Friday, February 24, 2012

Attack the Block (Rating: A)

I would rather not give away what "Attack the Block" is about, except that it is aptly described by the movie poster as "INNER CITY VS OUTER SPACE".  What that doesn't tell you is what a great action picture this is, and how great the characters are.  At times it is scary, occasionally funny, but overall it is exciting with some good social commentary thrown in.

If you don't mind spoilers, check out the trailer.  I rented the movie from Netfix.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sherlock Holmes. A Game of Shadows. Rating: B

I don't fancy going to the theaters much anymore because of overpriced tickets and overpriced snacks.  They wonder why movie attendance is down while they raise prices during a recession, and while they give us about a dozen different ways to watch movies at home, including various forms of Internet streaming.

Having said that, the smell of popcorn in the mall drew me into the "dollar theater" where I paid $2 for a ticket and bought a "small" popcorn, which is every bit as big as what a "medium" used to be and costs just as much.

The first Sherlock Holmes film shined in certain ways that this film does not.  The first film had some interesting chase scenes, great shots of an industrial age London, a romance, and some well choreographed fight scenes.  The second film relies more heavily on fight scenes to carry the story, but those scenes are harder to follow.  They remind me of a John Woo picture where the view changes angle too frequently in a vain attempt to generate excitement.  The use of slow motion is also excessive.

There is more in this sequel that is harder to follow or doesn't seem logical.  Holmes figures out and prepares for things that seem too random for him to predict..

It is easy to like Stephen Fry (former comedic partner to Hugh Laurie) as Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft, but he also has a nude scene that seems completely out of place.  Since it is well known that Stephen Fry is gay, it seems like the movie is implying that the misogynist Mycroft is gay.

I don't think that the original Sherlock Holmes novels were intended to be funny at all.  In some of the older films, Nigel Bruce played a comic foil to a completely serious Sherlock Holmes.  The Robert Downey Jr. version of Holmes is intended as funny, eccentric and erratic while the Dr. Watson character is much more serious.  I notice that the audience laughed more than I did at Holmes' antics, but I still found the character funny.

Having aired my gripes, I should say that there is much in this movie that I do like:  
  1. Jared Harris (pictured) is perfect as Professor Moriarty, although I mistook him for Ewan McGregor who would have been really cool in this movie.  Sherlock Holmes is much more interesting when he has a villain as smart as he is and Moriarty is wonderful in this movie.
  2. The theme of nations preparing for industrialized war is interesting given the wars of the 20nth century.  The time period of this movie is never totally clear, but I would assume it to be around 1900 to 1910. 
  3. There is a great deal of action in this movie, including a massive shootout on a train.
  4. The final action sequence takes place while Holmes and Moriarty play a game of speed chess using a really odd timer.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Contagion. Rating: B+

Contagion, like “Titanic”, is a movie where you think that you already know the story:  A pandemic infects hundreds of millions of people.  What you don’t know is how well that story is told and how interesting some of the characters are.   If you aren’t at least a slight germaphobe before watching the movie, you will be afterwards.  The movie constantly reminds us of the different ways that disease can spread.  In a world with SARS and H1N1, the movie is very relevant.