Trailers of the Week: Inside Llewyn Davis, Parkland, The Book Thief, and More

Pompeii (February 21)

Silver: This teaser was only 1:39, and I’m finding it a bit overwhelming to have this many non-cohesive negative thoughts spilling out of my head right now.

For time and space purposes, let’s just stick to the two most prominent:

  1. I’d like to be yet another faceless Internet voice so I can relish in the delight of fashioning the following snarky statement: “It’s Jon Snow Versus the Volcano.” And here’s my own little addition, “Just minus the John Patrick Shanley.”
  2. The film is directed by the hackiest of hacks currently residing in Hacksville, Paul W.S. Anderson. He’s such an awful director that the cinema gods had to punish him by ensuring his name would always be referenced in film conversations as, “No, no, no. I’m taking about the other one.”

I solely blame P.W.S.A. for nearly sending both the Alien and Predator franchises to their truedeaths. Alien vs. Predator had such potential, but was immediately deemed DOA once ole Schlocky McHackmeister, and his complete lack of storytelling skills and video-game inspired, vapid visuals, signed on to write and directed it. This it the guy who figured his big addition to these genre giant legacies, solidified by such names as Scott, Cameron, McTiernan, Fincher, and Jenuet, was to make the Predators heroes, and to include an even bigger mother alien. Truly inspired (he said snidely).

I’m betting that P.W.S.A. is a director who, other than marrying Milla Jovovich, hasn’t made a good decision, much less had an original idea, in his entire career. That’s why this film looks like a cruel cross between Gladiator, 300, Volcano, Ben-Hur, Game of Thrones, and every Roland Emmerich film ever made not named White House Down.

And I’m not even going to get into the awkward use of emo-electronica-rock.

Still not convinced? I bet you can’t think of anyone who has directed two separate films based off video games. That should really say it all.

Yoshida: Well, Uwe Boll, but let’s not get into semantics here. I confess I didn’t give the second half of this teaser my full attention because I had already opened another tab to look up the Wikipedia entry for “Pompeii” (the place, not the movie) to confirm my somewhat vague recollections from my visit there in high school. It was a very long Wikipedia entry, so to skip to what I was looking for, I control-F’ed “war.” Nothing. What about “battle”? Nope. OK. Just confirming that Jon Snow is wielding a mace at hot ash and not, say, invading Ottomans or space aliens or White Walkers.

The idea of a Pompeii movie is obviously appealing, because there are few archaeological sites more dramatic, but the reason those bodies are preserved in such evocative states is that the volcano happened KIND OF QUICKLY. The accurate Pompeii movie would be about a lot of drunk Romans having weird sex and commissioning awesome mosaics for their foyers and occasionally dealing with earthquakes and then in the last five minutes GETTING KILLED BY A VOLCANO. Which actually sounds like a great movie, or prophecy about Los Angeles. Make that movie, somebody! Bret Easton Ellis, I choose you!

 

Monsters: Dark Continent

Yoshida: I refuse to open up another Wikipedia tab, so I got nothing. Silver?

Silver: Gareth Edward’s 2010 Monsters is one of those brilliantly simplistic debut features that from the very first shot knew what it was and what it wanted to accomplish. It stayed in its lane, and ultimately scared the bejeezus out of a lot of folks.

For me, the two most memorable elements of that film were Edward’s ability to tell a far-fetched tale on a tiny budget that contained dynamic yet clearly controlled visuals, and the fact that he established a world that could undoubtedly spawn sequels or spin-off films. Clearly Hollywood took notice, for here’s a sneak peek at Monsters’ first sequel, sans Edwards, as he’s currently helming the latest Godzilla reboot/remake/reimagining/whatever.

Instead of the Mexican locale contained in the first film, this one appears to take place in the Middle East. We don’t see much in this teaser, other than a carcass, dust, and a few marines, but the tone seems right.

So we’ll soon see if Monsters can live on without its creator.

 

Blue Is the Warmest Color (October 25)

Silver: I’m calling myself out as a bad cinephile on this one.

This film’s epic love story appears to more than warrant its Palme d’Or win at last year’s Cannes Films Festival. Yet all I was thinking during this trailer was how I desperately wanted to wipe the hair out of the main character’s face, and what website I would need to go to in order to purchase the T-shirt that dude at the party was wearing at the 1:18 mark.

Shame on me.

Yoshida: I’m a bad cinephile too, if only because I’ve been hearing this title all summer, and yet this is the first time I actually have learned a bit about what its deal was.

I’ve been dealing with subtitles in films for as long as I can remember, but every once in a while there’s a foreign film that makes you yearn to speak its language fluently so you don’t have to waste time reading when you could be taking in all its emotional realness. The Lykke Li track and the blissfully fumbling makeout scenes help convey the teenage amour fou that the film seems to be marinating in, but dammit, I shoulda stuck with French in high school. I will still make an effort to see this.

 

Parkland (September 20)

Silver: Let me start by saying that I do not have an answer, or theory, to the following questions. Regardless, I do feel they are necessary to pose.

What is Hollywood’s fascination with the events in/around the lives of the Kennedy brothers? And more specifically, why do these films seemingly always have to be bursting at the seams with storylines and characters?

Now this isn’t always a bad thing; if there’s a rock-solid focus on character and objective in the underlying action, then a cavalcade of subplots and ancillary characters only enhance the experience. This was, and is, the reason why out of all the films centered on the boys from Brookline from the past 25 years, Thirteen Days is by far the most effective (and one of my 15 favorite films of all time, I might add). The central intent was clear: “We could be heading to mutual nuclear destruction with Russia. What can we do to stop it?” And no matter who traipsed into or out of a scene, the film was always concentrated on one of three characters — John, Bobby, or Kenny O’Donnell.

This was not the case in films like JFK or Bobby, which both had their cinematic merits, but suffered from spending too much time on a multitude of side stories and conjecture. As a result, the characters in those films don’t feel fully formed, and the films both play 20 to 25 minutes too long.

Based on this trailer, I’m not quite sure where Parkland falls. If the primary emphasis is on Billy Bob Thornton’s Secret Service character, and how he weaves his way through this unfathomable day, then maybe the film will have a human core for audiences to grasp onto. But if it’s a dance between Thornton, and Giamatti’s Zapruder, and Livingston’s agent, Badge Dale as Oswald’s brother, and Zac Efron’s doctor, then I fear the film will just be another entry into the “historically accurate, but emotionally insipid” lineage of Bobby and JFK.

(Side note: For anyone scoffing at Efron’s inclusion in the cast — just stop. The kid can act. Don’t believe me? Go see the criminally underappreciated The Paperboy. That is not an easy role to play, and he kills it.)

Yoshida: I agree with everything Silver said, but I do want to say that this is the second highly historically inaccurate trailer we’ve seen this week, because you know that if Zac Efron was responsible for saving JFK’s life, the president would have made it.

Other than that, yeah, the strategy with Kennedy movies seems to be the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Horatio and Laertes and Francisco and Reynaldo and the Gravediggers Are Dead approach. There’s no risk to be had in a movie like this, unless producer Tom Hanks decides to bring Forrest Gump into the mix in the third act.

 

The Book Thief (November 15)

Silver: I see a train barreling down into frame and a 1940s car traversing a snowy German landscape, and hear a melodramatic voice-over, and all I can think to myself is, Ugh, not another overly sentimental Nazi drama. But then Geoffrey Rush pops his head into the car and says “Your majesty.” And all my cynicism washes away. No matter what this film winds up being, to watch Rush and Emily Watson play a noble German husband and wife pairing is worth the price of admission.

My biggest issue here is the use, and placement, of the generic, omnipresent trailer voice-over. Appearing for the first time at 1:30 into a 2:30 trailer, it comes in much too late, and completely dismembers any established narrative, tone, and flow. And it could be the mix of the VO or the voice chosen, but it doesn’t feel like it matches what we’ve seen up to that point in the trailer. It feels very out of place, and as a result is immensely distracting.

More than this, I watched the trailer a few times just to be certain, and there’s actually no reason this voice-over should even be included. It only adds hyperbolic sentiments. The trailer would play fine without it.

Odd choice. So, not a good trailer, but still could be a good movie.

Yoshida: WHY is the trailer V.O. coming back!? This is three weeks in a row now! WHO signed off on this? Also, Dan, you should save your money; this will NOT be a good movie, because they’ve done the worst thing a movie can do: They made a child speak Screenwriter:

“I don’t have a family, or even a place to call a home. I never understood the meaning of the word ‘hope.’ But I’m about to meet the people who would change all that.”

Unforgivable. Just stop.

 

Blue Caprice (September 13)

Silver: The tragic Beltway Sniper attacks occurred long enough ago, and have unfortunately faded from memory to the point that they’re actually perfect metaphoric fodder for a psychological thriller. This is an intense trailer, and suggests a 90-minute descent down a rabbit hole of madness.

And let’s all not forget that before Isaiah Washington found himself in the muck and mire of Hollywood controversy, the guy was one of the more well-respected and powerful character actors working in Hollywood. With memorable roles in films like Clockers, Bulworth, Out of Sight (R.I.P., Tuffy the dog), True Crime, and Romeo Must Die, he’s more than capable of handling, and expounding upon, this heavy material.

Yoshida: Yes, yes, yes, yes to this. For all the serial killer/crazed murderer movies and TV shows there are out there, very few seem to ever want to dig into the muck of insanity and try to genuinely explore what would make a human being think that the horrible things they are doing are OK, aside from the most facile armchair-psychology approaches that are ultimately still meant to just scare you. It’s so much more scary to be made to actually understand all the inciting events that turned someone into the monster than to merely see them as the monster (which is why Breaking Bad is so good). Really looking forward to this one.

 

Inside Llewyn Davis (December 6)

Silver: Although still subdued, this trailer showcases more of the expected Coen brothers sense of humor than past looks. Which is probably a good thing, because in all its elegantly muted whites, blues and blacks, and grays, Llewyn Davis was starting to feel like a solid downer.

Yoshida: I like how this trailer is a Möbius strip, as Isaac is obviously about to start playing the song that has run over the trailer for F. Murray Abraham. I will automatically go to any Coen brothers movie, but I’ll admit this is the first time I’ve actually been excited for Inside Llewyn Davis. For some reason almost any movie set in winter in pre-Giuliani New York is just viscerally unpleasant to me.

 

Getaway (August 30)

Silver: So these kinds of films are just Ethan Hawke’s primary job now? OK … I guess?

I understood him taking on Sinister and The Purge. Not only were those good little films Rod Serling would be proud of, but his former colleague and cofounder of the Malaparte Theater Company, Jason Blum, produced them.

Unlike Blum, who’s produced a number of quality films (Kicking and Screaming, The Reader, Paranormal Activity, and Insidious), one of Getaway‘s 21 producers (yes, t-w-e-n-t-y o-n-e) has only one other credit, as an associate producer on Strippers vs. Werewolves.

Ethan, from me to you: A film with Selena Gomez, Jon Voight, and a cool car is not on the same level as Sinister. Go call your buddy Jason, or head down to Austin to visit Linklater. You need to take on a role worth your salt. Getaway just looks ridiculous.

(Side note: It would be closed-minded of me not to mention that Joel Silver, the legendary genre producer of all the Lethal Weapon and Matrix films, is credited on Getaway as well. The film comes from his company, Dark Castle Entertainment. But with 20 other names, and with a schlock fest of the trailer, it’s hard to tell if Silver was even involved.)

Emily Yoshida: To be fair, I would love to play Grand Theft Auto: With a Vengeance. I just don’t really care to watch it. You know how some movies look kind of neglected? I don’t mean financially or marketingwise, I’m talking about the kind of movie that just looks as if no conscious human has ever actually given five minutes of critical thinking to any of the decisions that go into making it? If a studio is a grill on a hot summer day, Getaway is the lone turkey dog on the edge that gets neglected for hours and never rotated to go over the coals and then when you accidentally serve it to someone they bite into it and it’s still cold inside.

At least this will cement Selena Gomez’s career of playing innocent high school girls for the next 50 years or when her face starts to age, whichever comes first.

Filed Under: Inside Llewyn Davis, Trailers of the Week

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Dan Silver is the director of development for ESPN Films.

Archive @ danielsilver11