‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game
What is it? Victoriana buffs will not be amused by this film, but it’s a modest improvement on bad-boy director Guy Ritchie’s first tweaking of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective. Not because it’s more subtle: This sequel is just as profligate as its 2009 predecessor, with explosions, anachronisms and quick cuts. But the dialogue is a little sharper, and Holmes gets a worthy opponent in Professor Moriarty. It seems a diabolical mastermind has begun a series of bombings and assassinations, hoping to spark a war. Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes as brainy yet highly physical and keen on dressing up. Jude Law returns as Dr. Watson. “A Game of Shadows” draws here and there on Doyle’s tales but relies more on Hong Kong’s hyperactive 1980s new wave, as filtered through “The Matrix” and Quentin Tarantino. Extreme close-ups, violent edits and slo-mo inserts are used to depict both visceral action and Holmes’ methodical thought. Thinking, however, is not the movie’s priority. The game here is action farce, and that’s better played with swagger than intellect.
Rated PG-13 for action, violence and drug use.
Time: 2 hrs., 9 min.
The Star gave the film:
Extras: “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Perfect Chemistry,” “Moriarty’s Master Plan Unleashed” and “Holmesavision on Steroids” featurettes. On Blu-ray: Downey Jr. “movie mode” commentary from Holmes’ point of view, “Guy Ritchie’s Well-Oiled Machine” and three other making-of featurettes.
‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’
What is it? A goofy, gonzo thrill ride, “Vengeance” is a bad movie sequel that’s almost a great bad movie. It’s still a silly mashup of comic book and quasi-religious “prophecy” about a motorcyclist who sold his soul to the devil, who transforms into a flaming avenger hurtling out of hell when the need arises. But this time around, Nicolas Cage and everybody else on board are in on the joke. In “Vengeance,” the “Rider” (Cage) is haunted by the life he now leads. But a boy borne of the devil needs the Rider’s help. A wine-swilling biker-angel and the boy’s mother are all that stand between the devil and the boy who “completes” Satan’s grand design. Cage is hilariously wound-up throughout this sequel — manic, motor-mouthed and bug-eyed. The co-directors augment this with jump cuts that make the Rider move with the supernatural jerkiness of a Japanese ghost.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images and language.
Time: 1 hr., 35 min.
The Star gave the film: The film wasn’t screened for critics.
Extras: Deleted scenes. On Blu-ray: Directors’ expanded video commentary and a six-part making-of featurette. There’s also a 3-D version, with a 3-D making-of featurette.
What is it? The Polish Jews of Lvov suffer mightily under Nazi brutality in this fact-based tale about a group of fugitives from the Jewish ghetto that find refuge in that city’s sewers. The powerful and moving film centers less on the refugees than their unlikely savior, a virulently anti-Semitic sewer worker and petty thief. When Poldek, as he’s called, stumbles upon the bickering, unruly and desperate group fleeing through the sewers one day, he will decide whether to turn them in to the Nazis for 500 zlotys a head, or charge the group that same amount per day not to. Poldek morphs, slowly but believably, into something of an Oskar Schindler, as protective of his charges as that German war-profiteer-turned-hero. In turn, the Jews gain a genuine if grudging affection for their unlovable benefactor. “In Darkness” also is filled with nail-biting suspense, a thriller in every sense of the word. In Polish, German, Yiddish and Hebrew with English subtitles.
Rated R for violence and brutality, obscenity, nudity and sex scenes.
Time: 2 hrs., 25 min.
The Star gave the film:
Extras: “An Evening With Agnieszka Holland” featurette on the film’s director and an interview with Holland and Krystyna Chiger, the youngest of the Jewish survivors and author of the memoir, “The Girl in the Green Sweater.”
The Washington Post