We'd hoped that having Oscar winner Bill Condon at the helm would elevate the franchise somewhat -- not difficult, as the three installments so far barely qualify as actual movies -- and we're glad to say things are looking somewhat better. We wouldn't say he's turned things round completely -- it's not like Taylor Lautner has magically learned how to act all of a sudden. But the two clips we were shown -- Edward and Bella arriving on honeymoon, the build up to their fateful first shag, and a confrontation between Jacob and the rest of his werewolf family -- were confidently shot, contained more drama than in the last two entire installments put together and even displayed a sly, sweet sense of humor.
It's not going to be enough to actually get us into theaters, but fans of the franchise should be reassured that it's looking like the best of the series so far. U.K. distributor eOne also showed a 3D action sequence from Paul W.S. Anderson's "The Three Musketeers," which was competent enough, although never quite thrilling. But then, competent action has never really been the problem for the director. A new, less fanboy-pandering "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" trailer also bowed, focusing almost entirely on the title hero. It looks better than the original, but then "Alvin & the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked" also looks better than the original "Ghost Rider."
Warner Bros. were next up, and things kicked off with the studio's big Christmas hope, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," introduced by director Guy Ritchie who's in town for pick-ups on the period sequel. He bowed a new featurette/sizzle reel, which went a little more in depth than the recently-released teaser. Kicking off with a brief encounter with Jared Harris' Moriarty, who warns Holmes "Are you sure you want to play this game?" it displays a bigger scope and what Ritchie described as "more ambitious" action, as well as providing the first look at Stephen Fry as Holmes' brother, Mycroft, who Ritchie promises will strip down in the full film. So, you know, there's that.
More excitingly, there was the first glimpse at footage from Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion," with a key sequence from the opening of the film. It starts off with a sickly-looking Gwyneth Paltrow at an airport, talking on the phone to someone she's having an affair with. From there, it follows other victims of the deadly virus, from a young couple in Hong Kong to a fashion model in London (who meets a foamy-mouthed end) to men in Abu Dhabi and Tokyo, with each city greeted by an on-screen title including the population, adding to the mounting sense of dread.
It's all beautifully lensed in classic Soderbergh-style, and surprisingly dialogue-free, with Cliff Martinez's excellent, throbbing, synth-heavy score taking the foreground. It all looks immensely promising, and we'll be bringing you our verdict on the finished film when it premieres in Venice in a few short weeks. The film hits theaters on September 9th, while 'Breaking Dawn' lands on November 18th and 'Sherlock Holmes' on December 16th.