Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la, et cetera. Christmas shopping is coming to an end, and what better way to celebrate increasing the amount of debt on your credit card than to head to the theatre and watch some movies. But instead of heartfelt, romantic comedies, and Oscar contenders, and all that, we’re watching a couple of action-packed films that will wake the audience. So, let’s head in and see a double header.

First movie I saw was on Friday, was Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. This is the sequel to the 2009 movie that also stars Robert Downey Jr. And Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectably, the two famous characters of literature. This time, we are met with the most famous villain of literary history, the famous Dr. Moriarty, hailed as Sherlock’s equal in intelligence, played by a very underrated actor, Jared Harris. The movie also has Stephen Fry as Holmes’ diplomatic and equally as nutty brother, which I have no idea if he was in any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work.

The movie follows Holmes and Watson, as a series of bombings and murders leads the characters on an investigation to tie Moriarty, a famous professor with a slight case of insanity, while Watson is trying to get married and go on his honeymoon. Watson’s romantic train ride goes awry when his partner foils a murder attempt, and the two are back on the case to save a Gypsy’s life, while preventing a World War. Of course, if you remember your history, that won’t happen for another twenty years or so.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way by saying the Downey and Law have some of the best chemistry in current cinema. And that’s not hyperbole here, they are incredible together. You can tell they were having a lot of fun making this movie and it clearly shows. They have great timing, and work together to make it amusing and serious when need be. You don’t see that in a lot of film today. It makes me want to watch them as a duo more and more. And I’m not talking about this series, I want to see this team expand into more and more titles. They could be the next Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

What really shocked me also is that Stephen Fry is also really good in this movie. Actually no, I am not really shocked. I mean, come on. How many times can I think of where that genius of a man has really disappointed me in anything. He really bares it in this role. Seriously. There’s a scene where you see a little too much of him. Not everything, thankfully. As for Jared Harris, the big question is that can he pull off the role of the infamous villain? I think he did. It’s really a split personality to Downey’s character, and it works really well, especially near the end where they face off in a battle of words and wits. Without trying to reveal anything, you’re bound by suspense when one tries to better the other based on the actions of others.

The best return to the movie was director Guy Ritchie. By comparison to the first movie, he added a lot of the special effects and camera work that you come to expect from the same guy who brought you the movies Lock Stock and Two smoking Barrels and Snatch. He brings back the shots like quick edits that don’t make you dizzy and the speed up and slow down parts that bring some intensity to the scenes, and brings some of the fighting scenes and shooting scenes in a style that’s all his own. The atmosphere and grittiness that you also see in his previous work shines in this as well, and you feel like he’s found more direction in this project.

When it comes to the plot, the story is fairly simple. One place leads to another in a cat and mouse game between good and evil. The surroundings have a slight Steampunk feel to it, and that’s a good thing for me, since I am a sucker for Steampunk. The guns and the towers and the science experiments give it an atmosphere that makes it feel like it’s a different world, and it immerses you into it.

It’s easy to see why other reviewers are giving it the standard “best movie of the year”, seeing as how it was an incredible experience. The actors did a great job, the direction is far more crisp, and the locations are memorable. The movie is a definite step up to the first one, and I highly recommend seeing it.

The next movie on the docket, which I saw with Puneet from Two guys One movie, is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the fourth instalment of the series that’s been going around since 1996, and based on the 1966 television series. The movie stars Tom Cruise, who plays the same character in the whole series Ethan Hunt. Not to be confused with the actor, Ethan Hawk, because for some strange reason, I always make that slip. The movie also stars Simon Pegg, replaying his character from the third instalment, and has Jeremy Renner of The Town fame, and Paula Patton, who is an up and coming actress.

In this edition, Hunt is rescued from a Russian prison and asked to invade the Kremlin to retrieve some information. When the deal is compromised the entire federation that deals with these missions is being taken down and the entire fleet is being thrown to the wolves. The word they constantly use is “Disavowed”, because it’s the word they use over and over again in the mission briefing since 1966. Their rogue mission now takes them to Dubai and Mumbai, chasing after a terrorist who stole nuclear launch codes and plans to launch it onto American soil for the sole purpose of being an absolute meanie.

Cruise plays Hunt very well, because he made that character, and now with this instalment, the two are almost one and the same. Cruise keeps the tradition of being an awesome action star, and does it very well in this film. Although there is one thing that needs to be said. How many concussions did that man suffer in the film? Seriously, the man did several action scenes, stunts, and fight battles that involve his head hitting something very hard, and made of metal usually. I think he got more concussion in this short span than Eric Lindros did his entire career.

Surprisingly, the best duo in the film was Renner and Pegg. They had a couple of scenes together, and they worked out really well. Pegg was obviously hired to be the comic relief of the film, and he did his job correctly. He didn’t add so much humour that he trumped all the serious scenes out, turning the movie into a comedy. And he wasn’t a fly on the wall, allowing just a couple of zingers out to make his part forgettable. He really got that down to a science, and made his part great. But Renner, who is a serious part to begin with, had some great workings with Pegg, relieving some of the tension from the scenario, but keeping the needed suspense.

The plot was gripping, and it should be for an action film like this. The action was nail biting, and it worked from beginning to end with all the actors doing their role. It plays the action movie cards a lot throughout, like the beatings the protagonists usually take unscathed, the convenient plot devices that make things conveniently more difficult, and the countdown timers that are measured in seconds that seem more like minutes, and the added snooze button they hit when they miss the clock, but they still can save the day. They have those rolling of the eyes feel to the film, but it’s a formula that works.

Of the two, they are great films to watch, although they feel more like summer blockbusters than winter feel-good movies. They both have great acting, and fun action to the both, and I recommend them both. If I had to choose one over the other, I would have to nudge towards Sherlock Holmes. It had that element of great story and story-telling that makes you want to watch it again and buy the Blu-Ray the moment it comes out.

So deck the halls, bough the holly, and so forth. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all, and watch out for that fuse in the … *boom!*