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Movie Review: ‘Mr. Holmes’

Sherlock Holmes’s best-known qualities are his deerstalker hat, his pipe and his unfailing intellect. None of these iconic flourishes are on display in “Mr. Holmes.” But in their place we get something more memorable: a lonely old man bedeviled by regrets and preoccupied with his legacy.

The year is 1947, and the 93-year-old Holmes (Ian McKellen) has long been retired. In the world of the movie, which is based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 book “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” Holmes is famous only because Dr. Watson turned all of their cases into popular books. The hat and the pipe were literary inventions. “I prefer a cigar,” Holmes admits, with a hint of amusement.

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The old-timer spends his days at his English seaside home, hobbling around the house and irritating his housekeeper, Mrs. Mun­ro (Laura Linney, somehow managing to look dowdy), with frank observations that always cross the line into rudeness. Holmes isn’t what you’d call a people person, but he manages to forge a relationship with Mrs. Munro’s young son, Roger (Milo Parker).

The quick-witted kid weasels his way into Holmes’s heart, and before you know it the pair begins tending to Holmes’s bees together and setting up swimming dates.

Roger is also helping Holmes with one last case. The evidence has never been more elusive, because it’s all in the detective’s increasingly malfunctioning memory. His mind is his most prized possession, so seeing him fall victim to dementia — scribbling names on his shirt cuff so he doesn’t forget them, for example — is tragic.

Holmes is trying to remember the case that ended his career. He can recall the wealthy man who hired him and the sad face of the man’s wife, but the details are beyond reach. And going to the movies to see an adaptation of Watson’s book about the case is no help, thanks to the good doctor’s tendency to embellish. (Nicholas Rowe, the star of “Young Sherlock Holmes,” plays the title role in that film within a film — a nice touch.)


Directed by Bill Condon (“Kinsey”), the movie leaps back and forth in time, incorporating another thread involving Holmes’s recent trip to Japan in search of a rare plant to cure his dementia. Like any good Sherlockian case, the stories interweave into a satisfying conclusion. And the cinematic elements fit together as neatly as the plot lines. Carter Burwell’s music, combined with the film’s cloudy landscape shots (courtesy of cinematographer Tobias Schliessler, who worked with Condon on “Dreamgirls”) add to a sense of nostalgia. McKellen is impeccable as the aging investigator, who has always prized logic over emotions. And the young Parker holds his own in every scene he shares with his elder.

Their story is familiar — an old man and his protege — and it takes a predictably sentimental turn.

But the movie still stirs powerful emotions with its ultimate message: Brainpower and hard data may be valuable, but nothing is as precious as a friend.

★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★

PG. Contains some disturbing images. 104 minutes.

Movie Review: ‘Batkid Begins’

The story of Miles Scott, a 5-year-old leukemia patient whose dream of being Batman was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, is chronicled in “Batkid Begins,” a feature documentary about the elaborate logistics and surprising popularity of the project, which, for one day in 2013, turned San Francisco into a Gotham City thronged with tens of thousands of well-wishers (in addition to the millions who followed it on Twitter). The film by Dana Nachman (“The Human Experiment”) is relentlessly upbeat about its message, which, paradoxically, is that Miles’s wish probably did less for Miles than for everyone who made it happen.

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The most interesting parts of “Batkid” present a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for the event, which one participant compares to a “stage production where the lead actor doesn’t know he’s in it, and he’s 5.” Over the course of the day, a costumed Miles is led from one highly choreographed scene to another, freeing a damsel in distress who is about to be run over by a streetcar, and later apprehending the Riddler in an old bank vault in the basement of a clothing store. At times, this increasingly tired little boy (who’s in remission) seems less delighted than overwhelmed by the scrum of bystanders and reporters, and he has to be talked into resuming his crusade after lunch by his father, who agrees to ride along in the “Batmobile.”


“Batkid” is a feel-good film, in the sense that the people who made this wish come true seem to feel pretty good about themselves. They certainly have a right to be satisfied: What they pulled off is impressive. But “Batkid” would be easier to swallow if it focused less on self-congratulation than on the epidemic of unselfishness that inspired the magic in the first place.

★ ★ ½  out of ★ ★ ★ ★

PG. Contains material related to a life-threatening illness. 87 minutes.

‘Ant-Man’ Debuts with $58M; ‘Trainwreck’ Opens with $30.2M

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Marvel’s “Ant-Man” punched above its weight at the weekend box office, debuting with an estimated $58 million, while Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” also opened strongly with $30.2 million.

The result for “Ant-Man” didn’t match some of Marvel’s better known and brawnier properties. But “Ant-Man” – a relatively inexpensive superhero movie with a $130 million budget – still dominated North American multiplexes, edging out the little yellow guys of Universal’s “Minions,“ which took in $50.2 million in its second week.

“Ant-Man,“ starring Paul Rudd as a slightly more irreverent and distinctly smaller superhero, came in a little below earlier stand-alone Marvel films like “Thor” ($65.7 million in 2011) and “Captain America: The First Avenger” ($65.1 million in 2011).

Dave Hollis, head of distribution at Disney, credited Marvel for successfully expanding its universe both in tone and audience makeup. The movie, a more humorous heist film, appealed more to women (42 percent of the audience) and families (28 percent) than most Marvel releases.

“Most encouragingly in this one, the exit scores we’re seeing from women – their likelihood to recommend and how much they enjoyed the film – was higher here than almost any film we’ve had,“ Hollis said. “It’s a great sign for what word of mouth should be for the run, but, two, what it means for how women think about these movies being for them as much as men might.“

The next question will be whether the result was strong enough to kick start an “Ant-Man 2.“ Though “Ant-Man” had a rocky path to the screen, with director Peyton Reed replacing Edgar Wright shortly before shooting commenced, its CinemaScore from audiences is an A. It took in $56.4 million abroad.

The opening was closest to 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” ($55 million), the poorly received Edward Norton edition that didn’t spawn further installments. Rudd is already to appear as Ant-Man in “Captain America: Civil War.“

“I say this was a success,“ said Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst. “This was never predestined to open with $80 (million) or $100 million. Marvel continues to evolve and surprised the audience. This was about a perfectly solid result for a brand new property.“

The $30.2 million opening for Schumer’s big-screen debut, “Trainwreck,“ which the comedian also wrote, earned an estimated $30.2 million, making the R-rated Universal release one of the biggest comedy successes this summer. It’s also the second best opening for Judd Apatow as a director following “Knocked Up.“

Already a critically acclaimed star on Comedy Central for her sketch show “Inside Amy Schumer,“ Schumer’s transition to movies has drawn good reviews and opened above expectations, further showing the power of female moviegoers. The audience was two-thirds women, Universal said.

“Amy Schumer is an absolute talent and should have a great career in the movies,“ said Nick Carpou, distribution head for Universal. “The character that she portrays very effectively enables modern women.“

Opening in just five locations was Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man,“ starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. The Sony Pictures Classic release packed those theaters for an average of $37,623 per screen.

The Roadside Attractions and Miramax release “Mr. Holmes,“ starring Ian McKellen as an aged Sherlock Holmes, debuted with $2.5 million in 363 theaters.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday:

1. “Ant-Man,“ $58 million ($56.4 million international).

2. “Minions,“ $50.2 million ($66.2 million international).

3. “Trainwreck,“ $30.2 million.

4. “Inside Out,“ $11.7 million ($21. 3 million international).

5. “Jurassic World,“ $11.4 million ($12.3 million international).

6. “Terminator Genisys,“ $5.4 million ($22.2 million international).

7. “Magic Mike XXL,“ $4.5 million ($5.8 million international).

8. “Gallows,“ $4 million ($2.1 million international).

9. “Ted 2,“ $2.7 million ($7.5 million international).

10. “Mr. Holmes,“ $2.5 million.

___

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:

1. “Monster Hunt,“ $72 million.

2. “Minions,“ $66.2 million.

3. “Jian Bing Man,“ $61 million.

4. “Ant-Man,“ $56.4 million.

5. “Monkey King: Hero Is Back,“ $22.5 million.

6. “Terminator Genisys,“ $22.2 million.

7. “Inside Out,“ $21.3 million.

8. “Jurassic World,“ $12.3 million.

9. “Ted 2,“ $7.5 million.

10. “Magic Mike XXL,“ $5.8 million.

Welcome Center’s Amazing Chalk Art Features West Virginia State Parks

PARKERSBURG, WV – The Welcome Center at the Wood County location just off I-77 at Williamstown greets thousands of north and south bound travelers every day. This center, like other Welcome Centers in West Virginia, proudly features state park brochures, but this one has a little bit more to offer.

Boni McKimmie adds a special spin on promotion of state parks.  Her artistic side compels her to chalk up another way to visualize and encourage state park visitation. The 100-year old slate, framed and installed by the Division of Highways, was blank. Several years ago, former Welcome Center Supervisor Donna Briggs encouraged Boni to do something special with chalk.  McKimmie admits that chalk, at that time, was her least favorite medium, but she came through with beautiful renditions of some of the state’s most beautiful scenery. McKimmie has created several boards over the years.

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“We are grateful to all Welcome Center employees who promote state parks with brochures and information for travelers looking for destinations and attractions in West Virginia,” said State Parks Chief Sam England. “From the use of photos to making calls for travelers regarding reservations, Welcome Centers are wonderful assets. Boni’s art work is more icing on the cake.”

McKimmie’s current chalk art represents five West Virginia State Parks: Hawks Nest, Babcock, Audra, Blennerhassett Island and Watoga, while also depicting five different aspects found at state parks scenic beauty, including lodges, fishing, camping and history, according to Debbie Florence, I-77 Welcome Center Supervisor.

“Her work, created in time for West Virginia’s Birthday celebration June 20,  has already gotten lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from visitors; and several stopped by multiple times to see the progression of Boni’s work,” Florence said.

Information about West Virginia State Parks is available at www.wvstateparks.com or by calling 1.800.225.5982.

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