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THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: An Overstuffed Holiday

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There’s a little something for everybody on this Christmas. For fans of Guy Ritchie (whose base has been crumbling the past few years) and especially for fans of Robert Downey, Jr., there’s Sherlock Holmes, a re-imagining of the classic detective series by Conan Doyle. In supporting roles are Jude Law as Watson the sidekick and Rachel McAdams as Holmes’ love interest. Of his iconic character, Downey, Jr. tells MovieWeb:

The things that get him off are the things that frustrate most people.

The same can be said for director Guy Ritchie, who has made some good films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) and inexplicable ones (Revolver, Swept Away). Lucky for him, though, it appears that this project is better than expected.

sherlock_holmes_posterTHE BUZZ: Pretty good. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert writes:

The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked Sherlock Holmes. Yet another classic hero has been fed into the f/x mill, emerging as a modern superman. Guy Ritchie’s film is filled with sensational sights, over-the-top characters and a desperate struggle atop Tower Bridge, which is still under construction. It’s likely to be enjoyed by today’s action fans. But block bookings are not likely from the Baker Street Irregulars.

While Ebert enjoyed Ritchie’s (and the five screenwriters’) modernization of the story, others weren’t buying it. In The Washington Post, Michael O’Sullivan writes:

Maybe you’ve read the Sherlock Holmes canon cover to cover. Twice. Maybe you’ve seen every episode of the slavishly faithful Jeremy Brett TV series and consider the late actor’s portrayal of the fictional detective the gold standard of Holmesian acting. Better even than Basil Rathbone. Get over it…At times, Ritchie and company try so hard to make sure this isn’t your father’s Sherlock Holmes that it comes across as, well, cartoonish.

I’m skeptical that Ritchie can create a commercial, coherent movie and it looks like he still hasn’t pulled it off.

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It’s Complicated is the new movie from Nancy Meyers, the director behind What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday. In an interview with Thompson On Hollywood, she explains how she really wanted to make her its-complicated-posternew comedy funny:

As a director I have gotten stronger. It’s a job I continue to learn how to do. I felt my last two movies were emotional ones for me to write, make, edit, and watch 1000 times. With this movie, I wanted to do a comedic turn. I tried to go to laughs whenever I could. I wanted to push myself comedically.

The all-star cast includes Mery Streep as a frisky divorcée and Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as the two men she juggles around in the sack. It’s one of the only rom-coms this years that’s deliberately aiming at the over 50 set.

THE BUZZ: Mixed. In The Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips says that It’s Complicated is:

simply a good time, a relatively adult and easygoing conveyance for three ace performers of a certain age, working through a few comic machinations created by writer-director Nancy Meyers.

But Mary F. Pols of Time Magazine finds the comedy less than authentic:

Meyers demonstrates, as she did in Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, an extraordinarily limited worldview. Her heroines are allowed just one problem, and it will never, ever include a lack of taste. Jane’s semi-rural Santa Barbara home is a hydroponic dreamland, where tomatoes grow implausibly round and fully ripe in springtime. Producers of porn employ ‘fluffers’ on their sets. I believe Meyers, as a producer of lifestyle porn, requires a fulltime bleacher, making sure every pristine surface and outfit stays that way. No matter how good Streep is, watching her in these surroundings feels akin to seeing Sarah Bernhardt trapped in a live-action edition of Martha Stewart Living.

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Also for the over 50 set is Rob Marshall‘s Nine, a musical remake of Federico Fellini‘s 8 1/2. Don’t get too excited if you’re a fan of the original, though, because Marshall, who also directed Chicago, has replaced the surreal with the mundane. As the trailer above so clearly shows, the movie’s song-and-dance numbers are relegated to a stage. A Nine-Posterclaustrophobic stage that is.

The financially unstable Weinstein Company, which had a much-needed hit with Inglourious Basterds earlier this year, must have been very worried about the movie’s commercial appeal, as its release date was pushed back three times. Is Christmas the right date for it? Probably not, but what date would’ve been?

Like 8 1/2, Nine is about a world renowned film director (Daniel Day Lewis) who’s losing his mojo. Its supporting cast is ridiculously A-List. It includes Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Fergie and Sophia Loren.

THE BUZZ: Not so good. In The New York Times, A.O. Scott writes:

Straining to capture artistic frenzy, it descends into vulgar chaos, less a homage to Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ (its putative inspiration) than a travesty.

Onstage, there was so much glamour I couldn’t decide whom to concentrate on. In the movie, they’re so obnoxious I just wanted them to shut up and go home. The movie is busy, but in their failed homage to Fellini, they’ve lost his mystery and humor.”

Too bad about Nine. It’s sad that Marshall even attempted to do Fellini. It’s like Michael Bay reworking the material of Ingmar Bergman. On this planet, those kinds of combos don’t work. Ever.

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alvin_and_the_chipmunks_the_squeakquel posterEvery Christmas, there’s always at least one movie for the kiddies. This year it’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. The first one was a big hit (unfortunately) and this will probably be a big hit, too (unfortunately).

THE BUZZ: Bad…as if that matters. In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman writes:

Like the original big-screen Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007), this new one is a slapstick pacifier, the kind of movie that features gags like Simon getting three-point-shotted into a wastebasket by an angry jock…Will kids eat up this cutely fractious claptrap? Of course they will. They’ll eat up whatever you put in front of them. But that doesn’t make The Squeakquel good for them.

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Opening in limited release is Terry Gilliam‘s anticipated new film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, about a traveling show with mystical powers. It is most notable for being Heath Ledger‘s final on-screen performance (his role was later fimaginarium poster 1inished off by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law). It also features the invaluable Tom Waits, whose presence is always welcome. Gilliam spoke with Screen Cave about the difficulty of finishing the project after Ledger’s untimely death:

On just a totally pragmatic level, there was no way to get one actor to replace Heath. I didn’t want to do that anyway. And there’s no way to get a great actor to turn up at the last moment. We’re making a movie. People have schedules. They’re all busy working. The fact we were able to squeeze Johnny, Colin and Jude’s schedule into our schedule in some way was kind of a miracle and so you needed a chance. You’ve got three possibilities out there and it was actually just more interesting as well. I thought you needed three A-list actors to replace Heath. He was that good. That was my attitude.

THE BUZZ: Good…if you appreciate Gilliam’s vision. In Variety, Todd McCarthy writes:

The helmer has made a pretty good thing out of a very bad situation…Synthesizing elements from several of his previous pictures, including Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Fisher King, the often overreaching director addresses a mad hatter of a story with the expected visual panache and what is, for him, considerable discipline. With Ledger onscreen more than might have been expected, the film possesses strong curiosity value bolstered by generally lively action and excellent visual effects, making for good commercial prospects in most markets.


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