Sherlock: Fair to Middle Episode

DATELINE:  Lying Down on the Job

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The middle episode movie for Sherlock 4 features Toby Jones, our favorite diminutive character actor, in rare form as evil. Moriarty receives a particularly snide stand-in named Culverton Smith in a ditty called “The Lying Detective.”

After the death of Mary, Watson’s wife, Holmes seemed crushed with guilt over failing to save her—and Watson seemed overwhelmed with mourning. Doyle skipped dealing with such issues for good reason.

Into this vulnerable mode, Sherlock has come face to face with a billionaire businessman/humanitarian who happens to be a serial killer.  It’s a year when billionaires do not fare well in film and television.

Having fallen back into his worst scenario of addiction, Holmes finds little sympathy from the man who writes the blog on their cases.

If there is a departure from the original stories, among so many departures, it is the importance of the women in the lives of Holmes and Watson. Irene Adler and Mary Marston Watson have become revisionist feminists. And Mrs. Hudson is the widow of a drug dealer.

If creative force Mark Gatsiss has his way, there may be other powerful women lurking between the lines of the original stories. Oh, no, not a Holmes sister??

Matching wits with a billionaire with unlimited resources may be a risky business for Holmes, but he has his reasons to leave himself so likely to be a murder victim.

Prodigious displays of his logical insights continue to be thrown away by Holmes, even in his most despondent, hallucinatory situations, induced by drug abuse.

Of course, the mainstay of the Gatsiss version of Holmes is that it always returns to canon, no worse for wear. We understand the need to avoid looking like Holmes picks his deerstalker wardrobe off the rack, but there’s no reason to put the stories on the rack.

 

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Sherlock Holmes in America

 DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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Jonny Lee Miller with Aidan Quinn in Elementary

We resisted for as long as possible, but respected opinions convinced us to give Elementary a tryout as another incarnation of the Conan Doyle fictional detective.

The American television show runs simultaneous with the British Sherlock features Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes in contemporary New York. The two Holmes/Watson series contrast more than they compare. Yet, apples and oranges inevitably remain fruit.

Miller is not Benedict Cumberbatch. The Americanized Holmes is seen in the pilot show with a dominatrix (wasn’t that in season two of Sherlock?). He has tattoos, is introduced shirtless and wears trendy stubble.

Perhaps the most irksome twist is to make Watson a discredited doctor and a woman. Yes, Joanne Woodward played Watson forty years ago to George C. Scott’s New York Holmes (sort of, he was a deluded mental case and she his psychologist in They May Be Giants).

The more things change, the more we find that characters in Elementary all call Holmes “insane” after meeting him. Yes, he is a high-functioning sociopath, like the PBS version, yet the charming Cumberbatch is not quite the psychopath that Miller plays.

Clever ingredients and startling powers of observation remain hallmarks of the original reborn. Still, we feel like we are watching House (the other Holmes spinoff) transplanted in déjà vu..

Lucy Liu is Watson in exasperation mode, and Aidan Quinn shows up as Inspector Tommy Gregson, another Scotland Yard cop that the British version has eschewed in favor of Lestrade (Rupert Graves).

The American series is more than watchable—after all Michael Cuesta directed the pilot. It is also more linear than the British version and watered down enough for wide-scale American viewership. Too bad we can’t mix and match the best elementals from each series.

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Downey & Cumberbatch

Both new versions of Holmes are preferable to the Robert Downey/Jude Law crap that hits the big screen with a thud. It’s elementary, Sherlock.

Holmes Returns to Baker Street in the 21st Century

DATELINE: SHERLOCK RETURNS

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Best Tandem Since Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke?

Not since Alfred Hitchcock decided to make seven-minute long trailers for Psycho and The Birds has there been a teasing preview like the BBC gives us. Its release on Christmas Eve is a sign that a bright star or two is overhead.

The new Sherlock Holmes (the modern one from England, not the bastardized Americanized one with the female Chinese Watson) will return shortly.

To whet the appetite of the devoted and obsessed, the producers that have not scrimped on clever and brilliantly deduced cases now bring superstars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman back as Holmes and Watson. When they started playing the roles three years ago, they were unknowns. Now they have starred in the biggest movies of the year (Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit).

When last we saw Holmes, he was dead in a massive fall off a tall building. Watson was bereft. Thank heavens they aren’t consenting adults or Watson would be using the needle out of grief.

Lestrade (Rupert Graves) refuses to hear the outlandish speculation that Holmes has survived death and been in the Orient solving crimes, over in Egypt helping the Cairo authorities, and in Brussels sprouting his line of crime solution.

Yet, he brings a few bric-a-brac to his imbibing doctor friend in his newly refurbished digs. Among the artifacts of Holmes that Lestrade has saved is a DVD addressed to Watson. It cleverly teases the good doctor—and the audience.

We know from Arthur Conan Doyle that Holmes survived his mighty fall, but what magic trick he used this time is still an open question.

Many Happy Returns is a short film that will bring joy to the devotees and leave lesser lights in the dark.

 

 If you enjoy Ossurworld’s comments, you can read his full book of movie critiques in MOVIE MASHUP or in ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED. Both are available at Amazon.com.