Preview Review in Focus: Gone Girl

I love a good challenge, don’t get me wrong. But writing about this trailer– and eventually reviewing the film as a whole come October– will undoubtedly be a daunting task for me. I would say that even adapting the book to film would have been a daunting task for whomever took on that challenge, but seeing as David Fincher and Gillian Flynn herself are collaborating on it, I’d say that the source material is in unquestionably good hands.

So, I’ll keep this Preview Review in Focus somewhat brief, because the first trailer for Gone Girl— which is almost dialogue-free– speaks for itself. The teaser opens with piano music and Ben Affleck, starring as Nick Dunne, announcing that his wife Amy has gone missing. From there, we see a shot of Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, turning her head up towards us, and we come to recognize the ballad as “She,” originally by Charles Aznavour and famously covered by Elvis Costello, here covered hauntingly by Richard Butler. Equally haunting is the juxtaposition of the song and the images we see; the mismatch is eerie and somehow cynical, and gives audiences– yes, even those who have read the novel– an unsettling sense of mystery.

Like the novel, the images here also seem to be presented non-linearly (which, of course, makes sense for any trailer. But here, that temporal whiplash is all the more significant and obvious and affecting; we see Nick and Amy kiss but we also see them fight within a matter of seconds). The fight we see also ushers in a crescendo in the song beautifully. After that, while the images flash too quickly to necessarily recognize all of them from the novel, there are some that will definitely have fans (like myself) squealing, including when Nick smiles in a press conference about Amy or, even more so, the moment when he walks towards a shed, the trailer later revealing just a shot of his shocked face and shaking hands as he has, presumably, opened and walked into it.

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This brings me to my next point about the trailer, actually; there are certain shots that focus closely on Ben Affleck’s face, and although this is just the trailer I’m basing this on, I’d like to say now that I think he will be perfect as Nick Dunne. Both he and Pike exhibit quick flashes of emotions in subtle, nuanced ways, or their faces rather carry a number of complex emotions at once with terrifying simplicity and ease; and again, it’s impressive that one could see this within this trailer alone. As someone who has read the book, I could argue that this talent is most important in at least some respects for Pike to have in playing Amy, a character who is deeply complicated, but the fact that we are meant to question Nick’s innocence throughout the narrative as well requires a similar kind of complexity, which (it seems to me so far) Affleck has pulled off seamlessly.

The trailer in general is seamless, really. This looks like it will be a truly mature and twisty thriller, just like the book was. Flynn and Fincher have allegedly worked together to dismantle and rewrite the entire third act, so even fans will be kept guessing all over again. But, fans are also given just enough here to be excited about the faithful transference of at least some of the source material. The final image of Amy in the water is haunting, and it is just one of many in the trailer that also speak to Fincher’s distinct color palate and overall aesthetic. If there’s anyone I trust with this novel, it is him, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that Flynn wrote the screenplay and changed the finale herself as opposed to someone else less capable and less entitled doing so. I think both fans of the novel and new audiences who have never read it before will be easily invested in and intrigued by this story, and in film form, it will hopefully be as scary and profound as ever. If this trailer is any indication, then the cynicism, darkly smart humor, and suspense of the novel, plus the complexity of its characters and the non-linear structure of its plot will all remain intact, and those are arguably what make the story and the book so great in the first place.

Gone Girl hits theaters on October 3rd of this year.

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Preview Review: Upcoming Horror

Welcome to this special horror edition of Preview Review! I haven’t written one of these in quite a while. And with a string of recently released horror trailers, it was definitely time to fix that. So cue the creepy music and maniacal laughter and let us begin!

Stage Fright (Release: April 3rd) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Wz0YuG1VM

ImageThis movie looks absolutely out of its mind; I mean, our masked killer literally growls “break a leg” at someone as he mutilates them. It has a classic, old-fashioned slasher movie vibe combined with this kind of over-the-top, almost satirical sense of humor, taking jabs at theater kids both figuratively and very literally. There is so much blood in this red band trailer alone that I can’t imagine how much more silly and gory it could possibly get. Starring Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf, this horror-comedy about a killer terrorizing a snobby drama camp will probably have quite the niche audience, mainly because the tones might not mesh for some; its Glee-meets-Friday the 13th storytelling may seem just a little too crazy to appeal to the masses. But I think it’s having too much fun with its own special brand of theatrics to care. And in my opinion, the number one rule for successful horror-comedy genre-blending is that the film in question should never take itself too seriously. Consensus: This trailer is an all-over-the-place hot mess of stabbing and singing, and that might be a little off-putting for some; a little girl in the film even asks, so perfectly and hilariously timed within this very trailer, “Isn’t it wrong to sing and dance when someone just died?” Well, if that’s wrong, then this movie just doesn’t want to be right, and I don’t blame it.

Oculus (Release: April 11th) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYJrxezWLUk

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 I was really excited for this Blumhouse release starring Karen Gillan from the chilling teaser trailer. This longer trailer didn’t really hurt or help much. This trailer, unlike the teaser (obviously) is bogged down by a semi-confusing plot, only further complicated by all the mirrors, doubles, and past versions of characters that we see in these two minutes. However, rather than following through with the word choice of “confusing,” the optimist in me, who was also truly and deeply terrified by this trailer, would like to suggest instead that the trailer is maybe better described as “intriguing.” The root concept itself which is both clever and classic at the same time does come across somewhat more clearly in this trailer– the mirror harbors a supernatural force and causes the past-present clashes and creepy deceptions and [mis]perceptions and, of course, the horrific sights and alleged murders. So, even if those things in turn raise questions, I think this trailer negotiates them pretty effectively– that is, we want to find out what is really going on after watching this trailer, don’t we? Consensus: The details make me simultaneously less excited but also more curious about this film; maybe this horror movie is raising a mirror to its own genre, and maybe, like its reflective subject matter, this film is not what it at first seems to be. But that actually might be a good thing, or so I still hope.

The Sacrament (Release: May 1st) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNGleyHCJwg

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 I have been hearing so much positive buzz about Ti West’s latest film from horror fans and film festival reviews, but this was the first time I actually watched the trailer. This film is in found footage style, at least I think? It wasn’t abundantly obvious in the trailer which I kind of appreciated; trailers of found footage films often stress that aspect of the film in this really trite manner, but the more subtle documentary feel of this trailer really allows us to be scared by the content more than the form for once, and it also feels more intimate and believable somehow as a result. The film tells the story of some journalists looking for their friend’s missing sister and arriving at an eerie cult-ish commune. This focus is uniquely unsettling and the film’s approach seems truly terrifying; even this trailer alone escalates in suspense and intensity as we’re given more rapidly editing shots of all manner of things that we cannot truly identify or explain. The fact that we’re left to wonder so much but still feel so uneasy solidifies my high hopes for this film. Consensus: I think even if I didn’t like this trailer as much as I did, I would still be interested in seeing the film but the trailer really does do justice to the film’s concept in a way that is subtle and masterful and truly scary.

Afflicted (Release: April 4th– limited) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtfSuXbPYUU

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 I think it’s pretty amazing, first of all, that my final two trailers are also found footage. Say what you will if you’re a skeptic, but the form clearly does have staying power. And, as a defender of the form (when it’s done right) I’m pleased to say that innovation even within that mode seems to be what is keeping it alive. This trailer, for instance, is impeccably crafted in the way it tells events non-linearly. I love that we’re shown things in a backwards order, but I do wish it hadn’t shown us so much. The plot, a giddy and unrelenting combination of Chronicle (2012) and Contracted (2013), revolves around two best friends filming their trip around the world, during which one of them becomes “afflicted” by something that is both gruesome and awesome in the traditional sense of the word. He might have super strength and speed later in the trailer/earlier in his actual chronology, while later in his chronology/earlier in the trailer we’ve already been shown the more ghastly and diseased form he will take. I doubt the film is told in a similarly skewed order, but it was cool for its marketing to slowly and steadily backtrack us to the source of his affliction, even though I really do think that the source itself could have been saved altogether. Consensus: If the trailer succeeds this well at blending the familiar with the fresh, then I can only hope the film does as well. I think it looks great, I just hope I don’t already know too much.

The Den (Release: March 14th) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2GirTaN1fY

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 I love the concept of this film, and I think even this trailer’s sort of sensory overload sells that concept fairly well. A young woman who is studying the behaviors of webcam users (which the film assumes the view of for at least some of its duration, a creative move only seen before, as far as I am aware, in Joe Swanberg’s V/H/S segment) witnesses a brutal murder online. She soon becomes embroiled in a dangerous and nightmarish scenario– both her and her loved ones are being targeted for a similar fate. Judging by this trailer, the film switches from webcam view to something somewhat more traditional at least as far as found footage goes. I think there is something to be gleaned here about the true social implications of found footage and the internet specifically; I’m not certain that the film is aiming to be quite so meta, but I think what makes this film seem so scary to me already is the way the desire to film and watch and even communicate through these same digital means leaves us vulnerable in a certain way. There’s something about that idea that seems so chillingly realistic and possible, and this trailer includes some really visceral and violent scares to make that possibility all the more terrifying to consider. Consensus: I really respect IFC Midnight and all the great work they’ve been releasing, and I am hoping that this exciting found footage film will be no exception to their current trend of interesting and progressive genre works.

Preview Review: Exciting New Trailers!

A whole slew of highly-anticipated trailers have been released in the last few weeks, and now that they’ve accumulated, I feel like a new edition of Preview Review is definitely in order!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (release May 2nd, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbp3Ra3Yp74

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Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, so being unbiased when considering Marc Webb’s followup to his first entry in the rebooted franchise will be hard. First of all, I love Sam Raimi and the original trilogy as well, but obviously do see the flaws in his third film. And further, I especially love Webb’s take on the character, the casting and the mostly refreshing take (in terms of chronology, villains and perhaps most notably Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane) on what was somewhat the same origin story. Now, one of the aforementioned flaws in Raimi’s third installment was of course the presence of too many villains, 3 to be precise. Yet this sequel seems to be following in the same footsteps at least in that very logistic respect. I will remain loyal and excited however, because aside from this, the trailer looks epic and above all, fun; it doesn’t look to be moody or overly serious like the third film in the original trilogy, and this will hopefully lighten the load that could have been made heavy by having so many enemies for our hero to conquer. So I think that will definitely help, but I just hope audiences aren’t so scarred that they feel forced or obligated to compare to two films, which is an understandable but unfair first reaction I think. Consensus: Yes, there is a lot going on here, but I don’t think we should automatically assume the overload will act as a flaw rather than a strength; I think the new additions of Dane DeHaan as Henry Osborn and Jamie Foxx as Electro will especially inject even more life into the franchise and story than was already there thanks to the chemistry between Garfield and Stone. So despite all the potential mishaps this sequel’s plot could fall victim to, I’m still very excited for this movie and I say that with absolutely no embarrassment.

Godzilla (release May 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBwsUD7jYCI

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This trailer is a little boring, and that’s a shame because it’s Godzilla after all. But, in a similar situation to Spider-Man, I’m still very intrigued to see this reboot somehow– even though it is yet another that seems almost too close for comfort, but which presents itself as far more loyal and traditional and reverent to the original 1956 monster than what we’d seen recently. The whole army-vibe at the beginning of the trailer though, with a voice over that made me feel like we were in a lesser version of Pacific Rim‘s trailer (lesser because we aren’t even given the inspirational pizzazz that was inherent in Idris Elba’s performance of a similar monologue), bored me. It wasn’t until we got to the middle of the trailer that I was a little more engaged; it certainly helped to finally see our main stars (Bryan Cranston, Aaron Johnson, and Elizabeth Olsen) even if for only a moment. Our true main star of the film, however, is going to be the monster itself and this trailer’s main success is definitely the obscured shot we get of our beloved Gojira and hearing that mighty and familiar roar through the fog. Consensus: I don’t think this teaser really sold me on why we need a remake except for the fact that the effectively hidden view we get of Godzilla itself is so reminiscent of the old-school version’s monster that it’s almost as if the more recent remake doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be counted. I’m looking forward to seeing some more variations of the trailer and ultimately I will probably see this movie no matter what.

22 Jump Street (release summer 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06rvPK8ydZo

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I loved 21 Jump Street and was excited that we were basically set up for a sequel by the film’s end (the natural transition being from high school to college) but I’m worried ever so slightly that the gimmicks and jokes will be exactly the same as the first film which, I felt, was genuinely different than any action-comedy I’d ever seen. I suppose I wouldn’t mind if the story does play out similarly if they maintain the same quality and conviction to every gag and scenario; if it’s still funny, then I’m less apt to nitpick about the film’s lack of originality. If something makes me laugh and I enjoy it, then this concern lessens significantly, but I do foresee a lot of critics having this same issue and not taking it as lightly. All of that being said, this trailer made me laugh and I think the college environment will be a really interesting aspect, possibly even a game changer entirely. Consensus: The fact that I was cracking up at this red band trailer alone is proof that this sequel can succeed on the same jokes and premises as the first film, but it’s a delicate balance between doing the same thing again but having it be hilarious and then the unfortunate alternative– doing the same thing again and having audiences question: “didn’t we already see this movie?” But, I love Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum so I am very much looking forward to this movie, even just for them and their antics together which will be amusing and worth the admission price regardless.

Interstellar (release November 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WzHXI5HizQ

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This film is, allegedly, about explorers who find a wormhole in time and space. This trailer, however, does not tell us this at all really. Instead, it gives us a beautiful montage of original historical footage to support the Matthew McConaughey spoken soliloquy about innovation and human potential. As a trailer, it doesn’t tell us enough to sell the movie but as a supplement to merely getting some buzz started about a movie that does not really need to be sold at all, it is fascinating. This is, after all, Christopher Nolan’s next film, so to tone down this trailer is an interesting move and a step back to the most nuanced aspects of his mind-bending cinematic style, away from the more action and star studded aspects that we’ve been given recently with his Dark Knight trilogy and even Inception. Plus, with a cast that blends newbies with Nolan favorites and a story literally about space and dimensions that exist through wormholes, I’m sure the film will deliver enough sensory stimulation without feeling the need to bombard us with that in the first teaser. Consensus: I personally want to see a bit more actual footage– seeing McConaughey tearing up while driving just wasn’t enough for me but it certainly did incite my curiosity– before deciding just how invested in this film I’m going to be, but I’m sure there are people who need not see any promotional material at all and are already prepared to buy their tickets.

Preview Review: New Trailers!

Welcome to this edition of Preview Review, necessitated by a slew of new trailers I’d been hearing about.

Twice Born (Release: December 6th, 2013) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyMxUHIMEmE

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This movie, about a woman who takes her son to Sarajevo after his father died there in the Bosnian conflict years before, looks like it will be visually beautiful. But I’m concerned about the frenzied quality of this trailer, the fact that this very plot was absent [I had to look it up] in a way that made it hard to understand what I was (or would be) watching, and the many jumps in time back and forth seemed unmotivated and confusing as a result. My other concern is that Emile Hirsch and Penelope Cruz will seem totally mismatched, making the whole story a moot point. From this trailer, it is hard to tell if there is any chemistry because there is so much going on, but if the movie as a whole relies on similar dramatics to cover up this fundamental lack, then it will suffer even more. Consensus: It looks like it has the potential to be a gorgeous and well-acted sprawling drama, but the trailer raises some concerns that I hope the movie disproves when seen in full.

Maleficent (Release May 30th 2014)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=704EXbJ-b5k

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Okay, now this is a live-action Disney classic adaptation I can get behind: the visuals look perfect, magical but not too cheesy. And Angelina Jolie seems equally perfect for the role, seeming in her natural place among all the fantasy. I love the idea of giving one of Disney’s evil characters her day in the spotlight, and everything about that process fascinates me: I love the dark tones of this trailer alone. And Elle Fanning will, I’m sure, be equally entrancing to watch. Consensus: As a kind of anti-princess tale, I’m totally in. I hope it is indeed Maleficent’s side of the story in enough of a way where it seems original but respectful. I think it looks pleasantly creepy, a daring move for a studio whose princesses were always the draw; I’m happy to see a potential defiance of that.

The Past (Limited release December 20th, 2013)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLKpTRilMFc

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There are moments in life where cliches are simply the best articulations of emotion, and this is one of those times: inevitably, I must say that Asghar Farhadi has done it again (there, I said it). There is something about this trailer that sort of defies explanation; I couldn’t tell you precisely what about it gave me chills. The dialogue we are given, the strained and conflicted human emotion that reminds me so much of his A Separation, with an equally complex and difficult but strong and dynamically beautiful female center, this time in the form of the astounding Berenice Bejo of The Artist fame. The tense humanity and relationships that poke through even during this short trailer are enough to suck us in and keep us there, painfully and poignantly. Consensus: I wouldn’t be surprised if this garnered him another Oscar nod. It looks like an unbelievably honest and pure work.

Noah (Release March 28th, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qmj5mhDwJQ

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I’m convinced that Darren Aronofsky is punking us with this. The end credits will feature Ashton Kutcher in his old trucker cap joined by Aronofsky laughing at us for paying the ticket price. This movie just doesn’t seem like something he’d ever do, nor does it seem like it’s something anyone would ever do for that matter. To me, this trailer played like a fake trailer within a movie or television show, an almost farce of current Hollywood perversions. I have no qualms with the cast, although Crowe looks like even he was phoning in his cheesy-best for this biblical epic, and Hopkins looks like a weathered version of his Thor character, Odin, but that would be mixing up mythologies. Consensus: Like a prehistoric version of Roland Emmerich’s 2012 this film seems like nothing more than a bloated effects-fest for the religiously inclined. I can’t imagine that he would do a bad job, mind you, but the premise and presentation seem a little laughable initially.

Winter’s Tale (Release February 14th, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBSj1MKwx6A

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My opinion on this trailer might be proof that I don’t have an empty hole in my chest where my heart should be. I’m merely more picky about what pulls effectively on its strings, and for some reason, this film seems like it will. Now, whether the film itself will be as good as this trailer was, we’ll have to wait and see. My first impressions are often proven wrong by critical response and box office success. However, I do have high hopes for this fantastical romance. Colin Farrell is amazing, and so is Russell Crowe despite that semi-distracting Irish accent. The sort of time-travel/reincarnation aspect of the plot is something I didn’t see coming, and that was refreshing for a genre whose trailers and films are often predictable, so I kind of like the surrealism here that might help with that predictability (of course there are formula pitfalls even when trying to do something new or different). So I’m definitely intrigued. The song choice and editing were also spot on, albeit a little sentimental but I was sold rather than put off. Consensus: I’m hoping this film is fresh and truly affecting as opposed to the same cyclical love story fodder we are often given around Valentine’s Day. I think the story seems unique, the acting and visuals are breathtaking, and I think any aforementioned sentimentality will be in the films favor if its played genuinely, offsetting any supernatural element the film may also entail.

Preview Review: Random Trailers!

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Halloween! For those of you already feeling over the holiday, here are some random trailers of all genres for anyone seeking a change of pace.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Release– May 24th, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9-9U6Rm46U

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This trailer relies heavily on the glitz and glamour of bringing together both sets of X-Men casts, and I hate to say it (or do I?) but it works. The swelling music effectively, albeit predictably, carries the dramatic montage which reveals all our favorite X-Men from every movie in the series up until this point, so much so that I don’t even know what substance is truly being given here, if any. What is the plot? What is the premise? Well, based on this trailer, all we really need to know as fans and moviegoers in general I guess is that the gang’s all here. And in a way, that’s all we really need to get us excited about a movie based on comics which themselves were driven by and bloated with a multitude of interesting and varying characters. ConsensusAs a fan of the X-Men franchise, I am pumped for this film. It’s the kind of thing I’d be excited for regardless of the trailer, to be honest. However, I do think this trailer does a good job of knowing the film’s strengths and shows us precisely what we want to see most, without giving away too much (or anything at all really); plus, they save the most epic moment for last, which is another smart strategy. Seeing Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier communicating face to face with James McAvoy’s is enough to blow anyone, whose seen the films that is, away.

Labor Day (Release: Limited on December 25th, 2013 and wide on January 31st, 2014)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AhKaOgrQOs

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I have mixed feelings on this trailer. Part of me feels like it gave away too much. Part of me wants more (which is, I guess, the very effect that any good trailer should have). I think the warm colors, music, and acting even within these two minutes are however undeniably beautiful, the cast being what first drew me to this film when I heard about it. With Jason Reitman directing, I am filled with hope that what could come across as over dramatic in a Hallmark movie sort of way will actually be toned down or at least stylized appropriately, making us truly believe this story, and truly connect with and care for these seemingly broken individuals as if they were real. I feel like that is something this trailer, and I’ll assume the whole movie, has going for it; something intense that is stylized and performed in such a way that we can get behind it, as opposed to something that could equally induce eye rolling if not approached as carefully. Consensus: I trust Reitman in his treatment of the source material and I trust these actors in particular to support that material, seeing as I get the impression it would take their kind of nuanced talent and Reitman’s visual but earthy style to really hit home, without necessarily hitting us over the head.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Release April 4th, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvD6clUAWdA

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So, I didn’t really know what was going on in this trailer, besides all the typical Marvel action stuff, including ScarJo and Sam Jackson reprising their SHIELD roles and Chris Evans looking characteristically handsome as he tries to adjust to the modern world. Before reading any kind of synopsis, I was confused as to who the villain was even though the title gives us a name, and the disconnect kind of bothered me. But, I can understand the discrepancy if it is indeed for the sake of leaving us with mystery and intrigue. That being said, even what is shown is only mildly satisfying in my opinion. The pieces themselves aren’t the issue though. In fact, individually, every moment when taken apart seems exciting enough, but put together, it feels like a disjointed cacophony of everything we’d expect from a Marvel trailer, like I said, but without any kind of cohesion and above all, without anything we haven’t seen before. Consensus: In a post-Avengers world, I’m starting to wonder how individual superhero franchises within the Marvel umbrella are going to fare. By that, I don’t mean that they won’t be successful. I think this film will indeed be unquestionably lucrative. I merely mean to say that with each trailer, I grow a little more familiar and therefore filled with ever-so-slightly less wonder than maybe I had been filled with when the first of each of these series’ had come out. Sure, origin stories can grow tired and worn out, but to sustain the good thing you have going once you actually make a great one? That is a super heroic feat in itself.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Release March 7th 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fg5iWmQjwk

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Wes Anderson has done it again, and when I say “it,” I really don’t know what I’m referring to. He’s the kind of director whose work is so distinct that his very name should be entered into the dictionary as an adjective to describe his own work, and with each film, he gets more and more… well, “Wes Anderson-y” (Okay so maybe it doesn’t roll off the tongue but can we really think of any better word to adequately label his movies?) This film has all his trademark players, the pretentiously witty dialogue, and the surreal color palate, the likes of which we saw in his last feature, 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom. I do love the way this trailer captures Anderson’s spirit, and the way it gives us the set-up but still with that quirky and madcap what-the-heck-is-going-on kind of vibe that I feel like is important throughout his canon. Consensus: This one definitely looks more slapstick and strange than the whimsical and simple love story we saw in Moonrise Kingdom, but then again, I feel like that is precisely what will set this film apart from his other work while also having it be so stylistically characteristic of it at the same time; it looks like what a Wes Anderson blockbuster would look like, or at least, if that weren’t such an oxymoron anyway.

Contracted (Limited release November 22nd, 2013)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hITC5xoox3s

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Well, I never promised there wouldn’t be any horror trailers on this list. I have been excited about Eric England’s independent film, about a one night stand gone awry when a woman contracts some kind of mysterious (and grotesquely terrifying, based on this trailer) disease, ever since I heard its distribution rights were picked up by IFC Midnight. The trailer did not disappoint, and in fact, a trailer has not in quite some time simultaneously and deeply thrilled and disgusted me as much as this one. It is chilling and shows us just enough but not too much, and with horror especially this balance can really make or break the way audiences think about seeing a film. Everything that happens in this trailer is creepy, really, from its most subtle and drawn out moments we assume to come early on in the film to those we only see in rapidly edited glimpses of the mayhem that probably ensues in the latter portions of the film. And the blurb reviews certainly don’t hurt its cause either. Consensus: I was eager to see this movie even before I saw the trailer, and now I’m 100% sold on it. I have high hopes, considering the trailer alone may or may not give me cinematic nightmares of a sexually transmitted zombie plague.

Preview Review In Focus– Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

I wrote my first Redhead Temper post partly about the future (and past) of the Paranormal Activity series, specifically the announcement that a Spanish spin-off was in the works.

The trailer for this spin-off, entitled “The Marked Ones,” has finally arrived. And I don’t honestly know how to feel about it. And what better way to work through my tormented emotions and muddled reactions than to compose a blog post about them?

Let us begin at the beginning, shall we? The trailer opens with loud Spanish music, and found footage shots of what is revealed to be Oxnard, California. These establishing shots, so to speak, establish a tone more reminiscent of an urban, ethnic remake of Project X (a found footage film from 2012 that centered around an out-of-control party, my complaint always being that found footage works best for genre films and that if wanted to see drunken escapades on shaky cams we would just find those on the internet instead of spending money to see them played out haphazardly on an unnecessarily large screen).

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Now, before I proceed, let me just clarify that given the new characters being introduced into the Paranormal mythological canon, I cannot complain that the trailer decides to focus slightly on this new environment, seeing as we are, mostly, unfamiliar with how it will function within said canon. Besides, 30 seconds in, we get what we came here in droves for for (and flock to this trailer we did: this official trailer distributed by the Paranormal Activity YouTube account 502, 317 views in approximately 24 hours).

Our handheld-camera-wielding surrogate walks us through a dark and disheveled “crime scene,” breaking (or, in a way, I suppose following) the main rule of horror films perfectly: sticking his nose, and camera, where he doesn’t belong.

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As much as I want to hope and even assume this film will be different and daring in its use of found footage and its playing with the history that has been building with each subsequent installment, his discovery of a box of VHS tapes once belonging to (and documenting, presumably) Katie and Kristi makes me feel that been-there-done-that sense of franchise fatigue, recalling the entire premise and structure of Paranormal Activity 3 (which, in and of itself I’m not necessarily knocking; I was genuinely pleased and terrified by the 2011 entry in all its old-fashioned surveillance glory).

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Similarly, there is the “black magic stuff” mentioned in the trailer, as the camera’s flashlight illuminates things like dream catchers and candles, which are not scary, by the way; they must not have gotten the memo that scary basements really have to up their ante now, at least for me, if they ever want to compete with the creepiness of Cabin in the Woods‘ fateful underground trap of choices. Anyway, the witchcraft suggestion too reminds me of the third film, and I’m only intrigued so far as I’m hoping there is something more to this aspect of the film than merely referencing a tired trope has already come before in the previous films without advancing it in new and interesting directions.

Speaking of new and interesting directions, I will say that to have a spin-off of this sort at all does carry with it the potential, and a simultaneous sense of dread and expectation for fans like myself, for breathing life into a series which increasingly bogged itself down in its own pretentious form and spiraling, sputtering back story that became just as trite as the very genre films that the original Paranormal Activity seemed to be so separate from back in 2009.

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What really threw me in a positive way, no pun intended, was the moment in this trailer where something unseen propels two aggressors violently off of our protagonist. But from here, everything else seems pretty safe. Even the creepiest moment of the trailer, which I’ll admit grossed me out (anyone pulling anything out of their eye or face is bound to get me) reminds me of a scene in the Evil Dead remake from last year, and I was simultaneously loving the slight gore at the same time as feeling disappointed that even these films have ventured towards that end of the spectrum, when what made them so scary to begin with was a minimalist approach to things going bump in the night.

Then we have Kristi’s step daughter telling a character everything we already know even though the characters she is talking to do not, therefore wasting our time somewhat. Then, she reveals that when someone is marked they become the host. The whole movie is given to us in a nutshell then, even though if this was going to turn into a typical possession movie (which, more or less, it looks like it would have) we would eventually come to the oh-so-predictable portion where characters leaf through ancient demonic texts and talk to creepy but all-knowing experts about the nature of the evil at hand. I just wish the trailer didn’t spoon-feed that part to us so neatly, because now there is no surprise. Then again, why not give it away; anyone already familiar with this aspect of the films’ driving supernatural force could guess precisely what is happening to these new characters, making me question what the point is of even introducing them to us at all.

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So, my current consensus is this: yes, there were some gleefully creepy moments particularly in the rapidly-edited latter 20 seconds or so of the trailer. But overall, I can’t help but wonder if this film will indeed rejuvenate or ruin (further) the franchise or if it maybe will even go so far as to ignore the potential for found footage genre film making altogether. The trailer’s use of handheld and shaky first person camera work makes it feel realistic enough, sure, but if we’re dealing with nothing more than an old fashioned possession story with a little bit of Santeria thrown into the mix for the sake of trying desperately to be different just out of principle, then we’re neither adding anything useful to the series nor anything exciting to the subgenre as a whole, which I would argue the original three films actually did. I guess we’ll have to wait until its release in January of 2014 to find out if my predictions (and concerns) are correct or (hopefully) not.

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Preview Review: Trick or Trailer

This installment of preview review is dedicated to all things genre, in celebration of my very fun but very exhausting weekend at Comic-Con as well as the fact that it is now my favorite month, with just weeks to go until Halloween and the new season of The Walking Dead finally starting last night.

I, Frankenstein (January 24th, 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxOSPfUw3qw

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Oh boy, where do I begin? Well, first of all, let me just say that I was not as upset as I was expecting to be; Aaron Eckhart’s creature has apparently been around the block quite a few times, which is to say he is actually 200 years old and I give this film (and the graphic novel it was based on) credit then for giving him that time and opportunity to learn how to be articulate and educated like he was in the book. See, I bet people are expecting me to either be totally opposed to seeing this film or totally excited, given my love for all things Frankenstein. However, after seeing this trailer I’m basically on the fence. Aaron Eckhart is so brooding in this trailer alone that I can’t imagine what a drag he’s going to be for the entirety of the film; he, as an actor, has such charm and wit that being totally one sided as he seems to be here is a shame and a waste of potential, and if we’re doing the character justice at all I would hope to see some complexity there. Also, once the trailer said that this is from the same folks who brought us the all too black-and-blue Underworld flicks– with their saturated special effects and neo-gothic sets and costumes–  it all made sense to me, and I can’t say I see there being a huge difference in this film and those films besides swapping out creatures. Consensus: I’m curious but skeptical; it looks to me like it has the potential to be entertaining but not if it takes itself as seriously as this trailer did.

Vampire Academy (February 14th, 2014)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH5UmVStHXE

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So before watching this trailer, and again having no knowledge that it was adapted from a novel, I was expecting the worst. I was expecting yet another installation into an ever decaying subgenre of teenybopper vampire fodder, filled with angst and hormonal romance. After I watched it, I wasn’t so certain any longer just how true any of that is or will prove to be. The story itself isn’t represented at all in the trailer, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing seeing as it is a little convoluted for such a short trailer: a group of half-human half-vampire beings attend a school to train for a life of protecting their own kind against, and killing, the other group of vampires who intend harm. The trailer is a lot more gritty and sexy and action packed than your run of the mill trailer for similar movies, which is why I’m hoping that this movie won’t be similar at all. Consensus: I probably wouldn’t spend money to see it in theaters, but it certainly looks like it could rise above the ranks of other genre movies made for younger demographics.

Birth of the Living Dead (October 18th, 2013)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TowiviD3xgE

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My favorite thing about this trailer, besides the subject matter of course, is the way it first sets up the crucially important historical and social context in which George A. Romero made his seminal zombie feature, Night of the Living Dead. The trailer is more or less a sequence of shots from the movie alternating with still images and news reels from the time; between Vietnam and the civil rights movement, these contexts are still so pertinent in discussing this film that a whole documentary was centered around it, and interviews with Romero himself really round out the trailer and I expect they really add that personal insight to the film as well, insight that is equally crucial to understanding the (re-)birth of the zombie subgenre in horror. Consensus: I think more documentaries should exist with the level of quality and reverence to the subject matter as this one seems to have, but which actually focus on horror as a reflection of society; as a genre with such little respect paid despite these constant correlations, documentaries which offer proof of these connections are possibly invaluable.

Ender’s Game (November 1st, 2013) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP0cUBi4hwE

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All homophobia-induced plans to boycott this film aside, this trailer was… just mediocre. Everything about it was safe and typical, and as trailers are meant to indicate something about the movie it is giving us a sneak peek at, I wonder how safe and typical the film as a whole will be. The cast is great: Harrison Ford actually seems to be a little bored, but other than that, I mean Asa Butterfield from Hugo looks like he’d do a great job, as would Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld. Then we’ve got the consistently spectacular Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis, but even they seem to be phoning it in, at least in the snippets we get from the trailer that feature their characters. The sets and special effects look par for the course; not bad by any means but just predictable. Consensus: I probably won’t want to see this movie; not because of the boycott but because it just doesn’t look like it will have anything unique to offer the sci-fi genre. If someone convinces me that this isn’t the case, or that despite this it actually is effective in its predictability and entertaining on some level as a result, then maybe I’d change my mind. But the trailer alone only succeeds at showing us what we already expect to see.