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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ ‘Armored,’ ‘Invictus,’ ‘It’s Complicated,’ ‘The Last Station’

Who wants a sparkly vampire boyfriend? I want an ass-kicking, violin-playing, cocaine-shooting-up, arrogant, superior, crime-solving genius boyfriend, and all the better if he’s played by Robert Downey Jr., who is probably just as fucked up as Holmes himself but is walking sex nevertheless. (Jude Law’s not so bad, either.) Oh my god I feel like I’ve been waiting for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (opens in the U.S. on December 25, and in the U.K. on December 26) forever, and I finally get to see it this week.

Armored (opens in the U.S. on December 4 and in the U.K. on January 22, 2010) will not screen for critics, but I’ll attend a courtesy screening on Friday morning. No advanced screening is never a good sign for a movie, of course, but it’s especially disappointing when Nimród Antal’s first feature film, Kontroll, was so amazing. His first film for Hollywood, Vacancy, had some surprising and pleasing elements, so perhaps Armored is better — and less predictable — than it looks.

Clint Eastwood has a new movie: Invictus (opens in the U.S. on December 11, and in the U.K. on February 5, 2010). I hope it won’t be another Gran Torino, because I’m still taking flak over that one. I’m guessing that Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela will not be all, “Hey you white people get off my lawn,” so maybe it’ll be okay. I’m also guessing, however, that Matt Damon as a celebrated rugby team captain cannot possibly be as intriguing as Michael Sheen was as a celebrated football coach in The Damned United. As always, I’m happy to be wrong about my less than positive expectations.

When I checked in for the Academy screening of It’s Complicated (opens in the U.S. on December 25, and in the U.K. on January 8, 2010) I attended earlier this evening, I was handed a sheet of paper that reads:

If you are a critic and plan to review this film, please note that all reviews and detailed reactions (including Twitter/Facebook updates) are under embargo until Thursday, December 10th.

So you’ll have to take a look at the trailer for now and take a guess what my reaction to such a film might be.

Christopher Plummer is Leo Tolstoy in the action packed The Last Station (opens in the U.S. on December 4, and in the U.K. on February 19, 2010). See Tolstoy renounce his life of wealth and material comfort! Watch as Helen Mirren gets all pissed off when he throws out the fancy silverware! Thrill as Paul Giamatti schemes as some Russian bad guy! Swoon as James McAvoy as some other Russian guy is all cute and not-Scottish!



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  • David

    Normally it doesn’t bother me but right now I am so green with envy that you get to see Sherlock Holmes right now and I still have to wait several weeks >_

  • Ashley Lindsay

    Have you heard about the Sherlock Holmes game that has been made in conjunction with the Movie? Jude Law is in the intro so it seems legit!

    Check it out at http://www.221b.sh

    Thought you may be interested

    Ash : )

  • ashok

    The trailers for both Holmes and Armored look awful (though admittedly the latter more so). The former looks like Guy Ritchie’s worst attributes run amok combined with a shameless Hollywoodization of everything Conan Doyle. The latter looks like the brainless, watered down sort of pseudo-tough gangsta style thriller subgenre exemplified by movies usually starring Paul Walker. All swagger and yet no R rating. That PG-13 on a movie like this generally indicates a fatal pandering to the for-all-audiences instinct.

    Hopefully I’ll be wrong about Holmes. Love the stories and was looking forward to it up until I started following the promo material.

  • Sarah

    Can I watch a movie where Robert Downey Jr. beats up sparkly vampire boyfriends?

  • jennie

    I don’t understand the ‘Last Station’ snarkiness here- or did I misread that. I saw the film at the Rome Flim Festival and found it an intimate film about idealism, love, and the dynamics of relationships that only the couple involved can know or understand.

    The characters feel real and honest and the acting is outstanding. McAvoy, Mirren and Plummer give flawless performances. You don’t really think the characters are going to be as cardboard as you described, do you?

    Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

    And I, too, am looking forward to Sherlock Holmes – but with a bit of worry. I wasn’t very impressed by the trailer but have some faith that RD-jr can pull it off.

  • LaSargenta

    Can I watch a movie where Robert Downey Jr. beats up sparkly vampire boyfriends?

    Me, too!

  • Sherlock the Vampire Slayer? Why not? It can’t be any worse than some of the films that have already been made about Sherlock Holmes…

  • See Tolstoy renounce his life of wealth and material comfort! Watch as Helen Mirren gets all pissed off when he throws out the fancy silverware! Thrill as Paul Giamatti schemes as some Russian bad guy! Swoon as James McAvoy as some other Russian guy is all cute and not-Scottish!

    Paging George Orwell! Paging George Orwell!

    George Orwell, report to the white courtesy phone please!

  • Anna

    God, I just want to see Robert Downey Jr. in anything! I can’t believe you get to see the movie early either. I am soooooo jealous. “I want to sit in the dark and watch Robert and I don’t care how many other people or vampires are there!” Robert would win in a fight with a sparkly vampire anyway, however, I would love to see Roberts’ moves up close!! I am envious – as are most women in the world right now!!!!!

  • markyd

    I’ll never get the RDjr love. The man was a freaking mess for YEARS, but all was forgiven because of some quirky movie roles? Hollywood and the real world really are two separate entities, aren’t they? I like him as an actor just fine, although he tends to play himself in all his movies. I wonder if Sherlock will be doing cocaine in the movie. Bad form?
    BTW, I’ve thought from the very first trailer that Sherlock looked awful. I guess we’ll see.

  • CB

    I’ll never get the RDjr love. The man was a freaking mess for YEARS, but all was forgiven because of some quirky movie roles?

    I don’t see a need to forgive him for anything. His life was a mess, he cleaned his life up, he moved on. He’s made some great movies and that’s why I like him. What’d he do to you that recovering from what is for many stars a career-ending problem isn’t sufficient to earn forgiveness?

    Hollywood and the real world really are two separate entities, aren’t they? I like him as an actor just fine, although he tends to play himself in all his movies.

    To the extent that “Hollywood” equals “movies”, then yes, and why shouldn’t they be? Why do you need to like him as anything but an actor? James Brown was a much worse person than Downey ever was, but he was an amazing performer and I went to see his performances, not engage him in his personal life.

    I wonder if Sherlock will be doing cocaine in the movie. Bad form?

    Heh, I think that’s funny. But, uh, if you’re going to feel this way about every entertainer who is or has done coke, then you’re not going to be leaving many people off the list.

  • markyd

    I’ll never get the RDjr love. The man was a freaking mess for YEARS, but all was forgiven because of some quirky movie roles?

    I don’t see a need to forgive him for anything. His life was a mess, he cleaned his life up, he moved on. He’s made some great movies and that’s why I like him. What’d he do to you that recovering from what is for many stars a career-ending problem isn’t sufficient to earn forgiveness?

    Hollywood and the real world really are two separate entities, aren’t they? I like him as an actor just fine, although he tends to play himself in all his movies.

    To the extent that “Hollywood” equals “movies”, then yes, and why shouldn’t they be? Why do you need to like him as anything but an actor? James Brown was a much worse person than Downey ever was, but he was an amazing performer and I went to see his performances, not engage him in his personal life.

    I wonder if Sherlock will be doing cocaine in the movie. Bad form?

    Heh, I think that’s funny. But, uh, if you’re going to feel this way about every entertainer who is or has done coke, then you’re not going to be leaving many people off the list.

    OK, so I’m having a hard time with the quoting…
    I meant “hollywood” as in someone who does something wrong in HW is more likely to be forgiven and welcomed back than someone in the “real” world.
    You are right in that most actors I know nothing about, and do not want to. When I DO learn something, especially particularly damning details, it DOES effect what I think of them. I can’t help that. Every time I see RDjr I can’t help but think about his drug-addled past. Doesn’t mean I don’t like his work. It’s just always in the back of my mind.
    Recreational drug use I do not forgive, because you have to be a complete idiot to do it. Guess I’m a jerk like that.

    This is why I just enjoy the movies and don’t worry so much about the actors. Less I know about them the better.

  • MaSch

    Tonio Kruger: The 1958 film “Horror of Dracula” with Christopher Lee as the Count and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing in some scenes looked to me a bit like “Sherlock Holmes, Vampire Slayer”, since Cushing definitely had something very Holmes-like in that performance, I think.

  • CB

    I meant “hollywood” as in someone who does something wrong in HW is more likely to be forgiven and welcomed back than someone in the “real” world.

    I can accept that as generally true, but on the other hand I see it as 100% appropriate outside of hollywood to welcome someone back after they have rehabilitated themselves.

    Recreational drug use I do not forgive, because you have to be a complete idiot to do it. Guess I’m a jerk like that.

    1) Unless what you don’t forgive is getting caught, then you should by default feel the same way about everyone in the movie and music industries.

    2) Never ever forgive, even if they realize they were being an idiot, wizen up, and change their ways? Apparently. Yeah, you are a jerk.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t understand the ‘Last Station’ snarkiness here

    There’s nothing to read into it. It’s no reflection on what I expect of the movie, just me having fun with the differing expectations we have of indies and studio films.

    And, by the way, I’ve now seen the film, and I think it’s very good.

    About Robert Downey Jr.: The dude has been a mess, and may have shaped up or not — I dunno. In either case, I doubt it’d be much fun to deal with him in real life. I feel sorry for him, that even his talent and the luck and opportunities he had to use it were not enough to make him happy. But let’s not be too ridiculous about this: He hurt no one but himself (and perhaps those who genuinely love him, in real life and not as fans, and then probably only inadvertently). He was a danger to no one but himself. These are not reasons to disavow him, from a fannish perspective, and there’s certainly nothing to “forgive.” Onscreen, separate from who he is and what he has done offscreen, he is sexy as hell — I think so, anyway. I know that’s a fantasy, but what are movies but fantasies?

    Will Holmes use cocaine in this movie? Judging from the rating — PG13 — and the reasons for the rating — “for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material” — it seems unlikely. But cocaine use was not illegal in Holmes’ time. If a hundred years from now, someone makes a movie about today that features characters smoking tobacco, even though in 2035 tobacco was outlawed, should that movie pretend that people didn’t use tobacco? Should we make movies about the Prohibition years that pretend that everyone went blithely along with the restrictions against consuming alcohol? Should we never concede, even in fantasy, that some people can use mind-altering substances — whether they’re legal or not — and still lead productive lives? Are we so juvenile as a culture that we cannot handle this?

    Do I really want a cocaine-addict boyfriend? Of course not. But the connotations of cocaine use today are very different than they are for a fictional character of more than a century past. Holmes can be a romantic character — not in the kissy-kissy sense of romantic, but in the Byronic sense of romantic. The cocaine use is part of that. (Of course, Holmes is hardly ever presented as *actually* kissy-kissy romantic — unlike, say, Edward Cullen — which is just my way of saying ik-nay on anyone who wants to cry, “But you just said *Twilight* is teaching girls that abuse is romantic!” It’s not the same thing, and until teenaged girls are swooning in the street over and writing fan fiction about Sherlock Holmes, it won’t be.)

  • Have you all heard about the new game that has been released in conjunction with the film. Its awesome.

    Find it at : http://www.221b.sh

    Also, Jude Law is in the intro so it seems legit!

    Anyhoo just thought you’d all be interested

    Ashley

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