By The Anarchist Kitten
Coarseness and rough energy infuses the Sherlock Holmes film from start to finish, carrying it along at times even when the slightly over-done script starts to feel too smart-ass. Add to that the terrific chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and that makes the film worth seeing.
The plot is not new to anyone familiar with the basic premises of Sherlock Holmes; however this re-imagining does add certain twists. In Victorian London, private investigator Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is about to lose his partner John Watson (Jude Law), who's moving out to marry his fiancée. But the case they've just finished, involving a series of secret-society black magic murders carried out by Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), keeps calling them back to the investigation. To add to the mix, Holmes' ex lover Irene (Rachel McAdams) suddenly appears on the scene as well, and things are getting increasingly suspicious with more murders and a conspiracy that could lead to a takeover of the entire British government and eventually the colonization of the whole world. But Holmes' fierce powers of observation and deduction are on the case!
There can't ever be too many hero-saves-the-day-saves-the-damsel movies in Hollywood. Despite criticisms from old-timer Holmes fanatics, the producers blast new life into old fashioned cinematic customs with their eclectic choice of director and stars. In many ways this feels more faithful to Arthur Conan Doyle's stories than the dry, cerebral films we've become used to. Downey perfectly combines the character's edgy physicality, brainy powers of deduction and sardonic wit; no, Holmes is not the perfect gentleman as many 'fans' expect. The Holmes of the stories is indeed a man-child, a substance abuser and an addict. Combined with Downey Jr.'s loyal portrayal is Jude Law's version of Watson, and together they are like a hilarious bickering married couple that has lived together just a little too long.
The rest of the cast also registers, more or less, in their own right. McAdams and Reilly both play strong-minded women, while Strong glowers diabolically from the shadows. The script is mostly smart-ass, edgy, fast and witty, weaving in all manner of Holmes' lore from the original story details. And if the script isn't nearly as smart as it thinks it is, at least it contains a few nifty twists. Add to that Guy Ritchie's insane slow-motion fight sequences, witty editing and suggestive lighting, and we have ourselves here one of the best releases of 2009.
Howl's Moving Castle
(Movie, 120 minutes)
Nominated for Best Animated Feature; 78th Academy Awards
“Ah yes, and this is why I love watching anime,” was this reviewer's first heartfelt thought after watching Howl's Moving Castle. For starters, the heroine of the movie happened to be an eighteen-turned-eighty (I mean, a real fatty fussy witty old granny) through an evil spell. Then came a beautiful wizard with a bizarre-yet-insanely-brilliant-and-fun house that walked on chicken legs, an adorable fire demon that you could carry around on a coal-lifter while he complained about anything and everything in the universe, a strange-looking asthmatic dog with cute ducky feet and a turnip-headed scarecrow that later turned out to be the lost prince of the kingdom. It was almost like reading Harry Potter- the allure of the colourful world so inviting and the magic so delightfully real. And before I start babbling more details about this incredible fantasy world where witches and wizards glide through air without broomsticks, here's a little plot summary.
Young Sophie Hatter was a plain-looking average eighteen year old until the day she met the handsome and famous wizard Howl. That very fateful day her life changed forever. In a curious and mystic land where wizards flew in the air and fought wars against ugly mechanised planes that dropped bombs over every town they passed by, Sophie Hatter suddenly found herself facing the wrath of the notorious Witch of the Waste, an avid admirer of Howl, who turned her into a shriveled old lady. Thus began Grandma Sophie's adventure, as she came across Howl's legendary moving castle and joined the family (Howl, Calcifer the fire demon and Markl the little apprentice) as their cleaning lady. It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship, one that would unite them all in fighting off the evil spells put on each one of them.
When master animator Hayao Miyazaki traveled to England in the summer of 2004 to give Diana Wynne Jones (author of the original novel of the same name) a private viewing of the finished movie, she commented:
"It's fantastic. No, I have no inputI write books, not films. Yes it will be different from the bookin fact it's likely to be very different, but that's as it should be. It will still be a fantastic film." (Wikipedia)
And fantastic it is. 120 minutes of eye-candy animated fun alongside a captivating storyline was fantastic enough for this reviewer. I especially liked the characters, which is saying something because yours truly isn't really much fond of the Ghibli-style drawing. But Howl was awesome, Sophie the most interesting of all grannies and Calcifer the cutest fire demon ever. Moreover, Howl's famous castle is a wonder in itself. It moves around, honks, belches and has a magic door-knob that can instantly teleport the house to several different places according to their corresponding dial colours (Sophie's first reaction toward this wonderful mechanism was one of the most priceless moments of the anime). The design of the warships was also creative. But nothing beats the animation of this masterpiece. It's simply state of the art- beautifully detailed, brightly coloured and a definite treat for the eyes.
I had the opportunity of watching the English-dubbed version on Filmax and I must say it was quite wonderful. We have Christian Bale as Howl and Billy Crystal as Calcifer, both of whom did their jobs brilliantly. Emily Mortimer voices young Sophie, Jean Simmons Grandma Sophie and Josh Hutcherson plays little Markl.
I also had the rare opportunity of watching the movie while seated amongst a bunch of people who had absolutely no idea about anime and they still liked it. They were delighted actually, and kept saying over and over again what a great time they had had while watching it. Yours truly, however, was busy daydreaming about robbing poor Howl off his amazing moving castle. That chicken-legged house is just too freaking awesome to let go.
Pink - Boris
By Ahsan Sajid
In the international underground metal scene where fans are followers with cult-like devotion, Boris are old enough to cash in on much well deserved pension and fade out for good. However, the same zeal with which hipster kids worship Tom Waits and Miles Davis brought Boris to fame in 2003 from their old age. Their album Akuma No Uta was just the release everyone needed from the polite Sufjan and Deathcab and the Shins. After a decade of hard labour in the trenches of the underground scene, Boris gave their fans their masterpiece in 2006- Pink; less experimental than before, the album is far more accessible by a wider range of people than any of their previous works.
The album can be best summed up by an anonymous fan review- "Holy f*ing s* I got a f*ing headache from listening to this... I will never listen to metal ever again... was that even metal?! I can't even tell oh my f*ing God!" And I'm sure the sentiment is shared by listeners of the album the world over. Just one listen to the spaced-out seven-minute opening track is sure to hook one in; the song manages to combine the best elements of classic British shoegaze of the '80s and more modern post-rock with bliss-out metal favourites. Love it all you want, print out the tablature, burn it, and inject its ashes into your blood stream- it's that good. Just don't expect the rest of the album to follow suit.
These are the people who never found their sound after over a decade. These are the people who hop genres and styles from song to song and not even album to album. They're restless! And no two Boris song is ever the same. Thus, after listening to the opener, it is time to get ready for a whole other kind of ear-bashing.
The second song is a full-throttle riot; the third has the best feedback and drum finale. Track five only gets faster, with track six being the noisiest, most 'sludge' song of the record, with atmosphere music created only with guitars and Atsuo's wailing, pained vocals. The next track is a two minute instrumental trip into history with its post-punk revival.
And there's still even more distortion to follow, all of it random, energetic and vicious. The highlights of the rest of the album: the wall of fuzz sound on track seven; stoner rock sound and studio effects on track eight; track nine, where bone-dry, guttural drums and crashing junk-shard cymbals overtake the bass fuzz and vocals completely.
With as many twists and turns as the album takes, and its extended length, it manages to keep the listener guessing throughout its runtime, and that can't be said for many things.