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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes January 28, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : DVD/Video/T.V., Sherlock Holmes , add a comment

My first introduction to Sherlock Holmes (and the excellent Michael Caine) came at a young age with the viewing of “Without a Clue”. Until then I knew nothing of the great detective and while ” Without a Clue” was funny to watch it didn’t represent an accurate interpretation of the character,with Holmes being more of a slapstick detective and Watson played by Sir Ben Kingsly been the brains behind the great detective.
As I grew older I learned about the character, however unfortunately it was a rather stereotypical, cold character that had little behind the image of the cap and cowl and pipe. Too perfect and flawless. What has grown around the character is an image that is brilliantly intelligent on the outside but lacking any soul on the inside.

When I discovered the Granada series starring Jeremy Brett all my previous views of the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes were completely shattered. I must admit at first I found it strange that Brett’s Holmes was nothing like the one I had grown up knowing. But the fact was that Brett’s Holmes and the series itself was closer to the source material than any had been before.
Jeremy Brett had previously been up for the role of James Bond, first for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and second for “Live and Let Die” which Roger Moore eventually got. I personally think Brett is far more suited to Holmes or a Bond based closer on the books. He himself had a strong desire and a big hand in adhering to Holmes Canon, basing his Holmes characterisation on the actual stories written by Doyle and fighting the writers to preserve the source material even when minor changes were made.

To quote Brett’s own words, he is a “becomer”. He became Sherlock Holmes in this series and lived with the Character as part of him even though it wasn’t necessarily a character he would want to know face to face. He plays Holmes with such energy as the character himself holds when in the midst of solving a crime. Leaping over couches, throwing papers about. What you see on screen is Sherlock Holmes.

The relationship between Holmes and Watson is a beautiful one, a wonderful friendship that wipes away the caricature of the bumbling Watson and smug Holmes in previous television and film media. Holmes is confident and Watson appreciates the man’s intelligence and skill but also is critical of his lacking abilities in other departments. Watson is a battle of wits for Holmes at times and the conversation between the two can often end in stalemate with each holding his respective view intact.

Doctor John Watson was played by David Burke in the first two series with his final performance as Watson being rather fittingly “The Final Problem”. Burke played Watson as a kind hearted and competent friend with a strong Gentleman Manner and a sense of wonderment with equal dismay at Holmes manner of intellect and cold heartedness. At times he would stand up to Holmes which presented a delightful argument of each other’s values and beliefs.

When Burke left the series he suggested Edward Hardwicke as his successor. Hardwicke’s Watson was equally kind and Gentlemanly and sounds very much like Burke. When he took over the role he did his best to honor the Watson that Burke had portrayed, even wearing lifts in his shoes to match his height. Both on and off screen Hardwicke and Brett were the best of friends and even starred together in the Stage play “The Secret Of Sherlock Holmes”. Hardwicke played Watson for the remainder of the series.

For too long I had the wrong image of Sherlock Holmes in my head which had put me off knowing more about the character. But now thanks to the devotion of the leading man anytime I think of Sherlock Holmes it will be of his Holmes and not the past incarnations. Jeremy Brett will forever be my Holmes.

Favorite Quote: What a lovely thing a rose is. There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again we have much to hope for from the flowers. - Sherlock Holmes - The Adventure of the Naval Treaty

Quantum of Solace January 23, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, James Bond , 2 comments

Well this felt almost like a TV episode of James bond it was so short and unsatisfactory as to answering any questions raised in the film or the previous one. That’s not to say that Quantum of Solace is bad, in fact it’s quite good but by the time it got to the big action ending set piece I thought “what? already?” it came too soon. Since a sequel was a sure thing after Casino Royale fans were eager for a continuation of Bond’s story, people had even suggested the title “Property of a Lady” but the film doesn’t deliever as deep a story as many had hoped for.

I had hoped for a little bit more character development and a little more vulnerable Bond like that of the last film as I don’t want to see him become completely cold just yet. We’re still in the second film of the Craig era and Daniel Craig is such a fine actor who plays Bond with such acceleration and brilliance that I don’t want to lose that opening character and becoming a caricature of Bond. Judi “I don’t give a shit” Dench gives a bad ass performance. In QOS. M and Bond have a closer relationship, beyond just been Bond’s Boss she does sympathise with him and cares what happens to him, even Bond admits that she is almost like a Mother.

Some beautiful scenes such as the Opera House scene. Inspired by “Cowboy Bebop”? The action is well…great action and well shot although I don’t recommend blinking during the Car chase at the start for you might miss something. There’s a bit of conspiracy undertones in this which I hope they will continue in the next film since they didn’t develope it much in this one. I felt that there might be more to Tanner than meets the eye. Greene wasn’t much of a Villian, only a figure of a larger organisation and one whom got his ass kicked by Bond quite easily.

If you watch this film as a continuation directly after Casino Royale it makes for a better movie. As a standalone film it doesn’t hold up as well as it has little else other than action scenes to sustain it.

Favorite Quote: “It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved” - M

The Dark Knight January 10, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Comic Book , 1 comment so far

Back in 2005 I saw “Batman Begins”, I not only thought it was the best Batman Film and best film of the year but also a film I’d put on my list of Best Movies I have ever seen.
I eagerly waited these three years since then to see “The Dark Knight”. In this past year the momentum and build up to the film was almost like that of Batman 89, however finding any merchandise here wasn’t so easy as I had hoped. I finally got to see it on preview at the Wald 9 Cinema in Shinjuku, Tokyo on the 2nd of August. I was highly excited and couldn’t stop fidgeting in my seat until the movie started. Then that beating sound began as the logos of Warner Brothers, legendary pictures and DC comics appeared. The Jokers theme started as the Batman Symbol floated through blue fire.
The film was an intense experience, almost exhausting, but what a film. I had to see it a further two times to fully digest it.

The film tackles a variety of questions. Vigilantism, Batman’s methods used to fight crime, Joker’s Terror, how physical strength and force can’t stop a philosophy or way of thinking, good people falling to evil after losing hope. Their are parallels between this and what’s happening in the real world. Some things can’t be stopped just by using brute force and we may not be evil but be forced to do so if we become victims of our own situation. Batman and Joker are victims of their own pasts and both have turned to dealing with it in very different ways. As the Joker had said to Batman in the Comic ‘The Last Laugh’ “you had a bad day am I right? You had a bad day and everything changed”. People might think the joker is crazy but without a doubt Batman must be seen in a similar light. Joker uses his method of anarchy to show people that self righteous good intentions isn’t so effective in action when someone is put into a no win situation.

The film could easily be called “Joker”, so iconic is the character and well realised he was made by Nolan and Ledger who have reinvented a villain that will be around in our minds for a long time. It was a perfect idea to make him ambiguous, he came from nowhere, no history, no name, having different stories of his past, any of which could be true or false. He has created himself as a Symbol of Chaos to inspire evil while Batman had made himself as a symbol of Justice to inspire good and use Fear against criminals. In one respect Batman and the Joker represent two sides of the same coin, a good and evil.
Jokers speeches are almost convincing. He doesn’t spout typical villain/bad guy stuff where you’ll definitely disagree with him. To a certain degree he has a point and there’s less flaw in his logic than that of others. You can’t disagree with him 100%.
I was surprised that Nolan cast Health Ledger as the Joker however I trusted the Director and imagined he made the best choice for the Joker. It was a Tragic loss when Heath died. I was shocked by it. The world lost one of the finest actors of this era. Heath created one of the best onscreen villains ever topping the likes of Hannibal Lector or Darth Vader.

Batman has no answer for the Joker, he is totally taken out of his element because the Joker isn’t like other criminals, he doesn’t fear Batman. When Batman beats him in the interrogation scene the Joker just laughs. Batman for the first time is truly powerless and it is perhaps a learning curve the character had to take to understand that beating criminals to pulp just isn’t going to cut it with some of them. The interrogation scene that shows this has to be my favorite scene along with the ending scene.

Christian Bale had one of the hardest roles since he had to play 3 characters. Batman, the real Bruce Wayne and the public persona of Bruce Wayne, he does an excellent Job of it. He is the best actor to play Batman, Keaton would be my next choice but Bale plays into the character and delves into the deeper complexities of the character, although he does take more of a back seat role in this film to the joker and he gracefully does so. I certainly hope there is more focus on the character in any sequel since the character is so fascinating and with an Actor like Bale playing him you want to see as much and know as much about him as possible. I enjoyed Bale’s fighting scenes a bit more since the fights seemed a bit less confusing and more brutal.

I liked how the final scene with Batman and the Joker ended with the Joker telling Batman that they were destined to do this forever. To me that is their story done perfectly. We can imagine these two characters up against each other numerous times, locked in constant battle, neither of them willing to kill the other. This is the relationship that Batman and the Joker have in comics and it is somewhat comforting to just leave it on that note in the movie and let it be what it is.
It echoes a moment from the comic “The Clown at Midnight” (featured in Batman #663) when the Joker states to Batman, “You can’t kill me without becoming like me. I can’t kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me. Isn’t it ironic?!” The Joker says later, “I could never kill you. Where would the act be without my straight man?”

Aaron Eckhart really nailed the part of Two Face. The voice of Two face that you imagine in your head is what he brought out of the character. The performance was so true to the Comic and even the animated series of the early 90s. I honestly don’t think I can ever watch Tommy Lee Jones in Batman forever playing the same character. In the “Batman: Year One” script and in the graphic novel “The Long Halloween” Harvey Dent is really entwined with the Batman mythos since himself Gordon and Batman vow to clean up the city. He represents a charming force that can put a face to fighting crime that Gordon and Batman can’t. All the more tragic it is when the character falls and the once shining Knight is brought down to the same level as Batman and the Joker.

Gary Oldman is so believably Jim Gordon. He is an amazing versatile actor when you consider all the roles he has done but I could no longer even recognise Oldman, so complete and natural was his performance as Gordon that I felt he was real. He has such a large part in the film he should be on the poster holding a Police badge next to Dent, Joker and Batman. I hope Gordon features even more in the next movie.

Michael Caine is the Watson to Batman’s Holmes and a far truer interpretation of a ’sidekick’ than the boy wonder robin who thankfully isn’t in this. Alfred deals out the harsh truth to Bruce Wayne and is perhaps the only character besides Rachel that can talk on the same level with Bruce. He is a Father figure, he was the one who raised Bruce since his parents died. Caine also adds some moments of light relief which are much welcomed in this Dark Film.

David Goyer, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan crafted a film that contains the essence of who the Batman and Joker are. After completing Batman’s origins in Begins they had room to develop a story free of devoting time to character introduction. Before Nolan had starting filming “Batman Begins” he had shown everyone on the film crew “Blade Runner” and told them this was how they were going to make “Batman Begins”. With “The Dark Knight” he compared it to “Heat”, elevating it beyond a Comic book movie genre. With Begins and the Dark Knight he has always wanted to keep Batman in the real world. Since the character has no powers he naturally appeals and lends himself to this realistic vision of Nolans.

Nolan put everything into this movie storywise, he completed the story of two face and Joker rather than continuing it in another movie (as Goyer had previously mentioned back in 2005 when he worked out a story for 2 further sequels in which the joker on trail would scar Dent and Two- Face would be the main villain of a third film). But there is a opening for the next movie. In my view there is a bit of a set up there in the interrogation scene with the Joker and Batman when the Joker tells him that they (the people of Gotham, the Police) need Batman now but when they don’t they’ll cast him out. By the end Batman’s only choice is to cast himself out and be hunted by the police, it would be interesting to see where this goes, probably everyone will be after him and trying to figure out his identity. Perhaps a Character like Hugo Strange could be in it, a Batman villain from the Comics who was able to deduce that Batman was Bruce Wayne. I certainly hope to see more of Gordon in it too.
People are wondering at this time if Nolan should tackle making another Batman Movie since he has set the bar so high for himself;. I however think that this is a wonderful challenge to the independent film maker that he would love to take on. I have no doubt that he would make a Movie just as good if not better. I’m counting down the days to the one. Should a Character like Joker return? Perhaps if the story wants to tell requires it. I don’t think anyone can really match what Heath did but they could do their own interpretation. Maybe Johnny Depp? I’m not so interesting in seeing catwoman or the penguin. Less know villains would be interesting to see.

It’s still too early to say whether this is the greatest comic book of all time, it still needs time to age to see how it holds up. certainly it’s the strongest comic book movie containing the philosophy of a Hero and complex moral questions of been a vigilante.

Favorite Quote: “he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark Knight.” - Commissioner Jim Gordon

 

Batman: Gotham Knight

I mostly enjoy what has been released by DC Universe animated films so far. At this time Batman has appeared in two of them, the first been JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER which showed Batman in his early days but unfortunately the character doesn’t feature much in it. His first animated solo run in the DC animated universe of films is Batman Gotham Knight.
I had anticipated Batman Gotham Knight to be one of the better ones. Produced and Directed by well know animation companies and Directors in Japan.
Unfortunately this does not deliver. It is said to be set in Nolans Batman Universe filling the gaps between Begins and TDK, however it provides no such interesting continuity links whatsoever other than using some of the same characters that appear in TDK, these characters personalities don’t match up to the ones in TDK nor do they look like their live action counterparts. Gotham Knight is similar to how the “Animatrix” was done, having 6 short stories running about 10 minutes each. This was a mistake in my view, as there is no room to develop the story into something more and the short storylines and themes are uninteresting at best with the exception of the last 2. There is a storyline connecting each animation but the resolve of it is over too quickly. Batman doesn’t face any true challenge and an excellent Character that Dead Shot could be is left with all too short a story. I also didn’t find this to be as realistic as I thought it would be. The Killer Croc doesn’t visually look like anything I imagine him to be if he were in Nolan’s Batman universe of films. The same goes for the Scarecrow.  They even use the Batmobile from the Batman 89 film in this.
On the plus side the animation is beautiful and it’s interesting to see some of Japan’s best animation companies represent their interpretation of Batman which is coolness itself.

I suggest sticking with BATMAN: The Animated Series which is by far one of the greatest interpretations of Batman in animation.

Favorite Quote:It seems I’ve been trying to stop those two bullets all my life.” - Bruce Wayne

Batman Comic Reviews

Batman The Cult

Before Bane ever came along the first man to break the Bat (mentally at least) was a man named Deacon Blackfire, a Ras Al Ghul wannabe who took baths in Blood and had a police record spanning decades with a proclaimed history of centuries.
At the start of the Comic Batman/Bruce Wayne awakens from a nightmare into a nightmarish reality where he has been captured by a cult who are in the process of making him one of their own. Keeping him hungry and drugged he soon crumbles under much strain and out of his mind he starts to work for the cult.

The art work and style of the story is a little reminiscent to that of Frank Millers “The Dark Knight Returns” but the antagonist is a rather poor one who only beats Batman while he is at his weakest. The true threat is the cult and the power that they command over the city of Gotham. It reaches to a point that Batman even fears. A threat that he must stop at any cost, even not stopping to help an innocent bystanders being killed by the cult members.
The story is alright. It doesn’t add much to the Batman mythos so it’s not a must read.

Batman Venom
Another story where Batman is a broken man and one I found far more satisfying. Batman fails to save a young girl from drowning and in his anguish he tortures himself. first trying training himself to injury and finally in a weakened state tackling thugs that were responsible for the girls kidnapping and losing to them.
When he is offered Drugs that can make him stronger then he could ever be he at first refuses,
but after his prior failure he reluctantly takes these Steroid type pills that will enhance his strength.
One note of interest is this strength enhancing drug was later used by Bane when he broke Batman’s back.

You’ll feel not pity but embarrassment for the Character of Batman with his addiction, how much he lowers himself to the need of the drug. He loses himself, he loses his way in the fight on crime, he loses Alfred, he becomes an instrument of his addiction.
However there is a strong will within Batman that shines through later when he battles against it.
I liked how Alfred was portrayed in this, his characterisation is close to that of the Character in the Dark Knight. He is witty yet berates Batman for his unrealistic goals on his war on crime.

I enjoyed the story. Even the battle with the Sharks was pretty exciting and a little pulpish.

Batman Birth of the Demon

Apart from the Joker I would say that Ras Al Ghul is Batman’s opposite and equal. Both suffered tragedy in their lives. Both are highly intelligent and skilled men.
They both have their own goals which are alike in ways but the means through which they want to achieve their objective are very different.
Ras wants to bring peace to the world through control of it’s people. Batman wants a better world that has free will, even though it is difficult because there will always be people who do wrong, a world with choice is better than any world where everyone must think alike. One thing that comes across in this story is Batman’s idealism and his burning desire to rid the world of Ras. Even though Talia the daughter of Ras Al Ghul and the Lover of Batman scolds him for been the same as Ras, Batman admits that while they both can’t let go of the past, Ras has a burning hatred that he is unable to let go of, even after destroying the history and language of his culture he still can’t let go of it. Batman however is holding onto the past out of his moral obligation and promise to not let the crime that stole his childhood happen again.

These two characters have a lot of history and maybe even a grandson to link them together. Wherever this battle of ideals shall take them in future is anyones guess. The origin story as Ras is epic and the beautiful Art work is on level with the story presenting a very eye tasting treat.

The 11th Doctor January 4, 2009

Posted by oldboy in : Science Fiction , 2 comments

It was announced yesterday that 26 year old Actor Matt Smith will be the 11th Doctor. He was introduced and interviewed in Doctor Who Confidential and gave his feelings on what it was like to discover he would be the next “Doctor”.He is by far the youngest person to be cast as the Doctor and generally each actor playing the Doctor has been younger. But even the age gap between himself and the 10th Doctor David Tennant is over 10 years. Not that it’s a problem for me though. However I imagine we won’t be seeing characters like Donna Noble hanging around with the Doctor anymore.

I imagine part of the casting is to attract a younger audience and a larger female audience. But I have no doubt that the next Producer Steven Moffat knew what he was doing when he cast Matt Smith since Moffat is the best Doctor Who writer on the series since it’s return and really does understand the character. Smith’s audition must have really blown them away so I have nothing but utter confidence in the production team involved in this. I myself was very impressed with Matt’s interview yesterday as were many other people I believe.

David Tennant was a great Doctor and I’ll miss him as the Doctor, I felt his performance was an amagalmation of the previous Doctors while adding his own touch. Been a big fan himself I felt he brought a lot to the performance and it will be hard to see him go as it was with Christopher Eccelston and all who came before. It would have been great to see Tennant and Moffat working together on series 5 but I guess this way Moffat has a clean slate to work with to create his image of Doctor Who. I am geniunely excited about the next series in 2010. Until then we still have the fantastic David Tennant’s last run as the Doctor in 2009.

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