Trailers of the Week: Rush, The Hangover Part III, Elysium, and Now You See Me
Rush (September 20)
Silver: I’ve come back around on Ron Howard. For me, the hyperbolic sentimentality of his films and his overly lavish set pieces always felt like he was trying too hard. I tend to not like films that are so blatantly campaigning for an Oscar, and would rather a film’s innate importance be a tad subtler. But after recently catching Backdraft and Apollo 13 on cable, I went back and rewatched the entire Howard catalogue, and it became clear that my ire against his filmography was a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.
Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons are just poorly produced, pedantic movies. But there’s a certain earnestness and genuineness to the vast majority of his other films that, as I went title-by-title, came to be a welcome antidote to the cynicism inherent in so many films released today. Even in the titles some folks might consider to be weaker — The Missing, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Paper — ol’ Opie’s heart bleeds through every frame.
Howard’s best film is easily Frost/Nixon. It’s his most visually controlled and character-focused. And as written by Frost/Nixon’s scribe Peter Morgan, Rush appears to be a similarly constructed two-handed character piece. Which, instead of pitting two personalities against each other in a battle of wits, is strapping them down into F1 cars and having them race at 200 mph.
I’m really looking forward to this one.
Browne: I wasn’t too enthralled with everything up until the big crash, but the second half kept me surprisingly captivated. Part of that had to do with the beginning seeming cheesy, and part of it was I listened to “Limelight” all morning and I was upset this wasn’t a rock-doc about Rush.
The Way, Way Back (July 5)
Browne: AHHHH SILVER I’M CRYING, CAN’T EXPLAIN MY FEELINGS YET.
Silver: Why do I feel all nostalgic right now? Might have been the Guster music? Oh, no, it was literally EVERY frame of this syrupy trailer. Wow. I really want to see this movie. It’s Adventureland meets Youth in Revolt meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Little Miss Sunshine. And like Away We Go, it’s a perfect mid-summer, adult-oriented palate cleanser from the carb-heavy studio offerings. And if Rockwell, Collette, Carell, Janney, Peet, Rudolph, and Corddry weren’t enough, The Way, Way Back not only also co-stars the very funny Nat Faxon (Ben of Ben and Kate) and Jim Rash (the Dean from Community), it’s also written by these Oscar winners (for The Descedants) and happens to be their directorial debut. This should be a good one.
Browne: Thank you for that.
This trailer was a lot. The boy that still lives within me is swimming in a pool of his own awkward tears right now, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
The “end-of-summer lean-in.” That’s what life is all about. It’s why we have summers, so there can be end-of-summer lean-ins. I need to cry more.
The Hangover Part III (May 24)
Silver: Oh! OK. So that’s what this film’s about. Cool.
It’s been a little over five weeks since the release of The Hangover Part III’s vague teaser trailer, so my feelings have not really changed. I’m still stoked for this final entry to the Wolfpack saga. Happy to see that the plot is a same-but-different conglomerate of the series’ first two installments — Vegas, international locale, bye-bye Doug — and that Chow seems to be taking on a larger role. And the appearance of John Goodman is always a positive sign.
Browne: I mean, why not?
Filth — Red Band Trailer (NSFW) (TBD)
Silver: With Welcome to the Punch, Trance, and this, it’s clear that James McAvoy is doing everything he can to not get typecast as just another cute Brit who’s only known for his work in a superhero franchise or as the second-billed love interest in the next Reese Witherspoon movie. Or maybe McAvoy just has some inner demons to exorcise. There probably ain’t anything bleaker than a “bipolar bigoted junkie cop” sprung from the mind of Trainspotting’s Irvine Welsh. Bring on this British version of Bad Lieutenant. It looks like a whole lot of fun to me.
Browne: I don’t really know what to make of this yet, but what I will say is if I see one more artistic venture (movie, album, TV show, etc.) that sneaks a subliminal hashtag into its advertising, I’m throwing bows.
I can’t take it anymore.
Now You See Me (May 31)
Silver: The “magic” in Now You See Me is not your “You shall not pass,” Gandalf-driving-his-staff-into-the-ground-to-thwart-the-Balrog kind of magic. This is the kind of magic that, even when astonishing, we all know to be a trick.
Browne: Wait, what? What’s fake?
Silver: It’s the kind of magic that is best experienced live and in person, so the suspension of disbelief requested of the audience shifts from willing to accepting. But in transitioning that experience to a medium that is already inherently bogus like film, where “tricks” are much more subtle, and take on the form of edits, and mattes, and lighting, an authentic “magical” experience is far harder to capture.
Browne: I don’t follow.
Silver: So there’s no doubt that director Louis Leterrier had a tricky task with this film. Even Nolan, in his criminally overlooked masterpiece The Prestige (yeah, I said it), dipped into the truly fantastical and supernatural. And even though I love this cast and the concept for Now You See Me, I just feel that it’s a little disingenuous for a film about live and in-person magic to have this much overt CGI.
Browne: Ah, I see. I just thought for a second you were saying you didn’t believe in magic. At least that’s not what you’re saying.
Silver: We’ll have to wait and see how the final product is put together, but from what I saw in this trailer, I feel Leterrier should have shot the “magic” in a slightly less dynamic way so the illusion of the illusion was sustained.
Browne: Why do you keep putting “magic” in quotation marks — am I missing something?
Silver: That closing shot of the people jumping off the building and transforming into money is much too traditionally cinematic in its execution. It does not “feel” like a magic trick, but more like something from a superhero movie.
Browne: But it was a magic trick. Because they’re magicians. And so they know how to go from humans to piles of raining money. Because it’s magic.
We need to talk, Dan.
Elysium (August 9)
Silver: I believe one of the principal characteristics of a great craftsman is restraint. Why use a nail gun when a simple hammer will do? The same goes for film directors: Why unnecessarily overstuff a film with computer-generated effects when limited executions can be more effective? The utilization can be subtle (Fincher and his double Armie Hammers) or it can be elaborate. But like a hammer nailing down the final two-by-four on a backyard deck, a film’s special effects must be a tool employed to serve the greater goal: the story.
In no small part, this is the reason why Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was nominated for Best Picture. I truly doubt that as that film unfolded, anyone had a fleeting thought like, Wow, those special effects are amazing. No, for those who’ve seen it, we were all collectively too busy caring about Wikus and Christopher (the entirely CG alien character). District 9’s story is inherently human, and Blomkamp’s visuals are grounded in a practical reality but peppered with CGI (though admittedly doused in pepper, in some instances).
Operating on a higher budget, the images seen in Elysium do look grander. But there’s a shot at 0:53 which leaves me with the impression that Blomkamp is still handling his tools properly. It’s a rather simple moment. And it’s one that, when viewed in context of the larger trailer, could have been easily considered a throwaway. But at 0:53, there’s a tracking shot behind Matt Damon as he walks through the slums where the camera tilts up to a blue sky and two ships dart through the frame.
The authentic texture of the slums juxtaposed with the fantasy of the two aircrafts immediately establishes a believable world for the audience. I feel most directors working today would have shot Damon tighter, cropping out most of the practical slums, and opted to pan up to see a large CGI-enhanced “futuristic cityscape” to establish time/space. Where Blomkamp knew that an understated move, grounded primarily in reality, is a much more effective tactic.
Browne: Those were four very beautiful paragraphs, Dan. I have nothing to add. You should work on the PR team for this film and Neill Blomkamp. You just sold me on them, and three minutes ago I was pretty out on both. Wow.
Assault on Wall Street (TBD)
Silver: Assault on Wall Street would be the collective sweat soaked up in the sheets if Falling Down, Margin Call, Inside Man, and Prison Break had an orgy. Eww.
Browne: This seems like a very socially irresponsible movie to make. You don’t see me rolling into the Bank of America on my block with nunchakus and a Nixon mask because they denied me a credit card. What a dumb-looking film.
Storm Surfers 3D (June 21)
Silver: Forget the fact that this is a doc, and everything you see in it is REAL. If you’re not sold on this film simply from the title, then you and I need to head to couples’ counseling. I can’t wait to throw on a pair of 3-D glasses and just Zen out to this doc.
Browne: I was going to name my first memoir Storm Surfers 3D. Still might.