Tag Archives: Young Sherlock Holmes

Gremlins

To describe Gremlins as a kid’s film would be like describing the Bates Motel as a swell place to stay.

Cutesy in a typical Spielbergian world at the very beginning, sure, but it is soon revealed that we, the audience, and indeed the Peltzer family are sorely mistaken and have somewhat misread the situation in the ultimate ‘always heed the instructions’ moment in cinematic history

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas, such is the number one life lesson that we can all learn from the Spielberg Executive Produced, Joe Dante Directed, Gremlins. Rounding out this trio of talent is then scriptwriter – later Harry Potter Director, Chris Columbus – who was on something of a roll after penning scripts for both The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes around the same period. This ‘E.T. with teeth’ captivated and entertained and still stands tall as a comedy horror Christmas classic, and you don’t get many of those.

Originally a spec script by the young Columbus the feature was set to be a very different ‘beast’ with the Gremlins being even more dark and twisted, with the irresistibly cute Gizmo turning into Stripe, Barney the dog getting hung and Billy’s mum’s head rolling down the stairs!

Being a Joe Dante film it is a veritable reference of film and cartoon delights, from a cameo by the legendary animator Chuck Jones to a blink and you’ll miss it Steven Spielberg disappearing in a Time Machine

It’s a deliciously wicked and rich film, even until this day and has an almost timeless charm about it like that other 8o’s classic Back to the Future, which also shared the Universal backlot as its main set that created the town, Kingston Falls, and it does so spectacularly.

We get suckered into the cute, furry routine just like the Peltzers. It’s a family movie alright, but more about a families survival than in the traditional sense of the word. As such it caused such shockwaves Stateside and was one of two films that year, 1984, that helped create the PG 13 rating in America, the other film being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

For all the Gremlins’ attacking from a Christmas tree, driving a bulldozer into the Futterman house, causing mayhem in the streets it’s a very low key scene that lingers in the memory and proves to be the most distressing, that classic monologue by Phoebe Cates on why she hates Christmas, a chilling story of them finding her dead dad stuck up the chimney dressed as Santa Clause. Inspired and perhaps only pipped by the SS Indianapolis story speech by Quint in Jaws for its powerfulness and evococativeness.

The set pieces and the imagery, their swirling lights of the swimming pool when Stripes throws himself in at the deep end, the tension of the death of the college tutor scene played against the rapidly beating heart on the projector, on par with anything in The Howling. Not to mention the discovery of the pods and the classic kitchen scene.

It’s a shame that Dante went for out and out comedy in the sequel as it would have been an interesting study in terror to see them go really, really dark. Of course, a remake or reimagining has been mentioned but it really does remain to be seen whether the Gremlins would hold the same appeal us knowing that they were merely pixels. The Gremlin creations by Chris Wallas are pretty much pitch perfect in design, that other unsung hero of the film is also Jerry Goldsmith and his blistering score that manages to be both comical and scary in equal measure.

It really is a nasty piece of work, and is all the more beloved and beautiful for it. Full of great energy, Dante clearly has great fun letting the Gremlins run riot in the usual Spielberg-like world, albeit one full of B-movie horror high jinks, and it all works wonderfully thanks to the film’s humour and the charm of its young leads. It maybe a special effects lead film but it’s the story that drives it, just like Back to the Future again in many respects, remember when that happened?

Alien is often mooted as the monster sci-fi movie of reference but for me it will always be Gremlins, for me it will always be a great big little monster movie.

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.

With great parental power comes great cinematic responsibility

Now it’s a good six months or so until our baby is born and already you get thinking about the far flung future things such as what school will it end up going to…and what will be its first film?

Okay, so it’s not massive in the big scheme of things, at first glance anyway. But if you think about it you always remember the first film that that you went to see at the pictures and those first few screenings can help shape your tastes and even the person you become, so therefore – as a bonafide filmbuff – I think there is great responsibility in choosing those first few cinematic dalliances for your children.

When I was growing up we lived about 9 miles for our nearest ABC Cinema, as it was then, so going to the cinema was a real treat. My dad took me to my first film on a Saturday morning and was Spiderman Strikes Back – basically a couple episodes of the 70s TV series slotted together for us Brits. True it’s not going to cause James Cameron any worries in story or special effects terms but was great to as a child and so, like Peter Parker, I was bitten by the radioactive film bug and my lifelong love of cinema was born.

Talking of Cameron, I was speaking to a friend earlier today and he recently took his six year old son to go and see Avatar after much research if it was suitable for a child his age. Now obviously it’s a film full of lots of childlike wonder and discovery, not to mentions lots of explosions and blue men and woman flying giant dinosaurs. To be fair it’s a pretty simplistic story as well. But this is not the point. The point is that this is one of that child’s first cinematic experiences and it is a seminal piece of work, one he’ll remember visuals from for the rest of his life, one which will gain him kudos in the playground when he’s older when the other kids find out he saw it on the big screen, glasses and all, rather than at home on Bluray or DVD.

And, of course, when he’s all grown up he’ll have that strong and fond memories of it that it will sit nestling on his shelf or computer, or whatever system there will be then, simply due to the fact that it had such a lasting impression of him when he was little and reminds him of the time his dad took him to the pictures.

Such films act in the same way as certain songs, they remind us of a certain time, a certain person or even a certain feeling. As you enter that darkened cave of the cinema and those light go down and those curtains part it’s not just a cinematic experience, it’s a rite of passage.

So that’s why our first child’s film won’t just be some Martin Lawrence film, it will be something that means something, something that will both wow and excite, not just for that screening but for a lifetime and is then passed down through the generations just like stories of old.

Likewise my first run ins with the likes of James Bond (Octopussy and every Bond since on the big screen) and a whole host of films that have never left my consciousness, step up Young Sherlock Holmes and The NeverEnding Story, which have all helped shape who I am and the people I have become friends with.

For me it’s right up there with the first film you bunked off school for (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), the first 15 certificate that you ever saw, underage of course (The Naked Gun) and your first 18 certificate, Ditto (Silence of the Lambs, would have been Misery but I bottled it).

I of course write this looking at our crammed DVD shelves, which include a battered VHS copy of Spiderman Strikes Back (found in Cash Converters in Luton no less) and Young Sherlock Holmes and The NeverEnding Story on DVD.