Sherlock Holmes In the 21st Century

Sometimes I really don’t know what I would do without my local PBS station. No matter where I’ve lived in the country and have had to wait for the cable guy to show up, I’ve been able to pick up the local public television station on rabbit ears (well…used to, before all this confusion conversion nonsense, but that’ another post).

But it’s the British television shows shown on PBS that make me so happy. They are wonderfully put together. The production value is incredible. They are superbly written, wonderfully acted, and simply a joy to watch. Did I mention they are superbly written? There is the standby Masterpiece Theater and all the Jane Austen adaptations – beautifully written by Andrew Davies.  And let’s not forget Masterpiece Mystery with Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. Exceptional.  And Kenneth Branagh in Wallander. Fantastic.

Now I have a new reason to brag about PBS – Sherlock – a 21st century updated version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective. Sherlock (masterfully played by Benedict Cumberbatch best known in the states from Atonement. Don’t you just love that name? Benedict Cumberbatch – it’s like a character from Dickens. ) is actually called Sherlock, instead of the standard Holmes, in this series and is a high-functioning sociopath fully integrated in modern day technology. He texts and uses a website to attract business. He’s also addicted to Nicotine patches and incredibly hyperactive.

His pal Watson (Martin Freeman, Love Actually and the original The Office)  is a military doctor who served in Afghanistan,  and blogs as a way to address his post-traumatic stress disorder. The two meet in order to become flatmates, but the friendship develops with the realization that Watson is drawn to Holmes because he is a danger junkie just like Holmes.

This is a brilliant series totally worth watching, and I’m totally jealous I didn’t think of it first, instead of the series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

Watch the new Sherlock. It’s true to the spirit of the original, an arrogant, antisocial man fixated on tiny details and deductive reasoning. It’s also superbly written.  Did I mention it’s superbly written?

Halloween Season Movies with Great Stories

Since Halloween is quickly approaching and TV is boasting hours of  every Friday the 13th movie ever made (who knew that they would reach the double digits?), I got to thinking about horror/suspense movies with really great stories.  Sure, I can go for a good thrasher – but when you combine that with a kick-ass story or a really good plot twist well…that’s a reason to have popcorn – with extra butter!  So, here’s my opinion of five great Halloween season flicks:


5. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) – This movie scared the beguses out of me. Plus, the story is actually plausible. The cold unexplored antarctic is the perfect backdrop for unknown alien-like things to happen, as well as the classic human foible of losing trust in our fellow-man in dire circumstances. Kurt Russell is at the peak of his most macho phase in his career and Wilford Brimley is well…Wilford Brimley – before he made all his friends in Cocoon. Plus, it’s kind of bloody and gooey and gross.

4. The Exorcist (1973) – Talk about gross. Linda Blair and the green pea soup has made this flick famous, but it’s also grounded in such strong storytelling that you’re left wondering if something like it could really happen. The priest and his mother issues is an added bonus. And Ellen Burstyn’s look of horror is classic.  I made the mistake of seeing it with my older brother (granted, I was like fourteen and it was a late night showing), and I kept my eyes covered almost the entire time. And I was awake all night. Watching it as an adult, I still feel like a kid and shade my eyes whenever she spews that soup. Gross.

3. The Others (2001) – Wow. The story of this movie is pretty fantastic. Although the pacing hits some speed bumps in the middle. I still don’t understand the appearance and then disappearance of the father/husband. And I’m still in doubt about the children’s “condition”.  I wish Kidman demonstrated a little bit more madness before the big reveal, but perhaps the  beauty of the film is her subtlety. Anyway, the story rocks.

2. Scream (1996) – The first one. Or should I say, the good one. This flick is funny! How many horror movies can you say are funny – on purpose? This is it! It’s so good that you can ignore David Arquette acting like a doufus – again. You’re so busy laughing that Neve Campbell’s famous “my life sucks so I must pout” look that she formed while on PARTY OF FIVE isn’t so annoying when you see her being chased by her crazy classmates.  And who can forget Drew Barrymore getting murdered within the first three minutes – that really starts things off with a bang!

1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Classic! I saw this on the big screen while I was in college and saw the beauty of Roman Polanski’s directing. The camera angles in this film force the audience to comply. It’s powerful, powerful directing. Plus, Ruth Gordon is irresistible as the devil’s right hand helper. She makes the whole film. It’s a good story about entitlement and want and how having the devil’s baby is better than no baby at all, well…at least to Mia Farrow.

What’s your favorite Halloween season flick?

Please Give on DVD – Please Watch

Katherine Keener plays Kate, a Manhattanite wife and mother of a certain age who is facing an unsatisfying life in Nicole Holofcener’s, Please Give. Yeah, this theme is played over and over in Holofcener’s other work Lovely & Amazing, Friends With Money – also starring Keener – but it is because of Keener that the viewer doesn’t feel bored or frustrated with what could be an already played out story. Keener possesses the uncanny ability to portray bitchy with the perfect amount of vulnerability. It’s pretty miraculous and makes her the go-to-actor that she is.  Whether she’s playing the author Harper Lee opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote or the Bohemian grandmother girlfriend of Steve Carell in The Forty Year Old Virgin, Keener pulls it off with her delicately balancing emotions.

The incredibly underrated Oliver Platt (The Big C) plays her husband and the scenes the two have together are a master class in acting. They truly react, not act when they are together. It’s just too bad this movie was in theaters for about a second and then quickly disappeared. But the good news is that it’s now available on DVD. Netflix it today.

The Social Network – Don’t Believe The Hype

What’s the solution to getting dumped? Create a website where you can talk about people and never have to talk to them. That’s the lesson in the highly hyped movie The Social Network.

The movie opens with the now famous Mark Zuckerberg (nicely played by Jesse Eisenberg) getting dumped by a very pretty young girl, Erica (Rooney Mara – the new Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). You can’t help but think – this socially stunted, boardering on rude, incredibly awkward guy actually has a girlfriend? He actually found someone who wants to spend time with an emotionally halted nerd who’s obviously clueless when it comes to human beings (mainly girls), but a genius when it comes to calculus? Are the poor girls at Harvard that desperate? Eww.

The hype surrounding this movie is truly ridiculous. David Fincher (Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Fight Club) is a good director and Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, American President, A Few Good Men) is a decent screenwriter. But the combination of these talents does not automatically propel this movie to extraordinary. The acting is solid. But my biggest complaint is that Zuckerberg is at one moment a shy, awkward geek and the next is a sharp-tongued, assertive and aggressive tyrant. This is made possible by the incredibly unrealistic dialogue that has made Aaron Sorkin famous. The lines are cutting and entertaining, but totally unrelatable when it comes to character growth and transition.  This was a criticism for all those West Wing Episodes with the fast walking that was parodied on Mad TV. Hilarious by the way.  But then there is the greed and corruption that steps in the story with the appearance of Scott Parker, (Justin Timberlake) the founder of Napster that highlights the earning potential of the little website that talks at people.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Facebook. It’s been nice to let people know little snippets of what is happening in my life. But I also don’t have hundreds or thousand of “friends”. I think South Park explains and treats the issue best in the episode YOU HAVE 0 FRIENDS, more than I ever could in a blog post.

But I will admit, although an avid user, I am weary of social media. I am weary that these horny guys from Harvard – some of the brightest students in the country – didn’t want to work on their communication skills. They just wanted to find an easier way to talk about people and not to people. I am leary that this easy way out results in a blurred sense of right and wrong. Especially in the wake of Rutger’s University student, Tyler Clementi killing himself after his roommate posted footage of him being with another man on the Internet.  I know…I know…Rutgers University is reaching to prove my point.  But still…it’s worth thinking about…and still heartbreaking.

Don’t believe the hype that this movie is a journey in the revolution in communication. The Social Network is a story in just how far we have all come from actually speaking to others…now we just announce.