The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: TCM’s Summer of Darkness

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

TCM_LogoHard boiled and noir are often discussed together. And while a film or story could fit in both categories, they are two distinct genres. Hard boiled is typified by the stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and others from Black Mask and Dime Detective magazines.

Noir is usually (but not always) thought of in terms of film: black and white, shadowy movies with dark characters. Much hard boiled is noir, and vice versa. Far more expert folks have discussed the definitions of the two terms for decades.

One example, to me, are the works of Cornell Woolrich, whose “It Had to Be Murder” became the masterful suspense flick, Rear Window. Woolrich’s stories are noir, but not hard boiled.

Many of Humphrey Bogart’s films were hard boiled, including The Maltese Falcon (also noir), The Roaring Twenties and Bullets or Ballots. One of his later films, In a Lonely Place (based on the novel by Dorothy Hughes) is a noir classic but isn’t hard boiled.

So, just know that many films (usually crime related) from the thirties through the fifties and into the sixties, were hard boiled, noir, or both.

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Belated Movie Reviews #5: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Monday, May 18th, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome poster-smallContinuing the story from my last post (Belated Movie Reviews #4: The Road Warrior), we come to the final movie of the original trilogy: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (MMBT).

Since this was a big Hollywood movie, the sound is good and the visuals are good — both pretty much run rings around the first two. This film, as opposed to The Road Warrior, is a bit more expansive, which is only logical, given that they can’t just repeat the conflict from the other two movies. Meaning they couldn’t simply have a mad-dog gang leader, or a siege, without looking lame (I’m looking at you, Highlander 3).

So they delved deep into shades of grey. Very, very grey. Setting up a conflict that isn’t so much two-sides-of-the-same-coin as as two jackasses out to get each other.

To the makers’ credit, MMBT really contains no “bad guys” at all. Just antagonists, opponents and opportunists. Aunty Entity says it up front — this is all really more of a family affair. Max is just a dude caught in a clash of two mighty wills, and as usual, he just wants his car back.

The movie lacks some connective tissue. Why is the gyrocaptain from Road Warrior here? Isn’t he the leader of the Great North Tribe? And while it makes sense that Max and the gyrocaptian don’t recognize each other at first (Max is all swathed against the wind and sun), it is pretty clear that the gyrocaptian does recognize him later — although he doesn’t particularly do anything. In fact, while he could barely keep his trap shut in RW, the gyrocaptain doesn’t say much of anything at all in this one.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Wrapping up Jeremy Brett’s Adventures

Monday, May 18th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Brett3_RucastleClick here for parts one and two of this look at Jeremy Brett’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

The second installment of Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes kicked off on August 25, 1985 with The Copper Beeches. Tapped for the role of one of the Canon’s most dastardly villains, Jephro Rucastle, was veteran actor Joss Ackland. Back in 1965 he had starred opposite Douglas Wilmer’s Holmes in The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, playing her former suitor, Philip Green.

Other tangential Holmes-related efforts had included John Cleese’s disastrous parody, The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It and an episode of the BBC series, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, based on the anthologies edited by Hugh Greene.

And in 1989 he would play the King of Sweden in Christopher Lee’s Sherlock Holmes & The Incident at Victoria Falls. Ackland’s Rucastle is one of the most memorable evildoers in the entire Granada series; menacing in a creepy but understated way.

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Nine Positive Traits of the Jem Trailer

Friday, May 15th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Modern adaptation that manages to keep the poofy hair = adaptation done right.

Modern adaptation that manages to keep the poofy hair = adaptation done right.

Jem and the Holograms, that quintessential 80s animated rock band, is back!

First, it returned in a monthly IDW comic book, written by Kelly Thompson and illustrated by Sophie Campbell, which is totally awesome. Then, this week, a trailer was released for the forthcoming live action movie. To say it wasn’t well received by fans is a bit like saying that the sun exploding would be bad for the Earth.

BUT, as self-help gurus would say: Try and capture the positive in your day-to-day. And slay goats. (I’m pretty sure they say that.) And so, in my continuous pursuit to see the positive in things that are easy to hate, I looked at the trailer three times (!) to pull out some positive traits.

1 – Ambition Is Tough (And Unattractive!)

Ambition is a crap shoot. You might succeed, you might not. It’s good that the trailer clearly showcases that Jerrica had absolutely no ambition and had to be convinced to pursue stardom. The lesson here is simple: Don’t pursue stuff. Be pursued! It’s a real life fairy tale! Plus, as often showcased, ambition is unattractive in girls. Who the hell wants to be unattractive???

Be pursued. Be attractive. Live the life.

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Enjoy the New Supergirl Trailer

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The new Supergirl trailer has just been released, and it’s already drawing some pretty harsh criticism. Meredith Woerner at io9 called it “depressingly paint-by-numbers,” and compared it (rather unfavorably) to the Saturday Night Live parody skit featuring Black Widow.

But I watched it this morning, and frankly loved it. It looks like the kind of show that I could watch with my fifteen year-old daughter (who digs Arrow and Buffy in a major way), and we could both enjoy. The show is already getting some defenders — author Chuck Wendig posted “Hey, I Liked That Supergirl Trailer” this morning, saying:

Listen, I like dark stuff. I write dark stuff. But sometimes, I just want fun… I loved Guardians of the Galaxy because it was weird, wonky shenanigans from start to finish. Supergirl looks like its bringing its own kind of goofy glee to the mix…

Did you see the photo above? She’s smiling! What mad hell is this?!

Watch the complete six-and-a-half-minute trailer above. Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Supergirl, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, and Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. It debuts on CBS in November 2015.

Nazi Film Review: Hitlerjunge Quex

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


When the Nazi Party took over in 1933, Germany was already a leading nation for film production. From the late 1910s through the early 1930s, its silent films and early talkies were seen all across Europe and were popular in the United States as well. But the year saw a major change in the nation’s film industry as well as its political makeup. Like with every other industry, movie making had to subordinate itself to the goals of National Socialism.

The Nazi party’s first targets were Communists and Socialists, who had fought against them for control of the streets. Many lives were lost on both sides during this era of riots, and one of the more famous of those was a member of the Hitler Youth named Heini Völker, who was killed while distributing Nazi flyers in a Communist neighborhood. There had already been a popular book about the boy published in 1932 titled Hitlerjunge Quex. (“Quex” means “quicksilver”, a nickname Heini got for being such an eager worker). This was turned into a film in the first year Hitler was in power.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Jeremy Brett’s Adventures Begin

Monday, May 11th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Brettstrand1Last week I posted part one of our look at Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett.

The Adventures were divided into two parts; seven episodes in the first; six in the latter. A Scandal in Bohemia aired on April 24, 1984. Can it be thirty-one years since Jeremy Brett first graced television sets as the great detective? Scandal was actually the third story to be filmed.

Producer Michael Cox wanted Brett and his Watson, David Burke, to become comfortable with their roles before filming one of the most famous tales in the Canon, so he didn’t start taping with this one.

Watson enters their Baker Street lodgings, having been gone on a trip. He sees the empty syringe case and fears his flat mate has turned to cocaine. Shortly after our first vision of Holmes, Brett gives the “My mind rebels at stagnation” speech. It is completely understated but still paints a portrait of Holmes’ need for work (compare it to the over-the-top reading of Matthew Frewer).

The script is remarkably faithful to the story and is filled with original dialogue from Doyle. The influence of Sidney Paget is blatantly obvious. The King of Bohemia’s unmasking is a replica of the original drawing, and Brett’s ‘drunken groom’ disguise is nearly identical to Paget’s drawing. We even get the famous “Good Night Mr. Holmes” scene.

David Burke is as far from Nigel Bruce as one can imagine. He is thoughtful, intelligent, amusing without being a buffoon and utterly dependable. There is a valid film reason for Bruce’s un-Canonical portrayal as comic relief, but Burke reinvents Watson as his original self: the way Doyle wrote him.

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Belated Movie Reviews #4: The Road Warrior

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

The Road WarriorAmong the genre of world-gone-mad movies, The Road Warrior (TRW) is pretty much the standard by which all others are measured — for good reason! Easily the best of the Mad Max trilogy, it doesn’t suffer from the technical issues and slow plot of Mad Max, nor the excesses of Beyond Thunderdome. TRW is a movie lathed down to a simple gleaming core: good guys inside the refinery, bad guys outside. And, for a bit of a spark, Max is also on the outside and like the bad guys, he wants in to get that fuel.

Whereas MdMx drops the viewer straight into a world going to hell, TRW includes a bit of a voiceover that gives all the introduction that you need — and really, it is mostly the background of the world. An interesting thing about TRW is that you don’t even have to see Mad Max for it to make sense, and even though that intro touches on Max’s history it almost doesn’t have to. Max Rockatansky is defined almost entirely by his actions.

Did I say action? I meant ACTION! Max vs. Wez! Max rescuing the scout! Max retrieving the rig! Max making his getaway in the last V8! The Big Chase!

A thing they do in this movie, and do well, is that although Maxis the MC, the movie is really about Papagallo vs. The Humungus, and Max is just drawn in and plays his cards close to the vest, and [spoiler alert] he never actually picks sides. He just says he’ll drive the tanker, not that their plan or goal way of life is any better than anyone those of the people outside.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Adventures With Jeremy Brett

Monday, May 4th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Brett46For several decades, Basil Rathbone, star of fourteen Holmes films in the thirties and forties, was generally the most recognizable and popular screen Holmes. And of course today, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr are internationally recognized for their turns as the master detective.

But in between Rathbone and Cumberbatch, one actor (with apologies to Peter Cushing) stood above all other portrayers of Sherlock Holmes. And that was Jeremy Brett.

This is number one of a three part series looking at the first part (The Adventures) of the Granada television series, which ran in full from 1984 to 1994. To many fans, Brett is simply THE Holmes. So…

In 1980, Michael Cox was a producer at Granada, one of the Independent Television (ITV) contractors in England. At the same time in America, Charlton Heston was starring as Sherlock Holmes in the stage play, The Crucifer of Blood. His Watson was a handsome Englishman named Jeremy Brett.

The following year, Cox proposed an authentic Sherlock Holmes series; one that was as true to the original tales as could commercially be done in the television format. His idea was received positively, but Cox was told that an essential element of the deal would be a pre-sale agreement with American television. This would secure “up-front” money, which would be invested into the series. WGBH in Boston, host of the popular PBS series, Mystery!, was an ideal candidate for the partnership.

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Watch Stan Lee Give Tips on How to Give a Great Cameo Performance, in the Stan Lee Cameo School

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I was watching movies on YouTube last night when an Audi ad popped up featuring Stan Lee. [I'd like to take a minute to point out that sentence would have been completely nonsensical 15 years ago. Ah, what a world we live in.]

It turned it to be well worth watching. Directed by Kevin Smith, “The Stan Lee Cameo School” is a hilarious two-minute short featuring featuring Lou Ferrigno, Tara Reid, Michael Rooker, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. I won’t ruin any more for you — check it out.

Audi has a long tradition of appealing to science fiction fans — check out their Star Trek ads. (And Volkswagen reunited William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for an ad late last year.) All this talk of Audis does make me miss mine, however… tragically, it was destroyed in a head-on collision in 2011.

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