-looking Rigsy (returning from last year's 'Flatline') and, I think, we also see the impossibly-resurrected Osgood out for a jog.

But the most important thing are the monsters - and there seems to be a bumper crop this year. Including this CGI dragon thing. As the Zygons are back, this could be the modern rendition of a Skrarasen, the Zygons' pet that was actually the Loch Ness Monster. If so, I sort of miss it looking like a rubbery toy dinosaur...

Also, of course, this fella who's on loan from Pan's Labyrinth

We also get more glimpses of Maisie Williams' character, who appears to be in league with this leonine creature (who elsewhere in the trailer breathes fire). A relation of the Tharils, the lion-like aliens from Fourth Doctor adventure 'Warrior's Gate'?

And look what have we here. It seems the Master and the Daleks will team-up (or perhaps go head-to-head) - for the first time since the Third Doctor battled them both in 'Frontier In Space.' If I were a Dalek, though, I'm not sure I'd be pals with Missy if she was cackling in my face like that. Unless I'd just told a hilarious joke. Which I wouldn't have done, being a Dalek.

But trumping even the promise of Missy and the Daleks is more Daleks! Namely, Daleks old and new coming together. Below we have the usual bronze Time War Daleks, some 60s models (including a couple with blue domes), a Special Weapons Dalek and even the red Dalek Supreme from 'The Stolen Earth/Journey's End.' Oh, and there's a 70s one elsewhere in the trailer. Just about everyone apart from the despised Paradigm Daleks. One day they'll come back...

Overall, this trailer just fuels my already very high hopes for Series Nine. From what we've seen so far, the Twelfth Doctor has settled down into himself this year and he and Clara are back to having good times rollocking around the universe. To misquote Clara, I haven't seen this series yet - but I will do and it will be spectacular.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking

Last month I kicked off a new series of posts looking at different Holmesian adaptations with a look at 2002's The Hound of the Baskervilles. This month I'm following it up with its semi-sequel made in 2004. Unusually, while the actor of Holmes isn't carried over, Watson is, with Ian Hart reprising his role from the previous production.

Starring: Rupert Everett (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Hart (Doctor Watson), Jonathan Hyde (George Pentney), Helen McCrory (Mrs Vandeleur) and Michael Fassbender (Charles Allen)

Synopsis: In 1902, a new terror has struck the fog-bound streets of London in the form of a serial killer who is murdering young debutantes. Can the estranged Holmes and Watson come together to solve the case of the silk stocking?

Doyled or Spoiled?: With an original storyline, very litle of the plot is dervied from Doyle although Holmes often quotes directly from the stories (e.g. 'I cannot make bricks without clay,' 'Watson, you are the one fixed point in a changing age' ETC). Much like Hound, it also presents Holmes taking drugs during a case - including using opium, rather than just morphine or cocaine.
The biggest departure from the canon, however, is the identity of Watson's fiancee. Rather than the books (and most adaptations) he does not marry Mary Morstan but rather Jennifer Vandeleur, an American psycho-analyst. Similar to other modern versions - the Downey Jr films and Sherlock - Holmes is at first jealous of his best friend finding a(nother) partner before being won over by her.

Highlight: 100% Rupert Everett. A much better Holmes than Hound's Roxborough, he's something of a proto-Sherlock (interestingly, the special even uses the same font as the series) with his Cumberbatchian anti-social behaviour and snarky sense of humour. Although he lacks the manic energy of the best Holmeses, he absolutely looks the part and it would have been fascinating to see him take on the role in an adventure that more closely looked at Holmes' character. 

Verdict: An enjoyable if not totally successful Holmes adventure. While the storyline could have done with more inspiration from the canon, the film's great strength is how it really evokes the setting of Edwardian England, with the rich partying at debutante balls while murderers lurk in the treacherous fog. Likewise, the key relationship between Holmes and Watson is better handled here than in its predecessor although not entirely fixed, being much less prickly if not quite warm. In fact, the most interesting pairing of the piece must be that of Holmes and young girl Roberta who the detective seems to take under his wing. As such, while it is much better than the tepid Hound, my main gripe is that the plot, involving the hunt for a sexually-deviant serial killer, is much too modern crime drama and too little Sherlock Holmes to be completely satisfying.

Rupert Everett's smooth-as-silk Holmes saves the day in this pastiche

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Monthly Scribbles: The BBC, Bond and Robin Hood

Now that July has been and gone (yes, I know, we're now over halfway through the year but hold off on the realisation that your life is dwindling away, all right, this is a light-hearted post) it's time for another sporadic round-up of the month's Scribble Creatures-y news in Monthly Scribbles.

Capaldi's Credentials

July was a busy month for the Big Two - Sherlock and Doctor Who - as tantalising trailers for both were released. But as I've already blabbed about those here and here, I'll look at a less covered item now. Namely, this fun interview that appeared online recently which shows Peter Capaldi at his Who-loving best. Everyone knows Capaldi is a life-long fan of the show but this interview - in which he seemingly can't stop himself from talking about his favourite Who episodes - is a great demonstration of his fan credentials. It's always nice when the Doctor loves Doctor Who just as much as the fans. 

The Game is over...

I'm sad to report that Toby Whithouse spy drama The Game has been cancelled. It's a great shame as, despite a couple of criticisms I had, it had a lot of promise. What with the loss of the brilliant In The Flesh earlier this year as well, it seems the Beeb have either gone off their rocker or simply can't afford to take a chance on such shows as they used to (thank you very much, government). Either way, the BBC may make mistakes but we would miss it terribly if it wasn't there. Hint hint: please sign this petition to protect the BBC. It's very worthwhile.

Anyway, now to get off my soapbox...

'Their name is... Spectre.' 

Not to be outdone by his fellow British heroes, there was also a trailer for the latest James Bond film Spectre released this month - and it was a whopper. As well as being an effective teaser for the film it is also littered with lovely kisses to the past - Bond and the new M seem to be at odds, suggesting the relationship between 007 and the original Ms, Christoph Waltz is wearing a very Blofeldian nehru jacket and Q is giving Bond a car with gadgets. Not to mention the rousing theme music from On Her Majesty's Secret Service playing throughout. The last film Skyfall somewhat converted me from Bond liker to fledgling fan so I'm eagerly awaiting this instalment, which seems to be a series finale to Craig's Bond films. 

Mini-Review of the Month

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Until this month, I had never read nor seen anything to do with Robin Hood (well, except such non-canonical takes as last year's Doctor Who episode and that Disney film with the foxes). After twenty-odd years I finally put that right when I came across a copy of Robert Lancelyn Green's children's novel, which tells the story of the Prince of Thieves' life, drawn from the classical ballads and folk stories. It's written in a charming fairy tale style which brings Sherwood Forest and its inhabitants to storybook life in a way that sends you back to being ten years old, even if like me you weren't familiar with the world at that age. Highlights include the bizarrely supernatural 'The Witch of Paplewick', a Maid Marion who is pleasingly pro-active rather than a damsel-in-distress and - spoiler warning for a 700 year old legend - the surprisingly moving final chapters.
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