The Notebook (2004)

I hate the goddamn Photoshopped version where Gosling's beard is removed.

I hate the goddamn Photoshopped version where Gosling’s beard is removed.

Directed by: Nick Cassavettes (I’d have to say his best movie is either this one or She’s So Lovely, but I haven’t seen the latter film in over a decade so that would require a re-watch)

Written by: Jeremy Leven and Jan Sardi adapted Nicholas Sparks’ novel to the screen

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen, Sam Shepard, Kevin Connolly, David Thornton and James Marsden

What it’s about: a man reads from a book to attempt to revive a woman’s memory

What I liked: First of all, the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is off-the-charts explosive.  I mean, explosive in a good way.  You truly get the sense that these characters loved each other passionately.  The story is fairly by-the-numbers, and without Gosling and McAdams starring, it would probably have been a forgettable film, no matter what director Nick Cassavettes did.  The movie looks gorgeous, and the acting throughout is decent.  The characters feel real, in particular the poor James Marsden character, who reacts in a fairly realistic manner to life-changing news.  Plus, he’s charming!

What I disliked: Well, with any romantic drama (romama? dramantic?) there is an inherent quantity of cheesiness, and that is not absent throughout the entire movie.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Certainly.  No, wait.  Some people will think it is just a “chick flick” (a designation I detest), and they will be pre-disposed to hate it, no matter how good it is.  I’d recommend it to people that like good movies.

Rating: 4 / 5

As soon as I saw this scene, I knew that someone would have made a gif out of it.

As soon as I saw this scene, I knew that someone would have made a gif out of it.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Earlier this year, I re-watched the first Guy Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes movie to hopefully get some extra traffic due to the sequel having recently been released in theatres.  I also fully intended on seeing that sequel, but at a more convenient time and cost than the theatre (small town theatres are generally shitty if they haven’t been built in the last 10 years).  I wasn’t sure if A Game of Shadows was going to be a direct sequel or a somewhat stand-alone movie, so I wanted to refresh my memories of it and realised that it wasn’t as great a movie as I initially thought it to be.

I think Guy Ritchie has some sort of directing tic, where he absolutely must have a slo-motion scene that shows SO MUCH else that us regular-speed watchers would never catch onto.  There are so many trademark Ritchie scenes in the movie that I’m sure it could easily inspire a drinking game where alcohol poisoning is almost a certainty.  He’s almost a cerebral British Michael Bay, except not as shitty.  The usage of those filming techniques is almost a crutch at this point, and if it weren’t for the writing and acting in Ritchie’s movies, he’d pretty much be Zack Snyder.

The acting and writing are the only things that kept me involved in this movie, completely honest here.  Robert Downey, Jr. again carries the bulk of the film as the titular character, with ample screentime devoted to his Watson, Jude Law.  The best part of the movie is Jared Harris though, appearing as the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty.  A far different foil for Holmes than Mark Strong was in the first movie, much more intellectual and actually making one doubt Holmes’ James Bond-esque ability to amply prepare for everything every time everywhere.

However, much like the first movie, my interest waned and I was easily distracted from the movie.  That’s one of the few advantages a movie theatre has over home viewing, where the fact that I paid for this damn movie is the only thing keeping me watching it.  It got a bit unnecessarily convoluted and I got a bit bored and probably missed some intrinsic plot detail that was a red herring or some shit and whatever, it was an alright movie in the end, nothing more.

3 / 5

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Having watched Sherlock Holmes for the second time now, I’m starting to think director Guy Ritchie is turning into Zack Snyder.  Or maybe it is just his recent movies that are Snyderish.  I’ll endeavor to find out if Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch hold up.  Either way, Ritchie rebounded from the shocking break-up of his marriage to Madonna with his interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary literary detective.

There have been countless performances of Holmes over the years, and for my money, the late Jeremy Brett’s was the best.  Solid, classy, intelligent, humourous, Brett fired on all cylinders.  However, Robert Downey, Jr. is one of the most watchable actors of recent times, so there was a good deal of confidence in his starring role as the titular character.  Jude Law backs him up as Watson, Rachel McAdams provides the eye candy, and Mark Strong is the serious heavy.

It’s a decent enough movie, but I found myself rapidly losing interest midway through.  There were some entertaining set pieces, some cinematic fights, but as in just about any Ritchie movie, most of it boils down to editing.  Quick cuts, rapid-fire action and then super slo-mo.  I’m surprised there weren’t any bullet-time scenes.  I mostly re-watched it to see if it justifies being in my collection (it doesn’t), and to maybe pick up some extra hits with the sequel in theatres now.  Actually, a strong sequel would be the second best justification for it remaining in my collection, so I’ll get around to that sometime.

I wouldn’t say Downey is perfectly cast, but he takes the role and runs with it, and the results are charming.  His chemistry with Law are highlights of the movie, and the rest of it kind of feels lacking.  I wanted more McAdams and Mark Strong, who is always an excellent bad guy, sinister and menacing.  Mildly recommended.

3 / 5