Archive for the “In A World” Category

Every month, Ken Lowery and I look at the trailers for a selection of upcoming releases, trying to spot the entertaining, the enlightening and the clues that studio executives are conducting elaborate experiments on the American public.
It’s a short month, as everyone appears to be trying to get out of the way of either The Amazing Spider-Man or that bat guy. Which means interesting little films pop up as counter-programming, but the usual summer glut of big loud and dumb is in short supply.

July 6th

Savages

KL: In glancing back through Oliver Stone’s filmography, I realize I like him much more in theory than I do in practice. To find a movie I’d willingly rewatch – and have rewatched, many times – you have to go all the way back to Talk Radio. There was a time when I consumed Natural Born Killers on something like a monthly basis, but that time has passed. I think there’s something potent in that movie, but I don’t think Stone got to it.

I suspect Savages will be a lot more NBK than Talk Radio, frustratingly half-realized commentaries and all. I suspect a fizzle.

DW: I like the idea of Stone doing a straight-forward crime film, but, similarly to how you feel, I think he’s one of those directors you’re supposed to like more than his actual work justifies. There’s a certain enjoyment to crime dramas, but you usually need some sort of viewpoint character that the audience can identify with. To make a film like this, where everyone just feels slimy and unpleasant, even the supposed protagonists, and actually have it work is a very tricky thing. On paper, Stone is the kind of director who should be able to pull it off. In practice, though…maybe not so much.

If the film underperforms (and given the ubiquity of billboards for it in the Southern California area, they certainly expect it to perform) we may be spared any further attempts to turn Taylor Kitsch into a leading man. So some good may come of this after all.

The Pact

DW: I like my haunted house and ghost movies. I’m always looking for someone who is doing something new or interesting with the subject, or at least taking the old stand-bys and doing them well. We’ve gotten some pretty good one in the last couple of years but far more of the bad ones. (Seriously, I still want to punch whoever it was who told me that Insidious was worth my time…)

I’m putting this in my Netflix queue now, because at some point I am going to want to see it, despite looking like this is going to be a very by-the-numbers and rote look at the idea of a haunted house. (Really, dysfunctional family and old secrets in a story revolving around women?) I’m mostly getting a “let’s make a cheap horror movie, those are usually profitable” vibe off of this one and a sense that I’m supposed to be frightened by people jerking around spastically instead of the atmosphere or the situation.

KL: I guess this is based on a short film by the same writer/director, and presumably somebody liked it enough to give it the feature film treatment, with Sundance selection status and all.

I like that things get obviously weird in the trailer; one assumes all the crazy stuff happens pretty early on and that, at least, may give us some wildness we haven’t seen in other horror movies. But…

But…

I would just once like a horror movie that goes fully phantasmagoric; haunted house stories have a way of getting abstract and intimate in a way few other horror genres can, so why not go full-on Guillermo Del Toro with it? Ah, well. Buzz will sink or swim this one for me.

July 13th

Ice Age: Continental Drift

DW: I’ve never actually sat down and watched the original Ice Age. I’ve seen it, but only in disjointed, out of sequence form, as it seems to be the popular choice for electronic stores to show off their HD televisions. And each new entry in the series does nothing to persuade me that my initial, knee-jerk assumption about the films is correct: these only exist to shut kids up for 80 minutes.

I’d be offended by that gay-baiting bit from the sloth, I guess, at the end of the latest trailer if the entire enterprise didn’t look stupidly offensive from the start.

KL: When I was busy working the freelance movie critic beat, I read of another critic’s retirement, and how the thing he was looking forward to most was not going to the movies. I didn’t understand him at the time, but I understand him now; I look back at everything I wrote about and feel like I could have killed at least 80% of those experiences and be no less a person. While no doubt most of those movies started as a seed of excitement in some writer somewhere, the end product is ten times more Product than it is Art of even Statement.

Ice Age 3: The Ice Age Will Continue Until Morale Improves is precisely such a movie; a great big investment of time and money that’s meant to sell some Happy Meals and pass some hours for parents who need their kids out of their hair for a little while. Maybe I’m coming down hard on little old Ice Age, here, but I promise I do not speak with malice. Only with a clear-eyed assessment of what the movie is, and also what it isn’t: something that will ever see my ass in a seat in front of it.

Red Lights

DW: Oh, God, please don’t be a film where the skeptics discover that the supernatural exists and they are punished for their hubris…

Despite the heavy emphasis on the psychics in the trailer, everything else I’ve read suggests that this is more of a conventional thriller than they’re letting on, and that’s good. There’s a cast here that I really like, DeNiro’s scenery chewing feels appropriate, and if they do go with the “psychics are all crooks and charlatans and bad people” angle then that’s a pretty unique tack for a thriller to take. At least it’s a well that’s not as fully plumbed as the usual serial killer/CEO with a militia at his disposal routes.

KL: Indeed, skeptics do seem to exist in movies to be debunked by the end of act 1 or, if it’s a particularly twisty-turny movie, act 2. But there are a couple things working in this movie’s favor: a quietly stacked deck of talented actors and enough hints that this’ll be a is-he-or-isn’t-he thriller in the style of The Prestige, possibly up until the last minute.

Those kinds of stories can be risky – we’re dealing with fictional reality, so all we’re really seeing is a screenwriter holding out on what kind of world he’s built for as long as possible – but if other themes can be intertwined with the twists and turns competently, we could have something here. I intend to find out.

July 20th

The Dark Knight Rises

KL: I had nothing but good things to say about The Dark Knight, and my appreciation for that movie only deepened over time. So I have no real reason to suspect this will be any less meaty or captivating than its predecessor, beyond a perpetual gnaw of doubt that lingers in the core of all “sure things” and something vaguely defined as the “trilogy curse.” So few people can stick a landing after coming so far; perhaps Chris Nolan is as mortal as the rest of us.

One of Nolan’s gifts is assembling large, talented casts; any third of this movie’s bench could headline a great movie. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman seems to be getting her Occupy on (which, see below), which is a delicious turn for the character and a great question to pose to Batman: what, above all, gives you the right? (It also calls to mind a deeply cynical “joke” from the Batman analog of the comic series Marshal Law: “Why does a billionaire become a vigilante? So he can keep all his money.”) Tom Hardy’s also a formidable presence, though I question the wisdom of obscuring an actor’s primary tools.

In short, I’ve pre-ordered my opening weekend ticket.

DW: Ending a series is a tricky thing. The number of franchises that have pulled it off successfully are dwarfed by those that have left audiences with that “really?” feeling. Nolan has been mostly reliable in the past, and the (from my perspective anyway) lack of any real hyperbolic hype over this should discourage any “omigod lifechanging” expectations from people. But I’m sure I’m going to hear lots of complaints about how the ending was “disappointing” because that’s just what people are like.

I’ll see it, I’ll probably enjoy it, but I’m not anticipating it as hotly as some of my friends. I’m sure it will be good, and the casting is, as usual, excellent. Maybe I’m just getting too old to be excited at the prospect of a super-hero movie.

July 27th

The Watch

KL: I vividly remember my experience watching Superbad, also written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I went alone, there were perhaps three or four other people in the audience, and I laughed my fool head off for two hours. If nothing else, those two guys have a gift for authentic dialog.

The movie’s four leads present something of a conundrum, and an interesting spectrum of tolerance levels: Richard Ayoade, who I’m excited to see holding up a corner of the quadrangle. Jonah Hill, who’s peaking just past “maximum enjoyment” into “starting to deeply resent.” Vince Vaughn, who could probably do with staying off the screen for a few years. And finally Ben Stiller, who has cooled it off lately, and come out on the other side an interesting person to watch again. Sometimes.

The trailer’s got some strong moments, but the reviews will make or break this for me. I await patiently on the fence.

DW: As much as I like Richard Ayoade and would like to see him break out into film roles, I can’t help but feel disappointed that he’s playing third fiddle here to a bunch of guys who have mostly worn out their welcome. And it’s not that the film looks particularly bad. It’s just it doesn’t feel particularly notable. The beats and jokes I’ve seen so far all feel like things I’ve seen before.

I’ve seen it suggested that the producers were caught flat footed by real life events that could sour the public on the idea of a neighborhood watch themed movie, hence the sudden prominence of the alien angle in the ads, which might explain why everything just feels half-assed to me. But it probably doesn’t matter, ultimately. The one reason I’m even vaguely curious is Ayoade, and that’s simply not enough to get me to commit time or money to this.

Step Up: Revolution

DW: I think we all knew that it was only a matter of time before Hollywood attempted to cash in on reach out to the “Occupy” generation with a film that clumsily shoves the shallowest of shallow political awareness into a youth film. Of all the ways they could have done it, I’m pretty much relieved that it was in a dancing movie. The whole “hey gang, let’s put on a show and save the community center” vibe is both about as sophisticated as I was expecting the take to be, and about as blandly inoffensive as we’re liable to get (unless someone has a Death Wish remake replacing street gangs with Occupy protestors sitting in a desk drawer, and they probably do).

Or, as usual, I’m just over thinking things and it’s simply that the profit margin on these dancing movies is stupidly big.

KL: Stuff like this is, I feel, a harkening back to an earlier time in movie making; a compilation of very talented people doing what they do committed to film, because that’s easier to transport and showcase worldwide than a traveling company of same. I “get it,” even if it’s not particularly my thing. The Occupy and flash mob stuff is, I don’t know, a stab at relevance. Did we need one?

I suspect I’ll be hearing all about it opening weekend, though. My wife is crazy for dance movies.

Killer Joe

KL: Save for The Dark Knight Rises, this is the last movie of the summer I’m truly excited for. The movie math of sleaze + cast + William Friedkin + NC-17 rating equals five or six exclamation points in Ken World. That Tracy Letts, the screenwriter adapting Killer Joe from her own play, also gave the same play-to-screen treatment for Bug (also directed by Friedkin!) is like a cinematic combo breaker.

Can I just say I’m glad to see Matthew McConaughey come out the other side of his People-Magazine’s-Sexiest-People/Also-Starring-Kate-Hudson phase to do the kind of work you always hoped he would do? Magic Mike, The Lincoln Lawyer, Tropic Thunder, and now this – this is the Matthew McConaughey glimpsed in Frailty, coming to full flower. Hooray.

DW: Yeah, this is what I want. Consistently good cast (even when they’re in a bad movie, Hirsch and McConaughey are entertaining), consistently good director, and a good writer telling an interesting story in a novel way. Yes, it’s a crime film where everyone is unpleasant and they’re doing unpleasant things, but unlike, say, Savages, you get the sense that these are people legitimately in over their heads because of the unforeseen consequences of bad decisions, and that’s pretty damn relatable.

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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.

June 1st

Snow White and the Huntsman

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.

High School

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 HangoverHarold & 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.

June 8th

Prometheus

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.”).

Safety Not Guaranteed

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.

June 15th

Rock of Ages

DW: Uhm…okay.

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.

June 22nd

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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.

Brave

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.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

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.

June 27th

Beasts of the Southern Wild

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.

June 29th

Magic Mike

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.

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It’s time once again for Ken Lowery and I to take a look at a selection of trailers for film’s coming up this month, and with the official start of the summer movie season, we’re in block-buster overload, and sound engineers competing to see who can deafen the most audience members with the sounds of exploding alien robots.

 

May 4th

Avengers

 

DW: Nope.

KL: Nah.

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

 

DW: Well, that’s a whole bunch of actors whose collective work I enjoy a whole hell of a bunch making a movie that appears to be steeped in a whole mess of post-colonial privilege stew. I hope that it’s just a case of really bad marketing, and this isn’t another film about a bunch of white people who travel to another country and learn Important Life Lessons from the natives, whose simplicity means they’re tapped into Deeper Truths, in an explicitly condescending and borderline-racist way. Because, brother, that is exactly what it looks like so far.

 

KL: Oof, let’s hope it’s more about that than manifesting that, but it’s hard to say. There’s, you know, some history between England and India, history which was astonishingly not solved by Indiana Jones and Short Round. The trailer basically tells you everything that’s going to happen, complete with a music cue that shifts us from “haha rueful!” to “hey man, like, LIFE!” and at this stage in my own life I’m good with 90 seconds of that, as opposed to 90 minutes of it.

 

Meeting Evil

 

DW: Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to these things, but I will honestly be more surprised if it turns out that Samuel L. Jackson is not a figment of Luke Wilson’s imagination.

In any case (figment, charming sociopath, actual devil) it’s pretty rote ground for a thriller, so whether this is worthwhile or not is going to depend pretty strongly on the performances and the quality of the script and any wit and originality it can wring from the scenario. Jackson I’m feeling a bit burnt out on; it feels like his performances increasingly tend towards camp as a result of, as a friend puts it, the “Samuel L. Jacksploitation” factor. Wilson I’m still pretty okay with, so…maybe Netflix I guess?

 

KL: I’m leaning “actual devil or possibly figment,” but I sincerely doubt it’ll be clearly spelled out.

I mean, this doesn’t look bad. SLJ is toning down his Al Pacino Yelling All The Time School of Acting and leaning more on the glowering and that is, for him, a refreshing change of pace from the last 78 movies he’s made. I’m all for popular entertainment advancing the elementary (yet still controversial) truth that evil is not an “other,” but I can’t tell which way this one will shake out.

 

May 11th

Dark Shadows

DW: Weirdly, this is both the last thing I expected out of a Tim Burton remake of Dark Shadows and exactly what I expected out of a Tim Burton remake of Dark Shadows.  The last thing because “brooding supernatural romance” sounds like something right up Burton’s alley, and exactly because, boy, does this look like a self-indulgent train-wreck.

As with most remakes, the question of who precisely this was for seems to come up. Doing a wacky period comedy is the sort of thing that, one supposes, would only alienate fans of the original series. And the sort of people a wacky period comedy might appeal to are likely to be alienated by having it tied to this old soap opera property they’ve maybe heard of only vaguely. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see a bit of the Beetlejuice-era Burton here. Johnny Depp in full on ham mode, though, makes me skeptical.

 

KL: I am hoping this goes for the pure hilarity and some creepy imagery, because that’s a Burton we haven’t seen in a little while and because that’s the only thing that could possibly get my ass in the seat for this. I haven’t seen the show, so adherence to it isn’t really a priority for me (and in an ideal world never is; all works, even adaptations, should stand on their own.)

Um, also: Eva Green.

 

God Bless America

KL: It’s funny, every bit of praise I can cook up for Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad—which I outright loved—sounds very trite. “Bracing,” “fresh,” “raw,” “unflinching” – it’s hard to come up with new words for a movie that, when presented with the movie choice or the human choice, relentlessly pursues the latter.

This looks… different. Look, we all enjoy our little Falling Down fantasies. And we’ve seen nearly this exact one played out twice in recent years: in the somewhat repellant Kick-Ass (based on a way more repellant comic) and Super, which at least had the self-awareness to cast serious questions about the sanity of its protagonists.

I’m further annoyed that these stories seem to require a teenage (girl) accomplice, someone who’s smart beyond their years and just as fed up with the world. Straight up, teenagers: you don’t know shit. Shut up.

Our two heroes are whacking easy targets in the trailer – the people set up by media conglomerates for us to gawk at, bitch about, and most of all never stop watching. Taking that to the extreme of eliminationist rhetoric about what constitutes “Real America” is not just brain poison, it’s buying completely into the game and letting it own you.

I sincerely and truly hope there’s more than meets the eye here.

 DW: I’m with you on really hoping that there’s more here than simple revenge fantasies against “annoying people.” It’s a really fine line to walk between satire and just congratulating yourself for not being a “bad person” as narrowly defined by an aging comedian, and from just the trailers it’s hard to tell which side Goldthwait is falling on. And that’s even without factoring in the very good likelihood that, like Idiocracy before it, the parody goes over the heads of some viewers and they come away with the wrong message. Goldthwait’s previous work makes me hope that he’s got a handle on that, that this is more than the sum of its parts.

But, yeah, spunky teenage girl engaged in cute violence. That’s…that’s not a good sign.

May 16th

The Dictator

DW:  I’m not a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. I find his satirical films forced and over-reliant on “foreigners lol” types of jokes. The initial trailers didn’t do much to dissuade me from that position, but at the very least the mockumentary format was being ditched.

This new trailers make the film look something more like a pretty blatant rip-off of Coming to America. I can’t decide if that’s actually a good thing or a bad thing in terms of Cohen’s career trajectory, but it certainly doesn’t make the film any more appealing.

 

KL: There was a time when I championed Cohen, but that time is gone. I recognize there is a genius in what he does: zeroing in on the chinks and cracks in the polite veneers of middle class life and taking a fucking rocket launcher to them is at times spectacular to see.

So I don’t know if he got old or if I did. I like some of what I see in the trailers, but this particular brand of freaking the norms has lost a lot of its appeal – and the hints that this’ll be more of a conventionally filmed comedy give me the impression he’ll be defanged.

 

May 18th


Battleship


KL: Nothing makes me feel like Sam Neill at the end of In the Mouth of Madness  quite like this movie’s marketing. This is a movie based on a plotless board game starring some Friday Night Lights guys, that True Blood guy, a swimsuit model, Rihanna, and Liam Neeson. Peter Berg at least knows how to move a camera, but everything else about this is beyond parody. “From Hasbro, the company that brought you Transformers”? That is a board game company getting the “from the producers of” spot! It’s surreal.

Also: no.

DW: This is, apparently, already a hit overseas. Now, I’m the first one to mock those who take a film’s box office success or failure as a sign of its quality, but lately I’ve seen a lot of “well, it did well overseas” explanations used to justify a film’s lackluster performance in the US, usually with a side of “US audiences just didn’t get it/deserve a film of this quality” thrown in there as well.

That this is a success in foreign markets should, I would hope, definitively illustrate that box office takes have nothing whatsoever to do with quality, because this is the stupidest thing to come from stupid town in a good long while, and Atlas Shrugged was released not too long ago. Everyone involved in the production of this should feel bad about themselves.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

KL: I guess they’re putting a veneer of sass on this and that’s meant to update and evolve the heartwarming family thing they’ve got going on. There’s some good comedy names in here (Thomas Lennon, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rob Huebel, Elizabeth Banks) but there’s also that friggin’ bikini model again and listen, those good comedy guys also know how to cash a check and get their name out there, so I’m not expecting anything but the PG-13iest of PG-13 takes on “what it’s really like” parenting comedies. Give me hard R or give me death.

DW: Man, Thomas Lennon is just becoming my personal bellwether of if a comedy is going to be crap or not. If he’s in there by himself, with no other members of The State to back him up? Yeah, this is going to be lousy.

This feels a lot like one of those holiday themed rom-coms, where they get like a dozen rom-com actors and throw them in there with interlinked plots that, by themselves, are too slight to support a whole film, but we’re so tickled that this film has Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker that we’ll just overlook the fact that it’s crap. Only it’s a completely bland, safe “date night” style comedy.

May 25th

Men In Black 3

KL: I’ve never really cottoned to Barry Sonnenfield. Just about everything he’s done wears the strain of effort a little too obviously to achieve the weightless weirdness of his screwball subject matter. In short: He tries too hard.

MIB wasn’t really any different. I was about as buttered-up by hype as I possibly could be for the first movie, but it failed to meet even my lowered and sympathetic expectations. God knows why I saw the second one, but I did, and even at 88 minutes it felt too slight to exist. Josh Brolin’s Tommy Lee Jones impersonation is great but, like, I have Saturday Night Live for that.

 

DW: I sort of liked the first film (though, granted, I think I only ever watched it once, when it came out, so I have no idea if I would still like it), and I barely even remembered that there ever was a second film. But, no, I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm for this. Smith passed over into annoying territory a long time back, and having Brolin deadpan his way through a movie pretty much kills what charisma he has. That there doesn’t appear to be any real development in tone or style from the earlier films sends me the message that this is pretty much just an attempt to wring the last few cents out of a franchise that’s almost reached it’s sell-by date.

 

Chernobyl Diaries

DW: I had actually heard some intriguing advance praise for this, so I was eager to check out the trailer and see what was what. I actually liked The River, enough to make me think that I should probably check out the Paranormal Activity films despite really not liking the format they used for them.

But when I watch the trailer I’m pretty underwhelmed. Sure, there are a couple of spooky shots. But when you set your horror film in Chernobyl? I sort of expect something more original than what looks like another mutant hillbilly cannibals film. Because that is not only a trope that just needs to fucking die already, but it’s the least original sort of threat you could come up with for a film set in fucking Chernobyl.

 

KL: I liked Paranormal Activity, but then I’m a fan of anything that removes a camera’s omniscience and makes you very aware of how limited a camera really is.

This is another thing, and not nearly as inventive. Props for using Chernobyl for the setting (are they really there? The trailer clips seem to sync up with photos I’ve seen, but who knows) and Oren Peli can pace things out, but I sincerely doubt that will be enough.

 


Moonrise Kingdom


KL: I have really, really come around on most of Wes Anderson’s stuff in the past few years, though there’s some exceptions (Darjeeling Limited) to that rule.

He’s definitely got his own thing going and he’s rigidly set on following that and he enjoys success for it, so, cool. We’ve got the usual jokes about which B-side Kinks or Rolling Stones songs he’ll use in this one’s soundtrack. It all looks a little precious, but for reasons I have a hard time identifying, his particular brand of precious doesn’t offend me – maybe it’s to do with the raw need at the core of a Max Fischer, or the malaise gnawing at the core of the Tenenbaums, or how Mr. Fox’s desire to do things his own way can scare and potentially hurt his loved ones. There’s more, is what I’m saying. And I like him for that.

 

DW: I can’t make up my mind about Anderson. I want to like his stuff, but usually when I give him a shot I just get…bored, to be honest. The whimsey levels look to be off the charts here, and while I would usually find that sort of thing a bit forced, it feels mostly appropriate, given that this is a film about kids. I’ll accept a certain degree of self-conscious sweet oddness under those circumstances.

Which means I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment again, but oh well.

 

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Every month, Ken Lowery and I take a look at some of the trailers for upcoming films to spot the good, the bad, and the tax dodges.
It’s April, which historically means…well…it’s time for studios to get some write-downs set up.

April 4th

Iron Sky

 

 

DW: As much as I have to grudgingly admit that there’s a cheeky exuberance to admire in the concept here (Space Nazis on the Moooon!), this has the same desperate stink of a joke that’s gone too far that Snakes on a Plane had. There’s definitely something to be said about letting your nerdy obsession fly in a glorious, id-fueled display of rampant spectacle and self-conscious pandering to the “awesomesauce” crowd , and very occasionally we get gems like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow or Lost Skeleton of Cadavera out of such exercises. But more often than not we end up with Sucker-Punch.

This has “guilty late night Netflix viewing” written all over it.

KL: There are Two Kens battling it out over this one: the snide Ken that wants to crack wise about how Grindhouse-ads-turned-movies have a lot to answer for, about how probably the last thing we need is another mash-up movie composed of the scraps of the Internet’s cutting room floor. The other part of me says, oh come on, this is fun, even if it’s going to be shitty. Most of the fun movies like this from yesteryear were also shitty.

Hm. Laying it out like that, it seems like both sides say “don’t see it,” and really the only question is “do I hassle people for seeing it?” And who has the time, really?

April 6th

American Reunion

KL: This one’s aimed squarely at me: the first American Pie came out my senior year in high school (right after I’d graduated, in fact), and I guess this one’s meant to capture the spirit of the fabled, uh, 13th high school reunion. And there isn’t an actor here who isn’t thrilled to get a big movie push again, except maybe Alyson Hannigan, who’s doing just fine.

Did you see Mena Suvari in Stuck, by the way? She was excellent.

OK, back to Reunion. Back in 1999 I was really very excited about this movie. Really! I had long-winded speeches built up about how it was necessary to always have raunchy comedies freaking the norms, or however the hell I talked in 1999. Then I saw the movie, and… ehhh. It was a mild cultural phenomenon, but I wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t just that I didn’t relate to these people; it’s that it felt like it was scripted by old men going entirely by ‘80s comedies about high school, and not actual high school experience. I don’t feel like this will be any different.

DW: I somehow missed the entire American Pie thing as a thing the first time it happened. I think I might have watched the second one at a movie night a friend’s house once. All it did for me was confirm that, yes, Seann William Scott is pretty. It’s not as if I’ve got a thing against wannabe transgressive gross-out comedies; they’re actually pretty hit or miss with me, though the ones with half a brain tend to appeal to me more. But as far as these things go, I think I actually liked the Another Gay Movie parody version of the franchise more than the actual franchise itself.

So, I look at this, and apart from noting that the target audience has now aged to the point where they’re having kids (and quite likely have aged out of wanting to see this sort of thing), the only thing that really strikes me is that Seann William Scott hasn’t aged too badly.

April 13th

The Three Stooges

DW: Believe it or not, we generally do try to avoid looking at the films that genuinely look like absolute garbage for these reviews. But sometimes one stands out from the pack even then, and the sheer terribleness it radiates becomes worthy of some discussion in and of itself.

The biggest question here is, of course, “why does this even exist?” At one point the Farrelly Brothers were the go-to guys for shitty, unfunny alleged comedies, before being surpassed by the “Adjective Movie” guys in the “so cheap any revenue puts us into profit” category of inexplicable releases. Is this their attempt to retake the crown, while simultaneously proving all those complaints about the creative bankruptcy of Hollywood by bastardizing a licensed property that is meaningless to new audiences and only serves to alienate and anger existing fans? Or is there some market of people who desperately need to see Z-List reality show “celebrities” being physically abused on a 70 foot screen that is being under-served?

In any case, everyone involved in this production, from the studio executives who green-lit it to the interns fetching Snooki coffee, should be ashamed of themselves, and in a just world would be barred from ever working in the entertainment industry ever again.

KL: None of this makes any sense, except perhaps the April release date. With movies like this I try to imagine how it got made, in a very specific, literal fashion. I try to imagine the pitch session. I try to imagine several levels of producers round tabling and agreeing that this was their picture.

I like to imagine the casting calls, the auditions, the script rewrites, the table reads, the marketing kickoff, the screening of the dailies, the long hours in the editing booth. Hell, I like to imagine the craft services table. I like to imagine the thousands of people, millions of dollars, and years of collective lives spent on remaking The Three Stooges, a movie hated from the second its existence was whispered to the wider world years ago. For a project nobody likes or has ever liked or been enthusiastic about, for the entire cycle of its creation to its delivery.

I like to imagine how no one with enough pull, at any point, said “No.”

No one at all.

Think about that the next time your spec script is savaged by some junior producer in an ill-fitting suit.

The Cabin in the Woods

KL: I have something of a complicated history with co-writer/producer Joss Whedon, and for that matter with much of the material turned out by co-writer and director Drew Goddard.

I’ll focus on Whedon. I have given the man many, many chances to impress me the way he has impressed a lot of my friends: I have seen a season of Buffy, a season of Angel, all of Firefly, Serenity, and have even read Astonishing X-Men and Fray. I tried, y’all, I really really tried, and with the exception of Fray Whedon has always firmly fit into the B- camp of genre creators. (I liked Fray a lot, but I haven’t read it in years, so who knows if it holds up.)

His ideas are moderately clever, but nothing new to people who spend any amount of time in the trenches of the same genre. It’s all just OK. Not bad, not great – a journeyman’s idea of what science fiction, horror, satire, and other genres can do. (See also Lost and most other things Goddard has been involved in.) I’ve heard some positive advance buzz for Cabin in the Woods, which I guess is going all “meta” with the cabin-in-the-woods horror genre (ugh). I’ve also heard some less-than-positive responses.

Guys, I am being completely sincere when I say I love nothing more than being proven wrong about creative talents I have previously written off. But I don’t think this one is going to do it, either.

DW: I’m in a remarkably similar situation to yours here, Ken. I really have never been impressed with anything either Whedon or Goddard has done, and in Whedon’s case in particular I have real problems with his body of work, both thematically in in execution. But the “meta” aspect of this, from what little we’ve seen, does actually interest me. I mean, realistically, this is probably too little too late in terms of looking at these particular tropes and themes in a clever and original way (look at how thin Hemsworth is here, this was clearly shot before he even started thinking about buffing up for Thor), and genuinely good films, thinking mostly of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil here, have come out in the meantime and touched pretty similar ground.

If it were anyone else but Whedon and Goddard involved here, I might be willing to express some cautious optimism. But it is the two of them, so I’m expecting a moderately clever idea botched by clumsy execution and ham-fisted attempts at pop savvy.

Lockout

"I heard you were dead."

KL: Anyone else get a real strong Escape from New York/LA vibe, at least in the basic premise? The lone badass sent in to rescue the President’s daughter from a vile prison. I suppose you subtract the meanness of Carpenter’s vision and add in lots of sci-fi slickness, and this is what you get. Two untested directors, so who knows what to make of that.

I will say I’m a big ol’ Guy Pearce fan and I have followed him into some questionable territory. I don’t think he’s ever done a proper turn as an action hero, and he has some promise there. Handsome, but weathered. No high hopes, but I’ll be watching the reviews on this one a bit closer than most of the rest of the month’s releases. Hopin’ for a sleeper.

DW: I am completely with you on the Escape vibe coming through. That’s a pretty high bar for a sci-fi action film to set in my mind, but it’s not as if anyone else has been going for that particular jump in a lone while.

And as I’ve probably bored people by pointing out before, putting Luc Besson’s name on a poster does get me to take notice. Even when (or perhaps especially when) the film otherwise looks like an assembly of action film clichés. Add in a fondness for Guy Pearce and some genuine curiosity at the prospect of seeing him in an action film, and I think we’re looking at what is, hopefully, at worst an evening out for something dumb but fun.

April 27th

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

DW: Oh, man, a children’s animated film that actually manages to look both genuinely entertaining and nice to look at? Those have gotten so rare I’m actually really impressed that there’s even a slight glimmer of hope that this could be a quality film.

The track record for Aardman has been pretty good, and even if there are no real “laugh out loud” moments in the trailers for me, I’m still sold. Just the promise of something fun is enough for me at this point.

KL: I like the Pirate of the Year Awards concept, and I like the fact that this could potentially be a pirate movie that manages to be less than 2.5 hours long and promises to have no endless Johnny Depp-in-a-dream-desert sequences.

OK, it’s not fair to this movie to say it’s good only in comparison to something that’s very, very bad. Peter Lord is a reliable guy and I’m pleased that he can continue to do the thing he does, which is to make fun, original (OK, this one’s an adaptation, but you get me) animated movies that don’t make it their central mission to insult the intelligence of the audience. I won’t be going out of my way, but I have nephews, now, and I’m glad there’ll be a movie they can like that isn’t Shrek 7.

The Raven

DW: “Mystery writer solves mystery” may be a hoary cliché, but it’s one I actually don’t mind. I generally prefer “writer confronted with killer inspired by writer’s fiction” as it’s less abused, and frankly I’m not a fan of the pandering nature of the “historical figure in genre story” trope. So we’re kind of all over the map here in terms of whether or not this is something I can take seriously, even setting aside the issues of how pretty Luke Evans is and Cusack’s residual charisma.

Which is a pretty over-detailed way of saying that this one is going to have to come down to the reviews. It’s the sort of thing I’m maybe kinda-sorta interested in, but it has enough warning signals (direction by James McTeigue being a big one) that I feel the need to be moderately cautious.

KL: Totally agree, Dorian. Honestly, who knows how this one will go? I remember reading an interview with John Cusack shortly after the release of 1408 where he said he’s only made about 10 movies that he really, truly believed in. I’m paraphrasing him and probably not doing him justice; the point he was making was that of all his work, he considers 10 of them to be something he’s supremely proud to be part of.

I don’t know if this will be one of those works. I kind of doubt it. I just hope the final product has some levity to it; the concept is well and good, but if it’s all deadly serious all the time, fuggedaboudit.

Safe

KL: Is there something about Jason Statham that says “protector”? This is an honest question. In most of the films in the Jason Statham franchise, he’s protecting someone. A passenger, a child, bare knuckle boxers, bad dudes who go tragically un-shot. Anyway. Jason Statham action movie. I don’t think I’ve seen the past 15 of these, but I certainly don’t mind their existence – he’s a damn sight better than Sam Worthington, in that he has an actual personality.

DW: I’m fairly uncomplicated when it comes to my Jason Statham movies. I’ll see them. It really just comes down to that. But, yeah, it’s not easy to argue against the point that he always seems to play the same type of character. It’s probably because they’re mostly just the same film with a different Macguffin swapped in at the script stage. The only exception to that rule would be the British mystery and/or crime-dramas he pops up in once in awhile.

Nobody goes to see a Jason Statham movie for the script anyway.

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It’s March, when film studios traditionally release films that they would like to make money on but know don’t stand a chance against the summer and winter megafilms. Ken Lowery take a look at the trailers for a selection of these upcoming releases and find a few bright spots amidst a sea of “ehh.”

March 2nd

The Lorax

DW: When looking at the list of films scheduled for this month, there was surprisingly little that elicited any strong reactions from me at first glance. This was pretty much the only one. Granted, the feeling it evokes was pretty much the same way Sherman felt about Atlanta, but that’s a reaction at least.

Usually when compiling the list of films for these posts I kick out anything that just looks self-evidently shitty. I made an exception here because the fact that Dr. Seuss’s environmental fable could be made into a cynical, merchandise spewing, catch-phrase spouting sub-Dreamworks attempt to rip off families in the name of shutting kids up for eighty minutes says something about the profoundly craven and mercenary nature of the film industry.

In other words, the fact that this even got made shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with America.

KL: I like that bit where Danny DeVito thinks the woman is a man, because that’s funny because she’s mannish, I guess! Anyway the delivery, setup and editing sort of resemble what jokes look like, and it plays on status quo notions of gender, so ha ha am I right.

Maybe I’m picking on the one stupid joke too much, but it is a stupid joke firmly lodged into the slot reserved for stupid “kicker” jokes at the end of brainless trailers, so if this piece of marketing is meant to represent the film then… yikes.

March 9th

Silent House

KL: Horror filmmakers: This isn’t the ‘70s, and you’re not writing for drive-in magnates. “Inspired by True Events” means nothing anymore; we are all well aware of the incredible wiggle room that kind of language grants you.

I am not automatically down on found footage stuff. It has its place, and it can work – whether it’s “true” found footage like the original Paranormal Activity or a slightly more loose interpretation a la Monsters – if handled with precise care and a deep knowledge of the limitations of a faulty camera.

Chris Kentis and Laura Lau did Open Water together, which I hear was good but cannot personally testify to because just the premise gives me the willies. But no. I don’t think so.

DW: A copy of the original Uruguayan film has been sitting, unopened in its Netflix folder, on my tv stand for like a month. I had heard good things about the film, I’ve been digging this Spanish-language horror Renaissance we’ve got going on lately, and while it’s cheesy, the “real time” gimmick sucked me in.

And then I saw the US trailer a few weeks back for the first time and what I thought was a spooky ghost movie with a clever format turned out to be just another “found footage” film about a woman being terrorized because we’re just going to run with the misogynistic overtones of the horror genre I guess.

I find it a bit depressing that the original was sold on the real time gimmick and this remake is pushing the “true story” gimmick. It feels like an indication of just how little originality is currently on display in the American horror genre.

I’ll probably just settle in and watch the original instead.

The Decoy Bride

DW: I’ll usually at least give films that stick this many British comedy actors in a look, but I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to be a painful proposition this time around. About the only thing we don’t see in the trailer is the eventual realization that, yes, Doctor Who ditches the bitchy American and falls in love with the homespun English girl. And, really, they don’t need to show us that, because it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion. I suspect that if they attempted any other ending in a film that, in all other regards, is so unrelentingly by the numbers, they might end up with riots in the theaters.

KL: So when the voice-over guy says “The only thing she didn’t plan for…” in the trailer for a romantic comedy, there is only one thing that will ever, ever be said next: “is falling in love.” That’s it. Forever.

I think Kelly MacDonald is extremely watchable and quite talented, but ho boy, we make enough of these things here. We don’t need to start importing them.

John Carter

DW: I’m enough of a fan of the Burroughs novels that I wanted this to be good, but not so much of a fan that I feel terribly upset that this honestly doesn’t look very good. Mostly I’ve just been entertained by the comedy of errors Disney has gone through in trying to market the thing. “No, don’t call it Princess of Mars, people will think it’s for girls. No, don’t call it John Carter of Mars, people will think it’s campy.” Now I’m mostly curious to see how badly sanitized from the novels this is going to end up being. (My bet is Carter’s background as a Confederate will be excised but the White Man’s Burden subtext will still shine through.)

Visually it’s pretty enough, and for the most part it stays within a reasonable family-friendly approximation of what’s actually in the books, but there’s something the feels vaguely perfunctory about the thing as a whole. As if the creators reached the “good enough” stage and decided that they were done for the day. It doesn’t help, either, that casting an actor an uncharismatic as Taylor Kitsch as a swashbuckling ass-kicker doesn’t do the film any favors.

I mean, hell, they even went as boring and generic as possible with the damn font for the logo. It’s almost like they’re trying to scuttle the film on purpose.

KL: I like Tim Riggins, so there’s that, and Andrew Stanton has written and directed my absolute favorite Pixar work, so there’s that. I also like it when animation directors move into live action, because they tend to want to move the camera more and push storytelling into further dimensions than “OK I guess pile on some more CGI.” They typically do something with the tech at their disposal; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, while thin as a sheet of paper, was a hell of an entertaining thing to look at.

There is also Disney’s troubling record with live-action spectacles. I still like the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but everything else since then has been a hot mess – from the Pirates sequels themselves to bland, charmless, and curiously anonymous stuff like Prince of Persia. Perhaps Disney will let Stanton do his thing.

My Cyno-O-Meter still ticks over to “optimistic” on this one, but it won’t take much more than a strong breeze to tip it over to “nope.”

March 16th

21 Jump Street

DW: You know, calling attention to the fact that Tatum and Hill look in no possible way like actual high school students doesn’t do anything to change the fact that the very notion that actors in their thirties could pass as high school students is just as ridiculous now as it was in the original series.

My inability to suspend disbelief aside, this looks like a pretty standard action comedy, only dumbed down as much as possible. Hill’s not funny enough to sell it on his own, and Tatum isn’t pretty enough to make up for the fact that the film looks neither funny nor exciting. I’d ask why they even bothered to make the film, but we all know it’s because somebody paid for the rights and, by God, they’re going to make that money back somehow.

KL: I don’t… get it. The two directors are vets from Clone High, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and not much else. The writer, Michael Bacall, is making something of a go of it lately – he co-scripted Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, wrote Project X, and now this. I guess it’s a property that has some loyalty, and I guess there’s some mileage to be gained from the whole “no actors portraying high school kids look anything like high school kids,” but man, I cannot imagine even picking this up as a $3 purchase at Entertainmart. Or remembering it in August.

Mirror, Mirror

KL: If I’m being perfectly honest, I have way more love for this than for Snow White and the Huntsman. The latter looks like another joyless “epic” grafted onto a fairy tale, because God knows we needed more of those. Mirror Mirror at least has Tarsem Singh going for it, and there’s a guy who for the most part has not been afraid to use controversial techniques like “color” and “a style that does not look like one of 30 people could have directed it.”

Not that I think this won’t also be a disaster, and I never could stand Julia Roberts. But at least it’ll be a disaster with style.

DW: Oh, man, I really wish Singh wasn’t involved with this. I love his aesthetic, but it physically pains me to see it grafted onto a vehicle for a braying Julia Roberts and a past his sell-by Nathan Lane spouting lame fairy-tale jokes and puns that even the writers of a Shrek film would hesitate to include. Snow White and the Huntsman doesn’t look any better, no, but at least it’s not pretending to be anything other than a bloated epic.

It is so damn pretty but every time a character opens their mouth I just wince.

March 23rd

The Hunger Games

KL: Say “The Hunger Games” in my household and my wife will tremble, which is likely the case in many, many households across America. I’ve abstained from the phenomenon (I usually read A, not YA, he said with unintentional condescension) but do not find fault in the outline of the material. Oh sure, there have been a thousand iterations of this storyline before, but that is 1) the lot of genre works, and 2) absolutely no indicator of quality.

I do like the people in front of the camera – lots of smaller roles filled with colorful actors looking to see if this franchise will hit, and a strong lead in Jennifer Lawrence. The presence of Gary Ross as writer-director is an interesting one, and harder to peg – dude gave us broad, friendly fare like Dave and more ambitious work (that, I admit, I was not crazy about) in Pleasantville. The campaign does not turn me off and I hope we have a winner here, but really, my opinion here is moot. I will be seeing this movie.

DW: I’ll be honest here; despite the praise that I’ve seen the books get, the premise squicks me out far too much for me to read them or watch this. I know, I’m a horror guy, but, y’know, there’s “scary” and then there’s “casual disregard for the dignity of human life in the name of entertainment.” And much of the excitement I see from people about this property feels more like the later. It’s much like when Battle Royale was a thing, and people would gush at me about how great it was. “It’s about these teenagers and they have to fight to the death and the deaths are so awesome!” and I just want to slowly back out of the room.

So, yeah, we’re just going to chalk this one up to “not for me.”

A Thousand Words

KL: I’m going to go ahead and make the observation I’m sure everyone else is making, because it needs to be made: was Jim Carrey unavailable? Because this is exactly the kind of high-concept comedy he built the second act of his career around: lots of riffing safely confined within family-friendly MPAA standards. I suspect – and try to stay with me here – that Eddie Murphy’s character will learn a lot about the value of true, heartfelt words. But don’t hold me to that.

DW: I don’t know, all the mugging and built-in cameo opportunities for “famous friends” make me think this was a vehicle that Adam Sandler passed on. But otherwise you’re pretty spot on; this is a safe, innocuous, “family friendly” comedy that looks to be about as rote and predictable as every other “mysterious magical figure teaches asshole an important life lesson” film ever made.

March 30th

Wrath of the Titans

DW: Well…

That’s certainly a sequel to a CGI-heavy sword-n-sandal film that wasn’t particularly impressive to begin with. It’s big and loud and looks to be just going through the motions, much like the first one. Only with more grime where the first one at least promised a certain sense of spectacle.

My weakness for gladiator films means I’ll probably get this from Netflix at some point, but it’ll be one of those “oh, hey, didn’t Wrath of the Titans come out a while ago?” rentals.

KL: I was not a fan of the first installment and struggle now to think what the Clash remake’s legacy would be to inspire a sequel. All I think of now is Liam Neeson in shiny armor and the minor debacle of being the first and most prominent movie to get an obvious post-production facelift to dark, underwhelming 3D. I guess that movie also hit the golden ratio of cost to revenue, so here is our formula-mandated sequel.

I summon no passion here, because nothing about the original remake (and FUCK YOU for making that phrase a reality, studios) can be said to inspire passion in anyone, least of all the people involved.

Actually, I am inspired to passion by one thing: Studios, we are done with your “We will make Sam Worthington a thing whether you like it or not” mentality. It’s not going to happen.

Intruders

KL: Straight up, I loved 28 Weeks Later, even more than 28 Days Later, so I am all about whatever it is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (such a great name) wants to do next. And what’s not to like about Clive Owen?

Independent of that, this trailer works on me. “Hollowface” is kind of dumb but I guess it fits the idea that a kid came up with it, and the slow emergence of the monster/villain/whatever from the closet to face the dad, in defiance of every “the boogeyman isn’t real” demonstration in the history of the world, is nice and creepy. Yes.

DW: Oh, hell yes. This? This is what I want from my horror films. A convincing atmosphere of dread, a relatable fear tied into a fantastic, impossible fear, and a premise appropriate for the genre.

I wasn’t a fan of Fresnadillo’s other films. I recognized the quality, but, eh, zombies by any other name are still zombies and I just don’t care. I’m glad he’s sticking to the genre but branching out into more interesting areas.

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