Every month Ken Lowery and I look at a selection of trailers for upcoming releases, for, you know, reasons.
Now that awards season is over, it’s time for Hollywood to get back to business as usual: big, loud and dumb, not necessarily in that order.
DW: I generally like most of Bryan Singer’s films, so I want to be cautiously optimistic. But I burnt out on the whole “updated fairy tale” thing fast and this doesn’t appear to be doing anything clever or original with the notion of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Instead it’s a big Hollywood fantasy epic by the numbers, with eye-ache inducing levels of CGI and a bunch of white people with English accents, because that’s apparently the only way you’re allowed to do fantasy in American film, I guess. (Merlin was campy as all get out and I can’t stand Once Upon A Time at all, but they both found a way to avoid the “everyone in fantasy land is white” nonsense. Why is television ahead of film on this?)
KL: This is the kind of trailer you see in movies about how ridiculous the movie industry is. Maybe Singer can make a movie that’s Great Fun For Kids™, but it’s hard to look at this and not see the mainstream movie industry’s slow decline into “greater spending for lower yields” blinking in bright neon every time I start to look in this movie’s direction. Straight up, if you’re spending north of $200 million to make Great Fun For Kids™, and Great Fun For Kids™ that will likely be forgotten in six months’ time, you should have your budgets and your VFX houses (bills pending!) taken away from you.
KL: Solid reviews! Park Chan-wook! Nicole Kidman as a crazy person! A grimly monochromatic color scheme! Looks like a solid performer that I’d enjoy a lot (well, “enjoy” is probably not the right word) but for whatever reason, early to mid-spring is a particularly emotionally vulnerable time in my yearly movie-watching cycle. I think I get worn out by all the Serious Shit that comes out during Oscar season and basically, I need time to prepare, OK? I am guessing this is a Netflix rental. Another feature of getting old: Weighing the pros and cons of putting myself through an emotional ringer via movie. Do I want to do this? And, furthermore, why? Is this a worthy usage of my psychic landscape?
I am so old, Dorian. So old.
DW: I’m pretty much with you on this one. All the ingredients of a film that I should want to see are there. Good cast, solid premise, sharp cinematography. But the tonality just feels so leaden and heavy to me that I’m a little pre-weary. If they were pitching this as more of a thriller, or even a horror film, and not so much heavy psycho-drama, I’d be all over it. But, no, you’ve got to push the drama angle to be taken seriously as a film, I guess. So, probably an eventual rental, yeah.
DW: I’m starting to feel the same way about reimaginings of Oz as I am about fairy tales, especially this weird compulsion for Oz prequels we seem to be stuck in. The cynical part of me suspects we’re getting this because Disney couldn’t get the film rights to Wicked sewn up. But then I actually look at the thing, and it feels sort of like a slightly less nakedly cynical version of that atrocious live-action Alice in Wonderland Burton did for Disney.
I suspect my opinion about it will be rendered effectively moot, though, as this is right up the husband’s alley.
KL: Nice cast, and I’m a Raimi fan since I was a kid, but it is kind of grim that we’re throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into stories that can be told quite effectively with some paper and nice typesetting, don’t you think? Dorian, is this what it is to be old?
The ABCs of Death
KL: Here’s how I know I have not given in to inescapable cynicism: I will always, always, always give horror anthologies – of any medium – a shot. By definition the final product will average out to mediocre – if we’re lucky – and for every generally scary, surprising, hilarious or clever entry we’ll get three or four that are just no damn good at all. But that’s OK. That’s the movie-going (and just plain art-going) experience in microcosm: Dig and dig until you find the surprise that hooks you, the gem you gush about to your friends, the exciting new talent whose next project you can’t wait to see.
DW: The novelty alone will probably get this a look, eventually. Although I’m slightly pessimistic; looking at the list of directors I see mostly people whose work I either am not interested in or that I actively dislike. Even given the varying degrees of quality you can expect from an anthology film, those aren’t good odds to have going in.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
KL: Steve Carell is officially letting this magic thing get away from him. The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Office, and now this – OK, Steve, we get it.
Anyway, it’s spring, so it’s time for our mandated “oddball comedy” that’s very much the controlled burn of actual goofball comedies. I generally have nothing but fondness for the talent here (even Carrey, whom I will probably always have a soft spot for) but oh, good lord, we could probably script this thing out right now if we wanted to order a pizza and maybe grab a six pack.
DW: I’m just sort of amazed that this isn’t a Will Ferrell vehicle. I thought crisis of identity comedies based on silly careers was his thing, but I guess we’re transitioning Carell into that realm as well? All right then.
Yeah, this looks pretty safe and predictable. Nothing to be excited about, and nothing to be annoyed by, other than, y’know, the whole predictable thing. It looks like a lazy Sunday on Watch Instantly sort of movie when there literally isn’t any better option.
DW: Look, I like Paul Rudd as much as the next red-blooded homosexual male, but he can pretty much sleepwalk through these amiable man-child roles. And, oddly, I like Tina Fey more when she isn’t playing the career woman frustrated by her inability to have it all and jesus grow the fuck up already life is hard, lady, and you can’t always have it your way all the time.
Which I guess is a way of saying I’d like to see them embrace more diversity in their role choices.
KL: What’s fun is seeing the chameleon effect that’s spreading out across this movie’s trailers – watch the most recent ones and you’d think it was a straight-up romantic comedy, and the whole “hey Tina Fey I think we found your son, and he’s grown up now!” angle so prevalent in previous trailers is nowhere to be found. That’s kind of weird, don’t you think? Either they’ve done some re-chopping to the movie or it’s busier than the trailer indicates. There’s a certain inevitable pull that both of these actors have on me (and my wife), so much as you will inevitably see Oz, Dorian, I’m going to find out how this movie holds up one way or another.
DW: My interest in this begins and ends with Chris Sanders. He made the only watchable Dreamworks cartoon, well, ever, and Lilo and Stitch is still one of the best films to come from Disney’s animation department. So I’ll go and see this and put up with the bits that were obviously shoe-horned in to give it that smarmy “Dreamworks edge” and call it a day.
KL: This thing feels like some kind of stunt. It literally renders the established Animated Feature formula into a primitive state, and is absolutely about “a daughter wants to be free! The dad is afraid for her!” and not one scrap of plot more. It’s subtext as text. I admire its purity (much as Ash admired the xenomorph in Alien) but I need a little more art to my art.
The Place Beyond the Pines
KL: Knockout cast, prestigious writer-director, but please, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper: save some tortured-soul male lead roles for the rest of the class, huh?
I did not see Blue Valentine. All the descriptions of that movie’s achingly rendered depiction of an imploding relationship were equal parts intriguing and off-putting (see Stoker, above) and hey, look at this, an achingly rendered depiction of two basically OK guys on a collision course for tragedy. Hooray. It’s good to see Cooper getting to stretch those drama legs, though.
DW: This is like the handsomest movie ever.
Again, this hits a lot of the right notes and promises to be very, very good. The question really becomes “am I going to have the patience to sit through the heavy drama for the inevitably tragic and easily foreseeable ending?” And the answer to that is…maybe?