REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

4 01 2012

I was largely against popular opinion with my disappointed ambivalence towards Guy Ritchie’s first “Sherlock Holmes” film, writing two years ago that “it fails to captivate and engross like detective stories are supposed to do.”  I then went on to make a statement that is now quite ironic: “I do look forward to seeing the sequel which was clearly set up in the ending, hoping in the meantime that Ritchie and his team can figure out a way to get me more engaged.”

Well, here we are, two years later, and I’ve seen “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” Ritchie’s follow-up.  As I sat in the theater and each interminable minute passing felt like five times as long, I wished I could have been sitting in the first movie.  Everything wrong about the 2009 reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective series was multiplied and magnified, and most of what was done right was gone entirely.  Robert Downey Jr. is now skating on thin ice with me as I’m now almost totally averse to his pompous smugness.  It was awesome in “Iron Man,” amusing in “Sherlock Holmes,” annoying in “Iron Man 2,” and it’s just acrid in “A Game of Shadows.”

He’s suffering from what I’ve dubbed “Johnny Depp syndrome” – a performance and a persona dubbed iconic will eventually become an imitation and a mere shadow of its former self if repeated multiple times.  And with a movie this poorly plotted, Ritchie needed Downey at his A-game … and wound up getting probably about a C or a C minus-game.  His Holmes, this time around, feels jaded and bored, which makes me wonder if it’s the character or the actor who we are really seeing reflected on the screen.

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LAMB Alert: Robert Downey Jr. “Acting School”

31 05 2010

On the first morning of summer, I got up and watched “Sherlock Holmes” just because I could.

Speaking of “Sherlock Holmes,” there’s going to be another cool event going on at the LAMB involving the movie’s star, Robert Downey, Jr.  He’s the reason I decided to give it a second view after my less than glowing first opinion.  The movie works largely because of him, and it was commercially viable also because of him.  He has perfected the smug and slightly standoffish character, and Americans can’t seem to get enough of it.  $275 million and counting for “Iron Man 2” speaks as a testament to it.

But Robert Downey, Jr. has made plenty of other contributions to acting other than this character, and his two Oscar nominations have come from playing something entirely different.  In 1993, he received his first nomination for “Chaplin,” a biopic where RDJ played the famed silent movie star.  Just two years ago, he received his second nomination for a very risky comedic role in “Tropic Thunder,” playing (as the movie puts it) “a dude playing the dude disguised as another dude.”  It’s risks like these that have made Robert Downey, Jr. a unique and lauded actor.

The LAMB is celebrating the man, the actor, and the roles.  It’s really worth checking out because there are reviews of all of his movies as well as spotlight pieces on Robert Downey, Jr. and his work.  I contributed the two reviews I have written of RDJ’s latest movies, “Sherlock Holmes” and “Iron Man 2.”  I wasn’t particularly complimentary of the actor in those two movies, but I really do admire him.  In “Iron Man,” he had a dry wit and strange charm while constantly projecting an image of authority.  He showed a very tender side in “The Soloist,” a very good movie that few people saw.  And while I loathed “Tropic Thunder,” I found his turn to be strangely satisfying.

So come join in the celebration; click the image below and you’ll be directed to the event.





Random Factoid #165

9 01 2010

I think we all take sound quality for granted.  It is something that we expect to be a non-issue when we go to the movie theater, yet when it is lacking, the experience is tainted.

I was reminded of the importance of sound quality over the holidays when I went to see “Sherlock Holmes.”  For the first 30 minutes, all the voices sounded muffled and as if I was hearing them from a great distance away.  It impacted my ability to focus on the movie and made my ear work too hard.

Oh, and it was at the same theater that all my problems seem to occur.  AMC Studio 30.  Love the place, but it’s time to get the act together.





Random Factoid #164

8 01 2010

Since I just talked about Box Office Mojo in my factoids, I thought I might share with you some interesting response I gave to polls on the site.

Q: What is your most anticipated movie of 2009?
A: “Watchmen”

Q: What will be the top-grossing December [2009] release?
A: “Sherlock Holmes”

Q: What will be the highest-grossing September [2009] release?
A: “Jennifer’s Body”

Just a sampling of my bad prognostication.  Somewhere on the site In Contention, I commented that I thought “Avatar” would not make more than $250 million domestically.





REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes

6 01 2010

Robert Downey, Jr. is one lucky guy.  His brilliantly dry wit has earned him the privilege to play two iconic smug heroes: Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and the titular sleuth of “Sherlock Holmes.”  He brings plenty of his trademark enthusiasm to the role, yet it still feels a few notches down from Stark and “Iron Man.”  He doesn’t get any help from director Guy Ritchie, whose excessively stylized contemporary approach clashes with the intricate Victorian sets, costumes, and jargon.  His “Sherlock Holmes” is not bad, but it fails to captivate and engross like detective stories are supposed to do.

Downey Jr. is not bad either.  It was particularly amusing to watch he and Jude Law, who plays the famous sidekick Dr. Watson, get into their bickering and bantering.  They feel like an old married couple, which they practically are given the amount of time that Watson spends tending to Holmes’ needs.  On the opposite side of things, Rachel McAdams’ Irene falls victim to some atrocious writing.  Her character pops up without explanation and no real motivation is ever given to her.  McAdams does her best to make up for it with some passion, but even that is not enough.

As for the story, I wasn’t expecting a connect-the-dots mystery.  I have read one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Holmes tales, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” and it was somewhat frustrating to feel so helpless to piece things together.  However, this screenplay doesn’t even grant us the privilege of seeing that there are any dots at all.  As Holmes probes London to find the seemingly resurrected occult leader Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), he stumbles upon many clues and red herrings.  But the filmmakers refuse to assign any sort of significance to any of these, and we are completely unaware that these mean anything.  In essence, we are traveling this road with Holmes.  He, however, has a clue where it might be leading; we don’t.

All in all, “Sherlock Holmes” is a pretty fair piece of entertainment.  I wouldn’t describe anything about the movie as being  spectacular or rememberable, but I do look forward to seeing the sequel which was clearly set up in the ending, hoping in the meantime that Ritchie and his team can figure out a way to get me more engaged.  B- /





What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

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