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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

4/5

The event that fans of Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. have been waiting for is finally here, the sequel to the 2009 hit Sherlock Holmes has arrived in style and does not disappoint. Recent fans of Holmes have been spoilt with the recent BBC adaption Sherlock, brilliantly portraying Holmes in twenty-first century London, however it is a joy to get back to a gorgeously decorated period version, made all the better by Guy Ritchie's direction. Picking up several years after the original, the film sees Holmes battling his archenemy to prevent the 'collapse of Western civilization, his nemesis that is the cool and meticulous Professor James Moriarty, played beautifully by Jared Harris. Watson (Jude Law), now happily married, is prepared to settle down and enjoy the pleasant luxuries of life, however Holmes' nature soon causes him to be inevitably swept along, accompanied by the mysterious gypsy Sim (Noomi Rapace) in a life and death struggle to bring down one of the most fascinating criminal minds of the century. The film, like the first, is gushing with references to the original text that will satisfy the appetites of fans of Sherlock Holmes, from quotations, characters and settings, providing Ritchie's second outing with Holmes with layers of details that will please different levels of the audience. The addition of Mycroft, played exquisitely by Stephen Fry (who seems born to play the role), delves into the family background of Holmes enabling us as an audience to image the bickering childhood between the two brothers who are constantly having deduce-offs to outdo each other.

The crucial element of this film is the villain. The story needed to take Holmes to a place where he had never been before, to push him that extra bit further than Blackwood (Mark Strong) had in the first film, which character is better to do so, none other than Professor Moriarty. Jared Harris' portrayal is amazing, both he and Downey Jr. are precise and calculative in their acting, making you really feel that these two incredible minds are in a never ending war with each other. The scene when they are having a chess game without a board and remembering each position on the board has never been seen before in a Holmes and Moriarty, and is a personal favourite of mine in any adaptation I have seen. However despite the mental conflicts and the combat, it is the gentlemanly qualities of both Holmes and Moriarty, and the manner in which they can turn from admiration into loathing is a genius achievement on both their parts, and also the genius of Guy Ritchie. This is probably one of the greatest Moriarty and Holmes conflicts that we have ever witnessed, and one that will not be easily forgotten.

Overall I found the film a joy to view, the sets, music and acting where superb, and both Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law once again prove that they are a brilliantly pairing for the Holmes and Watson duo. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes for some time, I find any adaptation intriguing to watch, and as fan of Ritchie's first film this one possibly surpasses the original and many other interpretations. Warner Brothers are in talks to produce a third instalment, which I imagine will be released in a few years, but those of you who know that the film is based on story The Final Problem will question whether Holmes will or will not return to our screens. We may have a great hiatus on our hands and have to wait many years. Either way I will welcome another adaption of Sherlock Holmes with open arms, as A Game of Shadows is Sherlock Holmes at its absolute best.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Doctor Who - The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

If I am being honest, most television this Christmas was dull. Normally there is at least one show, newly released, that really provides fresh entertainment which is memorable and poignant. Doctor Who is one of those shows notoriously excellent over the Christmas period, providing laughs, chills and adventure unlike anything we have seen during the festive season. This year was no exception, as we saw the Doctor (or the Caretaker as he professes in this episode) attempting to provide Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner) and her two children Lily (Holly Earl) and Cyril (Maurice Cole) with the most memorable Christmas ever after being evacuated to Dorset during World War II. Following the death of her husband (Alexander Armstrong), Madge refrains from telling Lily and Cyril about his demise, fearing it will upset their Christmas and the future Christmas' to come. 

Including forests inside of presents and living Christmas trees, the episode was completely aimed at a Christmas audience, one that is stuffed full of turkey hallucinating over all the alcohol and mince pies they have consumed. If this episode had been shown at any other time of the year I feel that it would not have been received well, however it was Christmas day, and therefore the gimmicks and humour were acceptable and in keeping with the festive cheer. It was not my favourite of the Christmas specials, as I still think that Steven Moffat will never be able to top last year’s sensational episode A Christmas Carol. Yet I loved the feel of The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe, as it dealt with what I feel is the most important aspect of Christmas, which is family, the happiness that you have together and the struggle to maintain that happiness through times of pain.

I will not spoil the end of the episode (although I gather most of you have seen it) as there was a brief surprise that really touched me, where the Doctor is aware of just how important he means to those who he knows and meets. Moffat really pulls at your heart strings when it comes to friendship in this episode, and how Christmas has the ability to bring family and friends together, and for you to realise how much you care about each other, and what you are willing to do to protect them. Overall I liked the episode and found it to deal with the themes of family and companionship brilliantly. Although it was not my favourite Christmas episode, I thought it was a touching episode that made me contemplate the importance of togetherness at Christmas, as well as family and friendship in general. 

I hope you all enjoyed it, however I feel that the long wait for season seven will be painful.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Dark Knight Rises- The Trailer

So the most recent trailer for the new film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises, has been released after four years of waiting since Batman (Bruce Wayne) took the blame for the actions of the late Harvey Dent, A.K.A. Two-Face, in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. Many anticipated that the new villain to cross Batman’s path would be the Riddler or Harley Quinn, as long as it wasn’t Mr Freeze in the form of a certain Austrian Governor of California. Upon the confirmation that the villains would be Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and Bane, many fan boys were both ecstatic and mystified as to where Nolan was going to take the characters, particularly Bane who as many fans know was forever tainted in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin as an illiterate moron, or as others have put it, Bigfoot in a mask.  However Tom Hardy’s take on the character is promising to be brutal and truer to the comics that present Bane as Batman’s equal, matching him in intellect and surpassing him in strength. Fingers crossed that he lives up to the challenge and becomes the villain that just might break the bat.

So the trailer began with a choir boy singing the American anthem at a football stadium which in fairness is unlike other examples of Nolan’s work. We then hear a teary Alfred (Michael Caine) telling Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) how he feels he has failed his parents and not looked after him, some unknown characters speaking about Commissioner Gordon being dumped by the Mayor of Gotham as it is peace time, and Selina Kyle  (Anne Hathaway) saying that ‘a storm is coming’.  Among other unexplained shots, we hear the chanting from the teaser trailer and the ‘Fire Rises’ marketing videos, which has caused much speculation among fans who believed it to be ‘BANE, BANE, MATALO, MATALO’, which translates to ‘BANE ,BANE ,KILL IT, KILL IT!!! However it is revealed to mean ‘rise’, very poignant considering the title, but who exactly will rise is another question, Bane or Batman. Then one of the most talked about shots in the trailer which features the football stadium where the boy was singing which, during a game, explodes and causes the pitch to collapse into a huge crater. This is unlike anything previously seen in the Nolan Batman universe and promises to be an exciting scene with high octane action and explosions, every geeks dream. Now the moment that many fans have been waiting for which is to hear Bane’s voice, which is a deep gargling sounding voice which has, as you may have heard from reviews, caused divided opinions. Although he is nothing like the inarticulate oath that we have seen before, he is difficult to understand, however I love it and think it is very powerful, controlled and unlike anything we have seen before in the Joker and Ra's al Ghul. Proclaiming to Bruce Wayne that ‘when Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die’, we get the impression that Bane and has a plan for the city that just may be to destructive for Batman to overcome. Conclusion, Bane means Business. The remainder of the trailer flicks through images of Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, tumblers, Batman, wire work, street brawls, explosions and to top it all off, the Batwing. Oh yes the final shot shows a chase between several tumblers and the Batwing which undoubtedly will be an incredible scene. The theme music kicks in, the film title comes up, the music cuts out, and the audience go silent.

Overall the trailer delivered a lot more than the teaser and showed Bane’s voice, the Batwing and visual tools that Nolan has never used in his Batman universe. The well paced trailer was exciting, bold and informative enough to propose new questions that will be answered when the film hits theatres next summer. I am sure that the audience will flock to see the film in their thousands when it is released in July 2012, but whether the film will satisfy the appetites of the geeks among us I am not sure, I do hope so, and in fact I want it to surpass the brilliance of The Dark Knight. Let me know what you think, but I can honestly say that the trailer lived up to what I expected and will keep me intrigued until next year. A great trailer for a potentially amazing film.