December 25, 2009, - 3:34 pm
Nothing that spectacular new at the box office for this holiday weekend (though a couple of movies are okay). Last night, I rented and watched, “Leon: The Professional” (a somewhat violent but interesting and different movie about a hitman), and liked that better than most of ’em. But, in case you are planning to go to the movies in the next few days, here are my reviews:
* “Sherlock Holmes“: Three words -pretentious, convoluted, silly. I wanted to like this movie because I enjoyed reading the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But this movie bears little similarity to or inspiration from Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective series. The only things that are similar are the English accents and setting and the names Holmes and Watson. Some critics–I’ve counted three already (from the Wall Street Journal to the Gannett wire to USA Today)–are calling this, “Not Your Father’s Sherlock Holmes.” I just call it, Not Sherlock Holmes.
Instead, it’s a pretentious, dull, boring attempt to be all things: a superhero movie, a romantic comedy, a dark thriller, and some sort of supernatural forces flick. And as a result, it’s none of the above, just a long, aimless everything-but-the-kitchen-sink piece of bloat. Did Doyle’s Holmes have acrobatic superhero style strength to swing around bridges and constructions sites? Not that I recall, but I guess director Guy Ritchie thought the “Iron Man” people were on to something and tried to make his Robert Downey, Jr. vehicle a superhero flick, too.
This movie is confusing, unclear, and the convoluted plot undecipherable until the last few minutes, when Downey, Jr.’s Holmes explains several preposterous events from throughout the movie and explains how they were carried out through sleight of hand and con-man tricks. You wouldn’t have been able to figure it out (a cardinal requirement of a good thriller, which always gives the viewer a hint or two), even if you cared enough to try to understand what was going on.
The “story”: Homes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, are on the trail of a killer, Lord Blackwood (Britain’s Andy Garcia look-alike, actor Mark Strong), who has already been executed and appears to have returned from the grave. Watson and Holmes are also on the trail of “the ginger midget,” a red-headed dwarf who has concocted all kinds of poison and animal dissections at an abandoned location. The “dead” mass murderer employs an American former nemesis of Holmes, con artist Rachel McAdams, to get at Holmes. But, soon, she finds herself working with Holmes to do . . . well, I’m not quite sure. But they are apparently trying to stop Lord Blackwood from poisoning half of Britain’s Parliament with cyanide. Then, the three of them end up on the aforementioned bridge construction site, where all kinds of acrobatic heroics ensue. The end. Yawn.
And believe me, I’m making it sound better than it actually is, merely by telling you about it. Need to drop ten bucks and two-plus hours to feel like you’ve been robbed? Go see “Holmes.” But sadly, this is one problem the real detective concocted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle won’t be able to solve.
Doyle is turning over in his grave. Hollywood has turned his master creation into a carnival of the stupid. And there isn’t even that natty signature Holmes dual-billed chapeau anywhere in the movie to cover it up. Lackluster to the Nth.
The best advice here is this: Stay Holmes.
* “Nine“: Oy. Talk about an overkill of chick flick. This movie is a disaster. It’s a musical with horrid songs and uncatchy tunes, zero story, and a lot of hype. But, hey, it has a gazillion talentless Hollywood divas starring in it, along with self-hating anti-Israel Jew Daniel Day-Lewis as a stereotypical philandering Italian, named Guido. Despite lots of drumbeats and loud singing numbers, I struggled to stay awake during this two hour exercise in overwrought, sequin-encrusted blah.
Penelope Cruz, America-hater Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, overrated Fergie/Stacy Ferguson, 9/11 Truther Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, and Sophia Loren play various prostitutes, lovers, and other women in the life of director Guido. Guido is producing his next big movie, except that there really is no movie, he has no idea what he’s doing, and the rest of the movie is silly musical numbers, in which he reminisces on his life (as a kid with prostitute Fergie, in Catholic school, and with his wife, on whom he cheats with Penelope Cruz and various other women), and fantasizes about women dancing. Oh, and there are also his many fights with the many women in his life. You can watch the same thing regularly on “Lifetime” or “WE” minus the bad musical numbers.
Ironically, while the movie is supposed to take place in Italy, the only major role (and it’s actually a few tiny cameos) played by a genuine Italian actress is that of Sophia Loren. Not that I cared. The movie was that bad, that dull, and that much a loud mess of wasted musical notes.
* “It’s Complicated“: The first half of this movie–a chick flick for the middle-aged–was surprisingly funny, though parts were utterly gross. I really had no need for scenes of cackling middle-aged women, like George Stephanopolous’ real-life wife and Tom Hanks’ wife discussing whether or not the vagina closes up if you don’t use it. Nor did I have use for the scintillating dialogue, such as this from Alec Baldwin to Meryl Streep, who plays his ex-wife, after sex during an affair they are having (and after he’s put his hand on her crotch):
I like that you’ve stopped bikini waxing. You’ve gone native.
How far the uber-liberal Baldwin has fallen that this is the dialogue he gets in Hollywood scripts, along with several opportunities to show us his extremely fat, naked physique, complete with man-boobs and giant butt. Uh, no thanks. I’ve had my fill of snickering for the week. And it looks like he’s had his fill of Snickers for the decade.
And those were the, um, “highlights.” The rest of the movie was downhill from there and simply a mess. Plus, it moved at the pace of a glacier.
Streep plays a middle-aged chic bakery/restaurant owner and chef, who has been divorced from hubby Baldwin for ten years. They have several grown children together. But Baldwin cheated on her with a much younger woman (the pretentiously named Lake Bell), who is now forcing him to go to fertility clinics, put up with her child, and have sex with her on command to have another child. He longs for his ex-wife’s cooking and laid back style, and soon they find themselves in bed together after a drunken dinner the night before their youngest child’s graduation. The affair begins, but Streep is also being pursued by the architect who is planning the expansion of her home, the nerdy Steve Martin. Ultimately, she gets treated like the other woman by Baldwin, as they sneak around and doesn’t like it. Oh, and there are a ton of silly scenes, like Streep, Baldwin, their son-in-law, and Martin smoking pot. Uh, been there, seen that. It’s called, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” This must be the sequel, “Dude, Where’s My Hot Flash Medication?”
So what? Who cares? Apparently only the members of the “menopause action team” who wrote this for the women craving their fix of the yucky until the next installment of the “Sex & the City” aging hags move comes out next spring.
* “The Young Victoria“: Oddly enough, this arthouse style movie is the best of the bunch, this weekend, chronicling the early life and early years of the reign of young Queen Victoria of England (well played by Emily Blunt) from when she was just 18. It’s smart and interesting, even if I didn’t like its feminist tinge.
Victoria, as sole heir to the English throne from her uncle, King William IV, is under tremendous pressure by her mother and her mother’s suitor to sign over her power (should her uncle die) to them until she becomes an adult. But, even as a young child and later as a teen, she refuses.
Though I don’t know much about the history of Victoria’s life and reign, it was an interesting, serious look at the tensions between the Crown and the English Parliament and its Prime Minister at the time, and how each relied in some part on the other for its hold on power. Once she becomes an adult and her uncle dies, she further asserts her independence as Queen, first choosing Lord Melbourne, the English Prime Minister, as her mentor, then, concerning herself with creating the ultimate welfare state in England.
It was also an interesting look into what it was like to be a single female with an incredible amount of power in 1800s England, and an even greater desire to use it to show the men who’s boss. That part was unsettling and unbecoming. But, apparently, it happened.
It’s also the story of a powerful, single Queen’s unparalleled position as the ultimate prey of many power-seeking suitors. The movie focuses on the courtship between Victoria and Prince Albert of Germany (Rupert Friend). He is the nephew of King Leopold, who schemes and pushes the romance, because he is badly in need of England’s help to save his country and hold on power. At first, Albert’s romance is stiff, clumsy, and not willing, but ultimately he falls for her of his own volition. Her feminist wiles, however, create a wall put up by a Queen who wants to reign alone and be led by no-one, save herself and those she chooses. Ultimately, she sees her mistake and eventually marries Albert. But the marriage is not without it’s pitfalls. He is the woman in the marriage, and, as Queen, she is the alpha male.
A scene in which an ignorant Queen Victoria, who knows not what she’s doing and is sadly in need of advice, yells at her husband that he’s basically just a sperm donor for her reminded me of Sarah Palin, whose husband is the wife and mother in the family. Sarah Palin plus a brain, common sense, and modicum of class, that is. (With apologies to Queen Victoria–who was brilliant and well read, versus the completely ignorant, total lightweight Palin–for the comparison.)
But, ultimately, Victoria comes to realize that without sharing her duties and power with her husband, her marriage won’t last. Men are that way–in not wanting to be women. At least they were then. And now, we have Todd Palins all over the place.
The movie moved somewhat slowly, but it was beautiful to look at. Gorgeous costumes and picturesque settings, including palace gardens on the outside and luxurious sitting rooms on the inside.
* “A Single Man“: Think “Brokeback Mountain” on the set of “Mad Men.” This extremely sad, depressing movie–a beautifully constructed piece of propaganda for gay marriage–is essentially this year’s “Milk” (read my review). We’re supposed to feel extreme sadness for the main character–a classy English professor played by Colin Firth–and his utter sadness when his longtime lover dies in early ’60s Los Angeles, when homosexuality wasn’t accepted and had to be hidden.
And it’s no coincidence that Firth is impeccably dressed, as are all of the movie’s characters, and the furniture and architecture of the sets is oh so stunning. The movie is the first time movie project of director Tom Ford, who formerly headed up Gucci.
Firth’s longtime lover dies, and he is heartbroken. As a professor at Santa Monica college, his life is now empty. And he was specifically asked not to attend his boyfriend’s funeral. As a gay man, he has no rights to the rites of that deceased life. (Yet, neither would the parties in a non-married straight couple, unless they–as the gays could have–chose to draw up legal papers.)
Firth meets his longtime fellow expatriate English gal-pal and one-time girlfriend (Julianne Moore) for dinner, where they engage in drunkenness, cigarettes, dancing, and her whining about why he won’t be her boyfriend and insists on being gay.
Also, Firth meets an inquisitive pretty-boy student, who tries to befriend him in a very aggressive manner. Is the student gay like him or not? The last quarter of the movie is the kabuki dance that ends in the most depressing way possible.
Oh, and I really didn’t need to see a photo of his lover, complete with pubic hair on display. Gross. Why was this necessary?
Other than that, terrific style. Horrible substance.
Tags: A Single Man, Alec Baldwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dr. John Watson, Emily Blunt, Fergie, Guy Ritchie, It's Complicated, Jude Law, Judy Dench, Julianne Moore, Kate Hudson, Lake Bell, Lord Blackwood, Marion Cotillard, Mark Strong, Meryl Streep, Movie Reviews, Nicole Kidman, nine, Rachel McAdams, Robert Downey Jr., Rupert Friend, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sophia Loren, Stacy Ferguson, Steve Martin, The Young Victoria, Tom Ford, Watson