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Peter T Chattaway

Mr Holmes (aka A Slight Trick of the Mind)

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Links to our threads on Sherlock Holmes (2009), Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011), Sherlock (2010-), Elementary (2011-), Judd Apatow's untitled Sherlock Holmes comedy (in development) and the Young Sherlock Holmes remake (in development).

 

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Toronto: Ian McKellen to Play Retired Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon's 'A Slight Trick of the Mind'

TORONTO – Oscar winner Bill Condon is to direct A Slight Trick of the Mind with Ian McKellen to star.

The film details the story of a long-retired Sherlock Holmes haunted by an unsolved case from fifty years ago. He remembers only fragments: a confrontation with an angry husband, a secret bond with his beautiful but unstable wife. With his legendary mental powers on the wane, and without his old sidekick Watson, Holmes is faced with the toughest case of his life.

Based on a novel of the same name by Mitch Cullin, the screenplay is being adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher (The Duchess). . . .

Condon and McKellen previously worked together on the Academy Award-winning Gods and Monsters, which Condon wrote and directed, and which won the best screenplay nod. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, September 5

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Hollywood Reporter

 

This is a ruminative film of minor-key rewards, driven by an impeccably nuanced performance from McKellen as a solitary 93-year-old man enfeebled by age, yet still canny and even compassionate in ways that surprise and comfort him. Its emotional swell creeps up with a subtlety and grace that will make this Miramax/Roadside Attractions release appeal especially to older audiences.
 
The film represents an agreeably old-fashioned alternative to all the modernized reinventions of Arthur Conan Doyle's venerable detective in recent years. Those include the television updates Sherlock and Elementary, with their contemporary attitudes, humor and gadgetry, and the overblown action-comedy film franchise, with its aggressive cartoon gloss on steampunk style.

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I wish modern films used the iris effect more often.

 


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This film made me angry, or more accurately it got under my skin enough to irritate me significantly. Not only is it a sloppy compilation of three mediocre mysteries with another subplot that's so underdeveloped that it makes no sense at all, it also goes out of its way to deconstruct Doyle's Holmes as a deceptive elaboration of Dr. Watson's. Initially, when we first meet an aging Holmes suffering the onset of dementia who wants to write down his last case correctly before he dies, the concept has some merit, but as the film starts wildly cutting among the different subplots, it's not clear which one is supposed to be the central mystery, and the film goes out of its way to make the intelligent Holmes behave in unbelievably foolish ways. It even takes the time to call some of the most famous passages from the stories absurd fabrications while having this Holmes do very similar things. Another problem is that some of the clues are so laboriously pointed out that the viewer can get ahead of Sherlock Holmes. When all the plot points come together through a very convenient bit of deus ex machina, Holmes's big emotional revelation is that: it's better to lie if it makes someone happy. After all lies and fiction are the same thing.

 

McKellen does give a very good performance with subpar material, and he almost makes the film worth watching. I can't fathom what anyone was thinking with Laura Linney's character; her grouchy housekeeper who's resentful of Holmes doesn't work at all; it's not her performance as much the writing. As the kid who helps Holmes' memory Milo Parker is rather obnoxiously one note, but that may be more the director's fault than his.

 

Carter Burwell has composed an excellent score, so I guess I can put this with Black Swan and American Beauty on the love-the-score;-hate-the-movie list. And I've never so badly wanted to punch a screenwriter in the face.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Dang, Evan, we had very different experiences of this film!  I agree that it's underwritten, but I found the themes and characters overall to be satisfying, most definitely Ericksonian in a low-key way.  (And it sneaked in a nifty Hitchcock reference to boot.)  At least we agreed that Burwell's score is splendid.  Here's my review:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2015/07/growing-old-with-sherlock-holmes/ 


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Good review, Andrew. I actually agree with most of it; we definitely saw the same movie, so to speak. My main disagreement is how effective the tweaking/revising of the canonical Holmes was. I liked the idea of an aging Holmes coming to terms with his mortality and dementia, but I thought the film side stepped that angle in favor rather lame mysteries.

 

BTW, I still haven't seen the Downey Jr. films as a matter of principle.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Thanks, Evan.  Yeah, along with Linney's underdeveloped character, the mysteries were the weak link here, though I thought the Grey Lady story had a pleasing twist to it.  I debated giving the film 3.5 instead of 4 stars, but I was too charmed by the rest to deduct another 1/2 star.  What can I say, I'm definitely a sucker for geriatric tales.  (I'd hoped to write a double feature review on this theme, but "The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared" was sold out.)


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Evan C wrote:
: BTW, I still haven't seen the Downey Jr. films as a matter of principle.

 

Um, what's the principle?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Evan C wrote:

: BTW, I still haven't seen the Downey Jr. films as a matter of principle.

 

Um, what's the principle?

The principle that Sherlock Holmes is not a smarter, more observant Tony Stark.

 

Although from reading that article, maybe the films would be better than I expect.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Evan C wrote:

: BTW, I still haven't seen the Downey Jr. films as a matter of principle.

 

Um, what's the principle?

The principle that Sherlock Holmes is not a smarter, more observant Tony Stark.

 

Although from reading that article, maybe the films would be better than I expect.

 

 

I think they probably are. I'm a huge Holmes fan and also a fan of the Ritchie movies. The trick is to see them, not as adaptations of Doyle's original stories, but as adaptations of the adaptations of Doyle's stories (that is, as reactions against the popular idea of Holmes rather than against Holmes himself).

 

Also, RDJ gives a tremendously touching performance in the second one. More than anything, I appreciate these movies for the ways in which they carry the idea of Holmes' dependence on Watson to the most extreme point and then push it just over the edge.

 

[All of this to the side; it's looking like it will be a while before I get to see Mr. Holmes]

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I only watched the RDJ films to keep my kids company; I'd rather pluck out all my nostril hair than watch them again.  I thankfully don't remember much about them, except there was a ridiculous amount of tedious, over-the-top action.  Though they're not my favorite things, I find the Cumberbatch/Freeman version much more interesting and clever by comparison.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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My wife and I who are mainly Jeremy Bretters and her a lifelong fan of the novels and stories thought this was a pretty great version of Sherlock

Edited by Justin Hanvey

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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I finally saw this. It gets weak towards the end--the revelation of what the Big Secret Holmes has been investigating is a little underwhelming, particularly if you know all the other tragedies Holmes investigates in the original stories (this movie also does the trick that bugged me about "Elementary, My Dear Data" in that it invents a "Watson" Holmes story that doesn't exist in the ACD canon).

It was nice to see Nicholas Rowe as Holmes again, even if only a fictionalized movie version of Holmes in a Holmes movie.

On the whole, I liked this movie a lot. It's stronger on its front end--the conclusion is much too tidy in spots. There are a couple of revelations about Holmes' post-Canon life that--ok, well one thing--that kind of bummed me out. But McKellan is tremendously entertaining as Holmes at two or three different ages, and Milo Parker is very good as his young friend. These two are, of course, the heart of the movie and part of the way the film fails is that it doesn't really push the association as far as it might--by which I mean, 

Early on, it seems that Holmes has dementia. Part of the tension is that he has a hard time remembering his promises to Roger, and part of Roger's mother's worry seems to be that Holmes will die and break her son's heart. It's kind of standard coming-of-age material, but powerfully acted by all parties--and I'm a little disappointed that the movie shied away from from pushing it to the logical conclusion.

That said, I was powerfully moved by the film at several points, and the ending--if it is kind of a pulled punch--is still effective in its own way.

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