In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Friday, January 1, 2010

1. Sherlock Holmes

The Bay Theatre
Located in the seaside city of Morro Bay, California, the Bay Theatre was built in 1942 by the Army Corps of Engineers at the same time they were effecting changes to the coastline to build a harbor for the bay. Despite visiting it on a very crowded New Year's Day, I found unmetered street parking directly in front. Tickets are sold just inside the door, at the concession stand in the small, elegant lobby. To the right are two tiny bathrooms. Two sets of doors lead directly to the theater's single screen, a structural choice that became quite annoying ten minutes into the film when patrons were still entering the theater, bringing daylight with them.

The most stunning feature of the theater is the upward view from inside to the exposed wooden beams of its ceiling. I felt like I was in the great hall of Edoras, awaiting some grand celebration. Large ceiling fans hang from these beams, and ran silently during the show to keep the auditorium cool. The theatre is long and narrow. I sat clear to one side, near the very back; though the screen was small from this distance, it was not at an awkward angle. The theater has modern, plush seats (312 as reported to me by an employee, but 440 according to Cinema Treasures).

I spoke briefly with the proprietor after the movie, and she said she chooses her films to appeal to her intelligent, sophisticated, and classy clientele. Warning: Cash only.


Iron Man 2
I enjoyed the first film, and will watch any movie with superheroes (even stooping as low as SuperCapers, which was simply awful), so I was ready to see this movie the moment the trailer began. Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark is much more fun to watch than his comic book counterpart, and the relationship between him and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) formed the emotional center of the first movie. This trailer shows a great scene between the two, ending with him telling her, "You complete me." I swoon. We are introduced to a new villain, Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), who looks great, despite having no distance attack, so I'm not sure how he will be a match for Iron Man. Terrance Howard (always impressive) has been replaced by Don Cheadle (one of my favorite actors) in the role of Jim Rhodes. And there is a surprise shot of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, at which point I immediately bought tickets for the first eighty-four showings of the film. The trailer becomes a bit visually spastic toward the end, clocking in at 80 cuts, but is entertaining.

I'm not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio's characters, but I tend to enjoy his films in spite of them. Here we see him and Ellen Page in some sort of mentally-generated world that brings to mind a few movies I can't name without spoiling the surprise. We're treated to an awesome sight of the city rolling back upon itself, being warped like in Dark City. DiCaprio seems to be training Page, coaching her to "never re-create from you memory; always imagine new places". IMDB shows the film having a strong supporting cast, though none are featured prominently in the trailer. There is some conspiracy at foot, with high stakes; I am definitely intrigued. 34 cuts.

Clash of the Titans
They had me at giant scorpions lumbering over a distant hill. This movie looks to be a good fantasy epic, with lots of action, and perhaps even a line or two of dialogue. Feminists be warned: the only female character (who isn't a harpy or gorgon) appears to be of the damsel-in-distress variety. Looks like we'll have our fill of sword fights, monsters, and mythology. Good trailer; try keeping up with these frenetic 72 cuts.

Sherlock Holmes
Guy Ritchie's sixth major film opens with what appears to be a chase scene through the streets of Victorian London, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) running through the streets, followed by a carriage conveying Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) and Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). Holmes gains entrance to some building, and we are given our first treat of this film, in which we hear an interior monologue from Holmes, laid over a slow-motion fight between Holmes and a passing henchman, detailing the steps Holmes must take to incapacitate the approaching man, and the reasons why his attack will be effective. If you'll recall from the trailer, Holmes came across as some sort of street brawler, rather than a thinker. But this scene put my fears to rest, showing that Holmes's physical prowess is due in large part to his acumen.

Watson soon catches up with Holmes, and we learn that Holmes was not running from anyone, but merely trying to get to the scene as quickly as possible. We meet the films villain, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), and in classic detective manner, once the police arrive, the villain surrenders. It's quite common in movies to establish the hero's competency by having him defeat a lesser villain in the opening sequence (see any James Bond film, for instance). Much less common, and more satisfying, though, is to have the hero defeat the primary villain in the opening sequence, and yet have the villain still remain an antagonist, despite being in jail.

What follows is a plot by Blackwood to achieve some nefarious end, perhaps with the help of Holmes's sometimes-lover, sometimes-adversary Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), and the attempt by Holmes and Watson to uncover and stop this plot. Along the way, there is a consistent subplot underscoring the prickly relationship between Holmes and Watson, with Holmes clearly relying on Watson's intelligence and companionship, but too proud to admit it, and Watson wanting to work independently of Holmes and settle down with his fiance, but unable to disentangle himself from the pursuit of the mystery. Both Downey and Law give superb turns in these roles, making their characters likable and interesting. Downey speaks so quickly that he is unintelligible half the time, but is still a delight to watch. Between this and his recent roles in A Scanner Darkly, Iron Man, and Tropic Thunder, he's becoming quite the chameleon, inhabiting his characters so thoroughly that Downey disappears within them.

The second treat for me is a consistent use of the pan-and-zoom technique to draw our attention (as Holmes's attention is drawn) to details of a crime scene. Holmes's power is in observation, and these scenes, sprinkled liberally throughout, reinforce that a crime is messy, leaving in its wake all the components necessary to reconstruct it.

Irene Adler is enjoyable in all her scenes, as is Inspector Lestrade. Blackwood is intimidating and eeeevil; Mark Strong, who was also in Ritchie's last film, RocknRolla, has no trouble convincing me of his malevolent intentions.

The film falls prey to a few annoying tropes. The giant who can seemingly endure inhuman amounts of pain. A scientist who can create amazing concoctions and devices, yet still works as a lackey in a dilapidated building instead of gaining notice by the scientific community. Anachronistic technology, inserted to leverage the audience's modern sense of danger (gone are the days of fearing the revelation of a letter that would smear a gentleman's name). And someone able construct a small explosive from a bullet in just a few seconds time.

Overall, quite fun, good action, and enjoyable relationships. The string-heavy score is a bonus.


  1. The game is afoot! Good luck, hermano!

  2. (OSR = Pete: initials for Olivia Sophie Richert, I often choose it as a screen name in forums and apparently I choose it for my google screen name).

    All that praise and yet it only ranks 15th on your movie list for 2009? And Wolverine was better? I don't seem to have you rankings for 2009, you'll need to send them to me so I can see what other 10-12 ways you managed to be wrong.

    Are you getting your information about the number of cuts in the preview from a website? I can't imagine you are actually counting them.

    The "cash only" policy is a big deal to me as I am someone who seldom has green backs on my person. It is extremely rare that I ever run into a situation where I need cash. I understand it is cheaper for a business to require cash as to not pay a percentage to the credit card companies, but that policy will back fire if they lose customers over it. In this circumstance my sister was on hand to buy my ticket, if not for that I would have had a two to three block jog to a Bank of America we passed on the way there. If it had been just myself and my two kids, as we are apt to do, I would have had to take all three of us back to the car, to the bank, refind parking, etc, and my oldest who is always afraid she is missing something would have been giving me hell.

    Hmmmm, maybe the moral of this story is that I should be more disciplined to keep cash in my wallet.

  3. OSR, I'm manually counting the trailer cuts, and as such the number is subject to error. When those trailers get cranking the cuts often come more than one per second, so it's difficult to keep an accurate count.

    As far as the ranking for Sherlock Holmes, keep in mind that in my personal database I use a different system that is more akin to "how eager am I to see it again" than "how good a movie is it". Currently, here are the movies released in 2009 that I would prefer over Sherlock Holmes to see again.
    1. Duplicity
    2. Wonder Woman (direct-to-video)
    3. Up in the Air
    4. Avatar
    5. Whip It
    6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
    7. Push
    8. Coraline
    9. Green Lantern: First Flight (direct-to-video)
    10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
    11. State of Play
    12. Watchmen
    13. G.I.Joe
    14. Star Trek
    15. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

  4. Morro Bay! That brings back memories to your mother and me. We stayed in Morro Bay on April 8, 1968, on the third night of our honeymoon. The first night was at the Claremont Hotel in Oakland, the second was in Big Sur, and then we found a cute little motel on the beach in Morro Bay for the third night. I'm sure it was torn down a generation ago. It has been a long time, but I'm pretty sure we didn't spend time in the Bay Theater that night! One of the few times your mother and I would ever drive by a movie theater on a road trip. Love, Dad