Commentaries

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

MR. HOLMES Review



MR. HOLMES 

Film Review by Fiore 


Sherlock Holmes is one of the fictitious characters I love.  Through novels, short stories, TV shows and movies, he has undergone myriad alterations; some are creative and innovative, others are nothing more than a writer’s animosity and rancor for an inability to create such a timeless character.  Holmes has teamed with some of history’s noted figures, such as Dr. Sigmund Freud in THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION, and Jack the Ripper in A STUDY IN TERROR.  He has been modernized, and presented with a female oriental Dr. Watson in TV’s ELEMENTARY, and taken advantage of the digital age in the BBC’s much better production of SHERLOCK with the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch, with a B.  He has taken the guise of Sir Basil Rathbone, Robert Downey, Jr., Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to name a few; and now Ian McKellen joins the ranks of actors to reside at 221B Baker Street.  The name of the film is MR. HOLMES and it adds a rather sad story to the Sherlock saga.

Sherlock Homes (McKellen) is experiencing emotional trauma.  He has lost everyone of value in his life and his deductive reasoning powers cannot help him cope with his loneliness.  He retreats to a cottage inn, under the care of a new housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, played by Laura Linney, and her young son Roger, played by Milo Parker.  Young Roger becomes enamored with the famous detective, enjoying the intellectual discussions he can have with Holmes, but not have with his mother.  Holmes, after three decades of living under the allusion of Dr. John Watson’s dime novel stories, decides he must tell one truthful adventure, in his own hand, before his demise.  The problem is, he cannot remember the facts of the story.  Is it because the great detective is finally losing his prodigious powers of reasoning, or is a more psychological element preventing his recollections?

MR. HOLMES is based on “A Simple Trick of the Mind”, which I read a few years back.  Jeffrey Hatcher pens the adaptation with more emphasis on dementia than the original tale. The change allows McKellen to stretch his thespian wings, rather than the almost Mr. Spock like characterizations most are familiar with.  In essence, what Hatcher does, is turn the story into a celebration of abandoning logos in favor of pathos.  Holmes supposedly grows in character for learning the value of preserving one’s emotions, regardless of facts.  It is most illogical.

The story, which centers on Holmes’ last case, dubbed “The Lady in Grey”, features Dr. Watson’s version of the affair, Holmes’ truthful version, the difference between bees and wasps, and a subplot involving Tamiki Umezaki, played by Hroyuki Sanada, and his obsession with Holmes for the loss of his father.  All of this circles around the basic difference between bees and wasps.  The stories are intertwined, and Director Bill Condon manages to retain the viewers’ attention by leaping from one tale to the other at frequent intervals.
 

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.       The discussion with Ann on the park bench.


2.      Holmes’ revelation of Mrs. Munro’s day.
3.      The train car discussion.

As Sherlock Holmes stories go, MR. HOLMES is not one of the strongest.  There is a fine performance by McKellen, but then viewers would expect no less from such a talent.  While the film is evenly paced, it tends to be more of a slaggy British drama than a Holmesian adventure.  It’s worth a look for Holmes fans, but not something the general public would gravitate towards.

THE GRADE FOR MR. HOLMES = C

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

DEADPOOL review




DEADPOOL

        Film Review by Fiore 


Too many superheroes, so little time.  If given a choice, I’d relegate second and third string superheroes in both the Marvel and DC Universes to TV.  ARROW, GOTHAM, THE FLASH, DAREDEVIL and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW all do a better job of introducing these characters and giving them a more powerful presence than they deserve on the Silver Screen.  That said, the latest Marvel superhero to star in his own film is DEADPOOL.  Fanboys everywhere are ecstatic to see this minor character in his own series simply because, outside of HOWARD THE DUCK, he’s the only R-rated superhero.  Great fun for those who prefer crass to wit.

The original wise-cracker in the Marvel Universe is Spider-Man.  He always has some quick repartee, generally incorporating puns.  DEADPOOL is not that intelligent, so he resorts to a multitude of masturbation and homosexual barbs; a bit too many of them for my liking.  There is a difference between clever innuendoes and well placed curses, and bathroom humor from Neanderthals.  DEADPOOL fits into the latter category.  When he is not mindlessly swearing, DEADPOOL breaks the fourth frame.  This is the character’s best quality.  His asides and soliloquies to the audience are easily the best element of this film.

DEADPOOL is Wade Wilson, who is played by Ryan Reynolds.  This character should not be confused with Wade Wilson who quarterbacked both the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons before going on to a career as a football coach.  Reynolds is a fine actor, but he is determined to be a superhero.  He’s not big enough to play one of the starting line-up heroes, even with a wax-on six pack, and his voice is a major problem.  He constantly sounds like a whining alto.  A quality sound man could fix this easily, but apparently, no one is interested in taking this necessary step.  As a result, viewers are left with a superhero who squeaks higher than the Pittsburgh sports announcers; and that is embarrassing.  Tom Selleck had a similar problem decades ago when he played Tom Magnum in the TV show MAGNUM, P.I.  

The script, penned by Rhett Reese is a bit lame.  DEADPOOL is not a mutant, but rather a man-made mutant.  Through a series of medical procedures, he is burnt to a crisp and killed, only to revive with the ability to heal and not be killed.  Somewhere along the way, he learns martial arts and gymnastics, but the viewers are never told how this miraculous transformation occurs.  The film could have used a montage.  

The story centers around DEADPOOL’s mission of vengeance to kill the man who burned him, another man-made mutant called Ajax, played by Ed Skrein.  There are two action segments in the film.  The first is DEADPOOL’s first run- in with Ajax, which he blows; and the final confrontation.  In between, the story is an origins tale of how Wilson became DEADPOOL.  This part of the movie drags, and even the plethora of uttered F-bombs can’t salvage the slowness.  As a subplot, there is a tale of how the X-MEN desperately want DEADPOOL to join their ranks.  Why, is a major mystery.  e has done nothing to indicate he should be an X-Man.  He uses his power to find the people who can lead him to Ajax and then confronts his tormentor.  He does absolutely nothing worthy of joining Professor X’s team, nor Magneto’s team, for that matter.
 
One of the best components to this movie is Gina Carano, as Angle Dust.  Carano is one of the few female actresses who can successfully fulfill Hollywood’s current Woman Warrior Agenda.  Even a cynic like me can readily believe she would give Colossus a run for his money.  Carano is like Ronda Rousey, exuding seductive appeal and feminine fighting ferocity simultaneously.  They are not dancers, and their moves on camera indicate a solid foundation and skill in martial arts.  Whether through poor editing, or more sinister reasons, her story is left open and leaves DEADPOOL with a major plot hole.  

Make-up is a key element to Wade Wilson, so it is a bit disconcerting when his burns shift from scene to scene. This continuity error lies with Make -up Designer Bill Corso.  Robert Englund as Freddy Kruger in the NIGHTMARE OF ELM STREET series always looked crispy, but Reynolds looks surprisingly less burnt in some scenes than he does in others.  When Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft in TOMB RAIDER had shifting bust lines, it was a reflection of the videogame, which did the same.  I know of no reason for Wilson’s shifting burn degrees. 
 

        KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      ANGEL DUST VS. COLOSSUS
2.      THE 4 OR 5 MOMENTS SPEECH
3.      12 BULLET COUNTDOWN

DEADPOOL offers a superhero for the crass.  There are numerous funny moments, funnier even than ANT-MAN, but the rest of the film is like a superhero version of TED. The concept of an adult superhero tale harkens back to Darren Aronofsky's treatment for the BATMAN reboot, but this one does not cater to the sophisticated adult.  They are already planning a sequel, but this character would be better served on Netflix.  It will never happen, because Reynolds, as star and producer,  is making a boat load of money.




THE GRADE FOR DEADPOOL = C.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CREED



CREED

Film Review by Fiore


It is always sad to see quality characters leave the screen.  Rocky Balboa is a celluloid icon.  Unfortunately, Sylvester Stallone is pushing 70, far past credibility for a fighter, even in professional wrestling.  So, it’s only logical to bring in a next generation to the story; and that is exactly what happens in CREED, the seventh film in the Balboa saga.

Rocky (Stallone) is an old man, a former champ, alien to the glamor and glitz that once dominated his lifestyle.  His wife Adrian, and best friend Paulie, Adrian’s brother, have passed.  Rocky has settled in his hometown of Philadelphia, running the restaurant lounge that bears his wife’s name.
Into Rocky’s quiet life comes Adonis Johnson, played by Michael B. Jordan, who is the bastard child of Apollo Creed.  Adonis, though an educated young man, harbors an anger and a penchant for fisticuffs.  He seeks the one man left from his father’s glory days, and attempts to follow in Apollo’s footsteps.  Rocky is not ready to return to the gym or life of a fighter, but a series of events joins Adonis and Rocky on another underdog quest.

Jordan is solid in this role.  He is easily received as Adonis, and his performance should help viewers forget his horrendous casting in THE FANTASTIC FOUR remake as Johnny Storm.  Jordan was touted as an Oscar contender early on, as was Stallone for supporting actor.  While no one will ever embody Rocky like Stallone, neither rises to the level of Oscar material. Jordan became a rallying point for certain folk when the charges of racism plagued the Best Actor Oscar Category, but it was a further example of cretins rallying to a cause because of race, and not talent.

Playing the heavy for Adonis’ final match is Anthony Bellew, as Pretty Ricky Conlon.  He’s the light heavyweight champ, and British.  Not exactly sure why the British are the heavies, but the Rocky story has already played the race card, the communist card, the ghetto card and the age card, so perhaps the British were the only ones left.  Bellew, however, is not nearly as menacing as Rocky’s former foes.  There’s no sense of urgency to his antagonistic qualities.  Perhaps writer/director Ryan Cooglan should have used a Mexican champ.  The script could have taken advantage of several stereotypes to build up the confrontation.  The British are fine people, they’re just not that intimidating.

Key Scenes to look for:

1.      Rocky’s graveside visit
2.     Rocky’s return to the gym
3.     The cancer talk

This is the first Rocky film that Stallone has not scripted in some form.  It shows; for the movie is a mere retread of the first film.  All film lovers will know where this plot is going from the opening reel.  Jordan, Stallone and Tessa Thompson as Adonis’ love interest, hold the script together, but it all has a warm left-over taste.

On the technical side, Director of Photography Maryse Alberti is inconsistent.  Some shots are

pristine, with the clarity of shooting with a HD Red Camera, while others have the softer feel of film.  Either one is good, but to haphazardly mix them is distracting.  Editors Michael Shawver and Claudia Castello don’t help by extending CREED a solid 45 minutes past the necessary length.

All told, CREED is not a bad view.  The final battle is a carbon copy of the first Rocky -Apollo affair, but it is still fun when the Rocky theme blurts.  CREED is not as strong as ROCKY, ROCKY III, or BALBOA, but it is stronger than the other three films in the series.


The grade for CREED = C