Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Robert Downey Jr., Noomi Rapace and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Mind games of two level-headed geniuses

Rating: ***

Guy Ritchie’s sequel to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes doesn’t disappoint. It adds more depth to Holmes. Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem, the film follows Holmes as he battles a Victorian megalomaniac who poses a bigger threat than Lord Blackwood did in the first film. Yet, Jared Harris’ Professor Moriarty is less convincing when compared to Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood. Swedish star, Noomi Rapace plays Simza, a Parisian fortune-telling gypsy who despite her entertaining sword fights doesn’t match up to Irene Adler from the first film.

While I initially chose not to compare the sequel and the prequel, I felt both films weren’t in the same level. While the first film was in the true Guy Ritchie essence, the second one becomes something that today’s influenced directors would do. Ritchie does dabble in eye candy CGI which he uses extensively in the penultimate forest battle that features Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law sprinting in slow motion as bullets and bombs graze past them, and splinters of wood erupt from the trees.

Ah! Bromance!

Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes is portrayed as a fashion designer and a horticulturist. When did this bohemian detective ever become socially enthusiastic? And the scenes having him dress as a woman are mere gags. They don’t appeal much and when they do, they’re in lesser portions. One of the highlights of the first film, the bromance (brotherly romance) is least exploited.

Ritchie ensures upfront that this film is rather more serious when compared to the prequel. From tough fisticuffs to tougher gunfire, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is in its own way a good film. Running for two hours, the film doesn’t fail to entertain you. It’s just that you don’t get what the first film gave you – sheer delight.

I’m telling you again – this is a good film, and a darker sequel. 

Review: The Artist & Hugo

Silent Era Strikes Back

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The Artist.

The Artist

Rating: ****

Chloe Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield in Hugo.

Hugo

Rating: ***

There are movies that come as packaged entertainers and there are movies that give the viewers the liberty to unwrap and feel what’s inside. And then, there are the select few that seem out of the blue with a hint of nostalgia and courteously unwrap themselves for us to just sit back and enjoy.

The Artist and Hugo belong to the third class. The Artist was screened at Cannes where Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Award and then it vanished as Hollywood distributors kept waiting for it to appear on the radar again. And once it did, the hubbub resumed and what was supposedly a comedy drama about a movie star from the silent era became a trip down the memory lane where movies were just pure entertainment and nothing else.

Both films are set in a time where there were no dark elements that Christopher Nolan brought forth. There was no trail blazing action the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers brought forth. There were no teen fantasies that the Twilight and Harry Potter films brought forth. There was just pure art and entertainment.

The Artist is set in 1927 and the years leading to the introduction of talkies. George Valentin is introduced as a phenomenon. Played by Dujardin, Valentin is a cross between yesteryear’s Clark Gable and today’s George Clooney. To quote his award-winning speech at the Golden Globes: “The agent said my face is too big and expressive.” Dujardin’s emphatic smile has the strength to lure masses and his mass stature in the French film industry is an example.

Hugo takes place in 1931 well after The Artist has finished its duties. But, Hugo isn’t about the success of talkies, it’s about a certain filmmaker who made over hundreds of silent films and soon became forgotten. It is rare that Martin Scorsese has directed a film suited for family audiences. Every now and then, I was looking out for Irish gangsters to turn up in Paris, shoot down drug dealers and quip four-letter profanities. But that never seemed to happen. The characters speak fluently in the now-defunct Victorian English.

14-year old Chloe Grace Moretz has that radiant glow in her as she fills the life of lonely Hugo Cabret (played by Asa Butterfield) with an adventure that takes the viewers to the silent films of the early 1900s. This film is shot in beautiful, glorious color and Scorsese has made sure the existence of animation and 3D is brought out as the camera moves from long shots of Parisian skylines to bustling scenes inside a railway station.

The Artist has it all from panoramic characters to heroic dogs to that sound of orchestras which fuel the soul. This is perhaps one of the best contenders at the awards season and whatever it wins, it rightfully deserves them.

Hugo has an extensive cast but it’s the story that becomes the central character – the story of an artist losing faith and regaining it due to the continuous struggles of a little boy. But, Scorsese remains in that world and chooses not to tread further and his persistence makes Hugo a film that Walt Disney is more likely to make.

Whether it was a budget of $150 million (Hugo) or $15 million (The Artist), Hollywood proves that it can redeem itself. These alongside films such as Midnight in Paris and My Week With Marilyn will stand out as part of a film renaissance.

Review: Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes Poster

Murder in London? Go to 221B Baker Street.

Rating: ****

Guy Ritchie is an auteur.His subtle use of black comedy becomes a large part of Sherlock Holmes. This film is perhaps not the best version of Sir Conan Doyle’s stories, but it is the quintessential Guy Ritchie film. Robert Downey’s Sherlock Holmes thinks faster than Daniel Craig’s James Bond.

Take the vital elements in it – Ironic mix of humor and violence (aka Black Comedy), lots of fist fights between the baddies and the good guys (Holmes, Dr. Watson and sometimes Irene Adler), ‘best buddies-get-emotional’ scenes (we’ve seen it in Snatch and heavily in RocknRolla) and most notably Ritchie’s favorite villain – Mark Strong. Moreover, Lord Blackwood’s famed Satanism seems to be a cover-up for his use of trickery and science in his most devious escape from death.

In prison, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) warns Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) that he will rise after death.

Downey gives you a more masculine version of Holmes and yes, he is charming enough to handle the humor. Jude Law’s Dr. John Watson is more likely the strongest character in the film, apart from the French-speaking baddie, Dredger. The funny thing is that Ritchie’s previous flicks never had a female lead (Thandie Newton in RocknRolla wasn’t the lead). Rachel McAdams’ Irene Adler is a sublime performance. Here, Rachel’s portrayal of a beautiful but dangerous woman in Holmes’ life lacks the charm.

Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) and Holmes get into some serious trouble which leads to more and more action.

The second one, Kelly Reilly’s Mary Morstan who plays Watson’s love interest may be in for more than she knows. The advent of Mary on the scene sends Holmes into fits of petulance. Even when Watson booms “I’m marrying her Holmes!” he tries to avoid her shadow.

Holmes and the femme fatale Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) play a cat and mouse game in the film.

Sherlock Holmes happens in Victorian England. Hence, visual effects are a big boost to the film. Watch out for the Tower Bridge. It is the best any animator could do. Full marks to the costume design and art direction team, they really did their homework.

Sherlock Holmes is vastly entertaining with many enchanting visuals. However, it fails to reincarnate Sir Conan Doyle’s vision. Instead, it is Guy Ritchie’s commercial formula.

Review: My Blueberry Nights (2008)

promotional poster of My Blueberry Nights
promotional poster of My Blueberry Nights

Sweetly Baked

My Blueberry Nights (PG-13)

Director: Wong Kar Wai

Cast: Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz

Rating: ****

Wong Kar Wai debuts into Hollywood with ‘My Blueberry Nights’. The film, a romantic drama was released in 2008 following the Venice Film Festival where it first premiered. Apart from the lacklustre commercial success, the film has gained more critical acclaim. The film is adapted from one of Wong’s short films. The adapted screenplay was written by Wong and Lawrence Block. The film follows a heart-broken girl on a journey to discover that she’s not the only one with tumultuous relationships. As the film moves on, we discover her true love.

Wong and his Korean technicians have done a marvelous job in finely crafting the movie. The film has an undefined sadness in its tone, including its lighting and color. The film also criticizes self-belief and it strongly objects shortly-stranded relationships.

The story opens with Jeremy working late in his café. Elizabeth visits the café and she is physically in a teary downpour. Jeremy offers her consolation and a slice of blueberry pie. The days begin to grow in numbers where Elizabeth states that she’s leaving on a journey of self-discovery. Jeremy agrees to it and asks her to write to him. Agreeing to it, Elizabeth moves to Memphis in the name of Lizzie and writes to Jeremy but doesn’t disclose the location. Jeremy attempts to find her location, but he’s unsuccessful.

Lizzie meets another heart-broken cop, Arnie who has trouble with his wife Sue Lynne. Tragic things take place and Lizzie moves to a place near Las Vegas. There she works in a gambling club and meets Leslie, a genius poker player. More twists occur in the story making her return to New York City and meet Jeremy before falling in love with him.

Wong has done his best as a director. Darius Khondji’s brilliant lighting and sense of colors is just too good as he leaves a mark in the eyes of the viewers. The film has subtle music by Ry Cooder.

Norah Jones portrays Elizabeth, the lead female. This was Norah’s acting debut and she’s done a fine job and fits the role beautifully.

Jude Law as Jeremy is plainly a goof-up. Jude could have done a better job. The émigré could’ve tried a better line though.

Rachel Weisz as Sue Lynne has done justice to her role as an agitated housewife.

Natalie Portman does her best in playing Leslie, the genius poker player.

My Blueberry Nights is more of a classic. The film is rich in colors, deep in story, subtle in music and rampant in direction. It’s a must watch romantic drama.