Sherlock Holmes returns with a flourish

                Without nary a “The game’s afoot, Watson!” or even “Elementary, my dear Watson”, but with a nod towards “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” at the conclusion, we are shown a Sherlock Holmes that lies beneath the cultured and stoic Victorian and Edwardian image we have built of him in his latest incarnation in Sherlock Holmes.

                I will admit that when I saw that Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark was a perfect role for him) was to play the part so beautifully embodied by the late Jeremy Brett that I trembled and silently swore that nothing good could come from it. Holmes had been done good and badly, but I thought this another one of those ridiculous “reboot” movies that are all the rage and it would destroy the image of The Great Detective.

                Happily, I was proven wrong.

                While the image of Holmes that is presented in the film is not the one that most people have (no deerstalker hat makes an appearance, nor does his great Inverness cloak), the person is very truthful to the Holmes of the written word. For example, Watson notes that Holmes was an expert in boxing, and there are several incidences in the canon when he employs that activity, so it is not too farfetched to have him involved in such an endeavor as portrayed in the film. What I thought was well done was the way in which Holmes planned, with extremely logical and cold, scientific reasoning his actions and the results and then carried them out. That was the way his mind worked.

                What was refreshing was there was no attempt to “reboot” the Holmes-Watson companionship, but to assume it had been going on and that Watson was in the midst of his getting ready to marry Mary Morstan  (from The Sign of Four, the second Holmes novel) and move to “new digs”. And, at the end, that is still the case. This episode is just that – an episode in the larger universe of Holmes and Watson.

                Irene Adler is there, of course. And, fortunately, there is no un-Holmesian  romantic attraction at all, but an admiration of the two for each other, as is befitting “the woman.” And even though Professor James Moriarty (who made only one infamous appearance in the whole of the written canon) is introduced, we know nothing of his intentions, thus setting up a hopeful sequel.

                Two other small trifling points I would like to make. One is that in this movie, all the CGI is done so well that you don’t notice it. Mostly. There are a few times when it is evident, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with its cleverness – it simply is there to enhance and make the texture of the movie all that much more enjoyable. Secondly, if any of you never thought you would hear Holmes decry, “Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay” need to go back to “The Adventure of the Cooper Beeches.’

                Sherlock Holmes has a storyline fully aware of where it comes. And it also shows that special effects add to and enhance a well-conceived plot, rather than take it over (as in Avatar.) Holmes I will buy on DVD if for nothing else than to regal in its careful texture of both story and setting. And, of course, to watch The Great Detective once again move through the alleys and streets of London.

My take on Avatar

Take the movie Solider Blue, add in Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, a dash of strip mining, deforestation, evil white settlers and good red natives and mix it all up with the tale of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, the corporate person from Aliens, and a clueless scientist who is the only human that smokes on an entire planet, spice it up with computer-generated special effects and what do you have? A movie called Avatar.

I will admit that the effects were amazing, even on regular screen. I did not go to see it at an IMAX showing nor did I see it in 3-D. Think about it, when the DVD/Blue-Ray Disk comes out, who will have that technology in their homes. Not us poor, everyday moviegoer, that’s for sure. And I went Saturday night, at the evening show. Amazing, but the theatre was only about 1/3 full. Where were the crowds that were panting to see this movie? Were they all there Friday night? And only $73 million for the first weekend? What’s that about? It looks like a lot of people decided to stay home or found another show to go see.

I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie. It was good, but it is not something that I plan on seeing again, at least for a while. In fact, I will probably wait for the DVD to come out and then it will be based on what extras are available. Why? Wasn’t I impressed with the movie?

Yes, I was impressed with the special effects. They were good. Alright, probably better than good. But special effects should not be the force that carries a movie totally. And, unfortunately, that what this movie does. I mentioned above what I immediately thought as elements of this movie. They may be more (I am purposely leaving out the whole Gaia-influence), but even with the small number I mentioned, you wonder how it hangs together. I’m not certain if it does. What would the story be if Cameron had instead focused on one thread or two. But to try to weave eight or nine together leaves very little room to fully develop any of them. Even at one hundred and sixty minutes, you don’t have enough time. Remember that when they made Shogun into a six hour miniseries, they went through the book and eliminated everything that did not deal directly with Anjin-san. This movie feels the same way. It feels that something is missing, the back story that gives us a reason for really caring about all these characters, at least other than the “feel-good” we are suppose to get from the mythic hodgepodge.

And, at the end, that it what it is, a mythic hodgepodge. You feel good because the good guys win and the evil guys get their ass kicked. And the statement, the moral of the story, is that we need to respect Mother Earth, to be good stewards of our planet.

But I still wish that the path to the end had been of more consistency…

Just the thing for a dreay day

Just got through watching Escape From New York (and wondered if that would make a good television series a la 24) and Escape From L.A. Watched Doc Savage and Big Trouble in Little China last night. Taking a break and cleaning now, then it’s Spacehunter, Ice Pirates and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. If only I had Battle Beyond The Stars, then I could watch The Seven Samari, The magnificant Seven and it back-to-back.

Considering how deary today is in Fort Woth (cloudy, rainy, and a high of about 50), I just love the pure mindless escapism.