Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
These Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies are kind of dark and spastic. I like Robert Downey Jr. I also like Jude Law. But I didn’t much care for the first Sherlock Holmes movie they were in because I didn’t think they were right for the parts of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. I’ve never actually read the detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so I don't really know, but if the literary characters are at all like the previous incarnations I’ve seen of them on film, then these new versions by Downey Jr. and Law miss the mark. I’m also not much of a fan of director Guy Ritchie' slick action sequences and wild camera movements. These don’t seem to fit the tone of what I have seen before either. I could be wrong since I've never read the original novels, but it seems to me that these filmmakers have taken Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters, mysteries, and time period, and gussied them up for the multi-plex crowd.
This is an ultimately forgettable thriller, not really different, and not as good, as just about any episode of CSI or Law & Order. The main character played by Amanda Seyfried was a bit of an idiot! Thinking a psycho killer has abducted her sister, she ducks the cops ant then plays right into his hands! If you want to see a similar film that does this kind of thing right, check out The Brave One starring Jodie Foster.
Presenting Lily Mars
This film’s title isn’t among those that are usually brought up as the best from Hollywood’s Golden Age or as a classic example of an old MGM musical. Garland and Heflin were just fine in it, yet it’s such an old bit of black and white musical fluff, I basically forgot most of it in less than a month!
I love Star Trek, and so do the people in this documentary, so I should share in the revelry here, right? Wrong! I may step on some toes when I say this, but it’s really no secret that many (though certainly not most or all) of Star Trek’s biggest fans aren’t dealing with a full deck, and they bring nothing but embarrassment to the fan base. I’m not saying I’m really all that much better, but some of us don’t obsess to the point of wearing a Starfleet uniform to jury duty or having your ears surgically altered to look like a Vulcan. I love getting lost in the fantasy of it all as well, but we have to draw a line somewhere, don’t we? They just don’t know where to draw it, so before long, like liberals gone wild, everything is acceptable, whether it’s trying to turn your apartment into a replica of the Enterprise bridge or scooting around town in a facsimile of Capt. Pike’s futuristic wheelchair from the episode “The Menagerie” while you collect trivial props and toys. The stars all try to make some sense of these ultra-Trek geeks, about what it is that draws them to Star Trek, and the film takes a weird fascination in all of it, but I’m much more satisfied sticking with my somewhat more restrained and cerebral appreciation of all things Trek. Still, that dentist’s office was actually kind of cool!
The Snake Pit
Olivia de Havilland plays a woman in an insane asylum, and unlike other great films about such places, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Frances, and Changeling, in this case, she really IS nuts! Mark Stevens as her long suffering husband is merely perfunctory, but it is Leo Genn as the intelligent and caring psychologist who leaves a bit more of a lasting impression. De Havilland gave a great performance as well, but the film doesn’t have quite the dramatic punch as the one’s I listed above concerning asylums, and as such movies go, I yet preferred such modern films as Twelve Monkeys, Awakenings, Shutter Island, and even The Boy Who Could Fly, which touched on it briefly, tenderly, and harrowingly with the character of Eric.
The Woman in Black
I had high hopes for this. The previews made it look like a pretty chilling ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, taking on his first post-Harry adult role, though wisely in another genre piece. I was still expecting more. A lot more! I may be somewhat desensitized to horror, like most people, but I believe the problem with the movie can be summed up in the rather cold and unemotional ending, when [SPOILER ALERT] the ghost appears yet again (whenever she appears, people die) and Radcliffe’s character Arthur Kipps dashes to save his young son from a train. He doesn’t make it, and no they don’t show it. What they do show is he and his son meeting his dead wife and following her into the great beyond. You’d think something like that should be more emotional. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. They got the gothic mood just about right, but it still basically could have been more – scarier, and more definitely more emotional – but it simply wasn’t.
Cabin in the Woods
I can hear the fanboys now! As if what I said about hardcore Star Trek fans wasn't enough! I was so, so hoping that this movie was as good as everybody was saying it was. In a way, it was better – not better than I was hoping, but better than the usual mundane sort of monster movie that would inspire a title like Cabin in the Woods. They tried so very hard to make it better. However, when the big secret is revealed [SPOILER ALERT], that a group of scientists in an underground cavern are using these young people as personality prototypes (jock, scholar, fool, bimbo, virgin) to sacrifice to and appease some ancient demons so that their gateway to earth isn’t opened, the main monster is yet another derivative of the zombie, with an undead backwoods family stalking the victims. I understand this is a comment on the types of movies that are popular these days (everything in here is a comment on modern horror films, hence, as with Scream, its appeal), but the main villains throughout are still derivative zombies. The end has all hell break loose, literally, as the “fool” stoner and the virgin manage to make it into the underground, where they manage to unleash ALL the monsters to attack the scientists – giant spiders and snakes, evil clowns, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, zombies – it left me with a feeling of “If only the entire movie were more like this.” The scene with the merman at the end, where Bradley Whitford’s character, who has been complaining all along that they “never use the merman,” is attacked by this same creature sums up what is both great and not so great about this movie. It’s a clever come-uppance, but the actual creature and death scene isn’t all that scary or funny. Cabin in the Woods has so much going for it, trying to bend that fourth wall and make comments about today’s horror movie scene, but doing this sort of thing doesn’t automatically make it good. Still, I suspect that maybe it’s one of those movies I will have to watch more than once to fully comprehend and appreciate. Who knows: One day, I might even like it enough to buy it. Hey, it happened with The Matrix and Moulin Rouge!
A Christmas Wish
Christmas with a Capital 'C'
Every Christmas, we watch what have become our Christmastime staples: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, possibly one or two of the old black & white classics, and perhaps a version of A Christmas Carol. Occasionally, for variety, a few other films will enter into the mix, and along with all of these, there are always a ton of made-for-TV Christmas movies every year for the Hallmark Channel, or ABC Family, or released on video and sold at the Family Christian Bookstore. And every year, it is these quite amusing and harmless little piffles that wind up on my stinkers list, for being nothing more than quite forgettable yet amusing and harmless little piffles. Occasionally, one of these manages to break through and make more of an impression, such as The Christmas Cottage that I saw last year, and loved, despite realizing it is of this made-for-TV variety. A Christmas Wish is an “After School Special” type about a single stepmom, played by 80’s B-movie queen Kristy Swanson, who moves her three adorable young children to a small town to start over, and Christmas with a Capital C stars Ted McGinley, the “kiss of death” for television series he became a part of before they folded, and Daniel Baldwin, the husky older bro among all the Baldwin boys, more famous for his off-screen drug habits and his famous siblings than for anything he did in front of a movie camera. The story gets uncomfortably preachy at times, sometimes embarrassingly so, just as the first movie gets quite unbelievably maudlin and saccharine for its own good. They actually weren’t all THAT bad, but here they sit on this list, and I doubt if anyone would even notice, or care. That, more than anything else, is probably why they’re here. To put it another way, I sincerely doubt they will wind up on anyone’s all-time favorite Christmas movies list, and if they perchance do, then I would ask, “Why these? Why not any of the other dozens of made-for-TV Christmas movies that Hallmark plays every year?”
Jingle All the Way
Can you say "garish"! This is NOT a Christmas classic, nor should it be! Jingle All the Way is an obnoxious Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy that pits him against Sinbad as a crazed mailman as they each try to get a hold of a latest toy craze for their kids, a Turboman doll. This film displays the worst, commercial side of Christmas throughout, and I’m not just talking about the main character’s crazed fighting for that doll, but also the lengths a movie studio will go to to sell their latest Christmas extravaganza! After breaking into a neighbor’s house to steal his doll, and getting caught (and “hilariously” chased by an angry reindeer!), he somehow winds up in a Turboman suit for a big parade and with Sinbad dressing as Turboman’s nemesis. The two begin to have a superhero scuffle that includes flying and shooting lazars and all the things you might expect from a cinematic superhero, but not a guy merely dressed like one! I’m all for suspension of disbelief (I am a Star Trek fan, after all), but come on! Arnold Schwarzenegger has made some great movies over the years, but almost none of them have been comedies.