White House Down (June 28)
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.
Browne: I'm going to interrupt you for a second, Silver.
Silver: I’m going to do my best to keep this brief, but we all know that’s impossible. Anyway, after seeing this teaser, a few things came to mind. And this one’s obvious: The teaser trailers for Emmerich’s big disaster films are (mostly) really good, and ALWAYS better than the films themselves. Take a look ...
(I intentionally left out 10,000 B.C. It’s the only film I've seen that was so awful I actually fell asleep during it. Even acknowledging it parenthetically is in direct opposition of my better judgment.)
Saying Emmerich has spent two decades making the same film over and over again is no revelation, but after watching these five trailers (counting White House Down), what is more surprising is that we’ve bought tickets to the same movie over and over again. Minus the Die Hard–esque denouement, the WHD trailer is essentially an amalgamation of the trailers for Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012.
Browne: Is that last statement a compliment? Sorry, keep going.
Silver: The same “bzzrck” sound of a TV flipping between pieces of grainy staged news coverage from The Day After Tomorrow trailer, the same ominous text panels speaking to our inevitable and nebulously defined demise and/or resurrection, and of course some American landmark getting destroyed.
Speaking of which: Yes, we’ve seen Emmerich annihilate a few foreign monuments, but what’s with this guy’s obsession with razing our American heritage? If you added up all the destruction scenes from Emmerich’s films, I guarantee you that most of our fine country would be a shambles.
And despite all this, I’m going to show up opening weekend and enjoy the crap out of this film. Channing Tatum as John McClane? Who wouldn’t want to see that?
(For a slightly different look at White House Down, here’s the international trailer.)
Browne: Thank you for rounding up this essay with the admission that you are very excited for this. NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO BLOW UP WASHINGTON, D.C., LIKE ROLAND.
The Wolverine (July 26)
Silver: The bar is set quite low for The Wolverine.
As far as I’m concerned, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is on the list of Top Five Missed Cinematic Opportunities of all time. Logan’s origin story is one of the most revered and exciting in comic-book lore, ripe for cinematic adaptation. But the end result wound up being one of the few films I can call both bloated and vapid. It’s bursting with illogical exposition and noisy set pieces, but contextually and emotionally empty.
I am also one of the strongest James Mangold detractors around. Walk the Line; Girl, Interrupted; and Cop Land are all overrated.
But (and yes, there is a “but”) the guy’s best film is the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. And given The Wolverine’s Japanese setting, and the fact that American Westerns and Japanese samurai films frequently share the themes of self-evolution, loyalty, and honor, Mangold just might be the right directorial choice to finally establish Logan as a cinematic solo act.
The visuals featured in the trailer appear dynamic, and the story controlled. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this one.
(For a slightly different look at The Wolverine, here’s the international trailer.)
Browne: It pains me that this looks bad, but even the slightest glimpse of Jean Grey is enough to keep me interested for a few more trailers.
Riddick — Teaser (September 6)
Browne: This wasn't even a tease. It's like they were shooting the clip on someone's iPhone and then the device ran out of memory 20 seconds in. This was dumb. I'm angry. Say things, Silver.
Silver: 2000’s Pitch Black could have been just another cheap and feeble attempt to reappropriate the strongest elements of the Alien franchise and thrust them upon ignorant video-game obsessed 18-to-25-year-olds. But the film, which was extremely well made and thus terrifying, and its financial success ($23M budget, $53M worldwide haul) sneaked up and surprised a lot of people.
And as we’ve seen too many times to count, any kind of meaningful profit on a title that could be seen as even remotely franchise-friendly means sequel time. And we all know that rushing into a sequel purely for financial purposes is always a good idea [he types sarcastically]. So like so many other sequels before it, 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick needlessly expanded its universe from the almost quaint and streamlined elements that made the original work so well (the same hubris that doomed the two Matrix sequels and all three Star Wars prequels).
(Side note: Not everything in Chronicles is worthless. In what I can only assume was an homage to James Earl Jones’s role in Conan the Barbarian, Dame Judi Dench delivers a sufficiently ominous and always hilarious performance as Aereon the Elemental, a creature whose religion is based on the balance of the universe. (Awesome!)
Chronicles tanked ($92.9M worldwide, off an approximate $105M budget, not counting the marketing dollars), but nothing heals wounds better than time. The teens who didn’t show up for Chronicles are no longer the target audience, but their kids are. So in that everlasting desire to cultivate franchises, and taking into account the immense success of the Fast & Furious films (another Universal and Vin Diesel juggernaut), the decision to take a flyer out on the Riddick character is not completely insane.
We can’t tell much from these 23 seconds, but the hope is that Riddick skews more Black than it does Chronicles.
Before Midnight (May 24)
Silver: Yes, please. More, please. I hope Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke never stop making these movies. For many other Spikes, Mikes, Slackers, and Dykes like myself, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset were released at a very impressionable time in our lives, and as a result have had a great impact on the way we view relationships and that thing called love. I’d even go so far as to label them my generation’s scripted version of the Up series. Can’t wait to see this. Keep em’ coming, please.
Browne: For the first half of this trailer, I thought I was being lured into a horror film. Even up until the last moment, I thought one of their kids was set to turn evil. But it never happened. I'm so happy about that. Finally, a nice film.
Despicable Me 2 (July 3)
Silver: Rem, I need your help on this one.
I’m perplexed by the use of Eminem’s “Without Me.” The tempo, tone, and selected lyrics seem to juxtapose nicely with the narrative this trailer is laying out. But most children this trailer is aimed at will have no idea who Emimem is (was?) or what he attempted to do with his music and lyrics. Should we simply take this trailer at face value and consider it an upbeat piece of marketing for a sequel to one of the more enjoyable non-Pixar animated films made in the past decade, or is there something more subversive going on? Is the inclusion of the Eminem track a clever way to appeal to the former “children” (better known as adults) who were not so grown up when this song was released back in 2002 in an effort to get them to want to buy a ticket to this film? (Sheesh, I just depressed myself.)
Am I reading way too much into this? Discuss.
Browne: I'm just as perplexed as you are. The use of the song, an extremely strange one to pick in 2013, completely zapped my attention away from the happenings in the trailer. I couldn't stop thinking, Wait, why are they using Eminem, and of all the Slim Shady songs, "Without Me"?
I don't get it. It's not necessarily bad, just very weird and distracting.
Turbo (July 17)
Silver: Turbo appears to be the Voltron of animated films.
Body: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Left arm: Flash
Right arm: Justice League
Left leg: Herbie: Fully Loaded
Right leg: The Fast and the Furious
Helmet (this is the Vehicle Voltron, not the Lion one): Days of Thunder
Weapon: The voice of Paul Giamatti as a snail
(Side note: As a child, after about five minutes of watching the TV show or playing with the toy I quickly realized that I hated Voltron. I have a feeling that’s going to carry over to Turbo as well.)
Browne: I was moderately in on this film until I stumbled on a piece of information, via Wikipedia: "The film will be followed by a television series, titled Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team), which will air on Netflix in December 2013."
I now want nothing to do with this film, which is saying something, seeing as both Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Lion are doing voices for it.
Pain & Gain — Red Band Trailer (April 26)
Silver: I’m now officially off all Pain & Gain promo materials. Each syrupy advanced peek that drips out the tapped spout in the Awesome Tree that is this film is so, so, so, so very good. I just don’t want to be too gluttonous and spoil my in-theater experience on opening weekend (because you know I’m going to be there with bells on). So I’m done. Just bring on the Bayhem!
Browne: We know that Dwayne and Mark can be jacked and funny, but who knew Anthony Mackie had it in him? No matter how insane this movie looks (compliment and insult), this is a great look for his career, which so far has seen him peak at about fifth billing in every movie.
Welcome to the Punch (March 27 — Theaters / March 30 — VOD/Digital)
Browne: Wait, is that the blue gel guy from the Underworld movies?
Silver: Yes, and it’s nice to see the blue gel guy from the Underworld movies is finally working again. It’s been a while since he was able to throw up those icy blue tungsten lamps in earnest.
But in all seriousness, with McAvoy and Strong as the leads, and its throwback John Woo–feeling plot (urban tale in which cop and criminal come together in the morally gray center), I think it’s safe to assume that this film will, at worst, still be minimally entertaining. There’s so much running, falling, and wanton gunplay in this trailer, how could it not be?
Silver: Although this is a tad more dramatic, and a lot less kick-y/punch-y than I normally like to see my Statham, it is Statham nonetheless. There’s plenty of Statham scowls and Statham staredowns to stoke the Statham fire. And aside from Statham (but not for long), writer Steve Knight is no joke. Hummingbird is his directorial outing, but Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises were among the best films of the years they were released. It’ll be interesting to see if he can make the successful transition from writer to writer/director like many of his contemporaries (the Gilroys, Shane Black, David Koepp, and Stephen Gaghan to just name a few). Regardless, as long as there’s one (maybe two) scenes when Statham Stathams someone in the face with his mighty Stathamness, I'll be happy.
Trance (April 5)
Silver: Good visual storytelling. Above all else, that’s what wins me over when I’m watching a film. I’ve used that term before, but what does that actually mean, you might ask? To me, visual storytelling is how a director composes a narrative purely with the composition and rhythm of his/her shots. Placing writing and performance aside, how does he/she take all the elements at his/her disposal and fully engage a viewer? It’s why I’ve never lost respect for (and have questioned others' disdain for) the horror and thriller genres. Some of today’s most accomplished directors cut their teeth helming horror and thriller movies.
Trance’s Danny Boyle is one of the best. His Shallow Grave is a shrewd homage to Hitchcock, and 28 Days Later is just as terrifying as it was in 2002. Boyle is such a deft visualist, and given his level of critical and financial success, it's nice to see he hasn’t turned his back on this part of his filmography. Trance looks like a fully self-contained thrill ride of a short story, all unfolding in a large enough sandbox for Boyle to have room to play in.
(Side note: Like Boyle, Sam Raimi is another director who’s never forgotten his roots. After the Spider-Man films, he still had the desire to make a film like Drag Me to Hell. And although he didn’t direct it, the remake of his Evil Dead comes to us with his approval and is ingrained with his DNA. That film and Trance will be released the same day. So for me, this year Christmas falls on April 5. It’ going to be a good day.)
Browne: I'm a huge fan of the drama in Trance being scored to what sounds like a close relative of the Spring Breakers soundtrack. That was my takeaway. Nothing more.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (May 24)
Silver: Full disclosure: Although I did not oversee the project, Alex Gibney’s film Catching Hell was an ESPN Films production. But regardless of that, I’d still be a fan of Alex’s work, and this doc would still look like a giant bucket of awesome. Sometimes the right stories find the right directors. This is definitely one of those times. I cannot wait to see this film.
Browne: I can't wait. I'd watch a movie about WikiLeaks, Anonymous, or any other slightly terrifying Internet hacking subculture any day. I'm obsessed, especially with this, which looks extremely well done.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (TBD)
Browne: I thoroughly enjoyed this, but I'll be the first to say I have no idea what's going on. I think there's some background to this story that I'm sorely missing. Silver, do enlighten.
Silver: Back in the mid-'90s, my loving parents, knowing I was a bit of an Anglo comedy nerd, gave me two CDs of a British comedy radio show called "Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge." I listened to these CDs constantly, and they were hilarious. I memorized the lines, and even listened to the CDs as I feel asleep. I believe it wasn’t until I saw, but mostly heard, Steve Coogan in 24 Hour Party People and had the Internet as we know it at my disposal that I came to realize that everything on those CDs was fiction. Created by comedian Coogan (who plays Alan Partridge), Armando Iannucci (In the Loop and HBO’s Veep), and other brilliant British comedy minds. This only heightened my appreciation for the comedy and for all those involved. I then became obsessed and proceeded to voraciously consume all things Partridge (TV shows, specials, etc.).
It’s been a long time since the Norwich radio host has been in my life. So I couldn’t be more excited for this film. Based on the title alone, this film feels right. And after seeing this trailer, it doesn’t appear Coogan and those involved are going to disappoint us Partridge fans. But the hope is that a feature film can bring in a wider audience, thus rejuvenating the character, and allowing him to spread his hilarious mediocrity for years to come.
World War Z (June 21)
Silver: It’s so sad to see that the metaphoric value that used to be so inherent in zombie apocalypse movies has gotten so diluted. Now zombies are just monsters, and the apocalypse is just a vehicle to dress Brad Pitt in a Middle Eastern scarf and have him globe-trot in an effort to find a cure. Boring! BUT, and this truly did surprise me, the zombie attack on a plane bit at the end of the trailer IS something I’ve not seen before. Simply as a sequence, I’d like to see how that ... just that ... is executed. I’ll pass on the rest.
Browne: I will not pass on the rest, Dan. I will see this movie and I will enjoy it and it will scare me and I will take notes on how to survive. That's the whole point of disaster movies, right? Note-taking?
The Colony (April 12)
Silver: Considering that Paul W.S. Anderson is the cinematic equivalent of the Ebola virus — sickens and/or kills everything it comes in contact with, and just when you think it’s gone, it rears its ugly head to reap a new path of destruction — how could The Colony's obvious resemblance to an Anderson movie both fuel and stifle my urge to rip it apart? Two words: Event Horizon. A little sci-fi horror/thriller that, for succeeding in spite of Anderson’s stank, is the cinematic proof of the adage “Every dog has its day." So despite The Colony’s all too Anderson-y appearance, it does have a slight Event Horizon feel to it. (And one of that film’s stars — shout out to Morpheus.) So maybe, just maybe, this one might be worth a shot. (To be safe, I’m still going to wait for VOD though.)
Browne: And last place/the bronze medal for disaster-movie trailers this week goes to: The Colony. This looks silly. Also, ever since rewatching Biker Boyz last week, my whole "Fishburne as great actor" meter has been acting up.