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Elementary

Can Robert Downey, Jr. save a tedious Holmes from its goofy plot? Read on!

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Previews

Opening Friday, Jan. 8, is the sci-fi/vampire film Daybreakers, starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill. It seems that 10 years hence a virus has made most of the people on earth into vampires. But the newly dominant species is running out of actual human blood. What's a blood sucker to do? Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity. 98m. At the Broadway, the Minor and Mill Creek.

Based on the novel by C.D. Payne, Youth in Revolt stars Michael Cera as a self-absorbed and, of course, alienated teen who finds his heartthrob in the beautiful, posh Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). To what lengths will he go to interest the uninterested Sheeni? Pretty far, as it turns out. With Steve Buscemi and Ray Liotta. Looks promising. Rated R for sexual content, language and drug use. 90m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Leap Year is 2010's first romantic comedy. The always sparkling Amy Adams stars as Anna, who travels to Dublin to propose to boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) on Feb. 29 because an Irish custom says the guy has to say yes. Trouble is, a storm diverts her to Cardiff, where she is in turn diverted by Irish innkeeper Declan (Matthew Goode). With a grandson named Declan, there's no mystery about which guy I'm rooting for. Rated PG for sensuality and language. 110m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

On Thursday, Jan. 7, Ocean Night at the Arcata Theatre Lounge will feature The Cove, a documentary about the annual slaughter of dolphins in Tajii, Wakayama in Japan. The brutal methods by which the dolphins are killed was filmed by Louie Psihoyos by means worthy of a spy novel, including the use of underwater equipment and cameras disguised as rocks. The film won the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Festival. Rated PG-13 for disturbing content. 92m. 7 p.m.

The Eureka Library film series features comedy this month. The first film was Dr. Strangelove on Jan. 5. The series continues each Tuesday night beginning with the 1934 screwball comedy It Happened One Night (Gable & Colbert) on Jan. 12, hosted by Charlie Myers; Arsenic and Old Lace (1944 with Cary Grant) on Jan. 19, hosted by Philip Wright; and Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949 with Alex Guinness) on Jan. 26, hosted by Bob Doran. All programs begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Branch.

Review

SHERLOCK HOLMES: First introduced by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 with A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has proved to be a lasting, iconic character in both film and literature. The classic if somewhat quaint Sherlock Holmes movies of the 1930s and ’40s featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are likely the best-known adaptations, but Sherlock has been reinterpreted in any number of subsequent film and TV versions. Novelists have also weighed in, the most persistent of whom may be Laurie R. King, who began her ongoing series featuring Holmes and Mary Russell with The Beekeeper's Apprentice in 1994.

While I read many of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures many years ago, I have never been a devoted fan and, therefore, have never been perturbed by modern twists on the characters from the novels. I suppose all of this brings me somewhat circuitously to the latest Holmes adaptation directed by Guy Ritchie, featuring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Ritchie, director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, RocknRolla and other tongue-in-cheek crime films chock full of action, does not at first glance seem the ideal match for the cerebral Holmes or the fussy Watson. Indeed, this 2009 Sherlock Holmes is not your basic Rathbone/Bruce film. Sure, Holmes can still create an entire narrative out of a few skimpy clues and he and Watson still have an uneasy living arrangement at 221B Baker Street, but the Victorian couple who seemed to define what was to become the British cozy mystery has now become the dynamic duo.

The opening sequence sets the tone for the film. Without preamble, we watch as Holmes and Watson prevent a human sacrifice being perpetrated by the story's central villain, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong: RocknRolla, The Young Victoria). We don't just watch Holmes completely crush one of the guards on the way to rescuing the restrained damsel, we see it first in slo-mo as Holmes helpfully leads us through the process whereby he will crush bones and flesh, allowing the plodding Inspector Lestrade (the versatile Eddie Marsan) to arrest Blackwood.

The scene establishes Holmes' pugilistic bona fides, which are on display throughout the film. Indeed, during the three months it takes to hang Blackwood we see a bored Holmes who, without a new case to engage him, participates in a brutal boxing brawl (it wouldn't be wise to bet against him even if he is significantly outweighed).

Of course, Blackwood isn't really dead, and the rest of the film involves a somewhat convoluted tale about his attempt to change the course of history while Holmes and Watson attempt to prevent his nefarious plans. Along the way, there is a pleasant distraction in the form of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a former acquaintance of Holmes who once outwitted him. She provides both a welcome relief from the relentlessly male universe of the film and a complication for the plot when she offers Holmes money to track down a redheaded midget. McAdams' Irene is more perky than clever, but she is still a colorful addition to the rather uninteresting primary plot. A more minor distraction is Watson's attractive fiancée Mary Morstan (an underutilized Kelly Reilly) who threatens to end Holmes' domestic arrangements with sidekick Watson.

In the end, though, the film belongs to Downey who, from my perspective, is the only reason to waste the two-hour plus running time the film takes to wend its way to a conclusion that, dispiritedly, promises a sequel involving Moriarty. The film is intermittently amusing but ultimately even Downey can't save it from its own tedious style. My watch got a workout while my companion dozed. If you want to see a truly good film, try Up in the Air, where the female characters actually have significant roles and the writing is intelligent. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material. 128m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

Continuing

ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL. Alvin and the gang meet their female rivals, the Chipettes. Watch the fur fly! Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

AVATAR. Military forces attempt to control and exploit a region and its people they know little about. Rated PG-13. 162m. At the Broadway (3D), Fortuna (3D) and Mill Creek.

THE BLIND SIDE. A homeless African-American youth is taken in by a well-to-do white family who help him realize his football potential. Rated PG-13. 126m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? A successful Manhattan couple witness a murder and become the targets of a contract killer. Rated PG-13. 104m. At the Broadway.

INVICTUS. True story of Nelson Mandela's relationship with the captain of South Africa's national rugby team and their attempts to unite the country. Rated PG. 133m. At the Broadway.

IT'S COMPLICATED. Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin play divorcees who reignite the flame after ten years apart. Rated R. 118m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. Disney reverts to old-school animation for a fairy tale featuring a princess ... and a frog. Retro! Rated G. 95m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

UP IN THE AIR. George Clooney plays a corporate hatchet man forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes. Rated R. 109m. At the Broadway, the Minor and Mill Creek.

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