Oldboy (October 25)
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.
Compounding this dilemma is that THIS Oldboy is directed by Spike Lee. And with films like Red Hook Summer and Miracle at St. Anna, Lee hasn’t shown his once-piercing narrative storytelling skills in a long time. But (because there’s always a but), I’ve always had a theory that Lee’s best work is done when (1) he doesn’t write the script, and/or (2) he has a real producer hovering over his shoulder keeping him on task. Case in point, Lee's most fully realized and engaging work (sans a few exceptions — i.e., Malcolm X and He Got Game) is Clockers (which he wrote, but was produced by Martin Scorsese), 25th Hour (which was written by David Benioff), and Inside Man (not written by him, and produced by Brian Grazer).
Yet this is a good, if not great, trailer. The tone feels right, some specific iconography appears to have carried over, and most importantly, the level of violence and anguish seems to have remained intact. But there are some obvious deviations. So I’m left with a bit of a quandary. Do I choose to view this film like an artistic adaptation of a favorite book, and allow it to be interpreted freely? Or do I snob out, and hold this remake accountable for its potentially disastrous changes? I'm not quite ready to make that decision.
So where does this leave us? Needless to say, I'm conflicted. But as this actually is a solid trailer, I’m going to choose to listen to that sage advice of my Padawan master and not fully commit myself to traveling down the path of fear … yet.
Lisanti: I shared a lot of your concerns about remaking this one. There's no essential reason this version needs to exist; the original is great, and anyone enticed by this trailer can seek it out and have an experience that will almost definitely be superior to whatever Spike Lee can do with it secondhand, unless the prospect of having to read subtitles and/or contend with the participation of unfamiliar actors might ruin the greatest mass hammer-bludgeoning scene in the history of cinema for you. (I won't consider that a spoiler because you've now seen Josh Brolin go claw-deep into somebody's skull. Guess what? There's enough of that to make you think twice about wandering a dimly lit Home Depot without an escort.)
I was dreading a disaster. Maybe not a "Mars Blackmon crawling out of a steamer trunk and spending the entire second act trying to solve the mystery of why Michael Jordan's really into oversize distressed jeans now" disaster, but surely the "sanitized for mainstream American audiences" kind, the kind we would have gotten had the Steven Spielberg/Will Smith incarnation ever materialized.
But this trailer's good. Maybe even really good. Maybe even good enough to get me to see it instead of Netflixing up the original again.
I'm not sure why I just said the Mars Blackmon–in-a–steamer trunk version would be a disaster. I would pay to see that.
Seventh Son (January 17)
Silver: A January 17 release date is the cinematic equivalent of the Baskerville moor. (Who got that reference?) So I’m going to do the marketers of Seventh Son a favor and provide them with a “can’t-miss” marketing strategy for the film’s subsequent, banal bombardment of the moviegoing public:
Sell the film as a sequel to The Big Lebowski. Sure, Seventh Son is Warner Bros. and Lebowski is Universal. (Originally Polygram, but now Universal. These are details you have to know when your DVD collection is organized by distribution company.) But there has to be a way to cut spots together that primarily focus on the interactions between Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Thus positioning Seventh Son as a hilarious shared acid trip between Maude and The Dude.
That’s a movie I want to see. You’re welcome Warner Bros. You … are … welcome.
Lisanti: I'm a little torn between wanting to fly to NYC right now and slap you around with a jelly sandal for daring to invoke the sacrosanct Lebowski in the context of this garbage and just waiting for you to arrive in L.A. next week and give you your jelly-thrashing from the comfort of my desk. I don't care if Bridges and Moore are in both movies. There are some things you don't say.
This movie is apparently based on something. And that something is not this, which I will now watch until I forget about how upset the above blasphemy made me:
OK, I feel better now. Let's keep going.
The Canyons (August 2)
Silver: I can’t help but think that if this were the first trailer released, instead of those campy, jokey ones, then there’d be some legitimate curiosity around this film, or we’d just be able to simply disregard it like every other film gabbed about at a film festival that quietly fades away. But for me, a collaboration between Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis will always make this film intriguing.
Lisanti: This trailer still tells you very little to nothing about what the movie's about, but at least they finally seemed to realize it was time to promote it in a way that doesn't make the whole enterprise seem tragic and ridiculous. For the first time in The Canyons’s interminable buzz-cycle, it actually looks like they made a real movie and not a Kickstarter-funded iPhone video adapting some coke-dusted Ellis slashtweets about a washed-up actress fucking a porn star. The jury's still out on how trainwrecky the final product is given who they put in front of the camera — and in fairness to James Deen, he's done far more credible work in the last five years than his latest scene partner — but at least now there's hope we're not just killing time until we can make a thousand Liz & Giant Dick jokes on Twitter in a month.
Lovelace — International Trailer (August 9)
Silver: Lovelace doesn’t quite feel like it has the depth of story, construction, or metaphoric value of Boogie Nights, but (and this is the good news) it also doesn’t quite feel like it’s as vapid, adrift, exploitative, or boring as Wonderland. Remember that film? The stink bomb where Val Kilmer played John Holmes? Ironically directed by a dude named James Cox?
Aside from Amanda Seyfried as the title character and James Franco, Lovelace’s cast is overflowing with authentic and solid character actors who seem to be able to act the fine line between sincerity and campy. Without being able to speak to Seyfried’s full performance, it’s hard to tell if she can actually carry a character or film like this on her shoulders. But having seen enough of Peter Sarsgaard’s “creepy” over the course of his filmography, it’s safe to assume he’s going be his overly committed self and in spite of any potential inanity happening around him, if needed, he’ll undoubtedly be the one to ground the narrative.
And now two random thoughts:
- As a former Big Love fan, it’s fun to see Chloe Sevigny and Seyfried in a scene together again. Particularly with Sevigny as a reporter interviewing Seyfried’s Lovelace when just a few years ago, Seyfried was playing a polygamist Sevigny’s stepdaughter.
- Here’s a prediction. If this film has any kind of box office or critical success, Seyfried is a lock for one of the Best Actress in a Drama Golden Globe nominations. The Globes love to single out young, up-and-coming actresses in daring roles, especially from smaller films.
Lisanti: Not to go back to Lindsay Lohan, but everyone points to Mean Girls as evidence of her promising star power, and literally every other actress in that movie has gone on to a better career. (And yes, I'm counting Lacey Chabert, music teacher, and Animal Dancer no. 2.) Interestingly, Lohan was bounced from competing Lovelace project Inferno, if you needed yet another way to illustrate the sadness of Lohan's post-Girls IMDb page.
I am a very big Seyfried fan. I have no idea how this one turned out, but let's get her the Oscar nomination. She's owed more than a Globe for being asked to outact Justin Timberlake in six-inch spiked heels in In Time.
Saving Mr. Banks (December 13)
Silver: Set aside the fact that ESPN and Grantland are Disney-owned. You’d need to be H.L. Mencken–cynical to not be moved in some way by this trailer.
I don’t know a single person (of a certain age) who didn’t grow up watching, and loving, the film Mary Poppins. Hearing, humming, singing along with “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”; laughing hysterically and then imitating Dick Van Dyke dancing with the penguins; or wishing that Julie Andrews were available as a real nanny. So to get a Social Network–esque origin story of the drama behind the making of the film, with the main characters, Walt Disney and “Poppins” author P.L. Travers, being played by Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, well, say no more, Guv'na! I’m in.
What other actor working today other than Hanks could play a believable Disney? And as an ardent fan of all things Thompson, it’s great to see her back in a lead role. I can’t wait to see these two butting heads. And with Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Griffiths, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, and Jason Schwartzman rounding out the supporting cast, Saving Mr. Banks should be a no-brainer Oscar contender, but also one of the most uplifting and heartwarming films of the year.
Side note: If I’m reading this trailer right, Novak, Whitford, and Schwartzman play the “creative team” behind the film. Their ability to play wry, dry, and sincere makes their casting spot-on.
Lisanti: Both of our paychecks are signed by Disney, but maybe the signature on Silver's is a little bigger.
Austenland (August 16)
Silver: As I have never read nor seen anything sprung from the mind of Jane Austen, I am clearly not the target audience, and therefore do not understand why this is a feature film and not a Lifetime movie of the week, a web series, or at best, one of those “spoofy” sections in a Christopher Guest movie (à la My Dinner With Andre action figures). The film does have Jennifer Coolidge in it, after all.
I’m not saying this movie will be bad. I’m simply stating that in my vast consumption of all things media, and British culture for that matter, Austen and period pieces (except for Black Adder) have somehow slipped through the cracks. So for those of you who fall into this bucket, I truly hope this film pays off because I do dig the cast and the overall tone. It’s just not for me.
Fun fact: The film is also produced by Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer. Maybe she’s a huge Austen fan.
Lisanti: I'd see this. You know what? I will see this. Keri Russell's earned my $14 after that first season of The Americans.
Fun fact: Bret McKenzie has an Oscar. And he deserved it.
Out of the Furnace (November 27 – Limited / December 6 - Wide)
Silver: This one’s pretty simple:
- Country justice delivered by Christian Bale.
- A hillbilly criminal syndicate/fight club headed up by a crazy-eyed Woody Harrelson.
- The second feature from Crazy Heart writer/director Scott Cooper, with thematic undertones and visual imagery reminiscent of such '70s classics like Badlands, Deer Hunter, Mean Streets, and Bonnie and Clyde. (OK, that was 1967.)
- Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard, Forest Whitaker, and Casey Affleck.
- An original song from Eddie Vedder.
Do you really need anything else? This one looks like a whole big bag of awesome.
Lisanti: That's "Release." From Pearl Jam's first album. I can't even. You are a man who was alive and experiencing things in 1991. There's no excuse. None. Where's Rembert? I need to do this with Rembert. Ugh, Rembert is probably partying with Vedder right now, but thinks he's just a guy who owns a mandolin repair shack by the beach in San Diego, and now they're peeling shrimp and writing song lyrics together on the backs of used lobster bibs. Rem calls him "Veddy."
I was all set to enjoy this trailer. It seemed awesome. Everything is ruined. Everything. You want to shit on Lebowski again? Go ahead. I feel nothing.
Let's call it a day. I'm defeated. You win.
I hope Rem and Veddy are enjoying their shrimp, wherever they are.
[Update: In Silver's defense, there's a new Veddy song in the film, but that was a fact neither the trailer nor my Ten Club newsletter informed me of.]