Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

May 5, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

This was one of my most anticipated movies of the Christmas/New Year period but I was too busy being a new dad to have an opportunity to check it out. I know not everyone agrees with what Guy Ritchie has done to the beloved detective but I quite liked Robert Downey Jr’s version of the character in the original film: a neurotic, slightly disturbed, fist-fighting action hero — who happens to solve a crime or two along the way.

Well I finally got a chance to watch it recently, and as it turned out, the sequel was pretty much more of the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you enjoyed the shenanigans of the first film, but personally, I was looking forward to more evolution in both Holmes and Jude Law’s Dr Watson.

In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sherlock investigates a series of murders and dodgy stuff he believes is connected to some sinister professor, as his trusty sidekick Watson prepares for his wedding to his long-time girlfriend Mary. The plot is actually rather convoluted, though that doesn’t really matter because the strength of the film again lies in Ritchie’s fast-paced action and Holmes’s personality quirks and one-liners. Rachel McAdams has a smaller role in this sequel and the main female role is given to the original girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace, who plays a rather thankless gypsy.

Ritchie is a slick director, so you know you’re in for a high quality piece of entertainment. A couple of the action sequences (especially the one on the train) were done exceptionally well and the comedic timing was superb. If you’ve seen the original then you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect, and you’ll know that much of the film’s charm comes from the chemistry between Downey Jr and Law, a dirty, squabbling, scrappy odd couple that gets into all sorts of strife but always comes out on top.

My problem with A Game of Shadows is that it was too similar to the original. The story was different but the “feel” was virtually identical. It was terrific the first time round but another 129 minutes of it had me wanting something different. For instance, Holmes’s “prediction” of future events where time would fast forward (and slow down) as he talks about what he aims to do as he does it — that was cool in the first film and the first time he did it in the sequel — but by the fourth or fifth time I was desperate for something else.

I also would have preferred to see Holmes’s crime-solving genius in action, rather than always having it revealed in what I like to call “Aha!” moments, which inevitably occur just when you think Holmes and Watson have been beaten. I think it is more impressive if the audience is also presented with all the facts before having Holmes show us how he solved the mystery on the spot, rather than showing us all his elaborate prep work in hindsight through crafty flashbacks.

At the end of the day, A Game of Shadows is very solid entertainment that is every bit as good as the original. But personally, I wished it could have been more — or at least more different. For a sequel it was enough, but if there is a third film in the series the same formula won’t be able to cut it again.

3.5 stars out of 5

Fight Preview: Mayweather vs Cotto

May 5, 2012 in Boxing, Sport by pacejmiller

Love him or loathe him, you have to respect Floyd Mayweather’s boxing skills and ability to make tens of millions of dollars every fight. Apparently for his upcoming fight (May 5 in Las Vegas) against Miguel Cotto at the junior middleweight/super welterweight limit 154 pounds, Mayweather is being guaranteed a record US$32 million, which will probably swell up to US$50 million or more because he gets a chunk of the PPV profits.

I have to say, the numbers have surprised me. I felt like Floyd’s star was fading a bit because he’s going to jail after this fight (for beating and threatening the mother of his children) and because the megafight with Manny Pacquiao fell through again for the gazillionth time. Miguel Cotto, while still a dangerous fighter, just didn’t seem like an opponent that would generate this kind of buzz. After all, few would argue that he isn’t quite the same fighter after having suffered brutal beatdowns at the hands of Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao.

However, Cotto avenged his questionable loss to Mr Plaster Hands and has allegedly put those confidence issues of the past behind him. Plus he is fighting at a comfortable 154 pounds, where he has fought his last three fights, whereas Mayweather is coming up to this weight for just the second time in his career (the other being a “split” win against Oscar de la Hoya that was really a unanimous victory). Does Cotto (37-2, 30KOs) have what it takes to hand Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) his first loss?

Cotto’s advantages

Let’s be honest. On paper, at least, Cotto doesn’t look like he stands much of a chance against the defensive maestro Mayweather. But unlike Mayweather’s last fight against the untested Victor Ortiz, I think Cotto stands slightly more than a puncher’s chance.

First of all, as mentioned above, 154 is a better weight for Cotto than it is for Mayweather. This was proven when Cotto weighed in at the limit while Mayweather came in 3 pounds light at 151. Even though he won, the last time Mayweather fought at 154 he wasn’t as impressive as he had been at 147, which makes one wonder whether the added weight will make a difference.

Secondly, Cotto is four years younger than Mayweather at 31 years of age. Granted, Cotto has a lot more mileage on his boxing pedometer than the rarely marked Floyd, but as they say, age can catch ip to boxers in a hurry. I doubt it will happen to Mayweather in this fight, but if he loses, I’m sure it will be one of the first excuses brought up.

Thirdly, Cotto has the tools, as least theoretically, to bother Mayweather. No one has been able to execute the plan, by the way, but the supposed blueprint to beat Mayweather involves a nice, stiff jab and a lot of powerful body shots. Cotto has both of those things and the mental discipline to carry out the game plan. And he should be stronger than Mayweather at this weight. I wouldn’t say he is a devastating puncher but he definitely has the requisite power to hurt the Pretty Boy.

Fourthly, Mayweather could be distracted by his upcoming jail sentence. He hasn’t shown it so far, but it’s hard to believe that it isn’t lingering in the back of his mind. Interestingly, some commentators have pointed out that Mayweather relentlessly taunted the late Diego Corrales before their bout because Corrales was heading to prison for domestic violence against his pregnant girlfriend. Oops.

Lastly, Cotto said he has renewed his passion for boxing after his revenge victory against Margarito last year. I don’t know if he’s just saying this to mess with Mayweather (remember, Cotto was named as one of the guys that Floyd was “ducking” years ago), but if that’s true then we might see the Cotto of old that was considered one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet.

Mayweather’s advantages

Okay, Mayweather pretty much has an advantage in everything else. Mayweather is taller (5’8″ to 5’7″), has a significantly longer reach (72″ to 67″), has taken much less damage over the years, has better defense, is quicker, more durable and more skilled in just about every way. And to top things off, they are fighting in his hometown of Las Vegas. It’s hardly even fair.

Prediction

Common sense dictates that Mayweather should dominate. So many of his opponents have said the same thing: the dude is simply in a different class. You might not be able to see it on the screen but when you face him you find out the hard way.

But there’s something about this fight that just feels a little different to me. I’m no clairvoyant but when every expert predicts that a fight will turn out a certain way (in this case, Cotto being competitive early on but Mayweather turns it up and peppers him into a beehive for a late stoppage or unanimous decision) — the outcome usually ends up being entirely different.

You’d be crazy to pick against Mayweather here, and arguably, in any fight (I’ve never picked against him before), but you know what? I’m feeling kinda crazy. All the analysis in the world isn’t going to be able to foresee how the fight will pan out. My head says Mayweather with ease, but my heart says Cotto in a stunning upset (and putting an end to those Pacquiao-Mayweather dreams). And I have to go with my heart.

Tomorrow I’ll either be eating crow or saying I told you so.

 

Movie Review: Battleship (2012)

May 5, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Gambit and John Carter is now a naval officer battling aliens!

Rising superstar Taylor Kitsch leads an all star cast in Battleship, a sci-fi blockbuster I, admittedly, thought was going to be pure trash when I saw the teaser trailer ages ago. I mean, come on, are we so short on ideas these days that movies now have to be based on board games? Anyway, Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a bit of a loser who, we are told repeatedly, is a guy high on talent but short on discipline — until he is forced to join the navy by his decorated older brother Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard, the really tall vampire from True Blood). Meanwhile, he has managed to score Andy Roddick’s wife (Brooklyn Decker) as a girlfriend, but the relationship is opposed by her father, the always awesome Liam Neeson, who also happens to be the brothers’ superior.

Whatever. This is essentially a rather pointless backdrop for the real story — the sending of a satellite signal to an earth-like planet far far away, and eventually receiving an unfriendly response in the form of Transformer-like water fighter jets and nasty aliens in metal body suits. Let the battleship games begin! (And yes, they do to some extent replicate the “blind bombing” of the board game)

Look, despite how badly that sounded, Battleship turned out to be a pretty decent piece of popcorn entertainment that harks back to the fun-filled action blockbusters of the late 90s, such as Con Air, Face Off and Armageddon. Like those films, Battleship takes itself “half-seriously” — complete with huge explosions, tough guys pretending to be cool, cheesy dialogue, tongue-in-cheek jokes and groups of people walking towards the camera in slow motion while rock music blares in the background. If you can accept the film for what it is, let go of your brain and just go with the flow, you might end up enjoying the film as much as I did.

Battleship combines white knuckle naval battle action with supreme special effects, making it a great movie to watch on the big screen. All that running and flying around occasionally gets a little muddled with the quick cuts, but for the most part director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Hancock) does an admirable job of keeping the film afloat.

Taylor Kitsch is solid as the confused hero forced to realise his full potential, providing a mix of leading man charm and self-deprecating humour. He’s already been in two blockbusters in 2012 and is set to appear in Oliver Stone’s crime-thriller Savages later this year. The rest do their best with the cookie cutter characters they have been given, with special mention going out to Rihanna for not sticking out like a sore thumb in her debut acting role. She plays an action-based character who doesn’t say a whole lot (definitely a good thing) but she delivers a performance that matches well with the rest of the cast.

At the end of the day, Battleship is unlikely to be remembered as a great, or even good movie, but as far as fun, visual-effects driven action blockbusters go, it’s definitely one of the better ones.

3.75 stars out of 5