Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
Guy Ritchie takes a second bite of the cherry with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, a modern take on the venerable sleuth that strives once again for the inventiveness and cockney charm that made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels such a pleasant surprise. As with the first installment from 2009, a splendid lineup, which includes Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law and Rachel McAdams in the leading roles, is able to cast an immediate spell, but the magic does not always hold up against the lack of suspense or any real narrative drive. For lovers of the original stories, Holmes’ transformation into an action hero — the whole look and feel of the film is designed to appeal to the Transformers generation — will undoubtedly be annoying, and there is an inevitable excess of explosions and gun play. That said, there are moments when Ritchie is not so engrossed with his own cleverness that something like a character drama shines through, and the abundant money and talent that have been thrown at this picture ensure it is perfectly good entertainment for the festive season.
We Bought a Zoo
Adapted from an autobiographical work by Benjamin Mee, who turned his life upside down after the death of his wife by buying a defunct zoo in the English countryside, and relocating there with his two children. Cameron Crowe’s cinematic version has been moved to Southern California, and Mee’s character has morphed into the ever appealing Matt Damon, whose performance is the best thing about this film. Crowe, who made the inspirational comedies Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, hasn’t quite found his footing with this zoological tale, which occasionally wanders off into Dr. Doolittle territory, and fails to find a balance between the inspirational uplift of a family coming to terms with a new life and animal-related farce. As ever, Crowe has a fine ear for the soundtrack music, but the score by Jonsi of Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros fails to hit the spot.
The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (龍門飛甲)
Big-budget 3D spectacular from veteran Hong Kong director Tsui Hark (徐克) that is being billed as China’s answer to Avatar. The story is related to Tsui’s 1992 classic New Dragon Gate Inn (新龍門客棧), but is not a remake; instead, it takes some threads of that story and departs in new directions. Tsui is a master of the martial arts epic, and the wire assisted kung fu battles provide plenty of opportunities for Tsui to play with the new technology (though the trailer suggests an excess of various weaponry flying out of the screen). Tsui has an A-list cast that includes Jet Li (李連杰), Zhou Xun (周迅), and Kwai Lun-mei (桂綸鎂), and he has spared no expense on sets and costumes. The plot is vastly complex, involving a maid carrying an heir to the thrown, which makes her a target for assassination, and the mixture of intrigue, battles and comic set pieces results in a very crowded film. Tsui shows his skill and assurance in keeping the whole thing at just 95 minutes.
18 Meals (18 comidas)
Written and directed by Jorge/b Coira, 18 Meals follows a huge cast of characters — 11 main stories feature 17 principal characters, some intersecting, others operating largely independent of the rest — through breakfast, lunch and dinner on a single day. With so many stories, some inevitably take the foreground, while others get left behind, sometimes seemingly forgotten or simply too weak to hold their own. This fault is exacerbated by the manner in which the film was created — developed out of a series of improvised sketches. The complex tapestry is effectively woven together with top-notch editing, but it is difficult to avoid the feeling that the director has been overly ambitious.