Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Viewing

Hi there! I didn't anticipate being away from the blog for so long, but I haven't really had anything to talk about and I've been waiting to write this entry. Did y'all have a nice Christmas break? I... didn't, but there ya go! Such are the continually evolving nature of precarious family and personal relationships.

I did, however, get to the cinema a few times and I thought I'd share. I've been to the cinema three times in the days since the annual tide of Boxing Day Releases and I have certainly had some ups and downs. Boxing Day in Australia is a very big day as seemingly 38 movies get released simultaneously. I have already seen The French Kissers (Les beaux gosses), meanwhile I have yet to see include Bright Star, The Lovely Bones, Nowhere Boy, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakual and Old Dogs, only two of which I am actually going to make the trek to see, and hopefully I do that within a week or so!

The choice of movie for the annual Boxing Day pilgrimage was Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. I have only seen one Guy Ritchie film in my life and that is Swept Away, so I am unfamiliar with his more praised titles Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. They did not interest me at the time of their release and I still don't have any particular desire to see them since I am keenly aware that Sherlock Holmes, as much as I did enjoy it, doesn't particularly represent Ritchie's initial Brit-thug aesthetic.

Who has the better chemistry?

Sherlock Holmes is an admirable affair and I'm sure it will prove popular with fans of British people walking around in the rain and making jokes about tea. Robert Downey Jr's new found resurgent career is obviously not in danger of disappearing anytime soon - unless he pulls a Kidman and decides to make movies with sophomore auteurs - but I can't get on board with his performance here. Too self-conscious and aware that he is portraying "Sherlock Holmes". Jude Law on the other hand is s delight as Watson, and isn't it a relief that the makers didn't return to the idea that Watson must be, to quote Marisa Tomei, a short, stocky, bald man.

I much enjoy a puzzle (I can't work them out to save my life, but I like watching others try) and while the story behind Sherlock Holmes doesn't exactly allow for audience participation - you can't expect viewers to cotton on and go "aah, yes! of course!" when a dehydrated rhododendron appears as an apparently clue during one sequence midway through - I did get a kick out of the big reveal come films end. The villain, as played by Jeremy Northam lookalike Mark Strong, is a wet blanket of a villain, but that's par of the course these days isn't it?. Alas, you're not watching for him, you're watching for Holmes and Watson. And, I guess, to try and see the hidden gay subtext. Although, considering Downey Jr has been out there telling everybody that Holmes and Watson are essentially lovers and that director Ritchie has a thing for oddly-placed gay characters (or so I've read) is it really subtext or just actual text?

Technically there is much to admire. Jude Law looks immaculate in Jenny Beavan's intricate costumes and, even if she is fairly useless in performance and plot, Rachel McAdams sure is picturesque with all those big hats and dresses. The production design is great to admire, but Philippe Rousselot's lensing is, at times, incomprehensibly dark. Hans Zimmer's score is wonderful though, which is something to be thankful for when music has become such a stale medium for big blockbusters (something that not even Avatar could truly steer itself away from). All-in-all I am sure you will have an enjoyable time at the cinema with Sherlock Holmes and you probably will again in 2012 when the sequel comes out. B

A far less enjoyable time at the movies is to be had with Did You Hear About the Morgans? Such is the trouble with this time of the year, going along with friends to see dreck like this purely because, hey, it's festive and you want to be around mates. I can honestly say that as much as I like Sarah Jessica Parker I did not want to be around here with this sorry excuse for a film around her. And, even more so, I did not want to be around Hugh Grant and his face that looks like a very well-worn leather couch.

Grant does nothing except bumble through predictable gags and one-liners while Parker acts like an annoying shrew. Writer/Director Marc Lawrence doesn't give the audience anything to suggest that these two crows ever would have liked each other let alone would have been married for as long as they had. They are no likable or enjoyable to be around and much is made of Parker's character being so "full of life" and yet the film shows her as a neurotic workaholic. A much better film could have been made focusing on the lives of the assistants of these two headaches, but even they - Elisabeth Moss and Jesse Liebman - are turned into clueless dolts. The telegraphed plot, stolen bit by bit from other movies, and a lack-lustre finale make The Morgans a near insufferable mess. There's a funny line at film's end, however, so... there is that! D

The last film of my trilogy was (finally) Spoke Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. It's been out for a few weeks now, but haven't had the chance to go, but I did now and while it wasn't the classic movie that I perhaps expected, it is still a lovely experience. I don't have much to say about it to be perfectly honest. It's incredibly well-designed from the costumes to the art direction to the visual effects (and the "wild things" which seem to cross all three boundaries) and the acting is sublime. It just felt something was missing. The emotion just didn't hit me in the gut, perhaps because the character of Max sort of does ruin everything and acts like a spoilt brat. I don't really know. B-


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I had the same response to Max in Where the Wild Things Are. Then a friend told me we were supposed to feel like that. I don't know how true, but if we were - I guess the movie was a success :)

Paul Martin said...

I didn't enjoy Sherlock Holmes at all and nodded off no less than four times, a bad sign for an action film. And therein lies the problem, because Holmes is not an action character. The film is just a bland and mediocre action film - part Harry Potter, part Starsky and Hutch and part Batman and Robin. The defining character of what you expect from Sherlock Holmes is completely missing. I only went to it for the sake of my son and he didn't like it either.

BTW, I agree with you about Jude Law. He is good and would have made a much better Holmes than Downey Jr. I like Downey Jr as an actor but his performance is completely self-conscious and felt laboured and un-funny. And that's another problem - the forced humour. We didn't need it. Oh, the more I think of this film, the more I hate it. One (out of five) stars from me.

I just saw Avatar for the third time, twice in 3D and once in 2D. My interest was more of a 'professional' nature, not that I'm paid for my film going or writing. I'll have more to say in my weekly digest on Sunday but all I can say is that even after 3 viewings, it always engages me and, if anything, gets better. I have some issues with the 3D, but all in all, I think Cameron has done a very good job.

The Lovely Bones I have seen and enjoyed, even if I found it a little disappointing. The French Kissers I found hilarious and had a helluva good laugh all throughout.

Where the Wild Things Are: amazing visuals, amazing music and sound. But I agree that something is missing. It doesn't quite connect emotionally, a bit distant. But he's achieved something wonderful that should be seen. Especially if, like me, you've grown up on the book and I've read it to all my kids as well. We even have some Wild Things and Max stuffed toys. I thought the film did a good job of capturing the essence of the book while reinventing the story.

adam k. said...

I felt similarly about Where the Wild Things are.

I also totally agree, at least from the trailer, that Robert Downey Jr. is not quite right as Sherlock Holmes. I just can't quite buy him as British. He has a very uniquely American irreverent charm. And he's just so very ROBERT DOWNEY JR! in everything he does that I can't buy him as a classic character who's really quite different from his normal screen persona. I've never thought of him as a character actor. It seems analogous to if, say, Julia Roberts decided to tackle a classic British character.

And finally, I also agree that Avatar's music was rather disappointing. I bought the album on iTunes anyway (I really love the "I See You" song, and it's all Album Only!), and listening to it repeatedly just further exposes the mediocrity. It's very derivative of past (better) Horner scores, and just not in the same league as Star Wars, the Star Treks, E.T., LOTR or other oscar-winning fantasy epic equivalents (or even Titanic, for that matter).

But I do still hate The Hangover a lot more than you ever will.

Paul Martin said...

I mentioned Starsky and Hutch et al, but I forgot James Bond. As one blog post suggested the film could have been called: Holmes, Sherlock Holmes.