Was out and about a bit this week – I saw a film, a musical and a gig – so I thought it was worth a week-that-was post to bring it all together.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I'd been looking forward to the Sherlock Holmes sequel ever since I saw the first one (I have a feeling that by the time I saw the first one they'd already announced there was going to be a sequel – and I probably saw it no later than a week or so after it came out at the cinema; it was also set up with a 'sequel hook' at the end) and all the previews I'd seen and buzz I'd heard/read indicated that they'd done a good job of it.
Plus there was the casting news: Stephen Fry was to be portraying Holmes's even-cleverer brother Mycroft, and Jared Harris1 – who I've liked in everything I've seen him in, particularly his recent appearances in the television shows Fringe and Mad Men – was to be playing his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
So, with a certain amount of enthusiasm, I – with the other members of the weekly movie-going collective, which this week was six strong – found myself sitting in cinema 1 at Palace in the city. And I was not disappointed; it was an enjoyable film. There were, though, things about it I didn't approve of all that much.
They – the filmmakers – fell victim to that common problem that afflicts sequels: the tendency to just make everything that was good about the original 'bigger' – in this case things like Holmes's eccentricities, Watson's contrasting level-headedness, the humour, the action scenes, the use of slow-motion and so forth. But, while A Game of Shadows suffers a little from this, it's not done so much that it becomes almost a parody of the original – something I wrote about here as being a common problem with sequels.
I also didn't like the fact they left London; one of the things I really enjoyed about the first film was how awesome a job they did of creating late 19th-century London. Leaving the city also meant the absence of one of my favourite characters from the stories, the hapless Inspector Lestrade.
They also introduced the character of Colonel Moran from the books, where he was Moriarty's accomplice and served as – with his military background – a kind of anti-Watson. However, apart from the name of the character, the Moran of the film doesn't closely resemble the Moran of the books, who was older and described as a having been the son of an ambassador and educated at Eton and Oxford; while I wouldn't have minded them keeping the name, the rank – which it seems unlikely someone the age and – if the accent is anything to go by – background2 would have achieved.
I did like the film version of Moran, though, which is probably the more important thing. I also liked the character Noomi Rapace (most famous for playing Lisbeth Salander in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film and its sequels) played, the gypsy fortune-teller, Sim. The aforementioned Stephen Fry was delightful, as expected; Jared Harris was excellent as the villainous Moriarty – particularly in how he dealt with the subtleties of the character.
Jude Law continues to impress me as Watson – I'm not always a fan of his, at least in the majority of his roles; he has, however, won me over in the two Holmes films, as well as his excellent performance in Road to Perdition. Robert Downey Jr. is once again brilliant as Holmes, though – as I mentioned upthread – his portrayal is a little more over-the-top than in the first film; however, I blame the script and the director for that, not him.
Short verdict: if you liked the first one, you'll almost certainly like this one. It has mostly the same 'feel' – apart from the aforementioned exaggeration of a few aspects – and has plenty of humour, action, and examples of Holmes (and Moriarty as well) being terribly clever.
Oh, and Gladstone the bulldog makes an appearance, which you'll appreciate if you're a bulldog-lover like I am.
1Who is, if you aren't already aware, son of the late Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films, amongst other things.
2It wasn't all that long ago – though it was on its way out at the time the Holmes stories take place – that being an officer in the British Army was only an option if you had a certain social standing and a private income. It certainly changed during WWI, at least in part because so many officers were killed in action; they had to start promoting on merit instead.
The Jungle Book
I got allocated the Hills Youth Theatre production of The Jungle Book to review, so I headed on up the hill to the Stirling Community Theatre to check it out.
You can read the review here.
It was interesting for me because it's really the first large-cast youth show I've seen; while I reviewed the HYT production of Our Town a few years ago, that's an 'adult' play featuring young performers – while this production was a school a holiday show aimed at children.
Not what I expected. Also not what my friend Miriam, who'd I'd brought along with me, had expected either. It was a musical, but it's not – as I noted in the review – a stage version of the 1967 Disney animated version, sticking more to the original Rudyard Kipling stories.
Something I didn't mention in th review was about one of the parts they left in, and which had me rolling with laughter; this was the story of why Mowgli's mother left him in the jungle to begin with.
Basically, she, having given birth out of wedlock, and being (at best) an early teenager at the time (she says she was only a little older than he is now, and also noted it was about ten years ago he was born; I did the maths) was forced by her disapproving family to get rid of him, so she left him in a basket in the jungle (in India – where the jungle is full of tigers, bears, panthers, monkeys, wolves and huge snakes3) and hoped that things would turn out okay.
If that wasn't bad enough, on the off-chance that things _did_ turn out okay for her abandoned bastard, she'd tattooed him with the sign of a cross so that when he showed up again she'd know she'd been reunited with her lost son.
Now that's a message to send to kids!
The Dresden Dolls (and friends) at The Gov
After spending the last few years working on other projects, Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione reformed the Dresden Dolls to go on tour; as soon as I heard they were coming to Adelaide I made sure I lined up a ticket.
Since the support acts included the awesome Tom Dickins and Jen Kingwell – better known as The Jane Austen Argument – one of the best alternative cabaret acts in Australia (I saw them twice during the 2011 Fringe and will almost certainly see them that many times during the 2012 Fringe) as well as The Bedroom Philosopher – an Australian musical comedian who I've heard of but never managed to see before; he's also the ex-flatmate of a friend of mine – I was keen to get there pretty early, which on this occasion meant about 7pm.
Which was funny in a way, since it's still daylight at 7pm in Adelaide at this time of year; in fact, it doesn't tend to get dark until about 8.30 – 9.00. I think there's only been one occasion where I've been at The Gov in summer, and that was a few years back when I was there to see Gomez.
Anyway, got there and, after lining up for about twenty minutes or so, stood around waiting for a while since the people I was to meet there had gone in early to have dinner first; I was by myself until they finished eating. But that wasn't too long after I got there, so it was no big deal.
First up was The Jane Austen Argument, who played a handful of songs (only one of which I was sure I'd heard before, which is awesome) and were – as usual – excellent. I'm very happy that they're coming back for the Fringe so I can enjoy their work some more – as well as get my hands on their new album, which they said they'd be launching when they're here.
Bedroom Philosopher was up next, and he was great – some very clever and funny songs, kind of somewhere between Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords. Definitely someone I'll try and see again when I get the chance. Oh, and he called for a shoutback from any steampunks in the audience; this was of enormous amusement to me and fellow steampunk enthusiast Christian Reynolds, who was next to me at the time.
Then the Dolls came on and put on an amazing show; I've seen them once before, at the UniBar a few years ago, but that was nothing compared to this. They played for around two and a half hours – which was both good and bad; good for the obvious reasons but bad because a) it meant I'd been standing for something like five hours by the end of it, and my back really doesn't like that; and b) it was a Wednesday night and I had to get up and go to work the next day.
We were standing on the right-hand side of the audience, right in front of Brian and the drum kit; this turned out to be a good position, since it meant I got to watch him play – and he's an excellent drummer4. And an energetic one; on a handful of occasions he had to repair his kit, which his furious playing had damaged.
They played most of the songs from their albums, and threw in some great covers – the Beastie Boys anthem (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!); later they rocked an excellent version of my favourite Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds songs, The Mercy Seat.
Afterwards I was very tired – and very stiff; so much so that I couldn't walk properly, and must have looked very funny to anyone walking behind me – but very happy. While I think I probably prefer Amanda Palmer's solo stuff, her shows (in Adelaide at least) are always short; it was good to get a properly-long gig for a change.
4Turns out he played drums on several of the tracks on the Nine Inch Nails album Ghosts I-IV – and a perfectionist like Trent Reznor wouldn't have anyone who wasn't pretty kickass on his team.
So, all in all, a rather enjoyably three nights out.