Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Game's Afoot.

Sherlock Holmes, the new Hollywood blockbuster, is out in theaters everywhere.

I'm a fan of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Mysteries, and now have to deal with the movie.

I have read two reviews of the film. The first says, essentially: "I have never read a Sherlock Holmes story. I loved this film! A fantastic thrill ride!"

The second review, in so many words, spelled it out like this: "I have read each and every Sherlock Holmes Story. I want to vomit."

Now obviously, I am paraphrasing, but the emotion evoked in the fans is clear.

Sherlock Holmes is one of  those charters. It's a classic obviously, and a classic book was once called "A book that everybody knows well, but nobody has actually read."

I have read them all, and while, admittedly, I haven't seen the film, everything I know about it screams for me to stay away.

In the trailers, I see massive explosions, a supernatural plot involving a villain returning from the dead, an Irish-styled Victorian Era Fight Club, an actual love interest; and Watson chiding Holmes for his endless depravity.

#Clears throat, steps up on soapbox.#

All of these things suggest to me that they're trying to replace Sherlock Holmes with James Bond.

Sherlock Holmes solved his cases with deduction and cunning. He was not a fighter, he was an investigator. He unravelled lies and plot twists, conducted interviews and did some light fieldwork. He was analytical, reserved, discreet and self-controlled. He did not kick in doors and dive out of fifth story windows.

When you have a character that is known, even loved, to the point where just saying the words "Sherlock Holmes" conjures images of a certain style and way of doing things, you can't stray too far from it. not without completely ignoring the things that made that character a mythos, a part of the culture, and a force in history, if only from the pages of fiction novels.

It's not the first time it's happened. There are Sherlock computer games that have him tracking down Jack The Ripper, and there are Homes movies/tv shows that I really did not enjoy. A Holmes-ian mystery is very very tricky. It takes lateral thinking and imagination to solve, but always has you reading the last page and thinking: "Now, why didn't I see that?!"

This movie, from what I have seen and what I have read, is the anthesis of that.

I love Robert Downey Jr. I doubt he could play a bad role. But he's going to be limited in what he's given here. I also see Jude Law as Watson. I believe he could pull that off nicely. The Victorian Era has a certain appeal for me, I've always liked the 1800's london as a set piece.

But I have no interest in going to see this movie. I'm on a budget, I don't intend to spend my money on movies that don't interest me, only out of loyalty to a character I love but bears no resemblance to what I'm looking at.

But what really annoys me is the certain knowledge that this movie will probably make an unthinkable fortune, and when it comes out on DVD, I'll probably watch it then anyway.

If you are interested, then go see it. If you don't mind an action flick as a way to spend an afternoon, enjoy it. If you don't object for any of the reasons that i do, then i hope you enjoy every moment of your movie-going experience, but this is not the Sherlock Holmes I have playing in my head when I read the original stories.

There seem to be no new ideas in Hollywood. But at least they could try to get the old ones right.

Sherlock Holmes is Not James Bond. Here endeth the lesson.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Avatar. You're Not In Kansas Anymore.

So I went and saw Avatar.

I haven't left yet. I've been out of the theater for a few days but I'm still on Pandora.

I've never been to a 3D movie before, and by all accounts, this was the one to start with.

Cameron put a lot of work into this film. It's set in a jungle on another planet. Every living creature is designed and so is every plant. The movie's 3D is entirely redone. The way it was shot is a whole new kind of filming developed by Cameron himself. It's not 3D exactly, it's immersive. The whole movie is designed to make you feel like you're actually there. And the movie is so full of amazing things to see that you'll feel like you just wandered into Aladdin's Cave. You're wearing those 3D glasses, and you've got about a million things to look at.

This movie is an experience. It's a day pass to go to another world for a while. Someplace that is so unbelievably wondrous that you won't be able to stop staring at the screen.

I remember when I first heard about this movie, and I learned that the movie cost over $300 million to make, currently holding the title of the most  expensive film ever made. I heard that James Cameron was doing it, and that it was his first film since Titanic. Titanic was the most expensive movie ever made until then, and it made an unthinkable fortune. I said to myself, "Avatar better be one hell of a film."

And it is. It was one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I've ever had, and I'm a product of the jaded special effects generation. It takes a lot to shock these days.

Well, this one did.

There's a line, early in the film spoken by a military man. "You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora."

That pretty much sums it up. This movie is not about telling a story, or about meeting the characters. This movie is about visiting another planet.

The only thing I can use to compare it, is maybe The Wizard of Oz. Imagine for a moment, you've never seen a movie in color at all, and you start with Wizard of Oz. Dorothy opens the door from her sepia toned bedroom into glorious Technicolor Oz and suddenly you're in a whole other place.

You aren't in Kansas anymore.

The early reviews are in and they're record-breaking in themselves. The opening weekend came to $230 million worldwide. And well worth it too.

Avatar follows the story of Jake Sully, a soldier who has been crippled, stuck in a wheelchair, and is offered the proverbial 'second chance', by the military. Do a job for them, and he can get his legs back. Set in the future, the military has a base on the jungle moon of Pandora, full of dangerous lifeforms, plus the natives. The military want a quick solution to the problem. The scientific population want a peaceful solution  to the problem, and the people who are paying for the expedition, want a quick return on their investment.

Getting this money, involves moving the natives out, by any means necessary.

But while there, living among the locals, getting to know them, Sully starts to go native.

Now the harshest criticisms of this film are the about the story. It's been called Dances With Wolves in Space, and it is. it's not a bad story, it's not even a boring story. The movie's story is a time-honored formula. You'll see the same movie, a thousand different ways in a thousand different movies; but not like this.

The story itself is interesting enough, the way it's handled done with a professional's skill. Don't look for sudden twists or amazing revelations. You'll not find them, and don't distract yourself from what you're seeing. You'll figure the story out in ten minutes, but you'll still enjoy it. You'll figure out the characters in five, but you'll still feel for them, because they have actual character over cliché.

You'll figure the story out in ten minutes. You'll figure out the characters in five.

Go see it anyway.

I'm not telling you to go watch a movie, I'm telling you to buy a ticket to another planet.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Stream Of Consciousness

Page One.

It's a fact that I rather enjoy writing. It's always been a hobby.

It's also a fact that I hardly ever throw anything away. As a result, I try to keep things organized, at least in my head and on paper. So when I try to write something down, I put it with other things on the same subject.

This however, can be a trap, because if I have something that doesn't fit into my usual categories, I don't really know what to do with it.

It's the same problem as writing in an actual hard-copy Journal. It's a useful skill to have, keeps a record of things you'd never consider important until much later, clears out the cobwebs that life seems to build up in your brain; but most people I know, (And of course, this may just be me) don't see their lives as particularly interesting.

The Internet is the ultimate forum to take things that most people don't care about and keep them organized with other, like-minded people.

Thus far, I managed to avoid the full scope of the Digital Age Madness. I do not have a Facebook page, I am not on iTunes. I do not Twitter, and thus far, have managed to avoid even owning a Blackberry.

But now I have a blog.

I really couldn't tell you why. It's like watching Big Brother.  Nobody really finds day to day life interesting. Putting it under glass and severely limiting what happens in day to day life doesn't really enhance the experience that much.

So why do it?

Well, you never know where an idea can go, or a phrase will resurface. I've always had the kind of memory where a line from a TV show can stay in my arsenal for conversations, where a paragraph of information will not. If I had hoped to gain anything from this exercise, it's only that someone may find something that interests them, that they never thought of before.

There are blogs about certain topics, focused on the same theme. This won't be one of them. The reason I never started one before, was that I never really had much to say. But I have things that I notice. I have ideas. Things that happen day to day, everybody sees them just a little bit differently to each other. Sometimes a lot.

That's why I named it 'Stream Of Consciousness.'On any given day, I really couldn't tell you where my mind will go.

Don't come back expecting to read a follow-up to what I put down today. The subject will jump outrageously from post to post, because I have the attention span of a goldfish at the very best of times. But maybe somebody will read this, and enjoy it. I hope so.