Sherlock Holmes Reborn Again

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th October 2010.

Sherlock, the extremely enjoyable mini-series which aired over the past two weeks, is a modern adaption of Sherlock Holmes produced by the BBC. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement) as the Great Detective and Martin Freedman (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Office) as Dr John Watson, the three part series brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters to modern London, solving mysteries based on classic Holmes stories.

Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the eccentric genius, who solves brainbusting crime puzzles by deduction, is certainly a memorable one, but with a very long list of actors who have played Holmes, it is very hard to pick a favourite.

Not surprisingly, the character of Sherlock Holmes holds the record for the most portrayed film character with an amazing seventy five actors putting on the deerstalker cap over two hundred and eleven movies.

One of my favourite films in the eighties was Young Sherlock Holmes, produced by Steven Spielberg from a script by Christopher Columbus (Home Alone) and directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man). The film centres of Holmes and Watson meeting as youths at boarding school. Starring Nicholas Rowe (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) as the title character and Alan Cox (Ladies in Lavender) as Watson, the movie is a little scary for kids and features the first CGI character ever, a supernatural knight who forms from shards of a stained glass window.

Jeremy Brett (My Fair Lady) starred as Holmes from 1984 to 1994 in the British TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. With his sharp, angular features, Brett’s portrayal is widely regarded as the best of his era. Brett was fully committed to his role and compiled a seventy seven page book, The Baker Street Files, which contained every possible detail about Holmes. He carried this book around on set to check every nuance before the cameras started rolling.

Basil Rathbone starred as Sherlock in fourteen movies from 1939 to 1946, opposite Nigel Bruce as Watson. These films firmly cemented the costumed Sherlock Holmes character, with his deerstalker cap and Inverness cape, in popular culture.  Rathbone had problems with typecasting after the films ended, but eventually went on to play Holmes in radio plays and on stage.

Last year, the character of Holmes returned to the big screen with Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) in the title role and Jude Law (Cold Mountain) as his faithful friend. Directed by Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla), the film recreates Holmes as an action hero, with fist fights and explosions galore. It was a big box office success and will be followed up by a sequel next year.

I would have to say that my all-time favourite Sherlock Holmes is an animated one. Basil the Great Mouse Detective was a Disney animated film from 1986, and centres around a society of rats and mice living in Victorian London. Featuring the music of Henry Mancini and the voice of Vincent Price, the film is packed with classic hand drawn Disney cartoon goodness, with the title character names in honour of Basil Rathbone.

It seems that some iconic characters never die, they just get recast and readapted.

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Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 07:31  Leave a Comment  
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Boxing Day: The Movie

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st December.

Despite being a Saturday, this Boxing Day sees a number of major film releases. In the past few years, the major chain cinemas have been opening their doors mid-afternoon on the 26th of December and relaxing at the movies has quickly become a new Boxing Day tradition. Let’s have a look at what we can expect to catch at the flicks in a few short weeks.

“Old Dogs” stars Robin Williams and John Travolta as friends and partners in business who unexpectedly have to care for 7 year old twins. This family comedy sounds a little too close to Three Men and a Baby. Two men and two babies anyone? Robin Williams’ track record with comedies has been pretty poor lately (RV, License to Wed, Night at the Museum 2) so I’m not expecting much. And John Travolta starred recently in a similar sounding film, Wild Hogs, also about men coming to grips with middle age. I’d suggest this one to see with your family, if they’re still around on Boxing Day.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker star in “Did You Hear About The Morgans?”  This comedy is about an uppity city couple in the throes of a relationship breakdown when they see a murder and have to relocate to small-town USA as part of the witness protection program. The trailer features Grant playing a foppish Englishman and SJP looking glamorous. That must have been quite the acting challenge for both of them. Although not of particular interest to men, I’m sure we will all get dragged along to this romantic comedy if the ladies get to choose the film.

Jason Lee and a bunch of CGI creatures return to the big screen for “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel”. Surely this must be the most unanticipated sequel of the year. This time around, the boys have to deal with the arrival of a female chipmunk singing group. If you found the high-pitched, squeaky voices of Alvin, Theodore and the other one annoying in the original film, then hearing protection is recommended to deal with the even higher pitched voices of the female fluff balls. Take the kids and a few panadol to this one.

The director of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Kiwi Peter Jackson returns with “The Lovely Bones”. Starring Marky Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and that creepy girl from Atonement, Saoirse Ronan, this film is based on the novel by Alice Sebold. Ronan plays a 14 year old girl who is murdered and from heaven, watches over her killer and family. Expect this tale of revenge to pack an emotional punch. This would be one of my top two choices for Boxing Day. Peter Jackson is a powerful director and I can’t wait to see him turn his powers to the real world after a long stay in Middle Earth. This film is highly recommended for those who need a break from the feel-good throes of Christmas.

After a run of disappointments such as Revolver (a straight to dvd failure), RocknRolla (too similar to his previous gangster flicks) and the failure of his marriage to Madonna, Guy Ritchie hopefully will triumph with “Sherlock Holmes”. Starring Rodney Downey Jnr in the titular role and Jude Law as Dr Watson, the trailer features explosions, witty lines, bawdy humour and explosions. This is my other top choice for Boxing Day. Expect this one to be the top grossing film going into the New Year.