With THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, Disney succeeded in extending the holiday film season from the beginning of November to the end of the year. Now, DreamWorks has upped the ante with RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, a CG animated, 3D fantasy that not only has a burly, Slavic Santa (Alec Baldwin) heading up a team of dedicated fantasy icons charged with protecting the innocence and wonder of children, but also extends the market into spring by adding the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) to the corps, and then covers the gaps with Jack Frost (Chris Pine), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and a mute, but adorable, Sandman.
The film has an impressive pedigree, with Guillermo del Toro as producer and a scenario loosely based on William Joyce’s Guardians of Childhood chapter books. To discover how loosely, we invited beabetterbooktalker.com‘s Andrea Lipinski to give us background on the movie’s literary roots, and to join Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski and Dan Persons in determining if RISE rises (see what we did there?) to its self-imposed mission as champion of all that’s wonderful in genre film.
Then: Steve delivers his capsule review of the the-Commies-are-coming, domestic warfare fantasy RED DAWN; plus, what’s coming to theaters next week.
Abandon all propriety, ye who enter here. Once again, under the direction of Guy Ritchie and as embodied by Robert Downey Jr, the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes shakes off his tweedy cobwebs and gets down, dirty, and flat-out physical in SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS. Centered around the inevitable confrontation between Holmes and the formidable criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) — with world-wide stakes — the film takes the consulting detective and his steadfast friend Dr. Watson (Jude Law), plus Noomi Rapace as a self-reliant gypsy, on an epic tale of murder, conspiracy, and life-or-death chess games.
Come join Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons as they weigh the merits and demerits of this further retooling of a literary classic. Also: Dan delivers his opinion on the new documentary, CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL. Plus: What’s coming in theaters.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like there’d be much intersect between HUGO — the fanciful film based on Brian Selznick’s vividly illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret — and director Martin Scorsese. It’s set in a Parisian railway station circa the 1930’s, so there’s little opportunity for Brooklyn accents; it’s about an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) who tends to the clocks in that station while hiding out in its secret passages, so there’s little chance we’ll be seeing Joe Pesci kick someone’s ribs in; and it’s driving force is an automaton that contains within its works a secret about the station’s not-so-kindly toy vender, Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), so forget about hearing any of the traditional, four-letter-word-laced dialogue this time around. It’s only when you find out what that secret is that you realize not only why Scorsese is the perfect choice for this film, but why this may be the film he’s been waiting his entire career to make. beabetterbooktalker.com‘s Andrea Lipinski joins Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons to explore how a tale about the founding father of fantastic film has stirred a legendary director to create his sweetest and most enchanting work, and how it in turn pays tribute to those who seek to instill the sense of wonder in audiences around the world.
Also: Andrea gives her take on THE MUPPETS. Plus: What’s coming in theaters.
Break out the Purell, Steven Soderbergh is in mainstream thriller mode and he’s decided to get under your skin — almost literally — with a tale about a virus that doesn’t know when to quit. CONTAGION follows Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC template, spinning a world-spanning drama of people trying to survive the ravages of a fast-acting and deadly disease. Caught up in the turmoil: everyday dad Matt Damon; asshole blogger Jude Law; CDC doctors Jennifer Ehle, Kate Winslet, Demetri Martin, and Marion Cotillard; and government officials Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, and Enrico Colantoni.
Join Cinefantastique Online’s Lawrence French and Dan Persons as they examine Soderbergh’s skill at applying an indie film’s spontaneous production approach and incisive worldview to the dynamic momentum of a mainstream drama, debate whether the globe-hopping scenario does a disservice to the film’s characters, and consider whether it’s advisable for mature film critics to engage in a little social research by faking coughing fits during screenings (short answer: probably not).
Also: A celebration of the 45th anniversary of STAR TREK’s debut; plus what’s coming this week in theaters (spoiler: nothing) and home video.
E!Online revealed that the title to the Guy Ritchie SHERLOCK HOLMES sequel is SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS.
For some reason, that site thought the title was “lame”— to me, A GAME OF SHADOWS sounds very Holmesian; something creator Arthur Conan Doyle might have chosen.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson, as does Rachel McAdams Irene Adler and Kelly Reilly as Mary Morstan, as well as
Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade).
Joining the cast are Noomi Rapace as a character named Sim, Steven Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes, and Jared Harris as the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS arrives in theaters December 16th from Legendary Pictures, Village Roadshow Productions and Warner Brothers.
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.
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
EDITOR’S NOTE: I should have completed this review week’s ago, but the film simply made my brain hurt too much; I had to take a long break before returning to finish this write-up.
It’s sometime in the future, and guess what? The future sucks. Surprise, surprise: a heartless, profit-driven corporation sells artificial organs to people who cannot afford them and, when clients fall behind on their payments, sends licensed hit men to reclaim the property (called “artiforgs”) . But that’s not the part that sucks. No, the part that really sucks is that everybody in this future is so freakin’ stupid that they don’t deserve to live – let alone occupy two hours of our time in the theatre – and yet there they are, up on the screen, big as life, acting as though what they do makes sense.
Where to start? Well, let’s start with the evil corporation, led by Frank (Liev Schreiber), who in an intriguing throw-away line says he doesn’t want his top repo man Remy (Jude Law) scaring the customers, because then they will pay in full immediately instead of in installments with interest, the latter of which is more profitable. At first the idea seems to make sense, in a devious kind of way: jack up the selling price so that the long-term plan is the only viable alternative, forcing customers to pay exorbitant interest rates for years if not decades. However, this profit-optimization scheme works only ifthe customers continue making payments. The mathematical calculus breaks down if customers are continuously defaulting – which certainly seems to be the case here. I’m willing to grant that the the plot, by its very nature, will not introduce us to many paying customers, but we never see any, leaving us to wonder whether Frank’s scheme is deliberately designed to make everyone default. Does Frank’s balance sheet really show more black ink if the company routinely retrieves used organs after a few payments, instead of receiving a one-time check for $650,000?
And how about those customers? The sign up; they don’t pay, and yet each and every one of them seems surprised when Remy shows up. Either they go about their lives like normal, doing nothing to avoid the inevitable, or they conveniently gather together in groups so that the repo men can easily score lots of repossessed organs with relatively little footwork.
And how about those repo men? Remy’s partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) opts to score a victim outside Remy’s house – during an afternoon barbecue, no less – with Remy’s approval if not active participation. And both of them seem surprised when this brilliant plan leaves Remy’s wife understandably furious that her husband’s job has come both figuratively and literally to her doorstep – leaving a trail of blood, no less.
And how about that wife? Carol (Carice Van Houten) wants Remy to phase out of the repo end of the business and move into the company’s sales division, as if the ethics of the job are of less concern than the messy mechanics. When Remy gives up repossession after a job goes wrong, putting him in the hospital and leaving him with a company-owned artiforg heart, Carol throws him out of the house anyway, claiming he made his decision when he went out on that last job. The operative word here is “last,” as in: he was about to transition to sales, just the way she wanted.
And all of this happens in a world that barely seems to notice. I’d be further willing to allow that, as long as the repo men were low key and their activities were relatively infrequent, this kind of thing could go on relatively below the radar. However, we’re seeing an absolute epidemic of defaults. And even if the activities were legal in regards to customers, that still leaves the question of collateral damage (Remy tases one customer’s girlfriend, who is never seen again, leaving us to wonder why she doesn’t file charges, or at least a lawsuit).
Incredibly, all of this is only the tip of the idiocy iceberg, which only full emerges in the last reel, when the full-on silliness erupts across the screen with enough force to make what preceded seem almost logical by comparison. Things get so ridiculous that the filmmakers themselves seem embarrassed, resorting to a lame surprise ending (lifted from BRAZIL) that is intended to wipe away the nonsense but only manages to be even more ridiculous than what it replaces. (Sorry if this sounds like a spoiler, but truth be told, there is no way to spoil something so rotten in the first place.)
I could go on and on, outlining each and every intelligenc-insulting moment, but I intend to be kinder to you, dear reader, than the film was to me…
If there is a redeeming element to REPO MEN, it is the performances of Law, Whitaker, and Schreiber. Although the story is too ridiculous for them to perform up to their best levels, they all manage to infuse a sense of credibility to their characters, even when the screenplay is forcing them to do incredible things. For example, Remy’s reclamation of an organ from a musician whose work he respects actually evokes a twinge of emotion, even though you wonder whether his boss’s ever worry about conflict of interest. But then you realize they don’t: when Remy goes rogue, Schreiber’s character sends Remy’s best friend after him, and as unlikely as this is, Whitaker almost sells it.
The essential idea of a tough man in an immoral job, forced by circumstances to re-evaluate his life’s work, is a strong one, and presumably a good movie could have been made from it. Unfortunately, REPO MEN shirks the dramatic change-of-heart, taking it for granted instead of exploring it dramatically, emphasizing mindless action at the expense of story-telling. Too bad we can’t repossess this idea and install it into a good movie.
REPO MEN(March 19, 2010). Directed by Miguel Sapochnik. Screenplay by Eric Garcia & Garret Lernier, based on Garcia’s novel The Repossession Mambo. Cast: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Lieve Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice van Houten, Chanlder Canterbury, Joe Pingue, Tiffany Espensen, Yvette Nicole Brown, RZA.
This week’s topic is REPO MEN, the new science fiction film starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as company agents who retrieve artificial organs from donor recipients unable to pay for the price of a new heart. Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski also discuss the week’s top news stories, offer random recommendations of horror, fantasy, and science fiction films worth checking out, and preview the week’s home video releases.