The fact that this trailer is for the same comic franchise that brought us the horrendous Batman v. Superman trailer a few months ago is frankly astonishing. Seriously, Warner Brothers, pay attention. This is how you do a trailer. It beautifully establishes the tone of the film while not giving away much of the plot. Tone is especially important with a movie like Suicide Squad. After all, there are a lot of directions a movie about murderous maniacs saving the world could take. But based on the use of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (which is perfectly timed with the action on screen) and on the jokes interspersed throughout the trailer, it appears the film will have a Guardians-esque humorous quality but with a more gritty and intense bent, relatively similar to its comic book source material. As far as plot, the trailer really only tells us that a nebulous authority (maybe the government, maybe the police) puts together this team of homicidal and unlikely heroes to save society from some threat, possibly the Joker. Our glimpses of the Joker are tantalizingly brief. Jared Leto has pretty big shoes to fill — and not just because he’s playing a clown. Heath Ledger’s incarnation of the character is arguably the best portrayal, not just of the Joker, but of any superhero villain on the big screen (see the Buffer podcast tribute to the Joker by Kurt Thiemann). Since it’s unlikely Leto could live up to Ledger in a mere trailer, it’s for the best that we don’t see too much of him here. For those who have said DC is just trying to copy Marvel’s cinematic success but without putting in the work, this is the movie that could change your mind. Suicide Squad promises to be quite different from any of its predecessors in the superhero genre, primarily because it doesn’t have any heroes, at least not any good ones.
A movie with no heroes may save the DC cinematic universe.
Also check out Kurt’s podcast to learn more about Heath Ledger’s delightfully chaotic portrayal of the Joker.
The Joker’s Ordered Chaos
I’ll admit it; when I was younger I loved the first Independence Day movie for what it was. A good old America hoo-ha action flick that I have watched on many Fourth of Julys. Was it a great film? Not exactly, but it was memorable for the special effects, the one liners, and the spirit. Twenty years from the release of the first film, there is now going to be a sequel: Resurgence. Set in 2016 (and slated for a summer 2016 release date), this movie continues down the alternate timeline in which we were invaded by aliens in 1996. And what a timeline that is. The trailer shows how we adapted alien tech to empower our defenses while waiting for the second wave of alien invasion, because like anyone who has ever played Space Invaders knows, there is always another wave coming.
Continue reading Independence Day: Resurgence…because one wasn’t enough
It’s almost January, which means the next big Marvel movie is only four months away! We can persevere through the harsh winter and the allergy-ridden spring knowing that the Cap will be back at it again, bouncing people off his patriotic shield and punching his way into our hearts. The Captain America: Civil War trailer displays more of the edgy anti-establishment vibe that the previous installment, The Winter Soldier, had but on a more personal level for our star. However, in order to understand this emotional depth, you’d have to watch the Marvel films that come before it. Oh, did I forget to mention that this is the thirteenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? That’s over 25 hours of glorious screen time, but no worries! You have four months to catch up. As the birth child of many action-packed Marvel movies, it opens all sorts of riveting questions about Steve Rogers’ relationship with the New Avengers, Tony Stark, and Bucky…especially Bucky. Maybe too much Bucky, up to the point where it may feel more like a drama than an action film, and the poignant melody and less-than-usual explosions don’t help. And yet it’s a satisfying trailer as a whole; perhaps it’s because it only provides a little sample of what the title pertains to: the vivid conflict between Iron Man and Captain America or, as I like to call it, “the end to the Bromance That Never Was.” Following the now-canon hero-versus-hero format, this movie comes out after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but based on the trailers, Civil War won’t have to try too hard to knock its competitor out of the box office. With these odds, does Cap really want to punch his way out of this? I think we all know the answer to that.
Captain America: Civil War is PG-38 if you add the 25 hours it’ll take you to delve into the MCU.
Arguably the greatest challenge in making a trailer is treading the fine line between piquing the audience’s interest and spoiling the movie. But this trailer doesn’t even try. It opens with some nice banter between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent as each of them argues why the other’s Superhero isn’t so super. Their critical comments regarding the darker side of superheroes taking the law into their own hands fit nicely with Snyder’s grittier tone. But as the trailer moves on, you gradually realize that this isn’t a trailer, it’s the whole freaking movie. The trailer essentially reveals the entire plot. Batman and Superman’s verbal disagreements escalate into fist fights, okay no surprise there. But then Jesse Eisenberg (allegedly playing Lex Luthor but really just playing the same character he plays in every movie) gets bored watching them not kill each other fast enough, so he uses the corpse of General Zod to create what appears to be a hybrid of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a Lord of the Rings Cave Troll (though it’s probably actually based on the comic villain Doomsday). Then Batman and Superman resolve their differences to take on this greater threat. Oh yeah, Wonder Woman’s there too, but given her utter lack of dialogue, it doesn’t look like she’s the strong, interesting female superhero we’ve been waiting for. A trailer for a movie with such well known characters as Batman and Superman doesn’t need to explain the entire plot. It just needs to show us that there are well motivated reasons behind the conflict between these two heroes. This trailer was made by people at Warner Bros. who didn’t actually work on the film, and it shows. It feels far more clumsy than previous trailers and reveals far too much. To paraphrase Superman, Warner Bros. “What have you done?”
Warner Bros. needs to learn from J.J. Abrams: When it comes to trailers, less is more
Here is the trailer itself. Watch at your own risk.
“What. Do. You. Call. A. Three. Humped. Camel?” We’ve all walked into the Department of Motor Vehicles, and then left some life force behind when we emerged hours later. So I must say it’s more fun to watch the suffering than to personally experience it. And I, for one, love watching animated sloths smile at stupid jokes it took way too long for them to tell.
Continue reading The Two-Minute Smile
When Josh Brolin’s character tells you that, “an army of technicians, actors, and top-notch artistic people are working hard to bring to the screen our biggest release of the year,” you cannot help but think he is not just talking about a fictional movie production. The Coen Brothers’ latest film Hail, Caesar! creates a glamorous world of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood, but is the film self-deprecating or self-indulgent?
Continue reading The Coen Brothers’ Roman Forum
Hollywood seems to love the financial collapse of 2008 and Princeton alum Michael Lewis. In the last five years, we’ve watched Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and Inside Job explain the complicated financial meltdown to the average moviegoer. In the last five years, we’ve also watched screenplays adapted from Michael Lewis’ books, including Moneyball and The Blind Side. The Big Short, a movie about the housing bubble collapse adapted from Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, combines both of the industry’s love affairs.
Continue reading The Big Short: calculated bet or casino gambling?
When you watch the trailer for Touched with Fire, it’s easy to feel lost. It presents parallel mental breakdowns of a young woman and man, who recite pieces of poetry as they frantically write, draw, and stir a sense of confusion and anxiety in those around them. The hollow beat in the background grows louder as the trailer cuts sporadically from one image to the next, creating a crescendo effect that absorbs you into the panic as well. Everything blends into a fast blur of voices and images—and then it all stops. Suddenly, the pace of the trailer slows, and we see the same woman and man in a mental hospital trying to negotiate their way out. Continue reading Touched with Fire: The Insanity Behind Art and Love
When I was five years old, I always wondered what my dog did when she was alone. Could she talk? Could she read? Could she use the toilet instead of relieving herself right smack in the middle of the living room rug? Oh how I hoped so—and not just because I wouldn’t have to clean up her mess.
Chris Renaud’s The Secret Life of Pets has finally come to answer these burning questions. And from the film’s teaser trailer, the audience gets a sense that pets are secretly rather creative and adorably quirky—not unlike people.
Continue reading The Secret Life of Pets—Revealed!
Tarantino is back, and so is my overzealous fanboyism for the now-infallible auteur. Tarantino’s past few movies haven’t lived up to Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, but who cares? They’re still much better–aesthetically (gotta love 70mm), conceptually, etc.–than 99% of the movies that get put out in any given year. The Hateful Eight’s bottleneck concept is definitely a call back to Tarantino’s first feature, Reservoir Dogs, but I’m pretty sure, just by it’s silliness, The Hateful Eight will not be a return to true greatness. Just a continuation of good, solid filmmaking. It looks like Tarantino just wanted to have fun making a good-looking movie, in which Samuel L. Jackson gets to grow out his beard, dress up as a cowboy, and shoot white people with big fake guns. And that’s more than all right with me.
The Hateful Eight will be out in select cities on Christmas; everywhere January 8.
With a title like Chiraq, the controversy surrounding the preview for Spike Lee’s latest film was inevitable. The title is a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq, drawn from the estimation that the homicide rate in Chicago has surpassed the death toll of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. In Lee’s trailer, a smiling Samuel L. Jackson in a loud orange suit greets the audience warmly, disturbing the serious tone expected of the film. Luckily, Chiraq is satire, based on the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata. In Lysistrata, Greek women pledge celibacy until their partners negotiate a peace deal to end the Peloponnesian War. In Chiraq, the women of Chicago aim to bring an end to the city’s gun violence by doing the same. The colorful trailer sets gunshots and funerals against barbershop laughter and men gawking in strip clubs. Lee is asking substantial favors of his audiences: to trust that the comedic elements of Chiraq will not eclipse the severity of the actual gun violence that plagues the city and that he as a director can rise to such a sensitive task. But satire or not, is the city of Chicago prepared for such a film? It was only weeks ago that 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was shot dead in an alley in the city, a tragic result of gang violence. No matter Lee’s intention, perhaps it is far too soon for the subject to be broached with anything other than a solemn tone.
Chiraq opens in select theaters on December 4th.
Have you been wondering when someone would finally make a film about the inventor of the Miracle Mop? This reviewer certainly hasn’t. A comedy-drama loosely based on the life of single mother and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, David O. Russell’s third and most recent collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence tackles a subject few, if any, would consider prime material for a big-budget Christmas film. While I remain somewhat skeptical of her ability to believably portray a mother of three in her late thirties, Lawrence is predictably charming and magnetic as she introduces the film via monologue. For all the enigmatic appeal of its principal actor, however, Joy’s trailer commits the familiar fault of dragging on a little too long and giving away a little too much. Upon watching the trailer one may as well have seen an abridged highlights reel of the film, complete with the most memorable lines and moralizing subtext. If only for a strong performance by Lawrence already receiving Oscar buzz, Joy will likely still be worth your time. That said, the choice to not only cast but purposefully create roles for Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro alongside one another again so soon seems questionable at best. With Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle both fresh in recent memory, a palate cleanser may have been in order.
Joy’s trailer is no masterpiece, but it doesn’t have to be. People will watch the film for its star-studded cast even if Russell can’t seem to move on.