Category Archives: Film

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

In 2009. I trepidatiously entered the local cinema to see the latest incarnation of my favorite literary character- Sherlock Holmes. I have seen Basil Rathbone play Holmes, and my personal (and everyone’s) favorite Jeremy Brett play Holmes.

Brett played the “Classic” Holmes that we hear in our heads when reading the stories. very British, upper class, well put together. What Robert Downey Jr did was actually a bit more honest in my opinion. When Holmes was between cases, he was intolerable, and often descended into cocaine fueled periods of malaise. When off the case, he would liberally use cocaine to speed up his genius to keep his mind occupied. The thing about drug addicts- they are not pretty, and tend to smell pretty bad.

While a bit “amped up”, RDJ’s Holmes displays all you would expect of a drug addled GENIUS. His humor and amazing chemistry with Jude Law (who is becoming the definitive Dr Watson) makes these films something special.

In the first film, there was a shadowy figure manipulating all the events facing Holmes. He is of course the legendary James Moriarty- arch Nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. Their story together- The Final Problem shocked me as a boy. Moriarty is easily the greatest villain ever committed to paper. He is, in every way, the equal of our hero, and it was scary to see Holmes face him.The ending was impossible for an 11 year old to fathom… The hero of these tales, who outsmarts everyone, dies at Reichenbach Falls in a battle to the death with Moriarty. I had this thing going where I would read the Sherlock Holmes stories during the week after the next episode aired on PBS. When I saw that particular episode of the Brett Series (which I knew was at the end of the book I owned) I was horrified. I tried to read Hound of the Baskervilles after this, but kept putting it off. I was dumbstruck that my hero had died. I avoided everything Holmes for over a year.

Now, many of you have read the stories and know damn well that Holmes survives the battle and has many more adventures with Dr Watson…but I was a kid, and there was no internet in those days of the late 80’s early 90’s. I only had Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes with Hound of the Baskervilles…Thats it. I was missing all the later stories. What is worse is that the following episodes of the series were not being broadcast at that time! The next week the series repeated to the first episode. I was heartbroken, and that was the end of Holmes for me. Little did I know that I was experiencing the exact same emotions that readers in 1893 experienced, only a century or so late!

What brought me back to Holmes was that the episodes were showing on television in a mini-marathon every night of the week on PBS. I had made my peace with Sherlock’s end, and watched the series every night. I viewed the final problem once again…and it was immediately followed by The Adventure of the empty house… what was this? Holmes Lives?! I hounded my mother and she took me out to find the next book in the series. Thus, my fascination continued and I ended up reading all of Doyle’s Holmes work, as well as a few later tales by other authors (Holmes in WW1? an 89 year old beekeeper during WW2?!!)

Now, it is 2011, and A game of Shadows is released. This film is not heavy on clues or deduction for the audience. This, like the first, is us living in Holmes’ world. The film loves to slow down to show us how he processes the world. It is a film that shows Holmes at his best, facing his equal. There is little for us to figure out, we are along for the ride- to see the evil genius of Moriarty, and Holmes’ quest to outsmart his equal. Jared Harris nearly steals this movie from Downey Jr.  His Moriarty is terrifically sadistic, but always reasonably so. While Holmes is compelled to see justice done, Moriarty is compelled to cheat, steal, and attain power- all while using similar methods and thought patterns as Holmes. The final showdown of the film- at Reichenbach falls (gasp!…spoilers- yes, they go there with this story) was exquisitely done.

People are going to complain, they are going to rail against the modern bastardization of Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece. There is nothing that can be done to stop them. I simply feel that they are wrong. Those that would pass over this movie over the aesthetics of Guy RItchie’s Holmes universe is doing themselves a huge disservice. Check it out- well worth your time.

Beginners

Ewan McGregor will always be remembered for Star Wars, Moulin Rouge, and his other big budget fare. I think this is a sad thing. Beginners is a great example of the type of film Ewan McGregor excels at.

The story of a man who’s father is dying and reveals a secret- He is gay. The film follows how the son deals with the news, and his father’s cancer, as he meets and falls in love with a lovely actress who, like he, has issues with making long lasting connections. Christopher Plummer delivers a terrific performance as the father, while Melanie Laurent, one of my favorite actresses who is FINALLY breaking into American Cinema, is the love interest. This movie reminds me a lot of 500 days of Summer, and in a good way.

This is a charming film that delivers its message of life, death, regret, and love in an outstanding way. Worth your time.

Devil’s Double

I have certain habits when I am on the computer. One is that I always have the TV on. it has become one of the better ways for me to discern how good/bad a movie/tv show is. If it can grab my attention and keep it while the wonders of the Web lay before me, then its pretty good.

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The First film in my reactivated Netflix queue is The Devil’s Double, based on an autobiography of a body double for Saddam Huessein’s eldest son- Uday. Dominic Cooper, who came to my notice as Howard Stark in Captain America plays the 2 roles of Uday, and Latif the double.

Sadistically evil is the only way to describe Uday. Dominic Cooper has shot forward in my estimation as one of the best actors out there. He is on a tear right now, with this, Captain American, and My week with Marilyn (review forthcoming) all out this year. Mark my words- he is an actor to watch.

The lovely Ludivine Sangnier, who blew me away 8 years ago in The Swimming Pool, finally returns to my film viewing as Sarrab, one of Uday’s girlfriends.

If you have not seen this movie yet, I encourage you to do so. Lee Tamahori has finally redeemed himself after Die Another Day with this amazing film. I expect this to be among the “Best Picture” nominees come Oscar Sunday.

Am I am Muppet, or a Man???

Hi-ho there everybody! Michael the Ponte here with another entry in Das Blog!

Comics: The haul 2 week ago was great- best was Fantastic Four #600! Human torch lives! Last week was the rare “5th week” and the haul was small. best of the bunch was Uncanny X-Men 2 just for having a San Francisco populated by Mr Sinister clones…who get shot in the head. 🙂

I ventured out to the local cinema for the first time in a while to see The Muppets!

This movie had to really perform to impress me…and it did. The marketing campaign (now legendary) was a series of trailers spoofing EVERY major film that opened this year. It was genius, and it worked. It also opened up a potential problem for the finished product- Could it be better than the trailers? The answer is a resounding yes.

Jason Segel wrote, and starred in, the best Muppet Film since their heyday of the late 70’s early 80’s. Their treasure Island and Christmas Carol offerings were ok, Muppets from Space needed some work, but overall the Muppets have been out of sight, out of mind for nearly 20 years. This film addresses that, with the Muppets trying to get the act back together. Its got catchy songs (written by Brett McKensie and others) and a lot of heart. The Muppet “Vibe” is back, and I am really glad I saw this on the big screen, as it was intended to be seen.

Jack Black…was awesome in his Cameos, which makes sense as he is practically a Muppet himself.

Go see it, revisit your childhoods.

 

What is best in life? … not this.

I love Conan the Barbarian. The original Robert E. Howard stories are required reading in my home. The comics are superb and the Arnold Schwarzenegger film (first one at least) is one of my favorite films.

Arnold became a superstar thanks to this great film by John Milius. Everyone can quote it, and most of us love it. In recent years, I have come to be a huge Jason Momoa fan. I first saw him Stargate: Atlantis, and he absolutely rocked my socks as Khal Drogo in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

When I heard that Momoa would be cast as Conan, I was very happy. Physically he is a very good match for the literary Conan, and based on his Drogo performance, we knew he could pull of the role. Sadly, the finished product was nowhere near the quality that he could deliver.

Right from the start, this movie was bad…and I literally mean the start. The opening scene devolved into utter nonsense as Conan is born on a battlefield as his father cuts him from his mother’s stomach. He then hefts the infant above his head and lets loose a battle scream. I nearly turned off the dvd player at this point. I thought twice, and continued.

The biggest problem with this film is that there is no barbarism. Conan and his cohorts are far too trusting and honorable. Conan is supposed to be a thief at this point in his life…a lying cheating, whoring, barbarian. Here he is the noble savage, who stays true to his friends. There is nothing wrong with that, and Conan has certainly done this before, but he is literally giving his full trust to people he just meets in this film. The “Mcguffin” is not used at all. A magical mask that can raise the dead and control demons….which really does none of that in the course of the film.

Steven Lang is not a bad villain, but honestly it should have been his daughter Rose McGowan. In the end, she dies and he fights Conan to the death. She should have killed her father and used these awesome demonic powers to make a REAL threat to Conan in this. Instead, we bumble from one action set piece to another, with absolutely no gravitas or substance on screen.

I really hope that Momoa gets another shot at Conan, but they need to write a film that is worthy of the name Conan.