Saturday 17 December 2011

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

It's a bit of a rollicking good time, old chap. (Okay, how's that for some British English?) The whole gang is back under the tutelage of Guy Richie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters come to life in the cinematic splendour of high definition film and whiz-bang special effects including the requisite bullet time. Like the 2009 film, Sherlock Holmes works out his next ballet of fisticuffs in slow motion with running commentary then executes it real-time and the results are devastating for the bad guys.

I saw the film in an Empire Extra theatre, the Canadian chain's next pump up the volume cinematic experience and was amazed at the clarity of the images and the richness of the colours. I don't know whether to credit the film makers or the digital projection system, but the results were stunning. This all made for an entertaining combination of thrill ride and detective who done it. One reviewer said this film and its 2009 predecessor are a long way from the author's creation and as I have never read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, I can't comment or judge if this is faithful or faithless to the books. Nevertheless, on their own merits both films are great fun.

Robert Downey Jr. is once again in fine form and I never once thought of him as Tony Stark. Jude Law is great as the sidekick Dr. Watson and the Holmes Watson bromance makes for a good action duo. A good film needs a good villain and here, we have none other than Professor Moriarty, the intellectual equal of Holmes but at the evil end of the good bad spectrum. The scene where the two of them duel by playing a game of chess first by sitting at the board and moving the pieces then by standing up and walking around while calling out their moves is quite amazing when you realize the two of them are continuing to visualize the entire game in their heads. King to knight's bishop 3. Queen captures knight. Wow, can anybody do that in real life?

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
-The Sign of Four (1890) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Chapter 6, p. 111

Several times Holmes would glance at something and the camera would follow his eyes as he took in various clues then put them all together to formulate what had actually transpired. This was his inductive reasoning: starting with specifics and determining generalizations; a fancy-pants way of saying the great detective could figure things out and solve the mystery wrapped in an enigma. Between Holmes' detective skills, his mastery of disguise and his pugilistic accomplishments, this almost comic book hero is right up there with Superman, Batman and whichever action hero you can think of. Whether a human being is, in fact, capable of doing even half of what Holmes does remains to be seen but it certainly spells fun with a capital F.

Empire Extra Theatre
We all know IMAX: big theatre, big sound system. The Empire theatre chain has gotten on-board with a new idea to spice up the joint and offer us movie goers a better cinematic experience. Selected centres have one dedicated theatre which offers cushier seats, a better sound system and an all digital projection system. Amusing enough, just like IMAX, they have a short "pre-show" designed to show off the capabilities of the theatre. This show doesn't involve lasers but they do have two side projectors to give a bit of a light show.

For me, the big, big feature of this new experience is reserved seating. Yep, I bought my ticket on-line and got to choose my seat. That seat was reserved so I didn't have to worry about showing up early enough to rush in when the doors opened to get the best seat.

Bullet Time
According to Wikipedia, the term bullet time is a registered trademark of Warner Bros., distributor of The Matrix. Really, now!

For me this movie making technique started with the film The Matrix although others had gone before. Nowadays it seems that the idea is being put to good use in a number of circumstances. While presenting action in slow motion is a major part of bullet time, that isn't all of it. The displacement of the camera around the scene is also important so that the centre of the shot may be seen from several different angles. The Matrix did a great job of this. Elsewhere I enjoyed the street explosion in the film Swordfish. Here in Sherlock Holmes number two, Mr. Ritchie, the director, gives us a number of fabulous examples of bullet time. This takes an exciting picture and pushes into the stratosphere of thrill ride extraordinaire. I loved it!

Final Word
And a rollicking good time was had by all. I enjoyed the entertainment and entertainment this is. Nothing profound here. Historical accuracy may be questionable but who cares if you're smiling? It was well filmed and well acted with all the necessary special effects explosions to keep you well occupied. There will be no checking your watch wondering how much longer the film will go on. I recommend the film as some good holiday entertainment. Note that the film is rated PG, Parental Guidance, in Canada: There is no age restriction but some material may not be suitable for all children.


Rotten Tomatoes: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: 64%
It never duplicates the well-oiled thrills of the first installment, but Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is eminently watchable thanks to its well-matched leading men.

Wikipedia: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a 2011 British-American action mystery film directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin. It is a sequel to the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, based on the character of the same name created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The screenplay is by Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively, as the duo join forces to outwit and bring down their most cunning adversary, Professor Moriarty, played by Jared Harris.

official movie web site: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The site offers the usual goodies of story, photo gallery, trailers and TV spots plus cuts from the soundtrack. As special features there are a flash game, a 3D game requiring something called the Unity Web Player and a Facebook app game.

Rotten Tomatoes: Sherlock Holmes (2009): 70%
Guy Ritchie's directorial style might not be quite the best fit for an update on the legendary detective, but Sherlock Holmes benefits from the elementary appeal of a strong performance by Robert Downey, Jr.

Wikipedia: Sherlock Holmes (2009 film)
Sherlock Holmes is a 2009 action-mystery film based on the character of the same name created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin. The screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg was developed from a story by Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law portray Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson respectively.

official movie web site: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Wikipedia: Sherlock Holmes (literary character)
Sherlock Holmes  is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take on almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases.

Holmes, who first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890. The character grew tremendously in popularity with the first series of short stories in Strand Magazine, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia in 1891; further series of short stories and two novels published in serial form appeared between then and 1927. The stories cover a period from around 1880 up to 1914.

All but four stories are narrated by Holmes's friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson; two are narrated by Holmes himself ("The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane") and two others are written in the third person ("The Mazarin Stone" and "His Last Bow"). In two stories ("The Musgrave Ritual" and "The Gloria Scott"), Holmes tells Watson the main story from his memories, while Watson becomes the narrator of the frame story. The first and fourth novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear, each include a long interval of omniscient narration recounting events unknown both to Holmes and Watson.

Wikipedia: Bullet time
Bullet time is a special and visual effect that refers to a digitally enhanced simulation of variable-speed (i.e. slow motion, time-lapse, etc.) photography used in films, broadcast advertisements, and video games. It is characterized both by its extreme transformation of time (slow enough to show normally imperceptible and unfilmable events, such as flying bullets) and space (by way of the ability of the camera angle—the audience's point-of-view—to move around the scene at a normal speed while events are slowed). This is almost impossible with conventional slow-motion, as the physical camera would have to move impossibly fast; the concept implies that only a "virtual camera", often illustrated within the confines of a computer-generated environment such as a virtual world or virtual reality, would be capable of "filming" bullet-time types of moments. Technical and historical variations of this effect have been referred to as time slicing, view morphing, slow-mo, temps mort and virtual cinematography.

Empire Theatres: Empire Extra
[The theatre has been redone with different seats (spongier, slightly bigger than normal seats), a more powerful sound system, and an introduction somewhat like what IMAX always shows to demonstrate the theatre's capabilities. The big thing, however, is being able to buy reserved seats. Yep, just like a live show you can pick your seat and it's reserved. You don't have to show up early to get a good seat. That to me is a big selling point.]

Dynamic Sound
Our custom designed, multi-channel sound system provides even, balanced coverage to any seat in the auditorium. Lose yourself in the dynamic sound with rich, clear, dialogue.

Optimal Viewing Experience
We offer Digital Projection for the brightest, most vivid image on screen and stunning 3D. Our massive, high-impact, wrap-around screen is curved and positioned for the optimal viewing experience so you always have the best seat in the house.

Reserved Seating
Select your seat in advance with reserved seating and your high back rocker seat will be waiting for you.


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Dan O. said...

Although all of the freshness that was part of the first one is somewhat over-used, the flick is still a lot of fun with Downey Jr., Harris, and Law breathing life into each of their own characters. However, I was kind of disappointed by Noomi Rapace’s role as she just simply stands there and really doesn’t do anything. Regardless though, good review. Check mine out when you can.

Arun said...

Nice review of the movie. Downey Jr makes a very interesting Sherlock Holmes.

I liked the first movie. I need to check this one out.