Warning: Don’t watch it after December 1 or you’ll lose Whammageddon.
Dash (Austin Abrams) is a deeply cynical 17-year-old bibliophile still angry at his parents’ divorce and his father’s general selfishness. One day at a bookstore he finds a red notebook left by a girl named Lily (Midori Francis) for a worthy boy. Intrigued, Dash follows the book’s instructions and the two start a relationship based entirely on leaving messages and tasks in the red notebook. Dash is helped by his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown), while Lily is encouraged by her brother Langston (Troy Iwata) and her Great Aunt (Jodi Long).
I admit that this show played heavily on my personal influences. While it’s a bit ridiculous for a pair of 17 year olds to be so determined to try and find true love, the idea of meeting someone through a ridiculous series of mostly literature-based exchanges appeals to me. The two lead characters are both avid readers that have used books as a form of escapism, something that appeals to me as both a cinephile and a library patron. Also, both of the leads are super awkward in their own ways, something that, without getting into it too much, I might be able to relate to.
The story is told typically by alternating viewpoints of the same events, something that can be extremely enjoyable when done right, and this series actually pulls it off pretty well. The first two episodes, especially, provide a large amount of fun revelation when we see what Dash believes about Lily and then we are shown who Lily actually is. Due to the structure and the nature of the show, the two leads are almost never actually in the same scene, meaning that they are often playing off of what the other person has written, rather than off of their actual performance. It’s fully to the credit of the leads that we can read their faces just as well as they are reading the missives from their potential paramours. Also, they’re both just the right level of “cute” to allow you to believe that two people in their mid-20s are both high school seniors.
The supporting characters are great, particularly Boomer and Langston, but I also think that Lily’s grandfather was played well by veteran actor (and the first live-action Shredder) James Saito. Boomer is the only really close friend of Dash who is an upbeat extrovert in contrast with Dash’s sullen introversion. We also see other friends of Dash’s ex-girlfriend Sofia (Keana Marie), who clearly like her more than him (and let him know it). Langston is probably the funniest character in the show as he is a gay college dropout who constantly pushes Lily to do ridiculous things.
Overall, it’s a pretty fun series. My only warning is that they do play “Last Christmas” by Wham! in the first episode, so beware of losing Whamaggedon.
After 15 years, the Winchester brothers finally come to the end of the road.
SUMMARY (Spoilers. So many spoilers)
Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) lost their mother, Mary (Samantha Smith), to a demon when Sam was a baby. Raised by their father, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and his friend Bobby (Jim Beavers) to be monster hunters, Sam eventually left and tried to live a normal life. When John disappears, Dean and his brother reunite in order to find him. They then end up fighting a bunch of monsters before finally killing the demon that took their mother, Azazel (Frederic Lehne). Then they fight that demon’s boss, Lilith (Katherine Boecher). They’re joined by an angel named Castiel (Mischa Collins) and together they fight the Devil (Mark Pellegrino). Then they fight the archangel Raphael (Demore Barnes) and the Leviathans, monsters so horrible that God banished them to Limbo. Then it’s God’s scribe Metatron (Curtis Armstrong), a knight of Hell (Alaina Huffman), another king of Hell who is also a dead Scotsman named Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard), God’s evil sister (Emily Swallow), some Brits and the Devil again, the Devil’s son (sort of) (Alexander Calvert), and then finally they fight God himself (Rob Benedict).
They die a lot, but eventually they actually manage to be the last men standing.
Supernatural’s originally intended plotline ended ten years ago with the defeat of Lucifer and yet that didn’t even slow the show down. There’s a meme online that describes Supernatural as “redneck Dragonball Z” in the sense that every season we’re told that the thing that the boys are fighting is the biggest threat ever and yet the next season the threat is even bigger (with some exceptions). That’s not inaccurate, but the fact that eventually the enemy they fight is literally God (yes, the creator of everything himself) makes me respect the cliche more, since they carried this trend all the way to its logical, yet absurd, conclusion. Also, at least they had the good sense to kill off each of the characters multiple times (I think the Winchesters have died collectively at least a dozen times without counting time-loops), but then I remember that is ALSO a Dragonball Z thing. Maybe it’s that the two shows really contain one very similar theme. Both series are about the ability for people to grow and overcome any challenges through effort and determination.
That theme may be the thing that I most like about the series. In Supernatural, there is always a solution to any problem if you work hard enough and learn enough. It’s not just that the Winchesters kick a lot of monster butt, they also constantly are dedicated to reading the lore about all of the enemies that they fight. Sure, ultimately, they have to stand their ground against a horrible monster and stab it through the heart with a thrice-blessed shard of obsidian or whatever, but what worthwhile problem can you solve without exposing yourself to danger? It’s not like the boys always know they’ll come back from the dead, in fact they often assume it’s the last time, but they still stand up and fight the good fight. They hunker down, read a ton of books on the subject, formulate a plan, then put everything on the line to solve it. I FEEL LIKE THERE’S A SOLID LESSON CONTAINED IN THIS.
Then there’s Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. Without them, this show would have failed outright. Their chemistry is as good as any onscreen couple, which is possibly part of why people have shipped them together despite their characters being siblings who have nothing but brotherly affections. Everything about their interplay tends to work, from the comedy to the drama to the tense emotional moments. When they added Mischa Collins, rather than detracting from the duo, it heightened it by giving the pair more time to show how they interact with other close parties. Dean and Castiel may be close as it gets (possibly in canon), but his relationship with Sam is still distinct. No matter what guests showed up, and there were some great ones, the core was still Sam and Dean.
I’m going to opine briefly on the final episode of the show, so if you don’t want spoilers, just know that I will always recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy. Even if you don’t like some of the episodes, and there are some that are definitely weaker than others (*Cough* racist truck *cough*), the series as a whole is strong. It didn’t last 15 years for nothing.
As to the finale, I know a lot of people were disappointed. I will admit that I wasn’t happy with it either, but I do have to say I understood why it was a let down and I don’t think it was actually the fault of the show. If you aren’t living under a rock or reading this in the year 2045, you are probably aware that in 2020 the world was struck by a pandemic known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and much of the planet was forced to avoid large gatherings of people. You know what usually requires a large amount of people in a single place? Filming a television show. Even with the final drone shot of the series in which the cast and crew say goodbye to the audience, there was a clearly reduced number of people present for the shoot. And I think that’s what really caused the problem for the finale.
I think what they were going for, an episode dedicated solely to Sam and Dean, was actually a great way to send off the series. Their bond, as I said, was what kept the show going. The decision to ***SERIOUSLY, SPOILERS*** kill Dean off for real was basically inevitable. Dean Winchester was never going to quit fighting until he could literally fight no more. Sam, on the other hand, could live a normal life. It was inevitable that Dean would go first, particularly since he spent his whole looking after Sam. I wasn’t upset by that and I was genuinely kind of moved by the scene between them. I also appreciated the cameo by Christine Chatelain from season one as well as by Jim Beavers as the “real” Bobby Singer, but the fact is that for a show that lasted 15 years to only give us two cameos in the last episode while name-dropping a half dozen others is a bit of a let-down. The absence of Castiel, Jack, and Mary Winchester was especially notable. However, I think that really just comes down to the impossible choice that the show had: Finish with who was willing and able to be quarantined to shoot the finale safely (within the budget they have for the episode), or just don’t finish the show. They couldn’t reasonably ask for everyone to just come back after COVID was over, because there was no telling when that will be. So, they had to scale it back to what they could get. The final “drive” montage was even the perfect time to show all of the old familiar faces one last time and have those final send-off scenes, but they couldn’t pull it off. I think the show deserves credit for trying and forgiveness for having a logistically impossible task. And while it might have been a bit of a let down, it wasn’t a BAD episode. It was just smaller than it should have been.
Overall, I still love the show. It’s been around almost my entire adult life, and I will miss it dearly.
I finally got through the series and it definitely was time well spent.
Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) is the multimillionaire owner of a video store empire. His wife, Moira (Catherine O’Hara), is a former soap opera actress and they have two spoiled adult children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy). Unfortunately, the family discovers that their business manager has absconded with all of their money and has failed to pay their taxes in years, leaving them essentially penniless. Their only remaining asset is a town that Johnny bought for a young David as a joke: Schitt’s Creek. The family moves to Schitt’s creek and into the local run-down motel managed by Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire). The very eccentric and nouveau riche Roses quickly start to find themselves in contact, and occasional conflict, with the locals, including idiot Mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), his wife Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson), upbeat waitress Twyla (Sarah Levy), local garage owner Bob (John Hemphill), local veterinarian Ted Mullins (Dustin Milligan), councilwoman Ronnie (Karen Robinson), and later local businessman Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid). However, the town and the Roses both start to rub off on each other, and maybe everyone gets a little bit better.
I know I was late to this game, but I can say that, having watched the entire series, this show is absolutely worth the time to get through. I was told up front that the first season was weak, and it definitely was in retrospect, but the actors are so good that you can honestly get through the first few episodes based solely on that. A part of the slow start is that they were more focused at the beginning on the original pitch of the show, which was “what happens if you put a reality show family in a small town.” While that premise is funny, the show really starts to hit its stride when the main characters start to actually realize how crappy they are as people and genuinely start to change. It adds a level of sincerity and emotion to the show that allows for the humor to really impact the audience because it’s now contrasted by solid drama.
The amount of comic talent in this show is second to none. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara have been together in multiple Christopher Guest movies and their chemistry continues on the small screen. While Johnny is often the straight man of the family, which suits Eugene Levy, O’Hara plays a ridiculously over-the-top former actress known for her eccentric grammar and pronunciation choices. If you think someone saying the word “baby” can’t be funny, she will prove you wrong. Dan Levy and Annie Murphy start off as being insufferably annoying, but quickly evolve into fun and compelling characters. It helps that David is usually accompanied by Stevie, whose deadpan snark is perfect with David’s melodrama, while Alexis is usually paired with Ted or Twyla, both of whom are so positive that they balance out Alexis’ general aloofness. All of the supporting characters help to round out the town, although I admit that I never quite got into Roland. He’s generally just too stupid to be enjoyable, which is only redeemed by the fact that Chris Elliott is naturally brilliant.
Aside from the cast, the strength of the show is that it manages to constantly subvert expectations in the absolute best ways. Any time that you think they’re about to fall into sitcom cliche, they manage to surprise you and turn it into something else that’s brilliant and funny. It seems like that’s one of the most consistent elements and it’s something that’s rare for any show. The fact that it only gets better as the show goes on is even more rare.
A seemingly immortal killer strikes every nine years with signature markings on the neck.
In 1988, Philadelphia Police Officer Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) and his partner Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine) are investigating a series of deaths. The victims appear to have died of blood loss and are found with strange holes on their necks. Lockhart’s brother-in-law Detective Holt (Michael C. Hall) leads the investigation. As Lockhart confronts the suspected killer (Cleopatra Coleman), she reveals that she knows Lockhart before seemingly dying. Nine years later, Lockhart finds out that a similar killing spree begins and that the suspect still appears to be the same woman. Only time will reveal the truth.
This movie surprised me on a lot of levels. Admittedly, the reveal of what is happening becomes clear pretty early on, but having a movie where the mystery actually spans decades is pretty great and I can say that you probably won’t guess the full extent until at least halfway through. The ultimate reveal of why the events of the movie happen is fulfilling, even if it ultimately might leave you with a bit of contemplation about the real world and morality.
The film hangs on Holbrook’s performance and, fortunately, he’s up to the task. As the movie goes on he goes from ambitious family man all the way to homeless nutcase and hits most of the steps in between. It says a lot that the film can jump nearly a decade at a time and still have you follow the protagonist’s journey without really having any issues. Coleman, on the other hand, pulls off a performance that requires a number of things being just ambiguous enough to keep the audience waiting at all times and does it well. The way that director Jim Mickle focuses on the appearance of the world and the characters changing in ways that quickly communicate the when and where of the jumps helps quite a bit. It also helps that the dialogue doesn’t play up the ‘80s or ‘90s too much, instead letting advances in technology do most of the talking.
The script does suffer a bit from trying to make sure that everyone is caught up at the end, because it goes through a meticulous description of what we’ve just watched and most of it should already have been known to both of the parties involved. Still, they use that opportunity to give us some more visuals that we otherwise likely wouldn’t have seen that do help drive the point of the film home more.
Overall, I really liked this movie. Give it a try.
A young woman takes the chess world by storm. Yes, that’s a thing.
Beth Harmon (Anya-Taylor Joy/Annabeth Kelly/Isla Johnston) is orphaned when her mother dies in a car crash. At the orphanage, Beth stays isolated aside from her friend Jolene (Moses Ingram) until she sees the Janitor, Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), playing chess by himself. He eventually agrees to teach her and, by the age of 9, she has become a prodigious player. As she gets older, she begins to demonstrate incredible skill and starts to win tournaments with her adopted mother, Mrs. Wheatley (Marielle Heller), as her manager. She eventually goes up against American champion Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Soviet champion Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorociński), and a ton of sexism.
It’s tough to make chess interesting in film, which is probably why the movies Searching for Bobby Fischer and Queen of Katwe are the only ones I can name off the top of my head. Both of those are biopics, albeit dramatized, about real young people becoming chess prodigies, whereas this series is entirely fictional. However, since apparently there’s only one chess story to tell, it is still about a young person becoming a chess prodigy.
The reason this series works is because, like the above movies, it’s more about the person than the game. Beth is a broken person and, for much of the series, it’s not even her fault. Her mother died, she was put into an orphanage, and the orphanage drugged her regularly. She’s an addict by the middle of the first episode. The rest of the series pretty much just goes naturally from there, with her spiraling from vice to vice, sometimes under the watch of her adopted mother and sometimes not. At the same time, we see that Beth is not just a chess prodigy, but a brilliant thinker in math and science as well, just not to the same level. I like the depiction of a chess player as not JUST a chess player, but a person who has considerable talents and just dedicates them to chess primarily. Not that this wasn’t true of both Josh Waitzkin and Phiona Mutesi, I’m sure, but their biopics didn’t have the time to expand on it sufficiently. Also, both of those were limited by reality: Waitzkin quit chess in his early 20s and Mutesi, while she does appear to still be active, only has a rating of 1600, whereas chess champions are all usually above 2500. As Beth is fictional, she’s allowed to actually go out and win against the best of the best.
Anya-Taylor Joy’s strength in the portrayal is her eyes. Beth is often depicted as playing games out in her head and visualizing the chessboard, and Joy conveys that perfectly. We see her moving between fierce concentration, anxious fear, and ruthless enjoyment of her victories. She’s got a mostly laconic wit, which Joy lays out well. The supporting cast are also great, although many of them move in and out of the series almost at random. The recurring character of Watts, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, is particularly interesting because his relationship to Beth changes so drastically during the series, going from being an idol to a rival to a friend.
Overall, great series whether you like chess or have no use for the game.
Jack Sullivan (Nick Wolfhard) is a teenager and one of the only survivors of an apocalypse that brings forth a horde of zombies and eldritch monsters. He soon joins up with his tech genius best friend Quint (Garland Whitt), former bully Dirk (Charles Demers), and his crush and ace warrior June (Montserrat Hernandez) in order to start taking out the bigger threats and make the apocalypse more bearable. They’re joined by the mutant dog Rover (Brian Drummond). Soon, they find out that other sentient monsters were pulled into our world, including the expert hunter Skaelka (Catherine O’Hara), wizard Bardle (Mark Hamill), chef… Chef (Bruce Campbell), and leader Thrull (Keith David). Thrull soon betrays the group in order to summon the dark goddess Rezzoch (Rosario Dawson), but Jack and crew manage to stop him. The world is a little bit safer, but Rezzoch is now looking for a new way in, and she will stop at nothing.
When this show first came out, I compared it to the other then-recent “kids in the apocalypse” show, Daybreak. Well, this show has now gotten two more seasons with awesome new regulars while Daybreak got cancelled, so I guess we know who won. Honestly, I wish they’d continued both, but I admit that this show has kept things fresh as it keeps going.
A big part of why it still works is that they’ve given each of the characters deeper arcs that expand on their initial characterization. Jack gamifies the world and tries to make everyone happy because he is afraid of being left behind. June keeps people at a distance because she’s focused on her missing family. Dirk, who is accustomed to being the biggest guy around, now finds himself outclassed by the monsters and wants to regain his position. Quint is nervous about keeping everyone happy because he thinks people only want him for what he can do, not who he is. These feel like real people with real flaws and their interactions are all heightened by desperation.
The monsters are also amazing. They’re simpler characters in some ways, each mostly matching a traditional fantasy archetype, but that makes it all the more interesting when they reveal something that subverts your expectations. The fact that they all have great voice actors is a huge bonus. The show has used the fact that their main characters are mostly genre savvy as a way to work in pop culture references, but with the presence of actual sci-fi/fantasy/horror legends on the cast, you knew that some in-jokes were made. Campbell and Hamill have a great interaction in this season that made me laugh for a solid minute only because it was the joke that had to be made.
Overall, solid series for kids and adults, glad it’s still going.
A team trying to clean up an old abandoned asylum find… I guess what you might expect in an old abandoned asylum?
Gordon (Peter Mullan) is the owner of a company who takes a rush job to remove all of the asbestos in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. His crew includes: Mike (Stephen Gevedon), who knows much about the building’s history; Phil (David Caruso), his second-in-command who is dealing with a breakup; Hank (Josh Lucas), a gambling addict; and Jeff (Brendan Sexton III), Gordon’s nyctophobic nephew (afraid of the dark). While in the asylum, Mike discovers a box containing a total of nine sessions of audio-recorded interviews with a former patient named Mary Hobbes (Jurian Hughes). As they start getting to work, Mike starts listening to Mary’s tapes, finding out that she had dissociative identity disorder. Soon, strange things start happening around the asylum. It turns out that some things might be more than just a trick of the mind.
The key to this movie is the atmosphere. It starts with the building itself. It’s a giant, sprawling relic of the past that clearly has a bad history, but it’s not as apparently menacing as many horror settings. It’s got a lot of light areas and white walls, but also a lot of hallways that quickly turn into underground tunnels. The open spaces being connected by tight and isolated rooms allows everything to go from “okay” to “oh no” at a moment’s notice, keeping the viewer always on guard. The fact that everywhere has signs of decay, death, and torment only serves to heighten the feeling that this is not a good place to be. But, again, it doesn’t always rely on dark corners and creepy hallways to have the threat. Sometimes, a room filled with an almost eerie light can provide the grounds for the feelings of dread that permeate the film. Also, it was an actual abandoned asylum, so there’s an extra level of authenticity to the creepiness.
The other key to the atmosphere is how well these characters come off as authentic. They all have their own reasons for taking this job and they all are desperate to get out of their current situations. Their interactions show a closeness and a joviality. That makes it even more disturbing when, as the film progresses, their talks start to get more and more strained and aggressive. Moreover, all of them have different reasons why they might suddenly be growing stranger. One of the best parts of the film is that you can never be sure who is being influenced by what, even when the really bad things start to happen. By having almost everyone in the film being a suspect and an unreliable narrator, you can never be certain of what is real.
The cinematography in this film, while not incredibly unique, does a great job of framing shots such that you can never quite get the full picture of what’s happening, even when there don’t appear to be any supernatural forces at work. It gets taken up a notch later when we find out that someone on the crew seems to have completely snapped, but we don’t know who and we don’t know if it’s even real. When the final revelations in the film start to snowball, the certainty comes almost as a relief even as the horror rises.
Overall, this is a great work of psychological horror. Give it a try.
Let’s just admit that this is the best Scooby-Doo movie.
Mystery, Inc. has broken up. Daphne (Mary Kay Bergman) has a hit TV show with her cameraman Fred (Frank Welker). To celebrate Daphne’s birthday and her new supernatural investigation series, Fred invites Velma (B.J. Ward), Shaggy (Billy West), and Scooby-Doo (Scott Innes) to reunite for one last ride. Unfortunately, despite looking for ghosts, all the gang finds are people in suits trying to steal things. The gang eventually winds up in New Orleans where a woman named Lena (Tara Strong) invites them to see Moonscar Island where her employer, Simone Lenoir (Adrienne Barbeau) has a real haunted house. The gang starts to encounter some strange happenings, but is it ghosts or a hoax? Hint: It ain’t a hoax.
Between 1969 and the present, there have only been 9 years in which no new Scooby-Doo media was released. Six of those years were between the end of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in 1991 and this movie. The franchise was potentially on its last legs, aside from Cartoon Network’s occasional reruns and its annual 25 hours of Scooby-Doo marathon. But, it did well enough on repeats for the network to give this film a shot. It was assembled by people who had mostly worked on more serious shows than the traditional Scooby-Doo, like Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron. In fact, this film was basically a recycling of an unused script from that show. Because of that, this movie went in a new direction for the franchise: Legitimately kind of dark.
It’s not just that the zombies are real in this movie, it’s that by this point in their careers, Fred, Daphne, and Velma no longer even consider the possibility that magic could be real. While there had been some real ghosts or monsters in some previous Scooby-Doo works, most of them involved Scrappy-Doo instead of the human gang. When Velma and Fred encounter things that seem supernatural, they immediately move to debunking it, comparing it to other times that they’ve dealt with manufactured mysticism. The only ones who still appear to be humoring the idea of real ghosts are Shaggy and Scooby, which makes it better that they’re the first ones to encounter the zombies, because no one believes them. Despite the fact that the zombies are real, though, there is still a legitimate mystery as to why they’re attacking and how they came to be.
The soundtrack to this film is great. The theme song was performed by Third Eye Blind and there were two original songs in the film composed by the band Skycycle, “The Ghost is Here” and “It’s Terror Time Again.” I sometimes still find myself humming the latter whenever I see any kind of horror montage. That’s actually part of why I picked this film, even though the request was actually for “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo.” The other part was that the only movie of 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo came out recently, and it was not great.
Since this film came out, Scooby-Doo has had five more series and thirty-eight more films, including Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, one of my favorite series ever, and it would not have been possible without this film reminding people that the franchise still had untapped potential. If you ever had any love for Scooby-Doo, give this film a try. If you have never seen Scooby-Doo, this is the best pond to dip your toe in.
This show has a disturbing set-up and uses the heck out of it.
Emma (Sumire Morohoshi/Erica Mendez), Norman (Maaya Uchida/Jeannie Tirado), and Ray (Mariya Ise/Laura Stahl) are three 11 year old children who live together at an orphanage called “Grace Field House.” They live an idyllic existence with their foster siblings and their caretaker whom they call Mom/Mother (Yūko Kaida/Laura Post). One night, after one of their siblings is adopted, Norman and Emma sneak out to give the child her stuffed animal, only to find the child dead at the hands of a demon. It turns out that Grace Field House is not an orphanage, it’s a farm and they’re the crop. Now the three have to find a way to escape along with their other siblings while evading Mom and her assistant, Sister Krone (Nao Fujita/Rebeka Thomas).
This show is one of the most aggressively disturbing set-ups I’ve seen in a long time. It hits harder than many shows because it’s not just a dystopia, it’s a dystopia focused on killing children. Almost all of it, at least so far, has been off-screen, but it’s still a horrifying idea that this happy orphanage is literally just raising children to be slaughtered. The show does a good job of keeping the pressure on all of the characters through that and it’s all the heavier because these are young people who normally wouldn’t have to consider their mortality.
What sets the show’s cast of characters apart is that these aren’t normal 11 year olds, they’re all prodigies on an epic scale. They not only are heavily educated, but they’re constantly trained to think critically. The explanation of WHY they were raised that way is a bit of a stretch (at least the one they gave so far), but it justifies having a hypercompetent set of protagonists so I can accept it. Against a normal adult, these kids would likely triumph without issue, so naturally their opposition, Mom, has to be unbelievably intelligent and resourceful. Watching the two groups scheme and counter-scheme is like watching a high-level chess match, sometimes literally. It’s tense and exciting and full of twists.
Overall, this was a really solid series. It’s rough to watch, because of the plot, but it’s worth it.
Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister gets her own adventure.
Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is the youngest child of the Holmes family after her older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Raised alone by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is taught to be independent (particularly for a woman in the 1890s) and is educated in cryptography, strategy, and even martial arts. When her mother disappears, the older Holmes brothers attempt to send Enola to a finishing school under the abusive Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), but Enola escapes. In her flight, she encounters a young man who is revealed to be a missing Marquess, Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who is being pursued by a menacing man. The pair escape together before getting separated. Enola now wishes to find the Viscount as well as her mother while avoiding the eyes of the greatest detective in the world and his smarter older brother.
While I do read a number of Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, I don’t think I’ve read the source material which inspired this movie. I’ve heard that the books are better, but I can say that it is hard to write a character that can match Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal. It’s not just that she does such a great job of portraying a smart outcast woman in Victorian England, it’s that she is unbelievably likeable. Even though her character often breaks the fourth wall and falls back on some overused tropes, she’s so charming that you don’t even care. A big strength is how much she can convey to the camera with just a look. Comedy, concern, caring, things that don’t begin with C. She also has great comic timing when she does her breaks and the deliveries of the lines in them, but she also nails the more somber emotional moments. It reminded me of Fleabag, something that wouldn’t have shocked me if I’d realized that Harry Bradbeer, the director of this film, was also the director of that show. Given the heavy feminist themes of both, I feel like this is almost the young persons’ introduction to the same humor that Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought to the screen. If they want to cast Waller-Bridge as an older Enola Holmes in a future movie (or as Irene Adler), I want everyone involved to know I will throw money at the screen with such force that Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate will feel it.
Henry Cavill portrays a different version of Sherlock Holmes than we usually see. He’s more grounded than Robert Downey, Jr.’s version and more human than Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal. He is still brilliant, but since he’s not the focus, it comes off almost more impressive because we just see him working things out in the background. He also seems more caring, possibly because this is the first version we’ve seen interacting with a family member who actually likes him. However, Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Mycroft, who is essentially the villain of the piece, stands at odds with most interpretations of the character. He’s a misogynist, a classist, and tends to shout loudly. Additionally, he’s often wrong, which is probably the biggest difference from the canonical version. But, I will say, he’s a fun villain, because he’s really just a representation of an archaic mindset and watching Enola rebel against it is cathartic to everyone’s inner teenager.
The actual mystery of the film is pretty great, particularly in watching Enola slowly unraveling it. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t have the practical experience of Sherlock Holmes, nor does she have the ability to operate independently, due to her status as a woman. She does a good job to try and overcome it, but often ends up just dressing as a boy to get by. Still, it’s fun to watch her work.
Overall, I really liked this movie, but now I need a movie with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Irene Adler. I’m going to start #IreneWallerBridge on Twitter and see if anyone cares (they won’t).