Trailers of the Week: A Good Day to Die Hard, Promised Land, Brooklyn Castle, and More

A Good Day to Die Hard (February 14)

Silver: Die Hard is the Joan Rivers of film franchises. It’s had so much work done to it that 1988’s taut, straightforward, hardcore cat-and-mouse action thriller would gasp in horror if it ever saw what it would become in 2013. With each passing film, Die Hard’s kernels of plausibility and decorum seem to shrivel away. It’s ironic, because there was a time when action films were maligned for being too Die Hard (Speed = Die Hard on a bus; Cliffhanger = Die Hard on a mountain), yet now it appears that for Bruce Willis to top-line an action film solo it needs to be connected in some way to Die Hard (and if the third and fourth installments are any indication, all a film needs to be called Die Hard is Willis playing someone called John McClane, a grandiose situation McClane is unwillingly shoved into, and a moment where he can shoot the bad guy and say “yippee ki-yay, motherfucker”). And speaking as someone who views the original Die Hard as one of the greatest action films ever made, don’t think any of this is a good thing. Labeling a film Die Hard brings too many expectations with it, and the more the title is used, the more it’s going to become diluted. As a summer action film, I did not dislike Live Free or Die Hard. But as a Die Hard film, I hated it, and I’m shocked that 20th Century Fox still feels there’s equity left in the Die Hard brand. This film looks ridiculous and makes me sad. What’s sadder is that, regardless of all this, I’ll be first in line on opening day to see it.

Browne: Wait, so I’m supposed to see this Expendables-like film, but only one of the Expendables dudes is in it? Why would I do that? I’m beginning to think 20th Century Fox signed one of those deals with the devil that they’re stuck with for six more generations, à la the New York Mets and Bobby Bonilla.

The Lone Ranger (July 3)

Silver: I’m baffled by this preview. The Lone Ranger and Tonto are irrelevant characters for not only the current generation of filmgoers, but also to the generation before that (mine). I only know who these two guys are from stories my dad would tell me of movie theater serials, and from old Bill Cosby routines. So why is this preview constructed in a way where the film’s two main characters are afterthoughts? This trailer is 1:37, and we don’t get a good glimpse of Mr. Hammer in full Ranger garb till 1:07. Much has be said about Depp as Tonto, his makeup/costume, how the film was derailed (no pun intended) and revived, and how early reviews of the script teased the film to be another bloated Bruckheimer/Verbinski opus. But we live in a cinema culture where films like Transformers and Snow White and the Hunstman succeed despite their obvious ineptitudes. Nonetheless, when I forked over my hard-earned cash and sit down for films like these, I want to be slightly optimistic about my experience. And the marketing is what is supposed to instill hope and best position the film. With this first Lone Ranger trailer, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think this film was about two guys who hate a time-traveling train. This movie needs a second trailer … quickly.

Browne: Nice to meet you, John Carter 2: The Adventures of Two Guys Who Hate a Time-Traveling Train. Who’s next, Disney? The Wonder Twins?

Movie 43 — Red Band Trailer (NSFW) (January 25)

Silver: I wouldn’t exactly say Movie 43 is the next installment in the grand cinematic tradition of other sketch compilations like And Now for Something Completely Different, The Kentucky Fried Movie, and The Ten because I believe those films would be insulted if I called them grand, or even “films.” I genuinely laughed four to five times during this trailer. And based on the talent involved, I have zero doubt that Movie 43 will go on to become a solid fixture on the shelves of college dorms and frat houses around our country. Because no matter what happens at the box office, the true purpose of any sketch film is to have each individually wrapped “fun sized” tale act as a late-night energy boost to prolong revelry. Although my favorite exchange in this trailer comes between Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone (Culkin: “I can’t believe you sucked off that hobo for magic beans.” Stone: “He was a wizard”), I can’t wait to see the segment with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts. The conceit is amusing — two parents who home-school their kid but still want to give him the true high school experience, so they bully him and make him feel like an outcast — but it’s Schreiber doing comedy that gets me excited. He doesn’t show off his comedy chops nearly enough, but he can be sneakily funny. His performance as the CAT-scan coveting neighbor in The Ten (“I’m sorry, Jakey. Daddy loves his little boy”) is great. Looking forward to seeing what he does here.

Browne: Halle Berry is going to be funny in a film. This hasn’t happened since B*A*P*S. I could not be more excited.

Lincoln (November 16)

Silver: Wow! What a stark contrast to the first trailer. Although I still believe that the final product will, more likely than not, still be a slow and overly sentimental piece of cinema, at least for now, this bombastic and rousing two minutes have made me do an about-face on Lincoln. Love the music, love the raised stakes, love Day-Lewis, and love the message.

Browne: This film isn’t about the story of Lincoln. It’s about Daniel Day-Lewis as our greatest living actor. If we simply remember that, we’ll all walk away from this film feeling as if we got our money’s worth. Ignore the sure-to-be-overdone plot, just this once. Just focus on DDL.

Brooklyn Castle (October 19 — Limited)

Silver: Chess scares me. So of course, every kid in this movie scares me. Brooklyn Castle looks wonderful. The filmmakers have found a unique-enough story with engaging-enough characters that this appears to be one of those uplifting and stirring docs that make you want to know more and do more. Really looking forward to seeing this one.

Browne: I had the privilege of seeing this film at SXSW 2012. The entire film is as much of a puller of heartstrings as the trailer suggests. But it doesn’t simply lean on the plot to win you over; the actual film is extremely well done. Find a way to see this when it’s released in two weeks. It’ll be well worth it.

The Guilt Trip (December 25)

Silver: Rem, I never understood your feelings about horror films. How could a rational and intelligent guy such as yourself get spooked out not only by a trailer but by a film’s actual concept? You know it’s fake, so why not go along for the ride?

Well, my friend, I now know how you feel. I now see how a film can pick like a fingernail at the recesses of our deepest fears. I watched the trailer for The Guilt Trip with my hands covering my face through a small crack between my fingers. This is my nightmare. And I know I’m not alone. I’m sure this is the way many young Jewish men felt (will feel) when watching this trailer. Streisand is playing a version of all of our mothers. Rem, I guess I’m just a colder and more jaded SOB than you, but we finally found the film that makes me want to cower in the corner. Sheesh.

(A brief note to my mother, because I know she’ll read this. Mom … I love you, and would be more than happy to go on an eight-day cross-country road trip with you. You’re the best. We’ll bring the baby by soon. Kisses!)

Browne: I can’t wait until this movie does phenomenally well, and then they make a sequel with the exact same plot, but replace Seth and Babs with Kevin Hart and Oprah Winfrey. LONG LIVE THE BLACKS AND THE JEWS.

The Croods (March 22)

Silver: This is a perfect situation for Nicolas Cage. He’s playing a paranoid caveman, and all we hear is his voice. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s one of those rare checks in the “win” column on Cage’s career scorecard. I’m surprised the marketers of The Croods didn’t include a title card that read, “From the filmmakers of Space Chimps.” That certainly would have helped their opening-weekend box office number soar. The way this trailer plays out, The Croods looks like it was meant to be a human parallel narrative to Ice Age (à la The Bourne Legacy) and when that story hit a dead end, the producers just decided to let these characters run around the world of Avatar for a while. Sounds awful. Can’t wait.

Browne: I don’t know why, but once their cave fell in and the world’s splendor was made available to them, I couldn’t stop thinking of this film as an animated caveman family version of The Jeffersons. I mean, look at all those beautiful colors and fancy animals and fireworks. Nothing screams “Eastside de-luxe apartment in the sky” like beautiful colors and fancy animals and fireworks.

Promised Land (December 28 — Limited)

Silver: This might just be the preview for my favorite film of the year. A relevant, subtly preachy, liberal political drama directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski (from a story by Dave Eggers). Great googly moogly. Count me in. With The Office coming to a close, I’m glad that Krasinski is going to be able to do more films. I find him to be immensely talented both in front of and behind the camera. I thought Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, his rookie outing as a writer-director, was an ambitious one, and although uneven in spots, overall a success. And I’ve always been a fan of him as an actor, his nuanced and long-standing work as Jim speaks for itself, but go see him in Sam Mendes’s criminally underappreciated Away We Go. He and Maya Rudolph give stunning performances. Promised Land is filled with great actors, the previously mentioned Damon, Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, and Rosemarie DeWitt (crush), but I think audiences will be most surprised to see how well Krasinski can hold his own with those folks.

Browne: The ex–urban planning master’s student in me couldn’t be more pumped about a film that might contain the phrases “economic development,” “eminent domain,” “community outreach,” “town hall meetings,” and “love triangle.” Who cares about the actors? This plot alone has me pumped for December 28.

Parker (January 25)

Silver: Statham dressed up as a priest. Statham rockin’ a terrible American accent. Statham in a cowboy hat. And instead of frisking her, Statham making Jennifer Lopez strip down to her undies so he can check for a wire. Need more? How about Michael Chiklis as a gun-wielding clown. And all this from the Oscar-nominated director of Ray (better known as Mr. Helen Mirren). This is the ultimate must-rent. My Statham for this film is as Statham as it’ll ever be. I can’t wait. Statham!!!

Browne: I can’t decide whose contract explicitly states “Jennifer Lopez must be forced to strip down in front of Jason Statham,” Jennifer Lopez or Jason Statham. Either way, shame on you/thanx.

Broken City (January 18)

Silver: Mmmmmm. When it comes to guilty cinema pleasures, a seemingly juicy political crime thriller where A-listers eat the scenery like Broken City is one of my particularly favorite indulgences (second to British gangster films). Love the music and pacing here. And with a January release date, this will be a perfect antidote to all those stuffy award seekers.

Browne: I had the same thought, Dan, with regard to the music. Yes, the action and suspense in the film are mainly fueled by the acting, but the use of Kanye West’s “Power” couldn’t be a more perfect, story-enhancing pick. After hearing the song matched up with the visuals, I can’t imagine another track that would be more appropriate. That’s how you pick your music. Bravo, Broken City, because of this musical selection, I temporarily forgot how hilarious it is to see Russell Crowe as mayor of a major city.

Not Fade Away (December 21)

Silver: With The Sopranos, David Chase created one of the most iconic, revered, and influential pieces of American pop culture (no, not just TV, all of pop culture). So as far as I’m concerned, Chase could film James Gandolfini struggling with gas pains on a crowded New York City subway and we all should take note. Based on the trailer, the premise of Not Fade Away seems rather familiar — adolescent tension between an old-school dad and a progressive son in the 1960s — and at first glance, rather un-Chase-like. But the use of a single Rolling Stones song from start to finish is one element of the trailer in which Chase’s unique cinematic sensibilities can be seen. Most contemporary trailers tend to change directions and tones multiple times to try and force an unnecessary amount of information in a limited amount of time. I can’t think of another recent movie trailer that allowed itself to be dictated by emotional and dramatic build of a single song. Chase has been quiet since the final episode of The Sopranos aired just over five years ago. So there should be no doubt that the release of Not Fade Away is a big deal.

Browne: Just to play devil’s advocate for a second, if David Chase weren’t associated with this film, this trailer would have been a giant yawner. But he is, so there is a level of excitement that abruptly stops my yawns. This isn’t a new story, but knowing that Chase is behind the wheel, it will undoubtedly be handled exceptionally, almost to the point that it feels brand new.

The Lords of Salem (2013)

Silver: What is this, and why is it making me relive my dreams during the day? He’s certainly evil, but is Rob Zombie also some kind of mind reader? And on a total sidenote, is it now just a prerequisite to credit the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious in every upcoming horror film?

Browne: I proudly dislike horror films, but I really want to see this. Why? You could film a gruesome high-definition sequence of kittens being eaten by other, more terrifying kittens, but if you throw Mozart’s Requiem over it, I will smile as wide as the day is long. Well done, Mr. Zombie. Well done.

Filed Under: A Good Day to Die Hard, Die Hard, Lincoln, Movies, The Lone Ranger, Trailers of the Week

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert