Every month Ken Lowery and I look at a selection of trailers for upcoming releases, to see how good a job studios are doing at getting us to give them money.
September is when the “prestige” films start to roll in, and, uhm, it’s looking like it might be a slim year for that, too.

September 6th

Riddick

KL: I want to meet the guy who keeps successfully pitching Riddick properties to studios and video game companies and whatnot, because that guy could probably sell gasoline to people who are on fire.

I say this as someone who actually likes Pitch Black a decent amount, and at least this one is written and directed by David Twohy, who directed and co-wrote PB. But Riddick – or at least Riddick by himself – isn’t the reason why I liked the first film. I don’t need another Invincible Badass Rattled By Nothing And No One. I’d be interested for Katee Sackhoff, but I am hearing her parts are the most problematic in the whole movie – and boy, does that set off alarm bells.

DW: I know I’ve seen the first two films in this series, but I can barely remember anything about either of them, other than something something Riddick is the chosen one pseudo-messianic hoo-har in the second one maybe. That a franchise as apparently forgettable as all that has managed to reach a third installment is impressive. Also probably a sign of just how afraid of risking money on new properties Hollywood is these days, if the giant space-bats film is getting another go.

Apart from just being underwhelmed by the entire concept, the trailers look like a bunch of CGI on green-screen, and boy howdy am I over that sort of thing.

Hell Baby

DW: This is one of those inevitable signs of aging. It’s a film written and directed by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, two guys I’ve always thought were funny and talented, doing a horror send-up with a bunch of other folks I’ve always thought were funny and talented. And…it just feels lazy. Like I’ve seen all of this before. And, truth to tell, I probably have. I’ve just seen that many horror spoofs. Probably all the same ones that Lennon and Garant have. So, for a younger audience, one for whom Saturday the 14th is just a date and Repossessed is something that happens to your car, this may be fresh and new, but I can’t get over the “been there, done that” feeling.

KL: In general I feel you, Dorian. When I was doing movie reviews regularly “sameness creep” was the hardest part of the job. Movies started to feel less like distinct entities and more like “This year’s entry into [x genre].” I tried – and often failed – to keep in mind that every year’s installment was someone’s first installment.

But that out of the way, these people are some of the funniest people alive. I think that alone is enough to carry it for me. I’m positive I’ve seen these jokes before; I am positive I have not seen how they would tell these jokes. I want to see this very much.

September 13th

The Family

KL: Theoretically yes, but I’ve been hurt real bad by these people before. One ray of light, and perhaps I’m naïve for thinking so: it’s Luc Besson doing his thing in his country of origin, which hopefully should provide a little more sly observational humor about life in this movie’s setting than an American writer/director would afford. That hope is slim, though. I’ll need to see some stellar words first.

DW: The thing I like about Besson’ film is that there’s a style and a slickness to them that is frequently lacking in American action films. I’m not seeing any of that here. Instead, I’m seeing the same beats I’ve seen in every other Mob comedy, only in France! Casting folks who have, you know, been in a few Mob comedies already isn’t helping things.

September 20th

Prisoners

DW: Missing children is one of those “go to” plots for thrillers, but even as someone who watches a lot of these things, it feels like we’re seeing a lot more these last few years than we’d averaged in the past. Must be something in the zeitgeist to do with suburban paranoia.

In any case, this is one of those films that I will probably eventually get around to because it looks decently put together and has a bunch of actors I like in it, but I’m not in any great hurry because, as I said, I watch a lot of these and in every other case this looks like it’s as by-the-numbers as you can get with this particular set-up.

KL: Strike one: A character named “Detective Loki.” Strike two, a plot summary that includes the phrase “But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?” Strike three: Did I mention the character named Detective Loki?

A Single Shot

KL: I mean it’s got the things I want in it: the single catastrophic mistake, the mysterious pile of cash, Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, everyone trying on backwoods accents, Situations That Reveal True Character, and so on. The director (David M. Rosenthal) and writer (Matthew F. Jones, adapting from his novel) don’t have a lot for me to go on, but, sure, whatever. I like Sam Rockwell and think he could sell some drama, and is about due to show us what else he can do. And I’m sure that’s precisely why he’s doing this.

DW: Yeah, this is hitting all the right notes. An actor I really like and think is under-used in a dramatic lead, a “one bad decision and things spiral out of control” plot, and what looks to be very pretty and considered cinematography. This is going on my “to look for” list pretty much as soon as possible.

September 27th

Don Jon

DW: All right, look, as much as I might be curious to see how Gordon-Levitt does with his directorial debut, between the pretty white straight people dealing with problems of their own making plot and the over-the-top Jersey accents, there is just no way.

KL: Stellar reviews on this one. I like JGL okay – he’s on the Leo DiCaprio route of taking the long way ‘round to me seeing him as a grown-up adult actor person, but he got there – and I’m inclined to put faith in the people who put faith in this movie. Also, generally I’m a big booster of hyphenate filmmakers giving us as clear a vision of what they’re doing as possible. That’s nothing but good for the medium.

But I guess this is a thing about how men and women have unrealistic views of relationships and maybe – maybe????? – they’ll learn something and meet in the middle? Ehhhhhh.

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