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Guy Ritchie

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Reboots and Spy-Rings.

With summer coming ever earlier — are we really only two weeks away from Avengers: Age of Ultron? — the trailer machine is in overdrive of late. Among them…

Zack Snyder pours on the grimdark (and, as per 300 and Watchmen) lifts liberally from the visual iconography of The Dark Knight Returns) in the first offical teaser for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Eh…I’ll definitely see it, but this seems to have the same tonal problems as Man of Steel. Not really one for the brooding demigod Superman — he should be more like how Chris Evans is playing Captain America over at Marvel — the last boy scout. And speaking of tonal problems…

FF is grimdark now too? To keep the rights from reverting, Josh Trank glooms up Marvel’s first family for Fox in the trailer for Fantastic Four, with Miles Teller (Mr. Fantastic), Kate Mara (Invisible Woman), Michael B. Jordan (Human Torch), Jamie Bell (Thing), Toby Kebbell (Dr. Doom, the Ultimate version apparently), and Reg E. Cathey (Basil Exposition.)

I like the casting here, but I’d like this a lot more if FF were being folded back into the Marvel universe (a la teenage Spidey — Andrew Garfield, we hardly knew ye.) As it is, this still looks like a money grab to me, albeit one with quality production values. And speaking of money grabs…

I can’t even with this Terminator: Genisys reboot or reimagining or whatever it is. Depending on what you think of Terminator 3, this is either the second or third time they’ve tried to wring more bling from James Cameron’s baby (and, Arnold, if you want to make bank reliving past glories, get moving on King Conan.)

All that being said, I wish actors like Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Matt Smith, and J.K. Simmons all the best — Jai Courtney’s alright too, I suppose, but it sure seems like he came off the same bland-actor production line as Sam Worthington — so I was hoping this wouldn’t be a disaster. But the fact that this trailer seems to give away every single beat of the film (including, I presume, the main twist) while still feeling like a re-tread of T2, does not bode well. If you want to save yourself two hours/12 bucks, go ahead and click above.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Agent 007 is recovering from Skyfall Begins, and carrying his sorrows around with him again, in the teaser for Sam Mendes’ second Bond outing, S.P.E.C.T.R.E, with Daniel Craig, Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, and Rory Kinnear.

Waltz was born to play a Bond villain, and Bellucci an (age-appropriate for once!) Bond beauty, so this could be good fun if Mendes has the sense to let it breathe. We don’t need invisible cars and whatnot, but four films into the Craig era, they could stand to be a little less dour.

S.P.E.C.T.R.E, S.C.H.M.E.C.T.R.E…what about T.H.R.U.S.H? In a world where every past property from Full House to Galaxy Quest gets a reboot — including, one hopes, Twin Peaks — it’s Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin’s time in the sun in the first trailer for Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E, with Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, and Hugh Grant.

I was more intrigued by this when it was a Steven Soderbergh film, but Guy Ritchie channeling Peyton Reed might be amusing.

But can we say the same for Peyton Reed channeling Edgar Wright? Paul Rudd suits up for Michael Douglas as the titular Avenger in the official trailer for Ant-Man, also with Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, Patrick Wilson, Bobby Cannavale, and Wood Harris. This one might be a tough sell for Marvel, but fingers crossed they can work some Guardians magic for this. (And is Evangeline Lilly playing Wasp? Because that’s good casting, and she’s been AWOL over at the Avengers so far.)

Also on the reboot tip, Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, and just like Crichton and Scorpy back in the day, Chris Pratt is now colluding with the former Big Bads, the velociraptors, to take down an even greater menace. Bryce Dallas Howard and two kids (Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson) are also in the mix, as are a collection of fine actors that will no doubt be treated like hors d’oeuvres: B.D. Wong, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, David Oyelowo, and Brian Tee.

Jurassic Park nostalgia somehow missed me — I was probably too old for the original film, which I found so-so — so I’ll likely be OnDemand’ing this at some point. But, hey, good to have these opportunities for Chris Pratt to work his scoundrel edge before donning the fedora. It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

Want another top-secret, sinister spy organization at your multiplex? Ok, how about the Syndicate? Tom Cruise and various IMF agents of films past (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner) team up with Rebecca Ferguson to take down more Illuminati types in the trailer for Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, also with Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris.

I saw the trailer for this a few weeks ago during Better Call Saul and had no clue it was already in the can, much less coming out this summer. In any event, Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol revitalized this franchise, so will lightning strike again here? The return of those goofy “perfect masks” from the De Palma and Woo outings don’t inspire confidence.

Finally, and speaking of Brad Bird, he’s left IMF to explore Tomorrowland with George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Judy Greer, Tim McGraw, Raffey Cassidy, Chris Bauer, Kathryn Hahn, and Keegan Michael-Key. Given Bird’s mostly stellar track record in the past, I’ll probably catch this at some point, tho’ hopefully it sidesteps the weird Ayn Randisms of The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

From Mars to the Arctic (to your hands), Life.

In the trailer bin of late (along with the Bat, the Spider, and the Forelock):

  • Gwyneth Paltrow has more than just a few Coldplay albums to answer for in the scary-impressive trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, also with Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Enrico Colantoni, Bryan Cranston, Sanaa Lathan, John Hawkes, and Elliot Gould. This goes right next to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as one of my most-anticipated films of the fall.

  • Taylor Kitsch braves the deserts of Mars, Peter Gabriel by way of Arcade Fire, and some of the earliest fanboys going in the teaser for Andrew Stanton’s John Carter (formerly of Mars), with Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, with Thomas Haden Church and Willem Dafoe. That’s a great cast, and I like the period look on Earth, if nothing else.

  • Real-life couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz discover their new family home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the trailer for Jim Sheridan’s Dream House, also with Naomi Watts. With such an A-list director and cast, this film probably deserved a trailer that didn’t give away a key plot point — I suggest not clicking through here if you’re one to avoid spoilage.

  • Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reunite for a second installment of Holmesian shenanigans in the trailer for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, with Noomi Rapace tagging in for Rachel McAdams and Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty. This looks…pretty bad, but the first one turned out better than expected, so who knows?

  • Jude Law also takes time to disappear, and thus set up a grand adventure of magic and self-discovery for his son, in the the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, with Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Sasha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Michael Stuhlbarg, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Frances De La Tour, Helen McCrory, and Emily Mortimer. Like Dream House, I’m more interested in the pedigree than this trailer. But we’ll see.

  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead really never should have gotten involved in this particular Norwegian research project in the trailer for Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s The Thing, also with Joel Edgerton, Jonathan Lloyd Walker, Ulrich Thomsen, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Unlike most fan-folk, I’m perfectly fine with a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film, just because it’s one of the scarier horror premises going. Let’s hope van Heijningen makes the most of his shot.

Detective Comics.

Now that the book has been closed on the Curious Case of the Lengthening Decade Retrospective, time to get back to a few last holdovers from 2009 not quite superlative enough to make the end of year top twenty. First up, Guy Ritchie’s summer-movieish revamp of Sherlock Holmes, which was…more enjoyable than I expected, frankly. While it has elements that don’t work — most notably Irene Adler and too much future-tech — it’s actually quite a bit more Holmesian than I originally surmised, and not bad at all for a holiday popcorn film.

Ok, yes, this is basically just Sherlock Holmes as summer-movie superhero. Here, the famous detective of 221B Baker St. — now the “world’s greatest detective” in the Batman sense — has lost the trademark deerstalker and calabash. Here, he’s a boxer and martial arts expert, and these fighting skills are put to work as often as his talent for masterful observation. And, yes, in the climactic scene, as per summer-blockbuster tradition, Holmes actually fights the Big Bad — the insidious Aleister Crowley wanna-be Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) — mano a mano atop the yet-to-be-completed Tower Bridge.

This may all rankle some purists with fond memories of Basil Rathbone and the like. But I thought it all worked out decently well, and in fact this Victorian-era Batman incarnation of Holmes seems — to me at least — to be pretty close to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original vision. (Replace the Tower Bridge with Reichenbach Falls, and Blackwood with Professor Moriarty, and all of the changes above hew to the Holmes of the stories.) And, while I’m no doubt a beneficiary of very low expectations for this project — the ‘splosion-ridden trailers made it look really dumb — this Sherlock Holmes actually spent more time utilizing his vaunted skills of deduction than I expected going in. (This also allows Ritchie to favor one of his favorite cinematic tricks from Snatch and Lock Stock — showing the same event multiple times until the “real” story is told.)

In fact, I actually like some of the characterizations here in this Holmes. Thankfully not at all reminiscent of Tony Stark (even when he’s for-some-reason rocking sunglasses in a Victorian graveyard), Robert Downey, Jr. here makes for a quality master detective, all in all. He makes Holmes’ eccentricities seem like an organic outgrowth — or even an unintended consequence — of his intellectual gifts, rather than just grafted-on character tics. (I particularly liked the Superman-ish conceit, before dinner with the future Mrs. Watson (Kelly Reilly), that Holmes has trouble filtering through all the information he’s picking up at all times.)

And, while the bromance aspect here is probably overemphasized (it definitely made the Doyle estate blanch), I like that this Dr. Watson (Jude Law) brings certain things to the table that complement Holmes’ strengths. Watson is not just a bumbler here but an invaluable #2 — he’s not bad at detection himself, he can hold his own in a brawl, and he helps keep Holmes focused on the task at hand. Sure, one could argue that Ritchie et al have basically just made Dr. Watson the Robin to Holmes’ Batman, but, again, this felt closer to the mark of the original stories to me. (Although, speaking of grifting from the Dark Knight, I thought the sequel-setup involving Professor Moriarty here at the end was way too reminiscent of the Joker foreshadowing in Batman Begins.)

Are there problems with Sherlock Holmes? Oh, most definitely. For one, like I said, Holmes and Watson fall ass-backwards into situations requiring fisticuffs entirely too often to be plausible, which amplifies the action-movie stupid of these proceedings. For another, I think Rachel McAdams is usually both a very good and very fetching actress. But she seems entirely too young for the role of Irene Adler, Holmes’ match in wit, intellect, and derring-do. To switch tracks for a moment, Adler is the Marion Ravenwood to Holmes’ Indy, and, as such, this was a part screaming for the likes of Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton — someone closer to Downey’s actual age. (For that matter, they should’ve given her more to do than just be a damsel in distress, but that tends to be a hazard of the genre.)

Finally, and this is where Ritchie’s film really sorta lost me in the end, the technology involved in this story should also have been (Victorian) Age-appropriate. At one point early on, Holmes is seen working on a silencer…that doesn’t quite silence. Ok, that’s fine, as it turns out “suppressors” went on the market not too long after this period. But Tasers? Cyanide canisters under Parliament that are operated by remote control? C’mon now, that’s just lazy. I don’t mind all the “secret potion extracted from dried rhododendrons found only in deepest Namibia”-type stuff, because the original stories went there rather often. But giving the otherwise great villain Lord Blackwood access to 21st century WMD-tech is just plain idiotic. The Hurt Locker this ain’t.

So, my dear Watson, to conclude: If you approach Guy Ritchie’s action-fable with appropriately dimmed expectations, and remain cognizant that we’re traipsing about in summer blockbuster territory here, Sherlock Holmes is actually pretty worthwhile. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it smart entertainment or anything. But, for what it is, Holmes is no embarrassment to its titular character, and you can probably count me in for the inevitable sequel. (Can’t say I’m much feeling Brad Pitt as Moriarty, but Pitt might could sell me on it. Perhaps, like Holmes, I should widen my gaze.)

Lock, Stock, and One Smoking Ne’er-Do-Well.

In the trailer bin today: our disappointing first look at Guy Ritchie’s “edgy” reboot of Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey, Jr. Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong. Sadly, Watson, this showy demonstration reel has it exactly backwards. I was more intrigued by this project before watching it.

The New Holmes: Sherlock, by way of Larry, Jr.

“Sure, he will still be smarter than everyone within a three-planet radius, and he will retain his uncanny ability to intuit whole life stories from the tiniest speck of dust on a shoe. But he will do those things while being a man of action, a chaser, shooter and pummeler of criminals — like ‘James Bond in 1891,’ Joel Silver, one of the film’s producers, said last fall.” Uh…ok. The NY Times‘s Sarah Lyall checks in on the progress of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law (as Watson).

“Downey’s Holmes is darker than that of Mr. Rathbone…The new Holmes is rougher, more emotionally multilayered, more inclined to run with his clothing askew, covered in bruises and smudges of dirt and blood. This Holmes falls into modern-style funks between cases, lying on the sofa, suffused with anomie, unshaven and unkempt, surrounded by a pile of debris. He keeps his bills pinned to the wall with a bowie knife.” So, under Ritchie, Holmes has gone 21st-century emo, then. Nobody could’ve expected that.

Fly like an Eagle | One Smoking Painting.

In the trailer bin, Shia LaBoeuf and Michelle Monaghan take orders from GLaDOS in the new trailer for D.J. Caruso’s Eagle Eye, also with Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, and Anthony Mackie. And Guy Ritchie tries to conjure up some of that old Lock Stock mojo in the trailer for the very Ritchie-esque Rocknrolla, starring Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Jeremy Piven,and Ludacris. I’d say these are both on the Maybe list.

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