Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sherlock, The Lovely Bones and Crazy Heart

Happy new year, schlub followers!

I've been observing the new year by working on my new book and seeing a crazy amount of movies.

Unfortunately, the trio of movies under discussion today were all pretty bad.

The best of the lot is probably Crazy Heart, with Jeff Bridges.

Crazy Heart is a bit on the dull side, and somewhat cliched.

I watched the trailer with a friend of mine who whispered to me, "It's like a country music version of The Wrestler." Which is more or less true. Jeff Bridges plays a once legendary country singer who is now down on his luck. (The movie doesn't get quite as gritty as The Wrestler did.)

But Crazy Heart does have some excellent music -- particularly Ryan Bingham's "The Weary Kind." (I admit that I have a guilty fondness for country ballads.) And Jeff Bridges does an admirable job with the role.

Far less good is the new Sherlock Holmes movie -- which was a tremendous disappointment (mostly because I am a big fan of Robert Downey.)

"He shouldn't have played Sherlock," said my movie companion. "He would have been better suited to play the villain."


But this Sherlock is a mess, not just for the casting decisions. It was a mess because it completely goes against the spirit of Sherlock Holmes literature. While Mr. Holmes always enjoyed a certain fascination with grittiness and squalor (let's not forget: Sherlock Holmes was a tremendous coke head) this Sherlock is not nearly intellectual enough to live at 221 Baker Street.

Of course, the filmmakers will say that they made this Holmes perfectly brilliant -- he is able to put his nose in the air and sniff out an obscure chemical compound (WTF?), he is able to knock a man out who is much stronger than he is simply using his vast knowledge of anatomy -- but these just feel like tricks. Robert Downey Jr. plays Sherlock as more bored with his brilliance than invigorated by it.

And the plot -- involving some sort of secret society which plans on killing half of parliament and reinvading the U.S. -- is overly complex and ridiculous. (Also: What's up with the fact that all this secret society's books are written in Hebrew? Is this because Guy Ritchie was studying Kabballah when he was hooked up with Madonna?)

Most infuriating is the fact that the whole climax is a set-up for a sequel. What a rip off!

In short, you can safely skip Sherlock Holmes.

If you could skip Sherlock Holmes, you should run away (as fast at your legs can carry you) from Peter Jackson's new movie, The Lovely Bones.

I remain one of the few Americans who hasn't seen Lord of the Rings -- and if that trilogy is anything like The Lovely Bones, I certainly don't mind staying far away.

The Lovely Bones is about a little girl who is murdered by her creepy neighbor (and, presumably, raped or molested first) who wanders in an earth/heaven limbo as her murder goes unsolved -- narrating the action after her death, like William Holden in Sunset Boulevard.

The look of the movie is polished and the actors all do a decent job (Stanley Tucci is the creep -- and it's a bold performance, considering that a good portrayal might lead him to get type cast in that role for the rest of his life.) But the script is incredibly weak. No character really has any depth. And the limbo that the little girl (Saoirse Ronan) marches through looks ridiculous rather than trippy.

Given the subject matter, I couldn't wait for the movie to end.

In short, I'd give you the same advice that Ronan's mother should have given her: Stay the hell away.