Trailers of the Week: RoboCop, Runner Runner, Gravity, and More

RoboCop (February 7)

Silver: To this day Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 RoboCop is the archetype for satire and cinematic subversion. Written by Americans but directed by a Dutchman who depicted this country as he saw it through his foreign eyes, the film’s magnified and distorted view of our nation’s future was the ideal prism through which to view, and issue a warning for, the ’80s culture of excess. It’s a film that unquestionably stands the test of time, but given Hollywood’s passion for vapidly remaking and/or recycling stories, I always knew that I’d see another RoboCop. And when I did, I assumed the film would be a shell of the original.

Call me optimistic, but based on this trailer I think we’re going  get the complete opposite of that — and possibly something more aligned with the DNA of Verhoeven’s original.

First off, the helming duties have fallen to another great foreign visualist, Jose Padilha, who, with films like Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and even the documentary Bus 174, proved that he knows how to interweave substantive material with tension and action. Then there is the enormously talented cast, with performers — Oldman, Keaton, Jackson, Baruchel, and Haley — who all have the ability to seamlessly dance between earnestness and irony (just as Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise, and Miguel Ferrer did in the original). And given the sociopolitical climate we’re living in, I’d say that the filmmakers couldn’t have picked a better time to resurrect this walking metaphor.

If I had to find something to nitpick on I’d say that the digital version of Murphy landing at 1:50 looks a little too iRobot for my taste. And I’m a little weary of the scenes where it appears Murphy fights a bunch of RoboCop-like sentinels. We get a glimpse of ED-209 in this trailer; why can’t they just stick with the mano a mano? The swarm-of-robots narrative device is so overused.

But strip away the über-action moments from this trailer, and it seems this RoboCop is going to have some depth to go with its carnage — man’s relationship with technology, corporate greed, messaging vs. consumption, and (wait for it) free will. And I’d buy that for a dollar.

Yoshida: In the interest of keeping this week’s trailer report under 8 billion words, this looks cool.

 

Neighbors — Red-Band Trailer (May 9)

Silver: I liked this trailer. I liked it a lot. I laughed a few times (hardest when Seth Rogen winds up shoeless from the force of the “airbagging”) and cringed (in a good way) at “Take it sleazy,” but Neighbors intrigues me more for a slew of other reasons.

All three of director Nicholas Stoller’s previous films were produced by Judd Apatow (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and Five Year Engagement). This will be his first directorial effort sans Judd. I’m initially fascinated by its “My little baby’s all growns up” quality, as if all of Apatow’s spawn gathered together to prove to Papa they can go it alone. Neighbors is produced by the Apatow doppelgänger twins Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Rogen stars in the film alongside Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bridesmaids’ Rose Byrne (both films produced by Apatow). And the script was written by two rookie feature scribes named Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, whose previous credits include assistant or associate producer positions on such Apatow films as 40 Year Old Virgin, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Funny People.

Sheesh! And that’s not even the part that interests me the most.

To put it in sports terminology, Neighbors is pretty much a “must win” for both Stoller’s and Zac Efron’s careers. This isn’t to say these two haven’t done some really good work recently, but neither have quite matched the box office success of their initial career highs (Sarah Marshall and High School Musical, respectively). They both need a hit here … badly. So I think it was a smart move for Stoller not to go hyphenate on Neighbors (just director, not producer). And Efron is taking a big risk by going up against a straight man played by Seth Rogen — a dude who essentially built his career on roles just like the one Efron is playing here. But from what we can see in this red-band trailer, both Stoller and Efron seem to be in their zones, so expectations should be high.

One more thing: Can we all start making a bigger deal about how funny Rose Byrne is? Whenever she chooses a comedy, she slaughters. As the sympathetic straight man (woman), she had the single hardest role to pull off in Bridesmaids, and her reactions in I Give It a Year (hands down the funniest film of the year) are priceless.

Yoshida: The only career trajectories here I find remotely interesting are Byrne’s and Efron’s. A world where Zac Efron is a legitimately funny comedic lead sounds downright utopian; I imagine in that world we’ve figured out how to do a lot of other stuff too, like nuclear disarmament and satisfying yet healthy artificial sweeteners.

 

One Chance (TBD)

Silver: Based on the true story of Paul PottsOne Chance is Rudy meets Rocky meets The Full Monty meets Billy Elliot meets Little Voice. It’s directed by the Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me guy and produced by Simon Cowell.

So now, the only thing left to ask is are going to be providing tissues to theatergoers or should we bring our own?

Yoshida: I wish you hadn’t reminded me that Simon Cowell produced this, Silver, but at the same time, this man has made me irrationally emotional over the most pedestrian, transparently manipulative entertainments, so why should I feel too good for One Chance? Especially with O’Brien and Gareth on board? I would say that this is the sort of movie I have to wait to see on VOD, but this is actually the sort of movie I end up watching on an airplane squeezed shoulder to shoulder with strangers while sloppily mopping tears off my face and muttering about allergic reactions and pressurized cabins. I’m a little uncomfortable with the inaugural entry in the reality show contestant biopic subgenre, but if Cowell wants to open up that Pandora’s box, excuse me while I go buy up all of the Jabbawockeez’ life rights.

 

Runner Runner (October 4)

Silver: Let’s start off by stating a fact we neglected to mention back in June when Runner Runner’s first trailer was released. This film is written and produced by our fellow Grantland-ers Brian Koppelman and David Levien. But even with that out in the open, the fact remains that Runner Runner’s first look was entirely ho-hum. The best part was the revelation that Affleck was the bad guy.

With that in mind, I firmly believe this film is going to benefit from a “Batman bump.” Most performers need to have a significant hit before their subsequent follow-ups see any residual success. (See The Man With the Iron Mask, Leo’s turdburger follow-up to Titanic.) But not when it comes to the Caped Crusader. Other than Bond, I don’t think there’s another cinematic icon that can boost a Q-score more than Batman. I believe audiences are going to turn out to simply see “the man who will be the Bat.”

And this is undeniably a much more effective trailer than the previous one, definitely a step in the right direction if the film wants any chance to open against the hype machine that is Gravity. The levels of fun, intrigue, and debauchery are raised significantly here. So combined with all that Bat stuff, Runner Runner’s youth demo marketing box is sufficiently checked.

Yoshida: If Runner Runner beats Gravity on the weekend of the Fourth, all I have to say is that somebody better be sending a giant bottle of Alizé to J. Kwon.

 

Under the Skin — Teaser (TBD)

Silver: Simply put, after Sexy Beast, I’d follow writer/director Jonathan Glazer anywhere. He could make a film focused on cutting grass, or boxing crayons, or about an alien in human form traveling through Scotland, and I’d go see it. Oh wait

So you want to know what you’re seeing in this kinda-teaser? Well, brunette ingenue and creepy mush-faced man included, welcome to what’s in my head every night in my recurring dreams. (Can someone help me please?)

Yoshida: I read all of the YouTube comments on this trailer in hopes of getting some answers about this enigmatic clip, and I think I finally am able to confirm that Scarlett Johansson DOES take her clothes off in this movie. Mystery solved!

 

Best Man Down (October 3 — VOD/November 8 — Theaters)

Silver: OK. I was not expecting an emotional yet inspiring and redemptive journey when I hit “play” on this trailer. Given the title and the inclusion of both Justin Long and Tyler Labine, I assumed I was going to be writing about how my admiration for certain performers sometimes outweighs the hackneyed nature of a project.

But now I just want to see this film. I’m completely intrigued by this conceit, and am really taken by some of the themes glimpsed at here — the idea of a best friend vs. just a friend one knows for a long time, the unexplainable devotion of certain people, and the notion of being a newlywed during trying times.

I don’t know why, but I have a feeling I’m going to be in the minority on this one. Emily … what you say?

Yoshida: Not even the all-too-rare presence of Shelley Long can overcome the repellent power of Justin Long’s (no relation?) stupid hair. As I understand it in this trailer (I’ll admit I do get a little lost when the road trip part starts), this is a really good premise for a film, but I would just let it be a pitch-black comedy instead of a touching journey of self-discovery. Plus, I got tired of hearing the name “Lumpy” just in this two-and-a-half-minute clip; I can’t imagine how I would hold up over the course of a whole film. And once Lumpy falls through the ice, I’m like, Jesus, get it together, Lumpy. It seems like he was really just courting death his whole life. Maybe Best Man Down is the feel-good sequel to a Final Destination movie?

 

Man of Tai Chi (September 27 — VOD/November 1 — Theaters)

Silver: I can’t find the words. Honestly. Oh, wait. Here they are … HELL YEAH! A fighting Keanu Reeves as the heavy AND as the director. Plus the “introduction” of a badass dude named Tiger Chen. What is there not to like here? This looks tremendous. I may actually forgo the September 27 VOD premiere and wait to see this in a theater.

I want to be one of the many to cheer, laugh, and cry when Keanu cuts to the close-up of his own face as he screams, “Finish him!”

YES!

Yoshida: The final-third breakbeat montage is SUCH an early-’00s trailer thing, and in the right kind movie of makes me SO happy. I don’t know if I’ll see this movie, but way to keep me smiling for the duration of the preview.

 

Gravity (October 4)

Silver: A Poem for Gravity’s Final Trailer:

I will not click this link. No I will not.

I shan’t not taint my experience with one more moon shot.

I want to let my built-up anticipation seep out holistically and organically.

By quickly turning to praise volcanically. 

Instead I will purchase IMAX tickets to the theater in the north.

And simply sit idle, waiting for October Fourth.

Yoshida: I watched it. I’ll admit it. I tainted.

Filed Under: Ben Affleck, Seth Rogen, Trailers of the Week

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Dan Silver is the director of development for ESPN Films.

Archive @ danielsilver11

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