Marvel’s The Avengers – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom, Hiddlestone, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Lou Ferrigno

Synopsis: Really?   I need to give a synopsis for one of the two most anticipated comic book films of the year??   What rock could people be living under?   Okay, okay, I’ll be serious.   When a major super-powered being and his army threaten Earth, no one hero alone can face it.   So Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., assembles a team of super powered good guys, along with some highly skilled assassins, to defend Earth.   In short, he assembles THE AVENGERS!

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly

Synopsis: Ritchie’s unique take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s popular sleuth continues with this sequel to the 2009 original.   Moriarty (Harris) emerges as the true threat and intellectual counterpart to Sherlock.   No longer just a man pulling strings he now has a face, and he seeks Sherlock’s demise such that nothing can interfere with his plans.

The key to a successful sequel is often very elusive, with few franchises getting the balance just right between what worked with the first film, and what should be added to the next to prevent the film treading familiar ground.   Even those that are successful rarely better the freshness of the original.   Unfortunately for A Game of Shadows, improvements to the original premise are made, and yet some of what made the first film original and fun was lost in the process.

One of the elements that worked really well in the original was the moments that the film went inside Sherlock’s head as he sleuthed a problem.   This is still present and correct, and at times delightfully altered, such as one fight scene having the unpredictable element of Rapace’s gypsy set the original plan off-balance.   However, it often feels as if Ritchie is rushing through these sleuthing moments, almost afraid to bog the audience down in the detail of an overly convoluted mystery.   Indeed, some of these sleuthing moments are constructed of flashes of images leading to a scene re-creation with no quiding dialogue.   This can indeed prove effective, however I did find towards the end of the film that one significant detail that was key to the overall unravelling of the mystery had escaped my notice entirely.

So in trying to avoid repeating themselves, the film instead has become a more convoluted affair, and though some of the humour from the first film is still definitely present, it could have used a lot more of that too.   Thankfully, the off-kilter relationship between Holmes and Watson does remain, with Law particularly delightful as a newly wed in this chapter.   Many of the major new characters also do not disappoint, in screen time or performance quality.   Fry is well utilised as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, a much more comic representation than in the source novels.   Harris is also a fantastic Moriarty, often under-playing his own menace, but seeming all the more menacing for doing so.   He is a fine actor, not surprising giving his father was the wonderful Richard Harris.   However, another crime of this very involved plot is that an actress of Rapace’s quality is not given nearly enough to do, and I would have loved to have seen her do a lot more.

The film does redeem itself with the final act.   Given that the final act in the last film was actually a let down, I am delighted to say that this was an area that they successfully prevented from repeating themselves.   Anyone familiar with Doyle’s source novels will also get a thrill that the film is indeed faithful to a degree to the proper Holmes/Moriarty story arc.

This is overall an enjoyable film, mostly due to how well it ends.   The journey to this ending, though containing many fun moments, is not quite as spectacular however, making this more a fun film to pass the time than anything else.

3 stars out of 5


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on IMDB

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=}

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!


Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

Synopsis: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s super sleuth is given a new polish, Guy Ritchie style.   This is an action adventure romp mixed with mystery.   Holmes’ adversary is Lord Blackwood, a practitioner of dark arts whom apparently has risen from the dead to wreak havoc with Victorian era London.   The race is on to discover by which cloak and dagger methods Blackwood is performing his impossible feats.

A review by Film Nerd.

Expectations are inextricably linked with the film going experience.   How often has it been when expectations are low, you walk away from a film pleasantly surprised, or vice versa??   For some franchises, the expectation arises from former knowledge with the brand.   So when the familiar is looked at from a different angle, the success of the film rests on the audiences ability to accept this new vision.   It worked for James Bond and for Star Trek, but a re-imagined King Arthur featuring the titular character as a Roman soldier did quite poorly at the box office.

Sherlock Holmes is a perfect example of this phenomenon.   For years audiences are familiar with the Holmes of previous film versions, a reserved sleuth solving almost impossible crimes, and are familiar to a lesser extent with the same character from Doyle’s novels.   So taking that image and making him an action hero is certainly a new perspective.   Simply put, if you can accept that premise, then this is a brilliant film, though I can understand for those who cannot accept this, this film is a disappointment.

I am in the former camp, as I am well aware FourthVerse is too (I hope to see her review of this film up here at some point!!).   I love Downey Jr.’s portayal oh Holmes.   He is still brilliant and methodical, and he applies these talents to coming out best in a scrap, but he is also an eccentric slob.   As with the Iron Man franchise, Downey Jr. is continuing to remind us what a delight it is to see him back on form again.   Add into this mix Law’s Watson.   Having seen action as an officer in India, he is just as willing to throw himself into the action, a refreshing look at the character who for years has been relegated to the role of Holmes elderly, often portly sidekick.   But this film is best when the two of them are together.   It is a film more about their relationship than anything else, and this was a very wise choice.   Rachel McAdams love interest serves its purpose, but despite being talented, for me she did not always fit in the proceeding of this film.   Mark Strong’s Blackwood is a great villain, but more time with him on-screen would have also been to the film’s benefit.

In the end, this film is a sum of its individual parts.   Ritchie’s touch is very clear, and despite it being set in Victorian London, its knowing nods to the audience make you expect to see Turkish pop up around the next street corner (if you haven’t seen Snatch, ignore that comment!).    But enjoyment does rest on whether you are interested in seeing a Guy Ritchie film in the first place.   It is a style I enjoyed, but the film did leave me wanting more at the end.   I suppose that is a good thing, given that a sequel is so clearly sign-posted!

3 stars (out of a possible 5)

Sherlock Holmes on IMDB

Sherlock Holmes on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=]

Iron Man 2

Director: Jon Fareau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell

Synopsis: Tony Stark’s popularity has sky rocketed since revealing to the world he is Iron Man.   However, the government desires the suits tech to be handed over, not trusting such power in the hands.   Pressure to relinquish the suit only increases when mysterious Ivan Vanko produces his own miniature Arc reactor, the same device that powers Iron Man’s suit, and poses a threat to national security.   Meanwhile, Stark is losing control as a result of battling his own demons.

A review by Film Nerd

There is no question that the original Iron Man was a surprise hit, unless you were already a dedicated fan of Marvel comics before the release of the film.   For many, it not only marked another successful comic book adaptation, but a sparkling return to form for Robert Downey Jr., whose presence and charisma defined the film and fitted the character of playboy billionaire Tony Stark like a glove.   Sequels to films such as these are a very tricky prospect, needing to capture what made the original so entertaining, while adding new elements to avoid a feeling of dull repetition.

Iron Man 2 is a very solid, entertaining sequel.   Once again, it is truly Downey Jr.’s film, his character defining the tone, and maintaining a sense of fun to the proceedings.   However, Stark is battling personal demons this time whereas in the last film it was battling the demons of his company’s legacy.   It is revealed early on that the element Palladium, which acts as the core of the Arc reactor and powers the Iron Man suit, as well as keeping his heart running, is slowly poisoning him.   Indeed, the very thing keeping him alive is also killing him.

This is bad enough, without external pressures mounting.   The government is seeking access to the suit technology in the interest of national defence, the (not unreasonable) fear being that other countries may indeed develop this technology to use against the United States.   Stark’s defence that this technology being developed elsewhere is not likely for another five to ten years is destroyed on the appearance of Rourke’s Ivan Vanko, who develops his own Ark reactor to power his own suit.  He adopts the identity of Whiplash to take revenge on the Stark family for stealing the Ark technology from his father in the first place.    Roarke continues his career resurrection here, playing the role with an effective, quiet menace.

The external characters all get a chance to shine.   Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Stark’s best friend Lt. Col. Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes, and frankly does a much better job.   Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts maintains that mix of spice and vulnerability that worked so well in the first film, and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is thankfully an entertaining performance in a way many of hers have not been of late.   Special mention has to go to the always brilliant Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, a business rival of Stark’s.   It is a role that could have been dull when playing against top form RDJ and Rourke, but in Rockwell’s hands it is a true stand out.

Overall, the film equal’s but does not quite better the original outing.   That said, it does have a true “middle chapter” feel.   Though Iron Man 3 is not yet slated, Marvel’s Avengers is due out next year, uniting Iron Man and Hulk with Thor and Captain America, both characters due for their own films prior to the release of the Avengers.   That said, it is here that the true Marvel Fanboy can get extra out of this film.    I noticed at least two Easter eggs in the film hinting to these later films, one of which had me nerd-gasm enough to give my fiancée a significant fright in our car at the drive-in!   Note, stick around after the end credits, as one of these Easter eggs is dropped then.   All I can say is that I can’t wait!

A entertaining sequel that, despite not feeling an improvement of the original film, at least equals that previous effort.   An extra half star was given for the fanboy references.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Iron Man 2 on IMDB

Iron Man 2 on Rotten Tomatoes

Iron Man 2 trailer [youtube=]