ORBzine - Steampunk & Victoriana Movie Reviews

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle This is a piece of Japanese anime by Studio Ghibli ( Princess Mononoke ), adapted for the English-speaking world by the folks behind Toy Story .

The story is set in a European country in the Late Victorian era. It's a Steampunk world with a heavy helping of magical realism. The moving Castle of the title is steam-powered, but the steam generator is heated by a fire demon instead of coal!

Sophie ( Emily Mortimer ) befriends a wizard named Howl (Christian Bale - Terminator 4 ). Then she is cursed by the jealous Witch of the Wastelands ( Lauren Bacall ) and is turned into an old lady ( Jean Simmons ). She goes to Howl's castle, amnd works as his cleaning lady until she can be cured.

Meanwhile, the country goes to war. Howl has never stood up for anything in his life, preferring to run away. Now he makes a tough stand ... as a conscientous objector! The thing is that to fight, a wizard must turn into a monster - thus turning to the Dark Side!

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Island at the Top of the World

Island at the Top of the World In the early 1920s, an English explorer goes missing at the North Pole. His father, Lord Donald Sinden, finances a small expedition to find him. Sinden has the goatee beard and upper-crust English accent associated with generic villains. But since this role isn't played by Terry-Thomas himself, this time the rich English Lord turns out to be one of the good guys!

Sinden and his colleagues discover a lost island peopled by Vikings, who have not advanced technologically in a thousand years. The plot then proceeds like a Doug McClure film. They must escape through a volcanic wilderness, while pursued by bloodthirsty Vikings.

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Photographing Fairies

Photographing Fairies Toby Stephens ( Die Another Day ) investigates tales of supernatural events. He is also troubled by flashbacks to his wife (the English one from The L Word).

He receives opposition from the local Reverend (Ben Kingsley - Sound of Thunder ), a powerful figure who dominates the film.

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Prestige, The (2006)

Prestige, The (2006) This was directed by Christopher Nolan , whose last effort was Inception . This film flopped commercially because it is too high-brow (based on a novel, and uses literary devices), and because it was released at the same time as the similar (and inferior) Illusionist .

Victorian stage magician Christian Bale ( Batman, American Psycho ) is on death row, reading the diary of his rival (Hugh Jackman - X-Men ) who describes reading Bale's journal ...

The pair started off as friends, working with Ricky Jay (a magician in X-Files ), Michael Caine ( Man Who Would Be King, Goldmember ) and Piper Perabo . But a tragic event pushes them apart, creating a deadly feud between them. Each seeks to best the other at performing a new trick, The Transported Man. Assistant Scarlet Johanssen , engineer Andy Sirkis ( LOTR, Deathwatch ) and Nikolai Tesla himself (David Bowie - The Hunger ) all play a part.

But in a battle of wits between two master illusionists, what is truth and what is illusion?

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Riverworld (2003)

Riverworld (2003) This may not be true to the story of the original series by Philip Jose Farmer , but at least it is true to the setting. A group of historical figures are reincarnated on Riverworld - a planet dominated by a huge river that encircles the entire globe.

The first half introduces our protagonists. Instead of the original hero (Richard Francis Burton, Victorian hero of the British Empire) we get a Yankee astronaut from 2009. He teams up with Alice Liddell ( Emily Lloyd ), who is evidently the brains of the operation. They are enslaved by a Vandal horde led by Kevin Smith ( Xena: Warrior Princess ).

In the second half, Sam Clemens (AKA Mark Twain) faces off against the Emperor Nero. Somehow, Nero has gotten older since he died - and a lot better at sword-fighting and military strategy.

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Sirens (1994)

Sirens It is 1930s Australia, and puritanical pastor Hugh Grant ( Lair of the White Worm ) is sent to talk bohemian artist Sam Neill ( Alcatraz ) out of publicly exhibiting controversial work. The Pastor and his beautiful young wife ( Tara Fitzgerald ) stay with the artist and his beautiful models ( Elle MacPherson, Portia De Rossi ).

This is part comedy of errors, part journey of self-discovery for the Pastor and especially for his wife. There is an undercurrent of magical realism similar to Picnic at Hanging Rock . The magical atmosphere of the Outback, the subtle implication that the artist's models are the seductive sirens of Greek myth ...

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Fairy-Tale Action-Adventures

Brothers Grimm (2005)

Brothers Grimm (2005) The title characters are Heath Ledger ( Dark Knight ) and Matt Damon ( Dogma ), a pair of monster-hunters who help people in Napoleonic-era Germany. They do not do it for free, of course.

Napoleon's Governor (Jonathan Pryce - Tomorrow Never Dies ) orders them to save some missing children from an enchanted forest ... Along with their sidekick McKenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ), an Italian hit-man and a female rabbit-skinner ( Lena Headey ), they set off into the unknown.

This was directed by Terry Gilliam . It is far cry from his Monty Python stuff - it is closest to Baron Munchausen or Burton's Sleepy Hollow . All the Germans speak with English accents (even Matt Damon!), but the acting performances are all excellent.

  • The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
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    Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

    Hansel and Gretel This is a steampunk-meets-fantasy effort, with Victorian-era protagonists taking on supernatural monsters. Just like in Van Helsing (which flopped) and Brothers Grimm (which did marginally better). So what are the chances this will be any better than its precessors.

    Being force-fed sugary goodness turned Hansel into a diabetic. It also seems to have prematurely aged him, because in real life Jeremy Renner ( Avengers Assemble ) is fifteen years older than his supposedly twin sister, Gemma Arterton . Arterton is tougher than one would expect, in a role usually given to the likes of Milla Jovovich . But she does a good job. And she swears more than in any of her mainstream Hollywood roles so far. That said, she did a lot of near-the-knuckle stuff in low-budget Brit thriller Disappearance of Alice Creed a couple of years ago, so her potential should not be underestimated.

    A Grand Witch ( Famke Janssen ) has a secret plan.

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    Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

    Jack the Giant Slayer Jack the farmboy (Nicholas Hoult - X-Men: First class ) befriends a runaway Princess. She is not a tomboy like Arya Stark ( Game of Thrones ), so Jack joins the rescue mission led by Ewan McGregor ( SW: TPM ) and Eddie Marsan ( Hitch ). Also along for the ride is scheming social climber Roderick (Stanley Tucci - The Core ), who wants to use the magic to control the Giants for his own evil purposes.

    Writer Christopher McQuarrie and Director Bryan Singer deliver a mediocre CGI-fest. The 3D SPFX are at their best when the characters are swinging around on a giant Beanstalk. But didn't Puss in Boots already do this?

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    Blaxploitation Western Movies

    Django Unchained (2012)

    Django Unchained (2012) Django (Jamie Foxx - Miami Vice ) is a slave in Texas, 1858. He is bought and trained by Dr King (Christoph Waltz - Green Hornet ), a hypocrite and serial killer. This demonic doctor of Dusseldorf shows a strong familial resemblance to a certain Nazi Gestapo officer in Inglorious Basterds. Both characters hunt people for money, although one is supposedly a hero and the other a villain. The truth is that King only takes dead-or-alive bounties, and always ends with the victim's death. In reality, a real-life hunter like Bass Reeves (the Black man who inspired the story of the Lone Ranger) would get twenty cents for serving an arrest warrant ... but have to pay five dollars for the death of any suspects, a strong disincentive against killing anyone.

    Django wants to rescue his wife Brunhilde ( Kerry Washington ), who is currently working on the plantation of Calvin Candy (Leonardo DeCaprio - ). To do this, he and King go undercover as slave traders. However, they have to outwit Candy's house slave Steven (Samuel L Jackson - ).

    Candy attempts to justify his enslavement of Black people with phrenology, a pseudo-science that provides feeble justification for his concept of white supremacism. This was largely created by a Scottish doctor, an infamous Edinborough anatomist who bought bodies from Burke and Hare ... the serial killers who murdered people and sold their bodies, just like the so-called bounty hunters King and Django.

    Quentin Tarantino delivers yet another spaghetti Western homage. It has all his hallmarks, including a cast of familair faces. There is no official sequel, although Hateful Eight, The (2015) is sort of a follow-up ... albeit with the main role re-cast.

    This film also revealed a strange difference in American audiences. It seems that White people were amused by the stupid antics of the racist night-riders led by Big Daddy (Don Johnson - Watchmen ), while Black people did not think it was any laughing matter. Apparently the scene that Black people found hilarious was when Django murders an unarmed defenceless White woman.

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    Harder They Fall, The (2021)

    Harder They Fall, The (2021)

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    Hateful Eight, The (2015)

    Hateful Eight, The Major Marcus Warren (Samuel L Jackson - Star Wars: TPM ) is a bounty hunter, trapped in a snowdrift in a mountain pass in Wyoming. He hitches a ride with fellow Bounty Hunter Kurt Russell ( Escape From New York ), who is taking Daisy Domergue ( Jennifer Jason Leigh ) to be executed. They end up at the equivalent of the truck-stop, snowed in with a handful of others including a couple of Reservoir Dogs - Tim Roth ( The Musketeer ) and Michael Madsen ( Species ). The real scene-stealer is Walton Goggins ( Django Unchained ), who portrays the same kind of loveable racist he plays in Justified.

    Some people are not impressed with this film, because it is over two hours long and most of the time is spent waiting for something to happen. Well, if a story about Kurt Russell being snowed in for days with a bunch of potential killers sounds familiar, that is because it is the basis for the finest film he has been in - The Thing ! In that tradition, Tarantino has delivered an impressive suspense thriller. Yes, QT is renowned as someone who delivers style over substance, but here (like in the well-plotted literary adaptation Jackie Brown) he delivers a film with depth.

    Magic Mike from Haywire puts in an appearance in a flashback. He is Daisy's brother ... although this would make more sense if Daisy was played by the runner-up for that role, Katee Sackhoff . With the age gap, Jennifer Jason Leigh is closer to being his mother. Naturally, Leigh is the only cast member to be nominated for an Academy Award for their work on this film. Had Sackhoff done as good a job with the role, which she could have done easily if one compares Daisy to Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica (2003) , would she have gotten a nomination?

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    Hell On The Border (2019)

    Hell On The Border (2019) This is a low-budget Western, based on a true story but with the usual Hollywood embellishments. The dialogue is stagey, an imitation of the TV show Deadwood but without the constant profanity. In other words, almost as if it has been toned down for television! The story is one that needed telling, like in Timeless , although it is a pity it was not done with a bigger budget. The one saving grave is the incidental music, which is laid on thick to cover for the poor visuals.

    Bass Reeves (David Gyasi - ) is a posse man in the Wild West, helping a US Deputy Marshall arrest wanted men like Charlie Storm (Ron Perlman - Hellboy ) on the order of Judge Parker. Parker's assistant, a Progressive woman, suggests Reeves be promoted. Naturally, Reeves passes all the Judge's tests.

    Unfortunately the eeevil White supremacists are against a Black man becoming a Deputy Marshall. It turns out that Reeves is ineligible due to his illiteracy. He was raised as a slave, and while his Master taught him how to use guns he was never taught to read because literacy would make him too dangerous. In reality, he was probably trusted with the guns because his mother was in a Sally Hemmings role. There was also a law that forbade the teaching of literacy to slaves, which might explain the Master's reluctance.

    The most dangerous outlaw in the Indian territories is Bob Dozier (Frank Grillo - Captain America: Winter Soldier ). Reeves is the only man brave enough to take the arrest warrant, which gives Judge Smith an excuse to promote him anyway.

    Reeves and his posse meet up with a Native American fellow who saved Reeves' life as a boy. They get a couple of scenes together to establish them as buddies, but we the audience get very little chance to know the character. There is very little opportunity for character development, which means that the character is basically an expendable redshirt.

    Reeves and his posse lay down a major body-count on the outlaws. Yes, Dozier has a seemingly endless supply of goons for the good guys to kill. In reality, the Marshalls were paid mere cents to serve an arrest warrant but were charged dollars worth of burial fees whenever they killed someone. As a result, there was a strong financial disincentive to kill anyone.

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    Posse (1993)

    Posse (1993)

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    Surrounded (2023)

    Surrounded (2023)

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    They Die By Dawn (2013)

    They Die By Dawn (2013)

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    Western Remake Movies

    3:10 To Yuma (2007)

    3:10 To Yuma (2007) Dan Evans (Christian Bale - Batman Begins ) tries to scratch a living as a rancher in Arizona. His wife Alice ( Gretchen Mol ) does her best, but his son William (Logan Lerman - Bullet Train ) is an impudent little git.

    A stagecoach gets ambushed by Ben Wade (Russell Crowe - Gladiator ) and his gang, including a mexican sharp-shooter with a scoped rifle. This seems unnecessary, because Ben's sidekick Charlie Prince (Ben Foster - ) is inhumanly accurate with his six-shooters. The rancher helps the sole survivor, Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda - ), and the Sheriff ends up catching Ben.

    A small group escort Ben Wade to the big town, in the hope of putting him on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. Evans finds himself having to work with Tucker (Kevin Durand - Robin Hood ), a gun for hire who works for the local big-shot who is trying to take over the Evans ranch. The town doctor (Alan Tudyk - A Knight's Tale ) tags along to help out.

    Evans is not motivated purely by financial necessity. He feels he must prove himself to be a man of honour, in order to win the respect of his loud-mouthed son William. In contrast, Ben Wade is a more shades-of-grey character. He is a cold-blooded killer who wipes out his captors one at a time, but he always remains likeable when he is not killing people. This makes the movie a bit like Heat , with two protagonists who are at odds with each other.

    All this is a bit moot when it gets to the final act. Charlie Prince is obsessed with getting his boss back, but Ben Wade has no such sense of loyalty towards his own gang. We also learn that Ben has broken out of Yuma prison twice before, so he could easily call off the bloodshed and escape later.

    This film is something of an oddity. It is a big-budget western, the first since Unforgiven (1992), with a cast of familiar faces. For some reason the filmmakers chose to do a remake of a somewhat obscure movie. When the Coen brothers did their version of True Grit , they did so because it was an established classic that won John Wayne his Oscar. In comparison, this is a little-known piece. However, the resulting remake is impressive indeed.

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    Magnificent Seven (2016)

    Magnificent Seven (2016) This is a remake of the classic 1960s Western by John Sturges, which was itself a remake of the classic Japanese film Sturges' film was made during the Hayes Code Era. That pretty much sums up the current trend towards 12a/PG-13 films. Then as now, A cowboy can get shot, but he cannot bleed ... and no nudity!

    A villain terrorises a town full of innocent villagers. This town has been relocated from Mexico to the USA, and instead of a bandito the villain is a The main protagonist is Cahill (Denzel Washington - Virtuosity ), a blaxploitation Western hero of the type seen in recent films like Django Unchained, Hateful Eight . He recruits an unscrupulous gambler (Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy ), a Confederate sharpshooter (Ethan Hawke - Gattacca ) and a burly Mountain Man (Vincent D'Onofrio - Men in Black ). There are also plenty of People of Colour in the team - he hires a stereotypical Latino, Oriental and Native American.

    Ethan Hawke is the best actor in the whole thing. In this reviewer's opinion it is not much of an improvement on the original - just a rehash of modern westerns, with trendy modern causes like environmentalism, multiculturism and socialism ...

    There is one important question that this movie raises. Are rifle bullets fired at random from a gatling gun more powerful or deadly than those fired from dozens of sharpshooters?

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    Maverick (1994)

    Maverick (1994) This starts with a brief cliffhanger bookend sequence, which is resolved at the end of the Second Act. Then we learn how the protagonist, professional gambler Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson - Mad Max ), got to be in a life-or-death situation. He was three thousand dollars short of the entry fee for an exclusive card-game, so he does whatever it takes to get the money. To start with, he enters a high-stakes game with con-woman Annabelle Bransford ( Jodie Foster ) and gunslinger Angel (Alfred Molina - Spider-Man 2 ). Later he tries collecting debts from Matthew Wicker (Geoffrey Lewis - ) and Joseph (Graham Greene - Wolf Lake ), but fate keeps intervening.

    The third act takes place on a riverboat run by the Commodore (James Coburn - ), where he hosts the exclusive card game. This pits Maverick and the others against professional card-sharps like Twitchy (Dan Hedaya - Alien Resurrection ) and the Old Gambler (Denver Pyle - ). We get a lot of twists, double-crosses, and a great ending.

    Richard Donner delivers an action-comedy romp set in the wild west. The whole cast is great, but the film is stolen by James Garner ( Space Cowboys ) - the original Maverick - as Marshal Zane Cooper.

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    True Grit (2010)

    True Grit (2010) The Coen brothers deliver a deceptively simple tale from the wild west. A teenage girl hires a couple of bounty hunters to go after a murderer. One is a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon - Dogma ), the other is one-eyed gunman Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges - Tron ).

    If this seems familiar, it is because the film was previously made in 1969. This new version is a re-adaption of the original novel, rather than a straight remake of the John Wayne classic. That said, the dialogue is almost identical to that of the original film. This is grimmer, more brutal and cynical - like Unforgiven with the bookend narration of Titanic. Unfortunately, it is not as hard-hitting as either of those films.

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    Wild Wild West (1999)

    Wild Wild West (1999) It is Reconstruction time, in the late 1860s. Will Smith ( MIB ), Kevin Kline ( Princess Cariboo ) and Salma Hayek team up against evil cripple Dr Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh - Dead Again ) and his babes ( Musetta Vander, Bai Ling ). Ted Levine ( Silence of the Lambs ) is a Confederate general.

    Barry Sonnenfeld directed this steam-punk blockbuster, although it was never as successful as his previous collaboration with Will Smith ( MIB ).

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    Mary Poppins Movies

    Mary Poppins (1964)

    Mary Poppins (1964) Edwardian England, and a couple of upper middle-class children are miserable. But super-powered nanny Mary Poppins ( Julie Andrews ) appears on the scene, and cheers everyone up.

    Mary and her boyfriend the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ) take the kids on magical adventures, courtesy of the Walt Disney corporation. The result is a big-budget 1960s technicolour musical that mixes live-action footage and animation.

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    Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

    Mary Poppins Returns (2018) A couple of decades after the events of the first film, the children have grown up but still live in the same house. The boy (Ben Wisart - Perfume: The Story of a Murderer ) is a father himself now, but with three motherless children to look after. Although he works at the same bank his father used to, the bank has called in the mortgage. Yes, they are so ruthless they will screw over employees whose family has worked there for generations.

    To look after the three kids, they need the help of magical nanny Mary Poppins ( Emily Blunt ). She takes the kids on magical adventures, and introoduces them to magical friends of hers. The chimney sweep has retired, although Dick Van Dyke has a cameo in the movie as a different character. His job is taken over by his nephew (Lin-Manuel Miranda - His Dark Materials ).

    The villainous bank manager is Colin Firth ( Kingsman ). Ironically he previously made a movie with Blunt called Arthur and Mike (2013), a road movie about a pair of Americans played by English actors.

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    Nanny McPhee Movies

    Nanny McPhee (2005)

    Nanny McPhee (2005) It is the Edwardian era, and English Country doctor Colin Firth ( The Last Legion ) has a bunch of unruly children. Not just playful, but vicious little bastards who play constantly mind-games to get his attention. He and housemaid Kelly McDonald are losing control of the situation.

    Luckily, Emma Thompson arrives with enough make-up on to be an extremely ugly nanny with supernatural powers and a heart of gold. Yes, this is basically Mary Poppins as told in the manner of Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events . Nothing too original, but young kids generally do not like surprising or original things. It was popular enough for a sequel to get made, so the intended audience must have liked it.

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    Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang (2010)

    Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang (2010) During the Second World War, Ewan McGregor ( Star Wars: TPM ) has gone off to join the army. This leaves his wife ( Maggie Gyllenhall ) alone to look after their three children. As if this was not bad enough, the kids are joined by their two cousins who have been evacuated from London. Because the cousins are cliched stereotypical snobs, the trio automatically start to bully them.

    To help the mother cope, a friendly old lady ( Maggie Smith ) summons a friend from her own childhood - Nanny McPhee ( Emma Thompson ), the ugly-looking version of Mary Poppins . Instead of beating the children, which would be blatant child-abuse, McPhee magically forces the children to beat themselves. Nice loophole.

    Rather than use her considerable magical powers to hand-wave every problem away, McPhee lets the children do all the work. This is under the guise of letting them learn by doing things.

    Since the men are away fighting the war, most of the characters are women and children. Positive male influence is provided by the local air raid warden (Sam Brown - Porridge). a profession featured in Dad's Army played by an actor from Allo, Allo.

    The kids' uncle, a local spiv (Rhys Ifans - Hannibal Rising ), delivers a telegram stating that their father has been killed in action. The eldest boy (Asa Butterfield - Ender's Game ) does not want to believe this, so he gets a lift with Nanny McPhee to London and visits his uncle in the War Office. There is no historical accuracy here, it is a kids' movie version of what the office might look like. It is guarded by the Guards Brigade in their full dress uniform, rather than a regular infantry unit in combat dress. Notably, the guard is the African actor Nonzi Alonso ( Zoo ) for some reason. The building's foyer has a massive model featuring every on-going British military campaign in the world - even though they would have been locally controlled by different offices. The General (Ralph Feinnes - Harry Potter ) is presumably a Brigadier, since he commands thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds of thousands. But what is he doing in the civilian War Office rather than a military HQ?

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    Sherlock Holmes Movies

    Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002)

    Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002) A monk is found murdered, drained of his blood. Only Sherlock Holmes (Matt Frewer - Max Headroom ) and Dr Watson (Kenneth Walsh - Twin Peaks: S2 ) can solve the case!

    This is a Canadian made-for-TV effort for 2002. The budget is appropriately limited. However, it is quite watchable.

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    Hound Of The Baskervilles (2000)

    Hound Of The Baskervilles (2000) This is a Canadian made-for-TV adaptation of a public domain story. As such it is low-budget effort, and follows quite closely to the original story except when budgetary constrictions come into play.

    Sherlock Holmes (Matt Frewer - Max Headroom ) and Dr Watson (Kenneth Welsh - Twin Peaks ) are made aware of mysterious goings-on at Baskerville Moor. Holmes has important things to do, so he sends Watson to go and look after Sir Henry Baskerville (Jason London - Mallrats ).

    Watson does a pretty good job of running the case single-handedly. He has to investigate a mysterious letter the dead man received. Suspects include the housekeeper ( Leni Parker ).

    The real let-down is the hound itself. This is hardly a monstrous beast, merely a dog the size of a domestic house-pet. At least the film-makers did not resort to dodgy CGI, but they could at least have found a bigger dog.

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    Murder By Decree (1979)

    Murder By Decree (1979) Jack the Ripper is dropping bodies across the east end of London. Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer - Starcrash ) and Dr Watson (James Mason - Journey to the Centre of the Earth ) are sidelined by the police, so they spend the night at the theatre instead. Crown Prince Edward is there as well, and some working-class socialist types boo him. This class warfare is actually an important theme in the film.

    The Whitechapel vigilance committee hires Holmes to help. Lestrade (Frank Finlay - ) has handed over the case to Inspector Foxburough (David Hemmings - Deep Red ), who operates under the command of Sir Charles Warren (Anthony Quayle - ). It seems that Warren is deliberately hindering the investigation ...

    Rather than make a direct deduction, Holmes gets informed that Robert Lees (Donald Sutherland - Don't Look Now ) has had psychic visions about the murders.

    This all links into a massive conspiracy theory involving Freemasons. Holmes assumes the Ripper's victims are specifically selected because they all somehow knew each other. He traces a woman named Annie Crook ( Genevieve Bujold ), who has a secret that could topple the monarchy. Of course, if the constitutional monarchy were removed it would be replaced by a Presidency ... a far worse situation.

    The climax of the film is not the defeat of the Ripper, but Holmes confronting the Prime Minister (Sir John Gielgud - ) and giving a theatrical speech.

    Director Bob Clark has made series of films, each of a different genre. This time he delivers a Holmes-versus-Jack effort that may follow in the footsteps of A Study in Terror (1965) , but has its own spin on the subject.

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    A Study in Terror (1965)

    A Study in Terror This is a dated-looking effort from 1966, filled with cliches. However, the budget must have been reasonable for the time because there are quite a few familiar faces.

    Sherlock Holmes (John Neville - Baron Munchausen ) and his bumbling sidekick Watson receive a mysterious package. It is a doctor's instruments, but one of the scalpels is missing.

    Jack the Ripper is menacing the women of Whitechapel, including Barbara Windsor Judy Dench Adrienne Corri . He is instantly recognisable because of his top hat, cape and doctor's bag. Despite this, Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay - ) is stumped. The suspects include the local police surgeon (Anthony Quayle - ).

    Holmes comes out of this quite well. He is a skilled disguise artist and sword-fighting action hero. That said, he is also a cold-hearted ruthless man who uses unsuspecting people as live bait in a deadly trap. Worse, he always manages to save himself while those around him are not always so lucky.

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    Sherlock Holmes

    Sherlock Holmes This is Guy Ritchie 's much-hyped rehash based on Conan Doyle's character. Robert Downey Jnr ( Iron Man ) is the title character, while Jude Law ( A.I. ) is his long-suffering sidekick, Dr John Watson. Together this dynamic duo take on a selection of thugs in some spectacular physical confrontations.

    Rent-a-villain actor Mark Strong ( Tristan and Isolde ) is Lord Blackthorn, a character about as subtle in demeanor as Severus Snape. This wicked Peer of the Realm is plotting to take over the Empire, and thus the civilised world, by means of apparent black magic.

    Holmes' lost love Irene Adler ( Rachael McAdams ) is in town, working for a shadowy figure who calls himself The Professor. This sub-plot is an indication that the inevitable sequel might be even better!

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    Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

    Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

    The story starts with a reference to the first movie, with Moriarty's henchwoman Irene Adler ( Rachel McAdams ). Luckily for the plot there is a new female lead, a gypsy girl played by Noomi Rapace

    Holmes has his sights on Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris - Fringe ).

    Moriarty also has another minion to run errands for him - a very unlikely-looking fellow who is supposed to be Colonel Sebastian Moran, finest sharpshooter in the world (lately of Her Majesty's Armed Forces).

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    Mr Holmes (2016)

    Mr Holmes (2016) The story starts in 1947. At the age of 93, Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen - Lord of the Rings ) lives with a new housekeeper ( Laura Linney ) and has taken up bee-keeping. He has begun writing a memoir that he hopes will correct the misapprehensions created by his friend John Watson.

    The memoir-writing leads to a series of flashbacks about Holmes' final case. It was just after the end of the First World War, almost thirty years earlier. A man is distraught about his wife's activities, so he hires Holmes to investigate her. Holmes has trouble remembering the rest of the case, since he has now become borderline senile.

    In another set of flashbacks, Holmes recalls a recent visit to Japan. He wanted to obtain a rare herb to extend his life. Unfortunately the only place it grew is Hiroshima. Nobody mentions the idea of getting a geiger counter ...

    The movie ties up the plot threads quite well, with Holmes learning the lessons of his last case and using itto help those around him. Not a particularly life-changing movie, but an enjoyable enough take on the character.

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    Vampire movies

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012)

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter Young Abe's momma is murdered by villainous Marton Csokas ( Xena ). Abe seeks revenge, but finds out the hard way that the killer is one of the slave-owning Vampires out of Fevre Dream - or possibly Interview With The Vampire . Their leader is Rufus Sewell (complete with English accent!), repeating his role in the Zorro sequel. In a startling coincidence, this also has a fiery climax aboard a steam-train carrying a war-winning weapon to the War of Northern Aggression.

    Abe's team include a token good vamp, a shopkeeper (Lloyd from Breakout Kings) and a Token black guy. He marries Scream Queen Mary Elizabeth Winstead , who is stuck with a very unflattering look.

    The film misleadingly represents Lincoln as being primarily an Abolitionist (not a Federalist, as he was in reality). Worse, it portrays the Confederates as literally being bloodthirsty vamps.

    The problem is that this story is a parody of OTT action films. But it is not even the first of its kind - it imitates Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , which had the decency to admit its own comical intent.

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    Bathory: Countess of Blood (2008)

    Bathory: Countess of Blood Hungarian noblewoman Erzebet Bathory ( Anna Friel ) is investigated by the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic monks use roller-skates and photography to spy on her circa 1603!

    The film cannot seem to make its mind up. Bodies pile up, quite literally - but is this linked to Bathory herself? The overall theme of the film is that she was framed by a rival Aristocrat who wanted to seize her lands.

  • Countess Dracula
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