Wednesday, June 28, 2006

elementary roundup, watson

What time is it? Why elementary, my dear Shelfers, it's time for the weekly unpaid venture into madness known as the media roundup. This week we have an assortment of goodies to tempt and entertain you. Don't worry, we will make all inquires discretely, and all findings shall be made known in a logical and timely fashion. While we wear no Deerstalker, nor do we carry a meerschaum pipe, we do promise to uncover the true classics and items worthy of your attention so you don't have to do any of the leg work. No need to thank us, that's just how we roll at 221B Baker Street.


Top Shelf Pick of the Week:

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

There have been many, and I mean many, low quality and cheap Sherlock Holmes DVDs out on the shelves. Assorted collections had only, as you could guess, assorted movies. I have even seen a company selling The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on DVD Rs and it was grainy at best. Now comes along a collection that seems to do justice to Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce and to Holmes fans everywhere. The UCLA Theater Archival program worked for years on amassing the best prints and restoring the films to their great black and white glory. The result is this MPI Home Video complete collection of the 14 Holmes films that starred Rathbone and Bruce. 5 discs not only have all the films, but also wonderful special features; including interview footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a documentary on the restoration process done by UCLA, and six audio commentaries (including one with actress Patricia Morison, who was in Dressed to Kill). This set may seem pricey, but the fact of this being the only complete collection of the Rathbone/Bruce series and the evidence of the quality speak for themselves. As for the films themselves, many are excellent and a few are superb. There are only a couple, towards the end of the run thankfully, that seem a bit haggard and long in the tooth. Adventures and Hound of the Baskervilles are perhaps the best known and most loved. Hound is perhaps the peak of Sherlockian perfection for the series. For many fans, Rathbone and Bruce ARE Holmes and Watson, perhaps one of the best screen duos to portray the team. They not only did film, but also had a Sherlock Holmes radio show. Too bad none of those shows were included as extras in this set. Only in the past couple of decades has a team of actors approached the quality and association of Holmes and Watson, namely Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke who portrayed the sleuth and sidekick in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series. Something that was odd about the Rathbone/Bruce series was the choice to "go modern" in later films. In some films it works, sort of, but in others its too distracting. Nonetheless, this is a classic piece of film making and classic Hollywood. Pick it up and see for yourself why these films became the archetypical Holmes for many fans.


Man, first Nate and Hayes hits DVD and now my other favorite Pirate film from the 80s debuts on DVD: Yellowbeard. I wonder what's the deal... oh, wait- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is coming out soon. Isn't marketing grand? Actually, in this case it is. If I were to tell you that you could bring the elements of Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and Cheech and Chong together in one film would you go see it? Of course you would. Well, this is it. What's that? You never heard of it? Shame on you! Lemme just list some of the cast for you: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Khan, Peter Cook... and the list goes on. It's as if British and American humor got together and had a baby...awww. Several reviewers have actually stated the film is funnier than they remember, but I remember it being hilarious. Chapman plays the vicious, yet somewhat demented and now forgetful pirate Yellowbeard. It turns out Yellowbeard hid his vast treasure and the only map to that treasure is tattooed on his son's head. Many people, including the British Navy and Spanish are after that treasure. The only problem is that Yellowbeard is in prison at the St. Victim's Prison for the Extremely Naughty. The British allow for Yellowbeard to escape and then the chase is on. Many critics panned the film when it premiered in 1983, and it didn't do all that well. In fact, John Cleese has said it was the worst film he's ever done (Ummm... Rat Race, John?) and only did it as a favor to Chapman. I declare it to be "Shelf Worthy" and a great and funny film. Not all films can be Citizen Kane, but they should be entertaining. This is one is definitely entertaining and fun. One sad note: Marty Feldman died during the making of this film. This film was also Chapman's last.

Time Machine: When Cowboys were King
My generation, as well as successive ones, has been robbed if you ask me. When I was born, the Western was breathing its last (or so was thought) last gasp. When my Father was a kid, you couldn't get away from them. Sure, that meant a lot of "bad" westerns, but it also meant a lot of great ones. Now, however, I think the Western is undergoing a renaissance of sorts if cable television is any indication. AMC's recent film Broken Trail was the highest rated show this past Sunday. Open Range and other recent Westerns are doing very well for themselves. This documentary was written by film and television historian and journalist, Doug Nye, and is extremely well done. Take a journey through films and television and discover a time when cowboys truly were king.


Superman Returns: The Soundtrack
Why on earth would anyone willingly place themselves in someone else's shadow? Why would an artist do a performance that would inevitably raise comparisons to a master? In this case it's fairly obvious. John Williams is a master composer. Film scores from the 70s and 80s and into the 90s were pretty much John Williams kingdom. Some films can be instantly brought to memory just by humming a few bars from one of his works, especially Superman. When Bryan Singer was brought on board to direct Superman Returns, his opinion of the music was you can't have Superman and not have John Williams. Singer's choice for a composer, John Ottman, brings back John William's classic score and adds to the music of Superman with some wonder pieces. This is a Soundtrack that harkens back to the film soundtracks of yore, and brings to mind not only William's score but other music for great adventure films. No Who Let the Dawgs Out here. Take a listen to the whole thing on aol music.

The Essential Judy Garland and Diana Ross: Blue

These are wonderful CDs that should be in everyone's collection. Judy Garland's talent and presence really comes through in this collection. And Diana Ross' album Blue was made shortly after she starred in the Billie Holliday biopic, Lady Sings the Blues. Barry Gordy shelved this album, thinking she was getting too far away from contemporary music and focusing too much on jazz and the standards. Too bad, but luckily for us it is out now, decades later. Her voice and work on some of the most sublime music ever is wonderful.


The Acme Catalog: Quality is Our #1 Dream: by Charles Carney

Looking for that Road Runner Female decoy robot that seems to be the hard to find item today? How about a catapult capable of throwing a huge boulder across a highway, which will inevitably bounce back to land on you? Well, wait no more! This catalog is for you! Yes, it's the Acme Co. Catalog replete with all kinds of gadgets and mechanical wonders! Longtime Warner Brothers scribe Charles Carney compiled this funny tribute to the ultimate in home shopping. Everyone from Daffy Duck to the indefatigable Wile E. Coyote has used the products from Acme, but with mixed results. Now you can see why!

Y: The Last Man, Volume 7: Paper Dolls.

I have only recently begun to read this graphic novel series. In fact I read the first 4 volumes in one evening. Having really been away from comics in the last decade or so, I have only indulged in the occasional graphic novel or some classic reprints like the excellent DC Archives series. Someone gave me a tip about this series and I'm glad they did. "Something" has swept the earth and resulted in "gendercide" killing all male humans and animals on the earth. All, that is, except for Yorick Brown and his monkey, Ampersand. Yorick is not some sort of scientist or superhero. In fact, he is an unemployed college grad with an English degree and fondness for escape tricks. Exactly how he came to survive is still a mystery, but it may have something to do with the monkey. Accompanied by a secret agent assigned to protect him and a scientist trying to discover what has happened, Yorick and Company are traveling the globe trying to piece the puzzle together... without getting Yorick killed in the process. While the plot sounds like just this side of hokey, it isn't. The writing is excellent and the twists and turns will leave you guessing. Try and cross Twilight Zone and Outer Limits with comics and that's pretty close to what you get with Y: The Last Man. Give it a try- it's a fun piece of escapism and it also seriously explores philosophy, politics, and 21st century scientific ethics with humor and panache. What has been really interesting is the exploration of what the world would be like without any men. It's not what you think.

Television: (check local listings for times)

Shelf picks for Turner Classic Movies
June 28th: Some great films tonight! Don't miss Anthony Quinn in Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962). It's an epic you need to see: Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Later on Anthony Quinn returns in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)

June 29th: You want pirate movies? I'll give you a pirate movie:The Sea Hawk (1940). Then watch Hepburn and Tracy in Keeper Of The Flame (1942). Later stay for a little known Bogie flick: It All Came True (1940)

June 30th: It's a great day to call in sick and watch some classic comedy with Monkey Business (1952) and Ball Of Fire (1941). Later watch Eve Marie Saint in two of her best: On The Waterfront (1954) and North By Northwest (1959)

July 1st: Watch the great Randolph Scott western, Seven Men From Now (1956). Then celebrate the lovely Olivia DeHavilland's birthday with The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Santa Fe Trail (1940), Gone With the Wind (1939) & The Heiress (1949).
July 2nd: The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), Flying Down To Rio (1933)

July 3rd: TCM has baseball fever: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), The Stratton Story (1949), The Pride Of The Yankees (1942)

July 4th: Celebrate the fourth of July with some All-American movies: The Wizard Of Oz (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Sergeant York (1941), Knute Rockne All American (1940)

That's all folks, to quote a dear friend. Don't forget: Superman Returns premieres across the country today! We still have our Superman poll up, and the results so far are somewhat surprising. We'll leave it up for another day and then post the results. Don't forget to vote for your favorite.

As always your comments are welcome.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You've a magnificent brain, Moriarty. I admire it. I'd like to present it pickled in alcohol to the London Medical Society.


Christian Johnson said...

You naturally meant 221-B Baker St., rather than 211, which reminds me to do a review of the 221-B Baker St. games I own.

As for "Y", I agree it is an enjoyable series. But a "pet peeve" of mine is the classification of comic book series (even ones later collected in "graphic novel" format) as graphic novel series or graphic novels. I know that GN is where the growth of the industry is, and it is a great format, but I just want people to know that those beautiful 22 page marvels are still around.

J.C. Loophole said...

Of course- correction made.
Y, I believe is actually a reprint of the series into the graphic novel style which makes it some easy for someone like me who missed out on the series to catch up. We know the regular series are out there- but the GN is an easy way to get into a series, especially when bookstores more readily carry GNs than they carry traditional comics, as sad as that is.

Christian Johnson said...

The GN is easier to store on the shelves and "travels" better than the flimsy 22 pagers. Ironically, I can see a future where the GNs are the "collectible" items because people remember them and they held up better.

It never ceases to amaze me how few people "read" comic books anymore. A good print run is 100k. More people attend the San Diego Comic Con than buy comics. What up with that?


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