Every month Ken Lowery and I look at a selection of trailers for upcoming films to identify the good (like The Outlaw Josey Wales), the bad (like Two Mules for Sister Sara) and the ugly (like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot).
August is when the films that wanted to get out of the way of the big summer blockbusters and the fall Award-baiters get unleashed on the public, so we’re probably looking at mostly the mediocre here (like the Callahan series post Dirty Harry…you know it’s true!).

August 3rd

Total Recall

KL: Len Wiseman is possibly the most boring genre writer/director going today. It takes a certain kind of banality to promise us “vampires vs. werewolves in a modern setting” and give us “The Matrix, but in blue tones and way stupider.” And then turn that disappointment into a franchise. And direct a Die Hard sequel whose existence I had forgotten—me, who has seen every other Die Hard movie north of three dozen times apiece—up until a few minutes ago because it was so unnecessary, so tepid, so devoid of a central driving purpose other than “let’s keep the rights!”

So that’s what I think of Len Wiseman. I’m real glad this trailer offers us absolutely no surprises: you get that little “beeeeoooooo” right before Colin Farrell turns into Every Action Hero From The Last 10 Years Of Movies, some quippiness about “giving good wife” (meta!) and… oh, I was wrong, there is one surprise: Wiseman has apparently discovered colors other than blue.

I like Colin Farrell, but you may have picked up how I feel about the rest of this.

DW: Farrell’s prettiness still mostly works on me (I sat through the Fright Night remake pretty much soley for him, which…wasn’t one of the smarter uses of my time). And while I’m under no illusions that this will be any truer to the Dick story than the previous film, I don’t have any particularly fond memories of that previous film either, so I’m actually sort of…okay? with this. It’s a big, dumb, loud action movie with a hint of style, no substance, and a lead who is nice to look at. It’s not much, but sometimes it’s enough.

August 10th

The Bourne Legacy

KL: Has there ever been a more insecure trailer? I lost count, but I think someone emphasizes that the new guy (Jeremy Renner) is more dangerous than Jason Bourne like three thousand times.

I kid. Jeremy Renner is the bee’s knees and from what I hear this takes place during the second and third Bourne movies, which themselves overlap quite a bit. Also: Tony Gilroy.

DW: The strange anxiety over recasting the lead strikes me as well. “It’s not the same guy! It’s a different guy! And he’s even more of a badass than the other guy! Oooooh!” I suppose it’s necessary because, as we all know, just going ahead and randomly casting a new lead actor in your action movie series would never work.

I think I’ll stick this one out. I find Renner to be such a cypher I can’t really enjoy his performances, and while the films had a certain appealing slickness and style under Paul Greengrass, Gilroy instead appears to be just broadly copying the first film. Granted, he wrote that one too, but that just makes the similarities feel even more galling.

The Campaign

DW: I can’t quite wrap my head around this one. Honestly, both Ferrell and Gallifianakis are actors I’m growing a little weary of, particularly their tendency to play the same types of characters in the same types of movies. And at first glance, this feels like much more of the same. And having Jay Roach behind it all doesn’t help matters, given his history as a director.

The one sort of “well maybe” that this does give is Game Change. Roach doing a political comedy, about political corruption, with Ferrell doing a broad George W. Bush impersonation, in an election year? Is there a remote chance that this thing might actually have some teeth behind it? Or is it just going to Yiddish jokes and punching babies?

KL: I would normally be on board with this but there is a little bit that gives me pause: the August release date, the relative lack of publicity then suddenly turned into a tidal wave of publicity… I suppose they were just waiting for the tentpoles to be done with their time at the mic, but nonetheless: Hmm.

I have sincere doubts this one will have any teeth to it. I do hope it manages to be about something other than shtick.

August 17th

Paranorman

KL: This looks GREAT. I’m kind of a sucker for strategic use of “Season of the Witch” and yeah I know, zombies, but there’s a Young Ken inside of me that’s jumping up and down with glee at the idea of a big animated movie about a weird kid inundated with the supernatural. Strange, because as a child I did not overly “identify” with movies or characters; they were more aspirational to me. I guess this one qualifies as nostalgia, then. I hope it’s any good at all.

DW: I really, really hope this is good, because it looks fantastic, and it’s already been pretty broadly hinted to me that no matter what we will be seeing it. And while, yes, zombies don’t exactly thrill me, I’m hopeful that this strikes the right balance between earnest and silly. I can’t quite pin it down as leaning one way or the other in the trailers, in which the only sour notes that get hit are the inevitable bodily function jokes that kids movies seem to feel duty bound to insert nowadays (and thus ends my “olde fogey” rant for the day).

August 24th

The Apparition

DW: It’s a mini horror-month, I guess, with this, The Possession and The Tall Man all hitting. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m partial to haunted house and ghost movies, and I like my “high concept” horror films as well. In theory, this should be right up my alley, what with the whole “ghosts are only real because we believe in them, and that’s the problem” plot. Where the film-makers start to lose me, though, is right there at the beginning of the trailer, when the Dark Castle logo flashes on the screen. While the company has released some genuinely good films (even if I’m in the minority on liking The Losers) and some entertaining, if not quote “good” efforts (Ghost Ship is at least watchable), the rest of their output is suspect enough that the logo makes me leery. That everything else about the film screams out derivative, unoriginal, by the numbers and copies every single effect shot and set-up from the last decade of horror films…I’ve not got my hopes up, basically.

KL: 99% chance this is another one for the “PG-13 horror” pile, to be forgotten by October 1 and again the day after it comes out on DVD/Blu Ray. It’s an intriguing concept, to be sure, but not one that I’m sure holds up all that well to 90 minutes of scrutiny. This here is likely a prime candidate for right-minded movie fans’ “remake bad movies, not masterpieces” movement.

Hit & Run

DW: That’s a whole bunch of people I like, and Tom Arnold, in a film that doesn’t look like it quite deserves to have quite so many very good and very funny actors in it. It doesn’t look bad by any means, not at all. An action-comedy car chase movie hasn’t been done well since 1981, so we’re surely due for one, right? I think what’s holding me back is that, if you’re going to give me a bunch of people I really like in a film that doesn’t look to be either ambitious or novel, you’ve got to give me more to look forward to then just an “okay” comedy, and all I’m really getting from this is that it could be an “okay” comedy.

KL: Well I liked Tom Arnold in True Lies, anyway.

As one of seven people in the entire world who saw and liked Let’s Go To Prison a whole lot, and who also found Dax Shepard to be one of the funniest parts of Baby Mama, I’m actually pretty excited for a joint written, co-directed and starring him. I assume the better-than-average cast is due to Shepard and Kristen Bell knowing people who know people who wouldn’t mind helping Shepard out on a personal project. And that’s fine. I would like to see this movie.

Premium Rush

DW: I have a suspicion that this might be the film that tests the patience of all the recent Joseph Gordon-Levitt fans. There’s a lot of silliness to contend with here. A bike messenger themed action film with lots of bike stunts feels more than a little Gleaming the Cube than I suspect most people are going to be comfortable with. So the question becomes, are they going to take all the potential silliness of a bike parkour movie seriously, or are they going to treat the subject matter as earnestly as it deserves? Since there are some hints in the trailers of some interesting visual style elements at play, we might even be lucky enough to see someone taking some inspiration from Crank for a new-wave action flick.

Or, you know, JGL just wanted to buy a new car and took the next project offered.

KL: Oh snap, Michael Shannon as the villain! That alone is pretty solid; after Take Shelter I will watch that dude in absolutely anything.

This does look kind of goofy, and I admire that it seems to want to break down the actual life of a bike courier (or anyway, an exciting movie version of same) with split-second decisions and dangers, viewing the city as a map more intimately than your average driver would, and so on. Also it’s fun to get a lot of badass action-movie music going and there’s JGL in his shorts and shirt and helmet riding a bike out of some fog, or whatever. Forgettable! Fun! A future Redbox rental!

August 29th

Lawless

DW: You know, I sort of like Shia LaBeouf. But if you’re going to put him in a film with Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Tom Hardy…I wouldn’t be setting up Shia as your lead. He’s perfectly fine, but nothing he’s done before has left me with the impression that he’s anything other than a lightweight in comparison to the rest of the cast.

As for the film itself…crime drama that romanticizes violent criminals is a pretty standard story, and apart from the cast, nothing here stands out to me as being special. It will all come down to the reviews, I imagine. If it doesn’t get spectacular reviews and I do feel the urge to watch a crime drama, The Killer Inside Me is on Watch Instantly last I checked.

KL: It is a little bit like someone got sick and their understudy is subbing in for them, huh? Everything else about this line-up is great, including and especially John Hillcoat re-teaming with Nick Cave to give us a sorta-Western.

But Shia is such a… it’s not that I don’t like him, even, it’s that he really does seem like a child playing dress-up, as Leonardo DiCaprio did for so many years before Scorsese took him under his wing. This ambivalence is so strong that it threatens to overwhelm Hillcoat, Cave, Hardy, Oldman, and Guy Pearce, who is one of my favorite current actors… to the point where my default here is “No.” I have discovered something about myself today, Dorian.

August 31st

The Possession

KL: OH FOR—look, I’m quite familiar with the birthrate of suckers vis-à-vis minutes in the day, but can we please can it with the “based on a true story” nonsense? That is like going found-footage without actually going found-footage. Tell me the story or don’t, man.

Anyway. I like a good possession movie, and I’m glad we’re breaking the iron lock the Roman Catholic Church has over exorcism movies. Um. I like Jeffrey Dean Morgan?

DW: Let’s chalk up the “true story” angle here to the fact that the eBay listing that they’ve based the film on really did exist at one point.

Possession films are relatively low on my personal hierarchy of horror films (if you set up your problem as “because the Devil” your solution is going to be “because God” and that drains a lot of the suspense right there), and yeah, it not being focused on a Catholic solution to the problem is nice. On the other hand, the last time I saw a film focusing on Jewish supernatural evil myths it didn’t go well.

For A Good Time, Call…

KL: The arc of this thing looks pretty straightforward, and I have a feeling we’ll all learn something about friendship before the movie’s running time is up.

Happy and welcoming of Raunchy Lady Comedies, though I do wonder if they have to track so closely to Raunchy Dude Comedies: the protagonist, the sidekick/best friend who’s SUPER over-the-top crass, the protagonist becomes a bit more liberated, bodily fluids are splashed on someone, et cetera. I suppose we’ll see if this fragile little baby duck grows up into more ambitious work down the line.

DW: Yep, pretty much. As sorta happy as I am that we can now have raunchy, gross-out comedies aimed at women, at the end of the day what all of us are getting are…more raunchy, gross-out comedies. There’s not a lot of new ground being broken outside of the gender switch. So while a not-quite-as-dirty distaff Night Shift is progress of a sort, I’m just not finding myself terribly interested.

3 Responses to “In A World for August, 2012”
  1. Adam Farrar says:

    I’ve been waiting for Lawless since it was “The Wettest County in the World” with Hillcoat and Cave and the majority of the cast. But when I saw the trailer I wasn’t sure if it was the movie I was expecting. I am expecting something much bleaker than what is in the trailers. I think if someone wanted to, they could cut up The Proposition into just as action a trailer and wind up suckering people into the wrong type of movie. Like Drive. But I could be wrong and wind up suckered into a LeBeouf heavy action movie.

    And I forgot about The Unborn, as 2009 was a big year for dybbuks and I only remember the good movie: the Coen Brother’s A Serious Man.

  2. Roger Green says:

    What about that Streep/Jones/Carrell movie?

  3. Dorian says:

    We generally only look at trailers that Ken or I find interesting and think we can actually find something to say about. A lot of films don’t meet those criteria.

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