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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Star Wars 3D

A long time ago, in a galaxy called the Milky Way, a trilogy of films was released called Star Wars, and quite simply they were one of, if not the, best science fiction franchises ever. Then a few years later another trilogy was released, which as many of you may know were by no way as good, In fact the second trilogy (or first for that matter) was like the side dish in a restaurant you didn’t want to order, but it was complementary so that is great, however it may have spoilt the whole meal, saga, two trilogies (you get what I mean). So the saga wrapped in 2005 with Revenge of the Sith, and many nerds including myself thought that that was it from Lucas, C-3PO and the Ewoks. However George Lucas announced last year some interesting Star Wars news – which I know I have come across later than the rest of the world – however I felt I needed to voice my opinion. He plans to release each of the six films in 3D over the next six consecutive years. Now if I had one question to ask George Lucas this would be it: Why?

What is the point? Why is he doing it over six years? Most people who love Star Wars, the typical Star Wars fan I mean, live in a bin at the bottom of their garden and they won’t be alive in six years time when we finally get Return of the Jedi (1983). So we will have 2012, ok; 2013, dreadful; 2014, better; 2015, at last; 2016, finally; 2017, ultimate nerdgasm!  So the next time the Rugby world Cup is in England, and the San Andreas fault has shifted about another million miles, we will then, and only then, get the decent trilogy, the one minus Jar-Jar ‘pointless’ Binks and iffy CGI. However we still have to wait another three years until they are all done! Which I suppose is not that bad, but by the time they have finished I will be twenty-seven! In Essex years that's is a long time, I could be a Grandad! 

For me releasing the films like this is just a bad idea. Not that the films are coming back, because I love them all: not including Attack of the Clones (2002) though. If I were Lucas I would release them every four months over a two year period and just have the biggest and geekiest twenty four months ever. Whether or not the studio advised him on this, or is he is just being thoughtless, I think there is a far better way of going about re-releasing the film. But that is Lucas for you I think, he hasn't thought it through, or maybe we have mistaken him for a genius. 

Got it wrong George Lucas has I think. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Reichenbach Fall - Sherlock

5/5 - Minor Spoilers

It is all over. Sherlock has completed his last case, and he and Watson are no more. Or are they? The finale of Sherlock series two was just as exciting and tragic as I had expected it to be, as Sherlock and Moriarty face off in the ultimate conflict that will change, or end both of their lives. The story is based on The Final Problem, where both Holmes and Moriarty fall to their deaths at the falls of Reichenbach in Switzerland, so Holmes fans can guess what the final outcome of the story could potentially cause. There is no escaping from the conclusion of the story, as it is so well known and loved by many, and that is that Holmes faked his death in order to protect Watson from Moriarty’s men. The question on everyone’s lips is how did he do it? A third series has been commissioned, so the handsome hero that is played effortlessly by Benedict Cumberbatch will return with his deep baritone voice and powerful cheek bones once more.

However back to the present, and this finale was simply brilliant, with Moriarty completing his promise from the season one finale by burning the heart out of and destroying Sherlock. Convincing the world that Sherlock is a fraud, Moriarty possesses a new identity and claims that he is just an actor hired by Holmes and a pawn in his, and not Moriarty’s, grand game. With their allies turned against them, John and Sherlock are forced into hiding and on the run from Lestrade and the police, causing to make difficult and tragic decisions. I will not go into the final scenes in too much depth, as it is worth experiencing the episode as it happens, but I would advise you to have tissues and hankies at the ready, as what happens to the pair of them is bitterly saddening.

It is all over for another year, but Cumberbatch and Freeman have satisfied our Sherlock appetites for the foreseeable future. Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss have promised big things for series three, but whether they can top this amazing series is questionable. Nevertheless I will not be rolling my eyes when Sherlock returns, but I will be eagerly anticipating the return of the series in the following year and keen to see where Holmes and Watson will be taken, and the tragedies they will face together. 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

War Horse

Dir: Steven Spielberg

5/5 - Brilliant

Steven Spielberg’s latest creation War Horse has finally hit U.K. cinemas, and I for one was very excited to see the adaptation brought to the silver screen. Although I had never seen the original stage production, I can see why it generated such a large amount of praise from those who had seen it, as Spielberg’s take is just sublime in every detail. The story tells of the young thoroughbred horse Joey and his life throughout World War one, the journeys that he undergoes from Devon into France and the terror that he comes across during the brutal and terrifying European conflict. It is such a simple story, however placing it within the War makes it all the more dramatic, it’s like Black Beauty meets Saving Private Ryan. The film just oozes brilliance.

Many will say that Jeremy Irvine who plays Albert Narracott is the main character, but the true hero of the story if Joey himself, and for a character who is (let’s face it) a horse that doesn’t speak, he is one of the film’s most endearing characters. The film really displays the genius that is Spielberg, and the way in which he moves the audience and enables them to feel the emotions of a horse is just unbelievable and true cinematic splendour. Spielberg presents the tragedy of war from both perspectives from Joey’s experience, enabling the audience to see the true experience of loss and failure from the allies and the Germans, as well as the shared human emotions of caring and survival. Collaborator John Williams provides a score that is touching, uplifting and heartbreaking all at the same time, providing the film with a real backbone, making it all the more epic and grand in scale. I thought that the film was just beautiful, and the emotive relationship between Joey and Albert, the separation, and the final reunion through the brutal European conflict was just powerful cinema. I would warn you to take tissues as only the coldest of hearts will not be touched in some way, and I am not going to lie but I almost broke down when watching this film.

There are too many brilliant moments in this film for me to begin to describe them all, both showing Joey’s determination to survive as long as he can and the humans attempt to escape the brutality of the war. There are a few great moments where, as I mentioned before, the true nature of humanities caring nature is unveiled, especially the scene in no-man’s-land when Joey is assisted by both a German and a British soldier. The cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, David Thewlis and Tom Hiddleston to name a few is on fine form and, despite each having a brief appearance, really add to the spectacle and wonder that is War Horse. I could go on and on about this film all day for how brilliant it was, yes there were some slushy moments in the film, but they all added to an absolute masterpiece that I can say is one of my favourite Spielberg films to date. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Hamlet

Dir: Ian Rickson 
Young Vic Theatre - October 10th 2011 – January 21st 2012
4/5

For many, Shakespeare is considered to be dull and tedious drivel, seeing it as a group of people speaking a collection of words that nobody can comprehend. To those people I would like to get a large pencil and cram it up each of their noses, whilst telling them that they are wrong and that a performance of one of Shakespeare’s sensational plays is an absolute must see experience. To those who love Shakespeare, the most recent production of Hamlet hit theatres in October 2011, and I was one of the fortunate who was able to get tickets. Starring Michael Sheen as the young prince of Denmark, the play tells the story of how Hamlet, upon discovering the true nature of his father’s death, contemplates revenge against those responsible for his demise whilst considering the consequence of his actions if he is to carry them out.

Being the popular play that it is, every production of Hamlet has been required to seem unique in order to make it stand out from the many adaptations that have gone before it.  Ian Rickson’s adaptation is set in an asylum, which is very fitting for the plays theme of sanity and the appearance madness. The play begins with an optional walkthrough backstage, where the audience can see surveillance cameras recording the actions of inmates playing games, as well as patient drawing and medical staff going about their work. The play begins with the audience being locked in the theatre, as vast metal door gently close us all in. It is very tongue in cheek; however it did set up the play very well, making it evident that this production is unlike any adaptation we have seen before. For me I really enjoyed Rickson’s vision; however it is easy to see how those who are unfamiliar with the play would be lost and confused by all the set dressing. That is the danger of updating Shakespeare, it often appeals to those who are already fans, but for those who are experiencing it for the first time, they may feel alienated or, like the woman who sat next to me, sleepy. There are amazing performances from Vinette Robinson (Sherlock BBC) as Ophelia and James Clyde (New Tricks BBC) as Claudius, but the star of the show is without a doubt Michael Sheen. His presence and diction on stage are just sublime, and the manner in which he addresses the audience ranges from tragic to hilarious. I was exhausted for him as he bound around the stage speaking not only the lines of Hamlet but of his father as well, it was truly an incredible performance. I can be honoured to say that during one scene during a soliloquy a drop of saliva landed on my trouser leg, I suppose that is a perk of being in the front row!

I personally loved the production, and thought that the settings, costume design and the acting were all brilliantly implemented into a familiar play that was made new again. There was even a surprise twist at the end that I still have not worked out, or maybe I am just a little bit stupid. However overall I feel that this was a play for fans of the original that may enjoy spotting the contemporary changes and updates, but for those who are unaware of the original, I feel that they may be overwhelmed by the whole spectacle and would feel happier watching a West End show. Overall the play was remarkable with incredible acting and pacing, and establishes Michael Sheen as one of the finest actors around.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sherlock Series 2 Episode 2 - The Hounds of Baskerville

A few Spoilers - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EPISODE

5/5

It pains me as I write this to think that we are over half way through Sherlock series two already, the anticipation and the long hiatus between the first series was agonising, but so far we have been rewarded with a cracking opening episode and now another equally gripping story. The Hounds of Baskerville, written by Mark Gatiss is an obvious adaptation of Conan Doyle’s most popular Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, which tells the story of the diabolical hound stalking a family on the tors of Dartmoor. Mark Gatiss’ take on the story is incredibly twenty-first century, and with hundreds of previous adaptations staring numerous actors as Sherlock Holmes, it needed to separate itself from what has gone before whilst remaining true to the original source material. In this version of the classic tale, Holmes is experience a period of stagnant torment and is struggling to find a case, however it is not long before Henry  Knight (Russell Tovey) stumbles into 221B Baker Street seeking his assistance regarding his father’s death twenty years ago and appearance of the footprints of a gigantic hound. Upon journeying to Dartmoor Sherlock and John are confronted with a community gripped by the mystery concerning a legendary and monstrous hound, as well as encountering hidden terrors at the military base know as Baskerville, including animal experimentation and scientific trickery.

The episode is unlike any of the other Sherlock episodes that we have seen before, and sits in the series very much like the original story rests in the Sherlock Holmes canon, being both unique and memorable. The concealing of the hound until the very end, like the novel, added dramatic tension to the scenes that built and built until the finale, and when the beast arrived all our anticipation paid off. The visual of Dartmoor and the Gothic vibe that the episode evoked was mesmerising, and for the first time watching Sherlock, I was a tad nervous and filled with suspense. In moving away from the familiar settings of London, all our characters emotions are pushed to the limit, including even the rational minded Sherlock, who we see act in a manner that we have never experienced before, with fear. All these features made the episode a refreshing change from the conventions of the show, establishing that the series has the ability to expand beyond what we have seen before.

For me the importance of this episode was enabling the story to relate to the fears and doubts of a contemporary audience. The inclusion of contemporary ideologies regarding conspiracy theories is a prominent feature of this episode, enabling ‘the legend of the Hound’, as it was presented in the original story, to be depicted in a potentially realistic manner that is suited to a twenty-first century audience. The idea of the unknown, and having the truth withheld from us is a frightening prospect, and Gatiss presents this beautifully in this episode, playing with our minds and tormenting us with the mysterious and the unfamiliar. Despite the update, the fans of the original will find this episode awash with references to the original, including characters references and names, and even a few red herrings that will mislead most Sherlockians and Holmes enthusiasts. These differences are the most brilliant parts of the episode, as the story needed to be reinvented to a standard that did not tarnish the original but retold in a unique and energetic manner that would satisfy those unaware of Conan Doyle’s original novel.

Considering when I heard the plot I had my doubts, overall I though the episode was brilliant. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are still sensational as Holmes and Watson. The humour between the two is as excellent as ever and this episode highlights the fact that they are, as always, the best of friends regardless of their quarrels and their differences. For me I cannot say it was better than the previous episode as it was entirely different; however it is indisputable that this is by far the most memorable and intriguing episode to date, and Mark Gatiss has created a truly memorable piece of television writing. The only disappointment with the episode is the knowledge that we are over half way and coming to the climatic conclusion in The Reichenbach Fall, where we will see Moriarty returning to face Sherlock in the final showdown. Will they survive? Who will suffer most? I think that those who know the story know the truth about what happens, but this is a new interpretation of the story, and next week we could well be watching the last appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Who knows?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

4/5

So I have just got back from watching Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol , and already my normal life seems dull and insignificant compared to that of those who work at the fictional IMF (Impossible missions force). Packed full of high octane action sequences involving cars, explosives and ludicrous gadgetry that would make James Bond feel inadequate, the latest instalment in the Mission Impossible franchise lives up to its predecessors.  When the IMF team lead by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is held responsible for an explosion at the Kremlin, the entire organisation is disavowed, enabling them to work off the grid as fugitives from the government, whilst being hunted by their Russian equivalents who want vengeance. Their mission is to prevent a nuclear war between Russia and the West due to the Russian suspicions concerning the Kremlin attack, which was in fact carried out by Russian nuclear organiser Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist).

Although this is the fourth Mission Impossible instalment, the film delivered on every level, proving that the franchise still has life in it. I think J. J. Abrams is a great director for the franchise, and has really made them become bolder and more energetic. The best thing about these films is the fact that they can afford to be ridiculous and over the top, with gratuitous explosions, action and chases that would not feel right if they were in a Bond or a Bourne film. If you take them with a pinch of salt, then they are a joy to view, the sandstorm chase is a prime example. There are so many scenes that wowed me that I will not go into them, but the film was a collection of nail biting and jaw dropping set pieces that would satisfy any action film junkie. In particular the wirework around the Berge in Dubai is breathtaking and is truly edge of the seat stuff, in fact all the audience gasped so much that somebody in the middle row fainted. I am kidding of course. I though visually the films action sequences were stunning, I though the cast was strong, and of course there is the Music. The amazing theme tune gets everybody singing along to (well humming or da da, da da da’ing to) never fails to bring a huge smile to my face. The beats are like sex in your ears, I love them (Sorry I got a little carried away).

The only criticism that I would have with the film was the villain. Whereas in the previous instalments we have had long discussions with the primary antagonist, for example Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), enabling the audience to understand what they are after and how much they despise Hunt. However, Hendricks was simply labelled as a nuclear nutter whose agenda was to simply cause chaos. That worked on some levels, but I was expecting a villain who had more of a personality that the audience could love, hate or be afraid of. However it did not spoil my enjoyment of the film, and I do think that the franchise is moving on in a bolder and more exciting way. If, or when, they announce a fifth instalment, I will not be rolling my eyes in boredom but I will be eagerly anticipating where they can take these films. 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Sherlock Series 2 -A Scandal in Belgravia

Rating: 5/5

Its back! I have a deep intake of breath as the title music kicks in, as one of the most eagerly anticipated second series of any show returns to the BBC in absolute superb style; as good as it was way back in the summer of 2010, Sherlock is back on our screens. Written by Steven Moffat, the first episode hits the ground running with a brilliantly new story that picks up straight after the nail biting cliff hanger confrontation between Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott). The joy I have in saying that the series is back cannot be put into words, however I will do all I can to control my excitement. So here we go.

We return to the series with Holmes continuing to annoy others with his masterful deductions, whilst seeking out cases that do not bore him and satisfy him through periods of stagnation. Watson has a successful blog much to Holmes’ irritation, and continues his attempt at leading a normal life whilst in the present of his sociopathic flatmate Holmes. It feels so right that the show is back on our screens, and seeing both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman speaking Moffat’s script as Holmes and Watson respectively fills me with glee and child like energy. Upon seeing the familiar and loveable characters, including the delightful Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) and the dainty Molly (Louise Brealey), make the show’s absence from our screens feel like an absolute age, which for many fans has been such prolonged period. The electrifying scripts and the excellent musical scores breathe life into Conan Doyle’s creation, in a unique way that provides the stories with energy unlike any other adaptation we have seen, even the excellent Guy Ritchie adaptations. The entire show oozes class, character and adventure unlike many shows on television, that is why its return is made all the better.

The addition to the cast for this episode was that of the elusive Irene Adler, played flirtatiously by Lara Pulver. Fans of the A Scandal in Bohemia, the story where Adler made her appearance in the Holmes canon, will love the manner in which she and Holmes interact with each other and play off each other, true to much of the chemistry created by the original story and the various adaptations that have followed. Played as a dominatrix who insures herself against ‘difficulties’ by creating explicit and compromising photos to use as potential blackmail, the character felt right in a twenty-first century environment, and reflected how a contemporary female criminal like the original Irene Adler would operate. To lower the detailed analysis of the character to a basic and simplistic description, she is very, very sexy. Moffat certainly knows his male audience.

Being a Holmes geek, I thought the opening episode was sensational and really captured a new side to the character of Holmes that we have not seen before, the fact he has a heart. I will not go into the details in case anyone is yet to watch it on BBC iplayer, but there are moments within the episode that change how we have viewed both Holmes and Watson in the past. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman remain potentially the best Holmes and Watson partnership to date, commanding the screen through meticulous direction and powerfully written scripts. The references to the past stories of Doyle are enchanting, and will hopefully encourage Sherlock Holmes virgins to seek out the originals and experience them for all the splendour that they are.  I cannot begin to describe how much I adored the episode, and the pleasure I have in saying that Sherlock is back on our screens in fantastic, sexy and engrossing style.