Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

Time After Time

It could be the film that the term high-concept was made for; H.G. Wells chases Jack the Ripper through time from Victorian England to 1970s San Francisco where he continues his killing spree.

It’s a brilliant idea that Wells actually built a working time machine, rather than just wrote about it, here very steam punk looking and heavily influenced by the likes of The Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Tracked down by the Victorian police Jack the Ripper, otherwise known as Stephenson, a close friend of Wells, steals it and the chase is on.

Featuring Malcolm McDowell in his American film debut as H.G. Wells, until this time he was chiefly known for his villainous roles, especially in A Clockwork Orange, so this was a brave and successful departure, especially as the studio initially wanted Derek Jacobi for the role.

There is also a masterful portrayal of the Ripper by the great David Warner, who was previously best known for losing his head in The Omen, and was a far superior choice to Mick Jagger who the Studio were hankering after. As an aside it does also feature Cory Feldman in his first ever film role!

With the subject matter of THE Jack the Ripper running amok in 70s San Francisco, the same town as frequented that decade by the real Zodiac Killer and in the age of the dawning stalk and slash genre, not to mention the exploitation likes of The New York Ripper, it’s a very low key affair as you don’t see any stabbing as such, it’s all left to the imagination and is the better for it.

For both McDowell and the film’s Director, Nicholas Meyer, this his first dabble in Sci-Fi but went onto helm the rather marvellous Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, Time was more or a love story between Herbert George Wells and Amy Robins, played by Mary Steenburgen, who clearly enjoyed the romantic time travel shenanigans so much that she did it all again some 20 years later in Back to the Future Part III. Mixing fact and fiction it is interesting to note that Amy Robins was the actual name of Well’s real life second wife.

It turned out that life imitated art though as both McDowell and Steenburgen fell in love on set and ended up getting married.

This intriguing yarn wasn’t Meyer’s first dabble with melding famous Victorian characters though as he’d already won great plaudits for his meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud in his previous film, The Seven Per Cent Solution, which was considered to be one of the best ever Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Conan-Doyle. Nicholas also returned back to time travel and San Francisco in 1986 as he also co-wrote Star Trek: The Voyage Home.

As well as being tense and highly original the film is also highly entertaining and features some good, unlike Les Visiteurs and its American remake, funnily enough featuring Mr McDowell, time travel related humour. These include a visit to McDonalds and giving the police the fake alias of Sherlock Holmes. There are countless ‘little’ fun parts like this in the film which makes it a pleasant and entertaining one to watch as well as a tense nail biting thriller.

However the two genius aspects of the script that help raise it above the usual time travel fare and help keep it an arresting over 30 years later are the effect the latter 20th century has on the two male leads.

Wells looked upon the future as a Utopia and whilst Wells is shocked to find, certainly after the horrors of World War 2, that the World is nothing like his imagined Utopia, the film even neatly riffing on images from his other work in Things to Come, sending Wells up majestic escalators and giant glass lifts.

On the other hand Jack fits right in and positively embraces the chaos and violence of the 20th century in a brilliant scene with Stephenson zapping through the TV channels in his hotel room and finding violent image after violent image, here Jack is very much at home and it is Wells who is out of his time. It’s rather fitting then that in ‘From Hell’ Jack the Ripper even states that he had invented the 20th century.

The special effects aren’t all that special to be honest, especially in the wake of Star Wars two years earlier, but that is kind of missing the point. The fun and quaintness of the effects actually endear the film to you even more and help give it that more classic Hollywood feel as if it were from an age before it was made. It certainly looks more stylistic than dated today and just adds to the whole undeniable charm to the whole proceedings.

It’s not action packed, so don’t go expecting The Terminator, but it certainly never has any dull moments and the unique story keeps you intrigued. It’s more about the battle of wits between these two men, much like Trek 2 was about pitting Kirk against Khan.

With its Saturday afternoon matinee feel, clever concept, engaging leads, humour, romance, science fiction and dose of social commentary it’s all intelligent stuff that is well written that ensures the film remains more than just a curiosity and essential that you should make time for Time After Time.

Sky slams the ‘Blakes’ on reboot of cult Sci-Fi

Blake regretted buying that leather jacket from the market

Sky is clearly in cahoots with The Federation as it has foiled the return of Blake’s 7, which is a crying shame as we’ve never needed the return of Roj Blake and his gallant ever changing number of crew members more than now.

The production company, B7 Productions, released a statement, almost sounding as if it had been penned by Orac, that said: “Sky deciding to not proceed with the planned TV revival of Blake’s 7 is obviously disappointing, but the development process has resulted in the dynamic reinvention of this ‘branded’ series.”

Picking that element apart they have taken it all on the chin and there seems to be some serious spinning going on, so much so you can almost smell it burning. Hopefully such a release will jolt further interest in the programme, interest that could manifest itself in several different ways.

The original had political intrigue in spades and was essentially Robin Hood in space and in these unjust times of political unrest never and times of terror they would have fitted in perfectly. Stories about anti-government dissidents and corrupt, totalitarian governments never seem to go out of fashion (it’s no coincidence that the series villain was a woman – just as Thatcher came into power), and surely that’s doubly true of this era of terrorism.

The Liberator

So if Sky don’t fancy resurrecting The Liberator and her crew what about their original home on Auntie Beeb? They’d be foolish not to.

They’ve axed Survivors and Spooks has almost run out of steam so time is ripe for something new and Battlestar Galactica showed  all TV Execs that just because something is Sci-Fi it doesn’t mean it can’t be well acted, gritty drama that just so happens to be set in space. After all that is how B7 started out and Galactica was often dubbed as being ‘The West Wing in space.’

Another option of course, and one often favoured by the BBC and more recently with ITV and the return of Primeval, is to go in with another broadcaster. The makers of Primeval did a deal with Watch, ITV and a US station for series 4 and 5 so it can be done, even if the show has already been axed. Who knows, perhaps even Syfy might fancy a dabble?

It could also try the route of going for a filmed episode or series and then make the jump to TV, a route that worked so well for Sanctuary. It would be a gamble but it might at least prick interest and a following.

As with Doctor Who before it B7 has already had a reboot of sorts and had a new lease of life in a series of audio adventures which has attracted a whole host of talent from Bond and genre fave, Colin Salmon as Kerr Avon and guest stars from Ashes to Ashes’ Keeley Hawes and new Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch. Like the Who audio adventures it has also lured back cast members from the original series, Michael Keating and Jan Chappell, all of which shows there is still plenty of talent and interest in the project.

Blake loved the Gold Run on Blockbusters...RSC

The company say that there is 60% funding already in place for the reboot and that Sky is only one of the minor media players involved so as Zen may have stated: “Probability of survival, 80%.”

Robin Hood (2010) – nothing to Crowe about

TO THE TREES! HERE BE SPOILERS!!

The trailers hadn’t given me much to get all goosebumpy about, so it was with trepidation that I set foot into my local cinema to see the latest cinematic exploits of Robin Hood burst out at me from the silver screen. I really, really did try to like this rendition of dear old Robin, but alas I found it mostly way off target.

Less Boy’s Own Adventure and more boy, did it drag (all the way from The Holy Land it seemed) the pace of the film was just so slow and meandering. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t need to be edited like a Michael Bay movie (although it would have perhaps have had a bit more pace had it been directed by Ridley’s brother, Tony) but it just seemed to defy script writing law – nevermind Outlaw – with its long drawn out scenes of nothingness. And slow, didn’t equal worthy.

Confusion seemed to reign on what anyone, writers and actors themselves, wanted to do with the villains. It suffered with too many not really doing enough, with the Sheriff of Nottingham getting short changed with gold coins the most, his role was none-existent and surely could have been amalgamated into that played by Mark Strong.  Prince John ended up being effective value for money though.

There were some flickers of what might have been but these – certainly in the first half of the film – were very few and far between and it needed some culling at either the script or editing stage to give it some much needed pace. There was certainly an interesting story trying to get out, but one can’t help but feel they were just trying to be a bit too clever with their retelling and it ending up being convoluted

One of my biggest fears was that this was going to be Robin Hood in name only, now don’t get me wrong it’s not as if I’m against revisionist reboots as I loved both the recent Sherlock Holmes and Casino Royale , but this wasn’t even Robin Hood in name only, it was someone (Crowe) nabbing his name.

Now, I don’t mind people playing with the legend, adding new elements to it or skirting round it – after all this is how the legend has continued to evolve throughout the centuries – but that doesn’t mean that people should go around just writing off whole swathes of it and actually not give us a Robin Hood at all, but someone pretending to be him. I just felt rather cheated.

There wasn’t really a standout Robin Hood moment – until the final reel – where you felt that some Hood daring do had been done, but then that could be explained away by Crowe’s character being ‘reborn’ as Robin Hood from the water – in slow mo for those slow on the uptake of the metaphor – so he couldn’t perform anything really Robin Hood until he had become him. But, saying that, there didn’t even seem to be a proper introduction to the character, unlike the strong introduction of  Marian, a film stealing Cate Blanchett.

It was also nice to see Mark Addy turn up as Friar Tuck and continue the tradition, of sorts, of  portly Friar being played by actors best known for comedy roles, such as Ronnie Barker in Robin and Marian and Mike McShane in Prince of Thieves.

For me, one of the essential characters of any Robin Hood story, and as essential addition as the likes of Friar Tuck and Little John, is that of Sherwood Forest. The Forest is as an important a character to the Robin Hood story as say New York is to Sex and the City, and we did get plenty of forest areas…but most of them were listed as being in ruddy France.

I Sherwood like to say that I enjoyed this film, but this Robin Hood’s blade was more than a little rusty. The film had lots of bluster and show, but not very much in the way of tell. Looks like that Bluray purchase of Prince of Thieves was a good investment afterall.

2/5

Sherlock, stock and two smoking actors

With Sherlock Holmes about to hit Bluray in the US (following in the UK sometime in May), now is the perfect time to revisit the reimagining of Baker Street’s finest.

Robert Downey Jr has been flying high since he blasted back onto screens as Iron Man where he excelled as wealthy 21st century James Bond-esque playboy Tony Stark so it seemed only fitting that he would have a stab at a 19thcentury version in the guise of Sherlock Holmes.

We all know that Downey Jr can excel in all things decidedly English and Victorian-esque with his fantastic turn as Charlie Chaplin in the Richard Attenborough biopic. The sets and costumes are sumptuous and the film can only be described as looking two thirds From Hell and one third Harry Potter. There are perhaps those who might be a tad nervous seeing that this film is from Guy Ritchie but thankfully with Madonna out of his system he seems to be back on form with some truly lovely visuals that we haven’t really seen since we first got excited about him with Lock, Stock.

The story centres around the dark arts and Lord Blackwood, Stardust villain Mark Strong in another fine bad guy turn, who is thwarted by Holmes and Watson in their final case together. He is hanged but seemingly appears back from the dead to wreak revenge and change across the British Empire. Its dark themes echo some of those featured in an earlier Holmes incarnation, Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear, which also featured some wonderfully dark undertones.

The movie is fairly breathless in its editing and pacing but lingers long enough for us to enjoy the characters, their dialogue and the lovingly recreated locations, including a part completed Tower Bridge. It is lovingly created throughout, with a memorably fun score by Hans Zimmer, and canters along like a proper boys own adventure in the same zest, style and fun as Michael Crichton’s The First Great Train Robbery did back in the late 70s. In fact you could almost have seen Dustin Hoffman taking on the part of Holmes if it had been made during that period.

The films greatest assets though are their leads and both Downey Jr and a surprisingly watchable Jude Law really relish in their roles and make you really believe they are the sleuthing duo. Much of the dialogue is fantastically crisp with the pair zinging off each other in the same lovingly jolly romp manner as Newman and Redford did as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And that is the great thing about this film, its Da Vinci Code style plot of murders and people in high places is fun and engaging but we’d follow this pair anywhere and with the film neatly setting up its follow up potential in an enticing way.

One can only hope the sequel is afoot as this has to be one of the most unabashedly entertaining films of the year and somehow just feels the perfect post-Christmas film.