Trailers of the Week: Killing Them Softly, The Paperboy, Skyfall and More

Killing Them Softly (October 19)

Silver: Brad Pitt should just forget about mass-appeal fare like Moneyball and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s so perfectly suited for characters that exist on the fringes — 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Inglourious Basterds, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Even if they’re expansive thematically and visually, Pitt is a performer who shines when he’s more understated, so smaller, more intimate narratives like Killing Them Softly play to his strengths. With KTS, Pitt reunites with Jesse James writer/director Andrew Dominick, and looks at ease playing a sleazy enforcer called in to “clean up” after a gangster’s card game gets held up. Although this film feels a little cheekier, it definitely exudes a Drive vibe. Like Nicolas Winding Refn, Softly director Dominick appears to have infused his offshore sensibilities and visuals into this inherently American story (Dominick is from New Zealand). I’m also looking forward to seeing Pitt and James Gandolfini onscreen together again. The two of them had terrific chemistry in Gore Verbinski’s underrated The Mexican.

Browne: The use of Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” in this trailer is perfect. No one else would fit besides The Man in Black. Thank you, studio people, for not picking another song from Watch the Throne or “We Found Love.” Thank you so much.

The Big Wedding (October 26)

Silver: This past Tuesday night, AMC was airing The Godfather: Part II at the same time that The Deer Hunter was on one of the HBO channels. And if I hadn’t had been flipping back and forth and thoroughly engaged in both films, I might have more sarcastic things to say here. But after seeing De Niro fully inhabit two different yet equally challenging roles in classics like these, I’m just left feeling sad about this completely humor-devoid trailer for The Big Wedding. This was a guy who at one point in his career was considered one of cinema’s finest actors. Now he’s starring in his second film with Katherine Heigl in the past 12 months.

Browne: I have an admission to make: I enjoyed Katherine Heigl in this trailer. I wasn’t upset to see her. I actually smiled at one of the things she said. I’m going to go to the hospital now to get checked out.

The Paperboy (October 5)

Silver: I’m utterly confused by this trailer. The first 40 seconds exude a brooding Heat of the Night–eque crime drama, and then just as you’re getting acclimated to the jarring doo-wop music, split-screen images of Zac Efron swimming and Nicole Kidman adjusting her breasts, and ultra-wide-angle black-and-white shots of some fat-faced sheriff, a smarmy John Cusack appears onscreen, and the trailer’s tone quickly transitions to that of a traditional legal thriller (right down to the James Horner–Hans Zimmer sound-alike music). I’m really curious to find out what The Paperboy really is. And the dichotomy of opinions from audiences and critics out of Cannes only heightens my interest in the film.

Browne: I have another admission: I think Zac Efron is a really serious, not bad actor and he’s captivating in this trailer. I’m going to go back to that hospital and get a second opinion about my mental health.

Skyfall (November 9)

Silver: In a series that started in 1962 and spans 23 films, it’s inevitable that homage will be paid and characteristics appropriated from film to film. Aside from the Bond staples — “Bond. James Bond,” the Walther PPK, Q (welcome back) — what popped out to me the most in this latest trailer is the potential similarities this installment shares with Goldfinger. By all previously reported accounts, Skyfall is setting aside the mass global conspiracy narrative established in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and is instead telling a self-contained espionage story. This is exactly the same approach taken in 1964’s Goldfinger, which turned its back on the evil shadow organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (so deftly set up as Bond’s primary foe in both Dr. No and From Russia With Love), and instead told a single story of Bond hunting down an insane megalomaniac trying to send the world’s finances into upheaval. And with Goldfinger being the one that vaulted the Bond films from being successful to a solid, sustainable, and lucrative franchise (Goldfinger’s box office totals doubled that of its predecessor, From Russia With Love), it should be no surprise that after the overwhelmingly negative response to 2008’s Quantum of Solace that the Bond producers are opting to employ the same tactic with Skyfall. Remind fans why they love James Bond with a simply great film. I also think it’s important to note, and not a coincidence, that Skyfall and Goldfinger are both Connery and Craig’s third films as Bond.

Browne: This film has one thing I care about, and it’s the reemergence of Creepy Bardem (always said in a whisper). His role as Anton Chigurh in 2007′s No Country for Old Men terrified me for months, but subsequently turned me into a giant fan of bad-hair-do Bardem. Then he went on a tear with a few “desirable man” roles in Vicky Christina Barcelona and Eat Pray Love. I wasn’t mad at these roles, but I wanted my guy back. Well, he’s back and he looks perfect.

Taken 2 (October 5)

Silver: When I need some encouragement or prodding, I’d like to have a program that generates MP3s of Liam Neeson sternly whispering orders to me.

“I want you to wake up, get out of bed, and go into the shower. Do not hit your snooze button again.”

“Listen to me carefully. Pack the car. And drive to your mother-in-law’s now. No deviations. Do you understand?”

But to Taken 2. I didn’t particularly like the first Taken [Ed. note: (Covers ears, screeching) WHAAAATTT???], but watching a grizzled Neeson kick the crap out of baddies is immeasurably watchable no matter what the context. So when is Hollywood going to get it and just place Jason Statham and Neeson in a film together? It doesn’t even need a plot. They can battle each other, team up, or battle each other and then team up. Who cares? Someone just needs to make it happen.

Browne: A conversation:

Daughter: What are you going to do?
Dad: What I do best.

In the real world, one would hope that Dad’s answer implied “be a good father.” In the world of Liam Neeson, however, “What I do best” means “Kill anyone who gives me the slightest of side-eyes.”

This is going to be so good. I’m so glad he’s not a childless bachelor.

Paranormal Activity 4 (October 19)

Silver: The strength of the Paranormal Activity franchise resides in the recessed and darkened corners of the frame. So for a film like this to succeed, each scare must be executed like a good magic trick, with a setup that both distracts from and hints at the impending scare. Then it’s all about timing — when and how to reveal the “scary.” I liked the final bit in this trailer with the teenage girl video chatting. It’s shrewdly edited together, and the young girl’s performance was sufficiently believable. So I honestly didn’t care that this whole bit was utterly predictable (the big empty space over her right shoulder at the 1:08 mark was just screaming for something evil to inhabit it), I’m not buying a ticket to Paranormal Activity 4 to be surprised by its plot twists. I just want to be creeped out.

Browne: I took off my headphones and looked away from the screen for 15 percent of this trailer, because I’m scared of the dark and a coward. I’m sure many people across this great country will love this film. I hope all of you have fun.

Bachelorette — Red Band Trailer (August 10, VOD; September 7, Theatrical)

Silver: Three reasons why it’s impossible for me to hate Bachelorette.

  1. The promise of Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan acting all lewd and trampy. These talented comedians have long been numbers 1 and 2 on my “If the opportunity arises, you can leave me because they’re funny and Jewish” list I worked up with my wife.
  2. The film’s written and directed by Leslye Headland. Who? Oh, she was just a staff writer on one of the most grossly underrated and tragically canceled shows of all time, called Terriers. That’s who.
  3. Scenes between Adam Scott and Caplan to hold me over until the Party Down movie comes out.

Browne: Caplan/Dunst/Fisher are so good in this trailer, they have fully convinced me that they are gurls in real life and get rip-roaringly drunk every night and say lewd things to each other because they’re the coolest ever. So yeah, I’m sold.

Filed Under: Bachelorette, Killing them Softly, Skyfall, Taken 2, Trailers of the Week, Zac Efron

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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