Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Top 5: Sherlock Holmes TV and Film Adaptions - with a Twist

Its been very busy the last few weeks for me, hence the lack of posts. However, I do have a television review in mind, but as with series reviews it takes longer to watch all the content.

So in the meantime, I have decided to list my top five adaptions of the Sherlock Holmes stories, for television and film, with a twist. It is interesting to note that many of these adaptions are quite recent - the last decade or show - revealing that there has been a revival of interest in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. 

1] Sherlock (TV) - The Modern Take

The first Sherlock Holmes series to be set in modern day London, as far as I know, rather than the fog and fug of the Victorian era - but Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' adaption is still very much the traditional Sherlock Holmes. Their love and knowledge of the original stories shines though, whilst Benedict Cumberbatch's quirky, serious, well spoken Holmes could easily be placed in either the 1900's or 2000's. This series also stands out with its incredible editing techniques and use of text within the series, which really visualises Holme's thinking in a very unique and active way. 

2] Elementary (TV) - In America

Another modern retelling that sets Holmes and Watson in the present day, and in present day America to boot. Some people might find the removal of Holmes from his native London rather odd, but this series shows he can work perfectly well anywhere in the world. Some very smart changes bring Holmes addiction to the forefront and give Dr Watson, now a woman, a new reason to be there - he is a recovering addict, and she is his sober companion, there to help him through his transition from rehab to living independently again. This gives the Holmes and Watson a fresh new take, one which I think works nicely in the modern setting. 

3] Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (TV) - In The Future

A cartoon series that I watched as a child, this was what first introduced me to Sherlock Holmes - it succeed very well, in that I actually read a few of the stories. Set in a futuristic London of flying cars, this cartoon had a rather concept - that Sherlock Holmes was preserved in honey, and has had to be revived after someone clones Moriarty. He is teamed up with the female descendant of Lestrade and a police robot, that is given nickname, and basically becomes, Watson. Looking back at the episodes it seems a bit clunky now, but the stories were aimed at children and it is nonetheless,  still a great concept. 

4] Sherlock Holmes (Film) - The Action Blockbuster

The first Sherlock Holmes film in years, Guy Richie kept the traditional setting and set up, but altered the tone slightly by making everything faster and more obviously action packed. I think this drew some criticism at the time, making a few argue that Holmes and Watson do actually physically fight in the stories its just rather skimmed over. Nonetheless, these films are not only exciting and epic in the scale which London is portrayed, but despite all the big blockbuster looks Holmes brilliance is still at the centre of it all, with the man himself being played wonderfully by a hyper Robert Downy Jr. 

5] Without a Clue (Film) - Watson is Sherlock 

What you might be asking? Yes, this film may have the traditional Victorian setting, the pipe, the hat, the London cabbies - but then it goes and turns the whole formula upside time with one simple idea. What if Watson was actually the brains? What it creates is an excellent comedic twist on the Sherlock Holmes canon, with Ben Kingsley portraying Watson as the actual genius who has hired an actor, played by Michael Caine, to pretend to be the great detective Sherlock Holmes and draw the limelight away from himself. A light hearted comedy that worth is watch. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review: Thoughtcrimes

Apologises for the long gap between posts, I've been very busy the last few weeks, socially and work wise, and I have been somewhat lacking in inspiration for posts. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, I've happened to watch one of the dullest sci-fi I've ever seen last weekend, so I now have something to ramble about. 

A science fiction thriller from director Breck Eisner,Thoughtcrimes (2003), film follows a young woman called Freya, played by Navi Rawat, who in the great tradition of X-men and Scanners, inexplicable gains the power to hear other people's thoughts during her prom night. Overwhelmed by the noise of the voices, she is put into a mental hospital with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, where is lives and learns to some degree block out the voices by reading, however she is so preoccupied by this, that she accidentally drives her sister away in the process.

Eventually is taken away by a doctor who explains she has a gift and helps her train it. Of course it turns out his motivations aren't completely honest and Freya is expected to help out the NSA. After some resistance she agrees and with the help of  NSA agent Brendan Dean, played by Joe Flannigan (from Stargate Atlantis), she stops an assassin, re-unites with her sister and the film ends happily ever after.

As might be event by the my synopsis one of the first issues I noticed with this film is its terrible pacing, what visually just felt wrong, like the editor was evenly spacing the scenes and the time we spent there. Things seemed to happen at a rolling, leisurely pace, and though the set-up and training was interesting, I felt like it could've been summed up in a much shorter space of time. Meanwhile, Brendan Dean, the agent she works with and who is obviously meant to be an important character, doesn't turn up for ages - in fact I am suspicious his introduction doesn't happen until the middle of the film.

On top of this, I realised that the writer had failed to give our main character any personal stakes in the main plot line. True, her sister is threatened at the end of the film, but that's more down to bad timing than anything. Otherwise there's no reason for her to care about an assassin killing someone - other than being a good person and perhaps feeling sorry for the poor guy she meets who got caught in his last attack.

This brings me to the third problem, Freya has no character arc, and no character development. That's something you can't get away with generally with a main character in films. Films primary follow characters not just on external journeys, like going to Mordor, but in internal journeys. Freya does not learn anything, she does not change. True, she perhaps gains confidence in her abilities and self, after being locked away in a hospital - but there's nothing to really to gauge against that. At the beginning of the film she has no goals or desires,other than going to prom. The only thing she loses when she's put away is her family, and that how close she is to them is never really demonstrated. Her father dies, but we never meet him, and she only talks about him once. On top of that, she basically has no obstacles to overcome either - she has no flaws and she learns to control her power quite easily once teamed with the doctor. There is basically nothing really stopping her gaining her goal. If she had a goal.

I could go on, but I personally think its obvious that the script needed a serious rewrite, as its managed to avoid a rather vital component - a main character we can invest in. I was much more interested in Joe Flannigan's character, and not just because I enjoy watching the Stargate actor, but because it was slightly more developed. The Brendan Dean character at least had job worries and opinions about the NSA and his colleagues. Freya was just bland. She reacted in the basic way most characters do react when gaining a superpower and not much more.

Despite all this though, Thoughtcrimes does have a neat concept, and the latter half of the film with Brendan Dean and Freya cracking the case is actually good fun to watch. The way she uses her powers is brilliant, she doesn't just read minds, she can see what others picture in their mind's eye, can see what they're going to do next.

In this respect, I think the basic concept itself would have made, and could still make, a great television series, a cop buddy sci-fi crime show with the goofy male cop and the telepathic female, and in some respects the film did feel like a clunky written television pilot.

In summary

Thoughtcrimes is a neat concept,that if you had the right actors and writers could make a good television series. As a film though it fails in several departments: the protagonist is bland, there are no great stakes, the pacing feels off and I didn't even mention the music that never seemed quite right - I'm afraid choral does not work in chase scenes unless its Gold Murray doing it.