Silver: There are really only a handful of filmmakers working today whose films should be fervently anticipated as soon as they are labeled "in production." Given Alexander Payne’s track record, he should be seen as one of them. Nebraska appears to contain simplistic visual similarities to Payne’s earlier work, like Citizen Ruth and Election — a character, centered in frame, facing the camera. And the decision to shoot in black-and-white looks like it will help deepen the intimacy of the story. Nebraska’s narrative scope will be smaller, perhaps, but knowing how Payne baits his audience with humor, and then wallops them with a sledgehammer of raw human emotion and interactivity, I don’t foresee this film being any less moving or effective than the grander and flashier The Descendants or About Schmidt.
Silver: STATHAM!!! I can’t even believe this is real. My system is so over-Stathamed that I feel like I’m operating in some kind of Trainspotting-esqueinduced Statham haze.
Let me see if I got this straight.
Statham is starring in a film written and produced by Sylvester Stallone, where he goes toe-to-toe with a meth-cooking bad guy played by James Franco, AND the film is not being buried in some off time of the year where it can pick up only box office scraps, but instead, smack dead in the middle of the Thanksgiving Cineplex melee?
So say we all: Statham!!
(Also, it appears Franco’s got a Statham for Statham, just like me. Good on ya, Franco. Good … on … ya!)
Silver: To this day Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 RoboCop is the archetype for satire and cinematic subversion. Written by Americans but directed by a Dutchman who depicted this country as he saw it through his foreign eyes, the film’s magnified and distorted view of our nation’s future was the ideal prism through which to view, and issue a warning for, the '80s culture of excess. It’s a film that unquestionably stands the test of time, but given Hollywood’s passion for vapidly remaking and/or recycling stories, I always knew that I’d see another RoboCop. And when I did, I assumed the film would be a shell of the original.
Call me optimistic, but based on this trailer I think we’re going get the complete opposite of that — and possibly something more aligned with the DNA of Verhoeven’s original.
Silver: What is going on? Is the jelly bean bowl on the inspiration coffee table that picked through that so-called creative executives in Hollywood now just simply licking their fingers for bits of the candy coating that fell off the Hunger Games–flavored bean? And then passing that off to us, assuming we don’t the know the difference between real candy and neglected scraps?
Or is there an artistic propaganda conspiracy at play, and is Hollywood attempting to prepare humanity for the impending apocalypse? An apocalypse in which the civilians lucky enough to survive will have to submit to a fascist dictatorship and either kill their kids for fun, genetically breed/enhance them, somehow find out they have magical powers, or simply rest the fate of the entire human race in their hormonal hands?
My hope: the latter. Because at least then I’d know some thought and planning was put into this never-ending cavalcade of YA action epics.
Silver: This teaser was only 1:39, and I’m finding it a bit overwhelming to have this many non-cohesive negative thoughts spilling out of my head right now.
For time and space purposes, let’s just stick to the two most prominent:
I’d like to be yet another faceless Internet voice so I can relish in the delight of fashioning the following snarky statement: “It’s Jon Snow Versus the Volcano.” And here’s my own little addition, “Just minus the John Patrick Shanley.”
The film is directed by the hackiest of hacks currently residing in Hacksville, Paul W.S. Anderson. He's such an awful director that the cinema gods had to punish him by ensuring his name would always be referenced in film conversations as, “No, no, no. I’m taking about the other one.”
I solely blame P.W.S.A. for nearly sending both the Alien and Predator franchises to their truedeaths. Alien vs. Predator had such potential, but was immediately deemed DOA once ole Schlocky McHackmeister, and his complete lack of storytelling skills and video-game inspired, vapid visuals, signed on to write and directed it. This it the guy who figured his big addition to these genre giant legacies, solidified by such names as Scott, Cameron, McTiernan, Fincher, and Jenuet, was to make the Predators heroes, and to include an even bigger mother alien. Truly inspired (he said snidely).
Silver: Emily, given the seemingly endless barrage of trailers this week, I think it’s best if we break the glass and employ the “one-sentence review” policy so as not to miss anything. I, of course, will fail miserably. But not for lack of trying.
Yoshida: Firing up my pith generator as we speak. Let's do this.
Captain Phillips (October 11)
Silver: Open sea, freighter deck, the bridge, interior freighter, claustrophobic life boat, Captain Phillips is like Paul Greengrass’s Russian-nesting-doll retelling of Das Boot. In.
Yoshida: Great story to tell and I am intrigued, but what a terrible title — if this is done correctly the movie ends up being about way more than Hanks's character, right?
Silver: There’s been a lot of chatter around the recent financial success of films like The Conjuring, Sinister, and The Purge,, but what’s missing in all the chatter is the fact that these films are actually really good. And in some cases really, really good.
The downside is that when a clever, low-budget, practical-effects-heavy film like this hits, Hollywood’s über-exploitation and monetization machine kicks in (“We can make how much after spending how much?!”), and inevitably the death knell for any horror film is eventually uttered: “franchise.” Remember the first Paranormal Activity or the first Saw? Both great films, but their memories are now sadly tarnished by being lumped in with their less-than-worthy offspring.
So needless to say, I’m a little wary of Insidious: Chapter 2. The first film is the scariest movie-going experience I’ve ever had in a theater. But given that every key person, both in front of and behind the camera, is back for this sequel, I’m not After Earth–wary. And I certainly don’t see a “Jamie Lee Curtis running around in a wig” equivalent here. So that’s a solid start.
Silver: Second films in trilogies (see side note) have a distinct advantage over their predecessors and followers. They don’t need to establish a world, a tone, a visual, a style, or characters — they simply can start a story. They also don’t need to lead a narrative to a definitive conclusion, but rather can end on an emotional and/or unresolved high note (a.k.a. “leave em’ wanting more”), which is sometimes trickier than it sounds. When executed properly, the results are Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, Aliens, Scream 2, and The Two Towers. (There are far too many pathetic examples on the other side to list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Matrix Reloaded. Oof!)
So as Catching Fire is the most engaging and most fully realized story of The Hunger Games book series, and as Gary “Hyperbolically Vanilla” Ross has relinquished the directorial reins to Francis “I’m Really More Than a Music Video Director, Come on, Believe Me” Lawrence, this sequel has the potential to be thrust into the age-old cine-geek argument "Is the sequel better than the original?”
Silver: A wise Muppet once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And although I don’t want my cinematic opinions of Oldboy to travel down this perilous path, I can’t help but be fearful of this film. Sparing you the lengthy background, Oldboy is a twisty, uber-violent, and brilliantly constructed 2003 film directed by Chan-wook Park. And a piece that’s only grown more appreciated over time.
So in the grand tradition of Hollywood appropriating every piece of quality content for an American audience, an English language remake was inevitable. But for every Infernal Affairs to The Departed, Let the Right One In to Let Me In, or even Seven Samurai to The Magnificent Seven, there are far more examples of failed conversions.
Sylvester Stallone’s role is a concoction of every character he’s ever played. I see the obvious similarities to Lock Up, a little bit of Cobra, a dash of Demolition Man, some The Specialist, and traces of every other movie where he played a so-called “specialist” that just didn’t contain such an on-the-nose title (Assassins, Get Carter, Cliffhanger, Daylight, etc.). And of course Arnold, who should only make films with Sly from now on and is looking mighty dapper for an imprisoned man, with his salt-and-pepper hair and goatee.
But back to the basics. This is a high-concept prison break film, featuring the two biggest action stars of the '80s and '90s, who are infusing their geriatric and crotchety ways into roles clearly written for men half their age, and costarring 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Sam Neill, and Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan.
Silver: Emily, I truly appreciate you stepping in while our buddy Rem gallivants around trying to explain this great country of ours. I think it’s going to be fun to mutually open up and poke around each other’s geek medicine cabinets as we dissect these fun-size cine-treats. They are, after all, THE reason the Internet was invented (right?).
Yoshida: That and Friendster, basically. Glad to be here, Silver. Let's watch some commercials!
Anchorman: The Legend Continues (December 20)
Silver: It’s odd. My disdain for this trailer in no way outweighs my immense anticipation and deep-seated conviction that the final product will be tremendous.
But let’s be honest, this trailer is not what any of us were expecting, and to be quite honest, after all the anticipation and hype around this sequel, not what we deserved.
1. I find it odd that the marketers of Paranoia felt it was necessary to tout this film as being “From the director of 21,” but do not, at any point, list its impressive cast. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that the majority of folks seeing this film will have either not seen 21 or would have forgotten they’d seen 21. I sure did.
2. I’d like to start a petition to allow just one Hemsworth in Hollywood. Liam Hemsworth may be a fine and upstanding citizen, but in the films I’ve seen him in, he’s been a mostly valueless shell of a pretty face.
Silver: Robert Rodriguez has a very odd predilection for weaponized body parts. There was Tom Savini’s penis gun in From Dusk Till Dawn, Rose McGowan’s leg gun in Planet Terror, and with Machete Kills comes Sofia Vergara’s bullet breasts. Super weird.
I really wanted to like the first Machete, just like I wanted to like Planet Terror. But both wound up being better trailers than feature films (Machete, Planet Terror). After I got through the first 15 to 20 minutes of both films, and the grindhouse quality of both wore off, I was just bored. And I honestly don’t think it’s a grindhouse thing because I loved Death Proof. I don’t think Rodriguez has been able to successfully craft one of these films past its presentation as schlock fun.
Silver: Rem … It was a veritable Memorial Day barbecue buffet of trailers this week. So if we’re going to make that double feature of Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III, I think we should make this an (As Close To) One-Sentence Trailer review week. I can’t be late — you know how I need those left aisle seats three-quarters of the way back from the screen. I gots to have them.
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.