Silver:The Chronicles of Riddick’s box office catastrophe lost Vin Diesel all the equity he’d acquired after The Fast and the Furious (having already spent a significant amount of it on the lackluster xXx, which landed in between FF 1 and Chronicles). He practically became a Hollywood pariah, forced to take on roles like Shane Wolfe in The Pacifier — the special ops stud who's a fish out of water working his new assignment as a bodyguard to a suburban family. You know, roles normally reserved for professional wrestlers trying to break into mainstream film or for action stars on the decline. It wasn’t until he slipped the shiny-white, two-sizes-too-small, Hanes V-neck back over his head and returned to the Fast and Furious franchise as Dominic Toretto did audiences start caring about him again.
So my question is this: Why go back to the role that practically sunk his career? Is it hubris? Or is it that he and writer-director David Twohy believe that they can actually recapture the simplistic terror of Riddick’s first onscreen appearance in Pitch Black, and not recycle the monotonously bloated Chronicles?
I’d like to believe it’s the former. And this trailer provides evidence that this might actually be the case.
Silver: Alfonso Cuaron has only directed three films since 2001 (his section in Paris, Je T'Aime does not count), and yet when you look at those three titles it’s easy to understand why he’s still considered to be one of the most revered filmmakers working today.
2001’s Y Tu Mamá También is the type of intimate, highly sexual, intensely emotional, character-centric piece American indie filmmakers have longed to produce.
2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is undoubtedly the turning point for the series. Chris Columbus's insistence on staying impeccably true to the source material resulted in the first two films feeling rigid and somewhat emotionless. Then Cuaron entered and immediately loosened the reins. He infused some reality into Potter’s magical world with the use of more muted colors and handheld camerawork. He allowed the students of Hogwarts to dress and act more like real children, and refocused Potter’s narrative on the emotional stakes contained within the interpersonal relationships between the characters. No film since Azkaban has looked or felt like the first two films in the series. And even though the first two films were box office hits, a case could easily be made that this franchise would not be the multi-billion-dollar behemoth it is today if it weren't for Cuaron.
Silver: There’s a great Monty Python sketch in which a writer creates a joke so funny it’s lethal — so deadly that during WWII both the Nazis and the Allied forces attempt to weaponize it, but as a precaution, can only translate the joke one word at a time.
This is my fear when discussing, much less seeing, any footage from Pacific Rim. There are far too many goodies involved with this film that target the deepest parts of my gooey geeky center. So as not to place myself in harm's way, the following is an appropriated version of the Python “Funniest Joke” strategy (because as we all know, the best advice and life lessons come from Monty Python).
Guillermo Del Torro; giant robots; Charlie Hunnam; “pilot-to-pilot connection engaged”; giant monsters; “two pilots mind-melding through memories with the body of a machine”; Charlie Day; robot heads; “Your orders are to protect a city of 2 million people”; night battles in the rain; giant monsters leaping out of a river onto a giant robot; “They came from deep beneath the Pacific”; winged monsters; “Their sole purpose is to aim for the populated areas and take out the vermin ... us”; Ron Perlman; dojos; Idris Elba; “Today we face the monsters that are at our door. We are canceling the apocalypse!”; giant robot double-fist punch to a giant monster’s face; and A FRAKKING SEA TANKER BEING WIELDED AS A BASEBALL BAT!
Oy. I said too much. I think ... I’m goingngn ... tooooo ... fai ...
Silver: I really hope that The Wolverine is not like its bloated and unfocused predecessor OR a feeble attempt to force in connective tissue from past and future X-Men cinema adventures. There are so many nuances contained within the character that have yet to be explored. So a win for us all would be that the filmmakers of The Wolverine have kept it simple and let this film be a stand-alone tale of Logan’s exploits in Japan.
Browne: While watching this, I couldn't help but think they should have just named this Logan Does Japan. That's a movie I'm not missing.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — Teaser (November 22)
Silver: The withholding of imagery from the actual Hunger Games themselves was blatant in the marketing of the first film — the trailer gave only a brief glimpse of Tributes darting off their posts, choosing instead to focus on the characters, and specifically on Katniss’s plight.
This tactic worked so well the first time around that Lionsgate appears to be running it back for the sequel, since this (long) teaser is put together with moments from the first third of the book. It’s a nice reintroduction to the leads, but it also gets that “What the hell is Philip Seymour Hoffman doing in this movie?” moment out of the way, so as not to distract us too much later.
Silver: I’ve come back around on Ron Howard. For me, the hyperbolic sentimentality of his films and his overly lavish set pieces always felt like he was trying too hard. I tend to not like films that are so blatantly campaigning for an Oscar, and would rather a film’s innate importance be a tad subtler. But after recently catching Backdraft and Apollo 13 on cable, I went back and rewatched the entire Howard catalogue, and it became clear that my ire against his filmography was a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.
Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons are just poorly produced, pedantic movies. But there’s a certain earnestness and genuineness to the vast majority of his other films that, as I went title-by-title, came to be a welcome antidote to the cynicism inherent in so many films released today. Even in the titles some folks might consider to be weaker — The Missing, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Paper — ol’ Opie's heart bleeds through every frame.
Silver: Rem, happy “(Mostly) Single Sentence Movie Trailer Review Friday”. It’s my favorite day.
Browne: This is going to still take six hours. LET'S GO.
2 Guns (August 2)
Silver: If all that was ever released from 2 Guns was this trailer I’d be happy, so just imagine the elation I’m feeling knowing that a feature-length version of this is a few months away. Oh, HELL yeah!
Browne: I'm nervous, because I can't imagine the movie is more entertaining than this highly entertaining, highly Denzel trailer.
Silver: A Roland Emmerich film about the White House being attacked and a 2:17 trailer that doesn’t reveal either of its leading men till 1:11. And these aren't just your run-of-the-mill Emmerich leads (i.e., John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Matthew Broderick, Dennis Quaid), these are two legit above-the-line talents. One is coming off his biggest worldwide hit (Jamie Foxx) and the other is arguably Hollywood’s next superstar (The Tatum). Ugh! This White House Down trailer should have been a layup. But nooooo, the part of my brain that should have retained actually useful information has instead made itself a receptacle for only the most inane entertainment-related info, taken over, and dragged me down a regretful “Teaser Trailers of Emmerich Past” spiral.
Silver: What I loved about the first Kick-Ass (and I did loooove the first Kick-Ass) was that despite its cheeky tone and comic-book sheen, the film never shied away from depicting how deeply disturbed each of its characters were. These were mortal humans, who felt pain, bled, and suffered broken bones, but because of their warped sense of justice, they had an unsettling predilection for violence and killing. And yet, despite all its mayhem, the film still felt quaint, comical, and focused. Positioning-wise, it was a tough road to travel down, yet writer-director Matthew Vaughn pulled it off. (I might be a little biased; of all the directors working in the studio system, I believe Vaughn is one of the best. Layer Cake is one of my top five favorite films of all time; his X-Men: First Class was a ton of fun and is immensely rewatchable; and Stardust is an underrated modern-cinema fairy tale — the love child of an uglier The Princess Bride and The NeverEnding Story.)
Vaughn moves into the producer role for Kick-Ass’s sequel, handing over the steering wheel to Jeff Wadlow. (Who?) You know, the guy who directed Never Back Down? (Huh?) You know, that Cam Gigandet underground high school fighting movie? (Blank stare.) Still nothing? Oh well.
Silver: Because of its blatant recycling of plot points and gags, at one point I considered The Hangover Part II one of the biggest wasted opportunities to hit the big screen. But I’m not gonna lie, I’ve warmed up to it quite a bit. After subsequent (and multiple) cable viewings, I’ve come around and really appreciate Stu’s “there’s a demon in me” story line. It’s a disturbing yet oddly moving comment on the mental state of these three shallow, weak-minded men. More than this, as deplorable as they are, I’ve grown to genuinely like hanging out with these guys. So, like re-watching Inception or Prometheus, with expectations properly set the second time around, I'm at the point where I can also sit back and enjoy The Hangover Part II for what it is. Each time I see the film my enjoyment from spending time with Phil, Stu, and Alan slowly weakens my initial disappointment.
So without even seeing a frame of footage, my enthusiasm for Part III starts with my desire to simply hang with the wolfpack again. Then came this highly entertaining trailer, chock full of mayhem, laughs, and glimpses at a killer supporting cast (John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy, and our returning champions Heather Graham and Ken Jeong). Todd Phillips and his gang of merry men and women look determined to deliver a very different and fresh adventure to cap off this trilogy. I can’t wait.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (September 27)
Silver: I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly entertained by the firstCloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. I’d initially disregarded it as yet another Hollywood studio’s half-baked attempt to enter the world of animation, but the writer/director team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller put together a film that was legitimately funny and at times cleverly subversive. (These sensibilities carried over into last year’s 21 Jump Street, their most recent film.) Cloudy definitely merited a sequel, but the first trailer for Cloudy 2 leaves me wanting. I don’t see any of the crafty set pieces or humorous situational business that made the first one so unique. Lord and Miller are (currently) nowhere in sight on this film (they’re not even listed as producers), and their influence is clearly missed. This trailer takes a huge swing and ultimately misses by positioning the film as nothing more than an overstuffed sequel with enough cringe-worthy food puns to make one want to consume a bottle of single malt intravenously. As it was with the first Cloudy, I hope I’m wrong and grossly misjudging this film. Subsequent trailers will hopefully pacify my fears.
Spring Breakers — Red Band (March 15 — Limited / March 22 — Wide)
Silver: I’ve been more curious about this film than I’ve been excited. All the trailers/promos haven’t helped dissuade my apprehensions that this was anything more than a barely legal circus of exploitative debauchery. I’m no prude. When expectations are set properly (Russ Meyer or Roger Corman, for instance), I’ll strap on my mayhem helmet and run headfirst into the depths of cinematic dystopia. And I anticipated something with a little more depth from Harmony Korine, writer/director of Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely. This latest red-band peek turned me around some. Before the now-expected barrage of visual iniquities gets unleashed, the first 1:13 of this trailer are actually quite compelling. Franco’s self-reflexive monologue is the first indication that Spring Breakers might have some metaphoric meat on its bones, and I like how the theme of control, over oneself and others, is hinted at. For my taste, this is a much more effective and engaging look at a film I was most likely going to pass on.
Silver:The Internship feels like the sad test-tube baby of Wedding Crashers, Old School, and Dodgeball released 10 years too late.
Now let me explain why, simply based on its trailer, this is one of the worst things I’ve ever said about a film.
Here’s a little insight into my movie mind. I’m a firm believer that all movies are an amalgamation of different elements appropriated from previously released films. And that “originality” should be determined by how filmmakers choose to stitch together these bits and pieces from cinema’s vast and dense history to create and present their own celluloid Frankenstein's monsters. So as a fan who still fancies himself a student, I take a great deal of pleasure in playing “Cinema CSI." It entails analyzing a film all the way down to its complex DNA strand and understanding its lineage, with the hope that I'll be able to fully understand its intentions. (Example: I appreciate Reservoir Dogs because I’m aware of how John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow I and II, Kubrick’s The Killing, and the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three influenced it.) This is why I sometimes dislike films generally praised (The Lion King) —
Silver: Forget the Oscars (Seriously. We should. It’s gotten to the point where the hype in/around awards season is more appealing than the telecast. Which at this point feels more like required DMV orientation-video viewing.) Each year, I look to the Super Bowl to be my cultural shepherd, guiding me toward a transition from the pomp, circumstance, and elevated significance surrounding six minutes of Anne Hathaway singing and Daniel Day-Lewis’s beard to the glut of (mostly) vapid movie theater butter–glazed summer tentpole movies. The overmarketed celluloid morsels crammed down moviegoers' throats by studios, if even remotely entertaining and able to garner a reasonable three-day box office gross, are considered successful. But also on rare occasions they get stamped as genuinely good cinema. So enough talk about Tommy Lee Jones’s scowl let’s start debating which, if any, Marvel Phase 2 characters will be showing up in Iron Man 3, or how Wolverine will play into 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Browne: It's like Party City on my keyboard right now. Let's do this.
Silver: Item no. 17 in my work in progress, Guidelines to Successful Movie Consumption: Theatrical Edition, reads as follows:
“Relatively unheard of, quaint-feeling, and seemingly silly science fiction films should never be disregarded outright. That said, they can, more often than not, be accurately judged by their trailers. Don’t let a solid cast fool you. Look specifically to see if the high-concept conceit appears to live organically in or get swallowed up by overly stylized visuals. Sometimes you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised with a film like Equilibrium. But more often than not you’re going to be sitting through a film like Ultraviolet or Paycheck. So look at the trailer carefully.”
With this in mind, Upside Down’s trailer leads me to believe this film is going to be a disaster. The visuals are trying way too hard to make up for a story device that would have been better suited for a short film. And even though I like both Jim Sturgess and Mary Jane Watson; they’re simply not enough to get me into a theater. Pass.
Browne: I really prefer movies that don't have half the characters walking on the ceiling for two hours. Beyond the plot, this just seems like an unpleasant viewing experience, unless somehow I can lie on my side at the theaters, which usually isn't a thing.