Category Archives: Sherlock Holmes

Seattle Focus: Viewing ‘Mr. Holmes’ at the Guild 45th


The Guild 45th in Seattle

I ventured out to ye ole local movie house and saw a refreshingly old-fashioned flick, “Mr. Holmes.” It debuted here at our Seattle International Film Festival in May. Ian McKellen plays Sherlock Holmes from three vantage points: as the elderly Holmes on a farm just after World War II, and in two flashbacks: Holmes just a few weeks earlier on something of a last mission in Japan; and Holmes 35 years prior on his very last case.

The theater I went to see the movie played a bit of a role too in its own way. It is the Guild 45th in the Wallingford neighborhood. It’s one of those fixtures on the landscape that people rely upon. Having just mourned the loss of Cinema Books in the Ravenna neighborhood, I couldn’t help placing more value on this theater, while it’s still around. Lord knows, it’s seen better days but, I honestly feel, it has quite a lot of character. It creaks here and there. And that played off my viewing Ian McKellen creak along in a role that asked him to advance his age considerably.


There’s really everything to enjoy about this film. You can easily add it to the incredible Holmes pop culture canon. The film is adapted from the 2006 novel, “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” by Mitch Cullin, which plays off the famous royal jelly that Holmes believed to be an elixir of youth and uses that motif as a way to explore deeper issues of human connection. Keep in mind the title of the original novel and that gives you a clue as to what you can expect. The idea of the mind betraying its owner certainly informs Mr. McKellen’s magnificent performance.

A ghost enters the Guild 45th.

A ghost enters the Guild 45th.

Sherlock Holmes proves to be as mysterious and elusive as ever here. By a trick of acting, McKellen feeds off the enigma of Holmes and his efforts to remain enigmatic by maintaining a vague and uncertain past and indeterminate age. It’s a wonder he’s managed to elude reality for as long as he has and move about like a ghost. But he has two other human beings living with him on the farm: his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (played by Laura Linney) and her son, Roger (played by Milo Parker). Both Linney and Parker provide a dynamic counterbalance to the regal and erudite Holmes. If you haven’t seen 1998’s “Gods and Monsters,” also by this film’s director, Bill Condon, then you must. It is also a compelling exploration of relationships and also stars Ian McKellen.

With the elasticity of youth, young Milo is not offended by the attempts to rebuff him by Holmes. And Holmes comes to see that Milo is the key to helping him regain a more robust sense of his own humanity. Mrs. Munro, on the other hand, has been providing stability that Holmes must acknowledge. It is Milo’s innocent curiosity that Holmes responds to and leads to his confiding in him about his goal to write his very first, and last, Holmes adventure after having had Watson do all the writing. This business of unlocking the past, as you’ll see, is not without its complications. And, once Holmes has shared of himself, he is no longer a ghost. He has a life to live and an adventure to complete.

The Guild 45th is a cherished place for entertainment and I look forward to my next visit. While it would be wonderful to see some renovation work, I love it just as it is too. I say this because I want the Guild 45th to continue to live as best it can and go from there. We don’t want to lose the Guild 45th and I am rooting for it. The Guild 45th is no ghost. To all my Seattle friends, I say let’s keep this theater alive and kicking for another generation to enjoy.

This weekend, you can catch “Mr. Holmes” as well as Woody Allen’s latest, “Irrational Man,” at the Guild 45th. For more details, visit our friends at the Guild 45th, and all the other Landmark Theatres in Seattle, right here.


Filed under Ian McKellan, Movie Reviews, movies, pop culture, Sherlock Holmes

Review: ‘The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes’ by Zach Dundas

Holmes investigates Holmes. Art by Henry Chamberlain.

Holmes investigates Holmes. Art by Henry Chamberlain.

It is clear that Zach Dundas loves Sherlock Holmes. A quest to explore how and why the interest in Sherlock Holmes has endured is the subject of his new book, “The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes.” In a highly accessible and conversational narrative, Dundas weaves classic Holmes stories into his own idiosyncratic reportage. The result is jolly good fun and goes a long way in explaining the Holmes phenomena.

Can one really put one’s finger on the Holmes appeal? Well, sure, for one thing, he’s a comfortably familiar character right up there with Superman, Snow White, Snoopy, and Frankenstein. He’s the ultimate brand. Of course, do people still actually read the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Well, Dundas is here to assure you, if you have not, that it’s fun stuff. Much of the appeal to this book is Dundas’s unbridled enthusiasm for his subject. He makes no bones about letting you know his passion runs deep going back to reading Holmes tales as a kid.

Time and again, Dundas will casually describe to you an adventure from Sherlock Holmes lulling you in until you’re deep into the plot. Then he’ll alternate with one of his own quests such as dragging his family all across the moors of the English countryside or endless searching for the real-life potential counterparts to fictional Victorian London. For Dundas, part of the mystery lies in attempting to understand what all his fellow tourists see in Holmes.

As he waits in line to enter a replica to 221B Baker Street, Holmes’s fictional digs, he can’t help but get a little smug assuming no one else in line has actually read Doyle. This lapse can be forgiven. When the only thing setting you apart from the crowd is the fact that you’ve read something that they haven’t, that’s more of a humbling experience than something to be proud of. And, it’s in that spirit, that Dundas shines as he shares his various facts and insights.

What you get here is a low-key and quirky look at what Holmes meant in his own time and what came soon after-and beyond. As Dundas observes, Holmes went retro rather quickly and embraced his new position, as it were, with gusto. With the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Victorian era quite literally came to an end. However, in the Holmes universe, the Victorian era would now enter a perpetual loop as Doyle kept on creating Holmes adventures set circa 1890. In short, Holmes was the original steampunk. And, with that in mind, it makes more and more sense as Dundas explores the myth and mystique of Holmes leading him all the way to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Ultimately, the mystery to Holmes does seem to be that such an esoteric character should have such broad appeal. That said, there are a number of erudite, refined, offbeat, and just plain weird characters that have struck a chord with wide audiences. Doctor Who is one, for sure. But you can rattle off any number of them from Star Wars to Game of Thrones and so on down the line. The general public is not always looking for some obviously populist figure to be the next pop culture superstar. And, with Holmes, you get a ready-made multi-layered artichoke of entertainment at the ready to be peeled back for deeper and richer understanding. That is what Dundas delightfully demonstrates in this quite entertaining book.

“The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes” is 336-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and available as of June 2. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, mystery, pop culture, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes In Search of a Taquito

Caught this fabulous piece of work outside my local 7-Eleven. What does it mean? I’m not sure. Did they have taquitos in the 19th century? Yeah, I think Sherlock Holmes was addicted to them.

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Filed under Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, taquitos

Bonus Track: John Watkiss Sherlock Holmes art (SPOILER ALERT)

SPOILER ALERT for our more sensitive viewers. I’ll make a similar announcement after the first three images just in case you missed it. And here’s the plug: You can see the whole show of John Watkiss art at Gallery Nucleus which I mentioned at Newsarama awhile back. Consider this a bonus track, a chance to see a bunch of the art from the show at a glance with your old friend, me.

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Filed under John Watkiss, Ring of Roses, Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes

Bonus Track: John Watkiss Sherlock Holmes art

So, help yourself to some cheese and crackers. The bartender will take your order. Just thought I’d throw this little afterparty. Stay awhile and admire the art by John Watkiss. Yeah, it is central to that famous mystery surrounding a graphic novel as the basis for the Robert Downey Jr. “Sherlock Holmes” movie. These are illustrations that were drawn up from a script that a producer used to sell the movie to studios. Have I said this before? Hey, it’s been a long week. Anyway, someone will find this interesting.

I should mention again here a SPOILER ALERT for our more sensitive viewers. Maybe that should be my new thing: I just keeping warning everyone with spoiler alerts. Wouldn’t that be nice if there was always someone around to warn you when something bad was going to happen to you with a spoiler alert? That would be pretty awesome. Anyway, don’t mind me, keep mingling. Smile and nod. I really don’t see a need to annouce a spoiler alert but someone suggested it. Yeah, the drunk guy over there who keeps saying “spoiler alert” like I’m starting to do. Of course, stuff is depicted here that will be in the movie but it really shouldn’t hurt a darn old thing. As I’ve said, I’m just going to the movie to see Robert Downey Jr. do his thing and exchange some witty banter with Jude Law. And it’s also very nice to have the very lovely Rachel McAdams on board.

Also, notice that the art is dated, “2006.” Wow, these things take forever to get off the ground, don’t they? Of course, some projects are decades in the making or never get made. As I conclude in my Comics Grinder review at Newsarama, which you really should read unless you already have, John Watkiss did great artwork for the graphic novel from the ’90s, “Ring of Roses,” but it did not ultimately add up to a great graphic novel. However, after all these years, it looks like it may end up as a pretty good movie. Sometimes, things just take a long time to find a home. Which reminds me: Everybody, time to go home.

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Filed under John Watkiss, Ring of Roses, Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes