Abandon all propriety, ye who enter here. Once again, under the direction of Guy Ritchie and as embodied by Robert Downey Jr, the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes shakes off his tweedy cobwebs and gets down, dirty, and flat-out physical in SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS. Centered around the inevitable confrontation between Holmes and the formidable criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) — with world-wide stakes — the film takes the consulting detective and his steadfast friend Dr. Watson (Jude Law), plus Noomi Rapace as a self-reliant gypsy, on an epic tale of murder, conspiracy, and life-or-death chess games.
Come join Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons as they weigh the merits and demerits of this further retooling of a literary classic. Also: Dan delivers his opinion on the new documentary, CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL. Plus: What’s coming in theaters.
Warner Brothers Pictures, via Yahoo Movies, released the following “banners” of the manin characters and info about their upcoming SHERLOCK HOLMES sequel.
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has always been the smartest man in the room… until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large—Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective.
When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder—a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by Professor Moriarty. The cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead of Holmes as he spins a web of death and destruction—all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.
Directed again by Guy Ritchie, SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS, written by Kieran Mulroney & Michele Mulroney, is due in theaters on December 16th.
What, no posters of Mycroft Holmes (Steven Fry) or Irene Adlder (Rachel McAdams)?
E!Online revealed that the title to the Guy Ritchie SHERLOCK HOLMES sequel is SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS.
For some reason, that site thought the title was “lame”— to me, A GAME OF SHADOWS sounds very Holmesian; something creator Arthur Conan Doyle might have chosen.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson, as does Rachel McAdams Irene Adler and Kelly Reilly as Mary Morstan, as well as
Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade).
Joining the cast are Noomi Rapace as a character named Sim, Steven Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes, and Jared Harris as the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS arrives in theaters December 16th from Legendary Pictures, Village Roadshow Productions and Warner Brothers.
Via itsTwitter feed, Universal Pictures revealed the release date for SHERLOCK HOLMES II : December 16th, 2011.
Here’s the first picture released, featuring Noomi Rapace (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as a character possibly named Sim, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law returning Holmes and Dr. Watson.
No details yet, but the film is suspected to involve Sherlock Holmes encountering Professor Moriarty, rumored to be played by Jared Harris (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON).
Other unconfirmed players: Steven Fry (V FOR VENDETTA) as Holmes’ elder brother Mycroft, and Rachel McAdams return as Irene Alder.
Directed by Guy Ritchie from a screenplay by Kieran Mulroney & Michele Mulroney, based on the well-known characters by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Piture via Hitflix
Today’s Time Warner Investor’s meeting has provided some further genre tidbits.
THR’s Georg Szalai writes that Warner Bros. announced a December 16th, 2011 release for SHERLOCK HOLMES 2, a sequel to the Robert Downey Jr. starring vehicle.
Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer also confirmed a July 20th, 2012 release for Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film, and a 2012 “holiday season” Superman movie. Nolan, as previously reported, is also attached in a supervisory role on brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer’s SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL (working title).
Meyer mentioned that the studio is very close to green-lighting DC’sThe Flash as a feature, and that Wonder Womanand Aquaman remain in development.
On Tuesday, April 13, 2010 Walt Disney Pictures re-released THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE on DVD. This one’s called the Mystery in the Mist edition, but it’s not quite clear why. Aside from the new digital transfer and a couple of new short features – granted, one involves solving a cookie jar theft (the misty mystery?) – there is little “new” under the sun. And you won’t find it on Blu-ray either. Frankly, aside from the digital transfer, it may almost be preferable for some to go for the 2002 DVD release instead because it offers several animated shorts that the latest version does not (and yes, the older release includes the ‘making-of’ documentary found on the new DVD).
So, why the relatively simple release and no Blu-ray edition? It couldn’t be because Disney figured the movie wouldn’t generate all that much interest, could it? All right, that’s just a subjective speculation, but for the sake of those who purchased the new DVD we hope that Disney isn’t planning some ultimate (Blu-ray) edition a year or so down the line.
Perhaps the aforementioned observation betrays a slightly negative attitude toward the movie that rests mainly with this reviewer rather than the majority of folks. After all, its standing on rottentomatoes.com has it resting quite comfortably at 80%. However, one should take a look at the number of reviews from which that statistic arises; it’s a mere 15.
Still, the film was received fairly positively during its initial release and it is said that its moderate success gave the then new heads of Disney enough confidence to go ahead with a more ambitious project called THE LITTLE MERMAID. Well, we all know what happened after that, so if THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (dubbed THE ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE during a theatrical re-release) led to the precious slate of Disney releases that followed it, then I bow deeply to it on that count.
Yet, I must admit that the apparent charms of the film left me somewhat unmoved. It’s one I never had that much interest in during its initial release (thus, I missed it) and nothing really drew me to it over the years (so I never made an effort to watch it until this new digital release popped up). And to be wholly honest, I can see why. If THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE were produced – just as it is – today, then I would argue that it would find itself on the Disney Channel rather than in theaters. Aside from the current CGI movement, it simply doesn’t seem hold the punch necessary for a successful theatrical run. Oh, it’s a sweet enough little piece, I suppose, but it feels a little stilted when compared to today’s current crop of animated films. You may not call it fair to compare it with more recent animated projects, but remember, I had the same attitude toward it in 1986.
The whole thing feels a bit watered down. It may be that the fact that it had four directors and no less than 10 credited writers had something to do with softening its feel and pace. Too many cooks with their own particular palate to satisfy? It felt – and to some degree even looked – like a higher-end traditionally animated Rankin/Bass production more than it did a Disney feature. Now, that’s not meant to be too much of a slight. I like most Rankin/Bass productions. However, it does make THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE seem less…theatrical.
Here’s just one example of what I’m pointing out here: The very accomplished Henry Mancini scored the film, but his music is surprising listless. It plays more like simple background music and accompanies moments in which is not needed, which only adds to the feeling that it is more filler than anything else.
One might argue that this score came a mere eight years before his death and that he was winding down. But, in 1992 he would score TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE and that entry into his aggregate of work would be considerably livelier. So again, it makes one wonder whether there were too many cooks in the kitchen, requiring less spice in order to serve a more general type of viewer. At any rate, the Mancini point is indicative of the trouble with the entire movie.
Still, the idea is a cute one. Based on a series of children’s books by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, it takes the world of Sherlock Holmes (that character known here as Basil of Baker Street and voiced by Barrie Ingham) and shrinks it down to the rodent arena. A young mouse (Susanne Pollatschek) witnesses the kidnapping of her father (Alan Young, sounding more than ever like his character in 1960’s THE TIME MACHINE) by a somewhat handicapped bat who works for an evil, power-hungry rat named Ratigan (who is the equivalent of Holmes’ arch nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, and is voiced by the always pitch-perfect Vincent Price). Soon after the game is afoot. The problem is that the game is rather bland.
Nonetheless, it served co-writers/co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker well; it and previous effort THE BLACK CAULDREN (which didn’t do well and received poor reviews) helped get their feet wet and honed their skills. Proof is in the pudding, as they say, because they went on to take leading positions on THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, HERCULES, the underrated TREASURE PLANET, and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. Burny Mattinson – one of the ten writers – went on to work on the stories for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, THE LION KING, the also underrated HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, MULAN and TARZAN.
Another interesting tidbit is that THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE was the first Disney film in which its animators incorporated computer-generated imagery into their traditional cell animation. The clock tower sequence involves a deadly chase through the gears of London’s giant Big Ben clock. The mice and rat are traditionally rendered, but the gears and the angles we see as the chase ensues through them are generated via computer, offering angles and a rollercoaster type of view that might not be possible otherwise. This technique would later be put to greater publicized use in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LION KING, etc.
Watching animator Phil Nibbelink describe the process and its effect in the ‘making-of’ short feature on the DVD is almost as fun as any scene in the movie itself. His “animated” demeanor and obvious excitement over the new creative tool is infectious. It’s a joy to watch his pleasure in connection to what he does.
There are a couple of other features on the DVD worth noting too. There is the standard Disney sing-a-long, of course, but there is also a nice history primer in relation to the profession of detective work. It’s a quick, fun way for kids to learn a little something.
The other tidbit younger ones will get some fun out of is the sleuth test video short. Again, it’s something that gives the younger set a chance to use some cognitive reasoning. Of course, one is also subjected to the ads – uh, that is, coming attractions for other Disney product, specifically some Blu-ray releases. Of note to TOY STORY fans, however, is a nice trailer for TOY STORY 3. That oughta wet a few appetites; it did mine, anyway.
The final verdict: THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE is certainly no great work, nor is it as good as some others – notably the likes of Siskel & Ebert – have touted, especially in hindsight. Even the sound editing and sound transfer for the new disc were unimpressive. Nonetheless, it has its creative moments and even involves more obscure trivia connected to Holmes lore such as canine companion Toby, who showed up in Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel, THE SIGN OF THE FOUR.
And perhaps most meaningful of all, it allowed those involved to cut their teeth on it, and then move on to help make history with future critical and public favorite works. THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (Walt Disney Pictures/Silver Screen Partners II; 1986; 74 min.) Directed by Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, and John Musker. Screenplay by Peter Young, Vance Gerry, Steve Hulett, Ron Clements, John Musker, Bruce Morris, Matthew O’Callaghan, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, and Melvin Shaw. Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone. Inspired by the “Sherlock Holmes” book series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Produced by Burny Mattinson. Art Direction by Guy Vasilovich. Visual Effects by Dave Bossert, Mark Dindal, Tad A. Gielow, Ted Kierscey, Rolando Mercado, Patricia Peraza, Steve Starr, John Tucker, and Kelvin Yasuda. Music Composed by Henry Mancini. Edited By Roy M. Brewer Jr. and James Melton. Cast of Voices: Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Susanne Pollatschek, Candy Candido, Diana Chesney, Eve Brenner, Alan Young, Laurie Main, Shani Wallis, Ellen Fitzhugh, Walker Edmiston, Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Melissa Manchester, Frank Welker and Basil Rathbone. MPAA Rating: G for everyone.
This weekend, England’s Empire magazine handed out their annual Empire Awards. Unlike many other awards that are not targeted only at horror, fantasy, and science fiction, the Empire Awards honored several genre films. AVATAR won in three categories: Best Picture, Best Director (James Cameron), and Best Actress (Zoe Saldana). The J.J. Abrams redo of STAR TREK took home the award for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film. SHERLOCK HOLMES was tops in the Best Thriller category. and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was named Best Horror Film (the honor seems a little late for a 2008 movie, but I guess the wonderful Swedish vampire film did not reach the U.K. until last year).
I’m always leery of awardst hat offer multiple Best Picture categories. Its as if the voters cannot make up their minds, and so they just hand out as many statues as possible. It also leads to the slightly silly result that AVATAR – obviously a science fiction film – wins for Best Film but not for Best Science Fiction Film. Oh well, if that gives the well-deserving STAR TREK a win in the later category, I guess that’s a good thing.
SHERLOCK HOLMES is the big genre film laserblasting its way into video stores on March 30. Although the genres in this case are primarily mystery and action-adventure, the film follows in the tradition of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, flirting with an allegedly supernatural villain who claims he will return to life after being executed. The trailers made this one seem like a buddy movie, emphasizing raucous rowdiness over ratiocination, yet enough of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s concept for the great sleuth survives to make this one worthwhile for Holmes fans. You can now check it out on DVD and in a combo pack containing a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, anda digital copy for your computer/iPod.
The other theatrical release making its home video debut is I SELL THE DEAD, which appeared in a handful of art house engagements last year. This episodic horror-comedy doesn’t quite hold together for its entire length, but it is a good-natured throwback to the old-fashioned, atmospheric approach, with echoes of Universal and Hammer, mixed with enough modern mayhem to create an amusing off-kilter vibe. Now on DVD and Blu-ray.
Arriving a bit late to cash in on the theatrical release of the live-action Tim Burton film, ALICE IN WONDERLAND re-emerges from the Disney vaults, this time in a 2-disc special “un-anniversary edition.” Although well loved, this is not necessarily Disney animation at its finest. Still the brand-new bonus features should be worth checking out.
VAMPYRES is a ’70s Euro-trash item about lesbian vampires that promises “chilling atmosphere, shocking bloodshed, and…torrid sexuality.” Somehow, I doubt it will be as found as it sounds.
So obscure it doesn’t even qualify as a cult film is GIRLY (shortened in America from the British original: MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY, AND GIRLY). The title sounds like a sexploitation, and the marketing suggests horror, but this is really a quirky black comedy about a brother and sister who lure men back to their home, where adults Mumsy and Nanny cluck with approval over their “games,” which have lethal consequences for their guests. Director Freddy Francis (who helmed some enjoyable horror films for Hammer and Amicus in the ’60s and ’70s) considered this one of his best efforts, but it’s hard to see why. Although initially intriguing, the eccentric English humor goes only so far toward sustaining interest, and the plot (vaguely similar to THE BEGUILED with Clint Eastwood) needs stronger characters or more engaging performances to prop it up.
Does Downey hit a “Holmes” run as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective?
Growing up in England and reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes, scanning 1960s English comic books featuring Holmes-influenced characters, and watching the eloquently shrouded Holmes in umpteen TV shows and films, one can become attached to the Holmes that was. Comparing the original Victorian Holmes with the new DARK KNIGHT-inspired Holmes portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in the SHERLOCK HOLMES is like contrasting the early Dr. Who portrayals by William Hartnell and Tom Baker (1963-1981) to the subsequent new millennium Dr. Who incarnations embodied by Christopher Eccleston, David Tenant, and now Matt Smith. As a traditionalist, I lean toward the originals, because those visions reflect an honesty of creation and character over glitz and glamour, without appeasing the convictions of the self and bowing to the weakness of ego.
Part of this contemporary shtick – a Holmes wrapped in scruff, filth, and addiction – consists of suggesting that Holmes and Watson are more than mere flatmates: their relationship includes hints of homosexuality – the cinematic clues are hidden within the riddled words of the gypsy soothsayer who ruminates to Watson and Holmes in a desolate back street of London.
SHERLOCK HOLMES opens with a display of somewhat macabre sensibility: as denizen of the dark arts Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is about to perform the last of a series of ritualistic murders, Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) burst in to rescue the latest victim and defeat the black magic master. As Blackwood is about to bow to the broken neck fate of the hangman’s gallows, he warns Holmes that he welcomes death as part of his new life. In fact, Blackwood’s day of execution will further darken the soot-laden skies of 1890 London, which is just recovering from the ominous cloud created by another evil criminal, Jack the Ripper. When Blackwood seemingly makes good on his promise, his apparent resurrection panics London and confounds Scotland Yard (so named because it was built on land owned by Scottish Kings). In keeping with contemporary banter, the Yard calls in their, “Holmie.”
Although the look of SHERLOCK HOLMES captures the grittiness of 1890 London, Downey’s new fangled portrayal of the great detective abandons the traditiona, Victorian-English aspects of Holmes in favor of a brazen, impertinent and abrasively jealous take on the character. Also missing is Holmes’s signature quote, “Elementary my dear Watson.” At least Downey’s English accent was far superior to Kevin Kostner’s Robin Hood Nottingham lilt in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991).
However, there is an interestingly novel element of SHERLOCK HOLMES that does derive from the literature but has rarely been fleshed out on screen. Besides being a habitual cocaine user, Conan Doyle’s Holmes was a practitioner of a mystical fighting art that was introduced in “The Adventure of the Empty House,” in which Holmes returns, apparently from the dead, and reveals that he did not go over the Reichenbach Falls with Professor Moriarty at the end of “The Final Problem.” Instead, Holmes escaped the death grip of his arch nemesis by using a self-defense system known as baritsu. It is interesting how veins of Fant-Asia have circulated into something that is seemingly non-Asian.
In case it may have slipped anyone’s mind, Fant-Asia was the term coined in the early 1990s to describe the genre of Hong Kong martial arts films made during the 1980s up to the mid-‘90s, which uniquely combined elements of sex, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror with high-flying wire work and over-the-top martial arts choreography. Since then, the term has grown to include just about any Asian genre film that has one or more of the aforementioned elements, whether or not it includes martial arts. To paraphrash one of Holmes’ famous sayings, “What is afoot here?” In other words, what is Asian about SHERLOCK HOLMES?
After the fall of the Tokugawa Shogun, Emperor Meiji opened Japan’s door to Western science, technology and military weapons during a period of Japan’s history known as the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). Baritsu is a martial art created in 1898 by Edward William Barton-Wright, a British engineer who lived in Japan for three years during the Meiji Restoration. Barton-Wright studied jujitsu and upon his return to England presented his knowledge as a new self defense system named partially after his Barton namesake and partially after jujitsu, thus “bartitsu,” later shortened in the press to baritsu by way of a reporter’s misspelling of the art. Apparently, Conan Doyle was so enamored of the fighting art, that he made Holmes a practitioner. Thus, in a sense, very British Holmes contains an element of Asian influence.
Conan-Doyle also subliminally included something rather Asian in his original conception of Holmes, something that could be seen as the foundation for the characteristic calm of the detective’s demeanor. It is rooted and hidden in Conan Doyle’s interest in the mysticism of India, specifically the meditative sound of “ohm.” The Cockney accent of East London would pronounce “Holmes” without the “H,” thereby calling the centered detective “Olmes.” How incredible it is it that Fant-Asia has been alive and well and lurking beneath the facade of Victorian England’s most famous detective since 1887, the year the first Sherlock story A Study in Scarlet was published.
Happy New Year everybody, a new decade of Fant-Asia is arriving.