Thursday, January 09, 2014

Christopher and Scott Review Some Trailers

10 to be exact.

2013 was a heck of year, and we're now ready to get amped up for what will be in store for 2014.  Here are some of the latest trailers attempting to get us hyped for the new batch of motion pictures warring for your hard earned cash.  Scott and I offer up our thoughts and analysis of the effectiveness of the trailers and if we think the films are worth checking out.

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Jimmy P. (Feb. 14 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  Benicio Del Toro put in a spot where he need to show a broken and disturbed figure trying to cling to reality and get back pieces of his soul. . . um, yes please.  This movie seems to scream to his strengths, and he looks pretty awesome in the brief snippets shown in this trailer.  This picture is based off a true story in a book called Psychotherapy of a Plain Indian written by ethnologist and psychoanalyst George Devereux (played by Matthieu Amalric for the movie).  It looks like this film is going to rely on some strong visual elements and possibly incorporate symbolic imagery along with dream sequences.  This isn't really new stuff by any means, but it is pretty great to see a film trying to tackle the effects of war on First Nation's people.  Based off what I know about the cultures and heritages of the various groups, incorporation of at least some mysticism and connections to nature is pretty crucial, so good to see hints of that there.  Hopefully, a fairly big name like Del Toro is enough to get this movie a bit of recognition and push for it to show up in more than just the big city art houses.  IFC studios is an interesting company when it comes to the quality they bring, as it has pictures like Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Blue Caprice, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Punk Singer and Selfish Giant, which are all well received character driven stories but then it also can boast Wrong Cop, Argento's Dracula 3D and The Canyons.  This one seems to fall under the better category, but this doesn't seems like a studio that ever really gets its pictures into wide release or even ends up with any award acclaim.  All this to say, even if this turns out to be a great film that there is good chance it will be forgotten before the midway point of the year.  But still, I love me some understated and nuanced acting of disturbed characters by Del Toro.

Scott:  Benicio Del Toro has been in a number of movies that have stuck with me through the years (The Usual Suspects, Snatch, Traffic) and always brings some great weight in a film with a solid cast.  In this film I see him having an opportunity to carry a story on his back that will allow him to show a side of his acting that we have not seen.  I have marveled in the past at the lack of movies of slavery, but even more neglected in cinema at times seems to be representation of the plight of the Native American.  I have all levels of intrigue built up for this movie, but, as Chris mentioned, it will most likely be a film that becomes forgotten as the year moves along and will hopefully pop up on a service like Netflix, which may give it some exposure to audiences that would not otherwise see a film like this.

Kite (TBA)



Christopher:  Samuel L. Jackson said I'd like this, and the man knows his shit, so I am feeling really confused.  This feels like a picture that would have been really exciting and fresh in 2001 when women kicking ass in stylized action sequences was still a pretty new thing, but this feels more like a game of spot the inspiration.  The cinematography reminded me of Domino and also Shoot 'Em Up (both weren't even original when they did it) and countless graphic novel to movie conversions, and the story felt a lot like The Professional and La Femme Nikita and well, most woman out for revenge fantasies.  So, why would Samuel L. Jackson lie to me?  And where were the kites?

Scott:  Samuel L. Jackson is doing what he does best, playing a bad ass in a leather jacket in this movie based off of anime and a graphic novel... or a graphic novel and anime.  I must plead ignorance, because I don't know which one is the chicken and which one is the egg.  They use some colour distinctions to capture the visual essence of its source materials, and it looks kind of interesting in that regard, not that the style has not been used already when it comes to graphic novels developing into film.  While it makes Chris think of the early 2000s, it has me more feeling like it would be something that could have emerged from the mid-2000s in with films like Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux as well as fitting in with Sin City.  I did feel a little frightened into liking it as Samuel L. Jackson said I would like it, and I would hate to call him a liar.

The Other Woman (April 25, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  I'm not sure what credibility you the readers or you the Scott hold for me as a film critic, but I hope it isn't all wiped away with the tidal wave that was this trailer because I'm kind of excited to see this movie.  I realize this plot is only slightly fresher than a couple who hate each other and then fall in love, and this is supposed to be a girl power movie, but this wouldn't be the first film where I'm one of the only guys in the theatre.  I definitely felt the younger version of First Wives Club vibe or a non-high school version of John Tucker Must Die, but this looks like a light and breezy palate cleanser right before the summer of loud, and I just wish they let me bring a Cosmopolitan into the theatre screening.  I've revealed before my love for Leslie Mann who is usually great in everything and Cameron Diaz has proven to be quite great in comedy and they're both immensely likable.  Plus Kate Upton is not only super nice to look at, but she also has proven to be playful and have a sense of humour and I enjoyed her delivery of the ditzy but kind bombshell in this movie.  There were a few lines that actually made me laugh, such as the stripper-gram comment and Mann telling Upton smells great and Upton's suggestion for hurting the adulterer and Mann telling Diaz she is being greedy, and you've stopped reading me now, haven't you?  I don't care if no other critic wants to play with me again, this looks fun even if it will be predictable and formulaic and silly.

Scott:  Chris is not standing alone in his anticipation of this film, as it looks to me like it could be a really fun movie.  I like it when films take the feel of a genre and steer them another direction, and this movie looks to answer the question of what would happen in a romantic comedy if people smartened up.  I know some folk may say, 'well it wouldn't be a romantic comedy because he is cheating on his wife,' to which I would respond 'you're telling me you have not seen a romantic comedy when someone has to choose between their partner and their "true love?"'  Romantic comedies and romance movies are full of scenarios that are a lot seedier in reality and should not really be glamoured up to the extent that they are.  This movie looks to add some common sense and humanity into the mix as the ladies take the power back from the jackass who has been playing them.  In an attempt to parrot Chris completely, huge fan of Leslie Mann, and I am anticipating a lot of the comedy will be coming from her in this one.

Neighbors (May 9, 2014)



Christopher:  Scott has insinuated that I can be rather easy on comedies, and the fact I'm all ready to buy a ticket for yet another one that deep down I know might not be any good is probably his proof.  I sort of dig the fact Seth Rogen is playing the responsible parent rather than the crazy party animal, because it shows that unlike many comedians he is sort of aware of the aging effect.  I also have a soft spot for Rose Byrne and excited to see her try comedy rather than just leaving her month gaping open in front of ghosts.  Not really a Zac Efron groupie but the guy always seemed to have a bit of the jerky jock look and so I'd go with top casting there, plus the Rogen fans want to hate a guys like Efron.  My biggest hope this may turn out to be shockingly good is that director Nicholas Stoller did Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was a pretty strong critical hit and a really fun raunchy romantic comedy.  Plus I have to admit I loved the air bag gag, even if I saw it coming both times, because well, I love men being unsuspectingly thrown from their office chairs and couches because I'm evil.   I also chuckled over the caller ID gag and I got a kick out of the fallen Rogen declaring the fraternity had the upper hand.  Aw man, you stopped reading me again, didn't you?

Scott:  I really want to stand opposite Chris on this one, but there is much that he says that I cannot deny.  Some of the gags look funny, and I did have a solid chuckle during the trailer.  In this trailer alone, Rose Byrne shows tenfold more talent than was allowed to show through in Insidious, where, as Chris mentioned, she gaped at ghosts.  My fear for this film would be that the rollicking fun will meet up with some very dark moments that could cause some conflict for the viewers.  I do like some cold darkness in comedies at times, but it is difficult to transition into it.  Outside of that issue, it is a movie that may be fun but has equal opportunity to be a disappointment.  If Chris makes me see it and I don't like it, I will be sure to force a horror on him by the time Oscar season rolls around in the fall... mark my words.

Blended (May 23, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  And now, I win back all my credibility (hopefully) by declaring my disdain for a picture that I also am pretty sure will be rotten.  The one positive thing they did here was reunite Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, because both their previous films together were box office hits and they have a nice chemistry.  I'll even say this looks a little sweeter than some of the more detestable stuff Sandler has churned out lately.  It also seems to have the usual Sandler yells like a psycho but no one tries to take his children away, cruelty to other kids, humour based off physical ailment, and the joys of upchucking food.  Though I did think the whole "I may have misread that situation" was a little funny.  This has everything one wants in a Sandler picture, so that it stays out of the movies we really want to see.

Scott:  I have not read what Chris wrote about this movie.  I don't want to read it.  I don't want to peek and find out that he wants to see it.  My take on it?  It is an Adam Sandler movie with the plot of another Adam Sandler movie, with actors and actresses from previous Adam Sandler movies, in a movie that will make us think about that Adam Sandler movie in the past.  The only question I am sure will not be answered until I see the movie is what airline do they take to get to Africa, and how many times do they mention its name?  That's it... I am done talking about this movie.

Christopher:  I also guarantee we will find out the name of the restaurant, it will be a major franchise, and will be mentioned several times.  They also will likely return there for more fun and shenanigans later in the movie and then sometimes reflect upon it by name throughout the movie.  Maybe even talk about it while traveling on that airline. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  The Amazing Spider-Man was one of the surprise pleasures of 2012, as I went in with extreme apprehension that it would be an unnecessary cash cow reboot of a franchise that had two top notch pictures to their credit (Spider-Man 3 doesn't exist).  Andrew Garfield was even better than Tobey Maguire and had an understated confidence that made it believable he'd have the guts to become a superhero and was able to deliver the classic Spidey quips comic books fans expected.  It also added new layers to the mythos with the mysterious disappearance of his parents and also tied that event into many of the major villains that started sprouting up in New York City.  The back story was better at explaining why Peter Parker came across these powers and also created a unique bond with the villains since many of their own motives are connected to his parents' past.  The reboot is one of my favourite super hero pictures, and considering how bloated that genre has become, it is a pretty impressive feat that a relatively new one was able to standout  

I have much anticipation for this sequel, because the first one left many unanswered questions and effectively built to a follow-up.  It is also crazy to think that Emma Stone hasn't been in a live action picture since Gangster Squad, so her return is long overdue.  I'm sort of torn on the villain front, because I love who is cast with Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, and Dane DeHaan, but damn, haven't we already learned the dangers of cramming too many villains into one movie.  Apparently, the need for a billion villains also led to the cutting of Shailene Woodley's scenes where she played Mary Jane, which sucks because not only is that character kind of important to the series but Woodley is terrific.

Though there are a few things that make my excitement stumble, I'm largely expecting this to be one of the best loud summer blockbusters.  Marc Webb directed the previous and not only has he proven to be a great director that squeezes out complicated character (he also did (500) Days of Summer) but this likely means it will have a similar feel and also bother to answer many of the questions set-up in the original (point of continuity).  It wasn't shown in this trailer, but another I saw also promises some answers about Peter's parents and their ties to Oscorp, which I'm looking forward to.  Speaking of trailers, I think there are about 5 billion different ones of this movie and I'm sure there will be about that many new ones before the release date, so I'm sure I'll be doing another review of a trailer for this movie in the near future; I'll stop now.

Scott:  Sony is really hoping this movie pans out for them, as they are dying to get the Spidey universe underway.  Because of the limited access to Marvel characters they have, they are going to be branching out into spin offs of villains from Spider-Man in an attempt to keep up with franchises like The Avengers and the sure to be upcoming Justice League.  They really need this film to work, and they are packing it with two baddies, something that has been done in super hero movies before.  It confuses me, because if they wanted to make spin-offs from the villains, would it have not made more sense to only use one in the movie and save another for spin-off land?  Who knows, I sure don't.  I have not seen The Amazing Spider-Man, so I don't have a lot of knowledge to stand on with its sequel.  It looks like it could be fun, I just don't know if it will be able to stand up as the summer's major tent-pole as it occupies the coveted first weekend of May (the weekend that has spawned the top grossing movies of the past two years).
I am grooving on Paul Giamatti being a bad guy, and that may be reason enough for me to purchase a ticket.  I do think they should change the title to Amazing Spider-Man 2 and get the 'the' out of there... it's cleaner.
    
Welcome to Yesterday (Feb. 21, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  I'm filled with conflicting emotions again, and maybe this is just proof of my awful track record of predicting a good movie out of a flashy and shiny trailer.  In the first few minutes I was hit with the "ugh, found footage movie."  But it looks like this will be a hybrid picture at worse, because there are several scenes in the trailer that don't appear to be captured by a character's video camera.  I then started catching the whole Primer smashing with The Butterfly Effect vibe that was motoring along, and I thought we had the fun little popcorn-muncher for February.  Everything fell apart when I saw the Michael Bay producer credit, and director Dean Isrealite hasn't done anything prior that would make that fear go away.  I got burned last year by trusting Bay can reign in his excesses, and even though he is just the producer, IMDb seems to warn me that the parade of stupid proudly marches into everything he attaches his name.  My brain says to run away from this, but my heart says I'm a sucker for time travel movies.

Scott:  Chris was quick to mention The Butterfly Effect because it really has that feel etched all over it.  There are some real fears rolling around in here that any audience member should have.  As Chris mentioned, there is the fact that Michael Bay is a producer.  I am not sure just how 'hands on' he is as a producer, but some of his horror movies include the remakes of Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, all of which have a very loud flare to them.  I doubt this film will be born with any subtleties, as the writers are also the writers of Paranormal Activity 5.  But how could I speak negatively about their association to a movie that has not even come out yet?  Simple, because it is Paranormal Activity 5.
 

Transcendence (April 18, 2014/Wide)



Christopher: Wally Pfister is the long-time cinematographer of Christopher Nolan pictures, and the hype surrounding this picture started out based in it being his first foray into directing and predicting what he can bring to a film.  Many wonder if it will have a Nolan vibe or if he'll go for a very different feel.  After seeing this trailer, the hype should be that this looks like a pretty thought-provoking and intriguing bit of sci-fi in a year that may have quite a few good ones (and no, I'm not lumping Welcome to Yesterday into that category).  One of the major staples of science fiction has been the fear of the sentient machine and also how far man should go with technology, and Transcendence mixes that up in a delightful cocktail with the old man in machine plot.  It has some strong potential to have a bit of a The Fly vibe too with the scientist who starts gradually losing his humanity due to the obsessions with his invention, though the twist this time being that it was the loved one who likely put it in motion.

It is also rather refreshing to see Johnny Deep not contorting around in makeup for a change.  The guy is a hell of an actor, but people often forget that with all his gimmicked characters.  Based off the trailer, he is going to have to play with a broad range of emotion, but also actually have parts where his role is likely more subdued, so that intrigues me too.  It also looks to be more story-centric that action focused, which was the major problem with last year's crop of sci-fi.  Though I have nothing to base that hope actually on, since screenwriter Jack Paglen is unproven at this point with this being his first screenplay adapted to the big screen.  The film definitely borrows heavily from past sci-fi stories and feels like something I've read in the old anthologies, but the visuals look stunning and the performances should be great (we've also got Morgan Freeman and the rising Rebecca Hall).  Plus I'm a big sucker for the more challenging science fiction stories, and if Pfister has learned anything from Nolan, he made sure to hold a whole slew of surprises back from this trailer.

Scott:   Johnny Depp pulls a Lawnmower Man, packs up and moves to live in the internets.  Yes please, I'll take heaping helpfuls of that, especially when you have other talent like Morgan Freeman and Paul Bettany attached to it.  Wally Pfister has an amazing eye, and it is exciting to see what his directorial debut will bring him.  Last year we had movies like Oblivion and Elysium whet our appetites for good science fiction, and this movie will hopefully be the payoff.  Notice I did not mention After Earth?  I don't know if that whet anyone's appetite for anything.  Before I lose complete track of where I was going with this, is that science fiction seems to be a genre that constantly never quite lives up to its potential.  It is possible that Transcendence will do the genre justice.

Interstellar (Nov. 7, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  Speaking of Christopher Nolan, here is his next picture, which also happens to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2014.  This trailer really tells almost nothing about the movie, other than it will involve space travel of some kind.  As I mentioned, being secretive is the Nolan way, and at this point it is his name that really sells his pictures.  It is well-deserved, because the plot synopsis could be "one woman gets a telescope for Christmas and doesn't know how it use it" but if it is being directed and written by Nolan then I'm buying a ticket.  Even at his worse, his films are intriguing and entertaining even if his science is a little shaky.  He makes fun but also provocative mainstream science fiction pictures, and I'm excited to see him tackle an original story (that he wrote) rather than an established franchise.  Even if one isn't ready to join the Nolan fan club (but you should, we have free cookies and milk), the cast must get the juices flowing with a heavyweight line-up consisting of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine.  Of course, with almost nobody knowing the full plot other than it involves traveling through wormholes, there isn't really anyway of knowing how major each of those actors will be.  I at least expect this to be the best Nolan directed science fiction movie about wormhole traveling in 2014, if that makes you excited.  I admit not knowing much about this and may not even by the time it is released, but I'm definitely on board for watching it -- it will be like my science fiction American Hustle of 2014.

Scott:  Speaking of movies that could redeem science fiction, double any anticipation I have for Transcendence and toss it towards Christopher Nolan's next movie.  I found his name a bit tarnished personally after his association with Man of Steel, but Nolan as a director is pretty much a guaranteed success.  His movies are perfect in the moment, and even though you can scrutinize them for their many and many plot holes afterwards, it is the 'in the moment' mesmerizing experience that he doles out in hungry man portions.  It is not the trailer that gets me excited, because if I didn't see the title or know anything about the people associated with it then I would consider it a boring and ineffective trailer.  This is a date that is marked on my calendar and I may even splurge for this popcorn worthy movie.

Devil's Knot (TBA 2014)



Christopher:  After the success of the West of Memphis documentary in 2012, it isn't surprising one of the most controversial cases of the '90s would be back in public attention and be material for a dramatic thriller.  Image Entertainment hasn't ever had a major wide release from what I can tell, so the chances for most of us tracking this down will be on VOD and rentals.  This looks pretty awesome with an incredibly skilled director in Atom Egoyan pulling the strings.  He has experience in making powerful pictures about a community dealing with a tragedy like in the critically acclaimed 1997 picture, Sweet Hereafter, but also creating deep journeys into the disturbed mind of eccentrics like in the picture Felicia's Journey.  The major component of all his movies is the focus on characters and how they're driven to do questionable things amidst heartbreak, and Devil's Knot looks to be taking in the elements of the other films bur also following Egoyan's prevailing themes.  Plus it is just a really intriguing crime story and one that really makes you question the justice system, but also will likely be damn entertaining rather than didactic.

The big thing helping to up the entertainment factor is the stellar cast.  It is great to see Reese Witherspoon return with another complicated and questionable character after her strong turn in Mud.  Colin Firth is the perfect pick as the quiet voice trying to break through the noise and clutter of a messy trial to get the truth heard.  The trailer effectively captures the feel of early '90s and the lingering panic of Satanism and witchcraft that was so prevalent in the '80s.  It almost seems impossible that this won't at least be decent, but I'm getting ready for great.  It is just unfortunate it'll likely be a film that won't be anywhere near me (the downside of shying away from major cities).

Scott:  This is the type of movie and crew that are created with an aim for an Oscar, as the plot and background of the story are what can make truly compelling movies.  That being said, a movie like The Fifth Estate shows that compelling source material and talented cast doesn't mean anything at all.  What Devil's Knot does have going for it over The Fifth Estate is a much more seasoned director.  At the moment it does not look like critics have been on board with the film after it premiered at TIFF this past September.  While it has a foundation and a backbone that could provide a solid film, I am thinking this one could pass by unnoticed but I will still be curious to view it at some point.  It has Dane DeHaan in it, and I am quickly becoming a fan of his and it will be interesting to see his role in this.


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