Friday, April 26, 2013

TV Review: Elementary Episode # 20 - Dead Man's Switch


Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu as Joan Watson and Ato Essandoh as Alfredo Llamosa in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch


For the first time, we have a modern update to one of the original stories - The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

This week's case is courtesy of Holmes' sponsor Alfredo (Ato Essandoh). Alfredo's own sponsor Ken Whitman (Thomas Jay Ryan), is one of Milverton's blackmail victims. Ken's daughter Eva (Portia Reiners) has been drugged and raped by one Brent Garvey (Tom Guiry).

Milverton (David Mogentale) gets his materials by buying old storage units. In the original story, Milverton paid housemaids/valets to obtain sensitive information.

Holmes breaks into Milverton's house to recover the material(s). Holmes unwittingly becomes a witness to Milverton's murder by an unknown assailant.

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Holmes reports the murder to Captain Gregson and convinces him to keep the murder a secret for the sake of other blackmail victims. Holmes wants to find out the identity of Milverton's associate, who might leak the remaining videos to the world.

One of the other victim's father, Anthony Pistone (Joseph Siravo) has been arrested for trying to bury Milverton's body.

I will leave it to the readers to find out more details for themselves.

Canonical References
  1. The character of Charles Augustus Milverton is the antagonist in the story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.
  2. Miller's Holmes refers to Milverton as being "more despicable than even murderers" - Reference to this Iine spoken by Holmes about Milverton in the story, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton: "....I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian, who in hot blood bludgeons his mate, with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags?"
  3. Miller's Holmes breaks into Milverton's house to recover some materials and becomes an unwitting witness to his murder - In the story, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, the same thing happens except that Holmes is accompanied by Watson.
  4. Holmes compliments Eva Whitman on her violin playing skills - Reference to Holmes being a good violin player as mentioned in A Study in Scarlet
  5. Holmes wakes Joan from her sleep to discuss about the case - In the Canon, it has happened in many cases – either due to the sudden visit by a client (The Adventure of the Speckled Band) or after Holmes has had a sudden brainwave (The Man with the Twisted Lip)
  6. Joan mentions beehives in a discussion about pets with Holmes - Watson mentions that Holmes has taken to bee-farming in The Adventure of the Second StainIn His Last Bow, Sherlock Holmes has written a book: “Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.”
  7. Holmes is seen listening to a police transmissions scanner- The Canonical Holmes read the agony columns in the papers for potential cases.
  8. Holmes makes some deductions based on the paper quality - Holmes makes deductions about paper quality in several stories inclucing A Scandal in Bohemia.
  9. Holmes uses handwriting analysis as part of his investigation - The Canonical Holmes used handwriting analysis to solve crimes in A Case of Identity and The Reigate Puzzle
  10. Miller's Holmes states that he has "no interest in in public celebrations, speeches, encouragements or the bestowing of chips" - Watson mentions in The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot: "...I have continually been faced by difficulties caused by his own aversion to publicity. To his sombre and cynical spirit all popular applause was always abhorrent,..."
  11. Holmes recognizes the scent of cat litter at Milverton's house - Holmes mentions in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier: "I have, as my friend Watson may have remarked, an abnormally acute set of senses, and a faint but incisive scent was apparent."
  12. Holmes refers to his tattoo needle as the "only needle these arms see anymore" - Reference to the Canonical Holmes' use of cocaine injection using needles

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch


I felt that more emphasis was laid on Holmes' drug addiction than on the mystery element. Despite having a number of references to the original stories, the episode was not very interesting.

We learn that Miller's Holmes is
  • ambidextrous
  • an accomplished tattoo artist

Miller's Holmes describes himself as being as "stealthy as a shadow". The Canonical Holmes has often shown that he has acute senses of sight, hearing and smell. This would be a logical extension of his skill sets.

Miller's Holmes also shows his knowledge of British history. He uses the metric unit "kgs"  - another reference to his British nature. 

Joan Watson does her own detective work by listening to scanners. She makes a deduction about the shoe size of the killer from the boot prints on a corpse. Holmes also refers to both of them as being consultants for the NYPD and even refers to her "former" career as a sober companion.

Alfredo too does some surveillance work.


Ato Essandoh as Alfredo Llamosa in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch

Gregson and Bell do not have much to do in this episode. We do learn that Captain Gregson has daughters, a fact that Holmes utilizes to his advantage.

Trivia

  • The song "Cello Suite No.1 Prelude" by Johann Sebastian Bach is played by the character of Eva Whitman when Holmes interrupts her.
  • Joan gifts Holmes lines from the poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
  • The song "Two Trains" by Yo La Tengo is played in the aforementioned gifting scene

If this episode is any indication, I think it would be best for the writers to stick to writing original stories. Some of the best episodes so far (Child Predator, M and The Deductionist) are examples to support this theory.

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Aidan Quinn as Captain Gregson in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch

Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Steve Thompson are doing a great job at giving us modern updates of the classic stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Black Rhinoceros


Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis - Endangered African species - Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden


Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Perissodactyla
Suborder : Ceratomorpha
Family : Rhinocerotidae
Genus : Diceros
Species: Diceros bicornis
Protection status : Critically Endangered
Diet : Herbivore 
Habitat : Woodland and scrubland

Black Rhinos are found in Central and Southern Africa. They weigh between 2090 to 2870 lbs. Their height varies from 4.7 to 5.2 ft and live up to 40 years.

Black Rhinos feed on woody plants, herbs and fruits.

The most distinguishing feature of the rhino, the 2 horns are also the leading cause for their current precarious situation. The horns are highly priced by poachers, who acquire them to sell them at exorbitant rates to certain countries/cultures that use them in traditional medicine and/or high status dagger handles.


Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis - Endangered African species - Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden



The simple fact remains that the horns are only made of tightly packed hair-like fibers (called Keratin). There is no scientific proof for the effectiveness of rhino horns to cure illness/disease(s).

Black Rhinos are one of the many critically endangered species on our planet and need active conservation on our part.

To learn more about rhino conservation and how you can contribute to saving these magnificent animals, please visit African Wildlife Foundation and International Rhino Foundation.

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Photos were taken at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Movie Review - Evil Dead (2013)


Evil Dead (2013). Directed by Fede Alvarez.

The opening prologue shows a father setting his possessed daughter on fire and then shooting her in the face at point blank range.

Cut to the present. Mia (Jane Levy) is trying to kick her drug habit and has her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) for support. Mia’s estranged brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) are here too.

The 5 youngsters have chosen a cabin in the woods, away from human civilization. Of course, this is the same place where the previously mentioned burning and shooting took place.

Shiloh Fernandez as David in Evil Dead (2013)
Shiloh Fernandez as David
They discover a lot of weird stuff in the cellar. Eric is very curious about a book, "Naturom Demonto" covered by barbed wires and has been clearly labeled (in human blood) to be left alone. Eric disregards these warnings. We would not have a horror movie, if Eric did otherwise!

Following the same course of events as in the original movie, Mia faces the same ordeal in the woods (aka being violated by the trees in the woods).

Mia wants to leave the cabin and return to the city. Mia has failed in her previous efforts and her friends (especially Olivia, a registered nurse) are determined to see to it that she succeeds this time.

Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric in Evil Dead (2013)
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Soon, the others start changing one by one into deadites. David is still not convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Only Eric suspects that his chanting of the verses in the book might be the reason.

I am a fan of the original Evil Dead trilogy. Sam Raimi made the first movie on a shoestring budget and that movie is a certifiable classic. The sequels had as much slapstick humor as horror. The Sam Raimi-Bruce Campbell worked wonders.

In the latest movie, there is no successful replacement for Bruce Campbell’s Ash.

Jessica Lucas as Olivia in Evil Dead (2013)
Jessica Lucas as Olivia 
The movie lacks the enjoyable humor and fun, that Raimi brought to the earlier movies. The aspects of the movie I enjoyed the most were the references to Raimi’s movies and the nail gun “fight” between a deadite and a character. Gore has become the trend with the horror movie genre these days and Evil Dead is only happy to continue this (unfortunate) case.

To give the movie credit where it’s due, the practical effects are very convincing and executed very well. The music by Roque Baños makes some effective use of sirens. 

The last 15 minutes were genuinely gripping. If only the rest of the movie had been as much fun…

Jane Levy as Mia in Evil Dead (2013)
Jane Levy as Mia
Jane Levy is the best of the bunch with an excellent performance. Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas fare the next best. Elizabeth Blackmore is adequate.

The biggest disappointment is Shiloh Fernandez as David. He seems to be a student of the wooden faced school of acting. Hope he achieves the same level of success as other (equally unappealing but highly successful) contemporaries like Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner.

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Recommended to gorehounds only. Readers looking for a genuine horror movie are recommended to check out the original Evil Dead trilogy or the recent releases Sinister or Cabin in the Woods.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

BBC Sherlock - Season 3 Episode # 2 title revealed!

BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three title revealed

Dear Readers,

As the Season 3 filming progresses, we are getting more information about the episodes. Today, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have revealed the name of the second episode: The Sign of Three.

The title is a play on the name of the second novel, The Sign of Four. John Watson meets Mary Morstan in this story.

Steve Thompson ("The Blind Banker" and "The Reichenbach Fall") is handling the writing duties for this episode.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

TV Review: Elementary Episode # 19 - Snow Angels

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in CBS Elementary Episode # 19 Snow Angels
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes
A security guard, Frank Dempster (Nick Sullivan) is killed in his attempts to stop a robbery.

Joan Watson has a surprise guest, one Miss Hudson (Candis Cayne), a longtime associate of Holmes from London. Miss Hudson’s Greek knowledge has helped Holmes in his case(s). Miss Hudson needs a place to stay after being dumped by her current lover.

Captain Toby Gregson (Aidan Quinn) calls in Holmes to assist him in catching the perpetrators of the aforementioned robbery and murder.

The seemingly straightforward robbery does not appeal to Holmes’ interests until a massive power shutdown happens.

Holmes realizes that stealing phones was just a cover up for a much more significant crime of stealing millions of dollars.

Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) finally does some deductions on his own and captures one of the three robbers.

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The absconding criminals have some tricks up their sleeves. I will leave it to the viewers to check out the episode to know the resolution.

Canonical References

  1. Joan mentions Holmes having more than one case involving “Greek” – Reference to The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
  2. Miller’s Holmes quotes the line “Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent” from A Case of Identity
  3. Miller’s Holmes states that the robbers “made a real hash of it” with respect to their handling of the lock – Holmes makes a similar statement in The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax : “"Well, Watson," said he, "a very pretty hash you have made of it!"”
  4. Holmes notices some scratches on the lock – The scratches around a key hole played a significant role in the solving of The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
  5. Holmes wakes up Joan from her sleep - In the Canon, it has happened in many cases – either due to the sudden visit by a client (The Adventure of the Speckled Band) or after Holmes has had a sudden brainwave (The Man with the Twisted Lip)
  6. Criminals using a seemingly simple idea/crime to hide a crime with much more higher stakes involved – This is very similar to the plot of The Adventure of the Red Headed League
  7. Miss Hudson expresses her liking for Holmes’ monograph about Bees - In the story His Last Bow, Sherlock mentions he is writing a book on Bee Keeping entitled “Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen”.
  8. Holmes asking Watson to read aloud the reports in the police station  – In the Canon, Holmes often asks Watson to read aloud a newspaper article or a correspondence from a client.
  9. Miller’s Holmes is impressed by Detective Bell’s acting abilities and remarks: “The stage’s loss is NY city’s gain” – Holmes makes the following statement in The Adventure of the Mazarin stone: “Old Baron Dowson said the night before he was hanged that in my case what the law had gained the stage had lost”
The most significant part of this episode was our introduction to Elementary's version of Mrs Hudson.


Candis Cayne as Miss Hudson in CBS Elementary Episode # 19 Snow Angels
Candis Cayne as Miss Hudson
Continuing with the gender swap the show initiated with John/Joan Watson, Miss Hudson is a transsexual. And in the same vein as Joan Watson, Miss Hudson is played wonderfully by real life transsexual actress, Candis Cayne.

Miss Hudson has OCD and can’t resist doing some much needed housecleaning. Holmes hires her to be paid on a weekly basis.

Next to Miss Hudson’s introduction, the Holmes-Joan interactions were the highlights. Joan gets frustrated with Holmes making deductions without explanations and mouths off a bunch of patently hard-to-believe deductions.

Another interesting exchange happens as Holmes and Joan hitch a ride with a plow driver, Pam (Becky Ann Baker). Holmes refuses to indulge in small talk and it is left to Joan to keep up the conversation. Holmes and Watson bickering, much to Pam’s amusement was fun. In the end, Holmes retains Pam’s card and I look forward to her appearance in future episodes.


Becky Ann Baker as Pam in CBS Elementary Episode # 19 Snow Angels
Becky Ann Baker as Pam
In a scene, Holmes makes a reference to Joan’s multiple Karate belts. This seemed to be a reference to Lucy Liu’s previous action-oriented performances.

Holmes preferring to work upstairs to avoid the “Lovers’ tiff” was a fun touch.

Holmes remarking about letting the robbers go out of his respect for the ingenuity of their crimes, (but for the murder) was a good piece of writing.

Miller’s HoImes using the British terms “ingress” and “egress” was a nice nod to his British nature.


Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes helps a homeless man in CBS Elementary Episode # 19 Snow Angels
Holmes helps a homeless man

Holmes providing some cash to help the homeless man reminded me of the leniency shown by Canonical Holmes in some cases like The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle and The Adventure of the Abbey Grange.

Holmes’ pet tortoise, Clyde makes a comeback and should makes his fans happy.

The initial few minutes were kind of boring. The second half of the episode was quite interesting and helped make this one of the best episodes.

Trivia
The song “Penny” by Hanni El Khatib is played at the end of the episode, as Holmes spatters paint around as part of Joan's coaching.


Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson in CBS Elementary Episode # 19 Snow Angels
Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Holmes and Watson

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Redbox Movie Codes Giveaway - Winners announced!

Dear Readers,

We had announced a free movie codes giveaway a few weeks back.

Free Redbox codes giveaway winners 2013

Here are the lucky winners (as selected by Random.org):
1. Theresa M
2. Vincent
3. Yona Williams
4. James the Movie Reviewer

Congratulations!

The rest of the participants will each receive one complimentary movie code.

Everyone will receive the movie codes by email.

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Disclosure: I am not getting paid for giving away these codes by Redbox. The codes have been supplied to me by Performics (on behalf of Redbox).

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall

Happy Birthday Jane Goodall 03 April 2013

Jane Goodall was born on this day in 1934. She has been studying chimpanzees for nearly half a century. She is one of Leakey's Angels along with Dian Fossey (Mountain Gorillas) and Birute Galdikas (Orangutans).


Jane Goodall chimpanzees quote PBS Nature


Please visit her website, Jane Goodall Institute to learn more about her work.

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Image Sources: PBS Nature, Wikipedia

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