BRITAIN’S most famous fictional detective investigates a series of seemingly unconnected crimes all around the world in SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (12: Warner).
Robert Downey Jr returns as the super-sleuth although, as in his previous outing, it’s more comic book than Conan Doyle.
We’re in 1891 and Holmes and Dr Watson (Jude Law) are required to travel long distances to stop evil, and elusive, genius Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) starting the First World War early. But Holmes finds he’s dealing with a foe who’s his intellectual equal.
The detective is as physical as he’s cerebral and the film relies heavily on Downey Jr’s natural charm and comic timing. The plot also affords him the opportunity to take his top off again and to dress up as a woman and wrestle on a couch with Watson.
Stephen Fry, as Holmes’ smarter brother Mycroft, has his own nude scene, which thankfully is played for humorous effect rather than as competition to Downey Jr’s Iron Man torso.
The comedy dilutes any sense of jeopardy, but the spectacular sets and highly entertaining characterisations at least mean this romp is a watchable one.
> The mix of crude humour and schoolboy pranks falls flat in THE SITTER (15: Twentieth Century Fox), in which Superbad star Jonah Hill is typecast again as a gormless slacker.
He plays irresponsible college drop-out Noah, who lives with his mother and is persuaded to babysit her friend’s three kids.
But he’s summoned from the sofa by his girlfriend, who promises a wild night of passion as long as he brings some Class A drugs, prompting him to put his needs above the children’s safety.
This lazy comedy moves from one laboured gag to another as director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) attempts to give 1980s cult comedy Adventures In Babysitting an adult twist.
As Noah drags the youngsters through a series of dangerous misadventures on the mean streets of New York as they run for their lives from a pair of ruthless dealers, Green also wants us to believe that he’s good at heart, which just doesn’t ring true.
While there are a few funny moments, Hill looks unsure and the kids don’t gel with him or each other. It’s a misguided effort, with Green making a mess as he tries to shake up the formula.
> New York comes under attack, but nine strangers are able to survive the devastation by hiding in an underground bunker in bleak, survival-of-the-fittest thriller THE DIVIDE (18: Momentum).
The end is nigh for the human race, only it’s not a deadly disease, alien invasion or natural disaster that threatens their existence this time. It’s that Cold War staple of nuclear annihilation. One group seeks shelter in a building whose paranoid caretaker is played with glowering intensity by genre favourite Michael Biehn.
As the survivors’ food and water dwindle, so do the remnants of their humanity. Fear and confusion turn into violence, depravity and excess.
This spectacle of civilised man descending into savagery is not exactly original, but the mystery of who is outside trying to get in and the claustrophobic confines of the shelter increase the intrigue.
> Even fans of the franchise will spot the stretch marks as UNDERWORLD: THE AWAKENING (18: Entertainment In Video) lumbers on to DVD.
This third sequel in the vampires versus lycans saga feels slapdash – from the opening montage of old footage to the open-ended finale.
The undercover lycans are after Kate Beckinsale’s hybrid daughter so that they can become immune to lethal silver weapons.
The returning Beckinsale wears the dominatrix gear with her usual style, although she’s clearly going through the motions as the non-stop fighting flatlines into repetitive CGI werewolf attacks. A hotchpotch of bloody action and empty thrills is at least lifted slightly by Charles Dance, camping it up as a cowardly vampire elder.
> Ray Liotta, Christian Slater and Ving Rhames head the cast in THE RIVER MURDERS (18: Sony), a psychological suspense thriller that’s a bit like Se7en and Murder By Numbers, although not quite in the same league.
The victims of a series of sex murders are all former girlfriends of homicide detective Jack Verdon (Liotta). Suspected by the FBI agent who’s taken over the case (Slater) and suspended by his captain (Rhames), Verdon must work outside the law if he’s to find the killer, save his future and protect what’s left of his past.
> One to avoid, British horror flick THE WICKER TREE (15: Anchor Bay) is the dire sequel to 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. Two young American missionaries travel to an isolated Scottish community to spread the word of Christ, but accepting an invitation to take part in a local festival is a bad move.
Christopher Lee makes a cameo appearance and should have known better.