Tag Archives: ian mckellen

Mr Holmes – Review

3 Aug

Sherlock Holmes is arguably of the most well known and recognizable characters to grace any sort of media. Originally written in stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes has been portrayed by many actors over the years. His most recent incarnations have been played by Robert Downey, Jr. in Guy Ritchie’s two films, Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC show Sherlock, and now we have him played by Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes. While still being about the world’s most famous private detective, this film is very different from what we have seen in books, movies, and television. This is a much more personal story that may also feature some of the best performances of the year.

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The year is 1947 and Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen), now age 93, has long since been retired and living far away from society in a farmhouse. Living with him is his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker) who understandably has a keen interest in the aged Holmes. While perfectly content keeping to himself and taking his bees in the backyard apiary, Holmes finds himself struggling with writing down the true events of his final case, which ultimately made him give up being a detective. As time goes on, Holmes finds his memory, which he had always considered his greatest asset, to quickly be fading due to what appears to be the onset of dementia. He finds help in the most unexpected of places, however, when he takes Roger on to be his protégé.

As the credits began to roll and the lights came up and everyone began shuffling out of the theater, I knew that I was going to have a lot to think about. Mr. Holmes is a much heavier movie than I was expecting it to be. Maybe I didn’t do enough research on it, but I kind of figured it would still be a movie about some sort of mystery. In a way, it still is, but it’s a mystery that’s already been solved. Instead, this film took me in a completely different direction, and the story I got was something special. Just the idea of the most observant detective there ever was struggling with memory loss and dementia is almost devastating to watch, especially since we’re dealing with such a well known character.

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Sometimes I see performances and I can almost visualize the Academy awards in my head. This is the case with Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. McKellen perfectly captures the lack of human understanding that is usually seen with the character, but also adds a major dose of humanity which isn’t normally seen. Of course, this has a lot to do with the screenplay and the source material, but it’s McKellen that brings it to life onscreen. If he isn’t nominated for Best Actor this year, I’ll eat my elbow. I can also say the same thing about Laura Linney’s performance as well. It’s a lot more understated than McKellen’s, but it’s perfect for the role she’s playing.

Finally, to just top it all off, the look and the music in Mr. Holmes are both fantastic. Since the movie has three different plot points, there are quite a few locations that the story happens in. What I enjoyed watching was the contrast between Sherlock’s rural exile and the industrious, urban settings of London and Hiroshima. To match the gorgeous visuals, and also the excellent costume design, is a score by Carter Burwell, who has had extensive work in film having notably worked with the Coen Brothers on many of their films. This film is just a fine example of sight and sound, which is something that is probably experienced quite a bit, but rarely remembered.

I went into Mr. Holmes expecting to see a good movie, but I wasn’t expecting to see something that would end up being one of my favorite movies of the summer. Everything from the screenplay, to the visuals, to the design and the music all come together so perfectly to tell a deep and emotional story about one of history’s most beloved fictional characters. It may be a film that has slipped under the radar, especially with a lot of the other movies coming out this season, but Mr. Holmes is still one of my favorite films to come out this summer, and I’d also say one of my favorites so far this year.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past – Review

11 Jun

The X-Men franchise, which has been around for over a decade (their movies at least), is a franchise that has had some strong up and some really strong downs. Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2: X-Men United were both triumphant examples of how a superhero movie should be made. That’s when tragedy struck. X3: X-Men United was a complete disaster that ruined everything Singer had done, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a mediocre entry, and The Wolverine was downright boring. Only with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class did the series seem to get its footing once again with one of the best entries of the franchise. Now, Singer’s back in the director’s chair and has created the most exciting, dramatic, and action packed entries yet, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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The future is a bleak place for both humans and mutants. Giant robots called Sentinels have ravaged the planet killing both mutants and normal people who have the mutant gene, leaving the world completely devastated. It is revealed that the cause of this is because the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinated the designer of the Sentinels, Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), and prompted the government to capture her and use her genes to create the murderous robots and making Trask appear as some sort of martyr for humankind. Now, the only chance of survival lies with a small group of remaining X-Men, particularly Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), whose consciousness is sent back in time by Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) to bring together the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and find Mystique to stop her before she can carry out her assassination. Meanwhile, in the future, the Sentinels are closing in on the X-Men’s hide out, forcing the survivors to fight for their lives so Wolverine can complete his near impossible mission.

Of course, I’m leaving a lot out of that quick little plot summary because there really is so much going on in this movie, to the point that it’s almost mind boggling. Time travel movies are rarely simple, but I found that this one was not too difficult to understand, and that has a lot to do with the writing and directing. I could tell, right from the opening scene (which might be one of the most violent scenes in this entire series) that this movie was not only going to be entertaining, but it was also going to impress me. There’s so much to love in this movie from the action and drama to its strong sense of style and humor. Finally, but the end, it becomes obvious that Bryan Singer fixed everything that was ruined, at least for the most part.

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One of the most impressive parts of this movie is the cast, but I feel like that really goes without saying. When I first heard that the casts from both the original X-Men movies and First Class were going to be in the same movie that involves Sentinels and time travel, I was immediately down with the entire idea. Everyone really brings their A-game to this film as well. Hugh Jackman gives his expected performance as Wolverine, which has really been a perfect combination right from the start. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen also give their expected performances as well, which says a lot because I’ve never seen them off their game in anything that they’ve been in. In my opinion though, the real scene stealers come from the people in the past. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have difficult jobs in this entry, being that both of their characters appear to be at the lowest points in their lives. McAvoy, especially, delivers his lines with such emotion and power, it’s hard not to get just a little choked up. How could I forget Evan Peters, though, and his brief role as Quicksilver? Not only was his brief role one of the most memorable parts of the movie, but it also showed Singer’s strength as a film maker.

To go off from the main story a little bit, this movie got me very curious for what’s to come with the X-Men movie franchise. The post credit scene was crazy enough, but I just mean with things that were added in the plot itself. It’s almost as if Bryan Singer was standing on the side, wiping off his hands, and proclaiming “There. I fixed it.” Not only is the story put completely back on track, but there’s finally some style that’s returned in both the writing and the directing. That being said, kudos have to be given to the screenwriter, Simon Kinberg.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is, without a doubt, the best entry in this franchise and is also a refreshingly awesome and dramatic summer blockbuster. There’s a lot to marvel at with the outstanding special effects that add a level of epicness, but the dramatic story and social critique is just as excellent. The characters aren’t stupid and neither is the story, which only makes this film all the better. If you’re looking to just be mildly entertained, watch X-Men Origins. If you want to be blown right out of your seats with pure amazement, check out Days of Future Past.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Review

30 Dec

Last year, I was thrilled beyond belief to return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Upon leaving the theater, I was pleased with the film, but was kind of disappointed with some of the pacing issues. It felt way too long and dragged in too many scenes. The Desolation of Smaug, however, is a huge improvement over its predecessor and is packed to the brim with excitement, action, adventure, and a dragon that will go down as one of the best villains in the history of cinema.

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Picking up directly after the events of An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Thorin (Richard Armitage), and the brave band of dwarves are being chased by a group of orcs led by Azog (Manu Bennett). Sensing a dark trouble, Gandalf separates from the group and moves to investigate Dol Guldor which may house the evil spirit of the Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch). Meanwhile, the dwarves encounter the Elves of Mirkwood, two of them being Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), both of whom begin hunting the orcs who are hunting the dwarves. Finally reaching the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves meet Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch again!) the dragon who has been sleeping on an immense pile of gold for many years, and the fight is on to kill Smaug and win back the kingdom of Erebor.

So much happens in this movie, it’s almost ridiculous. This film is dense with characters, action set pieces, battle sequences, villains, returning characters, references to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc., etc. This makes for a lot of awesome moments in The Desolation of Smaug, but it also is the cause of a run time that made me fidget a lot more than it should. I remember when I saw Return of the King when it first came out. I was still in grade school when I saw it, which is hard enough to believe, but I also never got fidgety. That’s because that movie, for as long as it was, was covering the content of an entire book. The Desolation of Smaug is covering about five chapters. I never read Tolkien’s book, but I know that a lot was added in, and despite all of the awesome adventure, there are a lot of really boring scenes that didn’t need to exist, thereby trimming the movie down a great deal.

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And that is where the problems with The Desolation of Smaug end. The rest is an outstanding adventure through Middle Earth that Peter Jackson has brought to life in such vivid detail. Jackson and his entire team have brought a fantasy world to life in a way that no one has ever done before. Mirkwood Forest, Erebor, and Lake-Town all have very distinct personalities and are a marvel to look at with so much happening on screen at one time. Even the all of the Middle Earth creatures look fantastic. The CGI created orcs, wargs, and, of course, Smaug look better than ever. Still though, Smaug steals the show in this department as well. He is huge and moves like you would expect a psychotic dragon to. Cumberbatch studied the movements of different kinds of lizards in order to perform the motion capture as well as he can.

As if just being in Middle Earth again wasn’t enough, seeing Bilbo and the rest of them all again feels like a great, big reunion. We’ve come to care about these characters, especially the ones that we already know from the Lord of the Rings. Jackson couldn’t have found a better young Bilbo Baggins than Martin Freeman, but I think I said that in my review for An Unexpected Journey. Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage play their roles great as always, and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed Lee Pace’s performance, even though he wasn’t in the movie all that much. My two favorite characters, however, were Smaug (obviously) and Legolas! Orlando Bloom is back again and even though he’s pretty shoehorned into the movie, he provided some of the coolest parts of the movie that made the whole auditorium give “oohs” and “ahs” of appreciation.

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I feel like The Hobbit movies are never going to live up to the excellence of the Lord of the Rings, but The Desolation of Smaug sure has come close. I stick by my opinion that these films might have worked better if there were only two of them. The fact that this is meant to be a trilogy based off of a book that really isn’t all that long makes for some really bad pacing problems that hurt this movie in ways that I wish didn’t. Still, despite some fidgeting, The Desolation of Smaug is a major improvement over An Unexpected Journey, complete with an ending that robbed me of any breath and makes me demand a quick 2014 so I can return to the theater once again for the final installment of this trilogy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Review

31 Dec

J.R.R. Tolkien has created a world unlike anything anyone has seen when he wrote The Hobbit and the follow up trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson finally brought the trilogy to life in 2001, but there’s more to the story than was shown. Now, Jackson returns to Middle Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first film of a new trilogy.

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Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a hobbit who loves his books, his garden, good food, and peace. Adventure comes looking for Bilbo in the form of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Gandalf recruits Bilbo to join in an adventure with a group of dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), to travel to the Lonely Mountain and retake the dwarves’ lost kingdom of Erebor from the dragon, Smaug. Along the way they encounter other wizards, trolls, orcs, elves, goblins, and a very familiar ring.

When I first heard that The Hobbit was going to be three movies, I wasn’t too thrilled to hear it. I automatically assumed that it was all a cash grab and that the movie was going to be so strung out and thin that it was going to be not as enjoyable. In the beginning of the movie, I believed my suspicions to be true because it took so long for the story to get started. I really enjoyed the scenes with Bilbo trying to stop the dwarves from destroying his house, but I also ready for the actual adventure to start. As the movie progressed, however, I realized that there is so much to tell in this story that three movies actually seems appropriate. Once the adventure got started, I was completely sucked in.

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Middle Earth and its various creatures look better than they ever have. Every effect is detailed to what seems like the point of obsession. This makes the experience of seeing this movie so much better than it could have been if time and effort weren’t spent making these creatures look the way they do. Gollum, played by Andy Serkis, has the best scene of the movie where he engages in a battle of wits with Bilbo. His facial expressions and movement look as clean as ever. A lot of tho might have to with the movie being shot in 48 fps. I did notice the difference between the typical 24 fps and the quicker 48. There are scenes that are so crisp, I couldn’t help but notice. Some people are complaining about this, but I was quite pleased.

The tie in with the Lord of the Rings made me giddy. I loved seeing Elrond, Galadriel, and even Saruman interact with these characters 60 years before the events of the trilogy I have grown so familiar with. I loved putting the connections together and thinking about their characters now as opposed to how they are in the other films. There was a lot more references and cameos than I thought there was going to be, and I really appreciated all of the actors getting back together to travel once again to Middle Earth (or New Zealand).

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To me, it’s too early to compare The Hobbit with Lord of the Rings because one is a trilogy and the other just has one film out. I will say that I was nervous I wasn’t going to be too impressed by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but I was blown away once again by Peter Jackson. He has recreated Middle Earth and it looks better than it ever has before. While the movie is a little slow out of the starting gate, it soon picks up and becomes an excellent adventure/fantasy. I can’t wait until next December to continue the story, but for now, I’m very happy with this movie.