Sherlock, the new-ish BBC TV Series

Just watched the first season of Sherlock (all of 3 episodes, albeit they are 1.5 hours long each).

As a fan, I’m always wary of remakes or retcons, and the most visible recent effort is the Downey Jr/Guy Ritchie movies. I have to say I was not impressed.

However, Sherlock, the 2010 TV series from BBC was not what I expected at all. In that it was actually good. Hah.

Sherlock is set in modern day London, and our eponymous hero is a 30-something, blackberry-toting consulting detective, and trusty Watson is a medical doctor/soldier most recently returned from Afghanistan. Holmes is characteristically arrogant, acerbic but technically more savvy – often doing searches on his mobile while analysing the crime scenes. John is loyal and trusty, able companion, as he should be.

The stories has its roots in the canonical stories from Doyle, but of course the writers put twists and mashes things up. Those familiar with the original stories, though, will find plenty of references and cheeky little nods to the original material. There are also fine touches which highlight the contrast of the solving cases in the 1890s with the modern era. So if you’ve always wondered how Holmes would solve a case in the world of instantaneous communications, camera phones and wildly liberal social norms, instead of telegrams and gender stereotypes, your prayers have been answered.

The main problem I have with the show is somehow making me believe Sherlock has all the understanding of the criminal world, be able to establish a
network of contacts among the urban homeless, on-the-fly access to medical labs/mortuaries, able to hold up in a fight, have innate understanding of the human condition, all while being what appears to be a mere 30-something year old man, seems a little bit of stretch.

Putting that aside, however, I find the stories fascinating, the acting well done (mostly), and funny. Way better than Downey Jr.

Conclusion: Watch it.

Trivia: I was reading up on the upcoming The Hobbit, and found that the actor who plays Watson here is the Bilbo Baggins (lead!), and Holmes is Smaug. What a coincidence.

Forbidden Kingdom: This had better be good

Ladies and gentlemen, my most anticipated movie of 2008:

This is the much-awaited, highly-anticipated match-up between Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and I’m as excited as a rabbit in a carrot patch. I’ve watched Jackie’s movies since before I learned how to walk (technically, I could say I started watching his movies since before I was born, but that would really be stretching it), and I remember distinctly being blown away with Jet’s Once A Upon A Time in China when I watched him for the first time (it was after a particularly distressing exam, I recall, but I’m certain that has nothing to do with it).
Nobody would dispute that since their move to Hollywood, the quality of their movies went south (in this case, it was south westerly). At any rate, they stank. This fact is definitely not lost on them, because as they continued their affair with Hollywood, they would return to flirt with their patient and loyal fanbase in Asia (Jackie with stuff like The New Police Story, The Myth and the baby caper flick, and Jet with his Hero and Fearless).
So after 15 years of talking and dreaming, J & J finally decided to make good on their plans and Forbidden Kingdom is the result. The good news is the principal filming is completed, and the film is now in post-production. The bad news is it’s not showing next week. Specifically, it will only be shown in April next year, which is not fast enough for me.
There are so many things that can go wrong with this film. Yuen Woo Ping has been drafted in, so that can’t be too bad.
However, an original story that focuses on the Chinese culture but with an eye to the Western audiences has been whipped up. I’m always skeptical about movies helmed by either Jackie or Jet being remade with Western audiences in mind, because the result tends to fall short of the heights of Hongkong cinematic action, which would be too tame for Asian audiences, and the story tends to be pretty half-assed to be taken seriously, which would disappoint anyone. So if the movie craps out, it’ll probably be story-wise.
I’m hoping it won’t be disappointing, because this movie has the potential to be a classic. It’s a foregone conclusion that it will be a commercial success, but will it be a paragon of cinematic action that will finally appeal to both the Eastern and Western audiences, a testimonial highpoint for these two icons?
I’ll grab a box of popcorn and tell you in April.

Heroes… wow.

I had wanted to update the blog with my thoughts on ebook, on forum member dynamics, on my feelings towards several books I’ve read but not had the time to blab about, about what I thought about Mono and being obscenely late in my development work.
I caught an episode of Heroes, after hearing good things about it. Wow. It’s brilliant. Intelligent and engaging, and Ali Larter is hot. 🙂
I noticed that it takes a lot of effort on my end to get involved in a new TV show – so much crappy stuff out there (read: MTV reality shows). But Heroes sucked me in totally.
Looking forward to bullying people I know who has the whole season.

The work of genius that is Contact

Once in a while you get an epiphany so intense, that you either immediately seek someone to talk to about it, or to somehow record it – writing it down, perhaps – just so the moment is captured, is forever remembered, and is shared. Today I have had such a revelation, and I must write it down or I will simply burst into tiny fragments more numerous than all the stars in the galaxy (which, I’ve learned from Stephen Hawking, is pretty damn a lot).
Here, I’m not talking about the time I finally figured out how to work the sensor taps they have installed in all the mall toilets nowadays (which I do). Nor am I talking about finally understanding the importance of including Moral Studies in our universities as a prerequisite module for a degree of any kind (which I don’t).
I’m talking about something most of us deem so trivial and so mundane, that most of you will probably snicker at this curious thing that has made me so eloquent. The epiphany I have is about the a motion picture you may have even seen – Contact.
A little background: Contact is a scifi book written by Carl Sagan, and was adapted for film sometime ago, directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey. The story is about how Dr Eleonor Harroway, a preeminent researcher and astronomist discovers signals emanating from deep space, presumably from intelligent lifeforms seeking to make contact. The signals are deciphered, and what follows is a journey of discovery, of mankind’s hopes and fears, and ultimately, perhaps surprisingly, about faith. The whole film is about faith – about holding on to your beliefs, and discovering just how people from polar opposites in philosophy can come together to understand a universal truth about faith.
I remembered that I loved the movie the first time I saw it, and took away memorable things from it such as Foster’s performance, and the strong story. Watching it the second time, however, allowed me to see it with different eyes – a little more maturity, some background on the celestial bodies thanks to a recent reading of Stephen Hawking’s book A Briefer History of Time, and a more jaded sense of movie appreciation in general.
I take for granted that the movie didn’t butcher the story from the book too much, as Hollywood is wont to do. I’ve not read the book, but I’ve now seen the movie twice, the second viewing just ended as I started writing this. What I got from the movie this time around is simply fantastic. We see Eleanor grapple with early tragedy that fuels her current motivation, her stance as a scientist and her need for proof and her distrust of the concept of faith. The interplay between that principle with the other central character in the film which happens to be the ‘spiritual advisor to the White House’ (hah! A concept of a moral compass! I’m reminded of the phrase ‘Who died and made you the arbiter of truth?’). As Eleanor finally faces the issue of faith heads on, you begin to feel things you’d never feel while watching Star Trek.
The movie also explores the concept of an alien civilization, and how they ways may be completely out of our sphere of comprehension. It forces us to think of the possibility that despite our best efforts, we may not be able to truly understand the intentions and messages that an advanced civilization will tell us. Of course, Sagan uses this as a plot device and turns on its head the direction back to its central theme. The contact sequence really made me think. Suppose we discover that ants have gained sentient consciousness, but they are unaware of the universe of humans. They are sentient enough that they start sending out messages (by way of bread crumbs arranged in gigantic letters on the kitchen floor) seeking confirmation of an existence of a lifeform possibly larger than itself. What would we do as the human race to communicate back to the ants? Reply? Clean up the bloody mess? Will the ants understand?
And Jodie Foster. Aaah, Jodie, Jodie. There are pretty faces, there are talented actresses, there are celluloid thespians par excellence, and there is Jodie Foster. And to think I’ve not seen her in Silence of the Lambs. She is, without a doubt, the best actress of her generation, certainly one of the best actresses alive today. I can’t think of anyone being able to pull off what she has done with her character in Contact. If you’ve seen Contact a long time ago, and pooh-ed and paah-ed my statement – I challenge you to watch it again all the while studying the range of emotions she brings about in the film.
There were so many moments. Some of them: When she made her pitch for funding to restart her project – passion. When she makes her case to the selection committee – vulnerability. When she’s forced to explain herself – helplessness and railing against her disbelief in asking her audience for faith – the very thing that she didn’t believe in. Magic.
Contact is definitely the best science fiction film that I have ever watched – bar none. Yes, against every fiber of my being, I have to admit – it’s better than Star Wars. I put forth the movie’s merits based on the story, the themes, the message, the wonder it evokes, the emotion it brings, and the joy of appreciating a top talent at the peak of her craft. As a story, if this is standard Sagan fare, he’s just got himself a big fan. As a movie, this is masterful direction and a tour de force of entertainment. Zemeckis has made some of the best movies I’ve seen, and today’s viewing simply cements that perspective.
If I’m not wrong, Contact garnered no awards that I’m aware of, and certainly no recognition of the incredible, *incredible* performance Foster put into her character. It simply proves the sort of general bias typically shown towards genre movies. To those who shun this movie on the basis of it being a science fiction story, well, I only have this to say: you probably watch movies for their ability to engage you, to make you think, and to entertain you. This movie does that. What keeps you away? Aliens?
I cry out against the unfairness of it all that this movie isn’t as well known as it deserves to be.
Wait, wait. Any review or reasonable evaluation, epiphany or not, has to have a measure of fair highlights of the subject in question’s shortcomings. To lend an air of respectable balance, you understand. To this I say I wished that they didn’t cast Matthew McConaughey just so he wouldn’t be totally blown away by Foster’s performance. The contrast was almost embarrassing. Okay, okay – there was this part at the end which I thought spoilt the film’s overall theme on faith, and I felt the movie would improve if the 15 second scene was actually out of the story.
Now it’s way past my bedtime, and I know I will pay for it tomorrow. Plus I’m coherent enough to know that this isn’t the way I’d like my objective reviews to be – this is simply too lopsided, maniacal, subtle-less, even fanboy-ish to be taken seriously. But it’s also the way I’m feeling about the movie right now, and I have to capture this moment, have to store it for posterity. You know, just like an epiphany.
Man, what a moment.
p.s. After writing this, I did a little fact checking and found out that the movie did indeed win some awards, so I’m happy to say that my crying out has been assuaged… somewhat.

What the hell???

I can’t freaking believe Supernova just sent Dana home! I’m all for the reality TV factor where you keep the obviously weird people on and send some of the more talented people home, but Dana???
I just want to say she is seriously talented, and if she ever goes to American Idol she would win it hands down, especially if she does a rock chick like she does in this show. But I think she has more street cred than to join a show like that.
Okay, let’s be frank and clear minded here. She’s *never* going to win the gig. But sending her home so early means I get to see less of her, and Supernova is less of a show because of that.
Just how I feel.
Whatever she does after the show, she’s gonna do it well. Dana, if you read this (hey, this is the Internet, in the century of limitless possibilities, don’t think it’s impossible for her to find this), all the best!
Okay, *now* I feel weird.

So that’s why…

Finally, an explanation! This little expose reveals exactly why Dave Navarro looks like a freakingly boring piece of potato sitting on the host’s couch in Rockstar: Supernova.
I’ve always thought he was nothing like the likeable Dave Navarro of last season’s Rockstar: INXS – something was very obviously wrong with him. I had thought it’s because of his obnoxious fellow rocker Tommy Lee (whom I detest for his lack of general manners, haha), but this totally feels like a fitting piece in a jigsaw puzzle.
Haven’t I written about why I totally loved Rockstar: INXS, and what I thought of this year’s contestants? Hmm… nothing a little time wouldn’t fix…