Sunday, June 30, 2013

Too many trailers (and we're not talking double wide)

 That's the trailer for the upcoming film The Family which opens September 13th.  The comedy finds Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer  and their kids leaving the mob for witness relocation which creates problems for their handler Tommy Lee Jones.

For our movie roundtable today, we all made a point to see The Heat and White House Down.  The Family trailer played before each film and was a huge hit, garnering laughter and applause for lines (and for Pfeiffer grabbing flammables in the supermarket).

That's a good thing and the trailer did just what its supposed to do, create excitement about the film.

But while a trailer featuring De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones will be remembered, others won't.

Which brings us to the problem.

Before The Heat, we had to endure trailers and more trailers.   Some had four, some had eight, but six was the average.

Along with The Family, there was a trailer for Grown Ups 2, About Time, The Wolverine, We're The Millers and Runner Runner.

Grown Ups 2 is a film for every guy who wished he had his head up his buddy's ass but was too in the closet to ask.  The Adam Sandler film traffics in guys who likes guys but allows enough "ew!"s to make everyone okay with the four men being forced to strip down (by other men) and jump into a body of water with one landing on top of the other.  We're not done.  They also get to go to a car wash and have scantily clad cheerleaders bump and grind on and in their car.  Sound sexy?  They're male cheerleaders.  At some point, Adam Sandler's probably going to need to admit that the joke isn't about gay people but about seemingly straight people who can't come out of the closet.

About Time.  Most of us couldn't even remember what this was?  Then C.I. said, "It's the British comedy about the young man who, like his father, can go back in time."  Oh, yeah.  See, that's what we mean about too many trailers meaning some won't be remembered.

Grown Ups 2 is awful, so you don't forget it.  But a pleasing trailer featuring people we don't know quickly gets lost in the shuffle.

The Wolverine grabbed us all with Famke Janssen's appearance in the trailer.  Though Jean Grey is on for but a few seconds in the film, it was smart to stress that in the trailer because it reminds us all of why we care about Wolverine to begin with.  There are a lot of strong battles and some great stunts.  But the most memorable moment are those few seconds between Janssen and Hugh Jackman.  Next time, how about Wolverine and Phoenix film?

Few trailers grabbed the audiences.  As we already noted, The Family was an exception.  Wolverine was as well, you could see everyone stop hunching and sit up when Janssen and James were on screen.  Surprisingly, another one that did well was We're The Millers.  A man hires a stripper to play his wife and two young adults to play his kids so he can go down to Mexico in an RV as a family and make it back through customs smuggling a ton of pot.

What takes this a big beyond a Cheech and Chong bong hit are the two leads, Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis.  Audiences howled at this trailer.

By contrast, Runner, Runner had people talking through the trailer, making snide remarks at the screen and flat out booing.  This film stars Justin Timberlake and he's just not seen as very convincing -- with that squeaky voice -- as a man.  In the film, he's playing a college student and the sad fact there is that he's also not very convincing as a boy.  At 32, he's way too old for the role but when you can't convincingly project masculinity on screen, you're forced into the sort of juvenile roles Joshua Jackson tossed aside as the 90s were ending.  Ben Affleck plays the adult who corrupts our innocent Miss Justin. If it feels like 800 movies you've already sat through twenty times before, there's a reason for that and the reason goes to why Leo DiCaprio is producing the film but not starring in it despite that having been the original plan.

Woah, woah, woah! You say, "The Heat is a comedy and they may not have liked any thriller."  That's true -- even if calling something as obvious as Runner, Runner a thriller stretches the term to the point of snapping.

But, like The Family, Runner, Runner was also a preview before White House Down.  If the attacks on Justin Timberlake's non-existent onscreen manhood were harsh from The Heat audiences, you should have heard what the audiences made up of more men than women had to say about Justin as they waited to watch White House Down.

White House Down forced some of us to sit through 10 trailers but the average was seven.

One trailer was for a sequel and it gripped the audience.

No, not the Thor 2 trailer which bombed.  Insidious: Chapter 2.  The original film was a surprise, sleeper hit.  Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne buy a new home and find that it effects their son.  Barbara Hershey, as Wilson's mother, shows up with help and the truth that Wilson went through something similar as a boy.   The primary cast is back and the trailer was greeted with screams, laughs and applause.

Thor: The Dark World probably would have gone over better with less Loki.  The tragically ridiculous character had become a joke by the end of The Avengers -- right around the time the Hulk pummeled him.  He's now about as threatening as Sir Hiss in Disney's Robin Hood.  A better trailer would have focused on Thor and Jane and how she's now in jeopardy in his world.

It wasn't the worst trailer.  That would be 2 Guns.  This Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington film surely has some point.  The actors wouldn't have signed up otherwise.  But the trailer casts the film as a dumb  and incoherent mess, as though this is The Big Hit II.

We call that the worst trailer because we believe that Washington and Wahlberg on screen have to be worth watching and that the trailer's screwed that up.

Some might argue that Elysium was the worst trailer.  We disagree because it's selling the film that was made.  And that film's biggest obstacle?  Asking audiences to identify with the downtrodden in an escapist film.  These are the hardy rogues of The Matrix, these are people who are bad off and represented by Matt Damon.  And as we enter the darkened and chilled theaters to escape the heat in August are we really wanting to identify as the downtrodden?  Matt's got no hair.  That's what we're supposed to identify with?  We're poor and and we have nothing and we don't even get to be the sexy poor?  The better off are led by Jodie Foster who appears to have based her performance on Sharon Stone's villainous Laurel Hedare in the bomb that was 2004's Catwoman.

And then there is Captain Phillips.  Tom Hanks has been called the Jimmy Stewart of today.  Jimmy Stewart first found film success in the forties and Hanks in the eighties.  Watching the trailer for this film where Hanks plays a captain whose modern-day ship is taken over by pirates, we were also reminded that Stewart's best performances and finest films were in the 40s and fifties.  Like Stewart, Hanks has worn out his welcome with thirteen years now of bad performances in bad films which overshadow his work in the 80s and 90s.

The makers of Captain Phillips should be thrilled that their bad trailer was shown with so many others.  All anyone will remember is that Tom Hanks has a new film coming out -- if they even remember that.  But as our own reaction to About Time (which looks like a charming film) demonstrates, all these trailers don't allow many to be remembered.  And we are being kind.  We saw other 'trailers' as well before the lights dimmed.  We saw the ad for Comedy Central's Drunk History, for example, and other TV attractions.  The pre-trailer trailers, in fact, served to lower the expectations for the actual film trailers.

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