Sherlock Holmes (2009)


Cour, Petit Lapin, Cour.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)I’ve felt that my reviews have had a large gap in them for some time.  Not necessarily that today’s movie is such a classic or amazing movie that it was a shame I hadn’t reviewed it though.  It’s just that I’m a completionist.  I can’t have reviewed one film in a series without reviewing all of them.  Some people may refer to that as being OCD.  To that I say, “Shut up.”  I reviewed the sequel to today’s movie because I saw it in theaters, and never reviewed this movie because – though I was sure I purchased it at some point – I was never able to find it.  Eventually I repurchased it on BluRay, because I was obsessively compelled to have it since I also had the second movie.  Again, shut up.  After it sat around on my computer for a while, I eventually got around to reviewing Sherlock Holmes, based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, written by Paul Bales, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Michael Robert Johnson, co-written and directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Hans Matheson, and Geraldine James.

Detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) prevent Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from ritually killing a young woman, as he has killed five women before.  Three months later, Watson is preparing to move out of the flat he shares with Holmes to marry his fiancée Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly).  Holmes is not taking it well.  The two are asked to attend the hanging of Blackwood; Watson to pronounce him dead, and Holmes because it was Blackwood’s last request.  Blackwood tells Holmes that his death is only the beginning, and that three more deaths will happen after he rises from his grave.  Holmes scoffs at it and Blackwood is hanged.  Three days later, Blackwood seemingly rises from the grave.  Holmes resumes his search, and he even convinces Watson to join him so that his reputation wouldn’t be damaged.  After all, who would want to marry a doctor who can’t even tell if a man is dead or not?  To get them started, professional thief and former adversary of Holmes Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) sends them to find a ginger midget who was working with Blackwood.

If you connect the dots of me having purchased this movie twice, it will probably come as no surprise that I enjoy this movie.  I found the movie to be pretty well-written with well-developed characters.  I’m not sure how much of any of this credit goes to the writers of this movie or to Arthur Conan Doyle though.  I know he developed the characters originally, but I don’t know how much of the stuff in this movie is from his stories because his stories were written and Homie don’t play that.  But it doesn’t really matter.  There are already 20 writers on this movie, so credit is already getting spread pretty thin.  My favorite thing about the movie is how well they keep the question alive about Blackwood’s magical powers.  When I first saw this movie, I was asking myself, “Is Blackwood immortal?  Are his methods supernatural?  Or cheap parlor tricks to conceal his true identity?”  Being almost completely ignorant about Sherlock Holmes (meaning that I had never read any of them, but I knew the name and that he was a detective) I couldn’t be quite sure if it would be out of the question for someone to actually have magical powers in them.  Do they do that?  How am I supposed to know?  Why am I asking you when you can’t respond?  I also don’t know if most of the stuff they use to conceal the things he does as magic actually hold up to real world logic, but I don’t care.  It’s enjoyable.

The look of the movie is also very nice, albeit a bit dark.  Dark is what they were going for, so it’s okay.  It also looks exactly like England looks in my brain.  England either looks like a foggier version of this movie or like Harry Potter in my brain, and I refuse to go there so that it can be that way forever.  Also, I heard a lot of talk about this movie about the fights.  And not so much the fights, but the visualization that Holmes does before he actually fights.  It’s very polarizing, from what I’ve gathered.  I’ve heard people hate it and I’ve heard people love it.  I’m in the middle.  I really appreciate the fights because they’re well-choreographed, but I definitely understand that I don’t really need to see the same exact fight twice in a row.  It didn’t bother me either way though.

The performances were all great in this movie because they got exclusively great people.  Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law work great together.  They have great chemistry and Jude Law plays an excellent straight man to Downey’s crazy and generally funny Holmes.  I had a problem with Watson’s wife, Kelly Reilly, though.  Not the actress or her performance, but the character infuriated me when she threw wine in Holmes’ face for deducing her backstory correctly.  First, he was right and wasn’t saying anything that wasn’t true.  Second, you asked him to do it.  Third, you actually INSISTED that he do it.  Perhaps this was done to illustrate the exact moment in time when the phrase “Be careful what you wish for” was created.  I don’t know of anyone who could take issue with Rachel McAdams though.  I really liked her character in this movie, playing a very intelligent and crafty woman who had once outsmarted Holmes, and also playing it very selfish but with definite signs that she cares about Holmes.  I may have liked her character much more because of her extreme hotness as well.  But it was more than likely both.  But for examples of over the top beauty, you need look no further than the English bulldog in this movie.  That was a gorgeous sumbitch.

I feel a sense of satisfaction based on nothing now that I have finally finished reviewing both Sherlock Holmes movies.  I like both Sherlock Holmes movies.  The writing is well done and the mysteries keep your brain occupied while still allowing it to let the mysteries play themselves out as you just enjoy the funniness of the interactions between Holmes and Watson.  The performances and the look are also well done, and the fights are interesting and exciting, though I can definitely understand some people being irritated by with the parts where they are telegraphed before they actually happen.  Either way, I really dig this movie and recommend both Sherlock Holmes movies for a purchase.  Sherlock Holmes gets “Begging your pardon, my lord, but I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time” out of “In another life, Mr. Holmes, you would have made an excellent criminal.”

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


Rape, Torture, Fire, Animals, Religion.  Am I Missing Anything?

I had done everything I could to avoid watching today’s movie.  It’s the first part in what will inevitably be a trilogy of movies based on a Swedish trilogy of movies that was itself based on a trilogy of Swedish novels.  The reason I never saw the original movies is because I generally hate reading movies.  You make me pay attention with quality movie, not because I have to pay attention to read what’s going on.  I never read the books because they were books, and I don’t do that.  And when they released the American version of the film, I still never wanted to watch it.  Firstly, everyone is going to say that the American version is not as good as the Swedish version.  And others may even say that the Swedish version was not as good as the books.  On top of that, all I knew about this movie was that someone gets raped in it a couple of times.  That is literally everything I knew about it, so much so that I actually referred to this as “That Rape movie”, because that was shorter than the actual title, and why would I want to watch a movie about rape when it’s not “socially acceptable” for me to touch myself while watching … except in Japan.  My roommate even asked me if I wanted to watch this with him, but I turned it down.  Finally, I saw it in a RedBox and decided to just do it already.  Someone would request it eventually anyways.  So let’s dive into my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (aka “The Rape movie”), based on a novel by Stieg Larsson, written for the screen by Steven Zaillian, directed by David Fincher, and starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff, Yorick van Wageningen, Geraldine James, Donald Sumpter, Robin Wright, and Goran Visnijc.

Journalist and co-owner of a Swedish magazine called “Millennium”, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), has gotten himself on the wrong side of a libel case brought against him by a corrupt businessman named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom.  Even though his credibility has been damaged, he has been requested for an investigation by an entrepreneur named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), but only after an extensive background check by computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).  Vanger asks Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece, Harriet, who disappeared 40 years ago.  Even though he suspects that she’s dead, he wants to know what happened.  As Mikael is dealing with that situation, Lisbeth has a bit of a situation of her own.  She is under state appointed legal guardianship because of some troubles in her past and her new lawyer, Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), is being a total dick … and putting his in her mouth.  He makes her work for her money right up until she films him raping her and regains control of her life by blackmailing him.  Mikael investigates Harriet’s disappearance by himself at first, but eventually requires the services of another investigator, and so his path crosses with Lisbeth’s.

I was totally disappointed.  This movie was not about rape at all!  Why is that the only thing I had heard about this movie?  It’s actually a mystery and suspense movie with two quasi-rapes and a lot of rape talk.  I guess I’ll have to start referring to this movie by it’s actual title now.  All that aside, this was a pretty good movie.  Is the Swedish one better?  I don’t know, but that’s the rumor.  But I’m not talking about that, am I?  The story of this movie was pretty good, but I felt like it got off to a slow start.  Technically speaking, you could have easily dropped out all of the Lisbeth stuff before she meets Mikael.  He’s really the main character of this movie, and all of her stuff before that point didn’t really serve the story at all, which means this movie could’ve been completely rape free and been just as potent.  Looking around on Wikipedia, it turns out that Larsson included that stuff because he witnessed a gang rape when he was 15 and it’s haunted him ever since.  I’m sure women would be into it because Lisbeth has a pretty hardcore retaliation for her rape and that’s very empowering for women.  Not having a vagina myself, I just realized that it was unnecessary to the story.  If Lisbeth just walked in and got hired by Mikael, nothing would have changed.  The mystery that they solve together was pretty great, and I really had no clue what the outcome would be until the very moment they revealed it in the movie.  I also had a bit of trouble following some of the reveals in the end because I lost track of the names of all the characters.  I probably could’ve been paying better attention, but there were also so many suspects that, when they were coming up with the potential killer’s name, I was trying to figure out which one of the people they were talking about.  But it’s still a very good mystery, and I appreciated it for that.  After the mystery is taken care of and the story is wrapped up, I felt like the story kept going to no great effect, but it wasn’t that much time wasted.  The look of the movie bothered me a bit, but mainly just because everything was just a shade above black and white for almost the first half of the movie, and that didn’t make it very visually interesting to me.  Except for the opening titles.  They were pretty cool and definitely visually interesting.  There was also a car chase and crash that was pretty spectacular in the movie.  I’m not that big of a fan of Trent Reznor.  Never was a Nine Inch Nails fan and most of his “music” in this movie just sounded like there was constantly a plane flying overhead, but it did set the mood, so I guess it did what it was aiming at.

I can’t think of any real criticisms about the performances in this movie, but I do have a couple of fake criticisms.  This was one of the first times I had seen Daniel Craig play someone that wasn’t James Bond, and it was a much more grounded and real performance.  I felt bad for him for the bulk of the movie because almost anyone that interacted with him opened with a verbal kick to the nuts by bringing up his legal troubles.  I did laugh when Lisbeth was stitching up a cut on his head because the cut seemed so minor.  As a guy, there’s not a whole lot I can say about Rooney Mara’s character that’s non-sexual.  Finding her attractive in this movie was difficult for me.  I usually like the goth look, but her hair and almost invisible eyebrows were a little off-putting to me.  Her body was not, though, and she was not shy about letting that thing breathe.  I did think the sex between her and Daniel Craig just came out of nowhere and could’ve used a little explanation, but I’m not complaining because I enjoy her boobs.  Most of the time she just played it emotionally dead, but performed her part of the rape disturbingly realistically, and that made her retaliation that much more satisfying.

I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo much more than I thought I would, but it was not without it’s problems.  The story doesn’t pick up for me me until Lisbeth and Mikael start working together because I felt like Lisbeth’s part of the movie before that was unnecessary.  It wasn’t that visually interesting to me, but the story kept me paying attention for the second half of the movie, and I never saw the end coming.  I can recommend this movie for a watch but, from what I’ve heard, that’s just because I haven’t seen the Swedish ones.  I still liked this movie though.  And so, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gets “You do something for me, I do something for you” out of “May I kill him?”

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)


They’re Dangerous on Both Ends and … Crafty in the Middle

I was pretty excited to see today’s movie, but I got delayed in seeing it by almost a month because almost everyone I would normally ask to go watch a movie with me was out of town for the holidays or had already seen it.  It’s a sequel to a movie I enjoyed a great deal from a few years ago, and probably would have already rewatched and reviewed for you all if I had any idea where my DVD was.  But when my friend Greg came back to town, I saw this as my opportunity to get to the theaters and check this movie out.  This movie is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Paul Anderson, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James, and Eddie Marsan.

In 1891, in foggy old London town, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) delivers a package to some old guy at an auction house, but is headed off by an opium-adicted Asian guy … OR IS HE?!  No, it’s Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) in disguise.  It turns out to be a bomb, but Holmes takes care of it.  Adler disappears and the old guy is found dead outside, stuck with a dart in the leg.  Adler meets with Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), the mastermind behind this and other recent bombings, to explain her failure, but he takes the news about as well as she takes her poison.  Holmes takes his associate, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), out for a bachelor party, but it turns out Holmes is actually just following a lead.  Watson gets drunk and gambles while Holmes goes to meet a fortune-telling gypsy named Simza (Noomi Rapace).  He thwarts an assassination attempt on her, but she leaves without giving him much information.  Holmes goes and meets with Moriarty who, in their verbal exchange, reveals that Watson and his fiancee, Mary Watson (Kelly Reilly), may be his next target.  After thwarting the attempt on their life, Holmes sends Mary to live with his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry), and he joins with Watson to try to discover and defuse Moriarty’s plans.

This movie shares a great deal of traits with it’s predecessor and so if you liked that one, you’ll probably like this one.  I really liked the original, and thus I really like this one.  The story is very solid (although it’s probably based somewhat on the Sherlock Holmes books).  The dialogue is original and the characters are charming.  Much like the first one, the dynamic between Holmes and Watson was very entertaining, as they constantly seemed like they hated each other and bickered like brothers, but there was a great deal of fondness there.  Also, I won’t spoil the end of the movie, but they dragged a surprise for so long that I started to believe it though I had originally thought there was no way it would happen, then gave a very satisfying ending.  I also like that they used a chess game between Holmes and Moriarty to contrast their actual plans unfolding simultaneously.  It made chess tense, and the conclusion was very satisfying.  Beyond that, it looks really good.  The settings are all very well executed, but none more than the super sweet castle where the climax of the movie takes place.  It was built into a mountain towards the top, with snow around it and a waterfall coming out of the side of it.  It reminded me of the castle Nate Drake goes through to get to Shambala in  Uncharted 2.  The biggest complaint about the look is that the movie is always so dark.  Few scenes actually take place in the daytime, and it occasionally gets a little hard to tell what’s going on.  But the scene you may have seen in the trailer of them running through the woods, trying to outrun explosions and bullets, was really well done.  It used a lot of cool, innovative camera movements and used the slo-mo expertly.  I also really liked the fight scenes in both movies.  I had heard people complain about the fact that Holmes would visualize the fight in his head before it happened, and then it would play out.  In the first movie, the only thing I didn’t like about it was that they always turned out like they did in his imagination, so they got to fill time by just showing a good fight twice.  In this movie, they play with that more so that they don’t usually turn out they way he imagined.  But I like a good hand to hand fight, and this movie has many of them.

The performances in the movie were almost entirely terrific.  Robert Downey Jr. proved himself as a fantastic dramatic actor a long time ago, but his movies recently also prove him to be a fantastic comedic actor.  He gets to use both talents in this movie.  Holmes is often pretty eccentric, but shows a great deal of emotion when he finds that the lives of the people he cares about may be in danger.  Jude Law was a perfect straight man to Downey, and got to be funny a couple of times when he got drunk or was frustrated.  Jared Harris was a good villain, playing Moriarty as kind of innocent and charming, but also did insidious very well.  Though Noomi Rapace was pretty and performed her part well, I felt she was a big step down from Rachel McAdams.  I didn’t find her too terribly attractive, with or without dragon tattoo.  I was a bit bummed out when it appeared she had been replaced for the sequel, but I did like that she was in this movie a decent amount, and a motivating factor for the rest of it.  I liked her character much more, and I think she’s much better looking.  Stephen Fry had a couple of good funny moments too, and I like seeing him in things.

I think both Sherlock Holmes movies are great fun.  They have a really good mystery story, with charming characters and funny dialogue, great performances, and cool fight scenes.  The only thing I disliked about it was that Rachel McAdams was hotter and the movie was a little dark.  But it is called A Game of Shadows, so I guess I should’ve seen it coming.  I recommend this movie for a watch.  I’m happy that I saw it in theaters, but you could wait for the rental if you’re not convinced.  From me, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows gets “Oh, how I’ve missed you, Holmes” out of “It’s so overt, it’s covert.”

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