Look, I’m not saying that Cthulhu, Australians, and drug lords are interconnected. I’m just saying they all enjoyed terrific trailers this week. Coincidence? Decide for yourself. I’m not your mother. (Or am I?)
The great thing about this week is that nearly all the films are ones I hadn’t known of or had only heard about in passing. While it was a tremendous week for the Cthulhustralian conspiracy, I’m going to make it wait a moment.
RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS
This is the trailer of the week. I’ve tried writing on it now a few times, but I take the subject matter too personally. I’ll save the lectures for another day.
Suffice to say that films by, starring, or about Native Americans and First Nations peoples are far too few. It’s a rare thing when the voices of a few artists can contribute to speak not just on an endangered culture, but one we’re responsible for eliminating. It’s special to me because those few voices were once joined by tens of millions, and when stories are told by the few surviving, you can sometimes sense the power of those tens of millions in every word.
Wow. In two minutes, Spring does what The Strain has failed to do in a season – send chills up my spine. If you’ve read two words from me, you know I’m a horror movie fan, but if you’ve read more than two words, you know I’m pretty elitist about it. I want my horror smart, psychological, otherworldly or supernatural, based on complex characters. I want to be scared to the point I’m a heartbeat away from laughing. I want to be terrified to the point where I’m begging you for a jump scare, just for the adrenaline release.
Spring looks disturbing in all the best ways, with hints of the quiet build and uncluttered presentation of Scandinavian horror, the color and alluring romanticism of Italian horror, the body horror and catharsis narrative of American horror, and the social malaise metaphors of Lovecraft. If it all comes together, this could be a special horror movie.
MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT
Gareth Edwards helmed the first Monsters, and his use of clever, low-budget trickery and knack for brilliant visuals nabbed him the director’s chair for this year’s Godzilla. What’d I think of Godzilla? It has some of the best trickery and brilliant visuals you’ll see this year, paired with godawful story delivery and acting.
Tom Green (no, not that Tom Green) takes over for the Monsters sequel and what could’ve been a direct-to-DVD mess looks like the Godzilla movie I wish I’d seen, but with 1,000% more Cthulhu goodness. Lines of giant tentacle beasts combing the dusty land, overpowering our modern armies. Tiny Cthulhuraptors engaging in desert jeep chases and being tackled by army dogs.
Yeah, it’s more military hoo-ra-ism, but we really do some nice hoo-ra-ism. [I’ll be honest, Re-reading that last sentence gives me pause after talking about Rhymes for Young Ghouls.] I worry about the acting and the staying power of the visual effects – for modestly budgeted sci-fi films, you usually have to choose one or the other, and it’s possible the trailer contains all the best shots. Still, there’s a visual confidence here, and it looks closer to the Godzilla reboot I wish I’d seen than the one that came out. As a trailer alone, this generates real buzz for a film that has next to none.
Ooh, but this looks good. The setup is fairly basic – a hero cop (Joel Edgerton) has a few beers and accidentally hits a teenager on his way home. A veteran detective (Tom Wilkinson) takes it upon himself to clean up the incident and make sure the right questions aren’t asked. A crusader (Jai Courtney) decides it doesn’t all add up, and pursues his own investigation.
That’s a million straight-to-DVD plots right there, but the difference is this pedigree – Wilkinson’s ability to play real-world fearsome is rare, while Courtney and Edgerton are two of Australia’s best up-and-coming actors. Edgerton has shown a chameleon quality you wouldn’t expect by looking at him, and he also had a hand in writing one of my films of the year thus far, The Rover.
It doesn’t hurt that Felony has already came out in Australia to rave reviews.
GOD HELP THE GIRL
Emily Browning, 25, will probably be playing teenagers until she’s 35. She just has that look. This is a problem, since the Australian actress has been on the verge of breaking through as a mature, complex performer for years now. At some point, something like her Sleeping Beauty, brutally experimental and tonally haunting, is going to break through into the mainstream and serve notice that she’s a powerhouse talent.
Until that point, if she’s going to play a high schooler, let’s hope it’s at least in indie films like God Help the Girl. Director Stuart Murdoch, of chamber pop band Belle & Sebastian, seems to have found a colorful, energetic visual style that reflects the baroque, yesteryear tone of his music. I’m not expecting this to blow the doors off the theater, but if it can convey the bouncy yet melancholic tone unique to Murdoch’s band and achieve the same lullaby quality through its visuals and Browning’s performance, we’re in for something charming and – dare I hope – reassuring. And reassuring isn’t often a priority in movies at the moment.
KILL THE MESSENGER
I’m glad Jeremy Renner’s getting back to some character acting. He’s the kind of actor who you have play Carmine Polito in American Hustle, or San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb here, not on whose shoulders you rest an entire franchise (hi, Bourne, Mission: Impossible, potential Hawkeye movie).
Who was Webb? He was a reporter who revealed that the Reagan Administration had shielded drug dealers on U.S. soil from prosecution, as a way of funding their suppliers, the Contras, in their CIA-backed coup of Nicaragua. And 20-odd years later, we wonder why the children of Central America are showing up on our doorstep, and act like they aren’t our direct responsibility for what we did to their countries in the name of the Cold War.
Though he was torn apart by mainstream media in the 1990s for his claims, much of Webb’s research was later vindicated. He died in 2004, having committed what was ruled a suicide. By shooting himself. In the back of the head. Execution style. Twice.
I fully expect, and hope, for Renner to nail this to the wall.
Paradise Lost is the other drug lord movie, starring Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and Benicio Del Toro (Che) as Pablo Escobar. In truth, it looks pretty iffy, and I’d much rather leave you wanting to go learn more about Gary Webb.