Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes- Game of Shadows

Over Christmas weekend, I went out with some friends to see "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows," sequel to Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes."


"Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows" takes place at some point after its predecessor. It begins with Holmes believing that seemingly unconnected crimes are actually the work of college professor James Moriarty, who has something sinister up his sleeve. While out celebrating Watson's wedding that will take place the next day, Holmes meets up with a Gypsy girl named Simza who is somehow connected to Moriarty through her anarchist brother. Holmes, dragging along Watson who worries about his new bride, and Simza journey to Paris, Germany, and Switzerland as they try to stop Moriarty and his evil scheme.

One problem I had with the first "Sherlock Holmes" was that the plot was sort of scatter-brained and did not seem to be very smooth. In this movie, the plot was even worse, and it was difficult to understand. I did not understand Holmes' reasons for the move to each place and how he came to his conclusions about Moriarty. Much like the first one, certain scenes would be repeated to show that Holmes was really working something else and that something else was going on that will actually change the outcome; this time, however, it felt more like a cop-out and did not flow smoothly with the plot or the rest of the story. The movie also seemed too long. I was expecting it to be over by the time that the characters got to the train, but, no, it kept going on. I also noticed that my sister, who was in the party, frequently looked at her cell phone clock and which indicated that she too was bored with the movie.

Even though the plot of the first movie was scatterbrained, it was enjoyable because of the character interactions and their witty dialogue. This movie, however, fell flat. Holmes and Watson were no longer entertaining or bouncing off of each other. Holmes also looked jealous for most of the movie, jealous that Watson was getting married, and it led to some rather awkward scenes, which I'll mention later. The characters themselves were dull and nothing special. Holmes was eccentric, but it was not truly memorable or funny like it had been in the first movie. Watson looked more like he was tagging along rather than actually helping his friend. I was excited when I heard that Jared Harris would be playing Moriarty because I had liked him on "Fringe," but his character here was dull and nothing really memorable, which is a shame because he can act so much better.

Another problem I had with the movie was the content. The first movie was relatively clean, with no language and no sex/ sexual references (except for the very brief scene with Holmes and the pillow), but this one was different. There were several awkward scenes between Holmes and Watson that almost came across as being semi-homosexual, such as when they're wrestling in the train car after Holmes throws Watson's new bride Mary into the river. The scene where Holmes' brother Mycroft is nude was totally unnecessary and in bad taste. The scene of Holmes dressed like a woman was obviously done for laughs, but the way it was handled only served to worsen already-awkward scenes between Holmes and Watson.

Perhaps it was because the writers wanted to redeem the plot, but the content of the movie was uncalled for and looked as if it was added more for laughs. Another thing that was added that could have been left out were the number of slow-motion scenes. Some of the scenes looked more like they were trying to explain how Holmes thinks (which the first movie used), but here they were used in over-abundance and became annoying. In particular, the scene where the Germans are firing on Watson, Holmes, and Sim was slow-motion for most of the time, and it made me want things to speed up so that the scene would just end. These things were likely added to make the audience forget about the slow, convoluted plot, but they only served to worsen, not redeem, the movie.

I was disappointed in "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows." I had expected something similar to the first movie, but it ended up being worse than the first, not improving on the first's issues and adding extra and unnecessary special effects and crude innuendo to distract the audience.

I give it two stars out of five.

Monday, December 5, 2011

CD review: "Celtic Christmas" by Orla Fallon

In honor of the Christmas holiday, I will give a review of Orla Fallon's "A Celtic Christmas." She released the album and DVD last year, but the holiday passed before I had a chance to review it.

"Joy to the World"

Orla starts off her album with this joyful rendition of the popular Christmas carol, accompanied by a choir and by a background fiddler. I got to give her credit for singing the entire hymn and not leaving stanzas out. This currently is my favorite version of the song, and it's a good start to the album.

"I Saw Three Ships"

Orla continues being upbeat with this Christmas song. Accompanied by a flute and some percussion, she adds a cheerful playfulness, and you can hear her smiling as she sings. This is another one of my favorites from the album.

"Do You Hear What I Hear"

Orla becomes more subdued though no less powerful as she sings this song. She is accompanied by her harp and by former Celtic Woman Meav. This song is stunning, and it is nice to hear Meav singing again since her departure from CW in 2007. This is another favorite from the album.

"It Came upon a Midnight Clear- The First Noel"

This song is divided between the two popular Christmas hymns. The first half is slower but beautiful, reminding me of "The Mermaid" from Orla's debut album except for the background orchestra. There is an interlude with the pipes, and then the song changes key for "The First Noel." The second half is also pretty, even though Orla only sings the first stanza and the chorus. The entire song is very pretty and flows much more smoothly than the combinations on Orla's "Winter, Fire, and Snow" album.

"Little Drummer Boy"

Against the background of a guitar and a drumbeat, Orla sings this as a duet with Vince Gill. This song is not one of my personal favorites, as I'm not a fan of Gill's vocals and the two voices seemed unevenly matched for a duet. Then there is that odd little section in the middle where there are extra lyrics that aren't from the original song, and it seems thrown-in there.

"Silent Night"

This song starts off strong, with Orla singing the first stanza in Gaelic. Then David Archuleta sings the first stanza in English by himself. Then the two combine, with Orla in Gaelic and Archuleta in English; I personally am not fond of this, as it sounds messy. I again think the duet is very uneven. Their "Pat-a-Pan" is a little better, even though that version is not on the CD.

"A Soulin'"

I am not familiar with this Christmas song, but I personally find this version very annoying. I skip it every time I listen to the album.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

This song sort of reminds me of Orla's earlier "The First Noel." It's pretty though not one of my favorites on the album.

"Bells of Christmas"

If you listened to Orla's "Winter, Fire, and Snow" album, you will recognize this song from that album. Except there are a few differences between the two versions. This song is pretty, but I prefer listening to the original version.

"Away in a Manger"

Orla sings this version acapella with Irish choral group Anuna providing the background vocals. It is pretty, though I personally prefer the version Orla did with Celtic Woman.


Orla sings this acapella again, just like she did on "Winter, Fire, and Snow." I am 80% sure that this is the exact same version that she released on that other album; in that aspect, it almost doesn't fit with the rest of the album's ethereal sound.

Compared to "Winter, Fire, and Snow," this album is vastly improved though not perfect. Orla puts much more passion into her singing, and this sounds more like her enjoying herself, which was not the case in the other album. The album started off strong with its first four pieces, but after that the songs were either ok or not as good as original versions. Except for her song with Meav, I was not impressed with Orla's other duets, as the vocals seemed unevenly matched and did not flow together very well.

The album was ok and not one of my favorite Christmas albums. There are some strong songs, but the others are either hit-or-miss for me.

I give the album three stars out of five.