Every month, Ken Lowery and I look at the trailers for some of the films hitting theaters in the next few weeks, to see which look good, which look bad and which call into question the fundamental principles of the universe with their very existence. This month, we’re joined by a selection of writers from the Fake AP Stylebook, authors of Write More Good, available in stores this coming Tuesday, April 5th (order your copy now!).
Mike Sterling: Tossing out the blurb “FROM THE DIRECTOR OF ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS” partway through this trailer is almost redundant, as HOP appears to essentially be, in part, the same movie, only narrowed down to one rabbit versus three chipmunks: talking CGI animal freaks out live action human, said animal interferes in lead human’s romantic life, animal seeks success in human rock ‘n’ roll industry, and also, poop is eaten. True, in HOP the poop is in the form of delicious, delicious jellybeans, but you see that rabbit pinch off a bean-loaf right onscreen, so c’mon, that still counts as poop-eating.
One “original” element to this iteration of the story is a layering of a “disappointing the family to fulfill one’s destiny” subplot, which, by the way, you should note the use of the quotes around the word “original” back there. The other is that it appears the human eventually enters the fully-CGI homeland of the rabbit, which looks like it could be fairly entertaining, but you’d still have to make it through the rest of the movie first.
Maybe a rental, skipping through the predictable boring stuff and going right to the bits with James Marsden pretending to react to a world full of cartoon animals. That’s gotta be good for a laugh or two.
Dr. Andrew Kunka: When I was three years old, I got a stuffed bunny rabbit for Easter named Hop-Hop, and he was my constant companion through childhood. The preview for Hop looks to answer a question I have lingering from my childhood: what if Hop-Hop came to life and tried to fuck a human woman, like my mom?
Hop looks like a mess, and every trailer seems to present a completely different movie. One appears to be a delightful interspecies romantic comedy. Another looks like a generational conflict between a father (The Easter Bunny), who wants his son (E.B.) to follow in the family business, while the son wants to find fame and fortune as a rock drummer. And finally, it also seems to be a Marxist allegory where the chick workers, led by their outrageously accented leader, Carlos, fight against their brutal bunny oppressors. None of those is a movie I would want to see.
Also, E.B. apparently shits jelly beans. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? And are they shit flavored?
Josh Krach: Rubber is a dadaist horror-comedy about Robert, a living car tire with super powers who wanders the Southwest, exploding the heads of anyone in his path. That’s enough high concept to crush a dozen Zach Snyder flicks. Can any film, much less a low-budget indie, hold up under all that weight? I suspect not, but the trailer’s got moxie, and does a really good job of making me root for what I hope is a plucky little weirdo flick. Rubber could be turn out to be one of those genuine cult classics like Evil Dead 2.
And if it’s not, there’s still every chance it will live on for eternity in the form of nerd merchandise, internet memes, and decades-too-late comic-book adaptations. If nothing else, I can’t wait to see how the cosplayers pull this one off.
Mike Sterling: The big gag in the Rubber trailer is that it starts off almost looking like a whimsical, almost Pixar-esque movie, where a tire comes to life and hits the road, looking for purpose and adventure…at least until the tire telekinetically kills a cop. It’s a bizarre premise that, from all appearances, is played almost completely straight. I suspect the ultimate entertainment value and success of the film hinges on its ability to keep that straight face, contrasting the peculiar star character with its crime story.
I have no idea if the novelty value of the premise can sustain itself for the full runtime of the film, but frankly, just out of desperation for seeing something, ANYTHING that’s unique and strange and possibly wonderful on the big screen, I’m willing to give this flick a shot. Definitely worth seeing in a theatre, but will probably end up having to rent it, because God forbid any of the local multiplexes show one less crappy 3D kids movie to make room for something new.
Dorian Wright: Duncan Jones earned a lot of goodwill from me for Moon. It’s so rare to find a science-fiction film that’s actually built on concept and character, instead of being just another action movie, only in space. That it was a very good film, with an exceptional performance from Sam Rockwell, were just bonuses.
This is not the slightest bit what I thought his next film might be like. I’m hoping that this is yet another example of a film’s marketing and execution being off, and this isn’t just another in the string of “alternate reality” films we’ve been getting lately with some action sequences and explosions throw in. But, even if it is just that, I think I’m okay. As I said, Jones earned a lot of goodwill.
Of course, it also has Jake Gyllenhaal in it. That’s pretty much almost never a bad thing.
Ken Lowery: Well, this is a no-brainer. I like everyone involved with this; the only hang-up is writer Ben Ripley, who has two of the lesser Species titles in his four-title resume. Early reviews are very good, so there’s that.
Two things stick out to me: One, it’s a very good time to have a solid science fiction pitch with some heart to it. Inception made a bajillion dollars and won critical acclaim and The Adjustment Bureau has decent reviews and has nearly doubled its money in just under a month. Wouldn’t you know it, people like being dazzled by big ideas and human emotion.
Second, I’m glad someone remembered that Jake Gyllenhaal can act. Yeah, he’s a pretty face; he’s also the guy that knocked four roles straight out of the park with Brokeback Mountain, Proof, Jarhead and Zodiac. Welcome back, Jake!
Matt Wilson: Based on the trailers I’ve seen, this is essentially the exact plot of the original, 1981 “Arthur,” with, obviously, a cast change–Helen Mirren for John Gielgud is an even trade, Greta Gerwig is a big step up from Liza Minelli and Russell Brand is basically a methed-up Dudley Moore anyway–and, most notably, very prominent Batman and Star Wars scenes which don’t seem to contribute to plot or character development in any measurable way. They’re just in there because, hey, Batman! And hey, Star Wars. Truly, we have reached the pinnacle of Nerds Ruining Everything.
Andrew Weiss: The folks behind the Bedazzled remake must be feeling much better about themselves right now.
Doctor Andrew Kunka: When I first saw Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, I thought to myself, “I would really like this movie better if that girl were an unstoppable killing machine.” At the time, I meant Vanessa Redgrave, but I guess the idea could also work with Saoirse Ronan as well.
Seriously, though, this trailer for Hanna pushes a lot of the right buttons for me. The lone, highly trained assassin going up against the CIA recalls the Jason Bourne movies, and Cate Blanchett should fill the Joan Allen role well. Also, the plot has a kind of comic book pedigree, with echoes of Wolverine and the Cassandra Cain Batgirl.
While I didn’t care much for Wright’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I admire his masterful adaptation of Atonement, one of my favorite novels of the past decade. Hanna, however, looks like a significant departure from those movies, but I hope he can take a page out of the Bourne playbook and combine compelling characters with an attractive plot.
Dorian Wright: I’m not familiar with Wright’s work, but I am a fan of stylized, European action films and thrillers, and Wright is certainly channeling that vibe here. The “girl who kicks ass” theme is one that’s become terribly degraded over the last few years with dumb, exploitative films that think putting a weapon into a little girl’s hands is some bold feminist statement in and of itself, but films like this, that appear to treat the material with intelligence and some sophistication, show that there’s still some merit to it.
It looks like The Crimson Rivers mixed with a distaff, juvenile Bourne Identity, and I can dig that.
Anna Neatrour: I thought Pineapple Express was hilarious and it actually managed to be somewhat surprising with its sudden shift into third act violence. So I am looking forward to this movie just because it stars James Franco and Danny McBride. I’m not sure how commercially successful a high fantasy action comedy pastiche is going to be, but Danny McBride is as hilarious as you might expect and even Natalie Portman manages to come off as tolerable.
I’ll happily watch this to experience Danny McBride’s horrible British accent and Franco’s mugging, yet I am fearful that this will become some sort of horrible nerd quote machine for fantasy fans who have decided to move on from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Ken Lowery: As I said when I first found out about this movie’s existence, “I will happily pay money to watch James Franco, Danny McBride, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman do some LARPing.” That opinion still holds.
And as goofy as the concept is, there’s a lot of serious weight behind Your Highness, specifically in the writer/director department; director David Gordon Green and writers McBride and Ben Best are all Eastbound and Down alumni. I do not expect Your Highness to reach the heights (or depths?) of that caustically hilarious show, but I expect McBride to be McBride and I expect to laugh my damn ass off at these guys playing dress-up.
Anyway, that line Theroux has about why women might want to be with him is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Andrew Weiss: Q: Who is John Galt?
A: That dude from One Tree Hill, apparently.
Finally, the right-wing rebuttal to Thomas the Tank Engine the world has been waiting on for years! Seriously, there are a shitload of train scenes in this thing. Maybe it’s supposed to be (obviously and clumsily) symbolic but it gave me the impression that the director really wanted to make an IMAX documentary titled Rail Journeys Across America and realized they only way he could fund it was to pander to the Tea Party crowd. Ironic, considering that the federal subsidies which keep the railroad business afloat are a favorite target of that set.
I also have to wonder who the intended audience is for this is. Is the studio hoping for a “Passion effect,” counting on die hard objectivists to buy multiple tickets out of a desire to stick it to the Hollyweird liberals? The problem with that logic is that the Tea Party rank and file would rather drop fifteen bucks to see Hop or Fast Five than to park their asses in a seat watching rich folks act like the same elitist dickwads they accuse liberals of being.
Ken Lowery: I have seen the rumblings on this, from the usual corners, and it’s about what you’d expect. Those of us who are not Rand converts are “scared” of this movie, because it will show us for the cowardly parasites blah blah blah you know the routine by now. It’s the kind of zealous self-righteousness that only the truly insecure can muster; likewise the simple certainty that anyone who isn’t an immediate convert when exposed to The Truth is simply lying to themselves and to others.
But nevermind. Rand scholars (both pro- and con-) can’t seem to make up their mind about whether Atlas Shrugged the novel is meant to be taken as a novel, or as a screed, or neither, or both; a movie that hopes to succeed in mainstream theatres has no luxury to quibble with whether or not it wants to be entertaining. This thing will have to perform to earn dollars, and that’s one thing it just can’t do. I expect this will barely register at the box office or in serious critical circles, which will only confirm that the rest of us are scared parasites too afraid to face up to blah blah blah.
Josh Krach: Hey, has anyone seen Neve Campbell around? Remember her? I could have sworn I saw her right—oh, there she is!
Full disclosure: Any time it’s on the tube, I’ll stop and watch the first Scream, a slick American giallo for the Joss Whedon generation that deconstructs the slasher film even as it milks all the cliches for maximum tension. I even sat through both sequels in the theaters, despite sharply diminishing returns. I’m squarely in the wheelhouse for this franchise, is what I’m saying, and even I couldn’t tell you who this movie is supposed to be for.
If the point of Scream is to take shots at film horror’s state of the art, well, nothing in the trailer suggests Number Four is taking on the torture porn, J-horror retreads, or squicky paranormal romance we’ve been getting for the last decade. If the point is to make more money, wouldn’t the producers have been better served by the sort of bottom-up, PG-13 reboot that attracts younger audiences?
Ken Lowery: I have a long, complicated history with this franchise. For a very long time I was categorically against it; while I do think Wes Craven is just damn good at his job, I rebelled against the notion of meta-commentary becoming the new horror. I just plain didn’t think smirking through the proceedings was the bold step forward for horror that everyone else did.
I still mostly feel that way, but I’ve come to recognize that not all horror is about real scares. Scream is about entertainment—literally and figuratively—and the first movie, at least, is pretty entertaining. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Here’s Scream 4’s challenge: getting the voyeuristic thrills of “found horror” and the no-holds-barred bloodletting of torture porn flicks while still retaining the make and model of the slasher film. All these sub-genres of the horror movie are related, yes, but they do different things and they do them differently. I’m not entirely convinced it can be done. But I’m willing to be wrong.
Matt Wilson: Contrary to my initial belief, this is not the long-awaited fifth sequel to Apollo 13, though it apparently uses half of the stock footage that film did. No, the elevator pitch for this one appears to have been, “Paranormal Activity…in space! That is, in the space program! Specifically, in the ‘lost’ last Apollo mission!” Which is a really long elevator pitch. Step it up, producers! Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and give away the twist ending without having seen the movie: Somehow, the little creatures/demons/the virus/the deadly goo from the moon figured out a way to pilot the lander! And it took them until about…April 2011 to do it! AHHHHHHHHHHH!
Dorian Wright: There’s one thing here that I do like. A moon lander is actually a pretty good setting for a nicely claustrophobic horror film. It doesn’t look like we’re getting a good horror film, just another blurry, something jumps at you film, but I guess we can’t have everything we want.
The big problem for me is the way the film is being presented. I’ve said it before, but I’m really not fond at all of the “found footage” or “mockumentary” movies, especially in the horror genre. That trick really only ever worked once, in The Blair Witch Project, and not even terribly well then. I suppose the cost to profit ratio is just too strong to expect the genre to ever really go away.
The other thing that annoys me, and this is especially true of this film, is that the insistence that “no, really, this is all true, honest” does something of a disservice to the people who actually, you know, wrote, directed and acted in this. I always wonder how those folks react to being told that, nope, sorry, we’re not sending you out to do any press, it would hurt our marketing efforts if people found out you’re real.
Dorian Wright: I’ve never actually seen any of the films in this series. I saw Torque, the motorcycle themed knock-off, and about fifteen minutes of a Christian themed knock-off, but my knowledge of the franchise itself doesn’t extend past knowing of its existence and hearing people talk about the apparently hilarious unintentional homoeroticism.
This looks like a movie about men in tight shirts driving cars, explosions, and really awful dialogue. I’m going to toss out the phrase “not for me” and leave it at that.
Anna Neatrour: This is exactly what I’d expect from a Fast and the Furious trailer – people shoot guns, jump off roofs, drive cars, and there are lots of jiggling girls gyrating around sports cars.
I have a high tolerance for dumb summer action movies, and Fast Five looks like it will deliver plenty of stupidity and explosions. I had to laugh when I caught a glimpse of The Rock’s weedy beard as he intoned “Don’t let them get into cars.” I will be disappointed if the cars towing safes scene is the major demonstration of action movie physics in the movie, because I do occasionally like to be surprised when I go to the movies, and I’m always disappointed when the trailers essentially show all of the movie in two minutes. I suspect that my major complaint about the movie will be the same thing that bugged me about the trailer: not enough Sung Kang.