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.

THIS JUST IN: ‘The Avengers’ Full Trailer #2

HAPPY LEAP DAY everybody!! Somehow I knew the studios are going to take advantage of this day to release something BIG. Well, it doesn’t get any bigger this Summer than The Avengers!

So take a look at all the Marvel superheroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow leaping all over themselves to counter against the evil Asgaard villain Loki and save humanity:


I must say Marvel’s producing yet another pure geekgasm-worthy trailer that REALLY gets me more pumped up to see this in less than 3 months! Yes it does get a bit Transformer-y towards the end, especially that giant snake-like metal thing-y coming out of the skyscraper. What the frak is THAT thing??! Does anyone know if that’s part of Loki’s army? ‘Cause it looks a bit like the Destroyer that Loki sent to earth to kill Thor and his earthly co-horts.

What the-?

Can’t wait to see more banters between the ‘volatile, self obsessed and don’t play well with others’ Tony Stark and everyone else on the team, especially Loki. Oh and I’m also excited to see Clark Gregg getting a bigger part in this flick as Agent Coulson


Oh and have you seen this one? Someone actually made a silent film spoof of The Avengers trailer… and it actually is pretty darn good. I really enjoyed watching all those fun title cards like “Egads. It’s Loki. God of Mischief.” It’s interesting too the fact that Robert Downey Jr. once played the most celebrated silent film star Charlie Chaplin.


Anyway, The Avengers is slated to hit US theaters on May 4. All right, BRING. IT. ON. Joss Whedon!!

Well, what say you folks? Are you ready for this?

The Avengers extended Superbowl XLVI spot is geekgasm worthy

Fan-made poster courtesy of Superherohype forum

To be frank with you, I’m kind of on and off about this movie. I mean this whole idea of jam-packing a friggin’ boatload of superheroes into one movie is worrisome. Just how in the heck are they gonna pull this off?? But after reading more about this project, especially seeing that Josh Whedon seems to have a good grip on the storytelling (Per Castor’s post, The Avengers will be told from Captain America’s point of view), I’m willing to give this movie the benefit of the doubt.

Well now this new trailer actually gets me all excited about this one. Check it out and let me know what you think:


Loki: “I have an army.”

Stark : “We have a Hulk.”

Say what you will but that facetious last part out of the whole trailer is my favorite part! I LOVE Tom Hiddleston’s Loki for one, plus Robert Downey Jr.’s  snarky-ness is always a joy to watch. Tony Stark’s surely gonna have tons of fun one-liners in this movie! I just think that if Whedon just not take this whole thing too seriously, more in the spirit of the first Iron Man, it should be a massively enjoyable action flick.

Btw, on January 31st, Marvel Studios sponsored a Global Tweet Chat where fans can chat with Whedon and cast members Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg and Tom Hiddleston via Twitter. That’s awesome, I wish I had known about it but most likely I gotta work at that hour 😦 Screenrant has some of the Q&A from the event here if you’re interested. As I’m a big fan of Loki, I’m pretty excited to see him answer this question:

For TH: Might we see a more mischievous (rather than mostly just evil) Loki in the The Avengers?

TH: ENTIRELY. More mischievous. More evil. More hubristic. More delusional. More damaged. More badass.

All right, bring it on team! May 4th can’t come soon enough!


What say you folks? Are you excited for this movie?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Starter for Ten & A Scanner Darkly

There’s nothing interesting at the cinema this weekend, but it’s always nice to catch up on older movies I’ve been meaning to see.

This past Friday was our first Girls Movie Nite since its summer hiatus and my girlfriends and I had initially settled on Water for Elephants. The trailer looks pretty good and the combination of Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson in a circus setting seemed intriguing. Unfortunately it’s not available on Netflix yet (another reason I’m canceling my subscription) so we ended up seeing Starter for 10 since one of my friends owns the DVD. The other one I saw was A Scanner Darkly, a sci-fi done in interpolated rotoscoping animation style in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame.

Starter For 10

 

Set in 1985, working-class student Brian Jackson navigates his first year at Bristol University.

Seems like James McAvoy hasn’t made a bad film. At least out of the eight films where he had a prominent role, none of them has disappointed me. Ok so I didn’t love Becoming Jane (despite my love for period dramas) but it’s more because of Anne Hathaway performance than James’.

McAvoy truly carried this film with his earnest performance as the brainy kid Brian who finds out that life education is definitely as important as being book smart. Despite being in his mid 20s when he did this film, he was quite believable as a college freshman. His transformation from the naive geek with bad hair to a slightly older & wiser university student is fun to watch. Scottish director Tom Vaughan peppered the film with witty dialog and whimsical college scenes without relying on silly or inappropriate gags like college films like say, Old School. Even the more sexually-charged scenes are a hoot, especially the one involving Brian and the parents of the girl of his dreams on a Christmas holiday, are funny but not cringe-worthy.

The romance is sweet and engaging. It’s almost unanimous that everyone in my group sympathize with Rebecca Hall’s character. I feel that it’s not only because her character (also named Rebecca) is written that way but also because Hall seems to always come across very affable on screen. The film truly belongs to the über talented McAvoy but Benedict Cumberbatch managed to steal some scenes with his hilarious performance as the ambitious group ‘leader’ competing for the University Challenge quiz show. His character may be one-dimensional but still he made it entertaining. The ending is quite predictable but I don’t really mind it in a movie like this where a lack of ‘plot twist’ is not a detriment.

Starter For 10 is quite a poignant yet funny coming-of-age comedy drama starring the hottest young British talents working today. Many of the cast have now become quite famous: McAvoy himself, Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, The Town, Everything Must Go), Benedict Cumberbatch (Amazing Grace, BBC’s Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, An Education, The Devil’s Double). Alice Eve is perhaps the least known but she’s starring in The Raven next year.

The music is quite memorable as well with songs mostly by The Cure and other British bands such as Tears for Fears, The Smiths and Wham!.

4 out of 5 reels

A Scanner Darkly

 

An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug called Substance-D and begins to lose his own identity as a result.

I’ve been curious about this film for some time, mostly because of the rotoscoping animation style I’ve mentioned about, as well as the fact that it’s a Philip K. Dick adaptation. He’s perhaps one of the greatest sci-fi authors whose work have been a popular subject for films such as Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report and most recently The Adjustment Bureau.

The cast for this film, especially Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr., is also a big selling point. Combine that with an intriguing subject matter and a distinct visual style, this one surely can’t be a misfire, right? Well, I wouldn’t call it a misfire, but I can’t exactly call this one enjoyable. People have said that this movie is not for everyone, but really, one can say that for just about every title, right? Even the most beloved movie would have its detractor. The thing is, I was prepared to really like this one, but I actually found this one to be tedious in parts that I actually dozed off about three-quarters the way through. I did wake up about 10 minutes before the end and found that the story is quite profound, but yet I’m just not interested enough to rewind which parts I had missed.

I think the main strength of the film is the story itself, which made me think that I might appreciate the novel more. The acting is also good overall — both Keanu and Robert are perfectly cast, and Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson are quite memorable in their supporting roles. But the pacing is a bit too slow as the novelty of the animation style wears off. I really think the visual technique is really imaginative and I appreciate that the filmmaker went with this route. Yet I’m not really sure how much that style improve the story-telling. Yes I do believe director Richard Linklater is able to capture the paranoia and perceptual contortion caused by Substance-D, but because of the animation style, I feel that the subtle expressions that we would otherwise be able to perceive from each actor is somewhat lost. I almost feel guilty that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I learn in the Special Features about the dedication of the filmmaker and how personal this project is to him.

Perhaps if I give this film another chance I might enjoy it more, though I highly doubt I’d see this again. The thing about this whole film is how unsettling it is. I hate insects so the opening scene alone of a guy suffering from intense hallucination is disturbing and down right repugnant. But with that said, I’d still recommend this for a rental for people who enjoy sci-fi movies and Philip K. Dick’s stories. Though I didn’t end up loving it, I definitely don’t regret finally seeing this.

3 out of 5 reels

Well, what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these films, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Flix Poster of the Week: DUE DATE

HAPPY FRIDAY all! I realize I haven’t had a poster post for a while, and when I came across this horizontal quad style poster, I knew I had to blog about it. I thought these are hilarious and eye-cathy. Can’t say the same about the trailer though, which is somewhat devoid of laughter IMO.

Poster courtesy of http://www.impawards.com

The plot: High-strung father-to-be Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time.

I don’t quite get the appeal of Zach Galifianakis and even Robert Downey Jr. can’t help entice me to see the movie, yes even in spite of his searing hotness (as my friend Sam astutely noted in her weekend musing). Man, RDJ is like fine wine isn’t he? I first saw him in Less Than Zero (or was it The Pick Up Artist?) back in the 80s, but he hasn’t changed that much 20+ years later!! The guy is 45, yet still hotter than ever and is it just me or does he seem to have fuller hair?? I mean, that guy should be in shampoo commercials!

In any case, I’m finally going to see The Town tonight, looking forward to it after hearing all the positive reviews! With all this rain, it’s perfect moviegoing weather. How about you, what movies are you going to see this weekend?

Iron Man 2 Review & Highlights from the Movie

Two years ago, when the trailer of Iron Man first came out, I thought it was just ridiculous and juvenile that I had no interest in seeing it. Not sure why I ended up seeing it but let’s just say I absolutely loved it. It was such a fun and enjoyable flick from start to finish and Robert Downey Jr. in the title role carries the movie with his effortless charm. It’s irrefutable that the sequel became one of my highly anticipated flicks this year, and the buzz and trailers only enhanced my enthusiasm.

So? Does it live up to the original?

The short answer is: not quite. Yet, the movie is not completely without merit

This sequel picks up exactly where the first left off when billionaire inventor Tony Stark declared to the world that he is indeed the man inside that Iron Man suit. Borrowing from fellow Marvel superhero Spiderman: ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ thus the mounting pressure from the government, the press and the public to share his weapon technology with the military. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also revealed early on that the chemical element used in his arc reactor – the one used to keep him alive after the shrapnel wound – is toxic to his blood and the seemingly-untouchable hero is dying. That is, if the vengeful Russian physicist Ivan Vanko doesn’t destroy him first. Seriously, is every single Russian bad guy has to be named Ivan?? As someone married to one bearing that name who doesn’t happen to be Russian, I resent that!

Pepper Potts and Tony Stark

The film veers off Transformers territory at times with the noisy clink-clank sounds of metal clanging with each other, and the only thing that reminds me this wasn’t a Michael Bay flick is the presence of the RDJ and the strong supporting cast. He is able to elevate the hedonistic, egotistical Stark  from being an utter and complete jerk because he is just that charismatic. But yet, there’s barely any emotional connection with any of the characters. Despite his health condition and daddy issues though, it’s tough to feel sympathy for the ultra-flamboyant Tony. At times I feel like the secretary-turned-CEO-plus-covert-love-interest Pepper Potts who’s constantly exasperated by his boss’ antics.

Potts is just one of the few familiar faces that are overrun by too many new characters with no real arc. Even the returning character of Capt. James Rhodes feels new because Don Cheadle takes over from Terrence Howard – who I thought was terrific in the role. Cheadle did fine here but I still much prefer Howard, but it doesn’t bother me as much as the completely wasted Samuel L. Jackson as the much-hyped Nick Fury (he appeared in the end credits of the first). His role just comes across pointless and forgettable, which is a shame because SLJ isn’t a ‘forgettable’ kind of a guy. I mean his abrupt death scene in the shark thriller Deep Blue Sea was far more memorable! Scarlett Johansson as the supposedly va-va-voom Russian spy doesn’t have much to do besides slinking around flaunting her curvaceous body on screen.

The poor narrative also makes the film feel disjointed, it doesn’t move from scene to scene in a cohesive fashion. Screenwriter Justin Theroux couldn’t decide whether he wanted to make an Avengers prequel or a follow up to Iron Man, so by trying to fit in the two, he falls short on both counts. I agree with Castor that  “… this movie feels more like an Avenger prequel than an Iron Man sequel.” Last but not the least of the movie’s problems is the last battle scene, which lacks a sense of real danger for the protagonists, despite being surrounded by lethal droids created and controlled by Vanko. It’s also far too brief that it really undermines the buildup of what Mickey Rourke did with his villainous role.

Now, despite all the low points I mentioned, it’s still quite fun to watch this movie, and the one liners did make me laugh. For the fun of it, here are what I think are the five best things of the movie:

  1. RDJ – the only reason I’d even watch the original and he’s still the reason this one is so enjoyable despite its flaws.
  2. Sam Rockwell's scene-stealing weapon demo scene

    Sam Rockwell as Stark’s rival Justin Hammer – it takes a formidable actor to outshine RDJ, but this massively talented actor did just that and stole every scene he was in. I LOVE the hilarious weapon demonstration scene, I’ve got to admit I really like his character almost as much as Tony!

  3. The briefcase armor – This scene alone is worth the price of admission … well ok, perhaps a matinee admission. Man, it was such a high watching the cool red and silver armor slowly envelopes Stark’s body just by kicking the case open. Freakin’ awesome!

    Courtesy of gifbin.com
    Briefcase Iron Suit animation
  4. The Monaco action sequence. The location itself is breathtaking, but as soon as Rourke’s Whiplash shows up looking all menacing and uber bad-ass, I was ready for an exhilarating, full-throttle action and Favreau delivers! I think this is the best battle scene in the whole movie and every once in a while, it’s nice to see a hero – or god as Vanko calls it – bleed.
  5. Mickey Rourke makes for a menacing, sinister villain, but some of his scenes are funny as heck. I almost choke from restraining my laughter in the whole ‘I want my bird’ scene that left Rockwell mystified.
    The villain and his beloved bird 🙂

    Ivan Vanko (thick Russian accent): I want my bird.
    Justin Hammer: Yeah sure. We can get you a bird
    Ivan Vanko: You don’t understand. I want *my* bird. *My* bird.

    Classic!

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Iron Man 2

Ok, now with the Oscars behind us, bring on the Summer blockbusters! It’s no coincidence that the brand new Iron Man 2 trailer’s released right after the Sunday telecast on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE.

I was kind of meh about the first trailer that’s more Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash-centered, but this new one looks awesome! I especially dig that last scene with the briefcase-turned-Iron-suit thing-y, major ass-kickin’ cool! Speaking of cool, Robert Downey Jr. is back as the über billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, giving Chris Bale’s Bruce Wayne a run for his money.

The story picks up exactly where the first Iron Man left off, with the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, Stark faces pressure from the government, the press and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, the genius engineer, along with his secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and personal pilot/confidant James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) must forge new alliances — and confront powerful enemies. We’ve got three new villains this time, with the fierce Russian weapons-maker Whiplash as the ringleader, Sam Rockwell as Stark’s industrialist rival Justin Hammer, and Scarlett Johansson as the mysterious Black Widow (another Russian character).

Emily & the comic's Black Widow

In case you didn’t know, there were some casting switcheroos that went on, with the obvious one being Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey a.k.a. War Machine (I personally prefer Howard in this role, but whatever), and Johansson replacing the originally cast Emily Blunt as Black Widow. Blunt expressed her disappointment over losing the role in this Filmonic article, oh well, she’s not the only one, I’d rather see her than Scarlet any day! The British actress would be a much better fit (physically and otherwise), plus she’s just a much better actress IMO.

In any case, who cares about the rest of the cast, the real star is always RDJ. He fits his character like a glove, or his metal suit I should say, which looks even sleeker now. The scene with a troop of Iron Man clones suddenly popping up everywhere kind of reminds me of Transformers though, I can’t tell which is which with all those metals clanging! But even with all the off-the-charts action, we’ve also got some witty dialog that I dig about this movie. Suffice to say the trailer gets me psyched to see all the fun flix that comes in every Summer, Oscar be darned, just bring on the action!

What about you, readers? Are you as psyched about this one as I am?