“HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” (2005) Review

“HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” (2005) Review

Despite the release of the first two movies in the film franchise, I did not become a fan of the “HARRY POTTER” series until I saw the 2004 movie, “HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN”. I became so enamored of this third film that I regarded the release of its successor, “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE”, with great anticipation.

Released during the fall of 2005 and based upon J.K. Rowling’s 2000 novel, “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” follows boy wizard Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This year proves to be a special one for Harry when he unexpectedly finds himself competing in the wizard world’s Tri-Wizard Tournament, a magical competition for young wizards from three different schools, who are 17 years old or older. Not only does the 14 year-old Harry have to deal with the contempt from Hogswarts students who believe he had cheated to enter the competition, he also have to deal with the dangerous tasks that make up the competition and an unpleasant surprise that awaits him once the tournament ends.

When the movie first hit the theaters nine years ago, many had hailed “GOBLET OF FIRE” as the best of the four HARRY POTTER movies, released thus far. I wish I could have agreed with that assessment of “GOBLET OF FIRE”. I really wish I could. But . . . I cannot. Personally, I feel that these critics may have overrated the 2005 film. Why? I considered it the weakest of the first four movies. I would not consider the movie a complete waste of my time. It did feature some very entertaining and mesmerizing scenes. My favorites include the opening sequence in which Harry dreams of Lord Voldemort, Peter Pettigrew and a mysterious man being interrupted by an elderly handyman named Frank Bryce inside a mansion, before the latter is killed by Pettigrew; Headmaster Albus Dumbledore pulling the names of the Tri-Wizard Tournament competitors from the Goblet of Fire; Harry and Ron’s quarrel over the former being one of the tournament’s competitors; the competition’s second task; the third task inside the claustrophobic maze and Harry’s encounter with the . . . uh, unpleasant surprise. But my favorite sequence in the entire film has to be the Yule Ball – the Christmas celebration for the tournament’s participants, the foreign visitors and Hogswarts’ students and faculty staff. I would say that it is one of the best sequences in the entire “HARRY POTTER” film franchise. It is just a joy to watch . . . from the preparations for the ball (that included finding dates and learning how to dance) to the immediate aftermath of the special night.

“HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” featured some pretty decent performances. But they seemed far and between. Both Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint gave excellent performances as the two best friends – Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. I was especially impressed that they managed to restrain from any theatrical acting when their characters became drawn into a quarrel over Harry’s participation in the tournament. Maggie Smith was her usual competent self as the always dependable Professor Minerva McGonagall. Alan Rickman’s portrayal of potions teacher Severus Snape continued to be a joy to watch. My only disappointment was that his role seemed rather diminished in this film. I was pleasantly surprised by Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of the colorful teacher and former wizard aurorer, Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody. Gleeson could have indulged in a great deal of hamminess with such an eccentric character. But he kept his performance in full control, while conveying the oddball nature of “Mad Eye”. Miranda Richardson gave a deliciously wicked performance as Rita Skeeter, a reporter who harbored an indulgence for yellow journalism that annoyed poor Harry to no end. I found Jason Isaac’s portrayal of Lucius Malfoy rather theatrical in the Quidditch World Cup scene. But I must admit that I was very impressed by the subtle manner in which he portrayed his character’s obsequious manner in the film’s last half hour. The movie also featured solid performances from Robert Pattison and Katie Leung, who portrayed the student lovers, Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang; Timothy Spall as Death Eater Peter Pettigrew; Robbie Coltrane as Hogwarts teacher Rubeus Hagrid; Frances de la Tour as Beauxbaton Headmistress Olympe Maxime and Eric Sykes as Riddle handyman, Frank Bryce.

Unfortunately, I could find nothing further to admire about “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE”. My first problem turned out to be the screenplay written by Steve Kloves. I did not expect him to be completely faithful to Rowling’s novel. It would take a two-week miniseries to be completely faithful to it. But there were some scenes I wish Kloves had not eliminated. One, he cut the scene featuring the Weasleys’ visit to the Dursley home on Privet Drive to pick up Harry for the Qudditch World Cup. I mourned this cut, for I believe it was one of the funniest scenes in Rowling’s book series. But Kloves’ further cuts left the main narrative with some serious plot holes. Kloves’ screenplay never explained how Death Eater Barty Couch Jr. managed to escape from the wizarding world’s prison, Azkaban, without the Ministry of Magic’s knowledge. How did Lord Voldemort and Couch Jr. learn about the Tri-Wizard Tournament in the first place? Also, there was one scene that featured “Mad Eye” Moody’s arrival at Hogwarts with no luggage or trunk. Yet, there was another scene in which Harry visited Moody’s room and spotted a trunk. How did the teacher convey his trunk to the castle?

There were other problems that marred my enjoyment of the film. I read an article in which director Mike Newell decided to portray the Hogwarts students in a more “realistic” manner – in other words, as British school children would behave in real life. Unfortunately, his attempt at “realism” merely allowed most of the actors and actresses portraying Hogwarts students to engage in theatrical performances. Even worse, Newell did the opposite with the visiting foreign students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons by allowing the actors to indulge in one-dimensional cliches with their portrayals. I found one scene in which Harry’s trip to the school prefects’ bath was interrupted by a ghost known as Moaning Myrtle. I realize that Myrtle was supposed to be around 14 (the age of her death), the same age as Harry was in this story. But watching actress Shirley Henderson, who was at least 39 years old at the time, flirt with a half-naked or naked Daniel Radcliffe made me squirm in my seat with a good deal of discomfort. On the other hand, I felt a great deal of disappointment toward the movie’s production style and look. I get the feeling that Production Designer Stuart Craig and Cinematographer Roger Pratt, along with Newell, were trying to recapture the look or style of Middle Earth, as shown in “LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS” and “LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING”. I hated the look in those movies and I hated it in this film.

My biggest problem with “GOBLET OF FIRE” turned out to be the acting. I have already pointed out what I believe were the better performances in the film. As for the rest of the cast . . . sigh. I have never encountered so much hammy acting in my life. It seemed as if three-quarters of the cast spent most of the time shouting their dialogue. I am not just talking about the performances of those portraying the students, but especially the adult actors and actresses. There were some questionable performances that really caught my attention. Emma Watson is a first-rate actress, but she seemed to be trying too hard in her portrayal of Hermione Granger in this film. Michael Gambon, who had done such a wonderful job in his debut as Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in 2004’s “HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN”, gave a completely different – and very hammy – performance in “GOBLET OF FIRE”. Roger Lloyd-Pack was another actor whom one could depend upon for a first-rate performance. Not in this film. He seemed to be a bundle of out-of-control nerves and very theatrical in his role as head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Barty Crouch Sr. The previous performances mentioned were nothing in compare to both David Tennant and Ralph Fiennes. Lloyd-Pack’s twitchy performance was nothing in compare to David Tennant, whose performance as Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr. revealed more twitchy mannerisms in this one film than Bette Davis did in her entire film career. But when it came to chewing the scenery, no one did it better than Ralph Fiennes in his debut as the series’ main villain, Tom Riddle Jr. aka Lord Voldemort. Words cannot describe the over-the-top performance he gave in the movie’s climatic scene. And I cannot help but wonder why Newell did not reign in his performance. Then again, he was barely able to do the same with other cast members, as well.

Yes, “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” struck me as far from perfect. Thanks to the plot holes, unattractive production look and the numerous hammy performances, I found it difficult to consider it a great favorite of mine. But despite its flaws, I still managed to enjoy the film. It just strikes me as a pity that it turned out to be a comedown after the franchise’s first three films . . . at least for me.

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Favorite Episodes of “LUCIFER” Season One (2016)

Below is a list of my favorite Season One episodes from the Fox (now Netflix) series, “LUCIFER”. Based on the Vertigo (D.C. Comics) comic book series and created by Tom Kapinos, the series stars Tom Ellis:

FAVORITE EPISODES OF “LUCIFER” SEASON ONE (2016)

1. (1.09) “A Priest Walks into a Bar” – Lucifer Morningstar (aka the Devil) and LAPD Detective Chloe Decker investigate a drug ring, which a priest believes is led by a local youth counselor. Meanwhile, archangel Amenadiel (and Lucifer’s brother) meet with corrupt cop Malcolm Graham to explain why he had pull the latter out of Hell.

2. (1.13) “Take Me Back to Hell” – In the season finale, Lucifer and Chloe must work together to clear the former’s name and find the true killer, Malcolm, after Lucifer is framed for murder.

3. (1.03) “The Would-Be Prince of Darkness” – Lucifer and Chloe explore the world of big money sports when a young football quarterback, whom Lucifer had convinced to lose his virginity, is arrested for the murder of the girl with whom he had sex.

4. (1.12) “TeamLucifer” – Lucifer, Chloe and the latter’s ex-husband, LAPD Detective Dan Espinoza, investigates the death of a woman whose body with a “Hail Lucifer” message was found lying within a pentagram.

5. (1.07) “Wingman” – Lucifer turns to Amenadiel for help, while trying to find the contents of his stolen container – the wings he had removed from his body, following his arrival in Los Angeles.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Five “Crossroads” Commentary

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Five “Crossroads” Commentary

The last episode, ”Replacements” saw Easy Company reeling from the Allies’ disastrous defeat during the Operation Market Garden campaign in Holland. Directed by Tom Hanks, this latest episode depicted Richard Winters’ last combat engagement as the company’s commander, Operation Pegasus, and the company’s departure for Belguim as they prepare to participate in the Bastogne campaign.

At the beginning of the aptly named ”Crossroads”; Winters, now the executive officer of the 2nd Battalion of 506th regiment, recounts his last combat mission as commander of Easy Company in a report for regimental headquarters that took place at a crossroads, near a dike in Holland. In the aftermath of the battle, Winters is informed that he has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Strayer’s executive officer, leaving Easy without a commander. However, a new man – Frederick Theodore “Moose” Heyliger – becomes Easy’s new commander and leads them in Operation Pegasus, a military mission to escort a large number of British paratroopers trapped behind enemy lines, following the failure of Market Garden. Unfortunately, about a week later, Lieutenant Heyliger is seriously wounded by an American sentry and Easy ends up with a new commander named Norman Dike. Unlike Winters and Heyliger, Easy Company has no respect for their new leader and nicknames him ”Foxhole Norman”.

Not long after Dike becomes Easy’s new commander, a reluctant Winters is ordered to spend a few days of furlough in Paris. During his furlough, Winters is haunted by a moment when he killed a teenaged German soldier during the crossroads battle. Not long after his return to the regiment, the 101st Airborne learns about the German counterattack near Bastogne and is sent to Belgium to repel it. The episode ends with Easy company marching into the Belgian forest in the middle of the night, with minimum supplies and inadequate clothing.

I have always liked ”Crossroads” . . . despite itself. I cannot put my finger on it. Perhaps my feelings about the episode have to do with how Hanks directed the battle fought at the crossroads. He injected a great deal of style into that very moment that featured Winters leading a charge against S.S. troops at the crossroads. I also enjoyed Damian Lewis’ performance during the Paris furlough scenes and Neal McDonough as the slightly stressed out “Buck” Compton, who has returned from the hospital. And I enjoyed the sequence featuring the interaction of some of the company’s men, while watching a Marlene Dietrich film. However, my favorite sequence featured Easy Company’s brief journey to another crossroad – one near the town of Bastogne, Belgium. Screenwriter Erik Jendresen certainly did his best to ensure that the episode’s title adhere to its theme. A good deal seemed to be at a crossroads in this episode – including the location of a Dutch dike, where Winters led Easy Company into combat for the last time; and the crossroads near Bastogne, where the company was sent to halt the German counterattack. Winters’ Army career was at a crossroads, as he went from company commander to battalion executive officer. And Easy Company endured a crisis of leadership following Winters’ promotion to battalion.

Yet, despite my positive feelings for ”Crossroads”, I cannot deny that it was one of the miniseries’ weaker episodes. For such a short episode, so much had occurred. Winters led Easy Company into combat for the last time. The company participated in Operations Pegasus. It lost “Moose” Heyliger as its commander after he was accidentally shot and gained Norman Dike as the new commander – a man for whom no one seemed to have much respect. This episode should have been longer than 50 minutes. More importantly, watching both ”Replacements” and ”Crossroads” made me realize that Spielberg and Hanks had limited the company’s experiences in Holland to two engagements. The miniseries could have explored a lot more, judging from what I have read in Stephen Ambrose’s book.

It seemed a pity that Spielberg and Hanks failed to take the opportunity to explore more of Easy Company’s Holland experiences. Instead, the second half of this episode focused on Winters’ furlough in Paris and the company’s preparations for the Belgium campaign. And because of this ”Crossroads” seemed unfulfilled . . . and lacking. But it did provide an excellent performance from Damian Lewis as Richard Winters. And it featured a first-rate combat sequence and some personal interactions between the men that I found interesting. It was not a complete waste of time.

“THUNDERBALL” (1965) Review

“THUNDERBALL” (1965) Review

I had just viewed the 1965 Bond movie, “THUNDERBALL” for the first time in several years. And I can see why this movie is considered to be one of my all time favorite Bond flicks. But I do not think I can state why in one or two sentences.

“THUNDERBALL” turned out to be director Terrence Young’s third and last Bond film. Most Bond fans consider it to be his least superior film, but I consider it to be his second best, following 1963’s “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. The story, based upon an unfinished script called “Warhead”, co-written by Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. The unfinished script eventually became Fleming’s 1961 novel, “Thunderball”. This resulted in a major lawsuit between McClory and Fleming and eventually, EON Productions became dragged into it. The story is about SPECTRE’s theft of NATO nuclear warheads and how they used it to blackmail the U.S. and British government for the sum of 100,000,000 pounds. Naturally, MI-6 sends all of their “00” agents to recover the warheads before SPECTRE can carry out its threat to detonate the weapons on U.S. and British soil. Many moviegoers found the movie’s plot a little hard to buy and viewed it as part of the realm of fantasy. But considering the current obsession of terrorism and the high illegal weapons market, “THUNDERBALL” is probably one of the more relevant plots of any Bond film.

Aside from the underwater sequences, “THUNDERBALL” turned out to be an elegant and exciting thriller with excellent drama, a solid plot that managed to avoid any major plotholes, a classy score by John Barry and a first-class cast. Sean Connery portrayed James Bond for the fourth time in this film. Thankfully, he seemed to be at his top game in this one. It is a vast improvement over his performance in 1964’s “GOLDFINGER”, in which he seemed to come off as an immature prat. And he is ably assisted by a first-class cast – Claudine Auger as Domino Duval, Adolfo Celi as villain Emile Largo (SPECTRE’s Number 2), Rik Van Nutter as CIA Agent Felix Leiter and especially Luciana Paluzzi as villainess Fiona Volpe.

Below is a list of positive and negative aspects of the film. I have decided to start with the negative, since there was little that I did not care about the movie:

Negative:

*Rik Van Nutter as Felix Leiter – Do not get me wrong. Van Nutter’s performance as Leiter was competent and very personable. My problem was that his role was written as a “less-than-bright” sidekick of Bond’s, instead of an ally. Bond has been assisted by Leiter in other movies, but they have never come off as some dumb sidekick . . . except for Cec Linder in “GOLDFINGER”.

*Theme Song – I will not deny that the movie’s theme song, performed by Tom Jones is slightly catchy. But I also found the lyrics to be slightly sexist and off-putting.

*Underwater Sequences – Yes, the underwater sequences had threatened to drag the movie a bit. Actually, I can point out two sequences that came close to boring me – the sequence that featured Largo’s acquisition of the warheads and the final battle between Largo’s men and U.S. Navy frogmen.

Blackmail of Patricia Fearing – James Bond’s attempt to seduce Shrublands Clinic nurse, Patricia Fearing, came off as disturbing and tacky. It was bad enough to watch him make attempts to kiss the very professional Ms. Fearing without her consent. But when he resorted to blackmail – willingness to conceal his near death experience with the physiotherapy machine aka “the rack” in exchange for sex – the whole situation became rather sordid.

Positive:

*Luciana Paluzzi – Let us be honest, folks. The red-haired Paluzzi came dangerously close to stealing the picture from Connery. Like Honor Blackman before her, she radiated sexiness and a strong on-screen presence. She seemed to be even more of a threat than Emile Largo and his men.

*Adolpo Celi – What I like about Celi’s performance is that he does not come off as an over-the-top villain. He was elegant, intelligent, ruthless and egotistical. Perfect villain.

*Nassau Setting – The setting in Nassau gave the movie an exotic, yet elegant feel that really added substance to the movie.

*Villain’s Goal – Many critics have claimed that the villain’s goal in the movie – nuclear blackmail for money – seemed unrealistic, due to a belief there was little chance that an organization like SPECTRE could get its hands on a nuclear bomb from a NATO strategic bomber. And yet, I have never considered such a scenario unrealistic. Especially in today’s world. In a way, this scenario seems much more possible than some of scenarios featured in other Bond movies from the same period.

*Dialogue – The dialogue in this movie was unusually sharp and witty. But what really appealed to me was that Connery’s puns did not come out of his mouth every other minute, as it did in his previous two movies. In fact, the movie featured what I consider to be one of Connery’s best lines during his tenure with the franchise.

I would like to conclude with this little note. In 1983, Kevin McClory – one of the original authors of “Warhead” – produced his own movie version of the story, which starred Connery as Bond. The movie, “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN” was not exactly terrible, but it almost seemed like an overblown version of the 1965 movie.

R.I.P. Sir Sean Connery (1930-2020)

R.I.P. Earl Cameron (1917-2020)

“SUICIDE SQUAD” Showdown

“SUICIDE SQUAD” SHOWDOWN

The 2016 D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) film, “SUICIDE SQUAD”, featured an interesting post-credit scene between A.R.G.U.S. Director Amanda Waller and billionaire Bruce Wayne aka Batman. In the wake of Task Force X aka Suicide Squad’s confrontation with former team member, the sorceress Enchantress, Ms. Waller requested a meeting with Bruce for a special favor.

Apparently, Ms. Waller found herself in hot water with the U.S. Department of Defense, due to the Enchantress’ attempt to wreck havoc upon the world and rule it. After all, the sorceress was known to be a former member of the Suicide Squad. Ms. Waller met with Bruce in order to use his Washington D.C. connections to protect her from the backlash against her role, as Task Force X’s creator, in the Enchantress’ rampage. In return, she provided him with government files files on the expanding meta-human community . . . along with documents on both Barry Allen aka the Flash and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. Following Bruce’s agreement to help Waller in exchange for the files, the pair had this little conversation:

Amanda Waller: There’s the difference between us. You believe in friendship, I believe in leverage.
Bruce Wayne: Good night.
Amanda Waller: You look tired. You should stop working nights.
Bruce Wayne: You should shut it down, or my friends and I will do it for you.

When Ms. Waller had first hinted that she knew Bruce was Batman, his first response was to warn her to shut down the Task Force X team, also known as the “Suicide Squad”. When I first saw the movie, I had taken Bruce’s warning at heart. Especially since she had asked for him to protect her from facing the consequences of using Dr. June Moone aka the Enchantress as part of her Task Force X. And the recently formed Justice League would be more than capable of physically breaking up the squad and keeping its members behind bars. In the end, it took me a while to realize that on a deeper level, Bruce’s warning was hollow. It was just as hollow as Waller’s insinuation that she knew he was Batman.

One, the formation of Task Force X “Suicide Squad” was not illegal. It was sanctioned by the Department of the Defense and the White House. With the exception of Task Force X leader Colonel Rick Flagg and his bodyguard, Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana, the other members were convicted criminals. Which meant that Waller or any other member of the government or law enforcement had the right to “recruit” them to work in the interest of the country/community. The Thirteen Amendment (1865) of the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Which meant that convicted and imprisoned criminals can be used as forced labor. And this is exactly what Waller did when she had nano bombs implanted in their necks and coerced them into working on behalf of the government . . . with the threat of death if any Suicide Squad member did not cooperate.

Two, if Batman and other future members of the Justice League had interfered with any of the Task Force X’s operations, they would find themselves in legal trouble. Especially since the Task Force X is a legally sanctioned intelligence unit. And when Bruce had issued his warning about the squad, he should have remembered that Ms. Waller not only knew about his identity as Batman, she also knew about secret identities of the Flash and Aquaman. After all, she was the one who had provided Bruce with information about the pair. Considering Ms. Waller’s talent for acquiring information, it would have been a matter of time before she discovered Diana Prince’s identity as Wonder Woman, Victor Stone ‘s identity as Cyborg and Clark Kent as Superman. If she does not know the truth about them already. After all, Lex Luthor does.

Three, Waller’s insinuation that she knew about Bruce’s identity as Batman struck me as equally hollow. Even if she had exposed him as the Dark Knight, chances are Bruce would not hesitate to find a way for her to face the consequences of her role in the Enchantress’ rampage. If he could not personally achieve, Bruce would probably arrange for his security chief, Alfred Pennyworth to expose Ms. Waller on his behalf.

Perhaps it would have been best for both Bruce and Ms. Waller to realize that when it came to secrets and protection, they were in a standoff. Waller should have never made such a useless threat. And Bruce should have realize there would be legal consequences if he and the other members of the Justice League had interfered with Task Force X. And both should simply consider leaving each other alone.

“SHERLOCK HOLMES” (2009) Review

”SHERLOCK HOLMES” (2009) Review

I have never been a major fan of the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers. Once, I tried to get interested in them by reading one or two novels. But they had simply failed to spark my interest.

I have shown a little more enthusiasm toward the various movies and television adaptations of Doyle’s novels and characters. Mind you, I never became a faithful viewer of the television series that starred Jeremy Brett as Holmes. But I have do have my private list of Sherlock Holmes movies that I consider as personal favorites. Including this 2009 film directed by Guy Ritchie.

The movie opened with Holmes; his good friend, Dr. John Watson; and Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade rescuing a young woman from becoming the latest victim of an occult worshipper named Lord Henry Blackwood. Actually, Holmes and Watson rescued the young woman. Lestrade and his entourage of uniformed officers arrived in time to arrest the culprit. In the aftermath of the case, Holmes becomes bored and indulges in a series of bizarre experiments and bare knuckle fighting to relive his boredom. He is also upset over Watson’s recent engagement to a young governess named Mary Morstan. Before Lord Blackwood is executed, he informs Holmes that he will rise from the dead more powerful than ever, leaving Holmes and the police unable to stop him.

The story continues when a former ”nemesis” of Holmes named Irene Adler engages the detective to find a missing man named Reardon. Holmes discovers that Irene has been hired by a mysterious man to recruit him, but fails to follow up on his suspicions. When Reardon turns out to be linked to Lord Blackwood, who has ”risen from the grave” as promised, Holmes and Watson find themselves involved in another case.

One can see that ”SHERLOCK HOLMES” is not an adaptation of any of Conan Doyle’s novels or stories; or any other Holmes work of fiction. The movie’s screenplay; written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg; is an original story. Yet, the three writers managed to incorporate certain small aspects from Conan Doyle’s original works into the script that have rarely been seen in previous Sherlock Holmes adaptations. They include:

*Holmes’ untidy habits

*Holmes’ photograph of Irene Adler

*Watson’s military background

*Lestrade’s comment about Holmes’ potential as a master criminal

*Holmes’ ability to speak French

*Watson’s gambling habit

Before my first viewing of the movie, an acquaintance had warned me that some critics found the plot to be convoluted. After seeing ”SHERLOCK HOLMES” twice, I can honestly say that aside from the opening sequence, I found nothing confusing about the plot. Johnson, Peckham and Kinberg created a complex and clever tale about Holmes’ investigation into the murderous, yet alleged supernatural activities of one Lord Henry Blackwood. The story’s mystery was never a ”whodunit”, but a ”how did he do it”. How did Lord Blackwood rise from the grave? How did he kill three men by supernatural means? And what was his goal? In Holmes’ final confrontation with Blackwood, the screenwriters did a first-rate job in allowing the detective to reveal Blackwood’s methods and goals.

”SHERLOCK HOLMES” also captured the feel and nuance of late Victorian London beautifully, thanks to Ritchie and his crew. One can thank the combination work of Philippe Rousselot’s photography, and the visual effects team supervised by Jonathan Fawkner. I also have to commend designer Jenny Beavan for the costumes she had designed for most of the cast, and Jane Law for the colorful costumes she designed for the two leading female roles. They seemed straight out of the late Victorian period. I could not write this review without mentioning Hans Zimmer’s score for the film. Quite frankly, I adored it. I found it to be very original and unique. I also loved how he used the Dubliners’ song, ”The Rocky Road to Dublin” for two scenes and the movie’s final credits.

Ritchie also had the good luck to work with a top notch cast led by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. As far as I know, Downey Jr. is the fourth American actor to portray Sherlock Holmes. Most of them have been pretty good – with the exception of Matt Frewer – but I must say that Downey Jr.’s performance not only rose above them, but also a good number of British and Commonwealth actors, as well. Aside from two or three moments, the actor’s English accent seemed spot on to me. Even better, Downey Jr. did a brilliant job in capturing the nuances and complexities of Holmes’ character – both virtues and flaws. And he managed to do all of this without turning the character into a cliché or portraying a second-rate version of the performances of other actors who have portrayed Holmes. Most importantly, Downey Jr. managed to create a sizzling chemistry with the man who became his Dr. Watson – namely Jude Law.

Back in 2009, it had been a while since I have seen Jude Law on the movie screen. At first glance, one would be hard pressed to imagine him in the role of Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ colleague. Then I saw a drawing and read a description of the literary Watson and realized that his casting in this particular role may not be a complete disaster. When I saw his performance on the screen, I immediately knew that he was the right man for the role. Law perfectly captured Watson’s firm and dependable nature that kept Holmes on solid ground. He also did an excellent job of portraying Watson’s intelligence and bravery as a man of action. I am also thankful that Law did not follow Nigel Bruce’s example of portraying Watson as Holmes’ bumbling, yet well meaning sidekick. Thank goodness for little miracles.

While reading some articles about the movie, I have come across many negative comments about Rachel McAdams’ performance as the mysterious adventuress, Irene Adler. Even worse, many have expressed disbelief that McAdams’ Irene was a woman who had bested Holmes twice, claiming that she had been fooled by her employer. I found this last complaint rather irrelevant, considering that Holmes ended up being fooled, as well. Personally, these are two assessments of McAdams’ performance that I found difficult to believe or accept. In fact, I ended up enjoying her portrayal of Irene very much. I thought she gave an excellent and subtle performance as the intelligent and sly Irene, who enjoyed matching wits with Holmes. Some fans had also complained about McAdams’ accent. Why, I do not know. It seemed clear to me via the actress’ accent that she was portraying an intelligent and educated 19th century woman from the American Northeast. Her Canadian accent helped her on that score. When I had first laid eyes upon Mark Strong in 2007’s ”STARDUST”, I had no idea that I would become such a major fan of his. Three movies later, I definitely have. Strong was exceptional as always as the mysterious Lord Henry Blackwood, a nefarious aristocrat with a thirst for power who claims to have great supernatural abilities. Although I would not consider Blackwood to be Strong’s most interesting role, I must admit that the actor’s interpretation of the character as one of the better screen villains I have seen in the past decade or so.

The movie also featured first-rate performances from supporting actors Eddie Marsan and Kelly Reilly. Marsan portrayed the long-suffering Scotland Yard police officer, Inspector Lestrade. I first noticed Marsan in 2006’s ”MIAMI VICE” and genuinely thought he was American born. When I saw him in ”THE ILLUSIONIST” portraying a Central European, I began to wonder about his real nationality. It took me a while to realize that he was English. If Lon Chaney was ”the Man of a Thousand Faces”, then Marsan must be ”the Man of a Thousand Accents”. In ”SHERLOCK HOLMES”, he used his own accent. However, he also gave a first-rate performance as the intelligent, but long-suffering Lestrade, who constantly endures Holmes’ mild ridicule in order to get a case solved. I have to be frank. When I first saw Kelly Reilly in 2005’s ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, I had not been impressed by her portrayal of Caroline Bingley. I have more respect for her performance now. But I must admit that it was her portrayal of Watson’s fiancée, Mary Morstan, to appreciate her skills as an actress. I liked that Reilly’s Mary was not some missish Victorian woman prone to hysterics over her fiance’s relationship with Holmes. Instead Reilly portrayed Mary as a woman who understood the two men’s relationship and Holmes’ dependence upon Watson’s presence. Even if she was not that enamored of the detective.

I do have some problems with ”SHERLOCK HOLMES”. One, there were times when I could barely understand some of the dialogue. Especially when it came out of Robert Downey Jr.’s mouth. When it came to using a British accent, he had a tendency to mumble rather heavily. Honestly? I could have used some close captions for some of his scenes when I first saw the film. Although I found the movie’s panoramic views of London and visual effects impressive, I was not particularly fond of the gray-blue tint of Rousselot’s photography. According to the movie’s official site, ”SHERLOCK HOLMES” was supposed to be set during 1891. Yet, Jane Law’s costumes for McAdams and Reilly seemed straight out of the late 1880s. Their bustles seemed too big for the early 1890s. My biggest gripe centered around the movie’s opening sequence. The screenplay never really explained why Blackwood had murdered four women and tried to kill a fifth. If it had, would someone please enlighten me?

What else can I say about ”SHERLOCK HOLMES”? Sure, I still have a few quibbles about the film. But I continue to love it. Guy Ritchie not only did a superb job of recapturing late Victorian London, but also the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary hero, Sherlock Holmes. And he did so with a superb cast led by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, a first-rate script written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg; and a group of craftsmen that managed to bring the world of Victorian London and Sherlock Holmes back to life.