From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Mr. Holmes (B+). This movie features an Oscar-bait performance by Ian McKellan (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) as none other than Sherlock Holmes himself. But this Holmes is 93 years old and has long since retired from his work as a P.I. Now he tends bees in a seaside village, looked after by a widowed housekeeper (Laura Linney, The Nanny Diaries) and her son Roger (Milo Parker, Robot Overlords). There’s not a whole lot of plot, but mainly Holmes struggles with his failing memory and tries to recall the details of his last case—the one that spurred him to retire some 30 years earlier, even though he was still in full possession of his faculties. It is a good little movie, anchored by McKellan’s performance, solidly supported by Linney’s and Parker’s. I say check it out.
A new book review from The Movie Snob.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. I read an article that called this British novel one of the funniest novels ever written. Well, I can’t go that far, but I will say that I enjoyed it, especially as the crazy stuff piled up at the climax of the tale. The novel was first published in 1932, and the back cover says it is a parody of the “earthy, melodramatic novels of the period.” I’m not familiar with those novels, which may be why I didn’t find it uproariously funny. Anyway, the tale is about a Flora Poste, a 20-year-old girl who finds herself suddenly orphaned and has to decide which of her more or less distant relatives to impose upon. She picks the Starkadder clan of Cold Comfort Farm, and they are indeed a strange bunch of people. Flora decides to embark on a program to improve the Starkadders and their dilapidated farm, with entertaining results. Now I kind of want to see the 1995 BBC production starring Kate Beckinsale (The Last Days of Disco) and Ian McKellan (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), of all people!
From The Movie Snob.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (B). Well, I feel like I liked this movie better than I liked the first installment of The Hobbit, but I see now that I gave both movies a “B.” Of course, the movie is way too long, at 2 hours and 41 minutes, but the events and incidents seem weightier than the ones that crowded the first movie. Part of the padding is that Peter Jackson shows what happens when Gandalf (Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters) goes off alone to confront an evil sorcerer called “the Necromancer,” which as I recall happens entirely “off-stage” in the novel. But the main story is still about a small band of dwarves wanting to take their ancestral kingdom under The Lonely Mountain back from Smaug, the terrifying dragon that occupied it some decades ago. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, The World’s End) proves himself invaluable as their hired thief. Smaug is a pretty impressive feat of CGI (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, 12 Years a Slave). And I have no quarrel with the casting of the lovely Evangeline Lilly (The Hurt Locker) as non-Tolkien character Tauriel the Elf Warrior. But the movie certainly could have been shorter.
A second opinion, by The Movie Snob.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (B). Well, I must dissent in part from Mom Under Cover’s recent review of this new release. True, The Hobbit does not reach the grand heights of the Lord of the Rings movies. It is a smaller tale, about a smaller quest, and it is based on a much smaller book. It was probably unwise to pad The Hobbit out into three movies when two would have sufficed. Nevertheless, I think fantasy and Tolkien fans will reasonably enjoy this take on the adventure that set the events of The Lord of the Rings in motion. Martin Freeman (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) makes a good Bilbo, Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger) is a more dignified and imposing Thorin Oakenshield than I remember from the book, and of course Ian McKellan (X-Men: The Last Stand) is dandy as Gandalf the Grey. In sum, it could have been shorter, but it is still a good movie. Too bad Mom Under Cover and who knows how many other people are coming at this movie backwards, having first developed a taste for that insipid Potter series instead of the real deal that is Tolkien!
A new review from Mom Under Cover.
Peter Jackson’s first of three installations telling the tale of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit arrived in a myriad of formats. I saw it in 3D. Disclaimer: I have not seen The Lord of the Rings movies nor read any of Tolkien’s book, so I had no expectations (good or bad) for this movie. For the first 45 minutes I was pleasantly surprised. Bilbo Baggins’ village and home were truly beautiful in 3D. However, soon thereafter I became weary of the endless struggle. Then, it hit me that I had seen all of this before (albeit with more women characters) . . . kindly wizard in a pointy hat, unlikely hero with mop-like hair who does not realize his destiny, weird forest with strange creatures, even a bi-polar creature who speaks of himself in the third person (Dobby, Gollum, who can keep them straight?).
For me, the movie was an hour and a half too long. Fans of BBC’s Sherlock will enjoy Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson) as the young Bilbo. Also appearing are Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Richard Armitage as Throrin and Andy Serkis as Gollum. See it if you must, but be warned, the journey is unsatisfying.
Movie Man Mike gives us our first look at this controversial movie
The Golden Compass: B. I enjoyed this movie, but I was sorely disappointed in it at the same time. The story did not translate well to the screen. The script of this film is so tightly cut that the audience never gets the full flavor of the events and the characters and the relationships between the characters, as they are developed in the book. Visually, I really liked the film. And, having read the book, I followed the story line, but I felt almost cheated by the lack of depth and I found myself wondering if others who had not read the book could follow its fast pace. I have to wonder if it would have been better to break the book into two full-length feature films so that the storylines and the characters could be better developed. Lord Asriel, played by Daniel Craig (The Invasion), is such a prominent figure in Lyra’s (Dakota Blue Richards) life and mind, it is incredible that he has all of about 5 minutes of screen time. One of my favorite characters, Iorek Byrnison—a bear (voice of Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes)—was probably what made it worth the price of admission to see the film. With reservations, I give this film a lukewarm recommendation.
Movie review from The Movie Snob
X-Men: The Last Stand (B-). Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Logan) and his merry band of mutants are, once again, the only thing standing between Magneto (Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes) and a massive war between mutants and normal human beings. The flashpoint this time is a “cure” for mutancy being developed by the United States government. Some mutants view this development as a godsend, while others (like Magneto, naturally) view it as normal humanity’s latest attempt to eradicate the mutants forever. Complicating matters, it appears that Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), last seen getting killed at the end of X2, may not be quite dead yet. Of the new mutants introduced in this installment, Kelsey Grammer (Down Periscope, TV’s Frasier) does a nice job as Beast. I thought this was a decent action pic, although frankly it does have sort of a been-there/done-that feel to it. We’ll see if it does well enough to justify a fourth installment.
P.S. I did not stay through the end of the closing credits, but I have since learned that there is one final scene that rolls after the credits are finished. It’s not going to make me see the movie again, but I kind of wish I had stayed….