Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |

Hooray for Christmas holidays! My long absence from the cinema has finally come to an end, and what a film to do it with.

It’s no secret that I loved the last Sherlock film, In fact, I was so emphatic about it that Ross suggested I might be working for their promo department.  So I’ve been excited about the sequel ever since I discovered they were filming it down the road from my flat.  With all the positive feedback from the first film, it had a lot to live up to, and as RDJ said himself “sequels usually suck,” so this film really needed to deliver. Luckily it does.

Game of Shadows has everything we want from this franchise.  Great one liner humour combined with some more slapstick comedy, a convoluted plot with enough clues for the audience to think they’re on the brink of solving it before we realise we’re nowhere near as clever as Holmes, and a fantastic Victorian bromance between Holmes and Watson.

The chemistry between Jude Law and RDJ was what made the first film so wonderful, and in this film they’ve managed to build on it without overplaying it. There are some lovely moments, both humourous and more serious, which add heart to the storyline.

As for the supporting cast; Noomi Rapace is good as Sim and Stephen Fry does a good turn as Mycroft, although it’s hard to see him as anything other than Stephen Fry.   After all the furore over who would play Moriarty following the first film, and the melodramatic secrecy with which they hid the actors face both in the first film and during initial work on the second, it could almost be a let down that Jared Harris is revealed with fairly little ceremony (and that he isn’t a big name Hollywood superstar).  I’ll admit when I heard who was playing the infamous Napoleon of crime I was a little disappointed because I was expecting something different, but Harris earns his place in the movie and is a good foil for Holmes.

On to the story.  The plot is at times hard to follow, and about three quarters of the way through I did find myself trying to make sense of which diplomat did what to whom and why this was a bad thing.  Pretty much everything is explained by the end though, and a second watch coupled with a bit more post game dissection with my sister should tie up any loose ends.  The action comes thick and fast, as we would expect from Guy Richie, and there are some awesome set pieces.  Anyone who has seen the trailer has seen most of the train scene, but for me the chase through the woods is a fantastic piece of cinema.  The use of slow motion is clever and adds just the right emphasis to certain moments, making it a real edge of the seat sequence.  The final showdown between Holmes and Moriarty is brilliantly executed too, playing with the Holmes voiceover device to turn the fight in to a proper meeting of minds.

The story is basically the same as LXG (for those who’ve seen it, and no, I’m not going to start that debate again) but obviously with a bit more work gone in to it, and based on one of Conan Doyle’s more notorious books.  Despite not having read the book (surprise surprise) I did know where we were heading and so I was really happy with how the ending was handled.  I’m not going to spoil anything, but the last scene definitely drew a gasp from me and those around me, and was the perfect way to bring as neat a close as possible to a necessarily open ending.

Finally a few words on music. I love the score to Holmes; it conjures up Victorian London brilliantly.  Hans Zimmer can basically do no wrong, but he manages to get a great balance between a period feel and a punchy accompaniment to the on screen energy.  The nods to Don Giovanni are also a nice little in joke for musos.

I probably don’t need to do much work to convince you to go out and see this film.  It’s a great pre-Christmas movie and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again.  Roll on Sherlock 3.

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Oh how I’ve missed you Holmes

Posted on July 17, 2011. Filed under: Trailers | Tags: , , , |

Even though Cap is just a couple of weeks away (more on that story later) right now, I’m more excited about this:

In a dress. Yes.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Faithful followers will know that I was really looking forward to this films release. No doubt they will also have noticed the lack of review on this site.  The inconvenience of having a full time job mean that I never got to see Parnassus in the cinema, but the epic rain that washed out the Bank Holiday weekend allowed me to finally get around to watching the DVD.

Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first. Yes, it’s weird. In fact it’s very weird.  But this is the mind of Terry Gilliam, where if you think it makes sense, you’re not getting it.  So put that aside before you start and you’ll get on a lot better.

Gilliam is essentially an artist, and it’s the visuals that make this film.  Each trip through the Doctor’s magic mirror takes us into a world beyond imagination that only Gilliam could create.  But unfortunately it has little else to offer.  I did enjoy the juxtaposition between the old-fashioned world of the Imaginarium and the modern world of it’s clientelle.  The opening credits set you up for a period piece, but then a drunk guy wanders into shot from a nightclub and you realise you’re expectations were wrong.  Just how Terry likes it.

I don’t want to call Parnassus a bad film, because it isn’t bad exactly.  But I’m not sure what it is.  The plot is as expected; convoluted and very hard to follow, but if you strip it down to the bare bones it’s actually relatively simple.  The problem is the characterisation.  I’m not really sure whose side we’re supposed to be on.  There isn’t really a protagonist story to follow, the plot just seems to meander around a group of people.

As for the actors behind the performances, Tom Waits does a great underworld Mr Nick and Verne Troyer proves he can do more than just be the funny little guy in his first proper acting role.  The focus however,  falls inevitably on Heath Ledger.  This is where it gets difficult.  Neither Ledger, nor alter egos Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, really get to stretch their acting muscles.  If anything, the only thing that caught my attention was Ledger’s wandering accent, which never seemed to get hold of a region (Farrell on the other hand carried off an impressively non-Irish dialect.)  It’s a shame to have four huge talents like that on screen and see them go to waste, but to be honest not many members of the cast get to do much.

The eponymous Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) spends most of the time asleep, and it’s hard to keep up with who bet what to who and why.  I’m still not actually sure who won.  Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield are good though as Valentina and Anton.  In fact, Garfield wins the prize for being the only character I actually cared about.

I’m so reluctant to criticise this film.  Not only because it is Heath’s last, but because it had potential to be really good.  Wishful thinking can’t rescue a film though, and I’m afraid I have to confine Dr Parnassus to the missable movies vault.  Maybe watch it once just to say you’ve seen it, but I fear that without the macabre draw of this being a film where the lead actor died during filming, few people would have given it the time of day.

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A few quick words on Sherlock Holmes

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews, Trivia | Tags: , , , , |

I don’t really have time to write a full on review so instead I’m giving you a couple of paragraphs based on some stuff I scribbled down last night. Note: I’ve really tried to tone down use of the word “awesome.”

Sherlock Holmes is awesome. It is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen in a while. The chemistry between Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr is spot on, creating a brilliant brotherly relationship with all the awkward macho-ness of Victorian gentlemen added on.  Of course this kind of fast talking quick witted dialogue is the reason Downey Jr was invented-which is why the role suits him so well, but Law plays a brilliant striaght man, with a great dry sarcasm and complete lack of surprise at Holmes erratic behaviour.

OK so this version probably doesn’t live up to the books I haven’t read, but to be honest, who cares? I like this kind of action hero come detective character who has a few issues with drinking eye medicine. (For those who like trivia, that reference in the film is a nod to Holmes cocaine addiction.)  Normally when a film is obvioulsy setting up for a franchise I start to become wary of obvious sequel lead ins, but with Holmes I was already couting the days to the next movie before the credits had even rolled.  This is definitely a double act that could endure for a while yet, with almost limitless plot possibilities!

While we’re talking about plot, some have criticised the black magic story in the film saying it’s too supernatiral for Holmes, but I disagree. The fact that everything came down to it’s logical Scientific explanation suitted Holmes perfectly, while the character of Blackwood tapped into the culture of superstition at the time.

A few other quick thoughts. Hans Zimmer’s score is (as usual) brilliant and despite sounding like the wrong man for the job Guy Richie’s direction works well. There are a few of his trademarks there (I’m pretty sure slow-mo bare knuckle boxing was his idea) but in the context of the film nothing sticks out.  A lot of effort went into recreating Victorian London as well, and the costume design is really good. Speaking of, one final bit of trivia for you: the costume designer obviously has a sense of humour-pay attention to where she has her name in the credits/picture montage.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t have much work to do in that scene 😉

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Half Term is a wonderful thing

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , |

The best thing about working at a school is school holidays.

This week off means I can once again take advantage of the brilliant Orange Wednesdays and finally go and see Sherlock Holmes.

Just a short month and a half after it’s initial release…

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10 Days to go!

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: News, Trailers | Tags: , , , , , , |

Today is the premiere of one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year: The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.  I really hope it lives up to the hype, because with a cast like that and Terry Gilliam at the helm it’ll have to work hard to go wrong.

Of course, there’s gonna be a lot of the same cautious criticism that there was with Dark Knight, and again there will be a significant proportion of the audience who wouldn’t have bothered to turn out to the cinema in different circumstances, but I’d like to think that the movie should be able to earn praise in its own right.  It definitely looks like it’s gonna be one amazing ride.

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