Shrek 2

  • Title:  Shrek 2
  • Director:  Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Dreamworks Pictures
  • Genre:  Animation, Musical, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Stop!  I have misjudged you!” — Puss-in-Boots
“Join the club — we have jackets.”  — Shrek
“On my honor, I am obliged to accompany you until I have saved your life and you have spared me mine.” — Puss-in-Boots
“I’m sorry, the position of annoying talking animal has already been taken.”  — Donkey

In the second Shrek movie, Fiona and Shrek return from their honeymoon to an invitation from Fiona’s parents to go visit them in Fiona’s home kingdom of Far Far Away.  Fiona thinks this is a great idea and is sure her parents will love Shrek.  Shrek is considerably less sure, and is convinced meeting his in-laws will be a disaster.  They make the long and boring trip to Far Far Away (depicted as Hollywood) only to have the King and Queen be shocked that Fiona has married an ogre, especially the king.  Fairy Godmother, meanwhile, a conniving woman, plots to get her son, the swarmy mama’s boy, Prince Charming married to Fiona, as the King had promised.

This round, it’s Shrek’s turn to show his insecurities, especially about his looks as an ogre.  He takes a potion which turns he and Fiona human (and Donkey into a white horse).  Fairy Godmother and the King try to get Fiona to fall for Charming, but in the end — she tells Shrek she loves him.  And she wants to be with the ogre of her dreams.

Like the first Shrek film, Shrek 2 is filled with great sight gags, inside jokes, word play, and reversals of typical Disney-style fairy tales.  It also pokes fun at the Hollywood Fairy Tale as well.  Puss-in-Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas is a great addition to the cast.  And, like the first film, the music is great (particularly Fairy Godmother belting out a jazzy rendition of  “Holding Out for a Hero”).

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek The Third

Shrek

  • Title:  Shrek
  • Directors:  Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson
  • Date:  2001
  • Studio:  Dreamworks Pictures
  • Genre:  Animation, Musical, Comedy, Romance
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen, Animated
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Bachelorette Number Three is a fiery redhead from a dragon-guarded castle surrounded by hot boiling lava. But don’t let that cool you off. She’s a loaded pistol who likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Yours for the rescuing, Princess Fiona!”  — Magic Mirror

“You know, Donkey, sometimes things are more than they appear.”  — Shrek

 “It’s the world that seems to have a problem with me. People take one look at me and go, ‘Oh help, run!  A big, stupid, ugly, ogre.’ They judge me before they even know me. That’s why I’m better off alone.”  — Shrek

Shrek takes the typical Disney-style Fairy Tale and inverts it, casting the Ogre as the hero who must rescue the Princess. But not only that, Shrek pokes great fun at Disney and as traditional Fairy Tales and even nursery rhymes. It’s almost like watching a parody of the Disney Fairy Tale genre; and the sight gags and verbal humor work very well. But what Shrek is also about is being true to yourself, seeing yourself as beautiful for who and what you are, and coming to terms with the “real you”. And that is a very good message to be sending to kids and teenagers — especially girls, but boys too. Because, for all that Shrek seems to be comfortable with his Ogre lifestyle — he’s also completely alone. And although at first he seems happy that way, very early on in the film, Donkey becomes his friend, and eventually Shrek and Fiona realize their feelings for each other and are married. Or, at least, become a couple.

The film begins with a musical introduction of Shrek, a content and happy ogre. When townspeople show up with pitchforks and burning torches — he runs them off. Meanwhile, all the fairy tale, magical, and even nursery rhyme characters are being rounded-up by Lord Farquaad. Farquaad dumps these “unwanted creatures” in Shrek’s swamp. Shrek wants peace and quiet, so he goes off to Lord Farquaad’s castle, fights off the Lord’s champion knights, and agrees to take on a quest:  he will rescue Princess Fiona, in return for Farquaad giving him his swamp back.

In a fairly standard fairy tale way, Shrek and Donkey get to the castle where Fiona is being held, rescue her and escape from the dragon. However, the dragon is female and develops a crush on Donkey. This will be important later in the story.

The way back to Farquaad’s castle will take three days and nights. And Fiona has a secret — she refuses to let anyone see her at night because of a curse. At night, Fiona turns into an ogress and thinks she’s ugly and unlovable. She wants to marry and experience “True love’s first kiss” to break the curse. Fiona also is adept at martial arts, doing the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” thing to take out Monsieur Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Gradually, over time, Fiona and Shrek come to like each other, but there’s a horrible misunderstanding, and Fiona chooses Lord Farquaad. Meanwhile, Donkey has learned Fiona’s secret. Shrek also rejects Donkey, mostly due to the same misunderstanding. Donkey, though, goes to confront Shrek and the two make-up and become friends again. Donkey then sets Shrek straight, and the two are flown to Lord Farquaad’s castle to stop the wedding. Shrek interrupts the wedding, Fiona chooses Shrek and kisses him, and the curse is broken — revealing her true form to be that of  an ogress. Shrek and Fiona drive off in an onion-shaped carriage.

Overall, Shrek is an excellent film. It’s very funny, it’s got a good story, and the “moral” of being true to yourself and learning to love who you really are is good for children, teens, and adults. I recommend it.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek 2

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows

  • Title:  Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows
  • Director:  Guy Ritchie
  • Date:  2011
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Action, Adventure, Drama
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Stephen Fry
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Oh, how I’ve missed you, Holmes.” — Dr. John Watson

“It’s so overt, it’s covert.” — Sherlock Holmes

“What better way to conceal a killing, no one looks for a bullet hole in a bomb blast.” — Dr. Watson

“They’re dangerous at both ends, and crafty in the middle. Why would I want anything with a mind of  its own bobbing about between my legs?” — Sherlock Holmes (on horses)

It isn’t often that an adventure film sequel is as good as or better than the original, but Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows is one brilliant film, just as good if not better than Sherlock Holmes. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films are proving to be crack to the SH fan — doing things any fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing has always wanted to do (Who hasn’t wanted to push Mary off a railway bridge? Or to not only have Watson see Holmes’ fall at Reichenbach, but to have a hint that he knew Holmes wasn’t dead?) Holmes and Watson were the original “buddy cop show” (though neither was a cop) and Holmes the original geek (used in the best sense, not the pejorative one) Ritchie’s films have come about at the most appropriate time, here’s hoping to a long and successful series.

In Sherlock Holmes A Game of  Shadows, we immediately see the close friendship between Holmes and Watson. They finish each other’s sentences, know each other’s moves, and have complete trust in each other when it really counts. Holmes doesn’t discount Watson’s abilities, especially as a soldier, or as a doctor.

This film introduces Professor James Moriarty, as Holmes’ equal and opposite. Their conflict is played out in a metaphor of chess, and both are very good at the game. But, Holmes probably wouldn’t have directly challenged Moriarty, even when he finds out, to his horror, exactly what Moriarty is up to, if it wasn’t for Moriarty’s murdering of Irene Adler, and threats against Dr. John Watson, and his wife, Mary. The film also plays with real historical events, including a series of anarchist bombings in Europe (which did happen, especially in Russia) and the prelude to World War I. Moriarty’s plan, in fact, is to use the existing alliances and rivalries in Europe to start a world war — twenty three years early. This, after he has bought-up every business that can profit from war from bandages (cotton) to bullets (weapons and chemical warfare). Moriarty owns cotton, steel, opium (used to make morphine – the anesthetic of the time), and the aforementioned arms. As Holmes points out when Moriarty is torturing him, “Now that you own the supply you intend to create the demand.”

The film also introduces Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother, played by Stephen Fry, as quite possibly more eccentric than Sherlock. However, it is to Mycroft that Sherlock trusts the health and welfare of Mary, after dropping her from a moving train into a lake to save her from Moriarty’s attack. Watson is quite distraught at Holmes’ cavalier treatment of his wife, until he realizes that Holmes was in complete control, timing things perfectly, and his actions were to protect Mary. Quite a lot of Holmes’ actions in the film are to protect Mary and John; John because he is Holmes’ only friend and Mary because she is important to John.

I, personally realized the film was doing “The Final Problem”, when Moriarty’s men attack on the train, but I still loved just how much Ritchie opened up that particular story and brought more to it. That Holmes sends John on an errand so he can sneak into Moriarty’s weapons factory in Germany speaks volumes of how much he cares. That John returns and immediately figures out how to rescue Holmes, not only shows his own intelligence, but his own feelings for Holmes.

The escape, with the gypsies through the forest was brilliant. First the  direction, using a stop-motion technique to freeze the action briefly, enabling the audience to actually follow it was brilliant. The complete chaos of the explosions, gunshots, and use of big guns (howitzers, etc) brings to mind World War I. There is also complete trust between Holmes and Watson, when at one point, Holmes twirls the stock of a gun, and Watson is right there to receive it as Holmes hands it off. It’s Watson who fires the weapon at Moriarty’s men.

After escaping, Holmes, who’s been tortured, Watson, and Sim, their Gypsy companion, are in a railway car. Holmes stops breathing and his heart stops. Watson beats on his chest (this is a little premature – I don’t think even a doctor would know CPR in 1891) but is unsuccessful. Then he has a lightbulb moment – and uses Holmes’ wedding gift — pure adrenalin, that Holmes had extracted in an experiment, and Watson had seen Holmes use to revive Gladstone (Watson’s dog) after the dog ate something poisonous. The adrenalin works and Holmes jumps up, babbling of bad dreams. But the entire scene is brilliant. Watson pounds on Holmes’ chest crying that Holmes, “Bloody well not going to die on me!” and shouting at him to “come on”. Watson’s brief devastation as he realizes that his best friend has died, before the light bulb goes off, perfectly illustrates his caring for Holmes.

Holmes, Watson, and Sim arrive in Switzerland and meet Mycroft, but discover the peace conference is still planned. Holmes dances first with Sim, and then with Watson. (Another perfect moment!) He points out that Rene has had his face altered by experimental surgery. Holmes trusts Watson to find Rene, Sim’s brother and stop the planned assignation that will touch off a war, while he goes to confront Moriarty personally. Holmes and Moriarty plan a chess game together, without even using a board, while Moriarty both threatens Watson and Mary, and tells Holmes there is nothing he can do to stop him. Holmes sacrifices his Queen in the game, to win. The two then fight, first in their heads (each plotting out moves and counter moves, before doing a thing). Holmes, knowing he is still weak from his injuries at Moriarty’s hands, grabs Moriarty and sacrifices himself, dragging them both over a balustrade into the rushing waterfall under the castle of  Reichenbach. Watson, having found Rene, and stopped the assignation attempt, opens the door, a smile on his face to tell Holmes of their success. But, his smile evaporates, as he sees Holmes and Moriarty fall into depths. We then hear Watson reading the end of  “The Final Problem”, as a voice-over, which then becomes Watson typing the story. Mary comes to him, reminding him of their planned honeymoon trip. However, Watson gets a strange package in the post, Mycroft’s oxygen breather. Watson leaves, and Holmes appears, having been hidden by his camouflage. He adds a question mark to the words, “The End”, at the end of Watson’s story, cut to credits. Simply brilliant!

Sherlock Holmes A Game of  Shadows is brilliant. The directing is perfect. I loved the ramped-up “Holmes vision”, which really gets into Holmes’ head and shows the audience how he thinks. Also, it makes Holmes seem less arrogant or untouchable/non-understandable by allowing the audience to see just how his mind works, rather than letting his deductions and actions seem almost magical or like some sort of trick. The friendship of Watson and Holmes was handled very well. I loved that they finished each other’s sentences, knew each other’s moves, but also, at their core, Watson cares deeply for Holmes and Holmes cares deeply for Watson. It is the male friendship that makes the pair timeless. And the plot was extremely well put together. Moriarty not merely as a master criminal, but an extremely crafty war profiteer, how appropriate. All in all, I really don’t think anything could have made this film better, I really loved it and highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  An absolute must see!
Rating: 5 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  It Could Happen to You (a recent purchase) or Shrek (on list)

Ironman 2

  • Title:  Ironman 2
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Paramount, Marvel
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You want my property, you can’t have it.  But I did you a big favor, I’ve successfully privatized world peace.”  — Tony Stark

“You are running out of both time and options.  Unfortunately, the device that’s keeping you alive is also killing you.”  — Jarvis

“You want to do this whole lone gunslinger act, and it’s unnecessary.  You don’t have to do this alone.” — Rhodey
“You know, I wish I could believe that, I really do.  But you gotta trust me.  Contrary to popular belief, I know exactly what I’m doing.”  — Tony

The film does open with a re-cap of the audio from Tony’s press conference at the end of the first Ironman film — played out against a man in Russia assembling his own arc reactor and Ironman-like suit. We will later discover this is Whiplash.

Tony, as Ironman, literally drops in to a rock concert-like opening for Stark Expo, complete with screaming fans and Rocketts.  He’s back to the arrogent, egomaniac — wild, and irresponsible, challenging anyone and everyone who is in his way, including a Senate sub-committee.

Normally, in a sequel to a heroic adventure, I would expect that the hero, having learned his true path in the first film (or book) would spend the second film facing down a bigger, badder, meaner challenge.  It’s nice if there’s more character interaction and development; or if  the world opens up, so to speak, widening the area where the hero plays.  However, in Ironman 2, Tony seems to have slipped backwards — once again becoming the irresponsible playboy, without a thought for how his actions affect others.

It’s soon revealed that Tony is dying.  The Palladium core of the arc reactor in his chest that keeps him alive, is also slowly poisoning him.  Tony begins to give away his things, such as donating his modern art collection to the Boy Scouts of America.  He also makes Pepper the CEO and chairman of his company. Their conversation when he does so, is at breakneck speed and great fun to watch.

Tony then goes to the Grand Prix race in Monaco.  Pepper, Happy, and a new Stark Industries employee named Natalie Rushman (later revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, named Natasha) accompany Tony to Monaco. There he’s challenged by Justin Hammer, CEO of Hammer Industries – a weapons manufacturing company and former business rival of Stark’s.  Hammer wants to build his own Ironman suits as well, to sell to the US Armed Forces.

Tony slips away from the meeting, and tests his blood toxicity (with a device that looks very much like the type of portable blood sugar monitor used by diabetics).  Next you see him, he’s preparing to drive the race car he was only supposed to be sponsoring for the Grand Prix.  Pepper is livid and has Natalie find Happy so they can try to stop Tony from getting himself  killed.   During the race, Whiplash arrives and causes havoc — attacking cars and then deliberately crashing Tony’s race car.  Tony manages to free himself, and with a little intervention from Happy and Pepper is briefly rescued.  Pepper throws him a red suitcase, and Tony steps into the Ironman suit and challenges Whiplash.  He wins and the villian is carted off by the police.

On the flight back to the US, Pepper does ask Tony what he’s not telling her.  He talks about cancelling his birthday party and going with her to Venice.  Again, their dialogue together is cute, but Tony isn’t really telling her what’s going on.

Whiplash escapes prison, and is convinced to work for Justin Hammer.  He, does, however, have his own agenda.

Meanwhile, the night of  his birthday party, Rhodey finds Tony in his workroom, alone, and in bad shape. Tony gives a wild birthday party, and when Pepper tries to stop him — he goes even more wild, destroying things.  Rhodey shows up in one of Tony’s old Ironman suits and the two go at it.  In the end, Rhodey escapes with the suit and takes it to the Air Force.

The next day, Fury, of S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives and gives Tony lithium dioxide to counter the effects of  the Palladium poisoning.  He also introduces a more important part of the plot; that Howard Stark said the arc reactor was only a stepping stone to something greater, and Tony was the key.  Tony’s confused by this, but takes his father’s trunk and returns to the Orphanage (his home) where he discovers Agent Phil Coulson will be his body guard and babysitter.

Going through he father’s things, he discovers an old 16mm film of his father’s speech for the opening of Stark Expo.  At the end of his practicing the speech, Howard Stark addresses Tony directly.

Tony goes to see Pepper at Stark Industries and again is incapable of telling her how he feels (partially because she cuts him off) or that he’s dying.  But when he sees the Stark Expo model leaning against a wall, he realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye.  He brings it back to his workshop, and has Jarvis render it into a 3-D working model.  Working with the model, he realizes it’s an atom for a new element. Tony builds a Large Hadron Collider in his workshop and creates the new element.

As before, Tony is at his best, when he is alone and working on a problem or to build something.  The man is most definitely an engineer.  And I still love Jarvis and the 3-D holographic displays as Tony figures stuff out and manipulates parts of the rendered drawing with his hands.  (I use AutoCAD at work — I wish it was that easy!)  The final shot of Tony surrounded by dots of blue light, representing his new element is absolutely gorgeous!  I loved it!  Tony puts the new element in his arc reactor core which will help his “dying” problem.  In other words, he’s no longer being poisoned slowly.

Justin Hammer turns out to be a bully — taking Whiplash’s pet bird when he isn’t delivering fast enough on making suits that imitate Tony’s Ironman.  Rhodey delivers his suit to the Air Force who deliver it to Hammer.

At Stark Expo, Hammer introduces his battle drones, and his VTRB (Variable Threat Response Battlesuit).  But Wisplash takes control of the suits remotely and chaos reigns.  Even Rhodey in his own VTRB suit can’t control it.  Tony has Jarvis hack into Rhodey’s suit, granting him control at least.  Pepper contacts the police to try to bring some control to the chaos.  Eventually, Tony and Rhodey defeat Whiplash and his drones, but Whiplash has one final act to play — all the drones contain bombs.  Tony rushes off and rescues Pepper.  She quits as  CEO of Stark Industries.

Ironman 2 has some fun moments, and I liked the advancement of  Tony and Pepper’s relationship.  I also found the one step forward two steps back approach to Tony and Pepper’s relationship to be frustrating almost to the point of annoyance.  Tony and Pepper are cute together.  She can improve him, but they also seem to be always moving in opposite directions, unable to stand still long enough to really meet and know what the other is saying.  But I also found it odd that dying was used by Tony as an excuse to go back to his irresponsible playboy ways.  And, in a sense there was too many “big action scenes” and not enough character development (even for the villian — the only place his name was used was the back of the DVD box).  A sequel should further develop the main character’s arc, but in this film it seems to go backwards instead.   However, Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow again knock it out of the park, doing their best with what they are given.  And I like Tony when he’s alone and acting as an engineer.  But overall, a little disappointing.

Recommendation:  See it.  May as well to keep up with the various Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers.
Rating:  3.8 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of  Shadows

Ironman

  • Title:  Ironman
  • Director:  Jon Favreau
  • Date:  2008
  • Studio:  Paramount, Marvel
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“So you’re a man who has everything and nothing.”  — Yinsen (when Tony tells him he has no family)

“Thank you for saving me.”  — Tony Stark
“Don’t waste it.  Don’t waste your life.”  — Yinsen

“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them.  And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.”  — Tony Stark

When we first meet Tony Stark, well, when we first meet him — he’s getting blown up by one of his own weapons manufacturing company’s weapons — but the film quickly flashes back and shows us the previous thirty-six hours of Tony’s life.  Tony Stark is rich, powerful, irresponsible, a playboy, and a bit of a jerk.  He has no idea what his own company is doing, though he thinks he does, and he probably doesn’t care.  On a publicity trip to Iraq or Afghanistan to demonstrate his company new weapon, the Jericho missile (a multi-warhead missile that reminds me of the “probes” in Stargate:  Atlantis), Tony’s convoy home is attacked.  And thus we are back where the teaser to the film starts – the convoy is blown-up, and Tony is blown-up by a Stark Industries weapon.

Tony wakes in a rebel camp, the multi-national Ten Rings group.  He’s tortured, but his life is also saved by an electro-magnet installed in his chest by a man also being held captive, Yinsen.  Yinsen is learnéd, a doctor, and had met Tony before at a lecture, though Tony doesn’t remember him.  The rebels demand that Tony build them a Jericho rocket.  Tony refuses.  Then he agrees, but instead of building the rebels a weapon, he builds a suit (and a miniature arc reactor to power the electro-magnet in his chest keeping the shrapnel from entering his heart).  His plan is for he and Yinsen to get out of there.  Yinsen dies in the attempt, but Tony not only gets out, he uses a flame-thrower to burn-up the cache of weapons and several of the rebels.

Rhodey, Tony’s friend from the Air Force, rescues him and returns him to Pepper Potts, his administrative assistant.  Tony refuses medical attention, asks for a cheeseburger, and has Pepper arrange a press conference.  At the conference, he announces Stark Industries will no longer manufacture weapons.  Obadiah steps in and shuts him up.  Tony isn’t pleased.

Tony has shown himself  to be an excellent engineer — with the ability to not only plan how to make something, but to actually assemble it — with skills in welding, forging metal, building things, and improving things.  He uses the paladium from some of the weapons in the rebel cave to forge a ring that powers his arc reactor, as well as making the Mark I  Ironman suit.

Tony returns to “The Orphanage”, his home in presumably California, and begins working on improving his Arc Reactor.  Obadiah tells him “the board” thinks he has PTSD, and orders an injunction against him, freezing him out.  Tony still insists Stark Industries will no longer make weapons.  He returns to his workshop and starts the Mark II Ironman suit.  Tony, again, is an excellent engineer — and some of the best scenes in the film are of him working, by himself, to solve a problem.

And by the bye — I WANT a Jarvis!  A computerized butler, assistant, and 3-D computer interface.  Jarvis goes on my short list of SF inventions I want (along with, say a TARDIS), but I digress.

Tony goes to the Fire-Fighters ball that one of  his charities sponsors, and dances with Pepper, but then discovers (a) Stark Industries is selling weapons to the enemy, (b) Obadiah froze Tony out so he could continue to do so.  Finding about about Stark weapons being used to target Gulmira, Yinsen’s home town, Tony gets into the Ironman gear and decides to do something.  He kicks butt, basically.

More confirmation that Obadiah is not Tony’s friend:  he’s paying the rebels (in cash and weapons), and asked them to kill Tony Stark.  And this was before Tony becomes Ironman.  Obadiah takes the pieces of Tony’s original survival suit (which were left in the desert) to Level 16 of Stark Industries, so he can make more suits.  Tony needs proof of this so he sends in Pepper to get that proof.  But she doesn’t immediately agree — that their conversation says a lot about both characters and their relationship.

“There is the next mission and nothing else.”  — Tony
“Is that so?  Well, then, I quit.”  — Pepper
“You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction.  And now that I’m trying to protect the people I put in harm’s way; You’re going to walk out?” — Tony
“You’re going to kill yourself, Tony.  I’m not going to be a part of  it.” — Pepper
“I shouldn’t be alive, unless it was for a reason.  I’m not crazy, Pepper.  I just finally know what I have to do.  And I know in my heart that it’s right.” — Tony

Tony is learning responsibility, and he’s starting to acknowledge his feelings for Pepper.  Feelings she’s returned but for the fact that he’s her boss.  But there is a caring between the two.

Pepper gets the info and runs into Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.  But Obadiah gets to Tony first, stuns him, takes the arc reactor, threatens to kill Pepper, and informs Tony he’s going to make an army of Ironman suits to sell to the highest bidder.  Dying, Tony tries to get to his workshop to put the old arc reactor in his chest.  Meanwhile, Pepper is frantic — worrying about Tony.  She sends Rhodey to him.

Tony is able to get in the Ironman suit and fight Obadiah.  Though S.H.I.E.L.D. prepares an alibi for Tony – he admits before a press conference that he is Ironman – cut to end credits.

Ironman walks the path of many more traditional hero stories — the hero (to be) is a jerk, with problems understanding the real world.  The hero faces a life-altering threat.  A mentor helps the hero see his true path, but dies.  The hero emerges in a new guise but isn’t quite ready or the completed/perfect hero yet. There’s another crisis.  By walking through the fire of  the second crisis — the hero becomes the final, complete, perfected hero he is meant to be.  However, the film does it with style — and the artful talents of Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow — both of whom are excellent in this.  Enjoyable and fun!

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Ironman II

Sherlock Holmes

  • Title:  Sherlock Holmes
  • Director:  Guy Ritchie
  • Date:  2009
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Action, Mystery
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“My mind rebels at stagnation, give me problems, give me work. The sooner the better.”  — Sherlock Holmes

“Holmes, you must widen your gaze. I’m concerned you underestimate the gravity of coming events. You and I are bound together on a journey that will twist the very fabric of Nature. But beneath your mask of logic, I sense a fragility that worries me. Steel your mind, Holmes. I need you.”  — Lord Blackwood

“It is a huge mistake to theorize before one has data. Inevitably, one begins to twist facts to suit theories … instead of theories to suit facts.”  — Sherlock Holmes

I loved this movie when I originally saw it, and it really loses none of it’s appeal upon subsequent re-watchings. Robert Downey Jr is playing Holmes as an action hero, as he should be played. And his relationship with Watson (Jude Law) is perfect! They complement each other perfectly, and one can see how they drive each other crazy but still have a strong friendship and caring for each other. Thrown also into the mix is Irene Adler (Yes, her name gets mis-pronounced — it should be “I–REIGN-ah”), but anyway — she and Holmes have known each other for awhile, and Watson tantalizingly says that Holmes and Adler ran into each other twice and she beat him both times. But Irene Adler still has secrets, and she’s working for a mysterious man. Even once she tries to get out from under his clutches — she is pulled back in, and can only warn Holmes about Professor Moriarty.

Meanwhile, Watson seeks to marry his Mary — and Holmes seeks to stop the wedding, since he can’t stand the thought of losing his friend, even to marriage. The Holmes and Watson relationship is intense; and on Watson’s side – you can see how he puts up with Holmes’ eccentricities because he truly cares for him, and he needs excitement in his life.

The plot of this film involves Lord Blackwood — who’s killing women in Satanic rituals. Holmes catches him in the opening act, and Blackwood is sentenced to die. He’s hanged and Watson confirms the death. Later, Blackwood seems to come back from the grave and continues his killing spree. But Holmes not only discovers exactly what is going on (all is not as it seems) but he stops a horrendous crime, confronts Blackwood, and insures he won’t trouble London again. To say more, would spoil the fun.

Director Guy Ritchie has Holmes talk through, in his head, what he’s going to do during a fight sequence (filmed in slow motion) then he films it at normal to normal/fast speed as Holmes takes action. This lets the audience in on how Holmes thinks and how fast he thinks. I also liked the scene of Holmes waiting in the restaurant for Watson and Mary, and we hear the over-whelming noise that Holmes hears. It’s almost as if rather than being a manic depressive as in the books or Jeremy Brett’s portrayal, this Holmes almost is an autistic savant. And, throughout the film there are visually stunning moments.

All in all, Sherlock Holmes, is a fun film. It sticks to much of the spirit of the original short stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though the plot is more bizarre. However, there were some bizarre plots in the later stories.  Also, the relationship of Holmes and Watson, always key to getting any interpretation of Sherlock Holmes correct was spot on. A highly enjoyable and well-made film.

Trivia:  Jude Law also appeared in an episode of Granada’s Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett (as Holmes) for ITV. The series title was The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, and the episode title was “Shoscombe Old Place”, and Law played Joe Barnes.

Recommendation:  See it!  Highly recommended!
Rating:  5 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek

Shall We Dance? (2004)

  • Title:  Shall We Dance?
  • Director:  Peter Chelsom
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Miramax
  • Genre:  Musical, Drama, Comedy
  • Cast:  Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I like it when my feet hurt … takes my mind off my knees.” — John Clark

“Then I started dancing, and I found I really liked it. It made me happy.”  — John Clark

Shall We Dance? is not a re-make of the 1937 film Shall We Dance starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. However, it is an American version of the Japanese Altamira Pictures film, Shall We Dance? (1996), written by Masayuki Suo. In this version, Richard Gere plays John Clark, a Chicago lawyer specializing in wills and probate, who’s wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon) works as a buyer for Sak’s. They have one or two daughters, and a very nice life. And John is increasingly bored with his nice, comfortable, safe life.

Every day he takes the L train back and forth to his job in the city, and on the way home he is increasingly captivated by a woman he sees in the window of a dance studio. One day he gets off the train at the stop near the dance studio, wanders in, and signs up for dance classes.

To his chagrin, his assigned teacher isn’t the mysterious woman he saw in the window, but the owner of the studio, Ms. Mitzi. He continues with the class anyway, with a guy who is trying to pick-up women, and another vastly over-weight guy who wants to lose some weight and learn to dance to impress his would-be fiancee’. Also, at the small studio is Bobbi — a loud, abrasive, but lovable woman who is trying to get into professional ballroom dancing. She works at Mitzi’s as an instructor because Mitzi allows her to practice there whenever she wants.

The lessons continue, with John getting more and more into dancing. He discovers, by accident, that one of his co-workers (Link Peterson, played by Stanley Tucci) loves ballroom dance and who also competes as an amateur. Meanwhile, John’s wife, Beverly, notices he’s absent on Wednesdays (the night of his class) and that his shirts suddenly smell of perfume. After one of  her colleagues finds out her husband is having an affair, she gets suspicious — and hires a private investigator and his assistant.

Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), the mysterious woman, teaches the class one night, when Ms. Mitzi can’t make it, and that night John innocently asks her to dinner. She refuses, and reads him the riot act. But when he returns to class anyway, she’s impressed.

Later, while standing outside an electronic store window, with TVs showing Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in The Bandwagon, John is convinced to be Bobbi’s partner for the novice class for the Tattinger Ballroom competition. John tries to learn the Latin dances for the competition, but finds them difficult and confusing and prefers to stick with traditional ballroom. He convinces Link to partner with Bobbi for the Latin dances and he will do the traditional ones (Waltz and Quick Step).

Meanwhile, the PI and his assistant have informed Beverly that her husband isn’t having an affair, he’s taking dance lessons. The PI invites her to the competition.

At the competition, Link and Bobbi and then John and Bobbi are doing well. Even though another male dancer had pulled at Link’s wig — which he removes. However, during the quickstep — John gets distracted when Bobbi mentions that she thought she heard someone yell “Go Dad!”. When another couple collides with them on the dance floor, and John manages to step on and tear off Bobbi’s skirt — it ends their chances at the competition.

Beverly confronts John. However, eventually she gives him dancing shoes and a tux as a gift, and he shows-up at her job with a red rose. They attend Paulina’s going away party together. Paulina returns to England and professional competitions.

The final montage sequence, starting with Paulina’s party, and showing what happens to all the main players of the film is incredibly well done. Even the PI is shown going to Mitzi’s for dance lessons.

Shall We Dance? is a good film. I enjoyed it. Much of the dancing, though, though they started and ended in full frame, was filmed in medium close-up with lots of cutaways to other people in the scene, such as the people watching the dance. Even scenes in Mitzi’s studio had this problem, including a scene of Paulina practicing by herself that would have been breath-taking if the entire scene had been filmed full-frame.

I also liked Paulina’s spoken description of how she first found out about ballroom dance (her family works in a dry cleaner’s). A woman came in with a beautiful sequined costume. Little Paulina was entranced by the dress, and was even more entranced when the woman invites them to see her compete and she watches the dance and falls in love with it. Paulina had made it to the international competition in Blackpool, England, but something went wrong. Teaching John and helping coach him and Bobbi for the competition, encourages her to go back to Blackpool with a new partner.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Sherlock Holmes