Sherlock Holmes 2

Guy Ritchie’s second foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, opens with a bang. The first question one should ask about a sequel is if it lives up to the first one (actually, the first question should be whether or not to make a sequel). A Game of Shadows definitely lives up to the first Holmes movie, not the least because of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.

The villain is much realer and more sinister, in that he is a respected individual with a twisted soul. Moriarty is perhaps the most dangerous type of villain–the one who doesn’t dirty his own hands, but has minions to do his will.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is perhaps even more English than the first movie, and has even more intense fight sequences. The addition of Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes was brilliant, as well.

It’s a wonderful movie, made better by the excellent writing. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t be a dingy bird, bad people do bad things because they can!” The movie is full of lines like this, quotable outside the movie, yet even better in context.

Treat yourself to a Christmas present and watch A Game of Shadows.

Second chances

In recent years, I have come to have a great appreciation for Robert Downey, Jr.  He’s had to deal with a lot of issues, but he’s come out on top.  He even spent time in jail (or was it prison?).

Downey’s early fame seemed to go to his head, as it does with many celebrities, and he got into serious drug problems.  However, after he faced his problems, he came back stronger than ever.

I remember being skeptical about him in Ironman, but he won me over completely.  And then there was Sherlock Holmes.  What a movie!  Downey has proven that people can indeed change, if they really want to.

In fact, I believe he’s now a much better actor than he was when he was younger–more depth and talent.  Kudos to him for having the courage to try again.  That takes guts.

I occasionally tour the "old releases" section of places like Blockbuster because I never know what I might find.  I recently came across a 2007 movie Charlie Bartlett.  I picked it up mostly because it had Anton Yelchin, who was charming as Chekov in Star Trek, and Robert Downey, Jr. who has become a fascinating actor.  I was not disappointed.

Charlie Bartlett is about an affluent teenager who ends up going to public school after being kicked out of numerous private schools.  Yelchin plays the title character with charm, wit, and depth.  Charlie goes from getting beat up at school to being the one person that everyone can talk to.  The fact that he then prescribes drugs for his classmates is what lands him in trouble again.

The movie is about much more than a kid getting drugs for his classmates, though.  It’s more about the importance of having someone who will listen to you, even if he or she can’t help.  This applies to both the children and the adults.  Robert Downey, Jr. is excellent as the troubled principal of Charlie’s new school.  The principal, Gardner, is caught between trying to understand the kids and trying to obey school policy.

Charlie Bartlett is a captivating movie because instead of getting oppressive and angst-ridden, the story is carried along with hope and humor.

I recently watched Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes again, and enjoyed it just as much as an in-theater viewing. The movie is not much like the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of which I’ve read quite a few. Doyle’s Holmes is obsessive, clever, silent, morose, and unstoppable. Ritchie’s Holmes is manic, obsessive, depressive, brutal when necessary, wheedling, offensive, and charming. This combination is actually enhanced by having Robert Downey, Jr. portray this character. Downey has been plagued with issues in previous years, and his resolution of these problems seems only to have made him a stronger actor. I was a little nonplussed at the choice of Jude Law as Watson, but since the movie is so unlike any previous Holmes incarnation, the oddity seems to fit.

And yes, Ritchie did make Doyle’s genius detective into an action star of sorts, but the movie is so brilliant that it works, especially since the essentials of Holmes’s eerie perception and foresight are kept intact. Also, the London that viewers are shown looked like the drab, classic, dirty, teeming London of the Victorian age, seen in such detail through authors like Charles Dickens.

I do have a few criticisms. One is that Downey’s accent gets a little mushy and hard to understand at times. The other main one is about the plot. Lord Blackwood, played by Mark Strong, is not a Holmes-worthy villain. The lack has nothing to do with Strong’s acting ability–I will defend Mark Strong’s acting over many well-known and lauded actors–but more with the weakness of the character. It is quite evident that Blackwood is only a stop-gap to get to the real villain, Professor Moriarty. (Which, of course, means that we will be seeing a Sherlock Holmes 2 at some point in the future.) Strong’s abilities were wasted in such a role, although he gives it his all. And his diction is excellent. (It’s the stage training, I tell ya!)

Eddie Marsan also did an excellent job as Inspector Lestrade. He was able to play the part of a man who is always a few steps behind Holmes without turning it into a comic farce. One gets the impression that he’s a good policeman–after all, he is an Inspector–who has the fortune or misfortune of having to work with Holmes, who always upstages him.

Oh, and Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is excellent! I love the sort of demented piano theme running through the movie.

Since Iron Man was such a hit, Iron Man 2 is bound to be initially popular because it brings back the same main characters.

Many sequels don’t have much to sell, so they jam them full of action and ignore plot holes.  Iron Man 2, however, takes an interesting, contemplative turn.  Of course there’s action!  It wouldn’t be a story about Iron Man without it.  The action and special effects are superbly done.  And of course, Tony Stark still hides his true feelings under his ironically charming glib, narcissistic facade.  Robert Downey, Jr. is again able to bring such a paradox to life.

Also returning in Iron Man 2 is Gwyneth Paltrow as the long-suffering Pepper Potts and, the director Jon Favreau as Hogan, and the voice of Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis.  I wish I could say that Terrence Howard returned as Lt. Col. Rhodes, but he was replaced with Don Cheadle.  By the end of the movie, I was reconciled (mostly) to Cheadle as Rhodey, but at first it was rather dissonant.

And then were the new characters, particularly Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman, and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.  For me, the only one that seemed out of place was Rourke.  Are we really supposed to believe that he’s Russian?  I didn’t buy it.  Rockwell was much more believable as a second-class entrepreneur desperate to prove himself.  But I digress.

Anyone and everyone who enjoyed Iron Man should enjoy Iron Man 2.  It has the same type of witty dialog, excellent action scenes, and interesting (if muddled) relationships.  I certainly enjoyed it!  And yes, they did leave it sufficiently open for another movie…

I’m planning on going to the 12:01 showing of Iron Man 2.  Good times.  Robert Downey, Jr. has certainly improved in more recent years.  One thing I’m not looking forward to is the replacement of Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle.  Oh well.