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Trailers of the Week: Chronicle, Flowers of War, and The Descendants

Chronicle (February 3, 2012)

Written by Max Landis (son of John), and starring mostly unknowns (yep, that’s Michael B. Jordan from Friday Night Lights), Chronicle looks to breathe some new life into the “found footage” genre. The film follows three friends who happen upon an unknown substance, develop super powers, and ultimately turn on each other.

Verdict: The trailer has sort of a District 9 vibe. Excitement building.

Flowers of War

Flowers of War is set during the Nanjing Massacre, in which thousands were killed when the Japanese invaded the then-capital city in 1937. In his first role since his Oscar-winning one in The Fighter, Christian Bale plays a priest who tries to save a group of female students and prostitutes. Flowers is China’s official submission for the Oscars, but, as the film has yet to find a domestic distributor, this trailer is probably the most you’ll see if it for a while.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 magically disappearing and reappearing goatees.

The Descendants (November 18)

I’ve been lucky enough to have seen The Descendants and can confirm that all the blurbs in this second trailer are warranted.

Verdict: See this movie!

London Boulevard (November 11)

Watching this new trailer, the best compliment we can give London Boulevard is that it looks like a typical British gangster film, with a solid, good-looking cast, violence, and a twisty plot. Written and directed by The Departed’s William Monahan, Boulevard should satisfy fans of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, and Croupier.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 “Oy!”s

A Few Best Men (TBD)

Speaking of classic anglo-cinema tropes, A Few Best Men appears to hit all the usual British-farce beats. The trailer has some funny moments (“Tits … tits.”), but it’s the chance to see a coked-up Olivia Newton-John that makes this a potential must-see.

Verdict: A solid compromise film to watch with a significant other.

Piranha 3DD (2012)

2010’s Piranha 3D was a surprisingly entertaining and delightfully self-aware 90 minutes. So if its sequel’s title wasn’t enough of a tipoff, then the slow-motion shot of well-endowed co-ed fleeing terror should signal that the camp factor has been upped here. (Hey Internet, where’s my animated GIF?)

Verdict: The voice-over guy promises “double the Ds”. We believe him.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (December 16)

From the looks of Sherlock’s second trailer, Guy Ritchie went a little overboard on the spectacle this time. But as long as this sequel is anchored by the charming relationship between Holmes and Watson (Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law) — as it seems to be here — he can include all the set pieces and phantom camera work he wants.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 homoerotic exchanges

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked (December 16)

The continuing adventures of Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and the Chipettes find the furry little … Oh, come on. Who are we kidding? From the “Let’s all feel embarrassed for Jason Lee” trailer, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked seems to be lifting and repackaging bits from the previous two films. And quite honestly, why not? (Alvin 1 budget: $60 million/worldwide gross: $358M; Alvin 2 budget: $75 million/worldwide gross: $442 million).

Verdict: See here.

Let Go (TBD)

Let Go follows David Denman (Pam’s ex-fiancé from The Office), as a glum parole officer, and his interactions with three of his ex-con clients — Community’s Gillian Jacobs, comedian Kevin Hart, and the voice of the old guy from Up (known in some parts as Ed Asner). This clip is way too long and amateurishly produced, so it’s safe to assume another trailer is probably on the way.

Verdict:Sad, then funny, then sad, then funny, then over. No need to see it now.

Hostel: Part III (Direct to DVD on December 27)

Three — count em! — three ladies in thongs appear within the first 30 seconds of Hostel III’s trailer. Which is probably to be expected with the change in setting from Europe to Las Vegas.

Verdict: We’re holding out for Hostel IV: Branson, MO.

The Devil Inside (January 6, 2012)

The trailer for The Devil Inside is bouillabaisse of horror-film clichés — seemingly innocuous moments, soundtracked by silence, interrupted by startling musical stings. The ingredients of this stew: two parts The Exorcist, one part The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a pinches of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Unfortunately they don’t appear to coalesce in a savory way.

Verdict: We’d need to be possessed to sit through this.

11-11-11 (November 11 — duh!)

Who cares if the trailer for 11-11-11 is so poorly lit that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on? This has to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious previews ever produced. The voice-over sounds like it was recorded on a home computer. Be sure to watch till the end, because the payoff to this cinematically unintelligible 47 seconds is hilarious.

Verdict: Come on, really? The Lonely Island guys produced this, right?

When Harry Left Hogwarts (November 11)

If you have an intimate knowledge of the underground maze that is Gringotts Bank, or can name every one on Sirius Black’s family tree (or even know who Sirius Black is), then you’ve probably already pre-ordered your copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows four-disc Blu-Ray set. On it, you’ll find the behind-the-scenes doc advertised here.

Verdict: This looks like a day at Honeydukes Sweet Shop for Potter fans.

The Conquest (TBD)

A historical/fictional telling of Nicolas Sarkozy’s ascension to power as French President. The trailer has a playful tone, and feels as if the filmmakers watched a lot of Primary Colors and The Special Relationship as research.

Verdict:We’ll see this if you promise Michael Sheen cameos as Tony Blair.

W.E. (December 9)

The trailer for Madonna’s second directorial outing is long (close to three minutes) and feels like an amalgamation of stylized shots from her music videos and scrap footage from The Kings Speech. No idea what this thing is about, but there sure is a lot of dancing in it.

Verdict: It’s a safe bet the film doesn’t contain a single hydrangea.

Daniel Silver is the Director of Development for ESPN Films. Follow him on Twitter at @Danielsilver11.