Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mr. Holmes

Movie:  Mr. Holmes

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has long been renowned as the world’s foremost consulting detective since his days at 221-B Baker Street in London back in the 1880s.  But now Mr. Holmes has retired to a seaside cottage near the white cliffs of Dover, and his primary concern is tending to his colony of bees.  World War 2 has recently concluded, and the 93 year old detective has slowed down physically and, alas, mentally.  While the razor sharp analytical brain of Holmes can still deduce where his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) went on the train that day and for what purpose, names of people are eluding him and he compensates by writing their names on the sleeves of his shirts.

While Sherlock Holmes is still a logical man who eschews the trappings of sentiment or displays of emotion, he has become somewhat enamored with the adulation of  11 year old Roger (Milo Parker), the son of his housekeeper.  Holmes realizes the young lad has surreptitiously been reading a draft of the first hand account of his final case, an affair that was previously published by his loyal biographer Dr. John Watson, but in fact was not captured accurately in the story read by the general public.  An even more fictionalized version of the story was immortalized in a film, The Lady In Grey, a movie seen by a bemused Holmes in a local theater house.  Sherlock Holmes is determined to capture the true facts of the case, but to his dismay he is mentally blocked from remembering key elements of what really happened to Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan), the “lady in grey”.

What is the great detective to do?  He must solve this last case, and to do so, he must improve his memory.  Holmes has tried a holistic cure of taking royal jelly harvested from his bees, but it is not enough.  He receives an invitation from Tamiki Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) in Japan to come visit and together they will seek the rare prickly ash plant near Hiroshima, a plant that may possess the mental healing powers that Holmes fervently seeks.  While searching the landscape of the war ravaged Japan for the prickly ash, Holmes is presented with another conundrum to resolve from his Japanese host.

Back in England, Holmes has taken Roger under his wing and has instructed him in the care and habits of his bees.  The boy is a very quick study, and Holmes recognizes a keen intellect in the lad and tries to encourage him to develop his mind.  For his part, Roger reports to Holmes on a regular basis that the population of the bees is declining.  The missing bees turns out to be the third mystery for Holmes to solve, and one with serious consequences.

For movie goers that require a constant adrenaline rush of action sequences, explosions, car chases and gun battles, this is not the film for you.  But for film lovers who can appreciate a clever story with amazing character development, superb dialogue, top-notch acting and beautiful cinematography, this is the best movie of the year so far.  Ian McKellen has had an illustrious career, but this tour de force as Sherlock Holmes is his masterpiece.  For those of us who grew up reading Sherlock Holmes stories, Ian McKellen manages to capture what Holmes would have been like as an old man, still brilliant, but finally becoming a bit more human as well.  If there is any justice, McKellen will get a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and look for this  small film to gather a Best Picture nomination as well.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Holmes – “The deerstalker (hat)?  I’ve never worn one.  That was an embellishment of the author (Dr. Watson).”

Holmes to Roger – “The first thing to know is there is no danger.  The bees only concern is self preservation.”

Holmes to Mrs. Munro – Exceptional children are often the product of unremarkable parents.”

Holmes – “I think I was real once, until John made me into fiction.”

Ann Kelmot – “Play your parlor tricks elsewhere, Mr. Holmes!”

Holmes to Roger – “I look like I’ve been attacked by a hound of the Baskervilles.”

Holmes – “I came here to tend bees, so I could never harm anyone again.”

Clever Cameo:  In the film within the film (The Lady In Grey), Sherlock Holmes is portrayed by Nicholas Rowe, the same actor who portrayed Holmes in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes back in 1985.

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Southpaw

Movie:  Southpaw

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the undefeated, undisputed light heavyweight  champion of the world.  He grew up as an orphan in the child services system, with little education and no skills.  But he learn to use his fists and a desire to make something of himself into a lucrative career, and married his first love Maureen (Rachel McAdams).  Maureen and their child Leila is Billy’s whole life, and he has provided a mansion for them to live in and all the trappings of a luxurious life they would never have dreamed of from their humble beginnings were it not for his prowess in the boxing ring.

Billy Hope has been fighting for a number of years, and as the saying goes, it not the years it’s the mileage.  Hope’s fighting style is basically offense, and while he eventually wears down his opponents in the tradition of Rocky Marciano, he takes a lot of punishment in getting the victories.  Maureen, the brains of the family, is seriously concerned about her husband’s physical well being.  She advocates more rest and fewer fights, and she manages the finances and keeps an eye on the hangers-on that are part of a sports champion’s life.

But uneasy lies the head of he who wears the crown.  Immediately after Billy Hope defends his title in Madison Square Garden, a young and talented Colombian fighter Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) is eager for a title shot with the champ.  Escobar resorts to taunting and baiting Hope to get his attention and force the champ to agree to a fight.  Ultimately, Escobar’s tactics lead to tragic results for a number of people.

This is a terrific film.   It has elements of tragedy, greed, human frailties, hope and redemption mixed in to keep the viewer riveted to the story line.  Jake Gyllenhaal got his body chiseled and buff as any real boxer could, and gives an Oscar worthy performance.  The boxing scenes are authentic, as Gyllenhaal is actually throwing and taking real punches.    Rachel McAdams does a fine job in her supporting role, as does old pro Forest Whitaker in his role as boxing trainer Tick Wills.  This is a Weinstein Company production, and it is surprising they released the movie this early in the year, as it should compete for several Oscars, including Best Picture.  Check it out; best boxing film since Raging Bull.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Maureen to Billy before a fight – “Don’t get hit too much!”

Maureen to Billy after the fight – “Can you get your socks off?”

Escobar to Hope – “You ain’t never been hit by a real man.”

Maureen – “You’re going to be punch drunk in two years if you keep this up.”

Escobar – “I’ll take your belt and then your bitch!”

Tick Wills – “I’m going to introduce you to something new.  It’s called defense.”

Tick Wills – “You go out there and kick his ass.  I want to see Billy the Great!”

 

 

 

 

Self/less

Movie:  Self/less

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Damian (Ben Kingsley) is a mega star in the world of real estate deals.  He is a mover and a shaker, and always wins on every deal.  He lives in fantastic luxury, including an apartment gilded in gold.  There is just one problem in Damian’s life:  he is dying.

Damian is approached by a mysterious person named Albright (Mathew Goode), who promises the one thing Damian desperately desires, which is, a long life.  There are conditions, of course.  Damian will acquire a healthy young body to live in, but he must forsake his name and former life, and cut off ties with everyone in his former life, including his estranged daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery), and his right hand associate Martin (Victor Garber).

What a brave new world for this young and vital Damian.  He is handsome, athletic and rich.  Young and beautiful women are drawn to him like a magnet.  A life of pleasure awaits Damian like an open road, except…there are residual memories in his new mind.  Especially of a woman named Anna (Natalie Martinez).  And Damian feels an irresistible urge to know what these mental images signify….

This starts out as an intriguing film.  It asks us to consider whether accumulating obscene wealth brings happiness in itself, or is something more required?  Is the ability to utilize wealth to achieve an end justify any means necessary?  These are serious questions that confront Damian, and as viewers we have to make our own decision as to what limits we would be willing to go to get what is most important to us.  Ben Kingsley is perfect in his portrayal of a rich man in crisis.  Ryan Reynolds is good as well as the younger version.  It was great to see Natalie Martinez, last seen in TV’s Under The Dome, getting another big screen role.  The film unravels a bit at the end, but still a good choice to see in blockbuster season.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Damian – “Cancer is eating me alive, and I am worried about allergies.”

Damian to young rival – “You say I am the reason you got into this business.  Now I am the reason you’re out.”

Albright – “You thought you were buying a new car, and it turned out it had a few miles on it.”

Albright – “Just think of all the great minds this world has lost because their bodies failed them.”

Film Tidbit:  The film credits the Trump Tower for their cooperation, so apparently that amazing apartment of dazzling gold furnishings is in Mr. Trump’s building, appropriately enough….