FlixChatter Review: The Gentlemen (2020)

I’d say Guy Ritchie is an acquired taste… you could even say he’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it filmmaker, which means you either love or hate his fast-paced, at-times frenetic style, and I’m mostly talking about his gritty British gangster films, so the family-friendly Aladdin is obviously an exception. For the most part, I like his movies. From his debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, to the underrated Rocknrolla, and the 2015 The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which I like more on rewatch, his movies are often irreverent, cheeky and fun.

After Aladdin, Ritchie returns to his roots with The Gentlemen. He’s back to portraying working class gangsters, peppered with his rather unsubtle disdain for the British upper class. This time he’s got an American as the protagonist, a self-made London-based cannabis [drug]lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). Mickey is trying to sell his profitable marijuana empire off so he could retire with his wife Rosalind. He’s already found a buyer and they’ve agreed on a price. But then of course, things go awry as bribery, blackmail, and all kinds of treachery schemes complicate matters for Mickey and his loyal right-hand-man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam).

The amusing part of the whole narrative is the fact that the story is told by private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant, doing his best Cockney accent) to Raymond. I won’t go into details apart from the fact that he’s got crucial intel involving Mickey’s business dealings that include some lesser members of the British royal family, and he’s willing to keep it a secret for a handsome fee.

The interaction between Grant and Hunnam are my favorite parts of the movie. There’s a rather silly movie-within-a-movie bit that’s gleefully amusing thanks to Grant’s performance and Hunnam’s constantly-befuddled expression. I love how Grant’s embraced his comedic side playing a flamboyant scumbag (what the Brits would call a tosser), and he seems to be having loads of fun tormenting Hunnam’s straight-laced Raymond. In Guy Ritchie’s world, even gangsters stand by a certain ‘moral’ code.

The film goes back and forth between Fletcher’s version of the story and the reality, which isn’t always easy to follow. Some of the things happening made little sense, but it was a lot of fun that you’re along for the ride. McConaughey‘s movie star charisma works well for the role, in fact, it’s nice to see him use his Southern charm and menacing energy in equal measure. Henry Golding‘s Dry Eye is perhaps the weakest link of the movie. Not the actor’s fault necessarily, as I think Golding is more versatile than meets the eye, but his role is more of a caricature, not exactly a memorable villain. Not that I think about it though, I think Ritchie’s movies aren’t known for having memorable villains, perhaps because his protagonists are often anti-heroes.

Now, despite his limited screen time, the movie’s surprising MVP is actually Colin Farrell, an inner city boxing trainer known as Coach who becomes Raymond’s unexpected ally. Involuntarily, Coach got dragged into Mickey’s crime world thanks to his students, one of them is played by Manchester rapper Bugzy Malone.  There’s a fantastic rap video at one of Mickey’s cannabis lab, as well as in the end credits that’s well worth staying for. As the sole female character in a sea of testosterone, Michelle Dockery is wonderfully shrewd, sexy and confident as Mickey’s beloved wife whom he adores and looks up to.

It’s still a movie about the boys however, and in that regards it’s not a ‘woke’ film nor does Ritchie care much about being politically correct. Some of the racist, homophobic jokes would ruffle some feathers, there’s a hugely gross scene being played over and over, not to mention a certain vulgar scenario that is disturbing even without being shown. While some may call this movie a ‘return to form’ to what he does best, there’s much recycled material that feels derivative and predictable.

For a gangster crime comedy, there’s actually not a whole lot of action set pieces and it’s perhaps Ritchie’s more ‘restrained’ version in terms of frenetic action, violence and overly-stylized camera work, but of course it’s still chockfull of crude language and F bombs. I like that the movie is more of a battle of wits than wham-bam-action, as the gangsters try to outmaneuver each other to stay on top of their game. Stylistically, there’s also much to appreciate, from the dynamic music (score by Christopher Benstead) to the dapper business suits AND tracksuits (costume designer Michael Wilkinson previously worked with Ritchie in Aladdin), even the ones worn in the rap video.  I don’t know that he’ll win new fans to his cinematic flair, but for those who enjoy his style, I’d say it’s was pretty darn entertaining. I wouldn’t even mind watching it again when it’s out on streaming.


Have you seen The Gentlemen? What did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Disney’s live-action ALADDIN (2019)

Can you believe it that the original Aladdin animated feature came out 27 years ago? To be honest, I barely remember it as I was more into the Princess movies growing up (esp. Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid). When they first announced they’re working the live-action remake, I was skeptical, which wasn’t helped at all by the ‘blue-not-blue Genie’ debacle. So I went in to the screening really hoping to be pleasantly surprised. You know what, I was!

The opening sequence of Arabian Nights sets the right mood, though it took me a little while to get used to Will Smith‘s singing. By the time we meet Aladdin (Mena Massoud) in the streets of Agrabah with his loyal monkey friend Abu, I have a good feeling I’d enjoy the movie. The Egyptian-Canadian Massoud is instantly likable and is light on his feet as he runs, jumps, leaps from building to building while flashing his movie-star smile. He can sing too, his song One Jump Ahead is dynamic and fun, offering great views of the town.

The arduous casting process for this movie paid off, not only in finding Massoud but Naomi Scott as well as princess Jasmine. The Anglo-Indian actress got so much flak because she isn’t of Arabic descent, but I think people would be impressed by her performance here. She has such a regal air about her but also a charming earthiness that made you believe Aladdin would mistake her for being the princess handmaiden. She and Massoud have a lovely chemistry as they relate to one another that they feel trapped in the life they’re born into. She too can belt a tune and actually sound fantastic together in the gorgeous duet of A Whole New World.

Now, as for Genie. The comparison with the iconic Robin Williams is inevitable, and Will Smith has such giant shoes to fill. But all things considered, I think his ‘Fresh Prince’ interpretation of the character surprisingly works. His Friend Like Me rendition has touches of hip-hop and it’s pretty catchy. The A-list star has an infectious energy that works perfectly as Genie, and some of the jokes (mostly directed at his naive master Aladdin) is genuinely funny. Massoud’s comic timing is adorable, playing up the state of being discombobulated to great effect. It mostly works as this version of Genie also has a good rapport with Aladdin and their relationship plays like an unlikely buddy-comedy with some emotional moments for good measure. I actually enjoyed Smith more when Genie is in human form, which shows up quite a bit in this movie.

It’s ironic that initially I was most excited by Jafar’s casting (Marwan Kenzari) but he’s actually the weakest link here. It’s not exactly his fault however, as he’s a talented actor based on the few things I’ve seen him in (especially The Angel on Netflix). I just think his character is underwritten and bland. The Dutch-Tunisian actor is stripped off his hotness charisma playing a trite, one-note villain. The finale when he’s got his last wish is practically laughable and way over the top as the CGI team went nuts with the magic dust effects.

As for the supporting cast, Iranian-American actress Nasim Pedrad provides comic relief as Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (and Genie’s love interest). I also like the fact that Dalia is more of a friend to the princess which is lovely to watch. Turkish-German actor Numan Acar as chief soldier Hakim has a memorable scene towards the end, while Billy Magnussen as a goofy Caucasian prince with a hilarious accent drew plenty of laughs. I’m glad his screen time is basically a cameo as he’s so unnecessary. In any case, it’s gratifying to see a diverse cast in this movie. As someone of Southeast Asian decent, I’m always glad to see actors of color shine in a big-budget Hollywood production.

Guy Ritchie seemed a rather odd choice as director, given that he’s mostly known for his R-rated action movies set in London. But to be fair, he’s been stretching his filmmaking horizon a bit with movies like Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., etc. And as he often make movies about inner city working class people, I suppose it’s fitting that he tackles a Disney version of a street hustler. Ritchie also co-wrote the script with John August.

Stylistically, Ritchie’s trademark hyper-stylized filmmaking style of frenetic pacing, quick camera work and kinetic editing is visible in some of the chase scenes, but overall it’s tamed down a bit here. It’s definitely nowhere near as dizzying as his reimagining of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which was a major flop. The way he directed the musical numbers however, is a bit hit and miss.

I’m a huge fan of Alan Menken‘s classic songs, and those are still the main highlights here despite some of the wonky directions. For one, some of these numbers seem to be Bollywood-inspired despite the story is set in the Middle East. The Prince Ali sequence is supposed to be all festive and celebratory but at times feels more topsy-turvy. I do love the A Whole New World number atop the magic carpet which feels appropriately dazzling and romantic, boosted by the terrific aerial effects. The one that make me cringe is the main scene of Speechless, mostly in how it’s directed. I loved the new song the first time I heard it, sung beautifully by Naomi Scott. But the second time around, the musical number felt off despite the defiant message. It’s a pity as it’s such an empowering song and the lyric is organic to the story of a smart, capable woman who’s a natural leader of her Kingdom. I credit Scott’s charismatic performance that somehow she still made the scene work.

I went to the press screening with my best friend’s 12-year-old daughter. In the car she said she’s disappointed by Disney that they keep remaking old things instead of coming up with new materials. Well, she definitely shares my dread about the lack of creativity from behemoth studios. Alas, these live-action remakes are here and they’ll keep on coming whether we like it or not, but as a critic I still ought to judge each of them based on its artistic merit.

Overall Aladdin is a pretty fun movie, though overlong at 2 hours 8 minutes. The production quality is naturally top notch given the hefty Disney budget. I love the set pieces of Agrabah and especially the fabulous costumes. Jasmine’s intricate dresses are especially breathtaking. I think this princess would be a good role model for young girls as she’s not just beautiful on the outside but also has something to say. This movie is far from perfect, but it’s got enough going for it that warrants a recommendation. One thing for sure, Menken’s iconic songs still sound as wonderful as the first time I heard them, and Speechless is a great addition. I don’t even mind seeing this movie again and that speaks volumes about its entertainment value.


Have you seen ALADDIN? Well, let me know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

ManUNCLE_poster

I saw this at a very early press screening three weeks ago but there was an embargo to even tweet about it. By now I could barely remember much about Guy Ritchie’s movie, but if I were to describe it in one word, it’d be frothy. Just like Mission Impossible, this movie is based on a 1960s TV series of the same name. I actually never watched it, but basically U.N.C.L.E. is an international counter espionage agency, and the acronym stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.

Ritchie certainly got the retro look right for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., just as he did with Sherlock Holmes‘ Victorian London in the 1800s. In fact, the style is the only thing going for this movie – from the exotic Mediterranian locales to the extremely good looking actors wearing those stunning 60s clothing. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer play enemies-cum-partners, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, respectively. They reluctantly have to work together on a mission against a mysterious criminal organization. It’s set during the Cold War so naturally the [clichéd] plot has to involve nuclear weapons proliferation. It only seems alarming on paper but given the humorous tone of the movie, you’re not supposed to take any of it seriously. The movie has a deliberate Bond vibe but perhaps more in line with the mischievous spirit of Roger Moore’s era.

ManUNCLE_still2

Ritchie has experience with bromances, pretty much every film he’s done from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Rocknrolla to his latest Sherlock Holmes with Jude Law & Robert Downey Jr. has bromance elements. I think Hammer and Cavill have a decent chemistry, though not as effortless as Law and RDJ, and neither has quite the star power. As much as the two male mannequins are gorgeous to look at, unfortunately they’re as bland as a Minnesota hot dish. [Actually, it’d be an insult to my home state’s cuisine as I actually think tater tot hot dish is pretty tasty!]. I suppose there’s not much the actors can do when their characters are only as deep as a cardboard cutout. They give each of them a backstory of sort, i.e. Solo was a criminal before he was a spy, but still the characters are pretty much one dimensional.

ManUNCLE_still1

Ritchie assembled an International cast for this movie which results in an amusing hodgepodge of accents. We’ve got a Brit playing American (Cavill), an American playing Russian (Hammer), a Swede playing German (Alicia Vikander) and an Aussie playing Italian (Elizabeth Debicki). Not to mention Irish actor Jared Harris (son of the late Richard Harris) doing his best Texan drawl as Cavill’s CIA boss. Overall the actors did okay with the accents, though Hammer’s Russian accent is quite hilarious and rather distracting. I guess I find Russian accent even coming from Russian actors as amusing because it always sounds so exaggerated. Thankfully Hugh Grant as the leader of U.N.C.L.E. sticks with his own British accent.

ManUNCLE_still3

I really want to love this movie and I have to admit there are some fun moments and the setting and costumes are fun to look at. But overall, no matter how pretty the package is, it can’t really fix a hollow story. I think Ritchie aims for cool escapism from the dreaded Summer heat, but really, it wouldn’t hurt to inject just a teeny bit of substance into the whole glamorous affair. It feels like watching a two-hour retro fashion commercial, with ocassional gadgetry and gun play that never feels even the least bit threatening. The quota of beautiful people is off the charts, even David Beckham has a cameo and we’ve got Italian model Luca Calvani as Debicki’s sidekick.

ManUNCLE_still4

I was impressed with Debicki in The Great Gatsby but she’s barely given anything to do here, I think Vikander’s character fares a bit better but barely scratching the surface of her talent considering what she could do in Ex Machina. I have to mention that even though Cavill is a beautiful man built like a Greek god [I mean he IS Superman], I find him lacking in virility on screen. He doesn’t quite have that sparkle in his eye that make him belieavable as a ladiesman, to me anyway, I have a feeling a lot of ladies would disagree.

One thing I find distracting is the music that’s overused or used in an overblown way that it becomes a sensory overload with all the frenetic CGI action. There is one particularly funny scene when Solo nonchallantly watches Kuryakin fights for his life in a speedboat chase whilst he snack on a sandwich he found on a parked truck. But for the most part, all the action is forgettable as you could barely invest in the story. I’m not saying The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a bad movie, but it’s the quintessential style over substance. There’s a not-so-subtle hint of a sequel at the end but I don’t think there’s enough going for it even for a single movie.

2halfReels


Have you seen Man from U.N.C.L.E? Well, what did YOU think?

Music Break & Scenes Spotlight: Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla

RocknrollaBnr

I quite like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style. Most of his films have a cool vibe and I think his best work is when he tackles the London underworld. His humorous gangster movies always feature a great cast and witty dialog, and Rocknrolla is no different. His movies aren’t for everyone though, I remember dragging some of my friends to see this on the big screen and half of them didn’t dig it. I think some of the conversations are tough to understand without subtitles, that’s why I actually enjoy it more when I rented it later on. I ended up buying the Blu-ray as it’s something I enjoy watching repeatedly… how could I not, it’s set in my favorite European city AND it stars a lot of my favorite actors!

Today happens to be Idris Elba’s 41st Birthday, so I thought I’d highlight the movie I first saw him in.

RocknrollaWildbunch

The Wild Bunch – comprised of three hunky Brits: Idris Elba, Gerry Butler & Tom Hardy – is no doubt my favorite group in the film. All of my favorite scenes have at least one of these guys in them. They have such great chemistry together I feel like I’m actually watching a documentary of Cockney gangsters, ahah. Oh man, I’d LOVE to see a spinoff of just these guys! I think Ritchie originally wrote this film as a trilogy and I remember seeing several interviews where all the cast are on board w/ the idea. Alas, the movie didn’t make enough money to warrant a sequel! Ritchie is quite busy these days with big-budget film, like The Man From U.N.C.L.E I talked about yesterday, well I still hope that one day he’d still revisit this story again in the future… but it has to be with THIS cast! I quite like Toby Kebell in the title role and Mark Strong in this as well.

There’s a certain style to Ritchie’s movies, down to the title sequence which I’ve featured a while back. But really, the music is one of the major highlights here, it’s almost its own character in the movie! From start to finish, the music never fails to entertain and it just adds so much to the tone of the film. The stylish rock ‘n role vibe definitely lives up to its title!

Here are some of my fave songs from the film:



Just for the fun of it, why not check out some of the great scenes with the boys of the Wild Bunch. I’m not usually fond of colorful language but Ritchie’s certainly has a gift for snappy dialogue. And with the right cast, it’s even better! Seriously, I could listen to these three guys talk all day long. The song in the dance scene of Butler and Thandie Newton is Waiting for a Train by Australian band Flash & The Pan.

Dance Scene

Mumbles & One Two – The Talk

Is This a Robbery?

Handsome Bob


Hope you enjoy the soundtrack & clips. What do you think of Rocknrolla and this cast?

Small Roles Big Performances: Stephen Graham & Stacy Edwards

Thanks to Dave Whiddon aka Daveackackattack for his excellent contribution to the blogathon. Visit the main blogathon post to see the full list of participants by clicking the banner above.


Stephen Graham in This Is England

Stephen Graham’s big break came in Guy Ritchie’s gritty, gangster movie Snatch. The British actor’s tough guy exterior landed him supporting roles in Public Enemies as Baby Face Nelson and on Boardwalk Empire as Al Capone but nowhere was he better than as Combo in Shane Meadows’s semi-autobiographical This Is England.

It’s the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a shy, 12 year old boy, growing up in England under Margaret Thatcher’s rule in ’84. His father having been killed in the Falklands War he is raised by his doting mother Cynthia. Bullied at school Shaun feels alienated from the other kids. He soon befriends a group of skinheads who initiate him into their group.

(These skinheads aren’t the neo-Nazi, white power skinheads that you know today. See the Skinhead wiki page.) His mother is not too sure about the group at first. They dress him up in typical skinhead garb (shaved head, Dr. Martens, suspenders, button-down shirt, rolled up jeans) much to her dismay but they do protect him from some bullies at school so his she is grateful for that. Everything is going good until Combo, an older skin from the group, comes home from prison. He enters the screen with the ferocity of a rabid pit bull.

Charismatic but volatile … he’s the kind of dangerous guy who you just never know when he might turn on you. Combo soon makes a derogatory remark about the Falklands War and young Shaun takes a swing at him defending his father who died for that war. Impressed at Shaun’s fearlessness Combo takes him under his wing. Unfortunately Combo introduces Shaun to his racist side which leads Shaun to take part in what is known as Paki bashing. A bit later.

Combo feels it’s time to introduce Shaun to his friends aligned with the white-only nationalist National Front party. In reality Combo’s a lonely and insecure man covered by his tough guy exterior. Later on in an intimate scene we see Combo as he breaks down in front of a girl, whom he has misplaced feelings for, who rejects him coldly. Scorned by the girl he felt for he lets loose his rage on a friend of the group. Shaun, a witness to Combo’s actions, must decide for himself if this is the path he wants to go down. Stephen Graham skillfully shows a sympathetic side to what would normally be a one dimensional character. His explosive performance is electric, tense and oddly touching. Artfully directed, perfectly scored and realistically acted this small film about a boy growing up in Thatcher’s England struck a chord with me even though I myself grew up in America in the 80’s. This is one of my very favorite films.

I highly recommend anyone who is planning on seeing the movie skipping the fan made montage clip below. Ludovico Einaudi’s “Fuori Dal Mondo” from the film plays over the montage. Enjoy.

Stacy Edwards in In The Company of Men

You might remember Stacy Edwards as Michael Cera’s big breasted mom in one of the opening scenes in Superbad. Sadly she probably was seen by more people for that than for her role in Neil Labute’s film adaptation of his scathing take on white, male dominated, corporate America in In the Company of Men. In the film Stacy plays a deaf woman who’s just another worker in a secretarial pool in some nameless, average, everyday company.

The story starts when two middle management types, Chad (Aaron Eckhart in a breakout role) and Howard (Matt Malloy), are temporarily assigned to her branch office for six weeks. Chad devises a ploy with Howard to get back at all the women who have ever wronged them while they are there. Chad decides to pick out an average woman whom they will simultaneously ask out, date, shower with attention and then dump unceremoniously when their business there is over. Howard reluctantly goes along after some convincing by Chad. Chad soon picks out Christine after learning she is deaf thinking she’ll more than welcome the attention from the two men. As the plan progresses things fall apart when one of the men falls for the genuinely sweet Christine.

What happens from here I won’t say but it’s devastatingly heart wrenching to watch. Chad is a clearly a sociopath and Howard is just another schlep following the herd so it’s Stacy’s performance (she’s not deaf in real life) that gives the film its weight and real emotional punch. It’s hard enough to pull off a character with a hearing impairment let alone making you really feel like you know what she’s going through.

The film was considered controversial because of the absolute brutality of the misogynistic dialogue and plot. In the Company of Men was even named to Premiere Magazine’s “The 25 Most Dangerous Movies Ever Made”. It’s one of those films that, if you can get past the low budget indie feel of it, you won’t shake easily thanks in part to Stacy Edwards’ heartbreaking performance. Highly recommended but not for the faint of heart. You may not like it but you won’t be able to ignore it.


Small Roles … Big Performances Blogathon


Thoughts on either one of these performances? Well let’s hear it!

Guest Review – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Hello all, today’s review comes courtesy of Andy from the blog Ramblings of A Minnesota Movie Geek. Isn’t that an awesome name or what? Andy is a self-confessed geek in every sense of the word. Need proof? Well, he signs off his email with ‘May the Force Be With You’ 😀 He’s currently consumed by his TV watching, but when he did have time for some movies, he’s kind enough to send me a review to share with all you fine FlixChatter readers, so here you go:

Sherlock squaring off against Moriarty. Now that premise alone sold my ticket. This is Moriarty, ladies and gentlemen, Sherlock’s dark reflection, the one man who is just as clever as him, if not more, always one or more steps ahead of the ‘game’, merciless, brilliant. Any tale that has these two locked in intellectual (and eventual physical) battle should be something extraordinary. Ultimately, A Game of Shadows doesn’t quite reach that. In fact, the movie doesn’t seem entirely concerned with the story at all, which is good news for fans of the Sherlock/Watson banter which is given the classic sequel ‘more more more’ treatment, but is detrimental to the overall quality of the film. I wanted Sherlock vs. Moriarty, a battle of the minds as they constantly try to outsmart the other, and I wanted a real sense of jeopardy to every action – hell, every scene, because that’s what a Moriarty story deserves.

A Game of Shadows has plenty of moments of fun, loads of them. The much loved Sherlock and Watson relationship that was so central, no doubt, in making the first film hugely successful, is greatly expounded upon with delicious results. No exaggeration: Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law’s chemistry and complete bromance rules this movie every second they’re together. And rightfully so. In summary with those two, Sherlock and Watson are handled perfectly here. The filmmakers having their friendship down, but they’re not the ones who make Game of Shadows a movie that I was really, really, really looking forward to. No, that was – in case you couldn’t tell – the sinister mastermind Moriarty, and he arrives in the Hollywood ‘reimagined’ world with mixed results.

Jared Harris as Moriarty was good, he was solid, but he wasn’t great. That’s not to fault Harris, I feel, but instead the script. Harris portrays Moriarty with that cool, calm, restrained demeanor, very much in control of his emotions, his words, all his faculties. Plus Harris just looks like a man who has this wide web of a plot in his noggin’. But the script doesn’t allow Moriarty to come across as anything uber-spectacular (except the final Sherlock/Moriarty confrontation, which is nothing short of extraordinary and one of my favorite scenes of 2011), or rather, a force to be reckoned with. At one point, Moriarty breaches cliché, as he tortures one of our protagonists while singing along with classical opera. It’s not creepy or unnerving as the filmmakers may have intended, unfortunately. With the right script, Jared Harris could make the Moriarty of our generation. But for now, I’ll settle with a really, really good one.

To continue the ‘more, more, more’ vibe of Hollywood sequels, director Guy Ritchie is sadly not immune to that trend. Slow motion is used far too frequently, and not always necessarily. That said, one instance of Ritchie using slow mo to great extent is the Sherlock vs. Moriarty face off before the climax, as the two adversaries size up what action they’re about to take. In the same way Ritchie gives us ‘Sherlock Vision’, where he anticipates his opponents moves and how he’ll respond accordingly, we have Moriarty utilize the same skills against Sherlock, making that final scene a tense one, as they both seem even matched. Ritchie’s style is now a trademark of the franchise, and overall, it works. It’s much of the same as the first one, so all I’ll say is that when the inevitable third one enters production, he tries to change it up a bit, give us something new.

Ultimately, where this movie falters is the screenplay. It’s the source of Moriarty’s lack of badassery, and also the source of making this movie not all that engaging and, dare I say, confusing. By the last two bits, I mean this: Sherlock Holmes stories are first and foremost mysteries. It’s the unraveling of these mysteries that drive Sherlock stories, that make them so damn fun to watch. The BBC series Sherlock understands this, and masterfully delivers equal weight of interesting mysteries and highly enjoyable Holmes/Watson scenes. As for A Game of Shadows, I spent more time wondering what the hell was going on and why the characters were doing what they were doing. The plot, and how Point A connects to Point B and that connects to Point C, it just all seemed lazily pieced together, almost like an afterthought. In the end, the strength of the Sherlock/Watson relationship made the lacking script sufferable. A second viewing of the movie some time ago helped clear a few of the plot-points up, but there was still that feeling of disinterest. Furthermore, the side of me that wanted a battle between Sherlock and Moriarty on a grand scale – well, what the writers came up with, didn’t so much deliver on that expectation.

You might have noticed neither the lovely ladies Noomi Rapace or Rachel McAdams have been mentioned thus far. Thing is, they’re hardly in the movie. One more than the other, but even then, she doesn’t make that much of an impact, sadly enough. This leads in to me saying Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is pretty damn decent entertainment. If what you’re looking for is to have a blast watching Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law banter back and forth and have some spectacular action-y adventures, this film absolutely delivers. If you, like me, wanted a battle royale of the minds between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, then it doesn’t fully deliver the goods. But what we have here is a movie very much in the same spirit as Sherlock Holmes (2009), with high points and low points, and if you even seminally liked that flick, you’re going to enjoy the hell out of this one. See y’all for the third one!

3 out of 5 reels

So have you seen this movie? Please do let us know what you think.

TCFF Day 2: 50/50 Mini Review

Directed by Jonathan Levine
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick
Running Time 99 Minutes, Rated R.

From the moment I saw this on the TCFF schedule, I knew I had to see it. I really think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is truly one of the brightest young actors working today, hence my inclusion in this list. I think he’s grown so much as an actor and certainly has come a loooong way since NBC’s Third Rock from the Sun! Anna Kendrick was supposed to hold a Q & A after the film, but unfortunately she had a filming commitment so she had to bail 😦

I was uncertain at first just how could they make cancer funny, but the beauty is in the writing and the way writer Will Reiser and director Jonathan Levine crafted this character-driven dramedy. Levitt is such a natural actor, there’s an effortless-ness to his acting which is wonderful to see. But the supporting cast are great as well, besides Anna Kendrick as Levitt’s young therapist, I also got a kick out of Anjelica Huston’s performance as the overbearing yet endearing mother of Levitt’s character. I can’t deny there are too much crude language for my liking, but at least for the most part it wasn’t in a mean-spirited kind of manner. The theme of friendship between Seth Rogen and Levitt’s characters is what drives the story, and there is a genuine chemistry between the two that was wonderful and heartwarming to watch (yes, despite a lot of Rogen’s questionable behaviors).

I’m going to borrow an excerpt from my friend and fellow MN movie blogger Mitch Hansch from MoviesWithMitch.com whom I had the pleasure of hanging out with before the film started.

Reiser’s 50/50 goes about 70/30 with the comedy to drama ratio.  Going back to the humor-well as often as it does the jokes can come off more defense mechanism than healing process, but ultimately, the dialogue is so funny and so well delivered by it’s talented cast that all is overlooked.

Director Jonathan Levine effectively reels us back in by keeping focus that Adam is feeling all the effects of life threatening cancer.  When Adam is not getting chemotherapy treatment along with a couple of older men that are wonderfully played by Matt Fewer and the great Phillip Baker Hall, he gets counseled by a 24 year-old Dr. Katherine McKay (Anna Kendrick).  Flirtations between the two blur the doctor/patient relationship.

50/50 is a hilarious look at heartbreak that has the performances to back it up.  The odds of you liking this film are a lot higher than it’s title.

MITCHNIFFICANT- a must see in the theatre


Has anybody seen this film? I’d love to hear what you think.