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Trailers of the Week: The Dictator, Total Recall, The Host, and More

The Dictator (May 11)

Silver: Sacha Baron Cohen better be careful. He’s scarily close to crossing the dreaded “Mike Myers Line.” That’s when a brilliant comic writer/performer rests on his/her past success and just recycles bits (I believe the line, “Exsqueeze Me? Baking Powder” appeared in both Wayne’s World films and at least one Austin Powers movie). I send this warning to Mr. Cohen because I believe him to be a true talent, but from what we can see (plot-wise) from this latest The Dictator trailer, he’s once again telling a story of a gregarious and politically incorrect outsider who comes to America with his trusty sidekick (here, Ben Kingsley), and after some misfortune, is left to fend for himself. Unlike Myers, I trust Cohen’s “in-between” stuff (better known as “the jokes”) to be fresher and more biting. But for his next film (not one in which he just acts), I’d like to see Cohen try to challenge himself. He’s a brilliant performer, and I’d rather see his career go the way of Peter Sellars than of Mike Myers.

Rem, please tell me you can make me feel better about this one.

Browne: I can’t, because with every additional piece of footage I see for this, it increasingly resembles a piss-poor Coming to America. That hurts to even say, but it’s true.

Total Recall (August 3)

Silver: Another trailer for a trailer. I hate to say it, but I don’t think we’re going to be moving away from this inexplicable trend anytime soon.

But what can we take away from this brief, 30-second peek at the retelling of Total Recall?

  • Colin Farrell takes the biggest step in his career rejuvenation by toplining this summer actioner. PLUS: We all should be rooting for this super-talented and immensely watchable dude.
  • A significant amount of effort was put into the scenic designs. Nothing immerses an audience more in a sci-fi film than believing in the world rolling out on screen. PLUS: It’s high praise, but the dark and textured exteriors are extremely reminiscent of Blade Runner.
  • The supporting cast is peppered with solid character actors like Ethan Hawke, John Cho, Bill Nighy, and Kate Beckinsale. Want more? Walter White himself, Mr. Bryan Cranston, plays the villain. PLUS: Jessica Biel is also in the film (half-minus?). I’m assuming her performance will consist of a lot of squinting and pointing guns. She’ll be fine.
  • Len Wiseman directs this latest version of the Philip K. Dick story. MINUS: This is the guy responsible for vomiting the Underworld films onto moviegoers, and was the director who thought it was a good idea to have John McClane jump off the tail of a fighter jet onto a decrepit freeway and slide away from a fireball in Live Free or Die Hard.
  • Although a biggie, one minus out of four ain’t bad. Hope is still high for this film.

    Browne: I’m actually quite hopeful for this film, because for some reason Colin Farrell was on the top of their leading-man list, above Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender. In 2006, maybe, but in 2012, that doesn’t make much sense, so he must be bringing something special to the table, right? I think? Maybe? I’m confused.

    Hotel Transylvania (September 21)

    Silver: It’s apropos that Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Andy Samberg are credited talent here, as the conceit for this feels more like a sketch on SNL than a 90-minute film.

    Rem … I really have nothing else to say here. Am I missing anything?

    Browne: I’ve been looking for a reason to get back on the “animated films are so overrated” train. Thank you, Hotel Transylvania. This looks absolutely deplorable.

    Sleepless Night (TBD)

    Silver: Here are two things that I want:

    1. For foreign filmmakers to keep showing up all the so-called “top” American action film directors. There seems to be an action-film revolution taking place off our shores with films like Elite Squad, The Raid, and Sleepless Night, and I never want it to stop. (Take note, Michael Bay.)
    2. With that said, I’d love the three previously mentioned films to morph into Japanese monsters — a la Godzilla and Mothra — and have a battle royale.

    Finally, there are certain shots I never get tired of seeing in movies. One of those is the gun-pointing badass sneaking into a scene and putting one finger up to his mouth to “Shhh” the innocent bystanders. The Sleepless Night trailer gives us that at 1:42. I love it.

    Browne: Seeing the quotation “Like Die Hard meets 24 by way of Taken” might be the greatest description of an action film ever. That’s how I usually describe my Friday nights, but I think it might be an even more appropriate description for this film. I’m super excited.

    The Host (March 29)

    Silver: I want to not care about The Host. I want to disregard it as another two-handed scoop out of Stephenie Meyer’s garbage-can-sized pot of money. But with Andrew Niccol writing and directing, I just can’t. Yes, his last film, In Time, was ambitious and somewhat entertaining, but ultimately flawed, and Niccol is responsible (as writer or writer/director) for Gattaca, The Truman Show, S1m0ne, and Lord of War, some of the more challenging films of the last 15 years. I’m going to give this one a chance.

    Browne: So there was a short-lived show on NBC called The Event. It was canceled after the first season, because my mother and I were the only ones who watched it. The show, since no one else saw it, was about a secret alien race that was living among “us” normal Earthlings and eventually was plotting an uprising against humans. Or something like that. Anyway, I have a feeling this film will be sort of like that show, but maybe even better. I think? I don’t know, I just really like the idea of every third person I run into being an alien out to destroy my kind. Maybe that’s just me. Whatever, at this point I’ll see anything that’s not animated or about sexy vampires.

    Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8)

    Silver: I recently figured out why I love the Duplass brothers so much. The tone and style of their films are the embodiment of independent filmmaking, which has matured and properly evolved since the early ’90s — unlike the enigmatic and mindless digital schlock or forced mini-major conveyer belt of subpar emo dreck that currently overruns film festivals. A Duplass movie always tells a story, it always creates an intimate world with nuanced characters, and it always has heart. Even though they didn’t write or direct Safety Not Guaranteed, they did produce it, Mark Duplass stars in it, and their creative stamp appears to be all over it. And, at least for me, it doesn’t hurt that the trailer has glimpses of Aubrey Plaza in horn-rimmed glasses (no need to jump back into all that). I’ve heard good things about this film, and am really looking forward to seeing it.

    Browne: I’m so pleased that Aubrey Plaza is about to be a movie star. I’m also so pleased that when I hear “Aubrey,” the conversation could potentially not be about Drake. I’m also extremely pleased that Ms. Plaza has seemed to master the “sassy but interested, mocking but invested, sultry but BFF” look that makes me want to propose six times a day, fully understanding that she’ll break my heart each time. I love her.

    Rise of the Guardians (November)

    Silver: The artwork and animation in Rise of the Guardians looks stunning. But do audiences really need yet another movie about the untold or secret lives of celebrated children’s characters/myths? (I blame you, Shrek.) More than this, why do all these reimaginings always militarize or up the badass quotient with their characters (see Arthur Christmas, Hop, and the fighting princesses from the Shrek films). No less than 10 years ago, a piece like this would have been put together as a mock-trailer and an Internet viral video to promote someone’s skills as an animator. Now, similar to Hotel Transylvania, filmmakers are at such a loss for ideas they’re taking these concepts, stretching them until they’re paper-thin and 90 minutes, then dumping them into cineplexes. And since all kiddie movies get released under the “Two Ticket Minimum” rule (child plus parent) they always make money, which then justifies the next one … and the next one … and the next one. It’s a vicious and cinematically sad cycle. Thank god for Pixar.

    Browne: Silver, you watch your mouth. This trailer almost made me cry. I don’t know why, but I had a flashback to some of those intense Toy Story 3 emotions that are buried so deep inside of me, but begging to be released. The same way I can’t handle old toys getting boxed away and sent to a land full of evil toys, I CANNOT sit, dry-eyed, while evil threatens the future of Santa (with tattoos), the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and the Easter Bunny. I’m embarrassed about how into this film I am.

    I want a kid.

    If anyone wants to put their 4-year-old on loan for an evening in November, just let me know. I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.