Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

1985-young-sherlock-holmes-poster2Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
AKA Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear

Starring Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Earl Rhodes, Brian Oulton, Patrick Newell

Directed by Barry Levinson

Expectations: High, this is a childhood favorite.


Young Sherlock Holmes tells a “What if?” story about what might have been if Holmes and Watson had met during their school days. The filmmakers make it a point to inform the viewer (twice!) that this tale is non-canonical and purely a fantasy dreamt up by the creative team; Holmes purists ’round the world must have protested the shooting of the film or something. I think I might know how they felt, though, I was that Holmes purist scoffing at the most recent films with Robert Downey Jr, and to this day I haven’t seen them (and I still refuse to). But where those films seem to take extreme license with the characters (judging from the trailers), Young Sherlock Holmes is quite respectful to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary work, even though the script is specifically crafted around hallucinations that allow the filmmakers to create blow-out special FX sequences.

But those hallucinations are awesome! Not only are they a highlight of the film, they’re stunning examples of FX done right to punctuate scenes instead of overwhelm them. The film’s opening scene sets the stage marvelously, and has always been one of my favorite film openings. An English gentleman rushes into a restaurant, but not before a shadowy, robed figure shoots him with a blow dart. The man sits down to dine on a roasted pheasant, but when he cuts into it, a head sprouts out of its body and starts pecking at him relentlessly. The other diners see nothing, but when we return to the man’s point of view, the terror strikes hard and fast. He leaves the restaurant, only to have the nightmares follow him home! And that’s just the opening scene!

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You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

Starring Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Pauline Collins, Anna Friel, Ewen Bremner, Neil Jackson, Celia Imrie

Directed by Woody Allen

Expectations: Moderate, heard nothing but bad things, but I love Woody’s films.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is not one of the high points of Woody Allen’s filmography of the last few years. It got lots of bad reviews and I have yet to talk to a single person who liked it. After watching it, I kinda get why everyone is against it, but it reminded me a lot of the Louis CK “Miracle of Flight” joke. People complain about the minutia of their horrible flying experiences, but never remember that they are basking in the glory of the miracle that is human flight! You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is like this, where you can complain about parts of it, but at the end of the day, it’s still as gorgeously shot and well-crafted as any other Woody Allen picture and I for one am always happy to bask in his cinematic glory.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger follows a large set of varied people unhappy with their current situations. Anthony Hopkins has a late life crisis and leaves his wife of forty years, Gemma Jones. Their daughter Naomi Watts is married to struggling writer Josh Brolin, but he’s infatuated with the woman across the way and Watts is falling for her employer. The film hinges around these strained relationships and the varied ways they go, but the heart of the film is Gemma Jones’s character and her newfound faith in fortune-telling.

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Mini-Review: The Color of Magic (2008)

The Color of Magic (2008)

Starring David Jason, Sean Astin, Tim Curry, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Irons, David Bradley, Laura Haddock, James Cosmo, Nicolas Tennant, Karen David, Liz May Brice, Nigel Planer, Richard Da Costa, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Miles Richardson, James Perry, Stephen Marcus

Directed by Vadim Jean

Expectations: Low. Loved the books, but it’s gonna be one hard adaptation.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are known for their wonderful sense of humor and ridiculously madcap storytelling. This is a hard thing to bring to the screen but the BBC seems to have done it mostly right. Taking the first two Discworld books as its basis, The Color of Magic is a delightful romp through fantastic settings and situations.

Fans of the books will enjoy seeing Rincewind and Twoflowers come to life, but will be disappointed that certain key scenes have been written out for time and/or budgetary constraints. Overall, it is very well-written though so these omissions don’t hinder the story at all, and a first time traveler to the Disc will never be the wiser. The casting is excellent all around and the filmmakers did a wonderful job of taking what could easily be called an unfilmable book and making it into a very watchable 2-part TV film. Unfortunately, a lot of the humor doesn’t come through (or comes through differently) but the film still succeeds despite this.

Worth watching for fans and non-fans alike, The Color of Magic is a fun addition to the rather small lineup of genuine fantasy films.

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