Trailers of the Week: John Dies at the End, Quartet, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and More

Despicable Me 2 — Trailer 2 (July 3)

Silver: Despicable Me overperformed both in quality (it had much more heart than I’d expected) and at the box office, raking in $544 million worldwide. So a sequel was inevitable. I was OK with the first teaser being a plotless piece focused on Gru’s minions, the first film’s “breakout stars.” The goal of any megahit’s sequel teaser should be to successfully remind us moviegoers why we liked a film’s brand so much in the first place. And by all accounts the previously released Beach Boys send-up succeeded. But for this second trailer to be singularly focused on the minions, reveal very little plot (so I guess aliens are in this one), and not once reference a voice cast that consists of Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, and Steve Coogan, well, it just feels like Universal is more focused on selling toys and merchandise tie-ins than on making and releasing a great movie. We soon shall see.

Browne: I wasn’t the biggest Despicable Me fan; I enjoyed it, but never had a desire to watch it a second time. I wish success didn’t always have to equate sequel, because there are just some things for which everyone should simply pat themselves on the back for a job well done and, I don’t know, think of something new to push out into the masses. This sequel will most likely do very well at the box office and, as you noted, Dan, tons of new merchandise will be sold, but I can’t imagine it being remotely as clever as the first.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters — Red Band Trailer (January 25)

Browne: With one-liners fit for an already-canceled fall drama, I have nothing good to say about this, Dan. I have this amazing feeling you don’t, either. Speak on it, brother.

Silver: I gave H&G the benefit of the doubt after seeing its first trailer, assuming that due to its pedigree the film would be more cheeky than action. But fool me twice, shame on me. With this new red band trailer I was expecting a better fusion of gore, horror, and humor. Alas, this latest look still has the film feeling more Van Helsing than Raimi. Yet, despite cringe-worthy lines like “On my signal, unleash hell,” I’m still digging Renner’s Hansel. And although there aren’t many new moments in this latest trailer, Gemma Arterton’s detached and cold delivery resonated with me this time around. But with The Evil Dead remake apparently going for straight horror, we still haven’t seen much to prove that Hansel and Gretel can step up and claim the horror/comedy throne for 2013. So where, oh where will I find my Attack the Block this coming year?

John Dies at the End (December 28 – On Demand / January 25 – Theatrical)

Silver: Oh, I guess it’ll be right here. That wasn’t very hard.

With films like Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep under his belt, any new film by writer/director Don Coscarelli is regarded as an event (albeit by a very small, ardent group of film fans). In true Coscarelli form, this trailer is sufficiently bizarre, gruesome, and hilarious. But what I love the most about John Dies in the End is that Coscarelli is essentially throwing down the cinematic gauntlet by titling the film in such a declarative way. He’s saying that what otherwise might have been a surprise ending can’t hold a candle to the insanity contained within this film. The ride itself will far exceed the payoff.

Browne: The great thing about this trailer is that for the first minute I was giving it major side-eye, and for the next minute I started to become intrigued, and the final 30 seconds I became obsessed. Turning non-believers into believers in less than three minutes — that’s the sign of a great, comes-from-out-of-nowhere trailer.

Quartet (December 28)

Silver: From Charlie Chaplin to Ben Affleck, actors taking a stab at directing is not a rare occurrence. What is rare, though, is to see such an acclaimed and seasoned performer as Dustin Hoffman make his first attempt as a credited director when his total filmography nearly equals his age — 75 (he was uncredited as director on 1978’s Straight Time). More than this, in order to give themselves the best chance to succeed, when an actor makes his or her rookie attempt behind the lens they usually do so in a familiar genre or narrative territory. So what is Dustin Hoffman doing making a seemingly straightforward comedy about a British retirement home for opera singers? Other than Dusty being old, being funny, and having a history with material focusing on interpersonal relationships (Lenny, Midnight Cowboy, Kramer vs. Kramer, and The Graduate), I can’t locate the cinematic DNA string from his previous work that would have led him to this film (as I could with the aforementioned Boston-born Ben Affleck, who acted in numerous thrillers, then made his directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone; or even Tim Robbins, an openly opinionated and political personality who wrote and directed Bob Roberts as his first film). But I fear my overly analytical mind is getting the best of me on this one. Given the breezy nature of this trailer (and the fact that Michael Gambon appears to still be wearing his Dumbledore costume), why should the inexplicability of Hoffman as director deter me from what could be a heartwarming 90 minutes during the holiday season?

Browne: Anytime old people let bygones be bygones in the name of “one last ______,” I’m there. So there. Also, the idea of a retirement home for only gifted musicians is amazing. It’s like spending your last years at a magnet school. Incredible. I hope by the time I’m 80, there’s one for Internet writers turned subway performers turned Olympians. That’s the like-minded community among whom I’d want to call it a life. Excited for this.

Bullet to the Head — Trailer 2 (February 1)

Silver: Sometimes vanilla is the best flavor. Of all the trailers released for Bullet to the Head, this one delivers the most generic and uninspired look at the film. Thus, I find it to be the most effective. I now can’t wait to see this film. Unless he’s strapping on boxing gloves and hoisting up his patriotic shorts, all I want from my Sylvester Stallone films is a plot I know the ending to when I sit down in the theater, some clever wisecracks, and ludicrous action sequences that feel like they were conceived by noun, verb, and adjective balls falling out of a Bingo spinner. Although the line sounded edited together specifically for the trailer, when Christian Slater says, “You two are insane. You’re dealing with an ax mercenary,” I couldn’t help but smile because, first, I like how the term “mercenary” had to be qualified with the word “ax.” This guy couldn’t just be any ordinary killer, he had to be one who fancied an ax. And two, by labeling said mercenary, the filmmakers effectively just promised that we’d get to see Sly in an ax fight. The glimpses we get of said ax fight are redonkulously awesome. I’m not going to just disregard all my previous uncertainties about this film, but this trailer at least felt more like a film I’d want to see.

Browne: I want to watch this film with Liam Neeson. I want to see the look on his face as he watches this film’s plot unfold, revolving around a guy who got out of the game, whose daughter gets kidnapped, and who then makes a proclamation to stop at nothing to get her back, even if it means killing everyone in his path. I want to see what he thinks about a film that has this plot. That would be something of interest to me.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation — International Trailer (March 29)

Silver: We got our first glimpse of G.I. Joe: Retaliation ages ago. Back in yonder April 2012 to be exact. A time when studios still felt post-converting a movie to 3-D was worth the time and the effort (Silly rabbits. Oh, how recent box office trends have proven you wrong). Although a bit disjointed, the G.I. Joe: Retaliation‘s trailers proved promising. And not just because hack-o-rama director Stephen Sommers (Van Helsing, The Mummy, and The Mummy Returns) was nowhere near them. New director Jon Chu appeared to bring a much-needed youthful energy and creativity to the Joe franchise, with visuals that popped and dynamic set pieces (I’m salivating for the mountainside ninja battle). So with a new release date scheduled for this coming March, it makes sense that we’re getting reacquainted with the Joes. This trailer is a “best of” from all the previous ones, with a few new tidbits sprinkled in. It’s all pretty straightforward. If you like your action comic-booky and your dialogue delivered by an oiled-up, half-smirking Dwayne Johnson, then G.I. Joe: Retaliation is for you. And despite what looks like only a minimal amount of “My Man Crush” Channing Tatum (I say “what looks like” because more reshoots with him were rumored to be one of the reasons for the film’s delayed release) and a completely unfunny Bruce Willis, I am all-in on this film.

Browne: Really, Silver? Two hundred words and no mention of Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) as Lady Jaye? It’s almost as if I don’t even know you anymore. Omissions aside, I’m weirdly pumped for this. Not exactly Avengers pumped, but definitely more than Battleship pumped. It’s kind of like the feeling when you learn another Fast and the Furious film is coming out. You know what to expect, and you have the feeling that you’re going to get just that. Very happy about this.

Filed Under: Trailers of the Week

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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