'Sherlock Holmes II' Pic, Release Date

Via itsTwitter feed, Universal Pictures revealed the release date for SHERLOCK HOLMES II : December 16th, 2011.
Here’s the first picture released, featuring Noomi Rapace (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as a character possibly named Sim, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law returning Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

No details yet, but the film is suspected to involve Sherlock Holmes encountering Professor Moriarty, rumored to be played by Jared Harris (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON).
Other unconfirmed players: Steven Fry (V FOR VENDETTA) as Holmes’ elder brother Mycroft, and Rachel McAdams return as Irene Alder. 
Directed by Guy Ritchie from a screenplay by Kieran Mulroney & Michele Mulroney, based on the well-known characters by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Piture via Hitflix

Mark Ruffalo On Bruce Banner – Clip

According to Digital Spy, Mark Ruffalo is thinking that he’d like to make Bruce Banner a little more like Bill Bixby’s likeable underdog from his television version of THE INCREDIBLE HULK.
Describing what he and AVENGERS director Joss Whedon and he are hoping to achieve, he said the following.

“We want him to be an kind of an everyman, not so dour. A little more charming or accessible. We’re still sort of working it out with the script… I’m not exactly sure what it’ll end up being, but we’ve talked quite a bit about the Bill Bixby version of the Hulk.”

Hear the rest of his comments in the clip, including his expectation that  working with Robert Downey Jr. will inject some humor into the situation.

Sam Raimi Going to 'OZ'

Wizard_Scary_WSat on this for a while, but it appears to be legit.
Deadline.com says it can confirm that Sam Raimi (SPIDER-MAN) is going to direct OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL for Walt Disney Pictures.
Robert Downey Jr. (IRON MAN) is said to be in talks to play the role of the “Wizard” in this prequel to THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939).

The article states that Downey’s character is a “circus wrangler transported by tornado to the mysterious world of Oz”.
The screenplay, formerly known as BRICK, was written by Mitchell Kapner (ROMEO MUST DIE). Disney hopes to have the film out in 2013.
In the Frank L. Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Great and Powerful Oz was a state fair performer from Omaha, whose hot-air balloon was whisked away into the fabulous land. The novels implied the Land of Oz was real, and not just the dreamscape of young Dorothy Gale, as in the best-known movie.

'Holmes' For Christmas 2011 + More

sherlock-holmes-RDJ_2Today’s Time Warner Investor’s meeting has provided some further genre tidbits.

THR’s Georg Szalai writes that Warner Bros. announced a December 16th, 2011 release for SHERLOCK HOLMES 2, a sequel to the Robert Downey Jr. starring vehicle.
Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer also confirmed a July 20th, 2012 release for Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film, and a 2012 “holiday season” Superman movie.
Nolan, as previously reported, is also attached in a supervisory role on brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer’s SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL (working title).
Meyer mentioned that the studio is very close to green-lighting DC’s The Flash as a feature, and that Wonder Woman and Aquaman remain in development.

Iron Man 2: Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast, 1:13

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark
Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark

This time, Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski take a can opener to IRON MAN 2, the successful sequel to the 2008 blockbuster, starring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. Does it live up to the original? Do the special effects give more bang for the buck? Can Tony Stark’s ego grow any bigger? And what’s up with Ivan Vanko’s teeth? Also on this week’s agenda: FURRY VENGEANCE, George A. Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, DAYLIGHT on home video, and the usual roundup of the week’s most newsworthy items.


Sense of Wonder: Iron Man 2 – Hollywood loves a Lone Gunslinger

IRON MAN 2 lionizes its rich billionaire’s lone gunslinger attitude. Is national security and/or world peace really better off in the hands of a private businessman?

Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is unable to prevent Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) from making a drunken fool of himself at a party
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is unable to prevent Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) from making a drunken fool of himself at a party

Watching IRON MAN 2, I began to suspect that one reason for the recent success of Marvel Comic book adaptations is that their menagerie of superhero characters is less iconic than their DC counterparts, such as Superman and Batman, and this lesser status allows more play room for the filmmakers. As a special effects-filled action flick, IRON MAN 2 is passably good; what really makes it entertaining is the depiction of Tony Stark as a spoiled billionaire fathead who drinks too much and suffers from”textbook narcissism.” In spite of his failings, we like Stark because he’s a fun guy, he means well, and after all he is portrayed (brilliantly) by Robert Downey, Jr. The thing of it is, we can accept the hedonistic jerk we see up on the big screen because the depiction is not triggering any cognitive dissonance. Not to belittle the popularity of Iron Man and other Marvel characters among the comic fan base, but you can do this because the public at large does not holding dearly on to some sacred childhood memories of the character. If you tried something similar with Bruce Wayne, you could bet there would be an outcry.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

I mention Batman’s alter ego because it helps me segue into another thought about IRON MAN 2: although it is fun to watch, it suffers in comparison to THE DARK KNIGHT, which deals with a similar theme, that of the lone gunslinger who must clean up a corrupt town (or in this case world). The idea is threaded throughout the IRON MAN 2, but it goes underdeveloped as other ideas elbow their way in. In fact, the script features several interesting plot threads, but it lacks a strong central plot that ties them altogether: Stark is drunk (literally and figuratively) on the fame of being Iron Man, but his health suffering from his use of the mechanical suit; he struggles with his feelings for Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Samuel L. Jackson shows up again as Nick Fury. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) blames Stark’s father for his father death in poverty and wants revenge. Stark’s rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) wants to take Stark down.
What gets lost in all this is what should have been the core idea: Stark has supposedly single-handedly brought about world peace, but the U.S. government doesn’t trust him to continue doing so and wants to get its collective hands on the Iron Man technology. As embodied by Gary Shandling’s Senator Stern, the government is portrayed as a sorry bunch of grasping morons who will probably screw everything up, and we are invited to cheer as Stark makes fools of them at a Senate hearing.
It’s all very funny, but it plays into the fascist undertones often apparent in superhero stories, which suggest that certain people are just…well – better than everyone else, and if the weak majority of fools would just get out of the way and let the few wise ones work unfettered, then the world would be a better place.
For all Hollywood’s allegedly liberal bias, this is hardly a liberal sentiment; in the era of Blackwater, you would expect a little more skepticism about the wisdom of turning military matters over to private enterprise. But then Hollywood isn’t really liberal. It’s a company town run by rich people who want the government to stay out of their business. This may seem liberal to social conservatives, but it’s really more libertarian.
IRON MAN 2 doesn’t quite endorse this viewpoint. The plot, such as it develops, leads Stark to finally accept a sidekick (in the form of Don Cheadle’s Colonel Rhodes) and, by implication, assistance from the government, but the film cannot resist a parting (and admittedly funny) shot at Senator Stern. Maybe the Iron Man technology is too big for one person to be its sole proprietor, but the implication is that lesser men are riding on the coattails of their betters.
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer

I wouldn’t object to IRON MAN 2’s dubious political stance except that it muddles what could have made a good sequel even better. Justin Theroux’s script offers some funny dialogue, and director Jon Favreau has the cast deliver it in overlapping bursts that sound like real people trying to get in on a conversation, as opposed to actors waiting for their cue lines. All the actors are good, and Sam Rockwell deserves a special nod: he may seem a little over-the-top as Hammer, but this is not a flaw in the performance; it’s part of his character, a (figuratively) small man trying too hard to be bigger than Tony Stark.
IRON MAN 2 also deserves credit for having the nerve to avoid beginning with Iron Man finishing up a previous mission – which is pretty much the easiest way to launch a sequel like this. It’s also nice that the Iron Man sequences are kept to a minimum while the script tries to service its various characters and plot threads. The use of action seems strategically calculated to offer big payoffs at specific intervals, instead of wearing the audience down through overuse (a la Michael Bay). I particularly liked that Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has only one scene in which she shows off her martial arts skills – it added a different kind of action in the third act, and you were allowed to anticipate and enjoy the action without its unbalancing the rest of the film. And, frankly, it’s much more fun to watch her character kick ass than it was watching Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl.
All of this combines to recreate the fun of the first film, but there’s something missing. What fueled IRON MAN was Stark’s transition from shallow playboy to unexpected hero (unexpected by himself as much as by anyone else). There is nothing as strong going on here, perhaps because of some reluctance on the part of the filmmakers. As I said above, we like Tony Stark; I get the feeling that the filmmakers like him even more – too much to take him down a peg or present him with any conflicts that would cause him to seriously reconsider his eco-centric attitude.

Stark is not suffering any blow-back from his actions in the previous film or atoning for any past mistakes. Yes, Vanko accuses Stark’s father of being a thief, but the accusation turns out to be a false charge. (One of the more cloying elements of IRON MAN 2 is that Tony reconciles himself to his dead father, who turns out to be a nice visionary guy, with more than a touch of Walt Disney about him, rather than the mercenary arms dealer one would have suspected.) The only real personal crisis impinging on Stark (outside of his failing health) is the government attempt to coerce him into surrendering his Iron Man technology.
This is where IRON MAN 2 and THE DARK KNIGHT intersect. As I pointed out in “Dark Knight’s Politics of Noir,” the Batman sequel presents a modern variation on an old Western theme: that of the lone gunslinger who is rendered obsolete when justice becomes institutionalized, administered by courts and duly appointed officers of the law. In THE DARK KNIGHT, Bruce Wayne knew there was only so much he could achieve as Batman: Gotham needed more than a lone vigilante; it needed someone with a public face who could administer justice in the daylight, in the courts, not only in a dark alley at night.
IRON MAN 2 seems to admit of no such limitations. We are told – and expected to believe – that Stark has successfully “privatized world peace.” His impact on the world is literally more profound than the H-bomb. But peace isn’t just a matter of military strength (as Bush’s Iraq adventure should have taught us). Sure, Iron Man may be effective at putting down an uprising or battling off an enemy, but what happens after he leaves? Are we supposed to assume everyone joins hands and sings a round of Kumbaya? Isn’t there any collateral damage or lingering resentment among the defeated (or their heirs)? This may sound a little heavy-duty for what is clearly meant to be an entertainment film, but IRON MAN managed to invest its superhero story with some solid drama, so why not the sequel?

Stark (Robert Downey Jr) realizes he needs assistance from Rhodes (Don Cheadle)
Stark (Robert Downey Jr) realizes he needs assistance from Rhodes (Don Cheadle)

In its effort to squeeze in Whiplash and Black Widow, while simultaneously setting up the in-production THOR and the expected AVENGERS movie, IRON MAN 2 loses sight of the prize. It should have been about Tony Stark’s realization that there are some things he cannot achieve alone – and this realization should have involved more than being able to put down Vanko or outshine Hammer. It should have been the same sort of sobering realization that affected him so deeply in the first film, when he experienced the metaphoric fruits of his labors first-hand vis-a-vis being on the receiving end of the kind of weapons technology on which he had so thoughtlessly had made his fortune. That kind of character development would have tied IRON MAN 2’s plot threads together into something more than just an entertaining sequel; it could have elevated the film to the level of its predecessor.

Iron Man 2 (2010)


A worthy if not spectacular successor, IRON MAN 2 recaptures all the wit and exhuberance of the original

Before 2008, who really cared about Iron Man, one of Marvel’s minor characters – perhaps best known for the Black Sabbath song heard so prominently in the film’s trailer. Who knew who director Jon Favreau was? Even Robert Downey Jr. – a respected and well-known actor – hadn’t achieved Hollywood blockbuster status yet. The release of IRON MAN changed all of this – not only earning almost $600 million at the international box office, but also becoming one of the most critically lauded comic book adaptations ever, one that demanded a follow-up.
However, when the inevitable cries for a sequel were heard, things quickly became troubled: Favreau’s unlikely to return as director; oh no, he’s back. Terrence Howard has been fired; he’s to be replaced by Don Cheadle. Emily Blunt’s been cast; oh wait, she’s off the project. With all the issues of casting, production schedules, and who got paid what, it’s a minor miracle that IRON MAN 2 even saw the light of day. Thankfully, the sequel has emerged from the other end of the tunnel with all the wit and exuberance of the original intact – a worthy, if not spectacular, successor to IRON MAN.
IRON MAN 2 picks up six months after Tony Stark’s revelation to the world that he is the metal clad hero of the title; in the interim, his ego has inflated to even larger proportions than previously thought possible. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko, a criminal Russian physicist, is planning revenge against the Stark family, and rival entrepreneur Justin Hammer is growing tired of Tony’s media dominance. The film opens, somewhat strangely, with its worst scene: Vanko tending his terminally ill father in Russia. There is so much over-the-top Russian stereotyping (Vanko drinking vodka from the bottle in a snow drenched, crummy apartment building) and hammy acting (Mickey Rourke’s Darth Vader moment) that it’s embarrassingly bad. Fortunately, after this false start, the film quickly drops us headfirst into the Stark Expo, a sequence energized by the blisteringly sounds of AC/DC.
iron-man-2The original IRON MAN wouldn’t have been nearly as good if it were not for the characterisation of Tony Stark as a man with an egotistical, eccentric, yet brilliant mind, and Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect actor to embody that personality. The enthusiasm and maddening determination he brought to the role made the film, and the same is true for the sequel. Downey’s performance in IRON MAN 2 is ridiculously enjoyable to watch; he’s probably responsible for at least half the film’s entertainment value. That said, the new additions to the cast manage to grab their own share of the spotlight.
Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes, outdoes his predecessor by miles – not just because his character is given more narrative prominence but also because Cheadle is the all-round better actor, bringing a greater sense of authority and, when needed, comedic charm to the character. Mickey Rourke (save for the aforementioned emotional outburst) adds just the right amount of weird to his villainous Vanko, delivering some of the script’s best lines. Sam Rockwell excels as the tragically comic Hammer, a man desperate to outdo Stark but without the necessary means, and Scarlett Johansson delivers a surprisingly kick-ass (and not so surprisingly easy on the eyes) turn as Tony’s new assistant, Natalie Rushman.
Favreau retains his knack for entertaining, kinetic action sequences. The director has always injected his fight scenes with a sense of humour, and these moments elevate IRON MAN 2 a level above just being men in robot suits smacking one another. It’s the first outburst of flames, during Stark’s eleventh hour decision to compete at Monaco, that really stands out, however. Vanko (in his new Whiplash persona) enters the course on foot, tearing up high-powered cars left and right with a thoroughly frightening sense of determination, all shot in brilliantly realised slow-motion. During this moment, we most fear for Stark, and it’s a truly breathtaking piece of cinema.
Iron-Man-2-Black-Widow-scarlettLater, Scarlett Johansson also gets in on the action, infiltrating Hammer’s facility. We watch as she effortlessly cuts through security guards one by one, like a hot knife through butter. It’s an impressively choreographed and memorable sequence, one that will leave audiences with their jaws  resting firmly on the floor.
The special effects are also impressive. Although the CGI in IRON MAN was mostly up to the code, there were a few rough moments. With IRON MAN 2 this is no longer a problem: the technical and visual achievements rank among the best to date, investing every scrape, blow and explosion with believability.
This is not to suggest that IRON MAN 2 over-relies on pyrotechnics. The script is as sharp as ever. Stark’s witty banter with his detractors remains a highlight, especially when in two particularly hilarious scenes wherein Stark goes toe to toe against Senator Stern (Gary Shandling) and Nick Fury (Sam Jackson gets a lot more screen time round, and the film is all the better for it).
Pacing, on the other hand, is the weakness in IRON MAN 2’s armor. The narrative initially feels jet-propelled, but after Whiplash’s first attack on Stark the story becomes a little muddled, scattershot, and (dare I say it?) boring. At mid-point, there are several plot threads developing simultaneously, none of which are exceptionally interesting or well executed, and it begins to feel as if the second act is treading water in anticipation of the climax. When the battle sequence finally arrives, it’s highly enjoyable, but (just like the first film) it is over far too quickly.
This leads to my next criticism: lack of threat. There is one point, and one point only, during which the audience is in any real doubt as to whether Stark will make it out alive, and that is near the beginning. After that, IRON MAN 2 becomes very predictable: you realise that none of Iron Man’s opponents are going to put him in any tangible danger. Fortunately, these issues dim but do not destroy the overall impact of this amusing and exciting slice of blockbuster superhero cinema.
IRON MAN 2 (2010). Director: Jon Favreau. Writers: Justin Theroux (screenplay) and Stan Lee (original comic books). Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson.

Downey & Mendes On For Wizard of Oz Prequel?

Still from The Wizard of Oz
Still from The Wizard of Oz

According to Production Weekly’s Twitter feed THE WIZARD OF OZ prequel, entitled OZ THE GREAT AND THE POWERFUL, may have secured it’s director and star. Following the sad BOND 23 news it seems director Sam Mendes (ROAD TO PERDITION, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD) has found his next project and Robert Downey Jr. (IRON MAN, SHERLOCK HOLMES) is interested in playing the lead role.

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is being brought to us by Disney, produced by Joe Roth (ALICE IN WONDERLAND, HELLBOY) and the screenplay has been written by Mitchell Kapner (THE WHOLE NINE YARDS, ROMERO MUST DIE). The origin tale will be told from the wizard’s perspective and details how, as a young man, he arrived in Oz as part of a travelling circus, and how he became to be the coward behind the curtain of the original film.
Nothing about this project sounds particularly interesting, or indeed necessary, but it’s too early to discount it entirely. The thought of Mendes and Downey teaming up, however, does spark a bit of excitement as both are talented big-names in the business. There’s no word on a release date just yet but does anyone want to take a bet on how long it takes before it’s confirmed to be in 3D?

New Iron Man 2 Clip Released

With the IRON MAN sequel only a month away it’s a surprise to be given any more footage from the film, especially since we’ve already been given so much, but here is a new clip from IRON MAN 2. The clip’s a short one but shows us a complete scene in which Robert Downey Jr. (SHERLOCK HOLMES, A SCANNER DARKLY) as the titular Iron Man, flies down to the ‘Stark Expo’.
IRON MAN 2 takes off where the first left us, the world now knows Iron Man’s identity while the US government demands Tony Stark hand over the Iron Man suit and numerous villains plot to take him out. The clip comes just after director Jon Favreau announced on his Twitter that he’s finished the final cut of the film and has handed it over to Marvel.
IRON MAN 2 is released on May 7th, but be sure to check out Cinefantastique Online’s review of the film on May 2nd.