Every month Ken Lowery and I look at a selection of trailers for upcoming films to see what looks good and what reinforces the theory that we’re gluttons for punishment.
January means it is time to release the films that wanted to get out of the way of the blockbusters or take advantage of the quiet season to bolster their numbers. It’s…pretty obvious which are which.

January 6th

Roadie

DW: Three actors I really like in a film I have absolutely no desire to see. Which isn’t to say that this looks bad; it looks like an intelligent, emotionally honest, mature drama. But it also looks very much like a Pretty People With Problems (Of Their Own Making) film, and life is too short for me to spend time watching any more of those.

KL: There’s some wit on display here I like a lot, and maybe it goes no further than the trailer; I especially like the abrupt end to the sensitive acoustic song taking us through The Sad Passages of what is no doubt a Behind The Music set on a much smaller scale. Still, I like the color tones here – lost of warmth that expresses a mood without being overbearing. And I liked Twelve and Holding an awful lot, so thumbs up for Michael Cuesta in general.

January 11th

Loosies

KL: Not one of your better movie titles. I guess this is something of a passion project for Peter Facinelli, given that he wrote and stars in this. Um, I guess it looks OK? I suspect all the fun pick-pocketing stuff will give away to all the romance stuff somewhere around the second act, and thus would my curiousity take a serious nose dive. Probably not, barring some unexpectedly good reviews.

DW: I was actually pretty much with this, self-conscious and strained “quirkiness” and all. I mean, look, it’s basically an rom-com for guys, only without the blatant misogyny of, say, a Judd Apatow film.

And then they had to go and toss Vincent Gallo at me and, oh man, I just cannot take that guy or anything he is involved with seriously. Shame.

January 13th

Contraband

DW: There’s really no other way around this; this looks awful. A sad imitation of so many other, more sophisticated crime/action dramas out there.

That being said, I actually do find myself almost interested. Maybe it’s because I know going into it that this is going to be pretty dreadful. With stakes that low, any amount of quality is going to make the film enjoyable. Or maybe it’s just residual fondness for Giovanni Ribisi and amusement at how absolutely ridiculous he comes off here trying to play a heavy. In any case, this is at the very least worth a buck at Redbox.

KL: Well, style points for using The Dead Weather amongst the, I think, six song samples in this trailer?

Objectively, I know the deal. Foreign directors with outstanding names (or just outstandingly ridiculous ones, like “Chaos” – remember that guy?) have to helm some piece of crap (sorry, “pay their dues”) to justify their possible existence in Hollywood. But the whole system still feels like a big old middle finger from studios to uppity foreigners. Oh yeah, Gavin Hood? Gonna roll in here with your Tsotsi and your Oscar win? Fuck you, here’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

This plays out yearly.

I like Ribisi in these kinds of roles just like you do, Dorian – thought he was great as an unhinged but generally benign small town boy in The Gift – but this just looks like generic crime garbage. Doubly hilarious, because someone went to the trouble of adapting an Icelandic movie to turn it into… the kind of throwaway mainstream crime thriller that gets released in January. Sad trombone.

Don’t Go In The Woods

DW: A musical slasher film? That looks as if they are deliberately aping the aesthetic of cheap, 80s horror films, only with a cast of decidedly modern emo musicians? And it’s directed by Vincent D’Onofrio?

I’m really not sure what to make of it, if it looks really spectacularly awful or brilliant in a purposefully trashy way. In any case, it looks pretty much tailor made for me and my fondness for horrible, cheap, 80s slasher films. Hell, the D’Onofrio connection alone is enough to get me really interested in it, regardless of look or tone or subject matter.

KL: “Incredible” in every sense of the word, and I hope to God it’s sincerely made. Making a slasher musical with earnest sincerity takes ten times the amount of balls needed to make the same thing for ironic laughs. I have no idea if I’ll see this, but I’m glad it exists.

The Iron Lady

KL: Word of mouth on this one has almost universally been “great performance, not great movie,” and boy, if the subject is Margaret Fucking Thatcher, that is not enough to get my ass in the seat. I will pass on the inspirational story of a woman who broke the glass ceiling of world leadership by being one of the 20th century’s biggest assholes.

DW: Yeah, the trailers seem to do the usual hagiography thing that most biopics do, and in this case they’re selling the “feminism” thing hard. Which is pretty damn unintentionally funny given that this is a film about Margaret Thatcher. Some of the early reviews suggest that this a full-scale whitewashing of her politics as well, glossing over her racism, homophobia, even portraying her war-mongering in the Falklands as some sort of twisted matter of principle.

So yeah, fuck it.

Joyful Noise

KL: Commentary on this sort of movie is superfluous. The story’s beats are so old and creaky I want to give them arthritis medication, but I also know that seeing familiar beats played out one more time carries its own peculiar pleasure. Nonetheless, I will not see Joyful Noise because “the fulfillment of genre ritual” is not enough to get me to choke down the truckloads of sugary sweetness accompanying this thing; other people will see it because that is precisely their cup of horse shit. I mean tea. Que sera, sera.

DW: Some films are made for a very specific audience. In this case, gay male fans of Queen Latifah and/or Dolly Parton and gospel music fans. Since there’s a lot of crossover with the gospel music audience and the black film audience, I’m prepared to let a certain amount of tired, over-used cliches slide while I bear in mind that certain groups of film-goers are underserved, and anything that targets them can be filed under the “not for me” category.

And I say this fully aware that my husband, the gospel music choir director and Dolly/Latifah fan, has been looking forward to this film for months.

January 20th

Red Tails

DW: I’m not generally a fan either of war films or “important historical lesson” films. Primarily films are about entertainment for me, then art, then social commentary. There is absolutely a place for the social commentary and educational film, and the story of the Tuskegee airmen is the sort of story that could benefit from an exciting, mass appealing film. I just don’t think that this is that film. The CGI just in the trailer is so heavy and extensive that the entire thing has an unreal, video-game quality that is just off-putting. A more realistic look would have grounded this so much more.

KL: I do miss the days of seeing actual dogfights in movies about dog fighting; I fear we are forgetting that one of the simple joys of movies is seeing people do cool things, whether or not you’re aware that the person doing those cool things is a stunt person and not, I don’t know, Nicolas Cage. But we lost that fight ten years ago or more, and anyway good uses of CGI argue for that other simple joy of the movies: it’s cool to see things you can’t see anywhere else.

I consider any “epic” released in January to be suspect right out of the gate, but movies aimed primarily at black audiences often get the Black History Month release schedule, so who knows. As above, so below: I’m glad this movie exists, though I suspect I’ll wish it had been better.

January 27th

The Grey

KL: Liam Neeson as a super-badass battling wolves in an arctic wasteland – the jokes just write themselves, as Neeson has become something of a beloved caricature amongst the Gen Y Internet set. The marketing knows this, too; the poster’s nothing but Neeson’s name, face, and blank title.

The third trailer knows it, too, quoting extensively from Ain’t It Cool News (ugh) with lavish praise like “A Man’s Man’s Movie” (double ugh) and fragments of Internet-style discourse like “That, sir, was Dirty Dozen good” (triple ugh).

Leaving aside the troubling question of what a critic for AICN thinks a “Man’s Man” is, we must consider the thing itself, which is Liam Neeson Is Awesome, As Directed By Joe Carnahan. The Neeson lionizing gets old after a few jokes, and Carnahan has repeatedly demonstrated he thinks posturing trumps substance and nonsense action is just as good as velocity.

In other words, no.

DW: I never jumped on the Liam Neeson=badass train, so the very fact that these sorts of films not only exist but are actually turning into a thing sort of fascinates me.

Not enough to waste money seeing this, of course. I didn’t bother with Frozen, I didn’t bother with The Edge and combining the two doesn’t hold any more appeal.

Maybe if they tossed in some Ravenous.

One For The Money

KL: Given the relative slightness of the plot on display and the presence of TV director Julie Anne Robinson at the helm, I’m guessing there’s not a lot going on here that you won’t see in the trailer. And did you know you can watch trailers for free, as often as you want? You won’t get hampered down with nonstarter B-plots or wacky best friends/elderly family members who say outlandish things. Win-win!

OK, I don’t hate the trailer. I think if the stars aligned this could be fun, in a “well, nothing else is on” way. But I do not think the stars aligned here.

DW: I don’t want to jump on the Katerine Heigl hate-train, because it’s not that I dislike her. I just don’t like her as much as film producers and casting directors seem to think I’m supposed to like her. I can think of a half-dozen actresses who could pull off a role like this with more charisma (and a more convincing accent), but they’re not a current “it” girl so we get another film trying to convince us that Heigl is a lead actress. And I just don’t buy that.

Otherwise, this looks pretty bland but safe and inoffensive. There’s no way I’m paying for this, but maybe when it comes to “Watch Instantly” and I’m bored I might give it a shot.

The Wicker Tree

DW: The “not a sequel” sequel to the seminal The Wicker Man (the good version, not the one with Nicolas Cage and the bees). And it’s really not a sequel, it looks damn close to an actual remake, only with earnest young missionaries instead of a sexually repressed policeman.

It doesn’t matter. It’s the creator of one of the best horror films of all time making another “folk horror” film with possible connections to the aforementioned one of the best horror films of all time. It is exactly what I want to see, and I am going to see it.

KL: The IMDB page says this is a “reimagining,” so there you go.

I, uh. I’ve never seen the original Wicker Man. I know, OK? I know. But this looks pretty great, and it’s the same guy, and comparisons to the original will mostly be lost on me, so I get to see this one as a fresh product. You may consider me deprived, but I consider that liberating. I suppose I’ll see the original soon enough, too.

4 Responses to “In A World for January 2012”
  1. elsie says:

    I don’t see anything listed here that I want to see. Oh well, January is when the Oscar-quality films for grownups finally make my corner of the country, so that’s where I’m going. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is finally opening here, so yay!

  2. Rob H says:

    I’m looking forward to Red Tails because it looks like it could be Star Wars without the 30 years of baggage and no way to overly target it to kids. Overcoming the odds and bad-ass dogfights is about all I want from this.

    A Wicker Man reimagining by the same director who hasn’t done much beyond the original Wicker Man? This closest comparison that comes to my mind of this being done before is George Sluizer and The Vanishing. I really hope it turns out better than that. IMDB says Christopher Lee is back, so that’s a huge plus.

    Katerine Heigl’s look in that picture makes me think that Alison Brie should have been the one cast in that role.

  3. I’m looking forward to Red Tails myself. Saw War Horse on Christmas Day, and I plan on seeing Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Adventures of Tintin at my earliest convenience.

  4. Evan Waters says:

    January’s basically the catch-up month for me too.

    Apparently Iron Lady isn’t as much as a hagiography as the trailers make it look, but it’s apparently still pretty middle of the road and mostly a vehicle for Streep. Heck, even if you aren’t going to make an anti-Thatcher movie there’s so much more fun you could have with the material.

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