Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Robert Downey Jr. always gets offended when someone disses Iron Man

(2011) Adventure (Warner Brothers) Robert Downey Jr. Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James, William Houston, Wolf Kahler, Affif Ben Badra. Directed by Guy Ritchie

 

When the game is afoot, there is nobody you want on the case more than Sherlock Holmes. Still more than 100 years after his debut there has been no detective to equal his keen deductive mind and razor-sharp observation skills.

Holmes (Downey) is investigating a series of terrorist bombings in Europe, mostly involving France and Germany. He is also preparing to be best man at his old friend Dr. Watson’s (Law) wedding. As distracted as Holmes is he nearly forgets to put together Watson’s stag party which he does only at the last minute, inviting only his brother Mycroft (Fry) and none of Watson’s friends.

He also has an ulterior motive for where he has scheduled the stag party; one of the clues he has discovered has led him to gypsy fortune teller Madame Simza Heron (Rapace). He arrives in time to foil a murder attempt by acrobatic Russian Cossacks but this leads him no closer to the truth. He only has his powers of deduction to lead him to who is behind all of this – Professor James Moriarty (Harris). But what is he up to and why?

The need to find out the truth will lead Holmes to tear Watson away from his honeymoon for one last case which will take him to the basements of Paris to the castles of Switzerland. At stake is the peace of Europe, which if disturbed too much will lead to a catastrophic war, one which Moriarty seeks to profit from and one which Holmes seeks to prevent.

The plot is slightly more convoluted than what I’ve presented but in the interest in keeping some of the twists hidden I’ve kept it deliberately vague. There are some cross-references to the industrial military complex and a few to modern economic issues. This is pretty much a mishmash of about half a dozen Conan Doyle-penned Holmes stories, primarily “The Final Problem” but there are elements from “The Sign of Four,” “Valley of Fear” and “The Greek Interpreter” among others.

Once again this isn’t your granddaddy’s Holmes; Ritchie and Downey bring him a little closer in some ways to how Conan Doyle originally wrote him (while Holmes in the stories wasn’t primarily a fighter, he certainly lacked in social skills) but this isn’t the urbane deerstalker-wearing sleuth depicted by Basil Rathbone whose performance has essentially defined the role ever since.

The action sequences, as befitting a sequel, are much more elaborate than the first and sometimes that’s a good thing (as is a gun battle on a speeding train, or a frantic escape through a forest while under heavy artillery fire) and sometimes, not so much (as in a Holmes solo fight against a group of thugs early on in the movie). Ritchie’s trademark of using extreme slow motion and extreme fast motion to stylize his fights is here in spades; there were times I wish he just filmed the sequences straight but I have to admit the forest sequence was made more powerful because of it.

Downey and Law are at the core of the film; their relationship is what powers the movie and thankfully the chemistry between them that the first film established is still going strong here. Their by-play makes for some of the best moments in the film, and is at times delightful. Downey plays Holmes as even more disreputable in this film than he is in the first; although there is little contact with Inspector Lestrade (Marsan) who is only in a single scene this time out, nonetheless Ritchie enhances Holmes’ keen sense of observation with camera and digital tricks meant to give us an idea of how Holmes sees the world. Downey plays into this nicely which is one of the best things about the movie.

Harris makes a competent Moriarty, definitely giving us a glimpse into his own intelligence but keeping his character rather bland. You would expect that a master criminal, a “Napoleon of crime” would want to fly under the radar somewhat so the flamboyant villains of other films in that sense don’t really work in real life, if you can call the Holmes films that.

There is plenty to delight those who like action-packed spectacles including some amazing sets (the castle in Switzerland is nothing short of astonishing) and some fine acting. However, be warned that the plot is pretty much the same as other movies we’ve seen set in the same time period where the hero attempts to stop Europe from being plunged into a massive war that it would be plunged into anyway – twice. Too bad Holmes wasn’t around to stop Adolph Hitler. Now that would make for an interesting movie!

REASONS TO GO: Great chemistry between Downey and Law. Harris makes a fine albeit bland Moriarty. Some action sequences are spectacular.

REASONS TO STAY: The slo-mo/fast-mo action juxtapositions get a bit old. The “bringing Europe to the brink of war” saw is also a bit stale.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s some action violence and brief drug use references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: At the beginning of the film, the camera pans over typed excerpts of stories Watson has been working on; these are from the Sherlock Holmes stories “A Study in Scarlet” and “A Blue Carbuncle.”

HOME OR THEATER: Definitely better on the big screen.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Adventures of Tintin

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New Releases for the Week of December 16, 2011


December 16, 2011

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

(Warner Brothers) Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Fry, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine Hudson, Paul Anderson. Directed by Guy Ritchie

Holmes is pitted against his archrival, Professor Moriarty and the stakes couldn’t possibly get higher. When the Crown Prince of Austria is discovered dead, all signs point to suicide – but Holmes sees the signs nobody else can see and deduces that the Prince was in truth murdered and that murder is part of a larger plot, one that would plunge Europe into chaos and indeed change the course of history. Holmes must enlist his stalwart friend Dr. Watson and enlist the help of a gypsy to stop Moriarty’s fiendish plans and save Europe from catastrophe.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Adventure

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material)

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

(20th Century Fox) Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate, Justin Long. The lovable chipmunks turn what was supposed to be a relaxing cruise into their own brand of fun. The fun ends when they get stranded on a remote island. The furry rodents plot their escape to get back home but then it turns out the island isn’t as deserted as they thought.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Family

Rating: G

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

(Submarine Deluxe) Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Frank Oz.  A young man becomes enchanted with Sesame Street and resolves to become a Muppeteer. That this young man is an African American raises all sorts of different obstacles, but this young man will eventually become the voice and the soul of Elmo, arguably the most beloved Muppet of them all and certainly one of the most popular.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Dragonslayer

(Drag City) Josh “Skreech” Sandoval, Leslie. The winner of Best Documentary from the most recent SXSW Film Festival, Dragonslayer chronicles disaffected youth Josh “Skreech” Sandoval from Fullerton, California. Skreech lives the skate punk ethos, possessing as little as possible, staying high as much as possible and skating whenever possible, finding abandoned swimming pools to swoop and glide in.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Young Adult

(Paramount) Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser. A successful writer of teen literature returns to where she grew up for a class reunion, she plots to reclaim her high school sweetheart. Never mind that he is happily married with a baby on the way, that’s just petty distractions. Along the way she kindles a strange friendship with a misfit who also never got past high school. This reteams director Jason Reitman with writer Diablo Cody who together made Juno.

See the trailer, clips, promos and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Black Comedy

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

Four-Warned: December 2011


December 2011Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE

1. EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (1.0)
2. SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (1.3)
3. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (1.5)
4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)

1. THE LADY (1.3)
2. THE BIG FIX(1.4)
TIE. CARNAGE (1.4)
4. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

DECEMBER 2, 2011

A WARRIOR’S HEART (Xerxes) Genre: Sports Drama. A young man grieving over his father’s death in Iraq finds solace in a lacrosse camp run by a Native American soldier who served with his dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Was the world really waiting for a lacrosse movie?
ANSWERS TO NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A missing child investigation has different effects on several Los Angelenos hiding their own secrets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Stellar cast led by Dane Cook in an unusually dramatic role.
THE BIG FIX (Green Planet) Genre: Documentary. Exposes the myth that the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been cleaned up, and shows the troubling control that Big Oil has on our political system. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.4 Could wind up being one of the most important documentaries of the year.
CORIOLANUS (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. A Roman general, expelled from his city, allies himself with his mortal enemy to take revenge. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opening in limited release January 20). RATING: 2.0 Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays.
I AM SINGH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. In the wake of 9-11, Sikhs are discriminated against and beaten by Americans thinking they are terrorists. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating idea for a movie but the trailer looks a bit overwrought.
LADS & JOCKEYS (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. The lives of three inhabitants of a school for horse racing jockeys in Chantilly, France is profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.2 Will definitely appeal to those who love horses and horse racing, not so much to everyone else.
THE LADY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: True Life Drama. Aung San Suu Kyi fights for democracy and peace in Burma against the despotic regime there at the cost of her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most compelling stories of our time with one of the most compelling actresses (Michelle Yeoh) of our time starring in it.
OUTRAGE (Magnet) Genre: Crime Thriller. Rival clans vie for position in the Japanese yakuza. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 An ultra-violent Japanese mobster flick looks to be one of the best of its genre in a very long time.
SHAME (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A man with a sex addiction has his life thrown completely out of kilter when his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, sparking painful memories of the past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Michael Fassbender reunites with Hunger director Steve McQueen in a very sexually explicit drama.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (IFC) Genre: Drama. A reckless university student takes a job as a sex worker, allowing old men to have erotic experiences with her as she sleeps; her work eventually commences to bleed into her waking life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A very sensuous, intriguing trailer.

DECEMBER 9, 2011

CATCH .44 (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. A seemingly straightforward assignment to pick up a drug shipment at an isolated diner turns into a free-for-all orgy of violence and betrayal. Release Strategy: New York City/Charlotte. RATING: 2.9 A great cast including Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker but a kind of weak trailer.
I MELT WITH YOU (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Four college buddies go off for an annual weekend in Big Sur but the debauchery leads to some revelations about their dissatisfaction with their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Cast includes Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane, three actors who are always worth seeking out.
IN DARKNESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Biographical Drama. Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief whose only loyalty is to money, hides Jews in his sewer in World War II Poland. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles one week qualifying run (Opening in limited release January 27). RATING: 2.0 A compelling story from an amazing director.
KNUCKLE (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Documentary. A pair of feuding families in the Irish Traveler bare knuckle fighting underground society are portrayed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Kind of looks fascinating but kind of doesn’t; I’m not quite sure which.
LADIES VS. RICKY BAHL (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A slick con artist who uses his good looks to charm women out of their money gets his comeuppance when his victims unite to take him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Lighthearted, effervescent and disposable, this is what Bollywood is all about.
MY PIECE OF THE PIE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. An out of work single mom takes a job as a housekeeper for a ruthless financial magnate in Paris. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Cedric Klapisch is one of the best filmmakers you’ve never heard of.
NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A group of people in varying romantic situations converge on New York City for New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Along the same lines as 2010’s Valentine’s Day.
THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. A slacker college student living with his mom is forced to babysit three precocious kids, bringing on the chaos in triplicate. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 It’s Adventures in Babysitting with Jonah Hill and if that sounds appealing to you by all means have at it.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Focus) Genre: Spy Thriller. A British spy comes out of retirement to smoke out a double agent in the ranks of the British Secret Intelligence Agency. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (Opening in limited release December 16). RATING: 2.3 One of the greatest novels from one of the greatest espionage thriller writers ever (John Le Carre) finally makes it to the big screen.
W.E. (Columbia) Genre: Romance. A modern romantic looks into the lives of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, whom he gave up his throne for and discovers their relationship wasn’t as perfect as she thought. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (one week Oscar qualifying run; opening in limited release February 3). RATING: 2.9 Madonna’s the director; don’t judge.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Psychological Thriller. When her son turns out to be sociopathic, a mother’s culpability comes under scrutiny. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles 1 week Oscar qualifying run (Opening in limited release January 27). RATING: 1.8 One of the creepiest and most disturbing trailers I’ve seen in a long while.
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount) Genre: Black Comedy. An amoral writer of children’s books returns home for a high school reunion with one eye turned towards the prospect of stealing her high school crush from his wife. Release Strategy: Limited (opens wide December 16). RATING: 2.1 Looks like one of those comedies where you laugh hard and then feel ashamed, but in a good way.

DECEMBER 12, 2011

DAGUERREOTYPES (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The shops and shopkeepers on the Rue Daguerre in Paris are profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Acclaimed documentarian Agnes Varda takes a loving look at the street on which she has lived for fifty years.

DECEMBER 16, 2011

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS – CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family. While on a cruise, Alvin and the gang are shipwrecked on an island that isn’t as deserted as they thought. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.7 I still can’t figure out how they took a one-joke movie and turned it into a franchise – or why.
CARNAGE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. Two New York white collar couples gather to discuss a playground incident in which one child was injured by another, when things break down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The latest from Roman Polanski boasts an outstanding cast and a wonderfully tense trailer.
CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (Anchor Bay) Genre: Documentary. One of the greatest producers of “B” movies in history is paid tribute as filmmakers and stars try to recount his rightful place in movie history. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Corman is one of my heroes but the trailer looked a bit like a hodgepodge.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) Genre: Spy Action. After the IMF is shut down after being implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot, it is up to Ethan Hunt and his team to ferret out the truth or die trying! Release Strategy: Opening wide in IMAX only (opening in Wide Standard on December 21). RATING: 1.8 This is supposed to be the passing of the torch for the franchise from Tom Cruise to Jeremy Renner.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Action Suspense. Holmes and Watson are back and this time they’re up against the evil Professor Moriarty in a plot to throw Europe into chaos. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 The first film might have irritated Holmes purists but I found it extremely entertaining and satisfying.

DECEMBER 21, 2011

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Paramount) Genre: Adventure. An intrepid boy reporter searches for the wreck of a sailing vessel that might have contained a device of unimaginable power. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.5 Already a huge hit overseas, this is motion capture which hasn’t done well here – except it’s never been done by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson before either.
ALBERT NOBBS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Period Drama. A woman posing as a man in 19th Century Ireland is trapped by her own charade. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Starring and written by Glenn Close, looks awfully intriguing.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Columbia) Genre: Thriller. A disgraced journalist joins forces with a gifted but troubled hacker to solve a 40-year-old murder. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 An Americanization of an extremely well-made Swedish moviemight ordinarily not be welcome but it is David Fincher directing.
PINA (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Choreographer Pina Bausch revolutionized 20th century dance. Release Strategy: New York City only (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.6 Wim Wenders directs Germany’s official entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

DECEMBER 23, 2011

DON 2 (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Crime Thriller. The overlord of Asian crime bosses has his sights set on the European market. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Perhaps an allegory for modern economics.
IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (FilmDistrict) Genre: War Drama. A Serbian man and a Bosnian woman find each other on opposite sides of the civil war, even though they once were lovers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A gut-wrenching trailer bodes well for the directorial debut of Angelina Jolie.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) Genre: True Life Drama. A single dad buys a zoo and moves his family there in an effort to bring them closer together. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 From the look of the trailer, Matt Damon is well-cast here.

DECEMBER 25, 2011

THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. An American tourist in Moscow is stranded when the city is attacked by aliens. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 The trailer looks intriguing although hopefully there will be some better eye candy than what we saw.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. A young boy who lost his dad in 9-11 is convinced that his father left him a final message hidden somewhere in the city. Release Strategy: Limited (Opens Wide January 20). RATING: 1.0 One of the most emotionally affecting trailers I’ve ever seen; they had me at Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.
WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) Genre: War Drama. Steven Spielberg directs the journey of a horse from its bucolic English farm through the trenches of World War I in France. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Could be wonderful, but the trailer looked a bit treacly.

DECEMBER 26, 2011

NEWLYWEDS (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. A newly married couple have to put up with the interference and antics of their somewhat deranged siblings. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The newest from actor/director Edward Burns, and it looks like one of his best ones yet.

DECEMBER 28, 2011

EL SICARIO: ROOM 164 (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. A hitman for a Mexican drug cartel is interviewed in a hotel room, revealing disturbing details about the drug trade and its political ramifications. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A compelling subject which may not translate into a visually compelling film.
PARIAH (Focus) Genre: Urban Drama. An inner city African-American teen slowly begins to embrace her sexuality as a lesbian. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A big hit at Sundance, now finally hitting theaters in time for Oscar consideration.

DECEMBER 30, 2011

A SEPARATION (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Iranian man whose wife is divorcing him because he won’t leave his Alzheimer’s-ridden father is accused of a heinous crime by the maid his daughter hires. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks interesting.
ANGEL’S CREST (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young father’s moment of thoughtlessness results in tragedy; when the local prosecutor decides to zealously pursue the matter, the small town is torn apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked plenty harrowing.
THE IRON LADY (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England during the Reagan era. Release Strategy: Limited (Expands January 13). RATING: 3.1 Meryl Streep might be looking at another Oscar nomination.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
New Year’s Eve, The Sitter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, In the Land of Blood and Honey, We Bought a Zoo, The Darkest Hour, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, War Horse, The Iron Lady