I wish I could read poetry like Cumberbund Boonswaggle Handsomelad.

Here’s Sherlock reading William Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man.”  This is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from “As You Like It.”

 

That time when Sherlock and Watson grew up.

“Sherlock” Season 4, Episode 2. The three-way conversation in this scene gets me every time. It might have been the best segment of the entire show in some ways.

Yes, there were some strange tonal and stylistic changes in this last season. But Season 4 also offered some of the show’s best screenwriting and acting. The depth and maturity of this scene alone makes all the previous episodes (which were all outstanding) seem sophomoric by comparison.

This was the season when the two lead characters stopped resembling only fun, quip-a-minute 20-something yuppies and became mature adults and equal partners. This and the change in the show’s tone were both brave creative choices on the part of the writers.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I’ve loved the Sherlock Holmes books and stories since I was a kid, and this might be the best film or television adaptation I’ve ever seen.

 

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“Raiders of the Lost Ark” reference in “Alien: Covenant?”

Does anyone else think that the “Alien: Covenant” ship logo looks a hell of a lot like the sculpted top of “Raiders'” Ark of the Covenant?!

Am I just realizing something everyone else has already noticed?  I’m not known for being the first guy to notice important details …

Or maybe both are based on the same ancient Hebrew art or something?

[UPDATE:] Okay, various smart people on Facebook are informing me that while the Bible doesn’t contain illustrations, it does contain a detailed textual description of the top of the ark.  So both movies took their cue from Exodus: 25.  (Thanks, Lisa L.)

NERDS.

Whatever.  I’m still counting this as my own “Sherlock” moment.

 

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A spoiler-free review of “Sherlock” Season 4

I actually can understand why some “Sherlock” fans were less than thrilled with its fourth (and apparently last?) season.  (I’ve read that the final episode received the lowest ratings in the show’s history.)  Even if Season 4 wasn’t quite as strong as past seasons, however, I’d still give it a 9 out f 10.

The narrative style and the content of this three-episode arc changed drastically.  The detail and methodical pace of past seasons gave way to a faster, looser narrative that made the show feel more … mainstream, in a way.  These episodes felt more like the standard adventure tales that you’d expect from any television thriller, and far less a genuine homage to the literary source material.  At times it was a little sloppy, with bombs, disguises, false memories and other over-the-top plot devices that were sometimes pretty implausible.  The final episode even seemed directly inspired by a series of horror films not known for being critically acclaimed.

The writing and directing wasn’t as clean, either.  This was easily the most surreal of the show’s four seasons — especially if you count the standalone “special,” “The Abominable Bride,” which preceded the official initial episode.  There were some overly stylized flashbacks, spliced scenes, and other departures from a linear narrative.  (I can’t be more specific without spoilers.)

The tone of the humor changed, too.  Some of the droll, dialogue-driven British humor was replaced by the zanier, crowd-pleasing stuff that you would expect from a more mainstream television comedy.  (One lamentable scene involving the outcome of a car chase, for example, was entirely too silly.)

At the same time, this was the darkest season yet.  The goofier humor was juxtaposed with story elements that were hard-hitting, sad and occasionally frightening.  When one character delivers the line, “Maintain eye-contact,” it was chilling enough to stay with me hours after the show aired.  There was some scary stuff this season, on a couple of different levels — the second episode, in particular, superbly delivers creeping psychological horror, then tops if off with a chilling story resolution.

And here is where Season 4 shined.  At one point, I asked myself, “When did ‘Sherlock’ become a horror show?”  But it was shortly thereafter that I realized that I absolutely didn’t mind.

The season’s success boils down to three things.  The first is the darker story content, which I thought was a bold and surprising choice for what is probably the show’s last season.

The second is the quality of the writing.  I realize that sounds strange, given my above criticisms above, but it is still a superbly scripted show.

And, third, the performances from its principal actors were still uniformly excellent.  (And when they combine via some great dialogue, “Sherlock” still hits it out of the park.)  Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Amanda Abbington were all at their peak — particularly since their characters have evolved now to what is probably their culmination.  This last  season was easily the most personal and character-focused, and sees these protagonists finally complete their individual arcs.  Sherlock is finally sufficiently humanized, Mary’s development finally reaches full fruition, and Watson has finally grown into his own man.  If I had quibbles about Holmes and Watson’s portrayals in past seasons, it was that Holmes was too much of a jerk , while Watson was merely a weak, even neutered foil for him.  Holmes was never such a heel in the stories I loved a boy — neither was he in the film adaptations.  And I found the far stronger Watson in “The Abominable Bride” to be truer to the stories as well — not to mention reminiscent of my favorite Holmes films, like 1976’s “The Seven Percent Solution” or 1979’s “Murder By Decree.”

The villains were damn good too.  “Sherlock” has always excelled at bringing believable, well scripted and creatively conceived bad guys, and this season was no exception.

All in all, this was still terrific television, despite its relative flaws.  I heartily recommend it to Holmes fans.

 

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“Sherlock” Season 4 trailer!

“Sherlock” Season 4 arrives in just a little over two months?!

Did “The Abominable Bride” Christmas special really appear nearly a year ago?!  I feel like I just wrote a review for it.

I keep telling my girlfriend how “fun” and “witty” this show is, and how its banter and one-liners will crack her up.  (There are still people out there who associate Martin Freeman primarily with Bilbo Baggins.)  But this trailer makes it look like a goddam John Carpenter film.

For a while now, I’ve been saying that the only thing that could make “Sherlock” better was the addition of Tom Hiddleston.  And now I’m reading on spoiler sites that fans are theorizing that he will indeed join the cast?!

 

A spoiler-free review of the “Sherlock” Christmas special (2016).

What can I say about the “Sherlock” Christmas special, “The Abominable Bride?”  Extremely little, for fear of spoilers.

I will say that I loved it — I’d rate it a perfect 10, as I would just about any episode of this amazing TV show.  Also, as good as the trailer was … I can say that it offers much more in its story than you’d expect.

I’d also say that it strongly, strongly parallels a movie that I happen to love — right down to its surprise plot device, key character interactions, and a symbolic act by the main protagonist in the climactic scene.  The similarities are just too much for this to be a coincidence — it’s just got to be a well done (and a damn fun) homage.  It’s unexpected, too, as the film I’m thinking off probably appeals to a different fan base.  “The Abominable Bride” also cheerfully skewers another excellent recent film and the twist employed there.  [My blog posts link automatically to Facebook.  If you see this via my page, then PLEASE do not name the movies you think I’m talking about.]

There’s some terrific acting, especially between Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and our main villain.  And the dialogue is as sly and superbly delivered as always.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched a new episode of “Sherlock” and not laughed out loud at least once.  The stronger, more assertive John Watson (Martin Freeman) that we see is damn terrific.  (There’s a compelling and sensible reason why this iteration of Watson seems a little different than our usual mild anti-hero, but I just can’t say why.)

My quibbles were wholly forgivable.  I thought that the Victorian versions of Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) were just so cartoonish that they seemed right out of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.  It “took me out of the movie,” and hampered my willing suspension of disbelief.  It felt more like farce and silly sight-gags, instead of the dry, dialogue- and character-driven humor that the show is known for.

I also though that the climactic scene occurring among three primary characters, felt a little … off.  Was it just not staged right?  Was the pacing off?  Maybe I got the sense that I was looking at a soundstage?  I’m not sure.

Finally, I am an inveterate horror movie fan, and I might have liked to have seen the director and screenwriters play up the horror story elements just a little bit more here.  The mystery for this episode was a jewel of an opportunity — a garish, fearsome “ghost bride” that assassinates men.  It could have been just a little scarier, given that story.  I know that “Sherlock” is not a horror show, but its creators did just fine in making their adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” both a bit frightening and a proper mystery.

But, again, those are just forgivable quibbles.  This show remains the best thing on television!

[Update: there’s a direct reference to “The Five Orange Pips,” but we see little parallel with the story shown.]

 

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