Fashionable Paley Fall Previews

Lucy Liu (as Watson) and Jonny Lee Miller (Holmes)

Sept. 6: CBS Premieres – Elementary and Vegas

Auditorium nicely filled at start time, and as usual, started on time. A great touch with these preview nights is the refreshments, usually salsa, chips or sometimes cheese and crackers with soft drinks and water. Tonight was different; we got goodie bags, just like at Fashion Week! We were fashionable at the Paley Center! Nibbles such as Kit Kat bar (my fave), M&Ms mini, Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, a stick of string cheese, two sizes of pretzels and a neat 8 oz bottle of water. I missed the chips and dips where attendees sought of mingled as they gently jostled for eats. But I can work with the Goody Bag.

ELEMENTARY – A much publicized entry featuring a favorite actress, Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller, a personable actor I don’t know well. At first glance this Sherlock Holmes did a creditable ‘Monk’ refit, with quirky movements and disjointed remarks that no one could fathom. Thankfully that impression faded, as he has no phobias to work around, lest that be fear of failure. Holmes is full of himself as Watson later tells him. Miller is a good fit for a genius just returning from his unintelligent binge with substance abuse.

Lucy Liu is the Watson to this Holmes, brought in by Holmes’ father to oversee the son’s new freedom from drug rehab. Actually he escaped on the day he was to be released, jump starting Watson’s role as his post-rehab caretaker/keeper (or as Holmes put it, his addict-sitter). She seems vulnerable to Holmes’ overbearing know-it-allness at first but she comes across as observant and capable.  It turns out Watson is a doctor, a former surgeon with a sad past, all of which comes to light under one of  Holmes’ casual, brutal observations.

I quickly liked this duo. The dialogue was sharp and uncluttered although it took a moment to absorb Holmes’ distinct British accent in the midst of the Yanks. The two actors have a visible chemistry, and their first meeting was a great example of their coming misunderstandings and revelations. First up: Watson is not a pushover, and Holmes learns it fast. Yet there is a quick bond loosely formed in this pilot; whether it’s mutual respect for the other’s intelligence or a grudging admission that they can help or need each other will show itself in time.

I felt the genesis of his consulting status was a bit thin: his NYC detective  friend of a decade ago worked with Holmes in London and now  he calls upon his just former drug addicted friend for help?  Hmm. Still, the story captures the magic of Holmes’ wit and exceptional skills of deduction well enough in the pilot. I love the supporting cast of detectives. Holmes’ people skills on the other hand, will definitely be fine-tuned by a no-nonsense former surgeon with a brilliant eye for detail as well.

The first episode successfully snagged my attention for more of this show. There were some very funny moments throughout (the theater scene was a hoot), peppered with bloody bodies and plot thickenings and twists. The sets are scrumptious, making nice use of the brownstone’s classic lines to underscore this Sherlock update.  This ep was just a bit foreseeable, but I can tell there are some surprises in store. With Holmes and Watson, that’s elementary (I hope).

VEGAS review to follow – MM


Time Travel to the Past at the Paley: Classic Dr. Who

Digitally Re-mastered Classic Dr. Who Screening at Paley Center
Sat., June 30, 2012 1:00

Screened: Resurrection of the Daleks, Parts I & II

Dr. Who: Resurrection of the Daleks

Cool double header for sci fi peeps: classic Dr. Who episodes: Resurrection of the Daleks part 1 & II

Met the Fifth Doctor all over again! Snappy preppy psychedelic dresser is an eye catcher, and he doesn’t wear an eight foot scarf. What a treat to see this early Dr. Who episode on the big screen. The picture was clean, very little 1980s graininess. Nice leap into the action: mysterious strangers chased by dour London Bobbies? Devilish mystery! Cut back and forth to the Tardis seesawing in a rogue time stream and we’re off!

The opening shots of the grey-toned warehouse district were beautiful and moody. Just enough grain was left visible to establish an urban decay in progress. Add to that the incidental music – a spooky organ peeled off wary notes. Then the massacre of unarmed fugitives by London coppers – ew, nothing nice about these guys.

Had to smile (although others laughed) at the ‘turbulence’ in the Tardis. The actors did barely credible tumbles as the ship swooped and dived. It was clear that the camera was doing most of the movement, like early Star Trek scenes. Even some of the death scenes got laughs as actors did wildly different death throes and screams. The most laughs were when the Daleks succumbed to the lethal virus and seemed to puke their bionic guts out. The special effects of course were early generation so all’s forgiven.

The story was hectic or eclectic: The Doctor trying to find out how they got caught in the time stream, while a crew on an isolated prison ship fights invaders. The twain meets as one of the Companions, Turlough, accidently finds the time stream elevator and ends up dodging Daleks and their human henchmen on their ship. Really, those Daleks must be super salesmen behind their toneless voices the way they seem to cajole these humans into working for them.

The poor crew of the prison ship, a mix of scientists, medical personnel and military people, blunder their way to their deaths. Not that they didn’t try; they almost defeated the Daleks at the airlock; they almost set the self-destruct, and finally one almost made it to the finish. Funny that the medical doctor had more strategic know-how than the appointed military observer.

Just seeing a different, earlier Doctor was nifty. Noting how they pass on such similar characteristics – the swagger, the bon mots, the rapid-fire geek speak – just works so well. The interiors of the Tardis get more cramped with time, it seems. This Doctor’s ship was a minimalist designer’s dream. A nice touch if deliberate, as it indicates that though Time Lords regenerate, it’s a slightly different set of nuts and bolts for the ship.

And pity Tegan, the petite pretty Companion, stuck roaming the universe in a cutesy short skirt and pumps. I liked her, but really felt down when she declined to roam anymore. I’d forgotten this was the episode she called it quits. But it was a good one; she’d just witnessed wholesale death and destruction, not to mention her own near demise. Very opportune time to reassess one’s life choices.

Davros had a neat make up job. Loved that they made his lips the most mobile and his eyes the least; only once did I see his eye peep from behind the shriveled lids. Talk about denial – here was the mastermind behind the Daleks who rolled around in half a Dalek casing, and he didn’t think he was a Dalek? Rough break! And fitting.

All told, the Resurrection of the Daleks was an eclectic mix of elements that worked mainly because this was another (if not original) outing with the irrepressible Daleks. The Doctor was practically a mop-up man for this one, as all the prison crew died, there were casualties he wasn’t there to save, another character, Stien, did the actual destruction, and the Dalek’s chief human mercenary got away. Actually I liked that he’s still afoot for further cold, calculated mischief (if he ever does reappear); good bad guys are so hard to love/hate.

The theater was nearly full for these showings (no, they weren’t like me, mainly there to get out of the inferno outside). The trivia portion was well received as were the prizes – dvds of the episodes on screen. Mixed audience with over 49 and twentysomethings well represented, and a nice number of children under 14. So it was a cool afternoon of long time favorites for some and new favorites for others.

More of these, please! Oh, wait, there is more: three more, an episode on each of the last Saturdays of the month till September. Kudos, Paley!