Over the last two months I’ve been able to squeeze in a couple of hours to watch a few shows and some episodes of a TV series. I was plesantly surprised to have actually had a wonderfully good run. If you haven’t watched any of these, you’re in for some awesome entertainment.
Saving Mr. Banks
I didn’t think I’d like this movie. I enjoyed Mary Poppins as a child and enjoyed it again with my kids. But a movie on Disney getting the rights to make a movie? Boring. Except I was completely wrong. This is not a story about some woman selling the rights to her story. It’s about why she never wanted to sell the rights to Disney in the first place. It’s about her childhood and the real source of Mary Poppins. And to pull that off Saving Mr. Banks has to tell two stories: an often funny one about P.L. Travers who does not want to license her story and Disney’s final attempt to win her over, and a poignant one that reveals why Travers was so resistant. And it leaves the last twist, one that expands the meaning of the title in the viewer’s heart, to the very end. I loved this movie. I loved Hanks as the affable Disney and Thompson as the irascible Ms. Travers. Loved all of the other characters. If you enjoyed dramas like Miss Potter or The Blind Side, you’ll love this too.
I thought: another Sherlock Holmes series? Puh-lease. Yes, the two films featuring Robert Downing Jr. and Jude Law and the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were superb. I loved both. But another Sherlock? Surely this is going to be some cheap attempt to capitalize on the success of the other two, something that is direct-to-DVD quality. Who is going to do it as well as Downing and Cumberbatch?
Boy, was I wrong (yet again!)
Elementary is delightful. Sherlock, played by the talented Johnny Lee Miller who made Eli Stone such a joy, is a modern day Brit living in New York. He’s in the final stages of drug rehab, living with a “sober companion.” The companion is Joan Watson, played by Lucy Lui. The Captain of the NYPD is one of Sherlock’s old friends an appeciates his skills and so brings him in as a consultant on various cases.
So how could they do anything different? Yes, you have the quick powers of observation and intellectual acrobatics the other Sherlocks have. But the female Watson and the whole recovering addict angle takes the stories in a new direction. This Sherlock has a past that haunts him. And this Watson is maybe a bit quicker than the other two, as wonderful as they are.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it, but there is room for three Sherlocks and Watsons. I can’t tell you which of the three pairs I enjoy more.
As soon as the news stories about Somali pirates started breaking back in 2008 I knew it would lead to some thrillers. Heck, Abdul Hassan, “The One Who Never Sleeps” was one of the first zings I posted on this site. What I didn’t know was that the big thriller would be based on an actual story: the 2009 hijacking of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. Phillips is played by Tom Hanks, who always gives a great performance. But I also found the portrayal of the pirates interesting as well. As I did the many unexpected details of how these pirates operate and how the incident was brought to a close. If you like realistic thrillers, you’ll enjoy Captain Phillips.
I reviewed the book Lone Survior back in 2011. You can read my full report there, but the bottom line is that it was an awesome read. However, as with all awesome reads, you become a bit wary of the films based on those books. I’m happy to say the filmmakers did a great job on this one. They paid huge attention to detail because they wanted to honor the fallen soldiers by getting it right.
In order to get it right, they brought Marcus Luttrel, the author, and a number of other SEALs onto the project as consultants. The SEALs put the actors through some basic training before they even began shooting. This was to not only help the actors get to the point where they handle their weapons and gear as someone seasoned might, but also so they could feel what is was to work as a team, an important part of being a SEAL. The SEALs stayed on to provide input as well during the shooting.
But the details went beyond that. I have never seen a military film that felt as real to me, especially when it came to the characters. SEALs are warriors. But that doesn’t capture the variety they come in. And in the opening 25% of the movie we see sides to these men that many movies do not portray. It was so refreshing! In fact, without the groundwork laid in the beginning, this film wouldn’t have had near the impact it did. Yeah, the action is ACTION! It’s thrilling. You have never seen some of the shots the film portrays. But the action means nothing without the men.
And this story is about the men.
It’s about what it means to be one of those guys and gals who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. And if you want a special treat, when the film is over, you’ll watch all the extras.
The f-word is used about five million times in this movie. I usually don’t like a lot of vulgarity in my entertainment. But I cut the folks some slack in this case because I felt the story was worth it. Besides, I didn’t consider it entertainment anyway, more documentary.
If you are interested in what it’s like for Special Operations forces, if you want a story to help you see what so many are doing for the rest of us, I don’t know that it gets any better than this.