The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22)
Silver: Second films in trilogies (see side note) have a distinct advantage over their predecessors and followers. They don’t need to establish a world, a tone, a visual, a style, or characters — they simply can start a story. They also don’t need to lead a narrative to a definitive conclusion, but rather can end on an emotional and/or unresolved high note (a.k.a. “leave em’ wanting more”), which is sometimes trickier than it sounds. When executed properly, the results are Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, Aliens, Scream 2, and The Two Towers. (There are far too many pathetic examples on the other side to list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Matrix Reloaded. Oof!)
So as Catching Fire is the most engaging and most fully realized story of The Hunger Games book series, and as Gary “Hyperbolically Vanilla” Ross has relinquished the directorial reins to Francis “I’m Really More Than a Music Video Director, Come on, Believe Me” Lawrence, this sequel has the potential to be thrust into the age-old cine-geek argument “Is the sequel better than the original?”
And from what we see here, it appears that the stakes have been raised and the drama heightened. So maybe this installment will rise above being a mere pedestrian action movie.
(Side note: I’m aware that there will be four films in The Hunger Games series. But just like Harry Potter, Twilight, and conclusive seasons of shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, splitting a final installment into two parts just to prolong awareness and revenue does not change the fact that the intended and/or source narratives were conceived to stand alone as a single cohesive thread. So because Mockingjay, the final Hunger Games book, is a distinct and self-contained story, I’m choosing to view the films as such. Just as I did with both installments of the Deathly Hallows.)
Yoshida: I was always really glad I read the first Hunger Games book long before casting even began on the film; I still have a strong personally imagined version of the story in my head, which is rare for me with adapted works these days. Of course, as soon as I finished it I went to pick up Catching Fire, and suddenly the pace of my reading, which had been something close to light-speed for all of Book 1, slowed to a grind, and I still haven’t read past Chapter 3. Something about the second book stretches credibility; I believe there would be crazy repercussions for Katniss and Peeta’s win in the first book, but there started to be something very dance-movie-ish about the proceedings. Instead of “We’ll solve this problem … with DANCE!” it was “We’ll solve this problem … with ANOTHER HUNGER GAMES!” And don’t get me wrong, there is precious little I love more than a good dance movie, but I enjoy their logic in a completely different way than THG, which I take seriously as a great future-dystopia yarn.
But you heard me, I haven’t read Catching Fire, so I probably have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ll power through it before November because I do care about the franchise and I’m glad today’s tweens have a tough cookie like Katniss Everdeen to idolize. But it’s kind of a bummer, because now I won’t be able to get Philip Seymour Hoffman’s face out of my head on every page.
47 Ronin (December 25)
Silver: I admit that the following theory is paper-thin.
In general, the Keanu Reeves films I’ve had the strongest doubts about turn out to be the ones I like the most.
The original trailer for The Matrix, with it’s “Whoa?!” and all-too-video-gamey visuals, had me giggling. Clearly I was wrong. Die Hard on a bus turned into Speed. And that silly football movie became the formulaic, but immensely enjoyable and rewatchable, The Replacements. And the list (oddly) goes on.
Therefore, even though 47 Ronin looks like a distastefully flashy bouillabaisse of The Matrix and the Shyamalan-rific The Last Airbender, because of Keanu inclusion, I’m choosing to give the film the benefit of the doubt. But by doing so, am I also immediately damning it based on my previously stated theory, or am I just too self-centered to not understand that my opinions matter little when it comes to the quality of the final product?
Yoshida: Silver, it’s OK. You’re allowed to hate this. Come back in, join the rest of the class.
Aside from everything clearly awful that need not be rehashed in this trailer, I just wanna take this opportunity to note that nobody really seems to know what to do with Rinko Kikuchi, do they? I have not yet seen Pacific Rim (I know! I’m going this weekend! I have a non-house-arrest related excuse!) but even in my beloved The Brothers Bloom her role is something you’d give to a Victoria’s Secret model making her motion-picture debut, not an Academy Award–nominated actress. At least they didn’t give her Doona Bae’s role in Cloud Atlas.
But yeah, I actually said “Ew” out loud when she turned into a bad CGI dragon, so … NOPE.
Gravity (October 4)
“I’ve Got You”
Silver: Between Children of Men’s release seven years ago and now, cinephiles everywhere have manufactured a persona for director Alfonso Cuaron based on a few mind-bogglingly constructed, deftly executed scenes in that film (here, here, and here). When talking about Cuaron, fanboys and girls speak of him as if he’s a cross between an auteur and crazy scientist.
When Gravity was announced as Cuaron’s next film, the rumors started flying that he was going build upon and expand Men’s visionary filmmaking techniques. Then came post–set visit sound bites from filmmakers like Guillermo de Toro and James Cameron saying things like “revolutionary,” “game changing,” “mind blowing.” This, compounded by Cauron’s choice to wait so long in between Men and Gravity, only further intensifies the “evil genius” vibe and the anticipation for Gravity. But the non-Cuaronists were puzzled. How was this simply not just another silly and slow sci-fi film where we spend two hours watching Sandra Bullock’s and George Clooney’s faces through plates of glass? We feared we might have another Solaris (the remake) on our hands.
But with the release of these three chair-gripping and motion-sickness-inducing trailers, titled “Detached,” “Drifting,” and “I Got You,” I believe that everyone will finally get it. So now, when someone asks you why cinema geeks have been yearning for the release of Gravity, just show them any one of these trailers and they’ll understand. Because, wow. Just wow.
And with that, I’m done. Not screening another second of this film till it comes out.
Yoshida: First off, I’ve been a Cuaron fan since fifth grade, and I can point to the shot in his 1995 adaptation of A Little Princess that made me first realize what cinematography and editing were and decide it was something I wanted to find out more about. Children of Men is actually lower on my Cuaron power rankings; as great as that movie is visually, the thing I’ve always appreciated about him most is how beautifully he does adolescent angst. (That’s why everyone knows his Harry Potter is the best Harry Potter, and dang, Y Tu Mamá También, daaang.) Gravity will ask me to embrace Cuaron the technical genius more fully, but I’m not worried at all, because his emotional storytelling has never not been 100 percent on point. Also, SPACE.
One thing that I have in common with your former Trailerbuddy Rembert Browne is that I generally don’t see horror movies. It’s not that I don’t like scary things, I just don’t find nine out of 10 horror movies to be very scary at all. I mean, a serial killer or demon or whatever is “scary,” but for something to be fun-scary, the kind of scary I actually look forward to spending some time with, I need something really rich for my brain to marinate in between dismemberments and bloodbaths. You know what kind of horror I can take a nice, long, heart-stopping, existential-dread-inducing bath in? SPACE HORROR. I’d be first in line to see a movie with Gravity‘s premise by any strong visual director; that it’s Cuaron at the helm means I’ll be weeping within the first 15 minutes. Also, space, you guys. Space is coming back in a big way.
And I’m right with you, Silver, no more sneak peeks of this film till October!
Cold Comes the Night (TBD)
Silver: I really dig small movies like these. The Lookout, Frailty, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (sans naked Hoffman), The Bank Job, and Layer Cake. These are all films that had no grand ambitions of franchising. They were simple, intimate, well-made, self-contained short stories. And Cold Comes the Night feels like it’s got similar DNA. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Bryan Cranston play a Russian sociopath?
Yoshida: LOL. Cranston’s such a weirdo.
Riddick — Red-Band Comic-Con Trailer (September 6)
Silver: The more I see of this film, the more I know I’m going to like it. It feels like writer-director David Twoy and Vin Diesel have accepted their previous faults and are delivering unto the general public a moody and ultra-violent mea culpa.
Riddick, with both hands chained, disarming a mercenary of his machete, then kicking said machete across the room to slice the mercenary’s head open, is pretty badass.
I like that Riddick seems to contain the vast visual sense of its predecessor, but is also both narratively and tonally restrained like Pitch Black. The story feels relatively small compared to the bloated carcass that was Chronicles. And the glimpses of shadowy figures and limited visual action are reminiscent of the best parts of Pitch Black.
Oh, and having Starbuck around to kill some baddies doesn’t hurt, either.
Yoshida: I need a GIF right now of Diesel laughing to himself and rhythmically clanking his chains against the wall as all the redshirts get impaled by dinosaur tails. This looks dope in a Dredd 3D kind of way and now I’m just going to shut up and go do a long-overdue screening of Pitch Black so as not to betray my ignorance of this franchise any further.
A Single Shot (August 20 — VOD / September 20 — Theaters)
Silver: If I were to list the actors I’d see in anything, Sam Rockwell would be close to the top. In the best possible way he’s like a modern-day Christopher Walken. He holds himself and delivers lines in almost the exact same way in every film, yet he’s always engaging and never feels disingenuous. And we all know the guy can carry a movie on his own (see Moon).
So even though this Single Shot trailer is heavy on tone and mood but leaves much wanting on story, it’s pretty safe to assume that the film will be worth a watch simply to see one of the best working character actors butt heads with a murderers’ row of other fine thespians — William H. Macy, Jason Issacs, Melissa Leo, Ted Levine, and Jeffrey Wright.
Side note: Make a list of actors/actresses you’d see in anything.
Yoshida: This is just the Cold Comes the Night trailer with Macy in a bad hairpiece instead of Cranston in a bad accent, right?
And I’ll get back to you on that list, Silver, because all I have right now are Greta Gerwig and Prince.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 20, 2014)
Silver: How to Train Your Dragon is the singular example of an animated film that could be mistaken for something Pixar made. And if it hadn’t been released the same year as Toy Story 3, it would have undoubtedly been the best animated film of 2010.
The first film is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and contains themes that rise above the normal kiddie fare. The relationship between the primary protagonist (Hiccup — to this day one of the best character names ever) and his dragon is absorbing, and the set pieces are exciting and move the story along without feeling gratuitous.
So I’m all in favor of this sequel. And this brief, 1:57 teaser is probably one of the more thrilling scenes I’ve seen all summer.
Yoshida: I don’t know what this is, and I probably won’t see it, but what is the reveal supposed to be, exactly, when the kid takes off his mask? That he is older than in the original film? That he’s not a girl? That his eyes have a curiously soulless vacancy?
The Counselor (October 25)
Silver: As proven by Heat, JFK, A Few Good Men, and all the Ocean’s movies, it’s sometimes fun to simply watch stars playing onscreen with other stars. This cast is to drama what The Expendables was to action and Harlem Nights was to comedy (OK, that’s a stretch, but just look at that cast). It’s always a bonus when the film’s actually good.
I’ve truly tried to find something about The Counselor that doesn’t excite me, but I can’t. Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott alone would have done it. Can this film just come out already?
Yoshida: I will say, I kind of rolled my eyes at the kicker, Cruz’s “Have you been bad?” line. Of course he’s been bad. This is a high-profile male-oriented drama being released in 2013. Everyone’s bad. Still very excited about this. It’s been too long since we’ve seen domesticated cheetahs in prominent onscreen roles.
Silver: I’ve heard a lot of chatter about this film, and have even started to hear some very positive word-of-mouth. But I have to admit, this is one of those titles I know very little about. The snippets of the action I’ve seen online look sharp. The IMDb summary was intriguing and helped some — “In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.” It’s got a pretty solid cast — Chris Evans, Alison Pill, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris, and Octavia Spencer. I’m aware that it is directed and cowritten by The Host’s Joon-ho Bong. So that’s obviously a plus. And although this may knock me down a peg or two on the nerd-o-meter, until I see a proper domestic trailer, Snowpiercer is a film I just can’t wrap my head around (yet).
Yoshida: All-in. ALL-IN. Not based off this trailer, which is fine, but that summary, and Bong Joon-ho. Can’t wait for the scene in which Alison Pill gets YouTube’d outside the Snowpiercer confessing her love of Chris Evans.