Tag Archives: film

Review: ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' (Warner Bros.)
'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' (Warner Bros.)

The transformation of Sherlock Holmes from 19th Century private detective to 21st Century action hero is now complete with the release of ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,’ the sequel to the financially-successful 2009 reboot of the character.

Under the directorial guidance of Guy Ritchie, Sherlock (Robert Downey, Jr.) operated in a grey, grungy London in the first installment, teaming with his good friend Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) to solve a dastardly crime with far-reaching effects. ‘Shadows’ moves the bulk of the action to the Continent, where Holmes delves into the death of the Crown Prince of Austria and must grapple with the murderous Moriarty (Jared Harris), who is trying to start a European war for his own evil purposes.

Arguably smarter than Holmes, Moriarty is definitely more devious, and is perfectly willing — eager, even — to inflict emotional pain to advance his cause, to the extent that he calmly arranges for the death of Sherlock’s beloved friend Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Taken aback by this personal affront, Holmes arranges for Watson’s beloved new wife (Kelly Reilly) to be whisked away for her own safety and well-being, never mind that it’s their honeymoon.

Holmes and Watson then track down Madame Simka (Noomi Rapace, from the original Swedish version of ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’), a Gypsy who has information that the detecting duo need to order to track down Moriarty and stop him from fanning the flames of war.

‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ places the emphasis on character and action rather than plot, which is good, since the plot is an elaborate labyrinth full of holes and doesn’t much matter anyway. Holmes and Watson banter affectionately and face down danger together, always downplaying the incredulity of the outlandish predicaments in which they find themselves, and that passes for character development in the world of modern heroics.

It’s all in good fun, but if you’re not tuned in to the specific frequency, it just sounds like one note being played over and over again, variations on the same weak joke. The action scenes are a victim of the repetition syndrome as well; by this point, Guy Ritchie’s rhythms are well-known, and we know we can expect too-tight framing, confusing choreography, and slow-motion inserts, all in settings that are, this time, rather drab and unimaginative.

To be fair, the general spirit of geniality bleeds freely throughout, coating the tedious and boring sections with sufficient levity to make watching the entire movie a tolerable experience, even if you’re not bemused by the sight of a train that’s been blown in half never stopping, or slowing down, to notice that half of the cars have been left behind.

If you liked the first one, chances are you’ll like the second. ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ doesn’t provide anything new, just more of the same.

‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ opens wide across the Metroplex tomorrow.

Now Playing: ‘The Interrupters,’ ‘Margin Call,’ ‘My Week With Marilyn’

'The Interrupters'
'The Interrupters'

(Welcome to a new weekly feature, in which we recap what just opened this past weekend, as well as indie films still playing locally.) 

Just opened:

  • ‘3’ (Texas Theatre)
  • ‘The Interrupters’ (Angelika Dallas)
  • ‘The Man Nobody Knew’ (Landmark Magnolia)
  • ‘The Mill and the Cross’ (Landmark Inwood)
  • ‘Shame’ (Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano) My review. Recommended.
  • ‘New Year’s Eve’ (Wide) My review at Twitch. Not recommended.
  • ‘The Sitter’ (Wide) My review at Twitch. Not recommended.

Independent films — still playing:

  • ‘The Descendants’ (Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano) My reviewRecommended.
  • ‘Like Crazy’ (Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano)
  • ‘Margin Call’ (Angelika Dallas) Recommended.
  • ‘Melancholia’ (Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano)
  • ‘My Week With Marilyn’ (Landmark Magnolia, Angelika Plano) My reviewRecommended.
  • ‘Pastorela’ (Cinemark West Plano)
  • ‘Young Goethe in Love’ (Angelika Plano)

Review: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1’

'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' (Summit Entertainment)
'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' (Summit Entertainment)

Bill Condon directs the fourth installment of the ‘Twilight‘ series as though it were a lush television soap opera, making for a claustrophic experience. Exquisitely photographed by Guillermo Navarro, a frequent colloborator with Guillerdo Del Toro, that makes for a rather awesome, nearly-endless collection of medium shots, close-ups, and extremely tight close-ups. Lovers of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and/or Taylor Lautner may well die of sensory image overload before the credits roll.

The claustrophobia is in service of a story that is much more intimate and contained than the previous three films. ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1’ does not stand alone; its structure can only be described as exceedingly clumsy for non Twi-hards. It begins with a wedding between 18-year-old human Bella Swan (Stewart) and 108-year-old vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a January to December romantic match if ever there was one.

Said wedding is captured in loving, suffocating detail — multiple extreme close-ups of Bella’s dress, Bella’s hands, Bella’s feet, the leaves at her feet, the dappled light cutting through the forest — which might work if it came at the end of a epic film, but, placed at the beginning, it functions solely as fanservice. The less charitable might describe it as “padding the running time to help justify why the movie was split in two and disguise the naked cash grab,” but why quibble?

— From my review at Twitch.

‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1’ opens wide across the Metroplex today.

Indie Weekend: ‘Into the Abyss,’ ‘Bellflower’ and ‘Titans’ Return

Werner Herzog in 'Into the Abyss'
Werner Herzog in 'Into the Abyss'

My pick of the week:

  • ‘Into the Abyss.’ Werner Herzog contemplates the death penalty in conversations with an inmate on death row in Texas, and those affected by his crime. (Landmark Magnolia, Angelika Plano.) Not previewed.

Also opening in Dallas today, Friday, November 11, 2011 (listed alphabetically):

  • ‘Bellflower.’ Powerful drama that goes off the rails yet remains a provocative, independent vision. (Texas Theatre.) My review. Recommended.
  • ‘Clash of the Titans.’ With sword-and-sandals epic ‘Immortals’ hitting theaters this weekend, the Texas Theatre wisely showcases a 35mm print of the charming 1981 fantasy flick. (Texas Theatre.) Recommended.

Holdovers — Selected Indies Still playing:

  • Angelika Dallas: ‘Drive,’ ‘Like Crazy,’ ‘Margin Call,’ ‘The Skin I Live In’
  • Angelika Plano: ‘Like Crazy,’ ‘Margin Call,’ ‘Nuremberg,’ ‘The Skin I Live In,’ ‘Sarah’s Key,’ ‘Take Shelter’
  • Cinemark West Plano: ‘The Double,’ ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’
  • Landmark Inwood: ‘The Rum Diary’
  • Landmark Magnolia: ‘Anonymous,’ ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene,’ ‘Mozart’s Sister,’ ‘Take Shelter’

Opening wide across the Metroplex (listed in alphabetical order):

  • ‘Immortals.’ The gods take an interest in the battles of mortal men; Henry Cavill is the hero and Mickey Rourke is the villain; with Frieda Pinto. Directed with style and energy by Tarsem. My review at Twitch. Recommended.
  • ‘Jack and Jill.’ In this alleged comedy, Adam Sandler plays both himself and his twin sister. With Al Pacino (?!) and Katie Holmes. My review at TwitchNot recommended.
  • ‘J. Edgar.’ Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the secretive longtime  director of the FBI. With Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts; directed by Clint Eastwood. My review at Twitch. Recommended with reservations.

Alexander Payne Retrospective Continues As ‘The Descendants’ Opens Lone Star Fest

George Clooney in 'The Descendants' (Fox Searchlight)
George Clooney in 'The Descendants' (Fox Searchlight)

Seven years have passed since ‘Sideways,’ the last film directed by Alexander Payne, but he’s back with ‘The Descendants,’ which opens the Lone Star International Film Festival in Ft. Worth tonight. Meanwhile, a retrospective of his films continues at the Angelika Dallas tonight.

Jack Nicholson stars in ‘About Schmidt,’ which plays as part of the retrospective tonight at 7:30 p.m. The film is an introspective road trip, as a recently retired insurance man hits the road in an RV after his wife dies. He’s racing to stop the marriage of his daughter (Hope Davis) to a man he considers beneath her (Dermot Mulroney), but his notions are challenged by his daughter and her future mother-in-law (Kathy Bates).

‘Sideways,’ which screens tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., features sterling performances by Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Mayo, and Sandra Oh, as an obsession (or relative lack thereof) with wine defines relationships between friends and potential romantic partners.

Payne’s latest (and excellent) film, ‘The Descendants,’ serves as the opening night presentation of the Lone Star International Film Festival, followed by a Hawaiian reception. The festival is filled with local premieres along with retrospectives, and runs through the weekend. Check the official site for more information.

Indie Weekend: ‘The Skin I Live In,’ ‘Like Crazy,’ ‘The Woman’

Antonio Banderas in 'The Skin I Live In' (Sony Pictures Classics)
Antonio Banderas in 'The Skin I Live In' (Sony Pictures Classics)

My pick of the week:

  • ‘The Skin I Live In.’ Antonio Banderas teams with Pedro Almodovar, the director who discovered him, for the first time in 20 years. Banderas plays a plastic surgeon who has developed a new type of artificial skin, and is conducting experiments with it on a woman who appears to be held against her will. It’s Almodovar and Banderas, in a movie that’s received generally positive reviews, which makes it this weekend’s top choice. (Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano.) Not previewed.

Also opening in Dallas today, Friday, November 4, 2011 (listed alphabetically):

  • ‘America the Beautiful: The Thin Commandments.’ Documentarian Darryl Roberts once again tackles the issue of body imagery. (Angelika Dallas.) Not previewed.
  • ‘The Double.’ Richard Gere as a retired CIA operative investigating a murder. With Odette Yustman, Stana Katic, Topher Grace, and Martin Sheen. (Cinemark West Plano, Grapevine Mills 30.) Not previewed.
  • ‘Elevate.’ Documentary by Anne Buford following basketball players from rural Senegal who attend a prestigious sports academy in their home country before moving to the U.S. to play basketball and excel in scholastics. (Grapevine Mills 30.) Not previewed.
  • ‘Like Crazy.’ Romantic drama starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as a young couple who must deal with the strains of a long-distance relationship. (Angelika Dallas.) Not previewed.
  • ‘Mozart’s Sister.’ What happened to the musical genius of Wolfgang’s sibling? (Landmark Magnolia.) Review by John P. Meyer. Recommended.
  • ‘The Son of No One.’ Director Dito Montiel returns to Queens, New York, with the story of a detective (Channing Tatum) who must open a double-homicide cold case in his old neighborhood. (Grapevine Mills 30.) Not previewed.
  • ‘The Woman.’ Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum colloborate on the story of a husband and father who finds a wild woman (Polly McIntosh) in the woods and brings her home to his wife and son in order to “domesticate” her. First, he locks her up in the basement. (Texas Theatre.) Not previewed.

Wide across the Metroplex (listed in alphabetical order):

  • ‘Tower Heist.’ Ben Stiller masterminds a heist in the penthouse of a luxury high-rise residential complex. With Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, and Eddie Murphy. My review at TwitchNot recommended.
  • ‘A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.‘ John Cho and Kal Penn return in a holiday-themed comedy sequel. With Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon, and Neil Patrick Harris,  Not previewed.