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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU0SEeQJy0c}

V for Vendetta – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam

Synopsis: Set in the not to distant future, London has survived global devastation that has crippled former world powers such as the United States.   The government has a dictatorial stranglehold on the populous, however, in which anyone caught with a dissenting view tends to disappear.   This story follows the goals of freedom fighter/terrorist V, who seeks to inspire the people to rise up against this government.

I freely admit that this week the only thing I have been posting about in the last week is Supanova, but I hope I can be forgiven for this given the amazing time that was had at Sydnova by all, and as such I found it an event much worth of promotion.   As I type, Perth Supanova (or as I have seen it written on the Supanova Facebook page, SuPerthNova) should be in full swing and I hope all in attendance have a blast.

For my last Sydnova related post, I am going to connect it back to my cosplay for the event.   Such a brilliant film needs more than just photos taken of a guy trying to be the title character.   For a film that sells itself on action set pieces and Natalie Portman having gotten her head shaved for the role, there is much more to the film than these popularised elements.   As I type this, the film sits at 180 on the IMDB Top 250 list, and I would suggest that this is largely due to the film being a very thought-provoking piece.

Alan Moore was behind the original graphic novel on which the film was based.   This is the same creative talent behind From Hell and Watchmen.   However, being dedicated to the medium of comics, he did not permit his name to be listed in the credits for the film.   The story itself though is extremely intelligent, and it is very easy to miss certain connections if one does not remained focus.   One of the incredible moments of cinematography in the film is not necessarily an action set piece, but an intricate collection of dominos that is set falling.   More than being just really cool, this image appropriately represents the film.   V has manufactured a series of events, that rely on a keen sense of intelligence, observation, and intuition into knowing how people will respond to his stimulus.   He truly weaves a tapestry, one that the end result is not obvious until the final thread is put in place.

More than an extremely intelligent plot, V’s ideals themselves, and how he expresses them, are thought-provoking.   There are many phrases that he utters that are imbued with power and inspiration.   A few personal favourites include “People should not be afraid of their government.   Governments should be afraid of their people”, “A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world” and “What I am is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof”.   This is a film about knowing that something is wrong with the world, and that somebody needs to stand up to do something about it.   One person alone is not enough however.   One person may start the wind of revolution, but without a cause people can and will rally behind, change may not be possible.   The story really does highlight that the line between freedom fighting and terrorism is really very fine.   How is it defined?   The audience supports V’s cause, as his motives are justice and an attempt to end oppression.   His deeds themselves however, are not necessarily admirable… killing party leaders and blowing up buildings by themselves are dastardly acts, and the film title admits that part of his motivation is also revenge.   Perhaps this is the strength of the character however.   He is not a typical unambiguous hero type.   The story does not flinch from addressing this, Portman’s Evey indicating at one point that what was done to him has actually made him a monster.   Regardless, his methods do not change, but he does at least acknowledge by the end that it should not be he who decides how the final events should unfold, redeeming the character from his former path.

The film comes together from incredibly strong performances.   Portman is as always brilliant, which may excuse her top billing, though that choice does strike me as a marketing ploy to promote the film where Weaving’s  recognition in the US was not high enough.   Portman amazingly portrays two sides of the same character though, her story arc taking her from constantly frightened to a reserved but forceful bravery by the end of the film.   The transition is really quite remarkable, and certainly took more than a radical haircut to achieve it.   The film really does belong to Weaving, though.   This is a performance that never once has the mask removed.   Despite this, he displays a range of emotion that is evident without the facial cues that many actors would normally rely on.   The fact that he also has an amazing voice that articulates the script and gives already powerful words an even greater gravitas really brings home that a special quality of actor was always needed for the role.   In this case they had it.   All the supporting actors are all on similarly fine form, I could continue this essay at great length discussing each one, but I have let this particular stream of consciousness last too long already.   Suffice it to say, as far as performances go, this film has no weak link.

There is something about the work of Alan Moore that gets me overly analytical, and has my reflective reviewing style more go into absolute overdrive.   Those familiar with my Watchmen review observed the same essay style of review as I have presented here.   The fact is however, that the films based on his source material, let alone the source material itself, are brilliant, original, thought-provoking stories.   Do yourself a favour and delve into his world further.

5 stars out of 5


V for Vendetta on IMDB

V for Vendetta on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTlgpnNQYmg]

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Reviw by Film Nerd

Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Bill Bailey, John Malkovich

Synopsis: A story adapted from the first of the series of books written by Douglas Adams.    Arthur Dent (Freeman) escapes Earth moment before its destruction with the aid of his best friend, Ford Prefect (Def), whom as it turns out was an alien all along.   Ford writes for the renowned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (voiced by Fry).   Their travels intersect with the those of Ford’s cousin and President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Rockwell), and his travelling companion Trillian (Deschanel), who is the only other remaining survivor of Earth.

 

A review by Film Nerd.

I was quite a fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide as a series of books, the infamous trilogy in five parts.   It was a series that was all about the ridiculous, and not to everyone’s sense of humour.   I was often quite tickled by it, so the prospect of a movie to me was quite a thing of anticipation.   The fact that Adams himself had contributed a lot of the screen play before his passing was promising, the fact he had taken so long to get it successfully off the ground was not.

But on the surface of things, there were a lot of smart choices made with this film.   Freeman has always made the perfect “every man”, and was ideally cast as the always bathrobe wearing Arthur Dent.   Mos Def I was unfamiliar with, which concerned me, and though there is nothing wrong with the performance it was not necessarily brilliant either.    My love for Deschanel is well on record, once again in the type of role she has made her own, the independent woman who is more quirky than harsh.   Rockwell is let off his leash in full crazy mode, and can be a true delight in this film.   Then just look above at a lot of the rest of the acting talent, including Rickman voicing Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Fry’s dulcet tones filling in for both Narrator and the guide itself.   So really, the casting in most cases could not be more spot on.

The film also opens brilliantly, taking Adams’ record of the last communication from dolphins to humans; “So long, and thanks for all the fish”, and making an opening credits song out of it, is just what is needed to break the audience out of normality and into the realm of Adams mind.   And yet from that point on, the film is somewhat lacklustre.   Adams comedy does not always shine through, with some of the less famous lines from the novel feeling somewhat flat on delivery.   Despite all the brilliant individual performances, they somehow do not add up to a whole that is entirely enjoyable.   It is hard to pin-point where things go wrong, yet somehow they do.   There are moments that are great, breaking up a rather ordinary film.    It is a real shame, as this had the potential to be gut-bustingly funny, and yet it is just a pleasant time-waster.

My recommendation?   If you are unfamiliar with the books and curious, give it a look, but at your own peril.   This makes some of Adams’ work look kinda boring, so you could unfairly pre-judge the books before reading them for yourself.  If you have an open mind though, there is enough here to enjoy.   If you are already a fan, it perhaps is more entertain knowing the source material, and yet you will be disappointed knowing what this film could have been.

2.5 stars (out of a possible 5)

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on IMDB

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbGNcoB2Y4I]