Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Elementary pilot

Elementary (2012)
CBS, pilot
Rating: 3/5

Basic plot:  Sherlock Holmes, but in New York.  Oh, and John Watson is a woman.

Last night was the series premiere of Elementary on CBS.  I've always been a pretty big fan of Sherlock Holmes, I enjoy mystery/investigative type shows, and there seemed to be a good cast, so I was kind of excited (well, at the very least, curious) about the premiere.  But with having the recent Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies, and the amazing BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch, does there really need to be another version of Holmes out right now?  The short answer is, no.

Overall, it wasn't a bad show.  I enjoyed Johnny Lee Miller's portrayal of Holmes (although, at times he did seem a bit robotic or "British stiff-upper-lip-ish" with his movements), and Lucy Liu's portrayal of Watson was relate-able to the audience.  But I think that I would have liked the show a lot better if it had been inspired by Holmes, rather than being a new adaptation of it.  Sure, there are plenty of other investigative dramadies (Psych, Monk, House, Castle, etc.) that are clearly inspired by Holmes, but they aren't supposed to be him.  So there can be little nods of the hat to the Holmes, without actually directly comparing them to him.

But with Elementary, it actually is Holmes.  So I couldn't help but make comparisons.  The most notable of comparisons being that John Watson is now a woman.  Again, Lucy Liu did a good job.  But I think that they were trying to play on the gender role stereotype of women being more "soft and caring" to balance out Holmes.  Sure, Watson is supposed to be a bit more relate-able than Holmes.  But he's also supposed to be a war veteran that can not only put up with Holmes, but challenge him at times.  The other big problem that I have with Watson being a woman is the fear that they are eventually going to introduce sexual tension between them.  I have heard that they (whoever "they" might be) have guaranteed that there would be no sexual tension between Holmes and Watson.  But who actually believes that?  When was the last time that there were a male and female lead where there wasn't eventually sexual tension?  Heck...even Will and Grace had said tension at times.  So if Holmes and Watson ever do end up having sexual tension, there will be one major problem (aside from the obvious reason of that sentence should never have had to have been said).  The big problem is that there has ever only been one woman who matched wits enough with Holmes for him to have feelings for.  On a side note of Watson being a woman, she is referred to as Holmes's "companion."  Are they trying to play on the popularity of Doctor Who and the people who travel with him being referred to as "companions"?

Recommendation:  Enjoyable to watch, but not a "must see."  There was nothing about it to me that really stood out as different/unique enough for it to be required viewing.  It's not that it's bad, it's just that it doesn't really improve on what is already out there.  I enjoyed it, but I think that I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it wasn't actually Holmes.  Of course, this was just the pilot.  Maybe it'll get more unique, or more impressive, as it goes along.  And if it does, I'll be sure to let you know.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Movie Review: Green Lantern

Green Lantern (2011)
Viewing:  Initial, On Demand
Rating:  2.5/5

Basic plot:  A cocky test pilot, Hal Jordan is given a ring by a dying alien that converts the power of will into physical forms.  With the ring, Hal Jordan becomes one of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic guardians who use their rings to combat evil and fear across the galaxy.

I knew a little bit about Green Lantern going into this, but I hadn't really read too many of the comics and I wasn't all that familiar with the cannon.  But, in this case, that was actually a very good thing because it meant that I didn't really have too many expectations.  So, with having less expectations, there was less to disappoint me.  And if there is one word that would sum up this movie for me, disappointing would definitely be it.  It wasn't necessarily an entirely bad movie, but with comic book movies getting increasingly better, the actors/voice-talent they had on board, and a director that has made other movies that I love, it definitely could have been far, far better.

Now, onto the review.  Let's start with the good.  Ryan Reynolds.  I think he's a good actor.  Sure, most of his roles have a smug and sarcastic aspect to them, but I think that he plays it well and I think there is enough variation in his characters to keep it from feeling like he is just playing the same character over and over again.  Also, that bit of dry wit in each of his characters helps to make the character feel more realistic, rather than being over-acted/over-dramatic.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about most of the rest of the cast.  Which leads us into the bad.

For the majority of the other actors, primarily those not part of the Green Lantern Corps, the acting seemed on par with soap operas.  Even the most straightforward and (should be) emotionless lines were delivered with DRAMA.  And scenes that should have actually been emotional fell drastically short.  Somehow, "emotion" was translated into "turn away quickly and look down...or up.  Depending on the emotion."  The voice-acting of the Green Lantern Corps (at least, the two or three members of the GLC they actually highlight) is much better than scenes with the human characters, but sadly there just isn't enough of the GLC to make up for the rest of the DRAMA.  The graphics of the GLC weren't have bad either.  At least, they were decent enough that I think I probably would have been much happier for the entire movie to have taken place with the Corps.

The graphics aren't the only reason I wish the movie had focused more on the Corps.  I think that it would have made for a much better story if it had stayed with the GLC and just introduced Hal Jordan into that universe.  But, as it was, they tried to cram too many origin stories into one movie.  Not only did they try to establish the universe of the GLC, but they also tried to explain Hal's world and why he struggles with his own personal demons, and the origin of Paralax, and Hector Hammond (a sort of "mad scientist").  Sure, you need to develop the main character to explain to the audience why he is the person he is.  And sure, you need to establish the GLC to understand the role that Hal Jordan plays in that universe.  And without a villain, Paralax, powerful enough to challenge the GLC, it wouldn't be a very exciting movie.  But the addition of Hammond into the story just made it all feel crowded and underdeveloped.  Rather than taking the time to develop Hammond's motives and understand why he does what he does, they just expect you to believe "oh, he used to have a connection to each of the characters, and now he's evil? ok, cool."  The Robot Devil's critique of Fry's opera in Futurama pretty much sums up my complaint of how Hammond's character was "developed." 

Also, the use of the color palette of green and yellow was way too overdone.  When there are strong color themes (in this case, green = willpower and yellow = fear), the subtle use of color to highlight the corresponding theme can help to make a movie very stylized.  But that is not what happened here.  It seems more like the producers said "they are GREEN lanterns, right?  And the evil dude is yellow, right?  Well, then just make everything in the movie green and yellow.  I said green and yellow!!"

Recommendation:  Pass.  Again, the word that sums up how I feel about this movie is "disappointing."  Ryan Reynolds did a pretty good job at playing Hal Jordan and making the character believable, but most of the rest of the acting was disappointing.  Most of the movie was spent talking about how powerful Paralax is, and how the universe is doomed.  But, there was way too much build up for it to be as anticlimactic as it was.  The graphics were decent, but they could have done so much more.  They mentioned numerous times how the only limitation of the ring was the limitation of the mind, but then they didn't do much to really stretch the imagination.  With Hal being new to the ring, it makes sense that it would take him time to really develop his skills/imagination.  But for the rest of the GLC, their level of imagination was, well...disappointing.

I mentioned in my Thor review how hard it can be to do an origin story well.  And I think that Green Lantern suffered from trying to do too much story, but not enough action.  Or rather, too many story elements, but not an actual developed story.  What is probably the most disappointing thing to me is that the director, Martin Campbell, has also directed some movies that I have really enjoyed.  Specifically, he has directed two of the best (if not THE two best) recent Bond films that have helped to keep the series alive - GoldenEye and Casino Royale.  How can Campbell help to reinvigorate the Bond franchise twice, and then come out with something so underwhelming?

If you are a huge fan (or even just a casual fan) of Green Lantern, you will be disappointed with this movie.  I saw Green Lantern on demand, so I had no access to extras.  I'd be interested in seeing some of the effects that were used.  And I might also enjoy the commentary if Ryan Reynolds was on it.  But, I'm not sure if I enjoyed it enough to add it to my queue to be able to watch the extras.  They did set it up for the possibility of a sequel, but I highly doubt that it did well enough for that to actually happen.  That's a shame, because I think that if they did make a sequel, it would have the potential to be a much stronger film.  With the origin story out of the way, they could focus more on the action, more on the Green Lantern Corps, and more on the imaginative power of the will (hopefully).