Friday, January 31, 2014

New Sherlock!

Just a quick thought tonight. Light Sherlock S3E1 Spoilers ahead. I finally talked Muscles into sitting down and watching the new Sherlock with me. I loved it unreservedly - it was everything I wanted, which was essentially more of what I loved about the first two seasons. I laughed, I gasped, I raged, and I was happy to be back. But something struck me a few hours later: I think I finally understand why people are complaining about Moffat re: Doctor Who. Now, I say this as someone who has watched barely a handful of Eccleston-era Who and nothing since, but who hangs around a lot of Whovians. And the buzz on my radar lately - especially right after the big anniversary episode - is that Moffat is ruining Doctor Who by eliminating the emotional stakes. I've read a few compelling rants and blog posts to that tune, but having no context, it was just people venting on the internet.

But I think he did it with Sherlock, too. And I don't even mean the fact that Sherlock doesn't really die, because we knew that, and in the episode the emotional stakes are extremely high when it's revealed that he ISN'T dead. And I don't even mean the return to status quo and forgiveness for his deception, because the show couldn't really move forward without it. But everyone gets forgiven or in some way backhandedly vindicated. At the end of last season, there was this great moment where we see Mycroft get hit with the realization that he's responsible for his brother's death. It's a half second, but a powerful one, where we see this smart, detached guy facing a huge consequence for his meddling.

But that great moment is just as quickly erased in the first episode of the new season. The context of what happened is subtly rewritten, just a quip, but it takes away Mycroft's guilt completely. It's an easy way to bring their relationship back to the way it was, sure, and the relationship looks to be developing in interesting ways. But erasing that moment in retrospect, I think, dos a disservice to the show. Neither Sherlock nor Mycroft ever really have to pay for the consequences of their game-playing, and the people who do pay the heftiest price (namely John) never really get vindicated. The closest Sherlock gets to genuinely apologizing is a gag, and that's agonizing. Martin Freeman plays Watson's inarticulate rage so perfectly that it's almost painful to watch, and yet, without honest apology or explanation (and only the barest hint of remorse on Sherlock's part), we're back to the status quo.

Now, do I think this ruined the show? No, because really it's all perfectly in step with Sherlock's character (and, really, to a certain extent John's). But even with only a few episodes of Doctor Who under my belt, I realize that show is a different beast, where Sherlock's asocial anticking would be out of place, and the value of empathy is higher - where devaluing emotional impact and eliminating consequences would undermine the whole point of the show.

Which is interesting, to me - that what ostensibly makes one highly beloved show so successful is maybe the same thing that's ruining another one. Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

R.I.P.D.

When I first saw the trailer for R.I.P.D., I experienced more squee than I could handle. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in a supernatural buddy cop movie? It was like someone had reached into my brain and pulled out a dream I didn't even know I had, crafted it lovingly, and passed it back to me with a bow on top. Unfortunately, apparently the target audience consisted of me and only me, and after I was unable to go see it on opening night because Reasons, I was subsequently unable to get anyone to go because, well, no one else had gone. 
Netflix   IMDB
Part of me grew to believe that the movie probably was not actually all that good, given that it was one of the year's biggest flops, but that small, eager voice inside persisted, so when the movie showed up on Netflix, I put it in my queue. I got the disc in the mail and convinced a moderately willing friend to sit and watch it with me (there may have been free pizza involved). And...

...I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard at a movie. And I mean genuine comedy laughing, not this-is-so-bad laughing. A lot of people complained that R.I.P.D. was just a MIB ripoff, derivative drivel that never should have happened. Now, I can admit that R.I.P.D. probably never would have existed, in film form, without MIB as a predecessor. But I ask you this: what was the last movie that was like MIB since MIB? And the answer is there hasn't really been one, but personally I don't think it's because the concept is a one-shot (though evidently the American viewing public seems to disagree).

Jeff Bridges is pitch perfect, essentially reprising his role from True Grit - or rather what Rooster Cogburn would be like 200 odd years and a pinch of crazy after his death. And I still think Ryan Reynolds is one of the best straight men in Hollywood, which only accentuates the greatness of Bridges' performance. The alternate personas of the two characters (i.e. how they appear to the living) were probably featured a little too heavily in the preview - I know at least one person that didn't go see the movie because of them. But Reynolds and Bridges appear as themselves for the vast majority of the film. The alternates are used only for the gag - sparingly and with impeccable comedic timing.

The special effects are over the top, sure, and a lot of the CG isn't exactly going to win any awards, but the writing is spot on and the cast plays very, very well together, INCLUDING KEVIN BACON who I would be shocked if anyone realized was even in this movie unless they saw it. Really, I think the loudest critics of this movie are probably the people that didn't bother to go see it, because it takes maybe five minutes for Ryan Reynolds to shine, and I was basically in stitches from the second Jeff Bridges walks on screen until the end credits rolled. If you loved MIB, or if you love Jeff Bridges or Ryan Reynolds, this flick definitely deserves a watch. I just hope Ryan Reynolds' career can survive all the people that didn't go see it.