Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trailer Reviews Including Major Summer Blockbusters 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' and 'Maleficent'

We're probably a little over two weeks away from when a slew of big blockbuster film's trailers will be trotted out at the Super Bowl.  This week I had to dig a little to pull up some major pictures' trailers that have been bouncing around on the internet for a little while.  I was also able to grab a few new trailers to some limited release pictures, because sometimes it is good to discuss movies that likely won't be coming anywhere near you for a long while.

Here is yet another trailer review article where Scott and I often actually just talk about the movie being promoted than the actual trailer, because well, false advertising.

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Bad Words (March 14, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  We're kicking off the article with this trailer, because Scott put this as one of his most anticipated films of 2014 and I wanted to see if he'd keep it on there after being subjected to this.  I have to admit seeing Jason Bateman as the director is intriguing and I like the concept of a bitter adult competing in a spelling bee.  The script was also on the 2011 Black List (the annual list of top unproduced screenplays) and at least year's TIFF was gobbled up in less than 12 hours by Focus Features, so there is lots of positive buzz surrounding this comedy.  It just feels like another Bad Santa and I'm aware that was the point, but that is a deceptively hard style for a movie to make work that relies on the right lead.  Bill Bob Thornton knows how to give off that crusty and cranky vibe, and was destined to star in the cynical Christmas picture with a very well hidden heart of gold.  These types of movies need to strike the right balance and tone, but often ups the sentimental and sweet factor in order to reel in the raunchiness, cruelty, and cynicism.  There have been many stories about the emotionally abandoned and unloved child that finds a controversial father-figure that also finds his soul through the kid.  It can work but lot of times it ends up just being really jarring when they try those heart-warming moments and causes the character to veer off the course that he had been set.  We know Bateman's character will learn a lesson and become a better person, but the key will be how fun it is before that message becomes blatant.  Plus despite what certain directors seem to believe, child abuse isn't usually the road to non-stop laughs, and this has potential to drift into cruelty.  I also felt like I was just watching reworkings of iconic scenes with the diner clip feeling a lot like the often quoted (and imitated) Five Easy Pieces scene, but with that modern raunchy twist. But this also could be really good, because it has a solid cast, but I'm apprehensive.

Scott:  Yep, this film was on my most anticipated movies of the year list and that was without having seen the trailer.  I think Jason Bateman has honed a certain style of comedic delivery and he always gets a laugh out of me for it.  What I like about this character is that he is able to apply his skills to a role that is almost unredeemable, but as Chris mentioned, we pretty much know that by the end of the movie there will be a touching Adam Sandler moment, although I am guessing it will be closer to hitting the mark than Jack and Jill.  Some of the humour this trailer shows does have me worried, but my anticipation remains strong as the rest of the trailer had me laughing an evil chortle.  Could this be the first raunchy comedy that Chris does not like and Scott does?


 Noah (March 28, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  This trailer is actually a few months old, but I'm expecting this film to get a lot of media as the time comes closer, so I wanted to throw it on here.  This is by far the biggest film for director Darren Aronofsky, who I find ultra-talented and one who even with what has been critically deemed lesser films like The Fountain has created visually spellbinding and though-provoking tales.  I want this to be a hit mostly due to the fact it would be great for Aronofsky to be afforded more creative control (this was apparently a passions project for him) in films that are distributed to a wider audience.  There has been whining of the homogenizing of big budgets pictures, and Aronofsky is exactly the type of director up to the challenge of curing that, even if this particular pictures looks to follow the well-worn epic formula.  I'm expecting some abstract storytelling and a strong visual sense to guide this one, and a few scenes in the trailer hint to that.

The major issue is if this will turn out to be a hit, and that I'm quite hesitant on.  There are some Christian groups eager for this one, but after the screenings start happening and people wake up to who Aronofsky is, I'm expecting some pretty big backlash.  By March there should be sermonizing against the falsehoods of this movie and I'm sure we'll see boycotts all over Facebook.  This means the religious right crowd will likely stay home or in larger cities, they will show up to present their pretty and articulate signs to movie-goers.  Then the question is going to be if there is actually a non-religious crowd for a story about a deity committing genocide and the crazy man who hears voices that builds a boat.  If it reviews incredibly well then maybe, and I'm not sure it will (even if it is a good movie, because critics sometimes come in with baggage and preconceived notions).

I also have to admit that my own interest comes from the director, a few small images in the trailer, and the inclusion of one of my favourite young actors, Emma Watson.  At this point, that may not be enough to be a ringing endorsement, because to be honest, it is really hard to cheer on a guy who willingly allows an entire world to be massacred.  I grew up Christian and I know Noah is supposed to be a hero, but taking this as a straight tale and it is pretty damn morbid and dark.  The trailer doesn't seem like it is hinting at a movie where the protagonist is battling an inner turmoil of listening to his maker and having compassion for his fellow man, which without that makes it a hard movie to connect to (no matter what the straight-telling of the Biblical tale may dictate).  This definitely won't be a straight-telling though, and I've already heard rumblings of angel warriors and supernatural creatures.  I am interested to see what type of creative license will be taken here or how Aronofsky makes this something more entertaining than guy builds boat and then lives in it.  I'm also hoping the trailer was holding back the scene where Noah holds a glass bowl and various fish start jumping into it to save themselves.

Scott:  It is important to note that Chris and I come from different religious world views, yet we stand united on the belief that this movie will most likely alienate Christian audiences.  Aronofsky is not about playing to the crowds and pleasing the people, which is probably why a few months ago Christian and Jewish test audiences for the movie were not happy with what they saw.  If memory serves me correctly, I think there was also a non-religious test audience who was not grooving on the movie, and that goes to support Chris’s thoughts on how that crowd would fit in with this movie.

For me, personally, it is hard to get excited about this movie.  I have never been a super huge fan of disaster movies, and the trailer gives me a bit of that vibe.  Who knows, I may end up being intrigued enough to see it for myself, but most likely I will be passing on it unless it is forced on me by Chris for podcast reasons.  I kind of feel like it is a semi-religiously inspired, artistic, grey version of a Roland Emmerich film and if I am paying money for something like that, I had better be guaranteed a scene of the White House getting trampled on.

22 Jump Street (June 13, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:   I never saw the 21 Jump Street picture, but the Nick Offerman gag in the trailer makes me want to track it down, so I can be all ready for this sequel.  I'm a sucker for solid self-referential and self-deprecating humour, and the whole "nobody gave a shit about the 21 Jump Street reboot but you got lucky" was the kind of sly writing I enjoy, since it fits within the context of the universe due to the original movie actually being about restarting the program from the TV series but also fitting quite well with the real world sentiment that a movie version was unnecessary.  The days of a sequel almost always being really lame reworking of the original hit is past us, but that doesn't mean it can't still happen (Hangover Part 2 reminded us of that).  If it is going to happen then throwing them undercover in college seems to be proof they may not have too much fresh veggies in the garden.  I like the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill pairing, and you can definitely sense chemistry between them.  Tatum has proven to have some great comic timing and Hill is pretty much cemented as an actor that can jump into a variety of genres (with comedy being the one he initially made his name), and Ice Cube is one of the more underrated comic actors and this is the type of role that is suited to his talents.  The other major cause of some hope for this one is that the same directorial team of Chris Miller and Phil Lord is running this one too, which means they may have already had ideas for the sequel the first time around.  In order to continue to heap praise on a picture that is actually nowhere near my "must-see movies of the summer" list, the critical praise for the original was strong across the board and it was the surprise hit of 2012, even if I do remember one friend telling me there was far too much cussing and vulgar humour, but most people realized that already, right?  Consider me not totally dreading this and possibly ready to be pumped if I track down the original.

Scott:  Sigh… what to say?  I was old school 21 Jump Street, the show was one of the greatest things on television (along with Knight Rider and Misfits of Science), but from the perspective of a na├»ve child.  Knowing the lineage of Johnny Depp and Richard Grieco, I had a hard time seeing trailers of the type of movie that was being made with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.  It is not usually my cup of tea, and nothing I get too excited about.  I like to leave these movies to Chris, while I skulk off and watch found footage movies that enrage me and low budget horrors that cause me to despise life.  I do that sort of thing, and I still don’t know why.

However, I have learned that counting a movie out without seeing it creates a chance that you will miss out on something wonderful.  My favourite part of the trailer, something Chris pointed out, was the reference to the first movie being something that audiences were not clamouring for and the sequel being something they now were willing to bank on.  There is actually a strong possibility that I could be convinced into seeing this movie, as I do loved being proven wrong and the pairing of Tatum and Hill look like they may be able to make me eat my words and fears.

The Expendables 3 (August 15, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  Wait a second; I thought teaser trailers were reserved for big event movies.  Are we now saying that a second sequel to a film that was mostly popular due to nostalgia and only has any life based off interest on what former action stars they will drag out of the cabinet and dust off is now considered a major event motion picture?

Scott:  I think they should fully embrace the gimmick mentality and change it to The Expendables 3D, pull out all of the stops.  I liked the first one a lot (except for the very frantic shooting of the action sequences), and have not seen the second one due to… well, complete lack of interest.  Nostalgia is great, which is why I have a wedding album.  However, after pulling it out, looking through it, and getting a case of the warm fuzzies, I never believe that the next natural step is to create another one.  Nostalgia is great when it is a reminder of the fun, but this franchise seems to forget that aspect and is now running full speed ahead in a genre that was originally meant to be a throwback.  While the second movie did not do as well in the domestic box office, it made more money globally than the first movie which is the reason why we have the third.  I do like the inclusion of Kelsey Grammer, but I would be more excited if I knew that David Hyde Pierce had a credited role.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  I loved X-Men: First Class about as much as I despised X-Men: Last Stand, so the colliding of the two pictures leaves me with some mixed emotions.  The return of Director Bryan Singer to the franchise brings a lot of optimism considering he was the man behind the first two pictures (with the second held up by many as one of the best comic book movies) and was also the producer of First Class.  He also is supported by a hell of a deep cast with some of my favourite "younger" stars in Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy.  I haven't seen a minute of Games of Throne, but I'm intrigued with Peter Dinklage in the villain role and though it is a totally different movie, he was great in The Station Agent.  Plus as I confessed last week, I'm a bit of a sucker for time travel movies.

The plot is going to be convoluted and likely borderline incomprehensible, but I actually mean that in the best way possible.  It is likely going to be so fast paced and full of twists that I won't be able to catch-up during the screening anyway, and it will be one of those stories that comic book geeks have a blast scrutinizing and debating about on their blogs after the fact.  The idea of Magneto and Professor X teaming up against some other bigger evil is always lots of fun, and I have to admit to be being intrigued what it is that binds them together.  The promise of old mellowed out Magneto possibly doing battle with young bitter Magneto is pretty appealing too, because there is a lot of possibilities for complexity considering the painful experience both have been in and the ideals the younger would hold that may have changed with the older version.

The thing that makes me extremely nervous (and is very similar to my The Amazing Spider-Man 2 concerns) is how bloated in characters this picture looks.  There are all the characters from the prequel and many of the characters from the Singer versions, and the trailer also appears to be revealing a whole batch of new characters (many actually seemed geared to appeal to the important Asian market), which makes it rather hard to give many of them worthwhile attention.  There is the risk either far too many storylines crammed into the movie or just having many throw-away character that are just there to blur the important stories.  There was an announcement a few weeks back that Anna Paquin's scenes have been cut, which obviously happened after releasing this trailer where she is shown in a few clips.  It is sad when a once major character in the film series is totally wiped out of a picture, because filmmakers need to toss in as many characters as possible.  I have fears part of the reason there are so many characters is that elusive dream of creating more spin-off films and try to pull an Avengers by having several intersecting movies to connect to the main franchise.

Hopefully, in their attempt to create a non-stop money machine that they remember the best way to rake in the dough is to make a really good movie.  I think this can be one, and at this point the positives seem much stronger than any negative I can see.

Scott:  I was a huge fan of the first movie, became frustrated by the end of the second film, and wanted to rip down the foundations of the earth after being forced to endure the third film.  Despite having been told by Chris that the prequel was quality, the taste in my mouth needs a little longer to dissipate than Hollywood takes between attempts at revamping franchises.  After seeing the trailer for the upcoming movie, I now have a desire to see X-Men: First Class to get my geek on for this summer’s offering.

While I am excited, Chris nailed the relevant fears that we should be having towards this film.  The new term floating around is ‘shared universe,’ which allows spin offs and different franchises living in the same realm (such as The Avengers).  Everyone is looking to do what they can right now to develop as many characters as possible to star in spin offs as well as leading to the all-lucrative ensemble movie.  With the inclusion of the Fantastic Four on the horizon (yet still years away because that franchise still needs a movie to re-establish itself), spin offs from this film could provide those extra dollars that the studios are craving in the years between now and an X-Men/Fantastic Four movie.  By the time that finally comes around, there is a chance that there is not as much money in super hero movies.  Also, the casting of Asian actors is indeed a smart move.  The global market is growing faster than the domestic and catering only to North America in blockbusters no longer makes sense.  We are now in a time where the domestic tally of a film may actually only end up being 25% of its world-wide cume, as was the case with Pacific Rim.

Okay, so I have gone into total analysis mode and forgot the purpose of this was to talk about the trailer, so… yep, I am excited to see it.

Maleficent (May 30, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  I haven't really been a big fan of this cinematic fairy tales reimaginings fad that has been running for the past few years.  This may be the first picture I'm genuinely excited to check out.  The first reason is that Angeline Jolie hasn't done many films in the past few years, and so her appearance alone makes it feel like a major event.  Jolie has such an incredible presence and unique charisma that makes her a perfect choice for one of the more iconic Disney witches, Maleficent.  I'm also a very big fan of Wicked, which is the novel by Gregory Maguire that explains how the Wicked Witch of the West was essentially a misunderstood character and it was events that shaped her into the villain she became (speaking of which, where is our cinematic musical that has been rumoured for years now?).  It was a pretty revolutionary story that gave a unique spin on a famous villain, and I have hopes that this picture will go in a similar direction with the Sleeping Beauty story.  This looks like it will be a pretty dark picture with the villain as the central figure, but will also possibly add some sympathy to her and show the other fairies may not have been the stellar role models we've assumed.  If this dares to truly retell the story and revamp the universe than this could be the fresh kind of blockbuster film we often are missing in the summer.

Scott:  Angelina Jolie looks to be a perfect fit for this role, as she seems to be able to deliver a perfect coldness in her expression.  It has been so long since I have seen Sleeping Beauty that I can barely remember the tale, but I am excited to revisit it this summer with Maleficent.  Call me old fashioned, but I like cheering for bad guys who are not complex and multi-dimensional characters (Darth Maul was far from complex, but simply looked totally awesome, enough for me to root for him) but am willing to have my boundaries pushed by this film, which looks to add more to the character and existence of Maleficent.
 
Belle (May 2, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  It is heartening to see that 2013 will not be the anomaly for historical films exploring important issues about race.  The picture is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle and how she played a significant role towards ending slavery in England.  It looks like it'll have an ample amount of romance and in some way is being sold on that, but there likely will be some provocative and challenging scenes about societal norms and equality.  This type of film is so important because it still has significance to modern society and often elements can be applied to current issues.  The tale may be reworked from fact, but the emotion and story should ring true.  Hopefully, it doesn't dip too far towards sentimentality, and is willing to be a little ugly and dig into some tough material.  The performances look pretty solid from the small clips shown, and Tom Wilkinson will likely deliver in his rather significant role.  I have hope that Gugu Mbatha-Raw will prove to be a great young talent and really shine in her lead role.  This is also Amma Asante's second directorial effort and based on the rarity of Black woman filmmakers in significant positions, I want to root for her.  But she also opened a lot of eyes with her debut feature A Way of Life and has been considered one to look out for.  Hopefully, this can be a breakout film for her, and has a shot to be remembered by the end of the year, despite unfortunately being penciled in during the crazy summer blockbuster time.

Scott:  This is where I need to ask, ‘where are the Sword and Sandal trailers?’  Chris knows full well of my disposition of boredom towards Victorian era movies.  Well, technically this is pre-Victorian, but essentially the same thing.  I figure if I have to head down this road myself, Chris could do the decent thing by bringing us to talk about his favourite genre next week.  Let’s get some Pompeii or 300 in here next week, that’s what I say.  My own personal difficulties being intrigued with this time period aside, the basis of the story is enough to catch my attention.  Sadly, the trailers make me think that it the movie will focus less on social issues and more on the romantic element.  

Non-Stop (February 28, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  Five years ago, I'd have kicked you out of my house and kept your shoes if you tried to tell me that Liam Neeson was going to be one of the hottest action stars.  Yet here he is continually churning out action pictures, and doing a much better job at it than the veterans in the genre that once dominated back in the 1980s.  Though despite saying that and at the risk of Neeson coming to my home to beat me up and steal my own shoes, this sort of looks like something I've seen about a dozen times before and appears pretty skippable.  Now, I'd totally be on board if it is revealed there isn't any hijacker, and Neeson just likes beating up mouthy passengers as a way to make his flights seem faster.  Or if Julianne Moore ends up being behind it, because we've been robbed for years of a good Moore and Neeson gunfight.

Scott:  Taken meets Flight Plan is what I think of when I see this trailer.  I liked Taken but hated the insanely idiotic grand scheme in Flight Plan, and I could easily see this movie having just as silly a twist happening at the end.  Liam is all about shooting people these days, and I figure we will get a chance to see him doing that here, although it will probably be amidst a convoluted plot that has us scratching our heads at the end.  Also, I suppose the new format for people texting in movies is for the text to pop up on the screen.  I felt it worked well in Fruitvale Station, was absurd in Fifth Estate (although, they technically weren’t texting), and just seems a bit out of place here.  Why not just show what he sees on the phone?

The Face of Love (TBA)



Christopher:  It is encouraging to see a recent renaissance in love stories containing older characters.  Not only because I'm getting old and need to know I can still be loved, but the stories tend to be far more mature and feel much more authentic.  It is also great that incredibly talented actors like Annette Bening and Ed Harris get to be a little sexy and are allowed to be intimate on screen.  It is also great to see Jess Weixler who is a talented actor who doesn't get enough great roles and I'll always have a soft spot due to her fun starring performance in the indy horror flick, Teeth.  This looks like a sweet little movie that will allow for some dramatic moments and drag out some great performances from what it a pretty loaded cast (Robin Williams is usually great when he isn't resorting to being a hyperactive goofball).  I'm also intrigued about a film that seems to be a perfect set-up for a thriller about some psycho disguised as the lead's former lover, but instead remains on course being a film about dealing with grief and learning to love again.

Scott:  Movies for adults, that’s what we’re talking about here.  The complexities of real love examined in a very unique premise with some amazing talent attached to it.  When I said it’s for ‘adults,’ I don’t mean people who are starting to sprout grey hairs, but people who want more from romance movies than two people from different socio-economic backgrounds who are hot on each other and wanting to do some cushion pushin’.  Hollywood has done romantic relationships an incredible disservice over the years by creating the knight in shining armour, the damsel in distress, the grand romantic gestures, and the loath at first sight.  I get interested when a film (and usually it is with older cast members) looks at the reality behind love and romance.

The Lego Movie (February 7, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  This is another trailer that has been around for several months, but I had to post it here so everyone can revel in its awesomeness.  In a year where there won't be a Pixar feature and Disney is opting to not do a fairy tale musical, I was afraid it was going to be a downer year for animation.  This movie looks like I can still happily get my cartoon on and this could turn out to be a fun classic. My excitement is a little surprising considering it is a feature length ad for a children's toy.  If you're going to do a commercial disguised as a movie than this is exactly how you do it because this looks more entertaining that many other blockbusters on their way this year.  Also due to Lego having the licensing rights to tons of different franchises, this will likely be the only movie ever where you get so many iconic characters in one film.

The voice acting for this is pretty impressive.  I am sensing Will Arnett will try to steal it all with his Batman.  They've loaded it up with top notch talent and really the perfect voices for many of the classic characters (apparently, Tatum will be Superman).  I'm most excited about Christopher Pratt being given the lead role of the happy but clueless hero who stumbles his way into saving the universe.  It is similar to his character on Parks & Recreation, except this time he really gets to be a hero rather than a made-up agent solving crimes that don't need to be.  It may turn out to be a huge year for Pratt as he also is starring in what may be the big summer blockbuster in Guardians of the Galaxy, but I'll talk about that more when a trailer arrives.  Pratt has great comic timing, and that is something still needed in voice work.

The greatest animated features are the ones that are exciting to kids but remember to pile on the winks and jokes for the adults.  I can already see many funny references throughout this trailer that will make it a treat for all ages.  I'm pretty confident that some of the best stuff has been saved for the feature.

The other impressive element is the actual animation.  It appears to be a combination of CGI and stop-motion.  The incredible thing is I have no clue what is models and what is computers.  This picture must have been years in the making.  This definitely has a chance to be one of the stand-outs of the year, and if it wasn't for premiering the same weekend as Monument's Men, I'd be first in line.

Scott:  Now is the time for Lego to strike, and now is when the iron is hottest for them.  With so many movies, they seem to be a bit too soon or a bit too late, but this one could not be timed any better than it is.  The Lego empire has been increasing over time with specialty Lego sets that incorporate different brands and franchises with more variety than ever before.  On the media side of things, the Lego video games are many and plenty fun and they have the television show Lego Ninjago on the Cartoon Network.  This is the perfect time for the film to come out and succeed.

What has always been wonderful about Lego is that it is your unbridled imagination comes out to play, and that is the essence that this movie seems to capture.  Playing with Lego is a no-holds-barred experience with possibilities that don’t end, a mentality that this movie adopts perfectly.  I never read what Chris wrote about this one because I got too excited about it and needed to write.  This is the sort of film that should have a fun enough time to be able to sell tickets to more than just kids, as the brand is rather timeless.  The cast, the atmosphere, and the humour will entertain more than just kids and this could end up being considered a classic many years from now.  And seriously… Will Arnett as Batman?  Could it really get any better than that?

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