The game is finally on as Americans are just now getting their first taste of a third season of Sherlock this week, after the show recently wrapped up its three-episode series across the pond. But according to the program's showrunner, the eccentric detective might soon start sleuthing on the silver screen.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, show co-creator Steven Moffat said of the possibility of a Sherlock movie, "We don't rule anything out." While this is hardly any sort of confirmation, it does lend to the question of what a true Sherlock film should look like. Since each episode of the series already resembles a feature length film with Sherlock bending his powers of deduction around a central mystery for an hour and a half, an actual big screen romp would need to strongly differentiate itself from Sherlock's semi-annual outings on TV. So in what ways would Sherlock need to up the ante for a feature film?
The film should introduce Sherlock to new fansThe premiere of the third season of Sherlock saw the show's plot picking up after a daring cliff hanger, and Sherlock's long-awaited return to television is chock-full of meta references and shout-outs for dyed in the wool fans. The show's increasingly complicated continuity might have new fans scratching their heads, so if a Sherlock film does come to pass, the series would need to take a step back and re-introduce the characters to a new audience of potential fans.
The mystery should be his grandest yetSherlock has never been a slouch in the production department, with Moffat and Gatiss filming the series' version of London with a great cinematic flair, while fun visual overlays really get the audience into the mind of a 21st century Holmes. But a film version should see Moffat and company stretching every extra quid out of the budget to create Sherlock Holmes' most expansive and epic mystery yet. Something that eclipses the scope of his previous outings, and really gives the detective a sweeping big screen mystery to solve.
And it should be his cleverest too...One criticism sometimes levied against Sherlock is that series often values style over substance, and as of late, the show has sometimes skimped on the actual crime solving and development of really compelling mysteries in favor of having fun character interactions. In a film version, the central mystery should be a real brain buster. One that has even the most crafty of viewers doing cognitive laps around the details until Sherlock finally comes up with the final answer, and makes everyone watching feel just a little bit slower.
But they shouldn't turn Sherlock into an action heroWhen properties get turned into films, it's all too easy to trump up the action, and turn the main character into something they're not. Sherlock's main weapon has always been his powers of deduction, and while other interpretations of the character (including the Robert Downey Jr./Guy Ritche version) feature a version of Sherlock that's proficient at hand to hand combat, this Sherlock usually uses his intellect to do the fighting for him. We certainly don't need to see Sherlock unloading a machine gun into the bad guys while noticing a mustard stain on one of their shirts.
Sherlock needs to hit a new lowSherlock Holmes is a master of control, and even at his lowest, the great detective never seems anything beyond mildly perturbed by the mystery in front of him. Even his most challenging or personal mysteries don't seem to rattle Sherlock for all that long. If a Sherlock film does see the light of day, it should see the detective actually struggling with a mystery that’s nearly beyond him. It should be the case that almost breaks him, one that buries him and has him gasping for air. We want to see Sherlock at his absolute lowest and at his most vulnerable, which would make his rise at the film’s climax all the better.
Finally, the film should change the canonA potential game changer like a Sherlock film should cause have significant changes that can't be done away with a start of the season reset button. The film should be treated like a valuable addition to the ongoing Sherlock saga and greatly affect the series going forward. Otherwise, we'd rather just continue watching the series on the telly.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
It’s been a long-standing tradition in film to present viewers with a sort of vicarious vacation. Movies like The Tourist allow their settings to be just as much of a main character as their beautiful leads are. Like the movie that hits Blu-ray today, all it takes is a few unrealistically gorgeous faces (Angelina Jolie, check; Johnny Depp, check) and a picturesque and breathtaking setting (Paris, check; Venice, check) to get viewers to feel like they just took a little two hour fantasy European excursion from the convenience of their couch or comfy theater seat. The Tourist is part of a long line of travel-inspiring films that span everything from the classics to teen movies, but they all accomplish the same thing. They all give the people what they want: beautiful people in even more beautiful places.
When you combine a few of these European adventures, you get a sort of virtual European tour through film and since The Tourist places us firmly in Venice, what would be a better place to start than the boot-shaped nation of Italy?
Obviously, Europe has a great many beautiful locations to offer, but Italy has quite a few vacation destinations. It would be worth spending a little extra time here and the numerous films that take place here are just further proof of that fact.
Pretty People: Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck
You really can’t have a list of European excursion films without including the granddaddy of them all. This classic pits Hepburn’s sheltered princess against Peck’s hard-hitting, cantankerous reporter and they fall in love as they tour the classic city together. The film plays on the city’s rich history and beauty and gives us one of the most classic scenes in film, the Mouth of Truth test.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Pretty People: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
Locale: Venice, Naples, Tuscany, Rome, Sanremo
Admittedly, this part of your tour is a little more stressful than the romantic adventure you get in Roman Holiday, but the film takes you all over the beautiful country and there are few things sexier than beautiful people in beautiful clothes navigating an extensive and mysterious plot in beautiful locations. One of the most breathtaking of the film’s locations is the island of Ischia (in the bay of Naples) which is full of beautiful Cliffside views, gorgeous beaches, and ancient ruins. Not a bad place to spend a few intriguing hours, eh?
Pretty People: Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei
Locale: Venice, Tuscany, Rome, Positano
Well, this film does start in dreary Pittsburgh, but it quickly takes us on a whirlwind tour of Italy all in the name of fate and true love. The plot is fairly pedestrian, but plays on some of our favorite classic films, especially Roman Holiday, and nothing can beat Robert Downey Jr. pursuing the woman of his dreams in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. The film’s climax takes place in Positano, a gorgeous city propped on a seaside cliff and if it doesn’t make you want to book an Italian vacation on your laptop as the romantic conclusion plays out there’s something wrong with you.
There aren’t as many films that take advantage of the beauty Spain has to offer, but there is one that truly merits a stop on this tour.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Pretty People: Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall
Locale: Barcelona (duh)
There’s little to complain about with this film, unless you hate gorgeous locales and super sexy people getting super sexed up. You don’t hate that do you? Barcelona feeds the sexual freedom seen in Cristina, Juan Antonio and Maria Elena and makes the cautious Vicky question her reserved ways. Barcelona is as integral to this film as Javier Bardem’s sheer magnetism is to well, life. (How hot is he?)
It’s long been touted as the location for the getaway of all getaways, the most luxurious sunny vacation you can imagine. It represents the height of luxury and class, so it’s no wonder it’s a stop on our little flight plan.
To Catch a Thief
Pretty People: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly
Locale: French Riviera, Cote d’Azur, Cannes, French Alps, Monaco (Technically not France, but we’ll allow it)
Not only do we have two of the most classically beautiful people unraveling the mystery behind a series of jewel heists (which as you know are the sexiest of all heists), but they’re doing so in one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. As they fall in love and Grant’s persistent John Robie straddles rooftops to catch the real jewel thief, you can’t help but allow the beauty of the setting to add to the sweeping adventure of it all.
Pretty People: Johnny Depp, Carrie-Anne Moss, Juliette Binoche
Locale: Rural France
This romantic little film combines our two favorite ingredients, beautiful people and beautiful places, with one other fantastic ingredient: CHOCOLATE. Um, hi. This sounds like paradise. Besides, it also includes a scene where our heroine gets to make out with Johnny Depp…in a boat…on a river…in France. I want to go to there.
Pretty People: Audrey Tatou, Mathieu Kassovitz
Locale: Every inch of Paris
Of course, this film is the fantastic tale of Amelie, the shy and sheltered little Parisian lady who finds love, but pursues it in her own eccentric way with encouragement from her friend, a wise old painter with brittle bones. (And the object of her desires, Nino, is just about as cute as button.) However, another character necessary to the plot is the living, breathing city of Paris, which lends beauty and shape to the film.
We don’t always think of England as being beautiful, it’s often thought of as nothing more than a gray and dreary landscape, but the beauty of the city of London is undeniable. The centuries of architecture are breathtaking and there are a few films that take advantage of that.
Pretty People: Colin Firth, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Rodrigo Santoro among others
The film follows eight couples (some of which are comprised of very, very pretty people) as they go through different bouts of love, but the beautiful backdrop for all this mushy stuff is the magnificence of the city of London. It may not be as instantly romantic as the streets of Paris or Rome, but it is beautiful and with the help of a little romance, the film really showcases that.
Germany (and Prague)
Neither of these places are touted for their beauty in most main stream culture, but a few films have managed to find ways to bring out the best in these locations.
Pretty People: Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode
Locale: Berlin, Prague, Venice, London
Yes, I know this was one of those run of the mill teen romantic comedies. Yes I know Mandy Moore isn’t that great it in, but she’s so pretty! And so is Matthew Goode for that matter and thanks to this movie we met him long before Match Point. The thing that puts this average movie above its contemporaries for me is the sheer beauty of the shooting locations. They don’t even touch Paris or Rome and they spend a great deal of time showing us the wonder of gorgeous European locales that get far less attention: Prague and Berlin. (No, xXx does NOT count.)
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why more romantic movies don’t take place in Vienna. I mean, just look at this and tell me you don’t want to book a ticket right now.
Pretty People: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
It’s the perfect beautiful people in beautiful places romance: it happens by chance, it’s brief and beautiful, and it feeds off of the classic city where it occurs. They meet on a train, Hawke’s character has no money for a hotel, so they simply spend the entire evening roaming the beautiful city in the best getting-to-know-you set up ever. It really doesn’t get any better than this.
"Diane Arbus" isn't Diane Arbus the 20th century American icon; she's an imaginary composite Arbus. That's part of Fur 's self-important problem. The film is like a magic-house maze of mirrors--pretty but confusing unsatisfying and never-ending. It's also a Cliff Notes' version of Arbus as an artist. Kidman's Arbus who is transitioning into a solo artist's career is torn between split lives: A forbidden artistic affair with a full-body-haired Lionel (Downey) and her doting domestic husband Allan (Ty Burrell). Earlier in her life Arbus' father a furrier influenced his daughter's idea. In fact Fur's whole through-line is about hair of some sorts as Arbus sees herself as part of the imperfect obscured unshaven world she photographs. The real Arbus committed suicide in 1971 and this is her 122-minute tortured journey to understand herself amid the naturalistic damaged beauty of armless smallish characters. Sounds like a fun night out at the movies doesn't it? Kidman won't get any nominations for her Diane Arbus. But when the book is closed on her career playing Arbus will be regarded as one of her more fascinating performance. After her Oscar-winning turn in The Hours and then the very strange Birth amid broad comedies like Bewitched and Stepford Wives Kidman has shown her moody gazes before. She's sold all of us on understanding an artist's psychotic limits. Her performance as Arbus--nuanced and complex probably in need of more than one viewing (though the movie may prevent that)--is limited by unoriginality. In a Beauty and the Beast-inspired turn Downey Jr. plays the hairy Lionel not as a reclusive but instead conveys emotion through his warm eyes and controlled confident voice. Arbus finds his sensitivity and Casanova-esque flirting irresistible. Director Steven Shainberg best known for his kinky little indie Secretary chooses Fur as his follow up four years later. That’s a good--and bad--thing. His TV commercials background imbues his work with slick production sheen. Shainberg's hand-crafted meticulousness is evident from start to finish--from the 57-day shoot in New York to the subtle Alice in Wonderland visual allusions in Lionel's apartment to the 30-second shots of Kidman's porcelain face contemplating internal conflict. This is a special movie as was Secretary which won the Sundance Film Festival 2002's Grand Jury prize. Shainberg collaborating once again with Secretary screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson blurs the boundary lines of the three acts and mirrors the story’s messiness. Problem is it's confusing unappealing discomforting and sprawling in its artistic conceit. What's left is tedium guarded respect (maybe mild admiration) but certainly not affection. Fur is selfish in its perspective assuming that we care anything at all about the real—or imagined—Diane Arbus.