Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sherlock: A Mini-Series Review

Holmes left, Watson right.
As you might know, I freaking love Masterpiece Theater. They make good movies/mini-series. One of the latest is an amazing mini-series for the TV that's available for instant viewing on Netflix.
This is a three part, modern adaptation of the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery novels by Arthur Conan Doyle. This thing if FANTASTIC. It covers three Sherlock Holmes novels, turning them into high-action mystery flicks. It's got murder, action, snappy diolouge and a good dose of old fashioned deduction. Everything is covered with amazing britishness.
"I love serial killers. They give you something to look forward to."
First, you've got Holmes himself. He's a consultant detective who lives at 221B Baker Street. The interesting thing? He might possibly be a sociopathic genius. This Holmes is, like the original, brilliant to the point of slight craziness. With plenty of the idiosyncrasies of the first Holmes, he's a master of deduction. Antisocial and cold, he tends to disrespect people of inferior intellect (How's it like in those tiny brains of yours? It must be so peaceful.), except his flatmate and friend John Watson, a Afghanistan vet with an unassuming charm that contrasts well to Holme's moody brilliance. When not solving cases, Holmes does medical experiments (human heads in the fridge, anyone?) and practices violin. I particularly like the way they transfered Holmes dated habits into modern situations, like his nearly constant pipe smoking in the books into a smoking addiction he's trying to stop by wearing three nicotine patches on his arm at all times (it's a three patch problem, according to him!).

Holmes and Watson on the chase.
The small supporting cast work well in this film, with most of the acting very good. The action and mysteries in this series are ridiculously well-written, transferring the old mystery novels into fresh adventures. The episodes do well to combine both quick action with slower pacing, keeping you at the edge of your seat while also allowing you to appreciate the artistic quality of each episode. The dialogue, as I said, is very witty and quick, with Holmes and Watson's lines bouncing well off one another. There's even a bit of humor, including a running joke in which people constantly assume they are gay, as well as some quick, intelligent quips by Holmes. As with all elements, it isn't in your face.
Of course, we come to visuals and production design. Like the rest of this, the costumes and sets tend to be sublime and undistracting. Lighting in this is very pale and stark, which lends itself well to the overall feel of the mini-series. There are plenty of great shots of London's moody sort of atmosphere. I liked 221 Baker St, which reflects well its inhabitants. Costuming is, again, nothing to shout about. It doesn't force itself on you, which is something you aren't used to if you watch mostly costume dramas (heh heh), but is still nice.
Check out this brilliant and intelligent mini-series for yourself on Netflix.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Under The Greenwood Tree: A Movie Review

Here I am with another lovely TV movie review. (promise to do a theatre one soon) I just ought to get all of these out here.
I won't admit, I'm a sucker for sentimental period movies. This one takes the cake for me.
I love this movie. It's an adaptation of a Hardy novel, but never fear, there is not one ounce of depression in this sunny film. It's sweet, romantic, and fun to watch on a rainy day.
This movie tells the tale of a young woman named Fancy Day, who moves to the rustic village of Mellstock, to take care of her ailing father and run the village schoolhouse. She was raised away from home, so she is obviously the most fashionable and intelligent woman of the tiny hamlet. Still, she is a bit confused and occasionally unassertive, unsure about her new position in the the hamlet. She immediately catches the eye of three men. Mr. Shiner, the richest man in town, who is old and crass but promises a future for Fancy, Parson Maybold, the snobby, but well-meaning parson of the town who disrespects his parishioners, but is closer to her age and taste. The last is Dick Dewey, the son of a carrier in the hamlet, who is handsome and young, but poor, promising no future for Fancy, but who he loves dearly.
Dick Dewey, handsome as ever.
Another plot thread is Parson Maybold's idea to replace the rustic church choir (who bring most of the laughs in this film) with Fancy playing a harmonium, causing them to resent her.
Basically, Fancy is fighting passionate feelings for Dick, her father wanting her to marry Mr. Shiner, and Parson Maybold's quiet advances. Obviously, she picks one of them in the end. I won't tell you who, but the ending is definitely satisfying.
This movie is very beautiful, with some great English scenery and old-timey hamlets. The performances, for the most part, are pretty good. Dick and Fancy's chemistry holds the whole thing together, creating great romantic tension and dialogue.
Eww! Mr. Shiner and Fancy Day
As usual, I'll give you my two cents of the production design, specifically the historical accuracy of the hole affair, costume-wise. For the most part, lower-class costumes dominate this film. They're very nice. Fancy wears the nicest dresses, with some fantastic ruched-front dresses, fitting for the 1940s date of this film. She wears some cute fichu and chemisettes, which made me happy because most period films skip the neck-coverings part, showing exposed bosoms *cough* BBC Pride and Prejudice *cough*. My only complain for her is her hair, which is is curled bangs. Really, it should be smoothed over the ears and tucked into the bun. Also, some cute bonnets for the ladies. The costumer chose the "coal scuttle style", which is definitely pretty flattering on Fancy.
This movie is great, and very cute. Enjoy it for what it's worth: a romantic, sentimental period piece about a quiet hamlet in England. :D

Alice: A Movie Review

I watched the made-for-tv movie Alice the other day. It was shown in 2009 on the Syfy channel. Yay Netflix!
I was very entertained! I recommend it to any fan of Alice in Wonderland fan. This version is Alice with a twist: it's set in modern times, and Wonderland has evolved right along Earth in terms of technology and culture. 
To nutshell it without giving anything away:
Alice Hamilton is a young 20-something woman who lives with her mother. Her father disappeared when she was 10 years old, which has a profound effect on her life. Everything changes when her new boyfriend, Jack, shows her a ring. Thinking it too early, she asks him to leave, because she has trouble with commitment. Realizing he slipped it into her pocket before leaving, she goes out looking for him. She finds him being kidnapped by strange men, who climb into the looking glass. She jumps in after them, finding herself in Wonderland, where she is held prisoner before escaping. This Wonderland, she finds out, is not the same place as the children's book. It's a futuristic distopia, ruled by a tyrant queen who kidnaps humans from earth and harvests them for their emotion in her twisted casino.
Left to right: Charlie, Alice, Hatter
Here, she meets the quirky Mad Hatter, who owns a tea shop and works for both the resistance and the Queen. Together, they are on the run, chased by the Queen's finest assassin, Mad March. Along the way the meet many characters, including the Jabberwocky and a possibly-crazy and psychic, yet helpful old knight named Charlie. Helped by these two, Alice continues on her mission to find her boyfriend, who is trapped in the casino, and figure out the meaning of the ring he has given her.
With plenty of action, adventure, twists, and romance, this magical film kept me on my toes. It was a bit long, being a two part tv movie, but didn't drag its feet too much. On the syfy channel, you can't expect great effects, which aren't fantastic. You have to look past them to see some great performances on the part of the Hatter, Alice, and the Queen of Hearts.
The fantastic Queen and King of Hearts
Outside of the effects, this film is an absolute visual treat to watch. I'm really big on production design, but the people who designed/costumed the film did a fantastic job bringing the magic of Wonderland into the modern age. Each set has a diffrent feel. The Wonderland city set is very distopian, reflecting a society driven crazy by it's addiction to the Queen's teas (bottled emotion from humans). The Queen's casino utilizes to a great effect minimalist architecture and design, carrying Wonderland of old into Wonderland of new. Watch out for great suits on the cards and some pretty awesome dresses on the Queen. Even the extras, like dealers in the casino, have interesting costumes that pay attention to detail. Alice's dress for the film (she's wearing a lovely blue dress because she had dinner with Jack before going into Wonderland) harkens just a touch back to her timeless victorian blue dress, without being in your face. The Hatter wears some pretty sweet vintage duds (70s paisley shirt and leather jacket) that modernize the Hatter without losing his original style. 
All together, I recommend you see this film. Rent it or something, you won't be disappointed  by the whimsy and magic, mixed with a touch of darkness.