Thursday, April 26, 2012

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009)

As the movie opens, we meet Dr Watson and Inspector Lestrade racing in a horse-driven carriage to an unknown destination. A medium-sized man (Robert Downey Jr) is also in a hurry as he quickly dispatches some unnamed hoodlums and prevents the villain Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from making a sacrifice of a young woman. Thus begins our introduction to Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s renowned fictional detective.

Jude Law and Kelly Reilly as Dr John Watson and Mary Morstan in Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Jude Law and Kelly Reilly as Dr Watson and Mary Morstan
Soon, Lord Blackwood is hanged for his dastardly deeds and is pronounced dead. Dr Watson is about to be engaged to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Even as Holmes tries his best to thwart the impending engagement, Blackwood returns from the dead to menace England once again. Also thrown in the mix is Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who has been employed by Professor Moriarty to manipulate Holmes into retrieving a device (the MacGuffin of this movie).

In a considerable departure from the canon, Holmes has a very personal and non-platonic relationship with Irene Adler.

Robert Downey Jr and Irene Adler as Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler share an intimate moment in Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Yes, definitely not the Canonical Holmes....

As Sherlockians know, Holmes is quite distrusting of the opposite sex and his only interaction with Irene Adler is in A Scandal in Bohemia. I will not go into too many details, but suffice to say that this interaction was quite brief and decidedly impersonal.

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Moving on to the supporting cast, Jude Law gives a fine performance as Watson. He is every bit the canonical Watson, a strong-minded and decent individual, who also happens to the ally of Sherlock Holmes. Law presents a competent version of Watson along the likes of David BurkeEdward Hardwicke and Vitaly Solomin.

Eddie Marsan makes a remarkable Lestrade. Mark Strong does his best with the given material. Interestingly, Strong has the requisite physical attributes to be Sherlock Holmes.

Mark Strong and Robert Downey Jr as Lord Blackwood and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Mark Strong and Robert Downey Jr as Lord Blackwood and Sherlock Holmes

The movie is mainly focused on the bromance between the residents of 221 B and the ladies unfortunately have nothing much to do. Kelly Reilly and Rachel McAdams do perform the requisite duties of providing the necessary eye candy. Geraldine James makes a fleeing appearance in a couple of scenes as Mrs Hudson.

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Image Sources: Warner Bros. Pictures, ColliderFilmHotflick

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TV Review: Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes – "The Master Blackmailer" (1980)

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in The Master Blackmailer
Holmes and Watson do a Green Hornet and Kato impression

This episode is based on The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

Holmes and Watson are returning to London after solving a case. The case in question is suggested as Silver Blaze.  Silver Blaze is my all-time personal favorite short story in the Canon and a reference to this story marks one of the many high points of this episode.

Holmes has received a communication from Mycroft Holmes with reference to a case. What follows is the inevitable visit to the Diogenes Club and the first appearance of Mycroft in this series. Fans will no doubt instantly recognize these scenes as belonging to the short story The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. The script writers have deftly handled the transition between the two stories.

Boris Klyuev as Mycroft Holmes
Mycroft Holmes makes his first appearance

At Mycroft’s request, Sherlock takes up the case of Lady Eva Brackwell, who is being blackmailed by Charles Augustus Milverton. Milverton has got hold of some of the letters written by Lady Eva long time ago and is threatening to spoil her upcoming engagement, by sending them to her fiancĂ©. Sherlock arranges a meeting with Milverton at 221 B Baker Street.

The villainous Milverton is immune to Holmes’s reasoning and is hell-bent on extracting money from his prey. Holmes and Watson decide to break into Milverton’s house in order to retrieve the letters and save the lady’s honor. This entails Holmes adopting a disguise to know the layout of Milverton’s house to facilitate the break-in.

While the rest of the episode follows the canonical story closely, the reference to Professor Moriarty at the end is another masterstroke on the part of the director. In the canon, Moriarty makes his appearance only in The Valley of Fear and The Final Problem.

Boris Ryzhukhin as Charles Augustus Milverton
Boris Ryzhukhin as Charles Augustus Milverton

Vasily Livanov is one of my favorite actors to play Holmes and Vitaly Solomin is the definitive Watson. Both of them continue their stellar work in this episode as well.

The supporting cast of this episode as top-notch as usual. Boris Klyuev is a classy Mycroft. Though a tad on the leaner side, he makes a convincing Mycroft, the superior version of Sherlock in powers of observation and deduction. Boris Ryzhukhin makes his Augustus Milverton a truly despicable character, who will stop at nothing to attain his ends.

Professor Moriarty makes his actual appearance in the next episode “The Mortal Fight”. He does communicate with Holmes by the end of this episode, indicating his displeasure at Holmes’s meddling in his affairs.

Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes
Professor Moriarty expresses his intentions to Holmes

The Russian series is not the only one to make the decision to refer to Moriarty in an earlier episode before The Final Problem. The Granada series too had Moriarty orchestrating the scam behind The Red-Headed League, before the episode of The Final Problem. 

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Image Source: Lenfilm Films Studio 

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

TV Review: The Granada Adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett in The Granada Adaptation of Sherlock Holmes
Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

The Granada adaptation is popular all over the world for its authentic portrayal of the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

Jeremy Brett is a good physical match for the role. Brett’s Holmes does chase the dragon and due credit has to be given to the series makers for making the decision to show Holmes as he is without any sugar-coating. Brett also maintained a 77-page file on Sherlock Holmes, detailing the mannerisms and habits of the detective. Brett’s dedication to the role is legendary and is the subject of an excellent book by David Stuart Davies.

The Granada adaptation scores a home run with Dr Watson as well. Both David Burke and Edward Hardwicke play Watson as the kind of competent doctor and ally, Sir Doyle had described in the canon. This is another proof of the series maker’s dedication and respect to the canon. Burke remains my favorite for the simple reason that he is more of the age of the canonical Dr Watson. Hardwicke is also good as Watson, but I always imagined Dr Watson as being considerably younger, especially after being spoilt by Burke and Vitaly Solomin (Russian adaptation).

Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in the Granada Adaptation
Brett and Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

Brett shares excellent on-screen chemistry with both Burke and Hardwicke.

One of my favorite characters is Mycroft Holmes, the elder brother of Sherlock. To quote Sherlock, “He is the British Government”. Mycroft is the superior to Sherlock not only in age, but in the powers of observation and deduction. Charles Gray is pitch perfect as Mycroft not only in terms of physical appearance but in his body language as well. 

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Mycroft is one of the founding members of Diogenes Club, home to some of the most unsociable and misanthropic men and even speaking is banned in certain areas inside the club. The scene in the The Greek Interpreter episode where Burke’s Watson silently walks through the Diogenes Club, observing the unsociable inhabitants is an instant classic.

Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson at 221 B Baker Street in the Granada Adaptation
The famous lodgings at 221 B Baker Street

In addition to the Diogenes Club, the props and sets in the other episodes also are painstakingly done recreations of their Victorian-era counterparts. As an icing on the cake, few of the episodes even have the original Sidney Paget drawings shown during the end credits.

The music by Patrick Gowers is an asset to the series and complements the mood nicely.

As an avid fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories, I have seen various adaptations of the world's premier fictional detective. The Granada adaptation is one of the best adaptations with its loyalty to the canonical stories, the sets and costumes.

Unfortunately, Brett suffered from bipolar disorder and this greatly affected his performance in the later seasons. Some of the scripts (especially the feature-length episodes) lacked in quality.

Still the first two seasons are a recommended watch for fans of the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

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Image Source: Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies

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