All entries for January 2010

January 16, 2010


Movie image
Sherlock Holmes
2 out of 5 stars

What would ol’ Clay make of Guy Ritchie’s bare-knuckle boxing, Frenchman beating, second-act lulling, occult-battering bromance?

It seems that the best way to solve a mystery is to slap it about the head, or electrocute it, or give it a hearty spanking with one’s cane. So it is that we first encounter Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, who meditates on the best means of clocking some chap who obstructs his path to Mystery Solution and then – mark you – he knocks the fellow out, the confrontation proceeding exactly as he deduced it would in the cornball slow-motion sequence. ‘Aha’, we say to this internal narrative, ‘clearly this Sherlock Holmes fellow is some manner of Thinker.’

An IMDB entry for Sherlock Holmes tells me that ‘it is made to be a rollicking good time’. Anyone who says ‘rollicking’ is bound to be a total prick (even, if not especially, in that overworn mode of irony), but the prick has a point. The result of the commitment to Rollick is that Conan Doyle’s world and characters are merely the dressing for a fairly conventional action-adventure movie. Sherlock Holmes is given the 21st-century comic book reboot, and not much of the literary original turns up for the adventure. Look at the fucking promotional posters – they’re like ads for superhero films:


Ritchie has one good idea in livening Holmes up, as opposed to depicting him in his traditional screen incarnation as a pipe-smoking, contemplative bore. Robert Downey Jr is good as a troubled, eccentric Holmes too, but no-one can seem to think what to do with the character other than chase scenes and fighting villains or, when there isn’t a chase scene to be had or a villain to fight, boxing people after dinner. Aspects of Watson’s military past are evoked with the consequence that he is multi-dimensionally dull. Our ultimate problem, then – with Moriarty creeping into view, trying to nick stuff – is that we have reputedly brilliant characters under the volition of idiots. Thus our team of creators has Holmes rushing around in a sort of Victorian Dark Knight affair with explosions, and gadgets, and Holmes predicting in idle moments everything the next century of science will bring in a tongue-in-cheek manner that makes me wonder whether a bad script provides grounds for a cinema refund.

Anyway, there’s this evil chap called Lord Blackwood, whose name is evil, and who looks evil, and he’s trying to stick a knife in some virgin. Holmes stops him, to Blackwood’s chagrin, and the ensuing tussle inexplicably consumes over two hours of our time, with the subplots of Holmes trying to do some woman (Rachel McAdams) and Watson planning to marry some other, funny-looking woman (Kelly Reilly). Moriarty slips into the darkness, anticipating a chance to creep back for a sequel, although I’ll understand if he decides to give it a miss, and stays at home.


January 06, 2010

Terrorist alert!

When an Irish passenger was detected carrying an electric razor, a quantity of chocolate and several works of literature, airport security thought they might have their man.

I had the co-pilot

What business had I carrying a 9-volt battery? This was one of the questions posed in my arduous experience getting through security checks in Boston airport at the weekend. I had to go through the standard screening process twice, removing my jacket, shoes and belt on each occasion. Additionally I was subjected to two ‘random’ tests that involved groping. I am not sure why I qualified for the 4-star treatment while other passengers continued on their way, and I wouldn’t mind hearing the odds of my being selected for two ‘random’ searches.

Most protracted and frustrating was the interrogation that followed when the airport police emptied my rucksack on a table and asked about all of the contents, the details of my visit for the peace-loving MLA convention, and pretty much any aspect of my life that it pleased them to wonder about – and as it happened, they wondered about a great many things.

The guard set about reading my PhD dissertation. He must have been aware that one of the parties mentioned – a Mr Shelley – was known as an insurrectionary figure. He looked at Duncan Wu’s biography of William Hazlitt as though he was considering conducting a controlled explosion on it. His companion paused at various others of my possessions, for it took two of them to investigate the details of my attendance of an academic convention. Compact discs and hand-written notes were deemed especially suspect, as was a gift I had bought that included a chocolate sauce, while socks passed without close examination.

What was I doing in X? How long had I been doing Z? Could I name a person in the vicinity of P or Q? What was I doing in X and how long had I been at Z again, with varying phrasing to see if my answers would be consistent?

Reports tell us the CIA failed to respond to a tip-off. This was a bizarre lapse in vigilance. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been subjected to investigation prior to his setting foot in an airport, so how thoroughly non-suspects are prodded in transit only addresses a small aspect of the problem of international security. Additionally, it will be a victory of sorts for the terrorists if the annoyance of travel to the US kills American tourism. The strategies for approaching terrorism need to be re-thought. The answer is not to be found by rummaging around in my trousers.

Shelley - known supporter of Irish revolution in 1811

January 2010

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