Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Holiday Flicks

Tomorrow it will have been a month since Christmas, so what better time to write a little bit about the holiday flicks we saw last/this year? There were only three, so this won’t take long.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I’ve seen both of the Downey/Law Sherlock Holmes movies now, and I still can’t say that I completely buy the concept of Sherlock Holmes as action figure. I prefer the modern day version starring Benedict Cumberbatch (who will become a lot more famous when he plays the villain in the next “Star Trek” movie) and Martin Freeman (who could become a household word by this time next year, after playing Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”) – even though it stretches the concept by setting the action in the here and now, it is truer to the spirit and the tradition of the classic Conan Doyle stories.

Having said that, the movies are enjoyable, and a decent way to spend two hours. The action scenes are well done, and there is solid chemistry between Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The second outing is probably a bit better, mostly because the villain this time around is Moriarty. Jared Harris does a good job playing the man who is Holmes’ peer when it comes to mind-play, and in the case of these movies, a good fist fight. Noomi Rapace is OK as the female lead, although it seems as if anyone could have played the role.

This isn’t the kind of movie that wins (or gets nominated for) a bunch of awards. What it does is make money, and given that I suppose we should just be thankful that it provides solid entertainment.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. When I first heard that this was being made, my reaction was “why?” I’d seen the Swedish version, and found it to be a solid adaptation. But David Fincher’s version is definitely stronger, and even though it’s been snubbed by the Oscars, will always be remembered for providing Rooney Mara with one of the best star-making turns in recent memory. She is nothing short of spectacular, and is the perfect manifestation of Lisbeth Salander. In fairness, the movie as a whole is not as good as that performance; it’s definitely not in the realm of Fincher classics like “Se7en” and “The Social Network.” But it’s within shouting distance of greatness, and for that alone deserves to be billed as superior entertainment. Too dark for some, no doubt (except for the idiot who brought his 4-year old daughter to the showing that we attended) – but superior entertainment nonetheless.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I was really excited to see this, for one reason only – the selection of Brad Bird as Director. Over the years, Bird has proven himself to be a brilliant animator, having directed “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” I couldn’t wait to see what he would do at the helm of a mindless action flick, because I thought it would be fascinating to see if he could do for actors what he has done for his animated characters.

And Bird doesn’t disappoint. There are two action sequences that are as good as anything you’ll ever see in a movie. One is shown in all the commercials, where Tom Cruise is running on the side of a skyscraper in Dubai. But the one I liked even better takes place at the end, when Cruise and the bad guy are battling inside one of those automated parking garage where giant robot arms move the cars around. The scene felt like something from a classic Warner Brothers cartoon; just substitute Bugs and Elmer for Cruise and the bad guy, and you get the idea.

I have to admit that there were times when I had absolutely no idea what was going on, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly why Jeremy Renner was in this movie, but hey, if you like action and you can stand the sight of Tom Cruise, it’s hard to imagine that you won’t like this one.

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