Ep. 120 – Captain Marvel, Leaving Neverland

March 9, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the 21st Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and first with a female lead, “Captain Marvel.” They also take a deep dive into the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” and what it means for the legacy of a dead entertainer now considered monstrous by part of the populace.

Click here to download the episode!

Vox Lux

December 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy
Directed by: Brady Corbet (“The Childhood of a Leader”)
Written by: Brady Corbet (“The Childhood of a Leader”)

Pop star Celeste Montgomery (Oscar winner Natalie Portman plays her as an adult) is doing everything possible to control her own destiny. She’s been doing so ever since tragedy struck when she was a teenager and despite the fact that her life may already be primed for a “predetermined destination.”

The setup to the satirical drama “Vox Lux” by actor-turned-director Brady Corbet (“The Childhood of a Leader”) is strange and hypnotic. As a devout teen, Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a school shooting and later uses the experience to launch a successful career as a musician.

If the idea sounds a bit preposterous, it’s probably because Corbet means to say something contentious about the culture of celebrity in the 21st century. These days, all it takes to become famous is to create a YouTube channel or star in a sex tape or play a villain on a reality TV show, so why wouldn’t the same thing happen to a young girl who is shot in the head and decides to write a song to help ease her pain? Let’s be honest. Is it any more unbelievable than cast members from “The Real Housewives” or “Teen Moms” trending on Twitter?

In “Vox Lux,” Corbet introduces audiences to Celeste as a young girl — a girl “not all that special or conspicuously talented” — coming to terms with her newfound fame alongside her supportive sister Ellie (Stacy Martin) and unnamed manager (two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law). Her character arc during these formidable years is captivating — evolving from an innocent performer into a mainstream sellout.

Divided into two acts, we meet Portman in “Act 2: Regenesis” as a seasoned and cynical 31-year-old superstar raising her daughter Albertine (also played by Cassidy) in an industry she loves and despises for different reasons. When another tragic event takes place halfway across the globe that is connected to one of Celeste’s music videos, she is forced to reevaluate the circumstances that brought her to a place where fantasy and catastrophe go hand in hand.

Ambitious to a fault, “Vox Lux” feels otherworldly. Corbet still has a long way to go as a filmmaker, but it’s inspiring to see someone take risks so early in their career.

Black Sea

January 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”)
Written by: Dennis Kelly (debut)

Director Kevin Macdonald is nothing if not versatile. As an Oscar winner for his 1999 documentary “One Day in September,” Macdonald has been alternating documentary and narrative films since 2003, releasing five of each, which also makes him prolific. For his latest narrative, Macdonald packs Jude Law and some character actors into a submarine in the treasure hunt film “Black Sea.”

After being let go from his job as a submarine captain, Capt. Robinson (Law) hears from a co-worker about a German World War II-era submarine sitting at the bottom of the ocean holding millions of dollars in gold. In an effort to get to the gold before anyone else can, Law meets with a mysterious funder and puts together a team of people (some with questionable backgrounds) to go on the dangerous mission of claiming the buried treasure.

As the crew plans to head to the depths of the ocean, Law’s character provides incentive to the crew members by telling them that all of the money will be shared equally. When one of the men on board (Scoot McNairy) tells Capt. Robinson that crew members killing other crew members could provide a larger cut to those who survive, the rest of the movie is foretold and disappointingly follows a series of tropes while, interestingly enough, becoming too twisty for its own good.

A lot of the fault for the failures of “Black Sea” can be put on the shoulders of character design. A diver played by the always-solid Ben Mendelsohn, for example, is introduced as a loose cannon that very early on makes a scene out of submarine food which is not only a cliché but has no real reason for it in the context of the movie. It becomes pretty obvious where his arc and where the story will take him. Law, who is good in the film, is not given very much to work with either. One of the biggest failures of the film is a subplot featuring Law acting as a paternal figure to a young member of the crew. It never feels earned or resonates, especially in an emotional payoff that feels entirely empty.

“Black Sea” is certainly not without its moments. There are some very tense ones when the hunt for the treasure becomes increasingly perilous and Macdonald is really able to create a claustrophobic atmosphere within the confines of the submarine. Beyond that, however, lies characters, a story and a screenplay that are deeply unsatisfying.

Kevin Macdonald – Black Sea

January 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In his new British action-thriller “Black Sea,” Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (“One Day in September”) literally puts himself in a tight spot to tell the story of a group of working men who team up with a former submarine captain (Jude Law) to search for a Nazi sub rumored to be brimming with gold. Once below the surface, alliances are formed as the men begin to realize their stake in the sunken treasure increases with every man that dies.

During our interview, Macdonald, 47, talked to me about the true story that inspired him to make an underwater thriller and what it was like shooting in the confines of a real submarine. We also discussed casting Law in the lead role and why it took some convincing for Macdonald to finally agree it was the right decision.

Where did the inspiration for a submarine film like this come from?

Well, I really wanted to make a submarine movie, particularly one that wasn’t a naval film – a military film. I wanted to make something like a heist movie. The inspiration was originally the Kursk disaster that happened in 2000 where a Russian submarine went down and a bunch of sailors were stuck at the bottom of the Bering Sea. They were only 100 meters down, but they couldn’t be rescued. Eventually, they all asphyxiated after a few days when the oxygen ran out. I thought that was a terrifying setting and an interesting idea for a movie.

Your screenwriter Dennis Kelly had never written a film before. What did you see in him to create this particular story?

I went to Dennis because I had read some of his plays. He was very good at black humor and storytelling. He tells a good tale. I thought this story was very much like a play. You’re stuck in one location for the whole thing and you have a big ensemble cast. So, that’s why I hired a playwright. Since he wrote this, he has gone on to write a TV series called “Utopia.” If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. It’s very weird and strange and amazing. He also wrote the upcoming musical “Matlida,” which was a big hit on Broadway.

What was it like shooting a film in such a confined space? Can you compare it to any other shoot you’ve done before or was this all new ground you were experiencing?

It was hard because you can’t move the camera and the actors. There was nowhere for anyone to really stand. It was tight. A few years ago I did a movie called “Touching the Void,” which is a mountain climbing film. We filmed that in an ice crevasse in the Alps. That movie was really about something quite similar to this movie. It was about people being where they shouldn’t be. When you’re up a mountain in the death zone, you shouldn’t be up there. You can’t live up there. Climbers who go that high are impossible to rescue. Helicopters can’t even go that high. They’re cutting themselves off going into a place like that. The same happens with the men in this submarine. They were relying on that vessel to keep them alive like a spaceship in space. But if something goes wrong, you’re finished.

From a psychological standpoint, what do you think it takes for someone to decide to go to a place as dangerous as the top of a mountain or the bottom of a sea?

A mountain climber will do it because there is some inner need in them to go somewhere they haven’t gone before to test themselves. That’s probably the reason so many of these extreme sports have taken off in the last 50 years. We are the generation that hasn’t really experienced war, for the most part. Well, the whole nation hasn’t been to war in the same way as we were in WWI or WWII. So, I think it’s a way of testing yourself and asking yourself, “Can I do this? Can I survive in this difficult environment?”

Was motivation important for you in this story? I mean, did you think money was enough of a reason for these men to risk their lives like this?

I think the characters in “Black Sea” feel themselves to be on the scrap heap of society. Society is telling them they don’t matter anymore. I think that loss of identity, like losing your job, can drive someone to do something as desperate as this. In a funny way, it’s not even about the money. It’s more about self-respect.

Since you’re part of that generation you described earlier who really hasn’t experienced war as a nation, do you need to fill that void with something, or is filmmaking enough of a rush for you?

I’m not into extreme sports, but I do think filmmaking puts me into some physically challenging environments. (Laughs) Maybe that is my way of testing myself, yeah.

With all the time you spent in this submarine, do you now know all the ins and outs of it? Can you explain how it works or are a lot of those buttons still a mystery to you?

(Laughs) I would like to say in principle I understand it, but if you put me on it and told me that I had to pilot this submarine, I would not be very competent.

How did the crisis in Crimea last year affect the film?

It’s interesting because when we started off, the character the men buy the submarine from is a Ukrainian admiral. But before we finished post production, the Ukraine no longer had a navy. We were left behind in history in some ways. I took that scene out, but not for that reason. I took it out just because it was slowing things down. Also, we were going to try to go back to the Ukraine to shoot on one of their submarines underwater, but because of what happened, we weren’t able to go back.

Did you have Jude Law in mind from the very beginning? What were you looking for in a leading man?

I didn’t have Jude in mind, no. I didn’t have anyone in mind, honestly. Jude wasn’t the first person that occurred to me or Dennis. Jude’s image is someone who is suave and debonair. He’s done some fantastic performances like in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Road to Perdition” and “Anna Karenina.” He read the script and got in touch with me and said, “I really like this. Do you want to meet?” I thought, “Well, yeah, why not? There’s no harm in meeting.” He showed such passion for it and such an understanding of the character and a commitment to transform himself. It was so appealing to me to have an actor so interested in doing something so extraordinary. So, it took me a little while to be convinced, but then I ended up being completely convinced he was the right guy. I think he does an amazing performance. I think it’s very different from anything people have seen Jude do before. He’s so masculine. He feels like a leader. He’s aggressive.

Oscar nominations were recently announced. I’m wondering since you won an Oscar for the 1999 documentary “One Day in September,” what were your thoughts on the nominees for Best Documentary this year?

Well, it was very exciting when they announced the nominations because my wife (Tatiana Macdonald) was nominated.

I did not know that. Congratulations.

Thank you. She was one of the production designers on “The Imitation Game.” Well, I don’t think it’s been a vintage year from my point of view. There were not many films that I really loved. I did like Nick Broomfield’s film “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” and that didn’t get nominated. I thought “Citizenfour,” which I think will probably win, is a good film, but could’ve been a great film. The material is fantastic, but I wasn’t completely bowled over. I really liked the film “Virunga,” which was nominated. But there isn’t one that stand out to me as being “the one.”

Last question: Do you think you might try to get back on Marc Maron’s podcast to promote “Black Sea?” (Note: In 2013, comedian and podcaster Marc Maron agreed to interview Kevin Macdonald thinking it was “Kids in the Hall” actor Kevin McDonald. When Macdonald showed up to Maron’s home for the interview, Maron had to excuse himself and do some quick online research on Macdonald to find out who the person he was about to interview really was. Ultimately, Maron was able to conduct the interview without much of a hitch and ended up releasing it as a double episode after he got a hold of McDonald, told him what happened, and McDonald agreed to do an interview with him, too.)

(Laughs) Funny enough, you are the second person to ask me that today after having not met anyone in the past year who has asked me that. I didn’t realize that Marc Maron was such a big deal. (Laughs) That was quite a funny experience. I tell that story to quite a lot of people. It took me quite a long time during our conversation to realize he didn’t know who I was. But I was still impressed by him.

Dom Hemingway

April 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir
Directed by: Richard Shepard (“The Matador”)
Written by: Richard Shepard (“The Matador”)

Opening the film with a 5-minute soliloquy about how “exquisite” a specific part of his anatomy is, two-time Oscar nominated actor Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”) paints the perfect portrait of his title character in “Dom Hemingway,” a prickly dark comedy that gives Law an opportunity to display his full range and take on a personality that would easily have swallowed up a less talented actor.

Doing what he did for Pierce Brosnan in his 2005 film “The Matador,” director Richard Shepard roughs up the edges of his lead actor and gives Law plenty of ammunition to bring the vulgar, vain and oftentimes livid Dom to life. Why is Dom like this, you ask? Dom just wants what he is owed. After spending 12 years in prison, a sentence that would’ve probably been reduced had he ratted out his boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), Dom, a professional safecracker, is ready to collect. Reconnecting with his old crime partner Dickey (Richard E. Grant), Dom’s plans are wrecked after a near-death experience, which spurs Dom to seek out his estranged daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) and make amends.

Ripped from the pages of a screenplay like 1996’s “Trainspotting,” 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or 2000’s “Snatch,” the character of Dom Hemingway is one we’ve seen before and might even be considered cliché to some who have had their fill of sly, Guy Ritchie-esque UK criminals. But this is Law’s show and he does enough with Shepard’s dialogue-driven script to keep things interesting for the players even though storyline about fathers and daughters is lost in all the shady, backroom dealings. Shepard’s narrative loses steam when Dom and his big mouth aren’t front and center, but the Dom in “Dom Hemingway” is far too big of a character to pass over. It’s one of Law’s best performances of his career.

Anna Karenina

November 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Directed by: Joe Wright (“Atonement”)
Written by: Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”)

Give filmmaker Joe Wright (“Atonement”) some credit for being so bold with his decision to make his new retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” something audiences have never experienced with this specific story. Not only does he direct it as if were a stage performance, Wright breaks down the wall between the production and his viewers and allows them to see all the backstage tasks it takes to put such a stylish and ornate project together. In doing so, we see sets and backdrops pieced together as actors take their marks, musicians walking through the film providing music for the picture and even a horse race taking place right on stage with real and painted patrons. It all makes for an eye-catching spectacle that breaks the traditional set-up of the cinematic costumed drama.

Besides the wonderfully choreographed scenes led by Wright and the beautiful art direction, the stand outs in “Anna Karenina” are the performances by Keira Knightley as the self-pitying title character and her distressed husband Minister Karenin played by Jude Law. Marital problems are a dime a dozen in these films, but the emotional anguish these two inflict on one another is noteworthy, especially with a piercing screenplay adapted from Tolstoy’s work by screenwriter Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”). When Karenin tells Anna, “You are depraved; a woman without honor. I thank God the curse of love is lifted from me,” you can truly feel what betrayal meant in 19th century Russia – at least for them.

Despite a miscasting of a slightly absurd-looking Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Albert Nobbs”) as Anna’s lover Vronsky and a ham-fisted scene between actors Alicia Vikander (look out for her in Norway’s “A Royal Affair”) and Domhnall Gleeson (“True Grit”) with alphabet blocks, “Anna Karenina” is a nice change of pace to this classic tale. Tolstoy would be proud.

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.

Contagion

September 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
Directed by:  Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”)
Written by:  Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

Once a year or so, a national news program will trot out one of those gross-out ratings-grabber stories about just how dirty and germ-filled your workplace is. The reporter will take cotton swabs and run them across objects officemates unconsciously touch like doorknobs, copy machines and keyboards. Back at the laboratory, the Petri dishes invariably explode into a horror show of nasty germs that make you shudder at the thought of opening a door and eating a sandwich without dousing your hands in gallons of sanitizer. Who wants to catch Scarlet fever from simply grabbing the handle on the break room fridge?

In “Contagion,” the new film from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”), the ickiness of passing germs around willy-nilly by touch turns deadly when a new virus emerges causing international pandemonium. Before anyone knows what’s going on, the virus has already gone global by way of carriers like the coughing man on the bus who grabs every pole and handrail before he comes to his stop, the sick kid leaving a snot smear on the door as he leaves school, and “patient zero” playing poker at the casino and passing infected chips around the table.

Here, “patient zero” is Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), an American businesswoman who brings the virus to the U.S. from Hong Kong. Returning home to her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and her young son, Beth kicks off a chain reaction of infection in her hometown of Minneapolis (as well as Chicago, by way of a quickie extra-marital fling on the way home). The outbreak attracts the attention of the Centers for Disease Control, led by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) as well as that of inflammatory blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law). Cheever dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to track down everyone exposed to the virus in the states while Krumwiede pokes and prods and generally cries “government/pharmaceutical conspiracy!” at every turn.  The globe-trotting narrative works well in the character-heavy plot, which includes a World Health Organization doctor (Marion Cotillard) sent to trace the origin of the virus and scientists (Jennifer Ehle, Elliot Gould, Demetri Martin) charged with developing a vaccine. Mitch and his desire to protect his daughter as society crumbles around them stays at the center of the chilling story.

Soderbergh’s deft direction of a sprawling cast peppered with Oscar winners and nominees feels breezy and effortless, even when the story spirals into the darkness and questions what an event like this would bring to the real world. The only element that rings false is Law’s provocative celebrity blogger character, which is a clear attempt to modernize the old “intrepid reporter” archetype the rise of internet journalism has rendered obsolete. Fortunately, the rest of the film is rooted firmly enough in reality to make you thoroughly wash your hands afterward, and maybe turn your head in mild panic when someone coughs in a crowded room.

Repo Men

March 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik (debut)
Written by: Eric Garcia (debut) and Garrett Lerner (debut)

While the premise for the sci-fi thriller “Repo Men” is an interesting one, first-time director Miguel Sapochnik and first-time screenwriters Eric Garcia and Garret Lerner lose all enthusiasm once the set-up is complete. What occurs after that is unfortunate as the narrative careens into awkward tonal changes, misguided storytelling, and scenes of ultra violence utilized to kick-start the moments of banality.

In the dystopian “Repo Men,” people in need of a transplant for an organ or other body part no long have to wait years to reach the top of a donor list. For a small fortune, patients can finance anything from an artificial lung to a pair of eyes or ears. Need a new liver? Five hundred thousand dollars should cover it.

Headed by an organization known as the Union, signing on the dotted line and going under the knife to survive is easy for people desperate enough and willing to go into major debt. It’s just a matter of time, however, when a bill goes unpaid and the Union sends out repo men to reclaim what patients can no longer afford.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play Remy and Jake, two longtime friends who are the best repo men in the company. Slick with their scalpels, Remy and Jake can slide into a high-tense situation and get things done without much commotion. While both love their jobs, Remy is seriously thinking about joining the sales team so he can spend more time with his family. Plans change after he is injured during a mission and wakes up in a hospital in need of a heart transplant himself.

After the operation, Remy grows a conscience and can no longer do the job he once enjoyed. To make matters worse, he has fallen behind on payments, which prompts Union leader Frank (Liev Schreiber) to send Jake out to play surgeon with his friend. Why the Union can’t make an exception for Remy especially since he is the top repo man they have is beyond comprehension, but there are far too many oversights to just wag your finger at just one.

At this point, Jake has teamed up with Beth (Alice Braga), a woman whose entire body has basically been reconstructed with artificial parts. During their love scene, you’ll scoff as Remy passionately kisses her while trying to piece her back together. While the film is going for dark and twisted like “Crash” (not the overrated 2004 movie about racism in L.A., but director David Cronenberg’s 1996 trippy one about people who find car crashes sexually stimulating), it comes off as laughable instead.

Full of nonsensical ideas and plot holes that will only be ignored by audiences looking for cheap action thrills ripped off from movies like “Old Boy,” “Repo Men” doesn’t have much to fall back on once the blood dries up.

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.