Downey, Law Prove Sometimes A Sequel IS Better Than The Original

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Ah, sequels.  One of Hollywood’s mainstays in today’s movie industry.  This latest sequel is exactly what audiences should and have come to expect of a big time blockbuster.  It’s a surprise it was released to theaters in December rather than the Summer movie season, as it has all the requisite flashes, bangs and booms throughout, with a touch of raunchiness thrown in for good measure.  The irony is that as much as individuals may want to bash the movie–as it deserves–it’s a guilty pleasure.  If not for the action, the globe hopping from the streets of London to Paris to the snowy maountaintops of another country would be enough to leave most viewers’ heads spinning. Luckily all those special effects are there, distracting viewers.

If the fast paced almost Dan Brown-esque storytelling and special effects aren’t enough trouble, there is no denying the close similarities to The League of (not so) Extraordinary Men in terms of the settings and special effects, and even the story itself.  It’s almost like this story was lifted from the prior movie and altered for this sequel.  Thankfully, the special features included in the DVD and blu-ray do make up for all of that.

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

The bonus features included on the dvd and blu-ray show a cast who didn’t merely show up and recite their lines.  Rather, they seemed to be good friends who were coming together to actually make a movie.  Perhaps that friendship actually helped to make the acting believeable.  This adds some level of enjoyment back to the movie.  It isn’t all, either.  In the defense of this movie, there is also a discussion on the slow motion fight scenes included in the bonus features.  It’s interesting to note that the actors actually did peform the fight scenes themselves in slow motion.  The special effects were only added after the fact to enhance the scenes.  And director Guy Ritchie was interviewed concerning the selection of Jared Harris for the role of Dr. Moriarty.  It was nice to see that he paid attention to detail, rather than simply going for the style of Moriarty that has been used so many times before.  He did make the attempt to stay true to the original villain.  So kudos to him for that. 

Speaking of the not so good Doctor, the bonus features even include a feature on the the showdowns between Holmes and Moriarty, including the chess scene near the movie’s end.  It was interesting to learn that people would actually act as Holmes and Moriarty did in this scene.  For that matter, that they would bring in a professional chess player to teach Downey and Harris about the game actually adds some credibility to the movie.

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Overall, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is hardly the most memorable of major blockbusters.  The reality is that while it is a guilty pleasure, it’s still enough to make audiences hopeful that Hollywood’s elite brass will one day soon finally start to take chances on real movies again, rather than rely on forgettable pieces like this.

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The Avengers gets an “A” for effort

Marvel’s The Avengers is a good start to the Summer movie season this year.  The build up for the movie has been nearly as immense as that for the finale of DC’s current Batman franchise.  And the end result definitely lives up to all the hype.  It’s translated to the big screen as if it were actually a live action comic book.  Some comic books over history haven’t translated to the big screen so well.  But this one did.  However, for all the greatness that was this highly anticiapted seasonal opener, it wasn’t without its flaws.

Anticipation has been growing over the newest of Marvel’s comics-to-film franchise, The Avengers.  From toys to promos to everything in between, The Avengers have been everywhere.  And it’s paid off with over $200 million in its opening weekend.  This movie is everything that a Summer blockbuster should be.  It has all the requisite explosions and action that audiences look for in their attempts to escape the mundacity of the every day world.  Thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn, they’ve somehow managed to bring the action from the pages of the famed comic series and make it feel like audiences are actually seeing the comic book itself on the big screen, without going the Joel Schumacher route a la DC’s Batman & Robin and Batman Forever.  The chemistry between the cast was obvious too.  It was funny to see Tony Stark and Dr. Banner interacting.  The banter between the two was worth its share of laughs in and of itself.  The same applies even more so when the full Avengers team is together in one room.  The one-liners from each team member make for plenty of laughs throughout.

For all the laughs and great action, The Avengers is not without its faults.  The sexual innundo that is typical of Tony Stark is there.  And one can’t help but wonder if his subtle joke about Banner potentially using marijuana to stay calm was entirely necessary.  What’s more, do audiences really need preachiness about military buildup?  Audiences are bombarded with such stories every day on the news.  Having the Avengers quarreling with Director Fury over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s real intentions takes a certain amount of escapism from the movie.  It’s not the first movie to go that route, either.  What’s more, that the movie is an ensemble piece, it does tend to drag on a little bit too long.  Whether it’s telling backstory of each member of the Avengers team, or from other areas, Whedon and Penn could have found a way to shave off twenty to thirty minutes from this roughly two and a half hour movie.  Keeping that in consideration, one can only hope that when the already anticipated Avengers 2 makes its debut, whomever writes and helms that movie will have taken the good and bad from this one to make a sequel that defies common logic of sequels.