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Ian McKellen

Film Review: ‘Mr. Holmes’

Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen was surely made to play Sherlock Holmes—that lanky figure and cultivated voice are ideal for the deerstalker hat, the pipe, and the highbrow cogitating. As it happens, all three attributes are challenged in Mr. Holmes, Bill Condon’s film about the waning days of the world’s greatest consulting detective. Holmes, now 93 and long retired to the countryside, irritably brushes aside the cap and the pipe as the fancies of those stories Dr. Watson used to write. More pressingly, Holmes’ mind is fading. As he loses his memory, he tries to put down in writing what happened in his last case, some 30 years ago. He’s forgotten the details, but he knows that something went terribly wrong.

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SIFFtings 2015 – Week Three

A few short takes on SIFF offerings for the third weekend of the biggest, longest film festival in the United States.

PHOENIX (Christian Petzold, Germany, 2014; 98 minutes)
Fresh from Auschwitz and extreme facial reconstruction, Nelly returns to the noirish backstreets and bars of bombed-out Berlin, looking for what’s left of herself—and the husband whose memory helped her survive hell. Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) doesn’t recognize this gaunt, shell-shocked stranger as his once-glamorous wife, but plots to use her in a scam to inherit wealth left by Nelly’s gassed relatives. Sure to turn up on year-end Ten Best lists, this brilliant film plumbs the nature of identity, post-WWII guilt and denial, death and resurrection—and showcases a shattering performance by Nina Hoss. – KAM
Sunday, May 31, 7:15pm, SIFF Uptown Theater

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‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’: An Improvement Over Peter Jackson’s Part I

Martin Freeman as Bilbo, John Callen as support dwarf

As holiday movie titles go, The Desolation of Smaug is a less-than-catchy handle for an evening’s buoyant entertainment. But only to the uninitiated. To the throbbing fan base of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fun and relatively compact fantasy novel, those words portend sheer fire-breathing awesomeness.

By now you know that The Hobbit has been elongated into three hefty movies by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. Smaug is the middle one, and it improves on last year’s rambling An Unexpected Journey by sticking to a clean, headlong storyline and jettisoning much of Part 1’s juvenile humor. Our hero, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), is traveling with his crowd of bumptious dwarfs, intent on finding a magical stone inside a mountain crammed with treasure. Wee wrinkle: The mountain is home to a dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who likes to emerge periodically from his lair and burn down neighboring Laketown.

This is really the only plot.

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