Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Holmes faces off against his nemesis Professor Moriarty in this sequel starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris as Moriarty. The plot is relatively simple with its various Doylesian twists, and the actors deftly portray the world's most famous detective and his sidekick. Though the aesthetic is bang on, the high-def motion capture cinematography pretty to look at and refreshing in that thank-god-this-isn't-Michael-Bay way, I wasn't absolutely enthralled. In the end, though, everything is nice to look at, and there's enough action and story to keep you awake. A good matinee flick for everyone.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
This Cold-War espionage flick based on a John le Carré novel stars a whole bunch of terrific actors, including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a bunch more. Oldman plays a veteran MI6 agent forced out of retirement to track down a mole within MI6's ranks. It's a long, slow, plodding kind of movie—you won't find any fast-paced chase scenes or heart-thudding action, but it suits the hold-your-breath mood of the period, and the film's crescendo pays off.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Ever since I heard that former women's MMA champion Gina Carano would be starring in this flick alongside Channing Tatum, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, I was stoked to see what she could do. Carano's character, Mallory Kane, is a secret agent on the run after being set up by her former employer for the murder of a Chinese dissident. With the focus on her, it leaves the heavy hitters with very little to do, but that's the magic of this movie. With so many stars, Carano has her work cut out for her. But you root for her because she is a strong and capable woman surrounded by men conspiring to beat her down. She is the instant underdog who doesn't need to prove anything, but is going to anyway because—and here's the tagline—they left her no choice. If anyone else had played Mallory, this flick would have flopped.
Carano is brutal, unrelenting, and completely physical in this film. Every fight scene is genuine, with long shots and unflinching hits with plenty of nods to her Muay Thai and MMA training. It's very satisfying to see a woman who is strong and beautiful without being plastic or glamorous kick serious ass. I applaud Soderbergh for making this movie. Not once do you see Mallory pose, boobs and ass sticking out, wearing skimpy outfits or using her sexuality to get what she wants. She is smart, efficient, and goes after what she wants. No TSTL moments here. I would have liked to see more from the male characters (who doesn't want to see more Michael Fassbender?) and there isn't a lot in the way of character arcs or dialogue, but otherwise I enjoyed this film thoroughly.