It’s time once again for Ken Lowery and I to take a look at a selection of trailers for film’s coming up this month, and with the official start of the summer movie season, we’re in block-buster overload, and sound engineers competing to see who can deafen the most audience members with the sounds of exploding alien robots.

 

May 4th

Avengers

 

DW: Nope.

KL: Nah.

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

 

DW: Well, that’s a whole bunch of actors whose collective work I enjoy a whole hell of a bunch making a movie that appears to be steeped in a whole mess of post-colonial privilege stew. I hope that it’s just a case of really bad marketing, and this isn’t another film about a bunch of white people who travel to another country and learn Important Life Lessons from the natives, whose simplicity means they’re tapped into Deeper Truths, in an explicitly condescending and borderline-racist way. Because, brother, that is exactly what it looks like so far.

 

KL: Oof, let’s hope it’s more about that than manifesting that, but it’s hard to say. There’s, you know, some history between England and India, history which was astonishingly not solved by Indiana Jones and Short Round. The trailer basically tells you everything that’s going to happen, complete with a music cue that shifts us from “haha rueful!” to “hey man, like, LIFE!” and at this stage in my own life I’m good with 90 seconds of that, as opposed to 90 minutes of it.

 

Meeting Evil

 

DW: Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to these things, but I will honestly be more surprised if it turns out that Samuel L. Jackson is not a figment of Luke Wilson’s imagination.

In any case (figment, charming sociopath, actual devil) it’s pretty rote ground for a thriller, so whether this is worthwhile or not is going to depend pretty strongly on the performances and the quality of the script and any wit and originality it can wring from the scenario. Jackson I’m feeling a bit burnt out on; it feels like his performances increasingly tend towards camp as a result of, as a friend puts it, the “Samuel L. Jacksploitation” factor. Wilson I’m still pretty okay with, so…maybe Netflix I guess?

 

KL: I’m leaning “actual devil or possibly figment,” but I sincerely doubt it’ll be clearly spelled out.

I mean, this doesn’t look bad. SLJ is toning down his Al Pacino Yelling All The Time School of Acting and leaning more on the glowering and that is, for him, a refreshing change of pace from the last 78 movies he’s made. I’m all for popular entertainment advancing the elementary (yet still controversial) truth that evil is not an “other,” but I can’t tell which way this one will shake out.

 

May 11th

Dark Shadows

DW: Weirdly, this is both the last thing I expected out of a Tim Burton remake of Dark Shadows and exactly what I expected out of a Tim Burton remake of Dark Shadows.  The last thing because “brooding supernatural romance” sounds like something right up Burton’s alley, and exactly because, boy, does this look like a self-indulgent train-wreck.

As with most remakes, the question of who precisely this was for seems to come up. Doing a wacky period comedy is the sort of thing that, one supposes, would only alienate fans of the original series. And the sort of people a wacky period comedy might appeal to are likely to be alienated by having it tied to this old soap opera property they’ve maybe heard of only vaguely. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see a bit of the Beetlejuice-era Burton here. Johnny Depp in full on ham mode, though, makes me skeptical.

 

KL: I am hoping this goes for the pure hilarity and some creepy imagery, because that’s a Burton we haven’t seen in a little while and because that’s the only thing that could possibly get my ass in the seat for this. I haven’t seen the show, so adherence to it isn’t really a priority for me (and in an ideal world never is; all works, even adaptations, should stand on their own.)

Um, also: Eva Green.

 

God Bless America

KL: It’s funny, every bit of praise I can cook up for Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad—which I outright loved—sounds very trite. “Bracing,” “fresh,” “raw,” “unflinching” – it’s hard to come up with new words for a movie that, when presented with the movie choice or the human choice, relentlessly pursues the latter.

This looks… different. Look, we all enjoy our little Falling Down fantasies. And we’ve seen nearly this exact one played out twice in recent years: in the somewhat repellant Kick-Ass (based on a way more repellant comic) and Super, which at least had the self-awareness to cast serious questions about the sanity of its protagonists.

I’m further annoyed that these stories seem to require a teenage (girl) accomplice, someone who’s smart beyond their years and just as fed up with the world. Straight up, teenagers: you don’t know shit. Shut up.

Our two heroes are whacking easy targets in the trailer – the people set up by media conglomerates for us to gawk at, bitch about, and most of all never stop watching. Taking that to the extreme of eliminationist rhetoric about what constitutes “Real America” is not just brain poison, it’s buying completely into the game and letting it own you.

I sincerely and truly hope there’s more than meets the eye here.

 DW: I’m with you on really hoping that there’s more here than simple revenge fantasies against “annoying people.” It’s a really fine line to walk between satire and just congratulating yourself for not being a “bad person” as narrowly defined by an aging comedian, and from just the trailers it’s hard to tell which side Goldthwait is falling on. And that’s even without factoring in the very good likelihood that, like Idiocracy before it, the parody goes over the heads of some viewers and they come away with the wrong message. Goldthwait’s previous work makes me hope that he’s got a handle on that, that this is more than the sum of its parts.

But, yeah, spunky teenage girl engaged in cute violence. That’s…that’s not a good sign.

May 16th

The Dictator

DW:  I’m not a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. I find his satirical films forced and over-reliant on “foreigners lol” types of jokes. The initial trailers didn’t do much to dissuade me from that position, but at the very least the mockumentary format was being ditched.

This new trailers make the film look something more like a pretty blatant rip-off of Coming to America. I can’t decide if that’s actually a good thing or a bad thing in terms of Cohen’s career trajectory, but it certainly doesn’t make the film any more appealing.

 

KL: There was a time when I championed Cohen, but that time is gone. I recognize there is a genius in what he does: zeroing in on the chinks and cracks in the polite veneers of middle class life and taking a fucking rocket launcher to them is at times spectacular to see.

So I don’t know if he got old or if I did. I like some of what I see in the trailers, but this particular brand of freaking the norms has lost a lot of its appeal – and the hints that this’ll be more of a conventionally filmed comedy give me the impression he’ll be defanged.

 

May 18th


Battleship


KL: Nothing makes me feel like Sam Neill at the end of In the Mouth of Madness  quite like this movie’s marketing. This is a movie based on a plotless board game starring some Friday Night Lights guys, that True Blood guy, a swimsuit model, Rihanna, and Liam Neeson. Peter Berg at least knows how to move a camera, but everything else about this is beyond parody. “From Hasbro, the company that brought you Transformers”? That is a board game company getting the “from the producers of” spot! It’s surreal.

Also: no.

DW: This is, apparently, already a hit overseas. Now, I’m the first one to mock those who take a film’s box office success or failure as a sign of its quality, but lately I’ve seen a lot of “well, it did well overseas” explanations used to justify a film’s lackluster performance in the US, usually with a side of “US audiences just didn’t get it/deserve a film of this quality” thrown in there as well.

That this is a success in foreign markets should, I would hope, definitively illustrate that box office takes have nothing whatsoever to do with quality, because this is the stupidest thing to come from stupid town in a good long while, and Atlas Shrugged was released not too long ago. Everyone involved in the production of this should feel bad about themselves.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

KL: I guess they’re putting a veneer of sass on this and that’s meant to update and evolve the heartwarming family thing they’ve got going on. There’s some good comedy names in here (Thomas Lennon, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rob Huebel, Elizabeth Banks) but there’s also that friggin’ bikini model again and listen, those good comedy guys also know how to cash a check and get their name out there, so I’m not expecting anything but the PG-13iest of PG-13 takes on “what it’s really like” parenting comedies. Give me hard R or give me death.

DW: Man, Thomas Lennon is just becoming my personal bellwether of if a comedy is going to be crap or not. If he’s in there by himself, with no other members of The State to back him up? Yeah, this is going to be lousy.

This feels a lot like one of those holiday themed rom-coms, where they get like a dozen rom-com actors and throw them in there with interlinked plots that, by themselves, are too slight to support a whole film, but we’re so tickled that this film has Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker that we’ll just overlook the fact that it’s crap. Only it’s a completely bland, safe “date night” style comedy.

May 25th

Men In Black 3

KL: I’ve never really cottoned to Barry Sonnenfield. Just about everything he’s done wears the strain of effort a little too obviously to achieve the weightless weirdness of his screwball subject matter. In short: He tries too hard.

MIB wasn’t really any different. I was about as buttered-up by hype as I possibly could be for the first movie, but it failed to meet even my lowered and sympathetic expectations. God knows why I saw the second one, but I did, and even at 88 minutes it felt too slight to exist. Josh Brolin’s Tommy Lee Jones impersonation is great but, like, I have Saturday Night Live for that.

 

DW: I sort of liked the first film (though, granted, I think I only ever watched it once, when it came out, so I have no idea if I would still like it), and I barely even remembered that there ever was a second film. But, no, I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm for this. Smith passed over into annoying territory a long time back, and having Brolin deadpan his way through a movie pretty much kills what charisma he has. That there doesn’t appear to be any real development in tone or style from the earlier films sends me the message that this is pretty much just an attempt to wring the last few cents out of a franchise that’s almost reached it’s sell-by date.

 

Chernobyl Diaries

DW: I had actually heard some intriguing advance praise for this, so I was eager to check out the trailer and see what was what. I actually liked The River, enough to make me think that I should probably check out the Paranormal Activity films despite really not liking the format they used for them.

But when I watch the trailer I’m pretty underwhelmed. Sure, there are a couple of spooky shots. But when you set your horror film in Chernobyl? I sort of expect something more original than what looks like another mutant hillbilly cannibals film. Because that is not only a trope that just needs to fucking die already, but it’s the least original sort of threat you could come up with for a film set in fucking Chernobyl.

 

KL: I liked Paranormal Activity, but then I’m a fan of anything that removes a camera’s omniscience and makes you very aware of how limited a camera really is.

This is another thing, and not nearly as inventive. Props for using Chernobyl for the setting (are they really there? The trailer clips seem to sync up with photos I’ve seen, but who knows) and Oren Peli can pace things out, but I sincerely doubt that will be enough.

 


Moonrise Kingdom


KL: I have really, really come around on most of Wes Anderson’s stuff in the past few years, though there’s some exceptions (Darjeeling Limited) to that rule.

He’s definitely got his own thing going and he’s rigidly set on following that and he enjoys success for it, so, cool. We’ve got the usual jokes about which B-side Kinks or Rolling Stones songs he’ll use in this one’s soundtrack. It all looks a little precious, but for reasons I have a hard time identifying, his particular brand of precious doesn’t offend me – maybe it’s to do with the raw need at the core of a Max Fischer, or the malaise gnawing at the core of the Tenenbaums, or how Mr. Fox’s desire to do things his own way can scare and potentially hurt his loved ones. There’s more, is what I’m saying. And I like him for that.

 

DW: I can’t make up my mind about Anderson. I want to like his stuff, but usually when I give him a shot I just get…bored, to be honest. The whimsey levels look to be off the charts here, and while I would usually find that sort of thing a bit forced, it feels mostly appropriate, given that this is a film about kids. I’ll accept a certain degree of self-conscious sweet oddness under those circumstances.

Which means I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment again, but oh well.

 

One Response to “In A World for May, 2012”
  1. Mark Clapham says:

    I’m not sure whether Battleship being a movie is more or less crazy than What To Expect… being an adaptation of a non-fiction guide to pregnancy.

    There’s a What To Expect In The First Year as well, so at least they’ve got the sequel sorted.

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