Ep. 125 – Aladdin, Booksmart, and a recap of the San Antonio Symphony’s John Williams concert

May 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the live-action “Aladdin,” Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut “Booksmart,” and Cody discusses his experience at the San Antonio Symphony’s performance of John Williams classics.

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

December 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris
Directed by: Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes”)
Written by: Michele Mulroney (“Paper Man”) and Kieran Mulroney (“Paper Man”)

The past couple of years have been kind to Sherlock Holmes fans, provided said fans don’t consider Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s text to be holy writ. Between the outstanding modern re-imagining TV series “Sherlock” from the BBC and director Guy Ritchie’s 2009 big-screen action/comedy take “Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, the characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson are coming across as dynamic and exciting. No longer are they just the tweedy bores of the books, baffling the readers of today by repeatedly tossing out the word “ejaculated,” which in the 19th century was apparently a socially-acceptable way of saying “exclaimed.”

Ritchie returns to direct Downey as Holmes and Law who reprise their roles in the sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” an entertainingly self-assured adventure that follows the lead of “The Dark Knight” by pitting our hero against his classic arch-nemesis. In this case, it’s the evil Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) who is the thorn in Holmes’ side. As the movie begins, Holmes is on Moriarty’s trail, attempting to solve a puzzle that began with the murder of the Crown Prince of Austria — and Moriarty knows this. The Professor is every bit the intellectual Holmes is, only completely without conscience. Moriarty doesn’t hesitate in targeting the people Holmes cares for, from old flame Irene Adler (Rachael McAdams) to Watson and his new wife Mary (Kelly Reilly), in an effort to send Holmes a message.

While it still remains odd to think of a story about Sherlock Holmes being an action movie, there’s no denying the thrilling kinetic energy Ritchie brings to the action scenes. The slow-mo fight sequences, thought out in advance and then carried out by Holmes, return with an immensely satisfying bonus, joined by a thrilling gun fight/train escape sequence and a disorienting race through the woods as mortars blast through the trees.

But the reason to see the movie remains the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law. As Holmes, Downey puts an affably oddball spin on a character typically portrayed as unknowable and aloof, while Law’s Watson is a not-so-reluctant foil to Holmes, wryly self-aware of the danger his adventures with Holmes will bring. As Moriarty, Harris brings an disquieting normalcy to the part, the popular professor who know one, outside of Holmes, would expect is also an evil criminal mastermind. And while the always-delightful Stephen Fry enriches the film’s world with his comically offbeat take on Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, Noomi Rapace’s gypsy fortune teller Simza is left with little to do. The middle of the film, focusing on her and her gypsy clan, drags along slowly. The fact that it takes place in the countryside and is peppered with an over-long gag about Holmes’ fear of horses makes it feel like a deleted scene from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel. Rapace even appears to be wearing Penelope Cruz’s hat from “On Stranger Tides.”

While there are no signs of magnifying glasses or deerstalker hats, and no one utters, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” the team of Downey Jr., Law, and Ritchie have once again managed to crack the case, discovering the secret to updating classic characters to entertain modern audiences.

Sherlock Holmes

December 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla”)
Written by: Anthony Peckham (“Invictus”), Simon Kinberg (“Jumper”), Michael Robert Johnson (debut)

It’s really not necessary to walk into the hip new version of “Sherlock Holmes” knowing anything about the legendary 19th century detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Actually, it might benefit moviegoers to forget anything about the English gumshoe they might have learned in prep school.

While there are some glimpses of Doyle’s source material, director Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla,” “Snatch”) attempts to amp up this Holmes tale for the next generation, but fashions it around a mass-appealing storyline that becomes more soupy that scholarly.

That shouldn’t take anything away from two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr.’s stylish portrayal of the title character. As Holmes, Downey Jr. commands the screen as the world’s most famous, fist-fighting detective. Here, he is matched up nicely with actor Jude Law, who is a solid casting choice for Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. Watson. Despite the impressive paring and chemistry, screenwriters Anthony Peckham (“Invictus”), Simon Kinberg (“Jumper”), and newcomer Michael Robert Johnson can’t match the magnetism of Downey Jr. or the menacing art direction that turns London into a tarnished locale.

In the film, Holmes and Watson are on the heels of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a serial killer involved in black magic who apparently rises from the dead after the duo watch him hang for the murders he committed. From there, the film falls into a tale of world domination that is hardly unique on any level. Blackwood wants to bring down Parliament with a chemical weapon. Holmes must find him before he does. Where’s Guy Fawkes when you need him?

An under-used Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”) plays Irene Adler, a secondary character only mentioned in one of Doyle’s numerous writings but is undoubtedly high on the Holmes hierarchy. The always-reliable Eddie Marsan plays Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade with his usual bitter approach to his characters.

Set pieces aside, “Sherlock Holmes” goes as far as the supernatural-themed narrative allows it. There are some highlights in the film including the rousing action sequences Ritchie is known for, which work well for a while before we’re reminded that all the loose ends and twists still have to be revealed before the bloated story pops. Then, there’s the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer that is far removed from his usual extravagant musical offerings. The funky piano playing throughout reminds us that not every period blockbuster needs a swelling orchestra to be effective.

But when a film feels like all it’s doing in the final act is setting up for a sequel, something is wrong with its cinematic logic. There’s far more story to tell in the mystery series, but it’s insane for “Holmes” to stop short without a concrete promise of a follow-up or without earning the right to dole out cliffhangers. It really acts more self-important than it should. Just be thankful Holmes never utters the word “elementary” or things could have gotten really ugly on Baker Street.