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Josh Reviews Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols

In Nicholas Meyer’s wonderful new Sherlock Holmes pastiche (a novel structured to imitate the Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his comrade Dr. Watson are tasked with investigating the origins of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  The Protocols actually existed; this hateful, anti-Semitic text asserts that a secret cabal of Jews secretly control the world.  This might sound ludicrous to any reasonably intelligent person, but these fabricated texts (designed to inflame Jew-hatred) not only existed, but continue to be spread to this day.

I became a huge fan of Nicholas Meyer from his incredible work with the Star Trek franchise. He wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; he wrote most of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (he wrote everything set in the 20th century, after Kirk & co. travel back in time), and he wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  After more than fifty years of Star Trek’s existence, Mr. Meyer’s contributions remain my very favorite versions of Trek.  Mr. Meyer also wrote several previous Holmes novels.  His first, The Seven-Per-Cent solution, is a terrific novel that was adapted in 1976 into an also-terrific movie.  Mr. Meyer also wrote and directed the 1979 film Time After Time, in which Sherlock Holmes duels with Jack the Ripper.  (Allow me to also recommend Mr. Meyer’s memoir The View From the Bridge, which is a fantastic read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood works.)

I was immediately intrigued when I read the plot synopsis of Mr. Meyer’s new Holmes novel.  Taking the fictional character of Holmes and combining him with a very real anti-Semitic incident seemed like a risky proposition.

But I found that, under Mr. Meyer’s skilled hands, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols was a complex and compelling tale.

Mr. Meyer writes a great mystery/adventure, and he has a firm grasp on the characters of Holmes and Watson.  Both men come to vivid life in these pages, and their depictions feel perfectly correct and in-character.  Same goes for Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (who has a significant role to play in the novel).

The novel also features a wonderful new female character, Anna Strunsky Walling.  This intelligent, competent woman winds up accompanying Holmes and Watson for much of their adventure.  It’s terrific to have a major female character added to the mix, and I quickly grew to love this heroine.  (I do wish Mr. Meyer hadn’t allowed Anna to get into “Damsel in Distress” peril towards the book’s climax.)

As he did in his previous Holmes novels, Mr. Meyer writes this book as … [continued]

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News Around the Net! UPDATED with Avengers 4 Trailer!

UPDATE: The first trailer for Avengers 4 has finally dropped!

First off: the title.  Endgame.  That’s… OK.  Not a bad title, but it’s a bit generic.  I think the phrase “endgame” is a bit overused in genre circles, and Dr. Strange’s line in Infinity War that “we’re in the endgame now” frankly wasn’t my favorite piece of dialogue in the film.  I’m not sure why Marvel felt the need to keep this title so top-secret for the last few years!  After such a build-up, this title is a bit disappointing.  But it’s fine.  The title underlines the importance of Dr. Strange’s line of dialogue in Infinity War that there was only one way in billions to defeat Thanos.  I’d commented in my original review that I suspected that Strange’s choice to give Thanos the Time Stone wasn’t a defeat but, in fact, the key to victory.  From this title, it looks like I was right, big time.

As for the rest of the trailer — excellent!  We don’t actually see very much, but it’s a great tease.  The first half with Tony Stark is fantastic and strikes the right “hopeless” tone.  I like seeing this more substantial clip rather than just fast-paced shots.  I love the way the Marvel logo dissolves just like everyone dying at the end of Infinity War.  I’m delighted to see Hawkeye (who appears to be dressed up as Ronin from the comics — that’s an interesting touch and a nice reference for comic book fans) and Ant Man in the trailer, since they were the two main characters left out of Infinity War.  (Looks like Scott escaped from his perilous situation in the post-credits sequence of Ant Man and the Wasp!)  I love what I am seeing so far.  I really hope Marvel can stick the landing on this one.  I am counting the days.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled post…!

Stop what you’re doing and please watch Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s new short PSA about how the motion-smoothing setting on most HD-TVs ruins movies.  Their life-and-death, super-serious tone is sort of hilarious. But also, I agree!! I am evangelical about this, though most of my friends and family just shake their heads. Turn off this setting so that you can watch movies properly!!

Then, for follow-up reading, this is a great piece on Tom Cruise and Mr. McQuarrie (author of The Usual Suspects)’s many recent collaborations.

This is an inspiring interview with architect Frank Gehry on how he got started.

I’m impressed and awed that, after more than a half-century, Doonesbury continues.  Here’s a great interview by Rolling Stone with Garry Trudeau.

Red alert: Nicholas Meyer, one of the … [continued]

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Ok, ready to lose the rest of your day?  You might recall that this past summer, FXX ran a marathon of every single Simpsons episode ever.  Well, apparently a bunch of the best writers for Hitfix.com decided to list their favorite episodes of each day of the marathon.  Five writers each picked their two favorite Simpsons episodes from that day, and wrote about them.  Click here and thank me later.  This is a staggeringly wonderful walk down Simpsons memory lane.  It’s been way too long since I have revisited some of these classic episodes.  Reading those articles makes me want to blow off work for the next week or two of work and just watch old Simpsons DVDs…

Click here for a terrific interview with Nicholas Meyer.  Mr. Meyer is pretty much single-handedly responsible for all of the very best Star Trek ever made.  He wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he wrote the vast majority of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  (He wrote everything that took place on present-day Earth, starting with the immortal Spock line: “Judging from the pollution content of the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century,” all the way through to the escape with the whales.)  Nicholas Meyer is the reason for the odd numbered Star Trek curse (in which fans noticed that the even-numbered original Trek movies are far superior to the odd-numbered ones).  I had no idea he was involved in this Harry Houdini project for the History Channel, but now I am very interested in seeing it!  Mr. Meyer doesn’t work nearly enough to suit me.  It’s fascinating that the History Channel film is based on a biography of Houdini that Mr. Meyer’s father wrote.  The whole interview with Mr. Meyer is terrific, but I particularly loved his answer, at the very end, when asked his opinion of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films.  “That’s changing the shape of the bottle.”  (Read Mr. Meyer’s comments to understand the context.)  That is very well-put, and I 100% agree.

StarWars.com has released animatics for four unmade episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  These are four full-length episodes, with complete voice performances and sound effects, it’s just that the rough blocky animatics were never taken to full animation.  These are great episodes, well-worth the time of any fans of the show.  Anakin and Obi-Wan investigate the death of a Jedi on Utapau (a key location in Episode III) and discover that General Grievous is about to acquire a terrible weapon with ties to the secret of the construction of Jedi … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of my very favorite of the Star Trek films.  (Possibly my very favorite — depending on my mood, sometimes I consider it better than The Wrath of Khan, other times a close second.  Click here to witness my waxing poetic about the greatness of Star Trek VI!) One of my favorite aspects of the film — and a subtle but critically important key to its greatness — is the marvelous score by Cliff Eidelman.  I was thrilled that Intrada recently released the complete score on CD.

Director Nick Meyer is responsible, pretty much single-handedly, for a huge percentage of the greatness of the Star Trek film series.  He wrote and directed Star Trek II, co-wrote Star Trek IV, and co-wrote and directed Star Trek VI. Time and again, Mr. Meyer demonstrated an unswerving ability to make just the right decisions where the Star Trek films were concerned.  His choice of Cliff Eidelman as the composer for Star Trek VI is just one example.

Poor Mr. Meyer had quite a few difficulties pulling off Star Trek VI for the minuscule budget offered by the studio (thirty million dollars, an astoundingly low sum for a sci-fi epic and the exact same amount that the ugly, small-scale Star Trek V had been made for two years previously).  In his memoir, The View From the Bridge (click here for my review of that wonderful book), Mr. Meyer recounted his difficulty in finding a composer who could work for the small amount of money he had available to pay.  “I continued to exhaust myself trying to find ways to skin the cat.  I could not afford Jerry Goldsmith to write our score; I couldn’t even afford James Horner, who had risen in prominence (and price) in the years since The Wrath of Khan.” (Mr. Meyer had hired a young James Horner to compose the score for Star Trek II, because the budget had been slashed on that sequel and he couldn’t afford to bring back Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Deja vu all over again.)

Luckily, Mr. Meyer was able to connect with another talented young composer, Cliff Eidelman (who was 28 years old at the time).  The two agreed on a key creative choice — that it would be fruitless to try to equal the dramatic bombast of the previous Star Trek films’ scores, and that, furthermore, such an approach wouldn’t suit the dark, somber story being told in Star Trek VI. In his fantastic (as usual) liner notes for the complete score CD, Jeff Bond notes: “From its opening bars, Eidelman’s music for Star Trek VI exhibits … [continued]

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The View From The Bridge

November 29th, 2010
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In the introduction to my review of Time After Time, I wrote that the true reason for the supposed Star Trek odd-numbered movie curse (the phenomenon in which the even-numbered classic Star Trek films seem to be of a far higher quality than the odd-numbered ones) is because of the coincidence that Star Treks II, IV, and VI are the three films that benefitted from the involvement of Nicholas Meyer.  Being a long-time Star Trek fan, I have long-held Mr. Meyer in great esteem.  Even years ago, when I first learned of his roles as writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI (by far my two favorite Star Trek films — and that stands to this day) and as a writer of Star Trek IV (Mr. Meyer wrote all of the 1986-set portions of the film, while Harve Bennett wrote the framing sequences set in the 23rd century), it was clear to me that Mr. Meyer’s was one of the key creative voices behind GOOD Star Trek.

What little I knew of Mr. Meyer himself (mostly from interviews I had seen or read — including his lengthy comments in William Shatner’s much-underrated chronicle of the making of the six classic Star Trek films, Star Trek Movie Memories* — and also from his terrific commentary tracks on the special edition DVDs of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI) supported the conclusions that I had drawn from his work: namely, that Mr. Meyer was a bright, erudite fellow whose ideas about Star Trek, and about quality movie-making as a whole, quite mirrored my own.

That opinion was further supported by Mr. Meyer’s wonderful memoir: The View From The Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood.  This is a fascinating chronicle of Mr. Meyer’s years in the business, and it’s of interest to anyone fascinated by the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood works and how movies do (and don’t) get made, and of course of particular interest to anyone curious for tons of behind-the-scenes info on the making of the Star Trek films.

Mr. Meyer has an honest, hunorous writing style in evidence right from page one.  In these sorts of memoirs, I often find the early chapters (devoted to the subject’s youth) to be deadly boring.  As a reader I’m usually eager to get to “the good stuff” — that is, the subject’s adult work and achievements that were the reasons I picked up the memoir to begin with.  However, in this book, a) Mr. Meyer is bright enough to know what we’re really interested in, and so keeps those early chapters brief, and b) posesses such … [continued]