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Member's Reviews

Sherlock Holmes, a review by Jon


Sherlock Holmes
4 out of 5



Explosive action, baffling mystery and astonishing intrigue follow Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his trusted ally Watson (Jude Law) in a race to uncover and foil a terrifying plot that threatens to destroy the country. Director Guy Ritchie helms the all-action adventure reintroducing the great detective to the World. Robert Downey Jr. is the new Sherlock Holmes!

I wasn’t sure whether I would like Sherlock Holmes. I understood that Arthur Conan Doyle’s original books are actually far lighter and satirical than the rather serious adaptations so far, but still; blockbuster material? Really?

In truth, concessions to being a tent-pole multiplex hit do cause the script to be too obvious and over reliant on set-pieces, but it is tremendous fun, breathlessly paced and very exciting. And from Robert Downey Jr. possibly one of the best performances of the Sherlock Holmes character yet attempted, though in the context of how previous productions have been fashioned, that's impossible to put into context. Certainly I can’t think of a better depiction of the relationship with Dr. Watson, and Jude Law more than holds his own. If anything the film relies on him more as the straight man.

But this is RDJ’s show from start to finish and he is superb. Great accent, perfect timing and delivery, and with such infectious fun. He convinces as the action man and almost as the detective, though that isn’t his fault. As I said, the plot is too focused on the set-pieces to allow the audience to see Holmes actually coming to any conclusions, until at the end where he reveals everything he knew. Which is a hell of a lot. Not letting the viewer join in more is a poor mistake as it might have been something truly special. All the pieces were in place.

Along with RDJ, Jude Law completes a very strong pairing. Having Watson the more grounded character, trying to leave Holmes behind is a clever foundation on which to build the story. It gives Holmes a weakness, without spelling it out, except in what is not said between the two leads. In the books, Watson is Holmes’ rock, especially in relation to his drug addiction, which gets a tiny, but perceptive reference here. Purely from the acting perspective, the chemistry is fantastic too. It very much falls into the ‘bromance’ of action movies like Lethal Weapon. They both have girlfriends, well played by Kelly Reilly and especially Rachel McAdams who is effectively the third lead as original Conan Doyle character Irene Adler, but it’s clear there is a love that Shall Not Speak Its Name between Holmes and Watson! Mark Strong rounds out the cast with a powerful turn as the villain, Lord Blackwood. Moriaty is hinted at, so if part two doesn’t end at Reichenbach Falls, I’ll eat my hat!

The biggest revelation for me is Guy Ritchie as director. Sherlock Holmes is by far his best film, and I do like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch very much. It’s just this is so different, requiring an eye for action cinema, and reveals both flamboyancy and restraint in expert use. Although the finale is a bit predictable, the sequence at the shipyard and the incidental fights are incredible. It’s a gorgeous looking film too, with sumptuous detail and lighting (there is a night-time scene that actually reminded me of Deliverance in that it was proper moon rather then movie lighting). Because of the attention to detail and eye for photography, this is one of the best modern movies I’ve yet seen on Blu-Ray, which so far has proved more impressive for older films.

Overall the sum of it's parts are better than the result. It hardly matters if it is a good or bad adaptation of the stories, because it's aimed at a young audience. It does exactly what it set out to do though. So bring on the sequel! Just next time, let’s have a bit of mystery that we can play along with.

(From Jon's Alphabet Marathon 2010 on July 17th, 2010)

Member's Reviews

The Films of Budd Boetticher, a review by Antares


The Films of Budd Boetticher





       Budd Boetticher… the name probably doesn’t ring a bell… that is, unless your favorite film genre is Westerns. He was to sagebrush cinema, what Val Lewton was to horror films, a master at making cheap, but entertaining B-movies which brimmed with quality. Not unlike a shooting star, his tenure in Hollywood was brief, but brilliant. And though he started making movies in the mid-forties, it was his seven films with Randolph Scott from the fifties for which he is fondly remembered. Five of the films are gathered together in what has become known as one of the best DVD releases of 2008, The Films of Budd Boetticher, a must have for serious Western aficionado’s.

The Tall T

Year: 1957
Film Studio: Columbia Pictures, Producers-Actors Corporation
Genre: Western
Length: 77 Min.

Director
Budd Boetticher (1916)

Writing
Elmore Leonard (1925)...Story
Burt Kennedy (1922)...Screenplay

Producer
Harry Joe Brown (1890)
Randolph Scott (1898)

Cinematographer
Charles Lawton Jr. (1904)

Music
Heinz Roemheld (1901)...Composer

Stars
Randolph Scott (1898) as Pat Brennan
Richard Boone (1917) as Frank Usher
Maureen O'Sullivan (1911) as Doretta Mims
Arthur Hunnicutt (1910) as Ed Rintoon
Skip Homeier (1930) as Billy Jack
Henry Silva (1928) as Chink
John Hubbard (1914) as Willard Mims
Robert Burton (1895) as Tenvoorde

Review
       The first film in the set is the second pairing by Boetticher and Scott, a deep, rich character study called The Tall T. Scott stars as Pat Brennan, a cowhand who loses his horse in a bet and hitches a ride with a wealthy couple on a passing stagecoach. At the next way station, the group is captured by three outlaws, who decide to hold the wife for ransom. It turns out that the wife was a spinster, who had recently married a cowardly acquaintance of her father’s, who only courted her to obtain the easy life her money would bring. But now, as death stares at him cold in the face, he bargains with the outlaws to help them obtain the ransom. The leader of the gang, Usher (Richard Boone), has utter contempt for such a sniveling coward and agrees to send him for the money, but at a price. He knows that the man will not return, and will run as fast as he can, as far away as he can, so he sends one of his gang out to kill him. This leaves Brennan to find a way out of the dilemma that he and the wife are now in. But slowly, through guile and deception, he eliminates the two younger outlaws, setting the stage for the showdown with the older, but craftier Usher.

       Now, from reading this brief synopsis, it seems pretty much the standard for a western of the time. But in the hands of Boetticher, the screenplay which is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, moves fluidly from premise and character setup, to tension building climax, all the while, showcasing cinematography that would become a trademark of all successive Boetticher films. A very good start to a wonderful set of films.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.

Decision at Sundown

Year: 1957
Film Studio: Columbia Pictures
Genre: Western
Length: 77 Min.

Director
Budd Boetticher (1916)

Writing
Charles Lang (1915)...Screenplay
Vernon L. Fluharty...Story

Producer
Harry Joe Brown (1890)
Randolph Scott (1898)

Cinematographer
Burnett Guffey (1905)

Music
Heinz Roemheld (1901)...Composer

Stars
Randolph Scott (1898) as Bart Allison
John Carroll (1906) as Tate Kimbrough
Karen Steele (1931) as Lucy Summerton
Valerie French (1928) as Ruby James
Noah Beery Jr. (1913) as Sam
John Archer (1915) as Dr. John Storrow
Andrew Duggan (1923) as Sheriff Swede Hansen
James Westerfield (1913) as Otis, the Bartender

Review
       The next film in the set deviates slightly from the normal setting of a Boetticher/Scott film. Whereas most of the films take place out on the open range, Decision at Sundown is set in a small, yet bustling western town. This time, Scott’s character is a man not only seeking revenge, but his self-respect. He has come to the town of Sundown to even an old score against Tate Kimbrough (John Carroll), the man he believes killed his wife three years earlier. It is the only time in their collaboration where Scott’s character is not seen as hero, but as vengeful villain by the confused townsfolk, who rally behind Kimbrough against this stranger set on vengeance. When the true nature of Scott’s wife’s demise becomes apparent, his ‘decision’ will redeem him before the town’s populace and the audience alike.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.

Buchanan Rides Alone

Year: 1958
Film Studio: Columbia Pictures
Genre: Western
Length: 79 Min.

Director
Budd Boetticher (1916)

Writing
Charles Lang (1915)...Screenplay
Jonas Ward...Novel "The Name's Buchanan"

Producer
Harry Joe Brown (1890)
Randolph Scott (1898)

Cinematographer
Lucien Ballard (1908)

Music


Stars
Randolph Scott (1898) as Tom Buchanan
Craig Stevens (1918) as Abe Carbo
Barry Kelley (1908) as Lew Agry
Tol Avery (1915) as Judge Simon Agry
Peter Whitney (1916) as Amos Agry
Manuel Rojas as Juan de la Vega
L. Q. Jones (1927) as Pecos Hill
Robert Anderson (1923) as Waldo Peck

Review
       Once again the setting is a small town, but this time the town is run by a group of corrupt brothers who turn on each other in the name of greed. Agrytown is on the border with Mexico, and from the moment that Tom Buchanan (Scott) rides in, he knows that he must keep his wits about him. Unfortunately, he helps the son of a powerful Mexican landowner who has killed the son of the town judge, Simon Agry. With the sheriff being Lew Agry, the deck is decidedly stacked against both Buchanan and the Mexican. At his trial, Buchanan is surprisingly acquitted by the judge, but all of his money is taken and he is ‘escorted’ out of town. The sheriff, who is at odds with his brother the judge, decides to have one of his deputies’ kill him outside of town limits, but Buchanan escapes. He makes his way to the young man’s family estate in Mexico to procure a ransom that will free the aristocrat’s boy, who is scheduled to be hung. The ransom now becomes the prime prize in a tug of war between the two feuding, back-stabbing brothers and leads to a very unique showdown. In the end, the brothers get what they deserved; Buchanan gets his money back and he rides off alone.

       I have to say that while the ending was a complete departure from the atypical shootouts of the time, the rest of the film just didn’t click for me. I guess it was Boetticher’s attempt at adding a little comedy to the proceedings, but it just doesn’t work. The main cast, aside from Scott, seems completely out of place in their surroundings, with the exception of Barry Kelley, who plays the sheriff. But in a set of five B-films, you can’t expect all to be treasures.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.

Ride Lonesome

Year: 1959
Film Studio: Columbia Pictures, Ranown Pictures
Genre: Western
Length: 73 Min.

Director
Budd Boetticher (1916)

Writing
Burt Kennedy (1922)...Written By

Producer
Budd Boetticher (1916)
Harry Joe Brown (1890)

Cinematographer
Charles Lawton Jr. (1904)

Music
Heinz Roemheld (1901)...Composer

Stars
Randolph Scott (1898) as Ben Brigade
Karen Steele (1931) as Mrs. Carrie Lane
Pernell Roberts (1928) as Sam Boone
James Best (1926) as Billy John
Lee Van Cleef (1925) as Frank
James Coburn (1928) as Whit

Review
       The last two films in this wonderful set are where the cream rises to the top. Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station are brilliant examples of movie making which melds the great aspects of a film together; Screenplay, acting, cinematography and direction. Set in the wilds of Arizona, Ride Lonesome starts out as a revenge yarn, which evolves into a chase film and finishes in a climactic showdown that brings about redemption for the main character.

       Ben Brigade (Scott) is a bounty hunter who has just captured Billy John (James Best), a wanted murderer with a hefty reward on his head. His plans are to take him to Santa Cruz where the outlaw will be hanged. But Brigade must get there before Billy John’s brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) and his gang can set him free. When they stop at a staging post, they and a couple of lesser outlaws are attacked by Apaches. They ward off the attack, but when they realize that the station manager was killed by the Indians, they decide to take the manager’s wife with them to safety in Santa Cruz. Brigade enlists the help of the two outlaws who are seeking a way to procure amnesty for their crimes. Brigade realizes that they want Billy John for themselves to help them get their pardons, but understands that he can’t make it to Santa Cruz without their help. What follows is a suspense packed chase through Apache territory, with the group staying just one jump ahead of both the marauding Indians and the vengeful gang.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.

Comanche Station

Year: 1960
Film Studio: Columbia Pictures, Ranown Pictures
Genre: Western
Length: 73 Min.

Director
Budd Boetticher (1916)

Writing
Burt Kennedy (1922)...Written By

Producer
Budd Boetticher (1916)
Harry Joe Brown (1890)

Cinematographer
Charles Lawton Jr. (1904)

Music


Stars
Randolph Scott (1898) as Jefferson Cody
Nancy Gates (1926) as Nancy Lowe
Claude Akins (1926) as Ben Lane
Skip Homeier (1930) as Frank
Richard Rust (1938) as Dobie
Rand Brooks (1918) as Station Man
Dyke Johnson as John Lowe

Review
       The last in a great collection of films takes place again in Indian territory, but this time with the Comanches. In this final foray, Scott plays Jefferson Cody, a man who has been searching for his wife, who was kidnapped by Indians years earlier. When he learns that the Comanches are holding a white woman, he sets off to barter for her, thinking it’s his wife. When he arrives he finds out that it is not his wife, but a beautiful young woman named Nancy Lowe. He trades for her release and sets out to bring her back to her husband, wondering if her husband will take her back after having been taken by savages. On their way back, they stop to water their horses at Comanche Station, a way station out on the frontier. Suddenly they see three men on horseback being chased by Comanche warriors. Cody recognizes one of the men as Ben Lane (Claude Akins), a soldier he helped drum out of the service years earlier for suspected Indian atrocities. He now suspects that Lane is being hounded by the warriors for the very same thing. They fight off the attack and after the dust settles, Lane informs Cody of the reward being offered for the return of Mrs. Lowe. This sets the stage for a tension packed journey back to the Lowe’s homestead with Cody needing the help of his old nemesis to bring the woman home. All the while knowing that at first chance, Lane will kill him, not only to get the reward, but to settle the old score from the Army days.


Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.


(From The Films of Budd Boetticher on January 18th, 2010)

Member's TV Reviews

"Due South" marathon, a review by Tom


4.13 Call of the Wild - Part 2 (1999-03-14)
Writer: Paul Haggis (Created By), Paul Gross (Writer), R.B. Carney (Writer)
Director: Steve DiMarco
Cast: Paul Gross (Constable Benton Fraser), Callum Keith Rennie (Stanley "Ray" Kowalski), Beau Starr (Lt. Harding Welsh), Camilla Scott (Inspector Margaret Thatcher), Tony Craig (Detective Jack Huey), Tom Melissis (Detective Dewey), Ramona Milano (Francesca Vecchio), Gordon Pinsent (Fraser Sr.), Dean McDermott (Constable Turnbull), Anne Marie Loder (Stella Kowalski), David Marciano (Detective Ray Vecchio), Bo Svenson (Holloway Muldoon), Kenneth Welsh (Cyrus Bolt), Leslie Nielsen (Buck Frobisher), Martha Burns (Caroline Fraser), Peter Ferri (Delmar Huggins), Tony Munch (Jerry Smith), Chaz Thorne (Tony), Isolde Oneill (Tina)

Not as good as the first part. But nice that the series got the chance for a conclusion instead of just having it end. Although the fate of the characters may be unsatisfying for first time viewers I think, viewed as a resolution between the two Rays and Fraser it worked okay.
(click to show/hide)

Rating:

(From "Due South" marathon on January 5th, 2011)