Today, I’m going to go with a new format for The Morning After. Each film will have its own separate review posting and this article will bear links to each individual movie review. The only review content that won’t merit it’s own page will be television series reviews, which will continue to be highlighted in this article.
So, here is what I watched this weekend:
A group of ragtag sailors stuck on a boat with a disagreeable captain turn to the estimable Mister Roberts who sticks up for the crew when he can while constantly requesting a transfer. While Henry Fonda is the star of the film, Jack Lemmon steals it as the selfish, lazy, noble, cowardly Ensign Pulver. Not your typical World War II film, this frequently funny, sometimes somber film explores the relationship between a leader and his crew and how lack of foresight or appreciation for your subordinates’ work can create a great deal of trouble. Camaraderie, compassion and conscientiousness are defining characteristics.
Sam Rockwell plays the dual role in this sci-fi debut by director Duncan Jones. I saw Source Code first, but I can now understand better his fascination with the genre. Jones goes to great lengths to turn the genre on its ear, never failing to amaze in his visual detail and craftsmanship. Rockwell is superb as a man spending a three-year tour of duty on a small lunar station where a clean energy company on earth harvests Helium-3 and ships it back to earth for its fusion reactors. When he begins to suspect that he may be a clone, a number of events begin to make sense and he struggles to work to free himself from the mental frustrations he’s suffering as a result of three years of isolation and reliance on taped communications from his wife and daughter.
The DC universe is woefully deprived of solid big screen entertainment with the original Superman, the first two Batman films and the Christopher Nolan Batman series as the only examples of quality effort. Unlike Marvel, a company that has taken a great deal of pride in the late ’00’s resurgence of their properties, DC has frequently just sold the rights to make films without demanding artistic control. Green Lantern proves that DC could learn a thing or two from Marvel. Ryan Reynolds is a bit miscast, but nevertheless interesting to watch as Hal Jordan, an ace fighter pilot whose childhood leads him towards arrogance and cowardice. When a mysterious alien crash lands on the planet and his ring’s green energy chooses Jordan as its new owner, Hal must learn to harness the powers of the ring while learning to control his fear and harness his arrogance to save the earth from a fear-based maniacal energy. While much of the design work is exceptional, the plotting, dialogue and structure leave a lot to be desired. There are some great ideas here wasted on an inferior screenplay. While the franchise has potential, much of it was squandered early in the process.
After the initial volley this seven-part series had to offer, I was quite excited to see how things progressed, but after the unnecessary Mrs. Miniver plot rip-off in episode 5, I was a bit worried other prominent Britain-set features might be rife for the thieving. Thankfully, my trepidations were unfounded. The last two episodes showed that the one off plot device was just an anomaly as we become more engrossed in the lives of the residents of Downton Abbey, both up and downstairs. The performances continue to impress, the threaded storylines are intriguing and the designs are nearly flawless. Minor details do add some difficulties, but I challenge any Anglophile or even just a fan of British costume dramas not to be excited and enthralled by what they find in this series. I am most interested in how season 2 develops when England is faced with the challenges of World War I.
The same could easily be said for the second BBC series I picked up this week, a three-part, 90-minute program called Sherlock. Based on the legendary Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories of Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr. John Watson, this series transports the same characters into modern London where, with the assistance of bountiful technologies and his vast intellect, Sherlock solves some truly ingenious and fascinating mysteries. The first episode centers around a mysterious rash of suicides wherein the victims all take the precise same poison. The second episode figures around a dangerous Chinese syndicate searching for a valuable artifact. The third episode is a series of “short” mysteries linked together as an unidentified killer abducts and holds hostage various common folk and threatens to blow them and their environs up (including many other innocent civilians) if Sherlock cannot solve the various small crimes this mastermind puts before him.
If you are at all familiar with the history of Sherlock Holmes, you will be captivated by this series. Many minor details, such as heroin use, are converted into modern quirks (instead of heroin, Holmes uses nicotine patches). Even the long-rumored fascination of Holmes with members of the same sex makes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle inroads into the scripts. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as the socially inept, but sociopathically brilliant Holmes and Martin Freeman is spot-on in his role as Dr. John Watson, a war vet who blogs about his experiences with the frustratingly brilliant private consultant. The rest of the cast is equally brilliant, including and especially the culprits in the first and final episodes. Matter of fact, the not-too-surprising mastermind of episode 3 may well be the most astoundingly well played of the entire series. While three episodes can hardly be called a series, a second is in the works and I am very excited about the prospects. If they can keep this style, wit and deviousness up, it will truly be one of the great (and arguably best) versions of Doyle’s characters yet.