By: Henry J. Fromage –
Week six of my 2017 365 Days of Movies Challenge remains very focused on 2016 films… but who could blame me with the theaters choked with A Dog’s Purpose, The Space Between Us, and Rings? 2017 begins in March, right after the Oscars, as far as I’m concerned.
46. Sherlock- The Six Thatchers
Yeah, I’m counting Series 4 of Sherlock as individual films. Besides starring movie stars and being feature-length, the final episode in particular even got a reasonably wide theatrical release, so there. Now, this installment puts the lie to this approach, as unlike others, its self-contained mystery is solved very quickly, launching into more continuity-driven adventures as we delve more into Mary’s previous life as a super-assassin and relationship with Watson, now including a kid. Sherlock almost plays support, here, the climactic events of the last series handily swept under the rug. Still plenty of cool deduction-vision, though, even if the fisticuffs seem entirely unnecessary.
47. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Ang Lee’s latest doesn’t look all that eye-burning in normal HD, so I can’t attest to all the hubbub about the high frame rate. I did like the film overall, though, especially Joe Alwyn’s debut and starmaking performance and some of the more wry commentary that Lee sneaks in there about an America at conflict a decade ago which feels no different than the America we live in now. In other parts, though, it’s extremely heavy-handed and tonally wonky, so your mileage may vary. And don’t even ask me what planet that cheerleader is from.
48. A Man Called Ove
This story is like a live-action Up in which the old man curses up a storm while periodically attempting suicide and the heartbreaking first 5 minutes is spread out in flashbacks across the film. It’s generally quite effective, though, even when it does awkward things like has him help out a gay kid who just got kicked out of his house for essentially one scene then forgets about the character just as fast. Maybe he’s just so damn irascible that any glimmers of genuine kindness beam through the clouds and warm your heart a bit. Even when we find out he’s gonna die because his heart is just too big. Seriously, the movie still works even then.
49. The Founder
John Lee Hancock turns out, unsurprisingly, not to be the director to walk the tightrope of sanctified McDonald’s origin story and character study of pathological liar and business titan/weasel Ray Kroc that The Wrestler scribe Robert Siegel put to paper. Michael Keaton is great as Kroc, as is Laura Dern as his perpetually-suffering first wife and a shaved Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonald brothers, and the film always holds your interest, but reconciling the wholesome McDonalds image splashed across the entire film with Kroc’s tactics as Hancock tries to just doesn’t work. A more subtle filmmaker would turn the latter into a commentary on the former, but that’s probably the line at which McDonald’s would have sued the pants off the production anyway…
50. Sherlock- The Lying Detective
This one opens with a crooked-toothed multimillionaire Toby Jones explaining how he’s going to go and murder, as it turns out, anyone. Both Watson and Holmes are fraying seriously at their mental edges after the tragic fallout of the last film, and director Nick Hurran pulls out all the stylistic stops to convey this, to the point where much of this wouldn’t feel out of place in Cumberbatch’s other soon to be franchise, Dr. Strange. There’s definitely a fine layer of ham that has snuck into this sandwich over the years, a common Steven Moffat malaise, but Jones knows how to peddle that ham like a pro. Even independent of the rest of the series, I think folks wanting to try out the series would find this a fun hour and a half.
51. Sherlock- The Final Problem
If this is indeed Sherlock’s final problem/the series’ final episode, it picked and gender-flipped an interesting piece of the Holmes Lore- the existence of a third Holmes sibling, far more intelligent and unstable than either Sherlock or Mycroft. The fact that it goes with a lot of generic psycho genius in a glass box… but by choice??? cliche is disappointing, but Sian Brooke does a reasonably creepy interpretation of the Hannibal Lecter type. The real treat, though, is, you guessed it, the more Moriarty we’ve been promised for years now, although I won’t tell you how or in what proportion. Andrew Scott is a treasure, in this role at least. Otherwise, if this is the conclusion, it picks a torturously fucked up path to march. Not sure what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have thought of this interpretation, exactly, but it has its pleasures.