Gorgeous, Intense, and Creepy: A Review of Prometheus

So, let’s talk about Prometheus (and then I’ll get back to my insane fan-girl raving about Sherlock, I promise).

For those who are unfamiliar with the background of Prometheus, it is a science fiction film produced and directed by Ridley Scott (director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, to name just a few) and is considered a prequel of sorts to the original Alien movie.  Prometheus (which is also the name of the spaceship the cast lives on) takes place in the year 2093 (Alien takes place in the year 2122), and follows a group of scientists who believe that aliens called Engineers seeded life on Earth, and who are in search of those aliens in deep space, on a moon called LV-223.  Of course, as anyone familiar with the Alien movies would expect, things do not go according to plan, as the scientists find nothing but death on the moon (and boy, it’s going to be hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away…).

Okay, so let’s start by talking about the direction and cinematography in this movie, because it was BRILLIANT.  The opening sequence is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in ages and ages.  The camera pans through images of wild, almost-but-not-quite barren landscape: rocks, mountains, snow, waterfalls, etc.  It’s like something out of the Planet Earth nature documentaries, in astounding high definition, with a powerful score building up around you.  And then it focuses in on what is clearly an alien – mostly human in shape but with musculature that no human could possibly have, and a slightly different shape in the nose and forehead.  The alien drinks something, and then starts to dissolve, his DNA literally breaking apart – one would assume, to seed the earth.  The image of the alien dissolving is pretty cringe-worthy, but so well-shot and so fascinating and creepy.  It was the perfect way to open the movie, that’s for sure.

Throughout the rest of the film, the cinematography is equally wonderful.  Ridley Scott, the screen-writers, the set designer, and the cinematographer all took tremendous care with the visuals of the story.  The visuals are highly important in this movie.  The attention to detail, the atmospheric nature, the grand scale and immensity of everything, not to mention how CREEPY a lot of it is.  And the camera captures all of it so beautifully.  Seriously, if nothing else, go see it for the visual interest – it’s like a moving piece of art.

Then there are the actors.  The casting for this movie was so well done.  Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist, who along with her partner/boyfriend Charlie Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green), are the scientists pretty much in charge of the mission on the Prometheus. Noomi Rapace is really making a name for herself.  She played Lisbeth Salander in the original film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and she was in the second Sherlock Holmes movie (and she only learned to speak English in time to film Sherlock Holmes!), and she is a very very good actress.  She does such an amazing job in this movie, with a character who is incredibly smart, more than a little naïve, sympathetic, and tough.

Then there’s Charlize Theron.  My GOD, she looks GOOD in this movie.  It’s just not fair.  And, as usual, she is phenomenal as the cold, calculating, self-serving corporate leader of the Prometheus mission, Meredith Vickers. This character walks that fine line between being emotionless and self-serving to the point of being almost-but-not-quite evil.  She’s CREEPY, and she’s not even really a bad guy.  Just kind of a bitch.  And Charlize Theron plays it so well.

Last, but certainly not least among the main characters, there is Michael Fassbender as David, the android (like Ash, from the original Alien movie, though in Prometheus, everyone already knows he’s an android).  This character was absolutely fascinating, a total enigma.  And Michael Fassbender was EXCELLENT.  Seriously excellent.  David is an odd character – childlike in ways, sometimes sympathetic, but also with this weird underlying… I don’t know, jealousy? bitterness? arrogance?, because of the way the humans treat him.

No one pays much attention to him or is even mildly polite to him except for Shaw – and, of course, we should all know by now that is a BAD idea to mistreat a robot who is WAY stronger and smarter than any human.  You get this weird sense that David wants people to acknowledge how smart he is, and feels superior to humans because of his strength and intelligence, but also wants to be human at the same time.  He does some pretty despicable things in this movie (I’m trying very hard not to give away too much!), but you can’t quite hate him and you can’t really blame him, because the humans do NOT treat him well.  And Michael Fassbender plays him with this kind of blankness, this vacancy in his face and movements, and yet with very subtle touches of expression, of tone, or movement, that hint at something lying just beneath the surface, as if David can feel more than he or anyone else imagines – despite the fact that androids purportedly have no emotions.  Michael Fassbender’s light touch is just so well done, so balanced and subtle.  It’s definitely impressive.

All of the other actors, including Idris Elba as the captain of the ship, do not get nearly as much screen time and are not nearly as important to the plot, but they still do a good job.  They give the whole film a sense of realism and immediacy, a sense of real people in real crisis situations, that would not be believable with a less talented cast.  All without overtaking the film, being too melodramatic, or stealing the scenes from the important characters (and Idris Elba’s interactions with Charlize Theron are pretty fun too).

As for the plot itself…  It’s complex and it keeps you guessing, keeps you on your toes, without every getting so convoluted that it risks bogging itself down – at least not to me, others might disagree (after all, where I found Inception totally lucid, though complex, some people complained that it made no sense whatsoever – of course, I worry about people like that, but that’s beside the point).  There is a LOT going on in this film.  The first half-hour or so is a little slow-moving.  It’s not a BAD thing to me, it’s not slow as in boring, more as in atmospheric. It’s like a slow crescendo at the beginning of symphony.  Just because the music isn’t fast or frenetic doesn’t mean it’s not full of power and interest.  And you know your patience will be well worth it anyway.  So, yes, the opening is slow in pace, but it WORKS, at least for me.  And then, once it picks up, OH BOY does it pick up.  The last forty minutes or so?  CRAZY INTENSE.

All of this is helped along quite liberally by a very well-written, beautiful, and intense score by Marc Streitenfeld.  The music fits the movie so well: atmospheric, creepy, with slow build-ups and intense explosions of power and sound.  I already mentioned how the score bolsters the opening sequence.  The whole movie is like that.  I’m definitely going to have buy the soundtrack later.  There are few things I love more than a really good movie score.

Last, but certainly not least, is the long list of connections to the original Alien movie.  Now, there is not a 1 for 1 correlation between things in this movie and things in Alien.  It doesn’t quite work like that.  But if you’re a fan of Alien and pay attention, it is a TON of fun to catch all the little references.  I had to have my brother’s help with that.  I love the first and second Alien movies, but I have trouble remembering as many of the little details as my brother does.  Still, here are justa couple things to keep in mind.

First, Prometheus takes place on the moon LV-223, whereas Alien takes place on the moon LV-426 – so the ships the Prometheus finds and all the details in this movie do NOT correlate with actual scenes from Alien.  The alien ship that the Nostromo finds in Alien is a DIFFERENT SHIP than the one that the crew of the Prometheus find.  However, it is the same KIND of ship.  And the Space Jockey from Alien?  Yeah, some kind of alien as the main aliens in Prometheus.

Second, because Prometheus focuses on the Engineers, the humanoid-looking aliens who seeded the Earth (and who are the same kind of alien as the Space Jockey) you are NOT going to see the traditional black-skinned long-faced alien or the face-huggers and chest-bursters from Alien.  However, because it is a prequel, it is easy to guess that the plot of Prometheus leads INTO the aliens from the Alien movies (and oh my god, I’m getting sick of typing the word “alien”).

For a more in-depth look into the connections between the movies, check out this explanation Screenrant: “Prometheus – Alien Connection Explained.”

I could probably go on and on if I really wanted to, but I think this covers all the big stuff, except for the ending.  Without giving too much away, I will say that the ending is a bit cliff-hangery and you are left with WAY more questions than you had the beginning of the film, but I think this is intentional.  My brother and I have been debating how many of the holes and questions are intentional for the purposes of leading into a sequel and how many are accidental due to holes in the writing itself.  The only way to find out, of course, is to wait for a sequel, which we’re both PRETTY sure is in the offing.

The main thing you should get out of all of this is: if you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, YOU NEED TO.  GO NOW.  It is absolutely phenomenal.  The intensity, the attention to detail, the beautiful cinematography, the excellent cast, the fun references to Alien… it all equals a movie that is WELL worth the money and the time.  In fact, I recommend seeing it more than once.  I’m hoping to go again soon and see how many small details I may have missed the first time.

Seriously, just go see it.  You can thank me later.

Also, you should check out Andrew Kincaid’s rundown of the biology behind the film over on his blog.

AND, here’s the trailer again, too, just to cover all my bases:

Totally, Completely, and Ridiculously Obsessed with Sherlock, Pt 1

(Note: I’d originally planned to talk about all three episodes of Sherlock Season 2 in one post, but by the time I’d finished raving about “Scandal in Belgravia” I’d already reached 1600 words, and so I figured it might possibly be a better idea to break them up.)

I TOLD you this would happen.  I warned you, and I warned myself, and still I was knocked over backward by how quickly and vehemently I have become obsessed with Sherlock.  Seriously.  I’m a total mess now.  You should see the tweets and facebook posts from last night when I watched episodes 2 and 3 of season 2 (which I stayed up til 3am to do).  In fact, in case you missed them, here:

From Facebook:

First – “I knew this was going to happen! I waited and waited and waited to watch Sherlock because I KNEW this was going happen. By now I’m so obsessed I feel like the show has sucked my brains out through my eyeballs. I’ll be quoting it wholesale by the end of the week. And in the meantime, ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ episode has me so wired I probably won’t sleep for hours.

Maybe I should say screw it to trying to make it last and just watch the last episode now…”

Followed by – “Yeah, I just said ‘screw it’ and watched the last episode. AND OH MY FUCKING GOD! *headdesk*”

And – “…it’s by Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis. But you still DEFINITELY need to watch it. EVERYONE needs to watch it. WATCH IT! (can you tell I haven’t slept much…? I feeling a little manic…).”

From Twitter:

First – “Oh God, by now I’m so obsessed with Sherlock I feel like my brains have been sucked up through my eyeballs. *drools & returns to watching*”

Then – “Screw waiting til tomorrow, I’m watching the last ep of Sherlock right now. Who needs sleep anyway?”

And – “First 10 mins of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ : O.M.F.G. #Sherlock”

Finally – “Oh God. I’m going to be a mess for days after that. #Sherlock #ReichenbachFall”

Plus, in response to a comment – “@miriamjoywrites lol, see, I’d waited & waited to watch Sherlock b/c I KNEW I’d end up ridiculously obsessed. I get so addicted to things.”

Did I mention I’m a mess?  I’m a mess.

So yeah, prepare for manic raving.  Also, this is COVERED in spoilers, because there is no way to avoid them when talking about how awesome this show is, so if you haven’t seen the show yet…

DO NOT READ THIS POST. DO NOT STOP AT GO.  DO NOT COLLECT $200. GO DIRECTLY TO NETFLIX TO WATCH SEASON 1 AND THEN GO TO PBS.ORG AND WATCH SEASON 2 (which will be disappearing off their site soon, so be quick about it!) And THEN you can come back and read my rant and see if it meshes with your thoughts.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO SPOIL THE MYSTERIES IN THESE EPISODES. DO NOT READ THESE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Now, moving on, let’s go through the three episodes of season 2 in order.

First: “Scandal in Belgravia,” ie, the Irene Adler episode.  Okay, so this episode opens directly from the cliffhanger at the end of season 1 – Sherlock and John with sniper rifles trained on them while Moriarty stands by, and Sherlock threatens to shoot a bomb and blow them all up.  Honestly, I was kinda hoping for some big huge explosion that both Sherlock and John barely escape from.  What can I say?  I like the pyrotechnics.  But the way this scene was resolved was, instead, pretty hilarious, because Moriarty is distracted a by a phone call and changes his mind about killing Sherlock and John (again), and simply walks off.  So funny!  The scenes after that show Sherlock and John solving a whole slew of little problems, with Sherlock interviewing possible clients with his usual and completely HILARIOUS lack of tact, patience (or sanity, really).

But the real fun is when Irene Adler shows up.  I LOVE this incarnation of Irene Adler. She’s a dominatrix who caters to a very high-end clientele.  She’s sexy and fierce and smart and really really wicked.  In the original story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” she’s more than a little sympathetic, nice even.  But wicked Irene is so much COOLER.  Some critics think this portrayal is too sexist, but I disagree.  She’s powerful, she knows what she wants, and while she is certainly unscrupulous, she is not portrayed in some kind of simplistic whore/angel dichotomy.  She’s WAY more complicated than that.  And the way she plays off Sherlock is fantastic.  Seriously, when she walks into the room where Sherlock is pretending to be a priest, and she’s completely naked, I just about DIED laughing.  His FACE!  And then John walks in, and HIS face! OMG!  I had to pause and laugh for a few minutes.

And that happened several times throughout the episode.  That’s one thing you can always count on with Steven Moffat.  Even in a serious drama, even in a crime drama, he inserts just the right amount and kind of humor, and it is so totally worth it.  OH! GOD! That reminds me, I almost forgot one of the best parts: when Mycroft first brings Sherlock in on the Irene Adler case, Sherlock goes to Buckingham Palace wearing NOTHING BUT A SHEET, and then Mycroft nearly pulls it right off him!  Oh, how I (and every other fangirl ever) wishes he had.  *drools*  Ahem, yeah…

This, right here, best lines of the episode:

Mycroft Holmes: Just once, can you two behave like grown-ups?

John Watson: We solve crimes. I blog about it, and he forgets his pants. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope.

Or maybe these are the best lines?

Sherlock Holmes: ‎Please don’t feel obliged to tell me that was remarkable or amazing, John’s expressed that in every possible variant available to the English language.

Irene Adler: I would have you, right here, on this desk, until you begged for mercy twice.

[A long silence in which Sherlock and Irene maintain eye contact]

Sherlock Holmes: …John, please can you check those flight schedules, see if I’m right?

John Watson[Looking stunned]…I’m on it, yeah.

Sherlock Holmes: …I’ve never begged for mercy in my life.

Irene AdlerTwice.

Honestly, there is so much to love about this episode.  When Mycroft shouts at Mrs. Hudson to shut up and both Sherlock and John exclaim: “Mycroft!” with the most furious, shocked, disapproving you have ever seen.  When Mrs. Hudson is attacked and Sherlock gets SERIOUSLY pissed, breaks the guy’s nose, and throws him out a second story window.  And when John suggest Mrs. Hudson go spend some time at her sister’s house and Sherlock says: “Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall!”  I love Sherlock’s relationship with Mrs. Hudson in this version.  In the movies he is extremely dismissive and rude with her.  In the Granada tv show he’s mainly polite the show writers mostly seemed to forget she was even around.  In this one, she is counted among one of Sherlock’s few real friends, and it’s ADORABLE (yes, I just called Sherlock Holmes adorable, he’ll get over it).

But, okay, back to the main point of the episode: Irene Adler.  The layers and complexities of the plot in this episode were absolutely fantastic.  It was quite a ride.  And the Irene Adler character was so devious and seductive that it just made it extra awesome.  Also, it was really fascinating to watch Sherlock falter just a bit and make a big mistake when he trusts Irene just a bit too much, and then catch himself just in time to shock Irene and fix it.

HOWEVER, I have one complaint, not so much with the episode as with the way most of the fandom portrays the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.

I know plenty of people are going to disagree with me (as it evidenced by the way Irene is portrayed in the movies, and in Sherlock, and in most fanfiction and in comments from fans, etc), but Irene Adler is NOT some great love of Sherlock Holmes’ life.  Folks, she is in exactly ONE Sherlock Holmes short story, and mentioned a couple times after that.  Now, I am not denying for a second that Sherlock Holmes admired her, respected her, thought that she was perhaps the only really intelligent woman he’d ever met.  He might even be accused of being somewhat attracted to her.  But one adventure in which he goes up against her and is outwitted, and is perhaps attracted, does not mean he’s in love with her.  Or even that she’s in love with him.  They have an interesting relationship, sure, but let’s not over-do it, okay?  Okay.

(I would, at this juncture, also point out that Moriarty is, ironically, only in TWO of the Sherlock Holmes stories (with mentions in 5 others): “The Final Problem,” which is the story in which Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes go over the Reichenbach Falls, and The Valley of Fear, which was written AFTER “The Final Problem” but is intended to take place before it.  This is because Doyle had intended to kill Holmes off in “The Final Problem” and then a few years later brought him back to life.  The point being that even though Moriarty is cast as Holmes’ great rival, Doyle did not originally intend him to be a recurring character.  So, even though I LOVE the character of Moriarty and how he is portrayed in the recent reincarnations of Sherlock Holmes, I still find it rather amusing how much cult status he gained so quickly, though Doyle does at least expressly state that Moriarty IS Sherlock Holmes’ great rival and intellectual equal – so that makes more sense that claiming that Holmes is “in love with” Irene Adler.)

I did think, however, that in this episode Moffat and Gatiss (I never spell his name right, I’ve noticed), keep a pretty good balance.  Sherlock is definitely intrigued by Irene, and possibly a little attracted to her, and there’s some definite tension, and he obviously admires her, but it never falls into Sherlock outright drooling over her or mooning over her (though he does seem to get depressed for awhile when he thinks she might be dead – however, SEEMED is as far as you can ever say with Sherlock, ’cause God only knows when he’s faking and when he’s not).  Moffat and Gatiss also continue to carefully tread that line where the jokes about Sherlock and John being a couple isn’t quite JUST a joke, but isn’t the literal truth either.  They are trying very hard not to come out (so to speak) on one side or the other about Sherlock’s sexuality, which I appreciate.  Because, as I’ve mentioned before, based purely on the original stories I have always believed (and quite a few critics, fans, and Holmesian “experts” would agree with me – though, obviously, not all) that Sherlock Holmes is either completely asexual or he’s gay.

Back to the episode at hand: the ending, when Mycroft and John are worried about how Sherlock will handle finding out that Irene has been killed was really sweet.  But the very very end, when we watch Sherlock actually saving Irene from the death Mycroft and John think she’s suffered: awesome.

All in all, this episode was fantastic, and hilarious, and sexy, and cool.  And yet, the next one, “Hounds of Baskerville” was WAY BETTER.  But I’ll get to that one next time.  BYE!

Sherlock, Sherlock, and More Sherlock

Last night I watched the rest of season 1 of Sherlock.  SO MUCH FUN.

Yes, there will be spoilers in this.  It’s impossible to talk about the episodes without giving some of it away, sorry.

First off, in episode 2, “The Blind Banker,” the scene near the beginning when Sherlock is in the bank, bobbing and weaving around the offices as he investigates: totally hilarious! I could not stop laughing.  And then in episode 3, “The Great Game,” it opens with Sherlock lying in the apartment, shooting holes into one of the walls and yelling that he’s bored bored bored.  And then when John walks off, he curls up into a little ball on the sofa like a little kid! OMG! I thought I was going to die it was so funny and so adorable.

I loved the plots for both episodes.  I’m really impressed how Mark Gattiss can take little whiffs of elements from the original stories and strewn them across his plotlines.  The mystery of how someone can be murdered in a room that is locked from the inside, and the Chinese acrobat to name just a couple.  Also, that Sherlock uses a network of homeless people as his eyes and ears, like the Baker Street Irregulars from the books.  Nice touch.  And again, I’m very impressed by how well they can translate the characters into a contemporary framework without losing sight of the characters themselves.

I honestly can’t decide if I love Sherlock or John more.  Benedict Cumberbatch is AWESOME (and those EYES!), but Martin Freeman is totally amazing too, and so wonderfully sympathetic!  And I love the mix of resigned stoic and adorably flustered reactions he has to everything Sherlock does.

Let’s see… what else can I talk about…?  Oh! Sarah.  Sarah is a likable character, so far as we actually get to know her in episode 2 anyway.  But I have a hard time believing that this woman, who seems fairly normal and quiet and stable, is really going to stick around after her first date with this guy she barely knows ends with her being held hostage and nearly murdered.  Seriously.

Okay, okay… so let’s get the elephant in the room.  Moriarty.  I’ll be honest, I was hugely HUGELY surprised by the appearance of Moriarty – the way he shows up the first time AND the casting choice.  Andrew Scott was definitely an interesting choice, and while his portrayal is different than anything I would have expected, but it was very compelling.  The whole set up of “The Great Game” was fantastic.  I loved how intricate the various tests were.  I also loved Sherlock’s portrayal in the third episode.  How excited and focused and gleeful he was about the tests, how he could save lives and not quite care at the same time.

And the final confrontation scene at the end of the episode?  BRILLIANT.  I loved every second of it.  Sherlock’s face when John walks out with the bomb strapped to his chest.  The way John jumped on Moriarty’s back to give Sherlock time to escape (which, of course, he wasn’t going to do).  How completely PSYCHOTIC Moriarty was.

Best line: 

Moriarty: “Kill you? Um, no. Don’t be obvious I mean, I’m gonna kill you anyway, someday. I don’t want to rush it though. I’m saving it up for something special! No no no no no, if you don’t stop prying… I’ll burn you. I will burn.. the heart out of you.”

Sherlock: “I’ve been reliably informed that I don’t have one.”

Awesome!

And the cliff-hanger was cruel! Too cruel! It reminded me of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the season finale of season three, “Best of Both Worlds” – when Picard has been turned into a borg, and Riker orders the Enterprise to open fire on the borg ship that Picard is on, and then it goes black. SO MEAN!

When I finished the episode at about 2am last night, I was in a panic.  I couldn’t believe no one had warned me that I shouldn’t watch that episode before I was sure I could get my hands on season 2 – because season 2 is not on Netflix streaming, and I hadn’t been able to find it ANYWHERE.

Thankfully, when I complained on Twitter, one of my wonderful Twitter friends sent me a link for the season 2 episodes streaming on PBS.com.  Three guesses what I’ll be doing tonight, and the first two don’t count.

And yes, I already know about the third episode of season 2 – well not everything, but when an episode is called “The Reichenbach Fall” a Sherlock Holmes can guess what to expect, and I’ve heard a few hints as to how the writers pull it off here.  Expect a rant later.

In other news:  I was horribly shocked and upset by Ray Bradbury’s death this week. I thought about writing a blog post about it, but I read a few very well written ones already, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to say, so I’ll just leave you with a couple links: “Ray Bradbury” by storiesbywilliams, “Ray Bradbury on Sci-Fi, God, and Robots: The Late Author’s Biggest Ideas” from Wired.com, and Neil Gaiman’s beautiful tribute: “Ray Bradbury.”  I might change my mind and write something about him later, we’ll see.

Also, I will be seeing Prometheus sometime this weekend, so expect a review of that, probably on Monday.

See ya later, folks!

Sherlock Holmes Looks Good in Contemporary Trappings

I finally FINALLY got around to watching the first episode of Sherlock (from BBC) on Netflix.  Those who know me know by now that I absolutely ADORE Sherlock Holmes and everything related to him, and I knew for a fact that I would love Sherlock.  It was just a matter of finding the time to actually sit down and watch it, and that certainly wasn’t going to happen during the semester.  But today I finally made some time and sat down during lunch to watch the first episode.

And let me just say, though I already knew I would love it, I was seriously impressed by how incredible it was.  The writers did such a fantastic job of updating the characters and the story without losing any of what makes Sherlock Holmes and John Watson so completely awesome.  The show was sharp, quick-paced, funny in all the right ways.  It helps that Steven Moffat was one of the creators.

I completely understand the appeal and obsession of Benedict Cumberbatch. I mean, I’d heard he was good, and I’d certainly seen enough pictures and commercials to know he was good-looking, but it was nice to finally see first-hand how well he handled the character of Sherlock Holmes.  His mannerisms and facial expressions were very well-done.  I loved his face when he the cops come to do a drug-search in his apartment, John tries to defend by saying he couldn’t possibly be the type to have drugs, and Sherlock is trying to get him to shut up.  HILARIOUS!  Also, on a random note, he voice was much deeper than I would have guessed it to be judging by his face.

And I already loved Martin Freeman, but now I absolutely ADORE him.  He was an inspired casting choice for John Watson.  He gave the character just the right balance of sympathy and vulnerability, with an intelligence that is clearly sharp but obviously not on par with Sherlock, and a bit of calm, collected, bad-ass soldier-ness to top it all off.

I also really liked Lestrade.  I was so glad they didn’t make him a total idiot, as some versions are wont to do with the character.  I mean, it’s always amusing when the Lestrade character is just a bumbling idiot, but in a modern-day police force it is not entirely believable for a detective to be complete moron.  He can be far inferior to Sherlock (and often out of his depth), and it’s still possible to be a capable police officer.  I’m glad the writers realized that.

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SPOILERS ALERT:

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I was a bit surprised that they made mention of Moriarty so quickly.  The big-boss bad guy is usually something you save for awhile.  But then again, considering the first season is only 3 episodes long (the British are so weird about their extra-short tv seasons), I guess it’s not so surprising after all.

I confess, however, that I was a bit put off by how slow Sherlock was to figure out the killer was a taxi driver.   The very first time he said something to the effect of: “who do we trust even though we don’t know them? Who can hunt in a crowded city without being noticed?” etc… I said out-loud: “a taxi driver, duh!”  I thought for sure Sherlock was just leading John along, trying to get him to come to the conclusion himself, but no!  He said he didn’t know.  Then they chase down a taxi and I think, for sure, Sherlock had figured it out, but no: he questions the passenger, not the taxi driver!  It didn’t click until the taxi driver is standing right in front of him half an hour later!  Come on! He should have had that figured out WAY more quickly than that.  I get that the writers were trying to keep the audience in suspense, but if I could figure it out that easy, there’s no way Sherlock wouldn’t have.

Anyway, I’m so glad I FINALLY got around to seeing this.  I’ll definitely be watching the next episode shortly.  Like, probably tonight…  It’s sad that Netflix only has the first season on streaming though.  I’ll have to find the second season somewhere else.

Arrietty’s Secret is She’s Boring

So, I finally got around to seeing The Secret World of Arrietty, and as you may be able to guess from the title of this post, I was not less than impressed.

For those who aren’t in the know, The Secret World of Arrietty is a Japanese animated film, produced by Studio Ghibli, based on the novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton, with a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki (of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle fame), directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and distributed in the U.S. by Disney (as most of the Studio Ghibli films have been).

Now, I’ve never read the original book, which may or may not be a good thing in trying to evaluate this movie, so everything I say is based purely on the movie and Miyazaki’s adaptation, rather than the novel itself.  I’m going to skip an involved summary because I think most people know the basic story, but generally: it’s about Arrietty and her family, the tiny Borrowers who live in the floorboards of a house and “borrow” things they need to survive.

As always with Miyazaki, the animation was gorgeous.  Simply GORGEOUS.  He and his production crew have an amazing eye for color and detail and depth – every scene is lush and vivid and inviting, full of life and color and a strong feeling of nostalgia.  That has not changed with this movie.  I think I will always be impressed and awed by the art direction in all of Studio Ghibli’s movies, and nothing can change that.  For example, check these out:

The problem starts, for me, with the voice acting.  I have grown quite sick of Disney’s management of the Studio Ghibli films they bring to the U.S.  Their casting choices are often horrendous.  I hated most of the voice-acting in Ponyo, and I hated ALL of the voice-acting in Arrietty.  It was astoundingly bad.  Not only did they cast a couple annoying, talentless, Disney Channel “actors” (Bridgit Mendler and David Henrie) but even Carol Burnett (whom I usually adore) did an atrocious job.  And Will Arnett, who played Arrietty’s father, was so flat and lifeless I thought for sure they had actually hired a zombie version of him.

To make matters worse: the SINGING!  Normally, Joe Hisaishi composes the scores for Miyazaki’s films, but this time they hired a French songwriter/singer named Cecile Corbel.  I’ll say this, she is a good composer.  I liked the score, and the songs with lyrics had nice melodies.  Sadly, I don’t understand WHY she’s a popular singer, because her voice was so tinny, infantile, and cloying I wanted to throw up every time she started singing.  And she did at least three times through the course of the movie.  In comparison, Bridgit Mendler’s song during the credits was almost bearable.  ALMOST.

What’s really sad though, is that even if Disney had cast better voice-actors, and even if Cecile Corbel had found someone else to do the singing for her, it would not have been enough to save this movie.  The plot was, sadly, really REALLY BORING.  It was slow and dragging.  By the end of the first half-hour I was tempted to turn it off.  It lacked all the depth, liveliness, and touches of humor that Miyazaki’s films normally have.  And after  Ponyo (which was cute, but fairly forgettable) and THIS, I’m really beginning to worry that Miyazaki has lost his touch completely.

And if that’s true, it’s a sad sad day in cinema.

The Avengers KICKED ASS, and other films worth considering

Hi folks! I’m being a bad bad student… I should be working on a paper that’s due next monday, but instead I’m here.  But I just had to share a few things.  So give me a few minutes and then I’ll be out of your hair and back to work.

Thanks to my brother, who is a film production student and can get a hold of these things, I was able to go to an advanced screening of The Avengers last night.  The advanced ticket passes did not guarantee entrance, so we had to stand in line for 2 1/2 hrs, and the event was BADLY organized by the AMC people and the Disney reps.  So much so, that I was really REALLY beginning to regret going to thing as I finally sat down in the 2nd row of the theatre.  Half-way through the movie: I wasn’t regretting it anymore.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I want to take a few minutes to sing this movie’s praises.

First of all, The Avengers was visually STUNNING.  I saw it in 3D, which I’m not usually a big fan of, but this 3D was done very well.  They didn’t overdo it, and a few times I was actually impressed by the depth it added to the image.  The special effects were AMAZING.  And the fight scenes were AWESOME.  So well choreographed, so well done by the actors, stunt-men, and FX people, and for the most part very cleanly filmed.  You know how sometimes in movies the fight scenes get very blurry so you can’t quite tell what’s going on?  This is a problem in a lot of Christopher Nolan’s films, for instance, because of the way he shoots things: too close to the action, too many close-ups on faces and various body-parts, lots of zooming around with the camera, so you can’t tell who’s doing what.  This movie did that one or twice (every action movie does), but for the most part it was very easy to keep track of what was going on.

Second, the moment I first heard Joss Whedon would be directing and writing the screenplay, I was pretty much sold.  I knew he would do a good job, and I was SO right.  Whedon put his signature on this film.  Lots of little references (Galaga, for one), and, of course, really really snappy funny dialogue.  The dialogue was HILARIOUS.  And, thanks to good acting and good direction, the dialogue worked really well in the movie.

And that’s the third big thing: the actors were fantastic.  Of course, I already loved Robert Downey Jr, and Chris Evans had done a good job in Captain America so I was okay with him, but I was pretty skeptical about Mark Ruffalo – especially because Edward Norton had done such a wonderful job as The Hulk, and I was pissed that Marvel had kicked him off the project merely because they didn’t want to give him the credit he deserved.  But Mark Ruffalo did a good job, and made the character his own.  And everyone else was marvelous (hehe) as well.

The plot was fun and quick paced.  The ending was satisfying.  There was so drama, but lots and LOTS of laughter in the audience last night.  The dialogue seriously had the whole theatre in stitches.  People, you seriously need to see this movie.  It was absolutely FANTASTIC.

Okay, time to switch gears for a moment.  I’m still talking about films here, but these are two Kickstarter projects I would to give shout outs to.

For those who don’t know what Kickstarter is: it’s a crowdsource funding site.  People pots projects on Kickstarter in order to ask for pledges/donations, and offer various awards for different price levels.  You can donate as little as a dollar, but of course the more you donate the cooler the awards.  The thing is, Kickstarter puts a 30 day limit on all fundraising events, the project must indicate a minimum price goal, and if that goal is not met by the end of the 30 days, they don’t get ANY of the money pledged so far.

Both of the projects I’m talking about today are ending on May 6th.  They only have a couple days left, and they are SO close to meeting their goals, but are having trouble making that final push.  I have donated to both, and I REALLY want to see how they turn out, so here’s me hoping some of you will consider checking them out and donating something.

#1: Dust, a scifi/fantasy film by indie company Ember Labs.  Check out their fundraising video:

Check out their Kickstarter page for more info, and to donate.

#2: Even Though The Whole World is Burning, a documentary about American poet W.S. Merwin (who has won the Pulitzer twice, and is also a political and ecological activist).

I couldn’t get the embedded video to work for this one, so please check out their Kickstarter page to watch their fundraising video and get more info.

I hope you all will consider donating a few dollars.  I think these are both very worthy projects.  If you aren’t impressed after you see the videos, well… I worry for you. ^_^

Okay, folks, that’s everything.  Time for me to get back to the scramble through final papers.  See ya later! Thanks! 

Sherlock Holmes is Still King

Free-For-All Friday: Sherlock Holmes is Still King

First off: I beg your forgiveness for neglecting to post not once, but twice this week.  I have very little excuse.  Mainly, my brain just sort of shut off over the weekend, and my mood took a dive off a cliff for a couple days.  All I did on Monday and Tuesday was stare mindlessly at the television.  I think my brain was protesting the impending Spring semester, which starts next week.  On Wednesday, I was actually out with my brother all day.  A sort of last hurrah before the semester.  We had a full day: breakfast at IHOP, shopping at Half-Price Books, a comic book store, a vinyl records store (where I spent $75… yeah…), lunch at a sushi place, wandering around an art supply store, and a matinee viewing of the Sherlock Holmes movie (yes, again)

By way of apology, I posted something yesterday, so if you missed that, check it out: “My Year For Reading Challenges.”   And now, here is that review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie I’ve been promising for more than a week (sorry it took so long).

Review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

I think most people are aware that I love Sherlock Holmes.  I think I was maybe 8 or 9 yrs old when I first started watching the Granada tv show of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with my mother.  A few years later I read the books for the first time.  In other words, you can probably guess how much I love the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes that came out in 2009, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.

Some “purists” didn’t like the movie and accused Guy Ritchie of messing with the true spirit of Sherlock Holmes.  I’m never sure if they think Holmes is supposed to be more dignified or stiff or not as gritty or not as much of a fighter or what… But I completely disagree, and would argue that Ritchie’s version actually gets closer to the real vitality and grittiness of Sherlock Holmes than most of the older tv shows and movies ever did (he was, after all, a drug addict and alcoholic, a boxer, and PLENTY gritty).  The only real complaints one can make about the Ritchie versions are 1: like everyone else he cast someone who is actually too old to be Sherlock Holmes (Holmes was in his late 20’s/early 30’s in the books, but they ALWAYS cast someone in their 40’s or even 50’s) – that does not, however, take away from the brilliance of RDJ as Holmes. And 2: they made Holmes’ relationship with Irene Adler a bit MORE (more substantial, more romantic, more everything) than it ever was in the books (she only ever shows up in the books TWICE).  But either of these small complaints do nothing to mar the awesomeness of the first movie.

Now, we get to the second movie.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (I’ve heard some people complain about the title, claiming its too cheesy or melodramatic or something, and to them I have to ask: have you ever actually READ the books?! May I point out: A Study in Scarlet. The Valley of Fear.  “The Crooked Man.”  “The Final Problem”!!!)  Ahem… where was I…?

Oh yes, so, A Game of Shadows opens some time after the first movie (its not clear how many months).  There have been a series of bombings in France and Germany attributed to Nationalists and Anarchists, but Holmes suspects his now-arch-enemy (the shadowy figure behind the scenes of the first movie), Professor James Moriarty – a man who equals Holmes in his brilliance but the complete opposite in morality.  Holmes’ suspicions are confirmed when he catches Irene Adler, who works for Moriarty, delivering a bomb meant to kill a doctor.

Thus kicks off Sherlock Holmes biggest adventure yet.  Holmes must save Watson and Watson’s brand new wife, Mary, when they are attacked by Moriarty’s men while on a train headed for their honeymoon.  Moriarty has targeted Watson and his wife as a retaliation against Holmes’ continued interference.  Holmes secures Watson’s agreement to help stop Moriarty after throwing Mary from the train while on a bridge over water (this scene is hilarious, folks!).  Then the two must travel to Paris to find the gypsy woman Simza (played by Noomi Rapace of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame), whose brother may hold the key to Moriarty’s plans.  All while dodging Moriarty’s sharp-shooter assistant, and more bombs.  And that’s all just the start.

Let me tell you, folks, the pace of this movie is intense.  There is a short lull during Watson’s wedding and right before all hell brooks loose on the train, and then the movie barely pauses to catch its own breath, let alone let you catch yours.  The action sequences are fast and well-planned and choreographed.  They benefit from Guy Ritchie’s unique style of shooting at strange camera angles, panning in and out, and punctuating the fast rhythm with freeze-frames and slow motion that would be out of place anywhere else but which are essential here to keep track of all the things happening almost simultaneously.  Sometimes action/fight sequences lose their cohesion and become just an indecipherable blur of movements the eye simply cannot follow (one problem with The Batman Begins, actually), but here Ritchie’s unique style helps to keep the eye focuses and gives our brains the time to keep up.

Perhaps even better than the action (maybe), is the humor.  In the first movie, the back-and-forth bickering between Holmes and Watson is absolutely hilarious.  This time, that’s all still there, and there is also an added sense of visual (almost but not quite slapstick) comedy that pops up off an on throughout the film.  A few examples: Watson’s hung-over stumbling walk to his wedding, Holmes running around in a wig and makeup throughout the entire train sequence, and Holmes bouncing around on a tiny mountain pony all come to mind.  I laughed through a lot of this movie.

Now, there has been a lot of discussion about whether this one was better than the first.  I’ve been very on-the-fence about this, because I absolutely adore the first movie.  But here’s the thing: this movie is AT LEAST equally as good as the first one.  All the stuff that made the first one so wonderful is still here.  Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law are still completely amazing as Holmes and Watson, with fantastic rhythm and chemistry.  The writing is still spot-on.  The score is still wonderful.  Equal, equal, equal.

And then you add in James Moriarty, played to absolute perfection by Jared Harris.  And when I say perfection, I MEAN perfection.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see anyone else play Moriarty now.  Jared Harris was an absolutely INSPIRED casting choice.  And the character himself, the whole equal-but-opposite aspect of his relationship with Holmes, the strange mix of respect and hatred… THIS is what we’ve been waiting for.  And the addition of Moriarty, I think, pushes this movie over the top, making it just SLIGHTLY better than the first one.

But seriously, folks, don’t take my word for it.  Just go see it.  Even if you don’t agree that it’s better than the first, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.