Thursday, February 27, 2014

Godzilla Smashes and Ron Burgundy Double Dips and Several Other Trailer Reviews

To be honest, it was a tougher week to scour brand new trailers. Maybe everyone was hiding because Godzilla came smashing in with its newest trailer. But first a trailer that came to fight and kick and stomp and. . .

The Protector 2 (May 2/Limited)



Christopher: I know almost nothing about the original The Protector and even less about its star, Tony Jaa. I did have to check a few times to verify that this is actually a movie coming out in 2014. If it wasn't for the excessive use of CGI and Matrix style action sequences, I'd have still believed this was a trailer for one of the many martial arts action imports that crowded up cinemas about 20 years ago. There does seem to be some choreography and legitimate stunts, but I find it starts to lose its impact when squeezed in with all the rather poorly computer assisted sequences.  Also it is rather hard to get excited by a pretty formulaic and generic martial arts actioner when we've got the insanity and adrenaline injection of The Raid 2: Berandal coming this year as well.

I also have to confess this just isn't a genre that I know all that well or really get too amped up about. Sure, Jackie Chan was a fun thing to have in the background while I was trying to look cool to girls while shoving BBQ chips into my mouth, but I can only take so much of these movies at a time. I just feel this stuff is best when it is filled with stuntmen and it at least can effectively deceive me into believing the sequences are real. I do dig the attempt of harking back to an older time by having a narrator in the trailer. A quick look at the plot synopsis tells me that Kham's elephant has been stolen again, so I'm happy to know the punching and kicking is for a good cause.

Scott: Martial arts movies are interesting to me because there are some that I could line up in a row and watch all day long, and others that I would rather just stay away from. I enjoy a full range from 80s ninja movies to Shaolin films to dramatic pieces like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I got a good enough kick out of Tony Jaa in Ong-bak, but The Protector 2 appears to be the type of martial arts film that I am not into, which is when people are flying around in ways that are completely unrealistic. I do enjoy some good flying antics, but usually it is more centred on older films where the corniness of it adds to the overall enjoyment of the movie. In the modern era, the gravity defying actions don’t seem to work unless it is more of a fanciful setting. It makes good sense that RZA is in this movie as his love for old school martial arts films draws him to projects like this. I can’t seem to generate much excitement for this film, which did make me smile when the trailer narrator used the awesomely cliché line of, ‘they took everything he loved.’

Godzilla (May 16/Wide) Trailer #2



Christopher: There is a small part of me that thinks this picture came out at least a year too late. How excited can one get about a giant lizard smashing through New York when a year ago we got them battling giant robots? It is almost like the genre has hit its apex and everything will feel like a downer afterwards. Though this trailer clearly proves that they're trying to make a very different movie than Pacific Rim. That picture was a glossy spectacle that incorporated visuals that sometimes gave off a fairy tale like feel and other times something ripped straight out of a graphic novel. This picture feels grittier and dirtier, and the ambition seems to be less about surprising and wowing but rather more trying to disturb and unsettle.

This doesn't feel like a modern high budget blockbuster but something that would have fit amongst the disaster pictures cropping up throughout the mid-1990s. Even then, in this trailer you get a feeling of a slow-build and a stronger focus on the impact on the characters rather than the actual disaster. The previous trailer showed an army getting ready to rock and roll as they flew through the sky and prepared to drop some bomb action. So there will definitely be action sequences here and lots of carnage, and the synopsis seems to hint that the main star will be Aaron Johnson's lieutenant who is almost entirely absent this time around.

What we get is a lot of Bryan Cranston yelling. I especially got a kick out an allusion to the government trying to hide a gigantic building crushing lizard and attempting to pass the wreckage off as a natural disaster. If that turns out to the majority of the movie with Cranston trying to point out the tail to people and provide power points to prove it wasn't a tornado that wiped out Kansas, then Warner Brothers can probably just fire their accountant and close up shop. Having top notch talents like Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen makes me believe they are going to try to throw some dramatic depth in here and be more about the impact on humanity than loud and shiny.

Director Gareth Edwards is probably one of the strongest choices to helm a movie like this. He was very economical with his small budget for Monsters and was able to pull off some pretty impressive special effects for a small independent picture. That movie was never really about the aliens, but rather how their invasion impacted the world and the travels of two characters through the carnage and disaster. Stephen King has always said that his stories aren't about the supernatural or the big monsters but rather he uses those things to trigger stories about his characters. It obviously works for him, I think a lot picture forget that the best stories are about the human spirit and how we respond to that adversity rather than a focus on the creatures and fantasy element. Edwards has proven that is his approach to monster movies, so he is likely aiming more for a Jaws rather than a Transformers.

We'll obviously see Godzilla and he'll be smashing shit. I'm hoping (and this trailer seems to hint it will be) that it actually will be about our main characters trying to deal with the chaos. There is also a chance the studio freaked out over that decision and has pushed for the last hour and half of the picture to just be fighter jets shooting at the giant monster.

There is also supposed to be two more monsters other than Godzilla. I don't know if that means we get a wrestling with Mothra or if it is the return of the raptors again. What is supposed to be news to get the geek in me excited, actually just has the word "bloat" flashing in my mind. Godzilla really is enough unless there is a real purpose for more.

I like parts of this trailer such as where the focus seems to be. There are also a few annoying decisions like the use of the ominous bass used throughout that is too cliché and well-worn for my liking. I definitely trust the talent and the director. This could turn out to be one of the surprises of summer. Of course, I say surprise, because I have been expecting one of the worst movies of the year prior to this trailer.

Scott: Just like the previous trailer had an over-used, cliché line in it, so does this movie when we get Cranston saying, ‘God help us all.’ That line about the stone ages has had its times around the track as well. I was going to mention the use of the deep and consistent bass noise, but Chris hit that point. Part of me is intrigued by what I saw, but I just don’t know what is going to ultimately happen with this film. It could end up being just a bunch of good special effects mashed in with poor special effects, as the trailers show a little from column A and column B.

I have had an affinity towards this building sized monster for most of my life. When I was a teenager, the movies were perfect homework ambiance, as I could look at the books during the dialogue scenes and then pop my eyes up to the television whenever Rodan made an appearance. I had no idea that there were going to be other monsters in this film until Chris mentioned it, and I quickly tried to pick who I would ideally like to see on the scene once again. Would it be an alien like in Godzilla 2000, or would it be an old school ally or villain brought back into the limelight?

One thing is for sure, and that is this trailer got a lot of attention for the movie. The day the trailer was released there were 60,000 tweets about the film, a great number that indicates some good awareness. It is the type of generic trailer that could get some excitement rising for senseless destruction, and if the marketing campaign is smart from here then the movie could perform really well. Myself, I am going to have to see another trailer or two before I start to have a sense of where I land on this film.

Son of God (February 28/Wide) - Trailer #2



Christopher: I've been avoiding putting up the numerous trailers for this movie because I didn't want my disdain be interpreted as "yet another liberal attacking the poor old Christians." Jesus is awesome, but this movie looks awful. I'm fine with entertainment that is geared towards a religious group and I'm even finer with biblical epics. The problem is the former is almost always pap and the latter has the battle of sorting out who do you appeal to (see Noah for an example of this). 

This picture just screams trying to sucker the churches and religious groups to come in droves to the cinema this weekend. If the Sunday school class wants to head out to see this instead of recite Bible passages than all the power to them. I can't wash off the feeling of this being one of the ultimate cash grabs and that most religious entertainment tends to be a sleazy ploy to pass off subpar art as something profound and spiritual. It plays on the guilt of a certain group that feel they need to be seeing things that glorify and please their deity. If this was the movie of Ahab the Wanderer there wouldn't be a single butt in the seat this weekend because this looks to be poorly acted, have lame effects, riddled with TV movie cinematography, and a really schmaltzy score. It is Jesus, so the pastors across the continent have been probably telling their flock to go out to see it for weeks, because they just "don't make wholesome and powerful movies like this anymore."

Of course, this movie is actually just cut from The Bible miniseries on the History channel last year. A miniseries that did massive ratings, but actually reviewed really poorly. Of course, anyone who is amped to see this will just claim the poor reviews came from critics not loving Jesus enough. I just don't love the underhanded method of tricking people into paying for a movie that was free a year ago and doesn't look like it deserves to be anywhere near the big screen. I'm fighting a losing battle, because the early word is this will have a great weekend. Considering the budget and what it initially had been, it probably doesn't need to make much to be profitable either. I'm sure the flocks will walk away happy, because Jesus.

Scott: Well Chris, my hairy-heathen friend, was able to take a swing at this movie that is just trying to tell a humble story, and now it is my turn to come to its aid as the resident Christian writer on this piece.

….

See that? Silence. There is no defense that I could have for this film. I have no problems at all with them taking a mini-series, editing it, and releasing it as a theatre event, but that is not what they are doing here. There is no mention of this being already released material, and it is being sold as new content for theatre goers. That is what I have a problem with. It is lacking the honesty of what it is, even though a semi-keen eye could easily pick up the fact that this is not movie quality footage as was most likely made for TV. As Chris said, the idea is that Christians will go and see it because it is Jesus, and that is what they are banking on, and just throwing something together that can attain that goal.

As well, I am a bit frustrated with this film for another reason. I get fairly ticked off with a lot of Christian media because it is usually so outdated and technically subpar to everything else that is around it (Veggie Tales excluded). Some readers may take offense to that, but it is really true. This movie is doing nothing to make that situation any better by simply repackaging something that is not cinema quality and promoting it to the world. Why not just ramp up off of the success of the mini-series and set out to do a properly funded film? I don’t know. At least there aren’t guys in blazers playing keytar in this, which is something I came across as I was being told that there were Christian groups out there who were as good as Led Zeppelin.

Arrrggraa… I forget where I was heading with all of this.

Muppets Most Wanted (March 21/Wide) - Trailer #403



Christopher: Unlike most marketing campaigns for major motion pictures, I haven't lost my excitement and anticipation for this despite what feels like a daily of assault of new trailers and promotional videos. Some of that comes from the amazing goodwill they built up from there incredible previous effort, The Muppets. The prior picture captured a childlike wonder I hold dear from 1980s and left me with a massive grin on my face the entire time, and more importantly, was easily one of the very best movies from 2011.

This time around they've done more than enough to make up for the absence of Jason Segel and Amy Adams by packing it with other actors that resonate warmth, happiness and laughter.  There are perfect matches with the Muppets in stars like Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, and Ricky Gervais. The picture is obviously going to be overstuffed with celebrities but that has always been this series' style and usually it gets pulled off in spectacular fashion. It works because everyone just seems to be having fun and are willing to mock themselves a bit. Speaking of being willing to mock themselves a bit, Sean Combs made me fall in love with him in Get Him to the Greek and so I was happy to see him with a big smile and being silly in this trailer.

Despite all the trailers, they've been pretty effective in not showing off huge parts of the picture. This trailer showcases a bit of new stuff but largely it is just extended scenes from what has been shown in the past. We still haven't seen one musical number yet, and that may be partly due to Disney's weird recent strategy of hiding the fact a picture is a musical (Frozen being the prime example). Obviously, this movie needs song and dance, because that is a huge part of the series' charm and it has always been there. I'm excited to see what catchy tunes and over-the-top magic they have hidden away.

I'm also stoked to see action star Kermit, because well, that makes me laugh. It looks like they'll definitely be primed to imitate and have fun with the globetrotting action and spy pictures of the past several decades. During the series entire run, I'm not sure if they've ever made use of Kermit's obvious jumping ability, and so it'll be great to see him do what a frog was meant for. I wonder if they trust him to do his own stunts.

I also wonder if Walter will be a centrepiece Muppet this time around or if it is just decided his story was told in the first pictures and shove him to a supporting role. I don't think any of the previous picture have ever really connected to past movies, but this one does have a bit more of a sequel vibe. My bet is on Walter being a lead here again, and be the relatable character, since there doesn't seem to be a main human lead this time.

What the Muppets have always been good at, is taking elements from genres and playing with then in a very self- aware and humorous fashion. They take the best of other movie but then do it with loving winks and jabs. I loved the small scene where it comes obvious that the crew was completely unaware that there was an evil doppelganger in their midst even though he clearly wasn't Kermit by his behaviour. That is a great play on a very well-used and ridiculous trope, but this time around, they realize it is silly and run with it. This is why I get excited every time I hear about another Muppets movie and it is so wonderful to see them back in form after what was a tough 1990s for them (something they also played on in excellent fashion in the previous movie).

Scott: After Chris’ write up, there is not really much more to add other than the fact that I am personally excited for this movie. There is such a good nature to a well done Muppet movie, and I am getting the feeling that this film will be a great follow up to the previous one. The cast looks great, and I cannot wait to see it in theatres.

The Sacrament (June 6/Limited)



Christopher: This picture had a great deal of hype surrounding it before being screened at TIFF. Director Ti West is one of the filmmakers that many consider the next big hope for the horror genre in the domestic market. I have to confess that the only thing I've seen that has involved him was his acting role in You're Next. A picture I liked many of the elements, but didn't love it anywhere near the amount as Scott. It isn't really fair to compare the qualities of that picture to this one, since again, West's only involvement was as an actor.

It is hard not to think about You're Next a little though, because it is the most mainstream picture to have West's name attached. This particular picture also has some of the same stars such as Amy Seimetz and AJ Bowen. I became a huge fan of Seimetz in Upstream Color and she proved some incredible comic timing in You're Next. She is a future star in the right role, and it looks like she has a much more substantial spot in this picture than You're Next.

The cult concept is always a very chilling one to me. Though it has been used many time before, I don't think it has been fully exploited and there are definitely more stories to tell. This one looks effective in creating an atmosphere that promises a utopia but even during that happy period there is an unsettling element. Gene Jones as the Father appears to be the right odd blend of comforting and eerie at the same time. This picture will likely deliver in both the acting and the atmosphere as both come off quite strong here.

The problem I have is that the trailer seems to have given away the entire movie. I realize we knew things were going to shit and that everything needed to fall apart for it to be a horror picture. I'm not sure if we really needed to see exactly how it everything goes bad and all that seems left to see is the actual gore and carnage. That is never the kind of stuff that appeals or why I love horror, so I'm just not sure if there is anything left to anticipate.

I also hate to say that a producer (who may be very hands-off) scares me from seeing this, but I've never really understood the hype surrounding Eli Roth. I haven't really been into anything that he has written or directed except for the Nation's Pride clips in Inglourious Basterds. I think he has shown glimmers of wit and creativity, but his stuff just hinges more on the gore elements and sometimes turn out to be a little too silly. But again, his name being attached here shouldn't really be detriment since he is one of many producers involved (he likely was used more to get a distributor). I'm left liking the concept and the cast involved, but wish I actually knew a little less about where this movie was heading.

Scott: Ti West did not take the advice he was given in You’re Next and strive for making commercials, but rather made a Jonestown inspired film that debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. Unluckily for the movie, the majority of attention that it received was because a blogger called the police when people were using their mobile devices during a media and industry screening of the film. That aside, it came out of the festival with its distribution sold and mediocre critical reception.

This is the first time I have seen a trailer for the film, and it has done well in creating intrigue as to the environment and feel of the movie. I get properly creeped out by a good cult story and this movie could do well in hitting that part of my imagination and leaving me with many things to think about on the ride home from the theatre. I think the hardest part of the film will be the found footage aspect, and how it is used. If it makes the camera unrealistically available to capture everything (which seems to be the style of the medium now), then it could be a huge fail. This is the type of movie that would do well to have some mystery surrounding it and leave a lot to the imagination.

On top of all of that, there is a cast of people whom I am starting to really enjoy, which has put this film on my list of movies to track down this year. I am constantly waiting for Amy Seimetz to get her breakout performance and make a name for herself, because she has some serious talent in her.

Jinn (April 4/Limited)



Christopher: This feels like Underworld but without the comic book feel and Matrix stylized action. Of course, instead of bloodsucker we great really shitty looking fire face things. I don't usually try to show trailers to limited release pictures that almost assuredly will suck, but this is sort of an example of why lower budget films shouldn't try to mimic big budget action-thrillers. This picture almost screams for special effects and massive fantasy elements but this trailer looks like they will try to do as many fast camera cuts and odd shots to hide the fact they don't have much. Sadly, there is enough evidence in this trailer that they probably should have done more of that technique, because this picture is far from pretty.

I just don't know why they didn't aim for a slow building and dark style horror picture that alludes to the sinister beings rather than have our hero do campy action sequences with the baddies. It is really cool that it tries to incorporate beings from Arabic folklore, but it doesn't look like they're going to try to do the mythology any justice here. If it insists on being an action picture then it at least should have tried to have fun rather than play it so serious. This looks destined for a Scott cheesy movie review when it likely comes out on Netflix a week after its theatre run.

Scott: I have to admit, I apparently zoned out pretty quickly during this trailer and I really didn’t want to start watching it from the beginning again just so I could have the full context of it. I can tell you that Darth Maul is in it. And that Walter Peck (the guy from the EPA who shut down the Ghostbusters) is in it. I can tell you the visuals look completely awful, but I am guessing if you watched it then you were able to pick up on that fact as well. And there was a car… or something. I don’t know, just a lot of visuals, sounds, and builds that have been abundant for years now, and I really am hoping that Chris does not pick another trailer from this movie for us to look at further down the road.


In the Blood (April 4/Limited)



Christopher: Gina Carano proved that women's MMA can draw an audience and drew massive ratings even though she was part of a lesser known promotion. She essentially was one of the stars to pave the way for current UFC draw Rhonda Rousey. Carano was a legit fight superstar, but the reality is that it is a very tough profession and part of her appeal was that she was beautiful. It made a lot of sense for her to transition out of the sport and make a lot more money in action movies where it'll take less of a toll on her body and looks.

Her first starring vehicle was the Steve Soderbergh directed Haywire and was a pretty big hit with the critics. Unfortunately, it ended up being a disaster at the box office, which sort of proved MMA stardom doesn't translate to being a draw at the box office. She still got a significant role in last year's box office hit Fast & Furious 6, but it looks like the big studios may have given up on her being able to star in a picture. Of course, straight-up fist punching and gun shooting action movies aren't really the stand-out pictures for major studios anymore, so it may also be a bit of a genre thing too. Either way, it looks like Carano's star has already fallen, and she is stuck being in movies with Danny Trejo.

Scott: Well, it is apparent that Haywire did not do anywhere near the numbers that were expected, as the hopeful action star of Gina Carano goes from a wide release movie to a film that looks like it should be straight to video. At least, I am guessing, Carano won’t have her voice dubbed over by the studios this time. Haywire made a horrible $22 million worldwide on a budget of $23 million and had an ensemble cast of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, and Antonio Banderas. Even with all of that going for it, they were unable to create Carano into a star, something that Rhonda Rousey should pay attention to as her Hollywood ambitions increase.

Action sports figures, be them mixed martial artists or wrestlers, have a very hard time getting a secure foothold as a legitimate draw in movies. The Rock is finally reaching upper echelon status, and he has been working hard at this thing for 13 years. Carano may have a bunch of movies like this to look forward to in her future unless she is able to hone her acting chops and screen presence.

Maladies (March 21/ Limited & March 25/VOD) - Trailer #2



Christopher: One of the best combinations in the world is peanut butter with chocolate, but another strong one in contention must be James Franco starring in a film by a director who wants to only be known as Carter. This is only Carter's second picture and his first was Erased James Franco where the actor reenacted scenes from all his movies and television appearances while also reinterpreting Julianne Moore's performance in Safe and Rock Hudson's in Seconds. This just seems like the type of thing that James Franco should do, since he doesn't appear to be interested in being a big Hollywood star but rather just perform in odd and quirky indy pictures. Carter looks like a great person to give him those types of roles.

Franco playing a failed actor who now tries to write and battle the voices in his head also seems like a role he was meant to play. I have a feeling this picture will turn out to be far less straight-forward than the trailer promises. It also looks like it has potential to be the entertaining kind of bizarre while also being funny and showcasing some great performances. I think Franco is way better than many give him credit for, and he can really throw himself into a character if his heart is in it. He also has great talent to play off in Catherine Keener and David Strathairn. This also has potential to be an insufferable and smarmy art house picture, but I sense a good deal of self-awareness and charm. The aim seems to be entertainment, which should hopefully reign in the symbolic and artsy moments.

Scott: I find that I have a lot of admiration for James Franco because he appears to be making the most of his opportunities in life. He obviously has a very artistic nature, and he has used what he has gained from Hollywood to be able to make projects that he wants to be a part of. I have a lot of respect for that, for not just reaching for the highest grosses and the most money, but to actually use the system for personal satisfaction. He still does the big money movies, but that is not the typical realm for him, and this film appears to give him a lot of room to play in a character that has quite the interesting personality. The supporting cast is a solid one, and for folks who enjoy stories that are quirky and less generic, this could be a solid film to check out.

Wolves (TBA)



Christopher: This is more how I expect a lower budget horror-action picture to play out. There are some scenes that looked unrealistic and cheesy, but the picture also feels very self-aware and aiming for the schlock and camp. The goofball horror-action pictures work much better when the special effects actually don't look all that special and remind one of the creature features from the past. This also reminds me of early '80s John Sayles pictures (The Howling being the most obvious) that plays with the horror tropes and clichés with a tongue firmly in cheek while still serving up the elements that make a genre picture successful. David Hayter has written some decent sci-fi action screenplays in X-Men and Watchmen, so there is reason to have some hope here. At the same time, he hasn't done purposeful camp or directed a feature before this. Any story that sets the werewolf community in Lupine Ridge gives me hope this could be a fun waste of two hours for those that love cheese and camp in their horror pictures.

Scott: Ack…


Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Super-Sized R-Rated Version (February 28/Limited)



Christopher: I had a good time watching the original theatrical version of Anchorman 2. Even that version just felt like a collection of hit or miss jokes that just made me laugh hard enough when the jokes worked for me to recommend the movie. The problem was it was missing any real plot and anytime it tried to have a story it usually lost it focus quickly. Now, it is promoting itself on having even more jokes, and likely focusing even less on the actual plot. My big question is if any of these jokes are any good then why didn't they include them the first time around?

Scott: Chris got it right by referring to the movie as being a series of hit and miss jokes. So many fell flat at my feet while I was watching it, but it was the ones that hit home that made the film worthwhile. Still, it is not a movie that I would plan on seeing in theatres a second time, especially since I now got to pay for a longer version that includes a whole lot of jokes that are R-rated and probably hundreds that did not make the original version because they were not good enough to. I do not know how what should be a Blue Ray extra could make people want to spend full ticket price to see in theatres.

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