Every month, Ken Lowery and I take a look at the trailers for upcoming films, to see how they strike our fancy, or don’t.
August is now apparently the month for all the horror and thriller films to be released. Yeah, I’m not sure I get how that happened either.

August 2nd

2 Guns

KL: There’s a good lineup of actors here I’m glad are getting work (the headliners, yeah, but also Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Fred Ward, and James Marsden) and I am more often than not on Team Wahlberg. I am also on Team Steven Grant Gets Paid For This Adaptation. The rest I can take or leave; the gaggy final bit in the trailer doesn’t actually even make sense to me. (He gets his foot shot at a lot?) They could have replaced this trailer with 2 minutes of the word “WHATEVER” on a black screen and it would have had the same effect on me.

DW: I too am generally on the Team Wahlberg, for slightly different reasons at times I suspect, but man does this just look like a screaming pile of hoary old cliches in a genre I’m not particularly invested in at all at the best of times. Even the “meet cute” of the concept (they’re BOTH undercover! Wacky!) is just, ugh, no.

Cockneys vs. Zombies

DW: If there’s two things I hate, it’s mash-up culture and zombies. In normal circumstances, this would be the exact sort of thing that I would run from as fast as I possibly could, especially since British horror-comedy about zombies is going to draw inevitable comparisons to Shaun of the Dead, which I still sort of like.

But it’s written by James Moran, who also wrote Severance and Tower Block, so that gets the film the benefit of the doubt. And the film does look to be going into areas that most horror films, especially the zombie genre, doesn’t. Making the protagonists a mix of working-class types and the elderly is a pretty positive change, especially since there’s an unfortunate “othering” subtext in most zombie films that makes them really uncomfortable to watch for me most of the time.

KL: I mean the type treatment is even a rip on Shaun of the Dead. Those marketers are taking no chances here.

There is a certain grubbiness to British horror (or at least what gets exported over here) that I like; I’m not sure what else to call it. Maybe I’m just happy to see horror not formed in one of the two or three templates our studios allow at any given time.

And I still, beneath it all, believe in the flexibility of the zombie story. I’ve been a fan of zombie movies since I was a kid, and right now I feel like I’m more or less just waiting out the current glut until the misfits get their hands on it again and this shit stops being respectable.

I like what I see here, in other words.

August 7th

We’re The Millers

KL: What’s presented up front grabs my interest. The first time I saw this trailer, I was hoping it was from The State crew that’s been quietly making great comedies for years now. (I just love the absolute hell out of Role Models and found Wanderlust to be surprisingly good.) They make fun, rambling comedies, and this had that same tone.

But this movie does not have the David Wain/Ken Marino pedigree I go out of my way to make time for. This movie’s directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, best known (if that is the word) for Dodgeball, which let’s face it you or I could have directed to much the same effect. The four-man screenwriting team features two guys who did Wedding Crashers and two guys who did Hot Tub Time Machine, a moderately funny comedy that never once failed to go for the most obvious joke in any situation. Slide this from “YES” to “eh.”

DW: This is going to come down precisely on the merits on trusted reviews for me. Because while this is a heck of a lot of poeple I generally like (and Jennifer Aniston*), the pedigree on the writing and directing angle is not that great. Because I’m in the same boat; the up front looks like something I’d dig, especially with that cast. But knowing that the people behind this probably pretty much meant it to be a Vince Vaughn vehicle and I’m starting to lose a lot of interest.

*Who, to her credit, seems to be doing much more interesting work now that we’re not all trying to pretend she’s America’s Sweetheart, but still.

August 9th

Elysium

DW: My desire to see a smart, engaged take on income disparity and exploitation of the poor by the wealthy, gussied up as sci-fi in order to make it palatable to a mass audience is at war with my increasing boredom with big, dumb loud sci-fi films that are all flash and no substance.

Given that this is the same folks behind District 9 are responsible for this, it could really go either way.

KL: I trust Damon’s and Blomkamp’s hearts are in the right place, and they’ve both got enough clout to get a little meat through. But I share a similar war, Dorian: whether this will be the product they want it to be or sandblasted enough to get past the kind of people who fund this thing, who are also the kind of people who are likely not portrayed very well in the movie. (To say nothing of the rarefied lives of the actors themselves.)

I am glad for heavier themes making their way into mass entertainment. I grow increasingly skeptical that anything truly daring could ever make it past studio gatekeepers in the current climate.

August 16th

Paranoia

DW: Man, I’m so glad they showed us every major beat for this thriller of shifting loyalties in the trailer, otherwise things might manage to be shocking or surprising.

As much as I’d like to see Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford angry-old-man acting at each other, it looks like we’re mostly going to be focusing on the kid who gets in over his head (but he’s got a good heart!) through doing things that are completely avoidable and obviously a bad idea. And, no, I’ve seen that story quite enough times now, thanks.

KL: I’m trying to remember the last time a movie with a story like this was not forgotten like four weeks after it came out. Anyone?

August 23rd

The World’s End

KL: The combination of Paul and Pegg’s book have more or less transitioned me past considering this group of actors to be vital. I still enjoy Shaun and Hot Fuzz but I no longer get that “modern canon” feeling out of them. Still affectionate, but feel altogether less vital to my life.

Edgar Wright’s the key for me. I will talk your damn ear off about how good Scott Pilgrim Versus The World is, and I’m positive that is 100% to do with Wright’s enthusiasm and visual inventiveness. Even if the story isn’t a good one, he’s incapable of telling it in a boring way. I’d actually go see friggin’ Ant Man if Wright is directing it.

Yes, please. And then I’m ready for this chapter in all their lives and careers to come to a close, for their sakes as much as mine.

DW: I think I’m coming at this from the opposite end. Pegg I can pretty much take or leave; like his work, don’t need to see it. Wright, though, just increasingly bores and frustrates me. He strikes me as the sort of director who’s incredibly pleased with his own work, and let’s technical dazzle get in the way of telling a coherent story. So, yeah, I’ll see this, because it puts an end to a long collaborative period, but I’m thinking I’m just going to be done with Wright and any project he touches after this.

You’re Next

DW: I am…surprisingly interested in this? The home-invasion horror sub-genre doesn’t really do it for me, for a lot of reasons, mostly involving frustration with films reinforcing privileged people paranoia about how scary and violent people who aren’t like them are. But Adam Wingard’s contributions to the recent spate of horror anthology films were pretty good, there’s some really striking visual elements at play here, and there’s just enough coyness going around about what is actually going on in the film that I’m curious.

KL: Like the mix of cinematic lighting and the slight wavering of faux-doc camera work. Like that this is ditching the nigh-ubiquitous “based on a true story” malarkey. Like the suggestion that there is a greater mystery at work here, because the usual “BAD THINGS HAPPEN JUST BECAUSE; ISN’T THAT SO CHILLING????” thing is actually just pretty tiring and aimless. I’d have to hear some stellar words to get me in the theater for this, but let’s say I’m not against its existence.

August 28th

Closed Circuit

KL: Strong cast, strong writer, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the hell is going on in this thing.

I don’t doubt the general seriousness of purpose to this project, but I do get a bit ill at starting this trailer off with footage of a bunch of people getting blown up by a terrorist’s bomb. It’s effective, which is the point I guess, and I can appreciate wanting to do something “real.” But it’s hard to see. It’s doubly hard to see coupled with the “they’re having an affair!” personal angle because I guess we need one of those, or maybe because Steven Knight thinks we need some theme mirroring going on in the B plot.

As with Elysium, I’m theoretically more open to these kinds of conversations being played out on the big screen for big audiences. Conversely, I’m less certain all the time they’ll be done well.

DW: And see, I’ve got a lot more confidence that this will address the conversations, primarily because this is a very British feature, and in my experience, British thrillers and mysteries tend to have a lot more skepticism towards authority and power structure than American efforts, which half the time seem to be working hard to normalize borderline fascist approaches to law and order. Yeah, there’s a lot of action move stuff going on here, so we’re probably not going to see a full-throated investigation into the corrosive power of excess government authority, but I expect we’ll get a lot more than if this was a Warners or Universal release.

Plus, that cast.

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