Every month, Ken Lowery and I look at trailers for upcoming films, trying to spot the good, the bad and the attempts to keep the mountain of blow in the studio executives washroom topped off.
In a startling change of pace, summer this year actually looks to be pretty good, with even the films that probably aren’t going to be worth your time at least pretending to offer up something beyond the usual big-loud-and-dumb summer trifecta.
DW: Setting aside the obvious, worn-out (and true) jokes about there being no possible way Kristin Stewart is “fairer” than Charlize Theron, there’s still some warning flags here. The biggest one is that “from the Producers of Alice in Wonderland” tag, because if you want me to see your movie, reminding me that you’re responsible for one of the ugliest, most bloated, completely unnecessary butcherings of a film in recent memory is not a good idea. And then there’s that whole Stewart/Theron thing, where every ad focuses on the villain and the title character barely shows up at all.
So, while this looks visually entertaining, and some of the early reviews suggest that this might not be entirely dreadful, I’m still going to need some serious word-of-mouth convincing that this isn’t just a pretty train-wreck.
KL: What irks me here is that genre creep – specifically the creep of action movie tropes into every other genre type being filmed – is getting more ubiquitous, and no one’s saying anything. Do we need Snow White to be an action war epic, complete with dudes doing crazy wire-fighting and two-fisting axe attacks? Do we need Snow White to have big epic battles set in color tones that remind one of a northern beachfront under an overcast sky?
We do not.
KL: Because, see, he gets the school… high.
Back when I was reviewing movies on the reg, I had to remind myself of a few things with every movie I wrote about. One of those key points was that every movie is the first of its kind for somebody. So, for instance, this may be the 10th by-the-numbers romantic comedy I’ve seen in the past year, but it may well be someone else’s first. I reminded myself of this point so I’d judge a movie by how well it fulfills its mandate, instead of just judging by originality every time.
So… stoner comedy for teenagers. Not usually my thing, but the Harold and Kumar franchise contains two of my three favorite comedies of all time, so who can even say?
Which is to say no, unless word of mouth is very strong.
DW: Adrien Brody’s and Colin Hanks’s presence here feels like someone is trying to trick me into giving the film a chance. Now, I can enjoy a good “dumb” comedy; they’re few and far between, but they do exist. But, I don’t know, there’s something about this that feels like someone, somewhere, is trying too hard to cash in on that Hangover-Harold & Kumar wave that already feels like it’s waning somewhat.
I’d be more inclined to be charitable if the trailer didn’t look to reveal every significant plot point and beat contained in the film. More than anything else, that’s one of the things I take as a sign that the film is best avoided.
KL: This is easily my most anticipated movie of the year. It’s only just recently that I’ve come to really appreciate Alien, and for that matter that whole era of Ridley Scott’s career. The movie math really adds up here: Scott of course, a deep bench taking up acting duties, and a diverse style of marketing (that mock TED talk, the “Happy Birthday, David” video, the Weyland Industries web page) that suggests a big ol’ action SF blockbuster that is, in a very crucial way, alive. I am actually going to see a midnight screening of this, which will be the first time I’ve done that in over ten years.
DW: Yeah, this is the film I’m most looking forward to this year as well. For pretty much all the same reasons that Ken cites; Scott (hell, I’m the guy who even likes Robin Hood), the casting, and the careful planning and creation of viral marketing material that suggests a deeper universe behind the film, elevating it above the usual summer sci-fi action films we tend to get. I’m even not bothered by the spoilers out there that suggest that two of my least favorite sci-fi cliches are central to the film (though at this point it’s probably safe to remove the “ancient astronauts” stuff from the “spoiler” territory).
About the only thing that bugs me is the coyness over whether or not this is related to the Alien films (“Is this a prequel to Alien?” “Well, you’ll have to see.” “So, that’s a ‘yes’ then.”).
KL: Based on a real classified ad!
My interest in this waned over the course of the trailer; while it’s trippy to see Pete from The League act like a slightly backwards schlub, I do not see the ad this whole thing is based on and think, “man, what would this be like as a sappy, bittersweet sorta-rom-com?” Give me crazy! Give me chases! Give me unhinged reality!
I guess I shouldn’t blame a movie for not being what I imagined it would be, but I’m disappointed that someone decided the thing to do with a premise this bonkers is to make a movie about how weirdos are maybe onto something?
DW: I’m in the same boat. You hear about the premise, and “manic pixie dream guy” whimsey-core film is not the least bit what you expect it to be about. It looks like it could be…okay? Maybe? If you like that sort of thing? But “could be okay” when you’ve set me up for something infinitely more clever and original is more than just a bit of a let-down.
I’m kinda baffled that a juke-box musical based on cock-rock bands is an actual thing, and yet, here it is. I might have been sold if there were any hints as to what the story and plot here actually are (it looks like “Fame Corrupts Young Love, Variation #3”), but I guess letting everyone know that you have, laughably, cast Tom Cruise as a knock-off Iggy Pop is more important.
KL: Ken-agnostic scientists slaved for years to build the perfect Anti-Ken movie, and I think we have it here: a musical, a musical about cock rock, a musical about cock rock starring Tom Cruise playing someone other than a murderous sociopath. I am all for the realization of Bryan Cranston’s plan to star in every single movie released going forward, glad Will Forte’s getting a paycheck, and uh, hey, Kevin Nash. But my opinion here is irrelevant. This movie could not be less targeted at me if it were a Doctor Who movie starring My Little Ponys.
DW: Produced by Tim Burton? Directed by Timur Bekmambetov? Based on a nerd-pandering book that was part of that inane wave of monster/classic lit mash-ups?
There is simply no possible way that this is any good whatsoever, and I’m frankly appalled that anyone with any sense gave money to have it made.
KL: I just can’t get around the fact that this premise was a joke on Party Down, mentioned in brief as a big budget comic book adaptation that series protagonist Henry (Adam Scott) almost-but-not-quite attached to his fading star to. It worked as a mild throwaway joke because it was absurd in a way that didn’t draw too much attention to itself.
I’m just going to assume all of this is viral marketing for an eventual Party Down movie, because what’s the alternative? Madness.
DW: It’s very pretty, to be certain, and I’m genuinely curious as to how Pixar, who have generally done “boy cartoons” up to this point are going to handle something that is widely going to be perceived as yet another Disney Princess movie (Merida is already set up in the “Princess” area of Disneyland and fashion dolls are all over my local Target shelves). But one of my gripes with Pixar as a studio is that their films are often marketed around one arresting image or character, and then the rest of the film fails to live up to the promise of that initial marketing, usually because the actual story itself turns out to be pretty rote and by the numbers. That the writers and directors credited here have, in general, not been involved in any of the films that my frustrations with Pixar arise from gives me some confidence that, Princess dolls aside, this should be worthwhile.
KL: It’s Pixar so my attendance is basically a given (excepting Cars 2). The trailers have not grabbed me, but that’s actually par for the course for Pixar. With the exception of Wall-E’s trailer, most of the ones they cut leave a lot to be desired… which is odd, coming from a company that honed its craft in short films, and that has often brilliant shorts listed before their features.
Don’t tell any of my Scotch-Irish family that the accents in these trailers drive me bonkers. They sound so goofy.
KL: In this one, Steve Carell plays a soulful, sweet sad sack!
I want to like Carell but he’s making it hard on me, as it seems he has but one of two modes: total goofball or self-deprecating loser. The latter worked OK in Little Miss Sunshine (a movie I otherwise don’t much care for) but it’s worked less and less in the string of similar roles he’s played since. Keira Knightley so rarely registers on my radar that I’m not really looking at her to lead this thing.
The big question for me is if this movie has the stones to follow through on its premise. I’m guessing not.
DW: I kind of like the premise. Of course, given the cast, I think I’d actually prefer something a little more on the dark comedy scale of things. This has every appearance of teasing a real blackness with some “oh that’s outrageous” antics, but ultimately going with the heart-warming, life-affirming pseudo-scmaltz that Carell seems to specialize in these days. And no, I don’t have any expectations that they will actually have the nerve to give us an ending in line with the set-up.
So this is a “Netflix it if the word of mouth is any good” for me, I think.
KL: Heard a lot about this one when it came out of Sundance and subsequently Cannes, so its place of greatness seems preordained. I’m a fan of the setting, too; there’s something about the bayou and its ecology that fascinates (and repels) me. I don’t feel an emotional tug here as of yet, more an appreciation for its plaudits and the ability to get a kid to act convincingly as the lead of the movie. We’ll see.
DW: The high praise is a good sign, and the cinematography is beautiful, so I’m intrigued. But dramas about kids are extremely hit or miss with me, regardless of their praise. And praise sometimes reaches a point where I start wondering if the film is really just that good, or if this is a “critic film” that hits all the beats that people who watch films for a living want to see but doesn’t really resonate with those of us who can only afford one or two films a month and prize novelty or entertainment over soul-shattering catharsis and epiphany.
So cautiously optimistic, but waiting for someone whose taste I actually know to see it first.
DW: They keep trying to make Channing Tatum a star, and I just don’t think it’s going to take.
I have a lot of trust in Steven Soderbergh. Making a movie about Channing Tatum as a stripper, that is apparently loosely based on Tatum’s own life story, really stretches that trust. I’m sure it will be, despite itself, a good, or at least watchable, film. But, let’s be honest, the main selling point and appeal here is “male strippers who, inexplicably, never actually show very much” so any “good film” qualities are pretty much irrelevant.
And judging by Tatum’s “custom furniture” he should probably stick to stripping.
KL: There’s a hilariously intriguing cast here (Tatum? Matthew McConaughey? Wendi McLendon-Covey? Olivia Munn? Kevin Nash again?) and it pleases me that Soderbergh is just doing whatever the hell it is he wants to do. So um, sure, maybe. I’m not hooked, but I wouldn’t turn it down.
I am surprised to find out that Tatum was a stripper himself – or rather, I’m surprised that I didn’t know about that till now. I’m not really a gossip guy but I know a thing or two about a thing or two. I have this suspicion that if some equivalent actress had a similar background – a Mila Kunis, say – that “ex-stripper” would come up within a sentence of every mention of her name for all time. Interesting, that.