PBS/HARTSWOOD FILMS Enlarge
The recently completed second season of Sherlock on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery! proves there is plenty of life and fun left in the 125-year-old detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
CBS even announced last week that next fall it will air a modern-day transplanted-to-New York City version of the tale starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson.
The network, however, will have to go a long way to top this Sherlock, which is set in today's London. One of the reasons is Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), whose portrayal of the eccentric master of deduction is just so bloody enjoyable, while Martin Freeman is equally terrific as Watson.
This production squarely puts Holmes in the technological age. He is as familiar with texting as he is with bloodstains.
The first of the three episodes -- A Scandal in Belgravia, which was inspired by A Scandal in Bohemia from Conan Doyle's original Holmes stories -- brings Holmes face-to-face with the character of Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), frequently used as a love interest for the detective although she only appeared in one story.
In the amusing script by Steven Moffat, who has rebooted Doctor Who as well as Sherlock, Adler is not just some adventuress (a vague term for a woman of ill repute) but a dominatrix. And how does the puzzle-solver react? He is taken with her; so you know this is not your father's Sherlock.
The only bad thing about the series -- there are only three episodes.
We want more.
The Woman in Black has the virtue of not goring -- or boring -- us to death.
Pretty much a ghost story, the film, set vaguely in pre-World War I England, stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter role. He plays Arthur Kipps, a British lawyer who still mourns for his wife, Stella (Sophie Stuckey), a year after she died in childbirth and whose eerie presence still hovers around him.
With his grief affecting his work, Arthur is assigned by his boss to settle the large estate of a woman who has recently died. To do this he must travel to one of those remote English villages with perpetual fog and creepy townspeople that used to be a staple of old horror films.
Daily (Ciaran Hinds) -- who drives a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost -- and his strangely off wife (Janet McTeer) are the only two in the village who are willing to talk to poor Arthur. Everyone else flees him or gives him nasty stares. There is, of course, a dark secret no one wants to give up. This one involves children.
Radcliffe has spent a decade playing a youth in the Potter films, but in The Woman in Black he proves he has moved up to adult roles. And in this case those images of him as a frightened boy wizard serve the film in its creepiness.
Based on a 1983 novel by Susan Hill, which is adapted by Jane Goldman and directed by James Watkins, The Woman in Black is largely atmospheric, with the tension and the terror mounting slowly but ultimately with a jolt.
A slick romantic action comedy, This Means War aims for the blend of spy derring-do and love play of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but comes off light in both categories.
Directed by McG (Charlie's Angels), it stars Reese Witherspoon as Lauren, a consumer-products tester who happens into the paths of CIA agents Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine).
Before then, the pair had their own bromance going as macho undercover types, but the adorable Lauren (Witherspoon tends toward these too-cute roles though we know she can act with an edge) puts a wedge in the relationship.
Suddenly, boys start acting like boys as they use the agency's toys to compete for the clueless Lauren. She has no idea who they are and takes her advice about men and sex from her married -- sometimes potty-mouthed -- friend (Chelsea Handler in the funniest role in the film).
Woven into the romantic comedy is some kind of save-the-world scenario.
McG handles the action well enough, but it isn't as seamlessly integrated into the film as it needs to be. And Tuck and FDR's obsession with Lauren borders on stalking. Planting bugs and peeking in a girl's windows means love?
But while the whole thing feels a bit off, there are quite a few laughs throughout, thanks mostly to Hardy and Pine throwing themselves so wholeheartedly into their roles.
And Witherspoon? Well, she can do cute in her sleep.