THE FIRST TIME I SAW SHERLOCK Holmes he was sitting in a chair with a pipe in his hands. I did not know anything about him but was intrigued by that funny looking pipe that looked like a weird letter “S.” The only reason I was watching him was because I thought I was watching a movie about a hound. I was lying on the floor of our living room with an oversized pillow and a blanket, waiting for one of my favorite television shows to start. Every Saturday afternoon there was a program that had a host who would talk about a movie before playing it for the TV audience. I did my best to always be home at the time it aired since I loved watching movies. Seeing this most curious man on television talking in such precise detail, not that I understood everything he was saying, piqued my interest; I had never heard anyone talk like he did. Why was he saying “elementary” to his dear Watson; elementary was a school. Everything about him was odd to me simply because I was a little kid and had never seen anyone like him before. As the movie played, I found myself being pulled into the story; he was secretive like a spy, liked dressing up in disguises and was good at figuring out puzzles. In my mind that is how I was able to relate to him. FROM WATCHING THAT FIRST MOVIE, I made a point to see every film about him. Both at the school and neighborhood libraries, I started checking out the books the movies were based on; I could not get enough of Sherlock Holmes. And it is funny, with every book I read all I could see was Basil Rathbone as Sherlock. Don’t get me started on the trauma I went through when I realized Basil was simply an actor portraying the detective. Due to having been exposed to his exploits, I fell in love with reading all kinds of mystery detective stories. I flew through each Hardy Boys book I could get a hold of, along with some Nancy Drew books I found at a relative’s house. There was a short period of time where I was carrying around a magnifying glass, just on the chance some mysterious event would take place and I needed to search for clues. I toyed with the idea of getting a hat like the one Sherlock wore in the movies; but the first time I tried it on, I looked silly as it was bigger than my head, coming down to cover part of my ears. From all of Sherlock’s books and movies I have done, I had no idea he ever had a sister. What a surprise it was to see her in this dramatic, crime adventure. IT MADE NO SENSE THAT HER mother would suddenly disappear from their home and leave Enola, played by Millie Bobby Brown (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Stranger Things-TV) to fend for herself. Enola was determined to find a clue or something that would explain what happened to her mother before her older brother shipped her off to a finishing school. With Henry Cavill (Justice League, Night Hunter) as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Adrift) as Mycroft Holmes, Helena Bonham Carter (Cinderella, The King’s Speech) as Eudoria Holmes and Louis Partridge (Paddington 2, Medici-TV) as Tewkesbury; this film was such a joy to experience. The characters were perfectly cast with Millie Bobby Brown as the standout. This was my first-time seeing Millie and I found her fresh with a good sense of comedic timing. Being a tad too long, the script had its flaws; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of mystery and politics to make the story relevant. This is despite being set in England during the 1880s. It would be a complete mystery to me if the movie studio does not produce a sequel to this fun and exciting film.
The multi-colored pennants hanging off the building were so thick in numbers you would have thought this was the launching of an armada instead of a grocery store’s grand re-opening. I could tell before I pulled into the parking lot that something must have been going on because traffic was busier than usual. As I walked into the store I immediately noticed all the shopping carts were replaced with polished black, extra wide carts. Later I would discover I missed the squeaky wheels of the old carts because they used to announce my arrival to the shoppers lost in thought IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AISLE, blocking passage. Starting at the produce department all the previous stand alone racks were replaced with these “islands” built of wood with multiple shelves perched on top in a pyramid shape. The produce was carefully lined up on these shelves that were covered in some type of felt or Astroturf. I almost needed sunglasses from the super bright lights that were hanging down from a newly revealed bare ceiling. All the signage was bigger and easier to read. I felt like I was in a brand new store though I had been shopping in this place for years. From my shopping list I saw I needed apples, pears and green peppers. At one island up ahead I could see the green peppers circling the lowest shelf. The shelf above had red peppers and the top shelf was filled with yellow. Looking at the peppers close-up I discovered, though the store was remodeled, the produce hadn’t changed; you had to hunt through to find a pepper that was not bruised or shriveled up. As they say the store was all flash with no substance, just like this fantasy film. ALICE Kingsleigh, played by Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, Jane Eyre), returns to Wonderland to help her good friend Hatter Tarrant Hightopp aka Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, Into the Woods). Her journey would take her back in time. This adventure film was utterly imaginative and colorful to watch on the big screen. With most of the previous cast returning like Anne Hathaway (The Intern, The Dark Knight Rises) as Mirana, there was a new addition with Sacha Baron Cohen (The Brothers Grimsby, The Dictator) as Time. He was fine though nothing real special. Maybe I was expecting the writers to use his comedic talent fully than what they wrote for him. In fact, this brings me to my main complaint about this film; it was not fun or entertaining. The story was more of a downer as were the characters. It seemed like a long time before the story picked up but by that time I did not care anymore. I remember sitting in my seat and wondering if this is what Lewis Carroll had in mind? The story lines separately may have been good by themselves, but mixing them all in one movie just made things messy in the telling of this story. This movie was like one of those Corpse flowers that is pretty to look at but smells foul.
Even after so many years I still find myself being stunned by what was said during that conversation. There was a group of people at a party talking about their school years. One of them mentioned they still remembered the year when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school. I just sat there in disbelief. Why in the world couldn’t girls wear such an everyday item of clothing? On top of it, this was a public school. I can understand if private schools require uniforms but I could not think of any reason why in a place of learning there should be such discrimination. Maybe it is due to my experiences growing up but I honestly never understood this division between women and men. I always felt whoever had the soundest mind and heart would always be the best candidate for any situation. Unfortunately I realize not everyone shares such thinking. Here is an example; when some people hear my primary doctor is a woman they ask my why I would go to a female doctor. I just say because she is good. Maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised; I am aware we live in a more puritanical country. Though I do not understand this divide, I have studied enough history to realize there have been many people who had to dominate others to feel good about themselves. This historical movie is just one example of what was taking place around the world. HAVING spent her entire life working in a laundry Maud Watts, played by Carey Mulligan (Far From the Madding Crowd, An Education), never learned to stand up for herself. That started to change once she met Violet Miller, played by Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy, Before I Go to Sleep). This film festival winner’s strength was due to the cast. Besides Carey being amazing in this role, there was Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland) as Edith Ellyn and Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Guards) as Inspector Arthur Steed. Inspired by true events the story may not be an easy watch for some viewers. I am simply referring to the injustices that had to be endured during that time period. The sets and costumes added value to this dramatic film, but I was not a big fan of the direction. I felt there was not enough time devoted to character development, besides feeling some scenes were given too much dramatic flair. It seemed as if the goal was to make the viewers cry instead of telling a good story about the feminist movement in England. Nonetheless the acting was super, though Meryl Streep fans will be disappointed that her role was more of a cameo. For me this story seemed like it happened a long, long time ago. However, based on our entire history this really wasn’t that long ago and I am aware it is still happening today.
The first musical notes may not be recognized by younger people, but almost everyone else will know the William Tell Overture. As soon as I hear the music I can recall the excitement I had seeing a majestic white horse standing on its hind legs, the rider dressed in white except for his black mask as he exclaimed, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Danger, thrills, disguises and chases are things I associate with the Lone Ranger. He was a strong character who fought for justice, alongside his Native American companion Tonto. In this action film you at least get the white horse. For nearly 2 1/2 hours you get a boring, ridiculous mess of a movie. Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary) played an ancient Tonto telling in flashbacks his story of witnessing the transformation of John Reid into the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror, J. Edgar). I am tired of movie studios slapping bizarre makeup and costumes on Johnny, thinking that is all that is needed to make a memorable character. Sure, I remember the outfit but I also remember Johnny hardly did any acting worth noting. Partners need chemistry to convince the audience that they have a solid bond and are there for each other. I did not feel any such thing between Armie and Johnny. Having the older Tonto tell the story was utterly useless; it did nothing to enhance the story except the duration of the movie’s running time. The explosions were well done and a couple of chase scenes had some thought put into them, but it was like watching fireworks. The story was so disconnected I felt I was just watching one fight after another. The only decent acting came from Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Debt) as businessman Cole and William Fichtner (Contact, Black Hawk Down) as outlaw Butch Cavendish. The best way to watch this film would be going out for a meal at the start of the movie then arrive back for the last 1/2 hour of the film. At least you will get to hear the William Tell Overture. Better yet, download the music and look for an old episode of the television show to watch. There were a couple of scenes with blood and one particularly disturbing scene.
1 2/3 stars
A storyteller takes something ordinary and makes it interesting. With an added twist of words the mundane can be transformed into an extraordinary tale. Before I even began my schooling, I was exposed to a master storyteller–my father. Out of the entire family, my dad was the person who provided tall tales and comic relief for everyone. Anyone who was within ear shot would be drawn into my father’s fabrications. As a salesman, he covered the entire city and always found fodder for his next anecodote. The story of my dad stopping by to surprise my mother and me at the grocery store was completely transformed when he retold it. He would say he went into the store and found me crying at the service desk, separated from my mother. When the service manager asked him who he was, my dad said he was my father. The manager turned and asked me if that was my dad and all I could cry for was my mother, never acknowledging my father. It was these tall tales I grew up with and why this touching movie resonated with me. Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich, Annie) was the colorful character Ed Bloom. After being diagnosed with cancer; his estranged son Will, played by Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Watchmen), returned home to reconcile with his dad and find out the truth behind the wild stories he had heard growing up. Told in flashbacks the younger Ed Bloom was portrayed by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Beginners). Director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Planet of the Apes) surprised me with this touching, imaginative story. The entire cast blended together so well, that I had no trouble going from fanciful stories to current reality. Jessica Lange was wonderful as she played Ed’s grounded wife Sandra. It was fun to see a younger Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Reservoir Dogs), Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, Twins), Marion Cotillard (Inception, Contagion) and Helena Bonham Carter (Les Miserables, Harry Potter franchise) make up part of the ensemble. This charming movie is being turned into a Broadway play. I believe it will easily transfer to the big stage and do quite well for this simple reason: if you cannot exaggerate the story, then it just isn’t worth telling.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
The stage musical of Les Miserables is one of my favorite shows, having seen it three times. It has one of the best musical scores I have ever heard besides incredible set designs. At least the productions I have seen. The story set in the 1800’s in France, revolved around the life long pursuit by police officer Javert of Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who broke parole. There were so many different aspects of the story to hook in the viewer; from redemption and unconditional love to salvation and honor. Everything I loved about the stage show was abused in this film version. While watching this 2 hour and 37 minute movie, I felt the director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Red Dust) sucked the life out of this classic tale. As much as I was impressed with his Oscar winning film The King’s Speech, I was disappointed in this ugly movie. The reason I use the word ugly is because the majority of the scenes looked like they were shot with camera lenses stuck in portrait mode. Constantly seeing angled shots of the actors’ faces quickly became a bore. Then there was the quick cutting from shot to shot, along with using a spiraling camera shoot on actors and buildings, that made me slightly nauseous. Shame on Mr. Hooper; it would have been easy to add drama to the scene if we could have seen some of the body language of the actors. Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise) who I normally enjoy, had something wrong here as Jean Valjean. While every actor singing had a mellowness to their voice, it seemed as Hugh was forced to sing in a higher key. His voice was shrill and grating on my ears. Russell Crowe (Gladitor, A Beautiful Mind) as Javert did an admirable job with his singing. Playing factory worker Fantine, it seemed as if Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) knew she had one chance to make the Oscar voters notice, giving it her all to her song performance. I will say she did a great job. The surprise for me was Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Marius. I had no idea he could sing and do it so well. Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo, The Dictator) and Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows) were comic relief as the crooked innkeeper and his wife. I knew I was going to witness misery in this movie; I just did not realize it would be my own over this poorly done film.