REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Nolan's back to finish off his Bat trilogy, but does the threequel live up to its predecessors?

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Spidey's back, with Marc Webb's controversial reboot finally swinging into cinemas. Can he justify it?

REVIEW: Rock of Ages (2012)

So, as it turns out, yes, Tom Cruise *can* sing. What more do you want?

REVIEW: Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott marks his return to sci-fi with this sort-of-an-Alien-prequel. But does it live up to the hype?

REVIEW: Casa de mi Padre (2012)

Yep. It's all in Spanish. And it's all batshit crazy.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows [Review]

Bang; boom; KABLAMO - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows starts as it means to go on. It’s bigger; it’s louder - simply put, it’s the original film turned up to eleven.

That’s not to say this is in most respects a replication of 2009’s Sherlock Holmes. Far from it; while the continuity is, for the most part, there - the style, the cinematography, director Guy Ritchie’s trademark slow-motion - this is an entirely new film, though one that neither surpasses nor falls short of its predecessor.

The film’s new villain is Jared Harris, in the very unshadowy role of Professor Moriarty. Spending most of his time in broad daylight, meeting main man Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. reprising his lead role) on several occasions, Moriarty is thoroughly demystified by the film’s conclusion, though that doesn’t make him any less of a menace. He’s also Holmes’ opposite: where the detective is jittery, impulsive and sporadic, Moriarty is poised, calm and collected.

Moriarty’s dastardly plan sprouts from, unsurprisingly, finance: he attempts to instigate a world war in order to stimulate demand in cotton, guns and other goods - industries the professor has invested in heavily. It’s up to Sherlock to stop him, and once more he enlists the aid of faithful sidekick Dr Watson (Jude Law). Well, maybe enlist is too strong a word - suffice to say it involves an interrupted honeymoon and Watson’s new bride being pushed off a moving train (“DID YOU JUST KILL MY WIFE?”).

On that note, it’s fair to say the humour is still a distinct part of the once again genius script. Penned by Kieran and Michele Mulroney, the insanely logistical and clever screenplay infuses the trademark cocky humour of Downey Jr. that we’ve seen in his previous Holmes outing and recent Iron Man films. But it’s worth noting that things also get a bit darker here - particularly during one of Holmes’ and Moriarty’s skirmishes in Berlin that ends in the famed detective suspended by a meat hook. Not a pretty sight.

Mr Moriarty (Harris) has a less than civil meeting with Mr Holmes (Downey Jr.)

Ritchie’s direction will be familiar to anyone who’s seen his previous work; full of juxtaposed speed or lack thereof, his slow-motion is matched only by his frantic dashes with the camera. It’s all pulled off exquisitely, though, and still feels like a dig at Michael Bay - where the latter catapults everything at us full speed, Ritchie slows the key moments down to a pace where the audience can actually tell what’s going on.

These camera novelties are the Holmes reboot’s primary mechanic, it seems, and are used to much greater extent here than the original - again, it’s the first film turned up to the max. A scene towards the film’s climax displays how Moriarty is more than a match for Holmes, as both play out how a fistfight between them might occur in their minds’ eyes. Elsewhere the script runs anything but clockwork, ticking back and forth to explain previous scenes in flashbacks.

Here’s where I’d really like to say: ‘but it’s an exemplification of the script’s strength that it never jars’. But alas, at times, the flaws are evident. The frantic train scene backtracks more than once, and it’s too much. But the script is otherwise fairly tight, and while the plot won’t make one hundred per cent sense, it’s still enjoyable. And the riff on the title in the climactic game of wits is ingenious.

The film’s structure is good for the most part, even if it is just a collection of set-pieces across Europe, cobbled together in one big continental dash. Sadly, its climax is anything short of fulfilling the build-up, and even feels slightly underwhelming - though, as mentioned previously, its return to a more logical battle is still welcome.

Also welcome is the film’s evident self-mockery - in response to comments on the first film of the subtle homo-eroticism between Law and Downey Jr., A Game of Shadows embraces its protagonists’ bromance to the point where one of them dons full drag as they huddle on the floor of a train compartment.

It’s not all fun and games, though - the supporting characters are all a bit disappointing; a pineapple would have been more convincing than Stephen Fry as Holmes’ brother Mycroft, while female lead Noomi Rapace seems nothing more than an empty plot device. Rachel McAdams returns as Holmes’ female equal, but she’s woefully under-used.

While the parts that make up A Game of Shadows might be inherently similar to those of the original Sherlock Holmes romp, the sum of its parts is a different beast altogether - more action; more locations; more everything. It has its fair share of flaws, but it’s still an enjoyable whirlwind ride across Europe, that’ll keep you hooked right ‘till the very last costume from the classic Master of Disguise.

See also: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Dir: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams
Warner. Bros Pictures, 129 mins, 16/12/11

Synopsis: A year has passed since the original Sherlock Holmes outing, and Robert Downey Jr.'s erratic detective has one last case (as always). Professor Moriarty is on the scene, and danger isn't far behind...

New trailer for The Dark Knight Rises

"There's a storm coming, Mr Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, 'cause when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us..."

The words of Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway in Christopher Nolan's third and final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, due to hit cinemas in 2012. A film that's so highly anticipated by both this critic and pretty much every other fan of movies, there isn't much need for anything else to come out next year. And now there's a new trailer for it (see above).

We're introduced to Miss Kyle (aka Catwoman) for the first time, however briefly, and catch our first glimpses of Batman vs. Bane. Glimpses which only ratify the rumours doing the rounds on the web - will Nolan kill Batman? We see Bane looking down at a bloody Christian Bale, unmasked and seemingly defeated, before the baddie, played by Tom Hardy, growls:

"When Gotham is ashes... you have my permission to die."

We also see a fairly epic scene whereby Bane seemingly causes a football field to cave in, taking most of the players with it.

Two things to take from this - one; Bane is one seriously badass mofo. Two; Bane knows Batman's real identity. Which will obviously cause problems for the newly resurfaced caped crusader. It would be an amazingly huge risk for Nolan to kill off his Dark Knight, but if anyone can pull it off, it's him. Personally, I wouldn't complain too much. I like filmmakers who take risks.

My only experience of Bane is what I've seen in the excruciating watch that is Batman and Robin, where he was a braindead brute, only to be used for strength. Now he's Nolan's primary antagonist, so he'll need to do a bit better than that. The question is; will he? Well, watch the trailer and see for yourself...

The Dark Knight Rises is released on 20th July 2012.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

2011 Review Round-Up: Part 1

Looking back over 2011, there's a fair few films I've seen but never got round to reviewing. So, hey presto, here follows a paragraph-review for each, starting with the first ten. Scores are numerical but act as a star rating. Enjoy!

127 Hours 

Another masterpiece by Danny Boyle, who successfully pulls off 94 minutes of film where the main antagonist is… a boulder. Tells the true story of Aaron Ralston, who gets trapped in a canyon. A soundtrack to inspire the coldest of hearts on the blackest of days, and a story to match. James Franco gives the performance of a career.


The King’s Speech

Slow burning but brighter for it. Geoffrey Rush pirates around the decks while… no, hang on, that’s a different film. Beautifully British, and oh so 1930s/40s, a film about a speech impediment somehow ticks almost all the boxes. Cinema sure has been surprising this year…


It’s no Hot Fuzz, and seems to have never heard of Shaun of the Dead, but Pegg/Frost/Wright’s third film together isn’t part of the Cornetto/Ice Cream Trilogy anyway apparently. So, that aside, it’s an alright ride. Not exactly laugh-a-minute, and drags at the start - where’s the chemistry? The joke that the pair are on their honeymoon might as well be true - but still enjoyable.

The Adjustment Bureau 

Romantic sci-fi. Is there any better genre? Well, yes, but The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t care. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are on fire, and it’s a stylish, thrilling blaze as they burn across New York. Ambiguous themes culminate in an ambiguous ending, and it’s not one you’re likely to watch more than once (twice at a stretch) but you’ll have a whale of a time the first run through.

Source Code 

Groundhog Day meets The Hurt Locker, and Jake ‘I-can’t-quite-tell-if-he’s-good-or-not’ Gyllenhaal revels in it. Confusing to no end, with a pretty big plot hole dangling in the centre, but manages to keep you engaged even by the fifth or sixth time Gyllenhaal, um, blows up. Sure to spark moral debate among those so inclined to give a damn.


One of Marvel’s better superhero flicks, though completely unexpectedly. Tom Hiddleston steals it as Loki, Thor’s younger sibling, and like most Marvel films, it’s enjoyable without really doing much else. In fact, with the exception of maybe the Spider-Man trilogy, which is all over the place, I could probably just give every Marvel film four stars and be done with it. Oh, but not The Avengers next year. Which looks terrible.

The Hangover: Part II 

Part two, two stars. See what I did there? Basically, watch the first one again with Bangkok-vision turned on and you’ve got the same thing. Every last plot detail is practically exactly the same. Someone, anyone; please tell me - WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS FILM?

X-Men: First Class 

Look! Marvel! Four stars! Didn’t see that one coming! Bests the rest of the X-Men films, which have dated badly, but even at their release none were quite as good as this. Blatantly ignores continuity and the script isn’t water-tight, so it loses a star for that. And the incessant need to cram in every other character from the original trilogy. Fassbender and McAvoy are exquisite though, as a young Magneto/Xavier (respectively), in this stylish prequel.

Super 8 

Sure, it’s overly nostalgic, and sure, it’s a bit wound up in throwing out homages left, right and centre, but it’s also one hell of a film. The sum of its parts, and what fantastic parts those are: superb acting, child and adult alike; wonderful cinematography and direction; a water-tight and engaging plot - Super 8 oozes charm and nostalgia itself. A must-see.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

Despite its silly title, this is the other of Part 1’s must-see films. Powerful, raw and engaging, it’s James Franco again, playing off Andy Serkis doing what he does best: being an animal. And believe me when I say; this film is a beast. My top pick of this list, you’d be a monkey to miss it (puns all completely intended).