Category Archives: Trailer of the Week

Why the “Suspiria” Remake Gives Me Hope

by Gabriel Valdez

It may’ve slipped minds that there’s a “Suspiria” remake due to hit theaters on November 2. I’m not going to pretend I remembered. I had clicked to see just how bad the “Bumblebee” trailer for the Transformers spin-off is (hint: really, really bad) when I spied the new “Suspiria” trailer lurking at the edge of the screen.

A constant churn of directors and stars have been attached in the last decade to the remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic. This includes a long-gestated David Gordon Green salvo that thankfully didn’t come to pass. (Green is more fittingly directing the eleventh “Halloween” movie due out two weeks before “Suspiria” on October 19.)

The point is, I’d diligently trained myself to ignore news about a “Suspiria” remake for the past 10 years. There’s a lot of conjecture that “Suspiria” can’t be remade, that its essence can’t be recaptured. I don’t buy into that, and watching the first trailer…this is just about the best approach to “Suspiria” I could have hoped for.

The strength and weakness of giallo filmmaking is just how Freudian it is. It’s a murder mystery mixed with psychological horror, eroticism, and often supernatural elements. “Suspiria” is generally regarded as the exemplar film of the genre. Giallo films are often impressionistic because of how well they bridge basic, gut-level metaphor to complicated, dreamlike concepts of dread.

Freudianism is a double-edged, er, sword. Women are often enabled or empowered in these films only at the expense of other women succumbing to violence, or after paying fetishized visual dues to the director and audience. Yes, giallo can be violent toward men, but it’s never built value on trading or fetishizing us the way it has women.

(I’d argue there’s a reason the Dario Argento films with the strongest women leads involved Daria Nicolodi as a driving creative force in front of and behind the camera, but that’s an article for another day.)

Modern giallo needs to be able to escape some of its tendencies and comment on them, while still processing in violent, Freudian metaphor. It’s a fine line to walk. It’s going to be difficult to present a film about young women at a dance academy being murdered in surreal fashion without building plot value off of fridging women.

“Suspiria” is considered impossible to remake because of its visuals…but that’s never struck me as the problem. It’s this central theme that presents the greatest bar to the success of “Suspiria”…and maybe its greatest opportunity. We’ve seen films that are able to inhabit their genre while still stepping outside of it – art is one of the few places where you can have your cake and sometimes eat it, too.

In terms of visuals, a number of Grand Guignol films have met the visual bar “Suspiria” set, Guillermo Del Toro’s take on it in “Crimson Peak” being the most recent. Grand Guignol can be far more outlandish and winking than giallo can – it’s a more mischievous genre. The point is that there are plenty of art directors and costume designers capable of building a space that’s right for a “Suspiria” remake. “Suspiria” is essentially designed like a stage where a play or dance might take place, just three dimensionally. Take a look at a trailer for the 1977 version. It’s fan-made, since the 70s trailers don’t always do the film justice.

The dreamlike sensibility of giallo is in the editing, the writing, and in a place that’s far too overlooked: the performances. Actors need to be able to play giallo scenes with a broad non-specificity, in a kind of overstated, almost directionless performance that’s built for theatre, to be viewed at a distance. At the same time, those actors need to be playing to the understated detail, realism, and intentionality of close-ups and long takes. It’s that bridge between anchored reality and being flung untethered into an abstract dreamspace that makes giallo work and gives it its purpose.

(This was aided at the time by actors performing in their native languages – English, Italian, and German – and later adding English lines in additional dialogue recording sessions. During filming, they had to understand each other’s performances without always understanding each others’ lines with precision. This melding of languages added to the dreamlike quality of many of Argento’s films, in particular through broader performances in “Suspiria” and shifting language use in later edits of “Deep Red.”)

I have hope there’s a way to achieve this bridge between hard anchor and untethered space that doesn’t just move past, but addresses giallo’s past sins. Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”) is a director who may be able to tell a story on both sides of that coin. I don’t think you can find better opposing leads for a remake than Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton – who has a long history of projects that have their cake, eat it too, duplicate the cake into an alternate dimension, share the recipe with David Bowie….

My main hope is that this isn’t just a film that’s true to what giallo once was, because there’s a reason the genre is antiquated and more or less evaporated from production. My hope is that the “Suspiria” remake is a film that can finally drag giallo into modern times and give it a new, updated importance. The building blocks are there, often maintained and updated by films in other genres that border on the territory giallo calls its home, from the stylistic rearrangement of “Lost River” to the metaphorical bridging in “Mirrormask”…from the more mature contemplation on eroticism in “It Follows” to the horror of where Freudian sensibilities take us in “Ex Machina”…from the internal, personal psychologies in Lucrecia Martel’s “The Headless Woman” to Darren Aronofsky’s overt “Black Swan.”

There’s ample room and need for giallo not just to resurrect, but to catch up, to learn, to join the 40 years of sensibility it’s yet to figure out. We often think of giallo as needing to be anchored to the past because of the role women are made to play in it. That hasn’t been true of any other genre.

Given a trailer like the one above, I’m going to start hoping those involved understand giallo rests in its themes, performances, and storytelling, that its strength is in the connection between the immediate reaction in the pit of the stomach and the lingering anticipation creeping up the spine, and not just in a pursuit of visuals, victimization, and 40 year-old cliches.

The feature image of Dakota Johnson at a dinner that’s totally not creepy at all is from Scroll here.

Over on AC: Trailers of the Week

Michael Fassbender Slow West

Like I said, some things are going to shift around as I write for Article Cats, so Trailers of the Week might switch days. Here’s this week’s, including Jake Gyllenhaal’s Oscar shot, some exciting new comedies, new Donnie Yen, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s…Oscar shot? Really?

Oh, and the new Bond trailer, but after the misogyny of Skyfall I’m not exactly holding out high hopes. Check out Trailers of the Week’s new home here:

The Best New Trailers of the Week

And happy Friday!

– Gabe

Trailers of the Week — Most Anticipated Comedy, Irish Drama, and Mission: Impossible

Jimmys Hall Ken Loach

by Gabriel Valdez

It is really hard to get me interested in a romantic comedy. Not because I don’t like the genre – it’s none of that “I’m a guy, I can’t do this” guff. It’s because so many are made with the wrong priorities in mind: either stressing Disney-fied “one true love” views of love or deconstructing male friendship toward women as quiet obsessions that would be creepy as hell in the real world yet are nearly always rewarded with a woman-as-prize on film. Neither represents good lessons for either gender.

Give me a Sliding Doors or a 10 Things I Hate About You or even a Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Love Actually any day of the week. But hold the cloying copycat junk. Give me something unique, and I’m as excited for a romantic comedy as I am for any other kinds of film. Which leads me to:


I’ve been waiting for Lake Bell to become the next Sandra Bullock for a while now. Armed with a similar sensibility for communicating women finding their way in the world (and being OK with it), but with a voice actor’s knack for accents and an eye toward directing, she finally seems to be breaking through.

Pairing my favorite comic actress with my favorite comic actor – Simon Pegg – makes this film by British TV director Ben Palmer jump out of seemingly nowhere to near the top of my list. Like I said up top, I’m not a sucker for most romantic comedies – it takes a lot to get me interested. Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, and a trailer like this? That all gets me interested.

And while you’re at it, check out Bell’s directorial debut, In a World… (and what I wrote about it as one of 2013’s most overlooked films).


No one films Ireland like Ken Loach, and the director of the quietly poetic war drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley returns to that 1920s and 30s era he depicted so beautifully to visit another moment in Irish history, when a new government – fearful of fascism and communism – cracked down on anything that seemed new or different, that questioned Catholicism or hinted at socialism.

Loach is among the best directors that few viewers know. His films are always visits into other places, times, and worlds, pieces of simmering working class drama filled with human connection and visual poetry. He’s a director who cuts you to your core in the gentlest of ways, like a singer whose voice both calms the soul and haunts it for days.


For all intents and purposes, it looks like M:I picked up the borderless rogue state concept that the Bond series developed so well in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, brushed it off, wondered aloud why the hell Bond would just casually drop such a well-developed plot, and said, “Finder’s keepers.”

Why did Bond drop that plot anyway? Oh yeah, that’s why.

If Bond doesn’t want it, I’m happy for M:I to start mattering a bit more than it has in the past. The series continues to get better and fresher as Tom Cruise’s policy of a new director every film leads to giving upcoming action auteurs their best chance to show off all that they’ve got.

It’s a smart-as-hell business model that’s led J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird to bigger live-action fare, and Christopher McQuarrie, longtime writer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Edge of Tomorrow) and fairly new director (The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher) may turn out to be a better director than either.


Do I put a serious movie about the ethics of drone warfare above or below the Mission: Impossible trailer? This is a monumentally worthless question, but it’s still one that gave me pause. In the end, it’s not a great trailer. Mission: Impossible‘s is better. But Good Kill looks like it could be a great project. I trust in most things Ethan Hawke, if not in the totality of every movie then at least in his very honest and forthright performances.

Director Andrew Niccol is one of the most up-and-down directors you find. Gattaca remains one of the most important movies of the 90s and one of the most important and singular science-fiction movies ever made. Lord of War featured, in my book, Nicolas Cage’s best performance. Then you have S1m0ne, a thoughtful but ill-constructed comedy, and The Host (the U.S. sci-fi movie, not the fun Korean monster flick). Somewhere in the middle, you have the stylish but rather void Justin Timberlake-vehicle In Time.

Which Andrew Niccol shows up to a given film is difficult to pin down, but Good Kill feels most in synch with Lord of War, and that’s promising. It also reteams Niccol with Hawke. The last time that happened, we got Gattacca. Count me cautiously optimistic.


This trailer to a FOURTH movie in a franchise that barely managed to hang together a first one has no business making me smile. It doesn’t even have Jason Statham in it.

And yet…

It looks like something I’d watch. Mind you, it doesn’t look like anything I’d have high expectations for. But sometimes those are two different things. In fact, when it comes to The Transporter series, those are always two different things.


This idea of classic video game characters invading Earth wasn’t a bad one when Futurama did it. In 2002. It’s just that the cast, led by Adam Sandler and Kevin James, also seems better suited to 2002. Nothing against the actors, but they don’t seem the most appropriate to headline this level of comedy anymore. Hell, Sandler agreed to do one recent comedy only because it included a free trip to South Africa. Their star hasn’t burned out, but it has grown tiresome and repetitive. Imagine Tina Fey, Kevin Hart, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Jennifer Aniston, or Jason Segel in these roles.

Melissa McCarthy – who I’m generally not a fan of because she’s been stuck David Spade-like into movies that make fun of one element of her persona – would slaughter a movie like this. Dice it into little pieces and put it in a soup. Kill it. She would. McCarthy.

Point is, everything about this movie seems…well, not good but at least promising, until you see the faces. Then any notion of clever goes out the window, and “derivative” bolds, underlines, and ALL-CAPS itself. Obviously, I don’t hold out much hope for DERIVATIVE. Er, I mean Pixels.

Other trailers of interest:

Estonian war drama Tangerines.

Super cheesy-looking but kinda heartstring-pulling hero-dog movie Max.

Paper Towns actually looks like a fun teen mystery, but it smacks of promoting my least favorite lessons about men being rewarded with women by warrant of being obsessed, so good job ruining that.

And the disastrously titled Barely Lethal is proof that Samuel L. Jackson will act in anything. Oh well, it can’t be any worse than Vampire Academy, which was deceptively watchable.

Trailers of the Week — The Importance of Documentaries

Pulitzer Winner breaking news 2012 by Massoud Hossaini

by Gabriel Valdez

The photo above is real. It was taken by Massoud Hossaini and documented the aftermath of a suicide bombing aimed at Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan. The name of the girl screaming is Tarana Akbari. It means “Melody” in English. 17 women and children in her family were walking to a shrine to celebrate a holy day, Ashura. Seven died. This information is taken from the Pulitzer Prize website. This photo was shared around the world, and helped keep focus on Afghanistan at a time when it was drifting from the public eye.

There’s a perception that being an artist is easy, a lazy way out. You tell me: What’s the most important thing you can do in that moment? Help the girl or take the photo? Each choice changes lives; each choice sacrifices the opportunity to change other lives.


American society likes to downplay the role of artists – that they’re narcissistic, self-serving, or feel that the expectations of society are less important than their own personal goals – but this is a dangerous rejection. Artists often have a vital role to play in being a culture’s conscience. That can be in the form of comedians, photographers, painters, filmmakers, any kind of artist.

In Afghanistan, where photography was banned under the Taliban, it falls upon photographers to remind the world of the daily struggles and intolerances their citizens face. They know what stability is there will fall apart when the U.S. leaves because, well, they’ve seen it before in their lifetimes. The fault isn’t in our leaving again, it’s in our leaving nothing of value behind again, focusing on winning wars rather than building schools and hospitals and roads, leaving nothing for their population to pick up but weapons and damning ourselves to another war there 20 years later.

Directors Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli depict how photographers can use our interconnected world to keep pressure on Western nations to build something more. It’s an uphill battle, it’s a battle unlikely to be won, but that doesn’t mean that artists shouldn’t have it because along the way they will save lives, they will improve their culture’s situation, and they will make things that much better and more stable to survive the next war and the next dictatorship. That’s the role of an artist – not narcissism, but self-sacrifice, even if those they’re sacrificing for couldn’t recognize that in a million years. How dangerous is it to devalue your own conscience?


How exceptional would it be to suddenly discover you have an adopted twin halfway around the world? That’s the unique experience Twinsters documents. I know very little about it, but Samantha Futerman documents her own strange experience of meeting her twin. It’s the sort of unlikely drama we attach to fiction and never expect to encounter in reality, but these are the things that become more likely as our web of social networks makes the world a smaller place.


Very few people realize that Caroll Spinney has been playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street for nearly 50 years now. What’s the story behind a puppeteer and voice actor who is, essentially, synonymous with the entire history of the most successful children’s program in TV history? And what does that history mean going forward, at a time when public television is under political attack for…well, I’m really still unsure why Republicans in Congress keep trying to pull funding from it.

I’m told I approached my mother with a storybook once, when I was very young. She assumed I wanted her to read it to me. I started reading it to her instead. My parents were terrifically involved in my growth, but like many things in my life, I had kept my ability to read private until I could do it at a certain level. They were shocked I could read so early. They asked me how. I had two words: “Sesame Street.” I don’t see how you pull what amounts to very little public funding for a show that can teach children – some who have parents who weren’t as involved as mine were – to read.


I know, it’s Taylor Lautner, and he was the pinnacle of horrible in a franchise pretty much dedicated to horrible. Although I think the first Twilight is perfectly acceptable for what it is, its four(!?!) sequels were increasingly dreadful. Every other actor in the movies, however – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Mackenzie Foy – boasts a career composed of far better performances. The evidence suggests none of them are bad actors, but rather they all joined in on a franchise composed of terrible performances.

Why should Lautner be any different? I don’t see any reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially in a movie that looks like the lovechild of Point Break and Premium Rush, and features parkour as its action focus.


I have no idea of the context of this, nor of its underlying messages or historical or mythical accuracy. I have zero background in this, but there aren’t a whole lot of epics from Sri Lanka that we get a chance to see, and my radar starts going wild any time I get a chance to see movies from a film industry that – to me, at least – is new.

Every culture inputs something new and different into the films they make, adds something new to the visual language that makes up storytelling in movies. That’s why I’m excited for this, even if I know little else about it.


Mike Flanagan put out Oculus last year and it was a moodily effective, if ultimately underwhelming, horror movie. I look forward to seeing what he does as he continues to develop and evolve as a filmmaker. The plot of Before I Wake feels a little predictable, but some of those visuals are more effective than I want to admit. If he can pull those off, he’ll join a small group of young directors who – I don’t want to be overdramatic here – are basically our only hope of saving a woeful American horror genre.


Mumblecore – a genre defined by naturalistic acting, often messily overlapped dialogue, and real shooting locations – has long been a genre associated with twenty-something melodrama. While that’s all well and fine (and a bit underrated in what it can contribute to film), I find it fascinating when it’s applied to other genres. Take You’re Next, a 2013 horror movie that adopts mumblecore as an effective way of marrying dark comedy to intense horror.

While mumblecore would seem tailor-made to the screwball comedy, the reality is that nobody really thinks to make screwball comedies of any sort anymore. That’s a shame, and one reason Wild Canaries is on my list of harder-to-track-down films.


Rose Byrne has a head for intriguing and challenging independent film. She’s followed a career of never quite going mainstream, yet she often pushes her movies into unexpected box office success anyway. Despite the disaster that was last year’s Neighbors (read the review), I’m more than willing to trust her in an indie comedy opposite Nick Kroll – despite or because of the fact they’re playing enabling narcissists, I’m not really sure.


It’s a Dev Patel world, we’re just living in it. Two weeks ago he had two debuts – Chappie (read the review) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – that opened first and third on box office charts. Later this year, The Road Within will find its way to rental, if not the theater, and even if the trailer looks a little rote, it also looks fun. That and Dev Patel is quickly becoming a bit of a must-see actor for me.

Other trailers of note:

Pixar’s latest animated film, Inside Out, debuted its first real story trailer.

Hotel Transylvania 2 featured its first trailer, a cute scene about vampires learning to fly.

Maggie Kiley’s Dial a Prayer looks like it could be a very good comedy.

Trailers of the Week — Around the Globe: Horror, Fashion, and Earthquakes

Sisterhood of Night

by Gabriel Valdez

This was a hell of a week for trailer announcements. Joining some really intriguing action flicks are horror movies from India, Ireland and – of course – the U.S., a crime film from France, and two very different portrayals of the French fashion industry.


It’s hard being a kid. Standing up for counter-culture and the social outsider is one of the most important things movies can do – I guarantee you films like The Craft, Pump Up the Volume, and Heathers got me through some very rough patches. So The Sisterhood of Night might seem an odd headliner, but it’s the project I most want to highlight. What films like it once communicated to me, I hope this film can communicate to others.

This got its start on Kickstarter. That actually may be one of the most viable ways to support movies made by women (such as writer Marilyn Fu and director Caryn Waechter here) when the studio system refuses to drop its boys’ club attitude toward filmmaking.


Some of the most exciting new cinema in the world is coming from India, whose long-successful film industry has been involving grittier presentations of social commentary as of late. Sunrise looks to confront issues of child abduction and prostitution (a government study in 2007 estimated 53.22% of Indian children face sexual abuse), and the trailer is soaked in just as much style as our own best film noirs.


Nobody does crime movies quite like the French do crime movies. Jean Dujardin, who boasts an Oscar for his performance in The Artist, plays a judge who spends his life trying to dismantle an international drug ring. Director Cedric Jimenez is fairly new, with only one prior film under his belt, but if the trailer’s any indication, he’s not afraid to swing for the fences.


This might actually be the best-made trailer of the week. The opening sequence would last too long but for that sound design. Jesus, that sound design. And once you’re done with that, the trailer just assaults you with a punk sensibility toward your ears and eyes (don’t watch this with headphones on). Another movie that got its start on Kickstarter, this is how you announce that your film is meant to be something both visceral and unique.


This is the other side of horror, and this trailer builds mystery and suspense in a frighteningly suggestive way. I have no clue what the plot is, but I am quite confident of the emotions the filmmakers seek to evoke. A few more trailers jealously guarding their plot from you – like these last two – would certainly make moviegoing a fresher, more mysterious experience.


It’s always season for biopics, and director Bertrand Bonello is a director with a history of crafting challenging portrayals of his subject matter outside the mainstream. In the last 15 years, he’s made challenging films covering pornography (The Pornographer), brothels (House of Tolerance), and adapted a Greek myth about transexuality into the Brazilian countryside (Tiresia).


On French fashion, there’s also a fascinating documentary coming out on Dior’s new artistic director and the history of the seamstresses who quietly realize these fashions. This may not matter to everyone, but Dior has remained more or less practical in their designs over the years, maintaining a blend of artistic statement and actual wear-ability that a lot of fashion has ceased prioritizing.


I don’t want to be excited for The Rock’s disaster movie, but this just looks too fun. That and I’m a sucker for anything with Carla Gugino in it. I hope The Rock and Paul Giamatti get a chance to buddy up for a long stretch of this movie, because that’s a buddy pairing made in heaven.


A lot of people are excited for this trailer, but I found the quiet, suggestive first entry much more exciting. I’m a bit disappointed to be shown just how much crazy CGI action is in the movie, how zany Clooney is meant to be, and how much of a chase is involved. The first trailer suggested a film about ideas. This one suggests Race to Witch Mountain (speaking of The Rock and Carla Gugino) with a bigger budget. That’s not a bad thing, I just liked the direction the first trailer hinted at and this one chucks the mysterious restraint it suggested right out the window.


I like the idea of an elderly Sherlock Holmes struggling with Alzheimer’s attempting to solve one last mystery, especially when the actor’s Ian McKellen. I’ll be in the seats on concept alone, despite its trailers failing to hook me.


This looks more narratively interesting than filmically great, but Charlize Theron in a Gillian Flynn adaptation sounds too promising to not mention. Flynn, of course, wrote the novel and screenplay for Gone Girl (read the review). Here, her work is adapted by a director, Gilles Paquet-Brenner, whose repertoire is mixed at best.


I’ll be honest – I’d be more interested in seeing a Thai family trying to survive a Thai coup than in seeing an American one – I think we’re at the point where white American audiences are open to that. And, as much as I love him, Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan are not the guys to be headlining this. I like the casting of Lake Bell, who ought to shine in this kind of film, but Wilson and Brosnan playing what appear to be Wilson and Brosnan archetypes – what, exactly, is the tone they’re going for in this?

This is here for no other reason than John Erick Dowdle, who directed two very underrated found footage horrors – Quarantine and last year’s As Above, So Below (read the review). If Dowdle ever figures out how to adapt his fine sense of POV choreography to third-person storytelling, he’s going to be a terrific director. That’s a big “if,” however.


Eli Roth-produced clown horror Clown, and an indie horror movie about a house of girls called Girlhouse (where do they come up with these titles?) really gave our winner a run for its money this week, but in the end, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is why we can’t have nice things.

Other trailers of interest include:

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are a terrific comedic pairing, even if the plot for 5 Flights Up – they try to sell a Brooklyn apartment – sounds a little dry.

Watch the trailer for Ben Kingsley switching into the body of Ryan Reynolds in Self/Less only if you want to have the entire movie spoiled for you.

Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer #4,815 doesn’t sway me from my determination to root for James Spader, because he’s James Spader, although it does hint at a romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner – my guess is it’s a set-up for both of them leaving each other for James Spader.

Your Nicholas Sparks entry for the year, The Longest Ride (snicker), stars a baby Eastwood and Alan Alda, so there’s that. Oh damn, too bad the romance isn’t between them. That’s a missed opportunity.

My hopes are not high for Danish Western The Salvation, but Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green are the basis for a standout cast – trailers have looked all over the map, but the latest is the best.

There’ll be a feature on upcoming independent comedies later this week, since this is already the longest Trailers of the Week yet.

Trailers of the Week — Guillermo, Rinko, and Wiig Goes Full Crispin Glover

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter Rinko Kikuchi

by Amanda Smith & Gabriel Valdez

This feature’s been away for a while, so we’ll cover more than just this past week. A number of interesting projects have trailered recently. We’ll start with the biggest and most obvious of the bunch:


Few directors have the ability to create such singular story universes as Guillermo Del Toro. He’s never really done a straight horror before, not in the American or British style. All his ghost stories have maintained elements of magical realism and strange logics which often make his ghosts and monsters more misunderstood than evil.

He’s described Crimson Peak as his first straight-up horror film. Tom Hiddleston’s the name here because of his portrayal of Loki in the Thor movies, but it’s all about Mia Wasikowska, who’s quickly used her career boost from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to create as accomplished a resume in horror as one can have by 25; and Jessica Chastain, who’s participated in 18 films in the past four years and hasn’t missed as an actor once.

…and, of course, Doug Jones, as accomplished an actor in makeup and monster effects as Andy Serkis is in motion capture.


A Japanese woman, rejected by society, discovers a copy of Fargo on tape. She convinces herself it’s a treasure map to the location of the case of money lost in the film, and so she travels to North Dakota in hopes of finding it. The chance to see Kikuchi let loose as an introvert with a loose grasp of reality is the draw here. There aren’t many actors who can reel you in on their name and a sentence-long plot description, but a great performance is still the best reason to see any movie, especially one that looks this darkly comedic and tense.


This is an animated movie developed in the United Arab Emirates. It concerns the tale of Bilal ibn Rabah, a warlord who was companion to Muhammad. It does look absolutely beautiful, and it offers the kinds of characters who we don’t often get to see in a movie unless they’re having their heads blown off by a sniper. I won’t pretend that a few more positive portrayals of Muslims on film would quell the voices on both sides calling for bloodshed, but they might convince a few less to respond to those voices.

That alone makes the film unique, although we expect Fox News to whine about brainwashing and evil demons being infused into the seats in the theater or something once it comes out.


Period romances are one of my least favorite genres. The genre isn’t worse than any other, it’s just not my cup of tea. All that said, Far From the Madding Crowd looks incredible. The Thomas Hardy novel on which it’s based was critical of the cultural expectations of women in 1870s England and Danish director Thomas Vinterberg is experienced at creating challenging social commentary within the frameworks of a variety of genres. His last film, The Hunt, concerned a community creating accusations of predation from thin air in order to persecute a divorced teacher.


Kristen Wiig is becoming more interesting the closer to Crispen Glover she becomes, because unlike Glover – who purposefully puts off his audience – her biggest concern is still translating her commentary to her audience. She’s challenging, but not confrontational about it. Wiig has Glover’s deconstructionist abilities and mindset, but she’s also concerned with rebuilding something out of what she tears down.


Welcome to Liam, the Hemsworth who can act. Centering an unwinding, Coen-like “country noir” around Hemsworth, John Malkovich, and Billy Bob Thornton. The director’s an interesting one – half of Matt Shakman’s experience lies in directing It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes. That makes me think the comedy and multi-tiered plot should be spot on. All that’s left is the tension. It’s in the trailer. Can it make it into the movie?


By now, anything with Viggo Mortensen and a horse in it demands your attention. A Spanish-language feature about a Captain abroad in Argentina, whose daughter runs away, the whole thing looks filmed according to the film rules of 1950s Westerns. That alone makes this enticing – how do you communicate to a modern audience with 1950s film grammar? How does that limit you? What artistic opportunities can you find in that grammar that we’ve since lost?


This looks exciting almost purely by benefit of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. If he can bring the same combinations of energy and quirk, the same respect for source material and irreverence for expectations, this adaptation of the 1960s TV show should be a fun ride. The biggest question lies in Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. Can they can match the levels of charm and self-deprecation that Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law bring to Ritchie’s Sherlock films?


President Samuel L. Jackson + Finnish boy with a bow and arrow = Explosions. This trailer speaks for itself.


This doesn’t actually look all that good, and the title is – who knows where to start on that – but anything combining Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana is worth a look. They both have their big-budget Marvel cred now, but that overshadows how long each of them has been demolishing roles in smaller films for years. Ruffalo’s recognized for it. Saldana ought to be.


Promising. Director Sam Raimi hasn’t had a great film since 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and he hasn’t had a great horror film since 2000’s underrated The Gift. What Raimi does bring is an unbridled sense of fun, and that’s long been missing in American horror. Will he stick to his guns or will he try to accommodate the changing taste in scares that modern audiences have? This is very up in the air.


They should have left the title of this as “Untitled Cameron Crowe Defense Industry Romance.” So much better than “Aloha.” But Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, and Alec Baldwin are an irresistible cast in the hands of someone like Crowe, who’s fallen of the radar quite a bit but has yet to make anything I’d call a bad movie.


Look, everybody, The Matrix had a reason for magic slo-mo back in 1999, but by now it’s all a bit played out, isn’t it? Oh, he’s genetically altered to be able to move faster than a bullet – well, it’s all OK then. Films like this can still be fun – they’re essentially stylistic CGI cutscene orgies – but they can also wear out the viewer very quickly if done wrong. When your two minute trailer opens with all the trademarks of a parody, it’s done wrong. If anything survived from The Matrix, it should have been the goth style instead of bullet time.

Trailers of the Week — Emmy Rossum’s Gonna Make You Cry

No date set

This is right up my alley. I’m a sucker for metanarrative romances. About 99% of them clunk hard and don’t work, but the few that do – (500) Days of Summer, The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – are the movies that leave me shaking by the end.

Yeah, Comet‘s stylism could be too much and Justin Long has yet to truly prove himself to me as the equal to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gael Garcia Bernal, or Jim Carrey, but I trust Emmy Rossum as an actress – especially now that she’s picking her roles from more indie stock.

Comet Rossum Long

The trailer works – it hits all the right buttons, pulls me in, makes me wonder, and makes me hope, which means it has all the right ingredients to break my heart and pick me back up again. That’s why I’m a sucker for metaromances – they’re just like the real thing.

No date set

There’s a few reasons to keep this on your radar. Writer-director-actor Shawn Christensen is primary among them – he won an Oscar for Best Live-Action Short in 2012 with Before I Disappear rough draft “Curfew.” Emmy Rossum has been a consistently interesting actor who splits her time between stage and screen. She seems to have struggled a bit with not getting the range of roles she has on stage (in bigger-budget productions, her looks bottled her into playing a certain type of character), so I look forward to seeing her run against type.

Toss in actors like Ron Perlman, Richard Schiff, and Paul Wesley, as well as an intriguing, semi-mumblecore visual style, and you’ve got my attention. Fatima Ptacek, the young girl in the trailer, isn’t exactly a new find. She’s been voicing Dora the Explorer the past three years. I tend to think this is a step up.

Dec. 19 (limited)

Jan. 1 (wide)

I enjoy it when Mark Wahlberg goes back to playing these sorts of antisocial characters picked out of the gutter and dusted off so someone else can use them. These are roles molded from 60s and 70s crime flicks (The Gambler is itself a remake), and few actors hit the exact right note to carry off a modern translation.

That the man using him is played by none other than John Goodman only sweetens the pot.

May 1

Hulk smash Iron Man! Thor screams to the gods! Machine guns!!! Tanks!!! BALLERINAS!!!!!

Never change, Joss Whedon. Never change.

(It’s a good thing James Spader is a CGI whatever-he-is in this. If it was live-action James Spader, I’m pretty sure I’d have to root against The Avengers.)

No date set

OK, this doesn’t look like fine art, but it has a few things going for it that I love. First off, it’s a horror movie that doesn’t star 30 year-olds pretending they’re 18. They’re all well and good, but I enjoy the idea of a man fighting off a werewolf in a retirement community.

Secondly, I like the idea of a blind veteran as the protagonist. We’re seeing more and more protagonists with disabilities – even characters like Hiccup in kids’ movies like How to Train Your Dragon 2. Part of that comes from increasing understanding that “disability” can be a misnomer, and that people who cope with one can be just as able as the rest of us. Part of that comes from being a nation in multiple wars for 12 years running. Our soldiers don’t always come home the way they left, physically and mentally, and so our heroes in film begin to reflect that a little bit more.

Thirdly, I love werewolf movies. There aren’t enough of them, and there aren’t enough good ones. Late Phases looks pretty unabashedly like a B-movie, and that’s fine. I love a good B-movie, and many of them (Bubba Ho-Tep comes immediately to mind) have much, much more to say than you’d think.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY re-release
Nov. 28

There are a very few films that must be seen in theaters at some point in a cinephile’s life. Lawrence of Arabia is first among these, and I had that brilliant opportunity a few years back. Right behind it, though, is 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s stand-out space horror think piece originally released in 1968.

This is the crowning achievement from an age of science-fiction that was fascinated with the dawning era of space travel and what it meant for mankind as a rebirth into the stars. Writers then didn’t imagine it would become bogged down in a morass of red tape and funding issues. They imagined we would recognize expansion into space as the opportunity to become more as a species than we have been. Instead, that opportunity sits there, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

Trailers of the Week — True Stories

Nov. 14

Steve Carell’s often hinted at some deeper pathos in his comedy. It’s what makes characters like Michael Scott on The Office compelling. His asinine comedian of a boss spoke to Scott’s lack of confidence, his social maladjustment. He tried to correct this through behaving, through women, through spending every cent he had, and found in every iteration, he found no real comfort.

It was only when he started to grow up and become comfortable with himself that others became comfortable around him, started rooting for him rather than against him. That Carell may deliver one of the better performances of the year in Foxcatcher isn’t a surprise. It’s that it took so long for someone to put him in a dramatic role like this, playing an historical character, that’s the real surprise.

(This isn’t really the first trailer. It’s about the 7 millionth, but it is the first “official” trailer.)

Out in select markets, expanding soon

Whiplash has been engineering one of those frustrating holiday releasing strategies. Is it in limited markets? In previews? Expanding? Yes, yes, and is molasses a releasing strategy? Technically, it’s already out, but it better start expanding far more if it wants to capitalize on the buzz that’s been going around about it. All I know is it looks brilliant. I know a very few folks who have seen it already and describe it as the defining role of J.K. Simmons’s exceptional career.

March 13

I’m not sold on Chris Hemsworth yet. He’s fun to watch as Thor, but his other projects really haven’t launched.

I should be sold on director Ron Howard by now, but I always have reservations going into his movies. With the exception of Apollo 13, his films that aren’t designed to be hits (The Missing, Frost/Nixon, Rush) tend to be better than the ones that are (Ransom, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code).

It’s ironic that Rush is one of Howard’s better films. Hemsworth was fine in it, but the role wasn’t exactly a stretch for him. He played it in very broad strokes and it never felt like he reached the level of his costars. Personally, I’d rather see his Rush-costar Daniel Bruhl in a role like this.

It also makes me wary that this isn’t a Moby Dick adaptation. It’s based on the “true events” that inspired Moby Dick. In fact, a youthful Herman Melville is one of the characters here, played by Ben Whishaw. That’s always dangerous territory. It’s also off-putting that the whale in the trailer is some flame breath or an EMP-burst away from being a Pacific Rim kaiju.

Actually, Ron Howard’s “Pacific Rim: Colonial Edition”…I’m beginning to get the Chris Hemsworth casting now.

Do I have a whole host of worries about In the Heart of the Sea? Absolutely. Does it look good anyway. Yep.

Dec. 26

This isn’t Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, but for the vast majority of viewers, it will be. That alone leaves me rooting for it. Since most women filmmakers don’t enjoy the ability to step into a fully-financed studio film, if she’s successful, she may change Hollywood’s minds on backing female directors.

All of that is immaterial to the film itself, however, and the film looks damn good. All its trailers have come across as a bit schmaltzy, but coming out in the holiday season, that’s how they’ve got to appeal. It doesn’t look like the film itself will subscribe to that. Instead, this looks like an old-fashioned, rousing, biographical picture. That’s exactly my cup of tea. It is based on a true story, and is probably going to stick to the facts of that story a little more closely than Ron Howard’s Whaleformers above.

Needless to say, I’m rooting for Unbroken for a lot of reasons.

No date set

Yakuza send-up gone mad, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? follows a gangster who wants his gang war revenge on film, starring his daughter, and done before his wife gets out of prison. Because why not?

Japan might have the best film industry in terms of skewering its own genre standards. That’s a fancy way of saying they make the best comedies. This doesn’t mean every one is a hit, but I’ve heard good things about Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and the trailer hints at a movie that knows precisely the overbloodied gangster movie tropes it wants to lampoon.

December 5

When you click on a trailer with Nicolas Cage’s name attached, you’re already thinking “Worst Trailer of the Week.” And Dying of the Light certainly starts out with that potential. As it develops, though, you start to see where it could go and it’s another Nicolas (Nicolas Winding Refn, in this case) that makes me view the trailer through another filter. The writer-director of Drive and Only God Forgives is producing, with hit-or-miss writer-director Paul Schrader, well, writing and directing this time out.

His last film was the execrable The Canyons, a movie so wretched I broke out the word ‘execrable’ to describe it. A Bret Easton Ellis performance art project starring Lindsay Lohan, porn star James Deen, and in which the movie itself was secondary, Schrader was the hapless director used in a Producers-like plot to create the perfect modern train wreck. Ellis’s success was contingent on Schrader’s failure, but that doesn’t mean Schrader should be forgiven his directorial decisions on The Canyons.

All this is a way of saying Dying of the Light is a high-risk, moderate-reward kind of venture. I have more confidence in Winding Refn to get something good out of Schrader than Ellis, and the trailer surprised me by looking like something I’d watch. Given the amount of crap I give Nicolas Cage (despite honestly liking him in many roles), it’s nice to highlight a performance of his with true potential.

Worst Trailer of the Week:

Haley Joel Osment! Jokes about this Internet thing! Crappy comedies about lazy-ass guys whose lazy-assitude is rewarded with beautiful women just because that’s the way the world works, right?

It’s like the early 2000s all over again.

He gets drunk and throws up on someone! I’ve never seen that before! Look, when even Steve Zahn moved past this stuff, it really should’ve signaled the end, guys. Please don’t make Haley Joel Osment our new Steve Zahn.

Here’s some Chris Hemsworth to wash the taste of whatever that was out. I might start pretending he’s really Thor stripped of his powers in every film. It already makes Red Dawn a much better film.

Chris Hemsworth In the Heart of the Sea

Trailers of the Week — Only “Tomorrowland”

by Gabriel Valdez

Disillusionment. We’re used to trailers that show us magical places full of wonder and awe. A two hour escape into a movie, into a world that changes from beginning to end. That’s appealing.

We’re not use to trailers that show us why we want to escape there so badly. One shot, one little aside – a young girl glancing at the TV – tells me all I need to know about why this movie’s being made. On that TV is a riot, protesters squaring off with police.

We don’t know why this girl is getting out of jail or what her world is like outside this flat gray room. But we do have one detail that connects her existence to ours: disillusionment.

It used to be that young adult movies communicated a child not quite belonging to the rest of society through orphanhood, the death of a parent, or divorce. But we feel it on the back of our necks when we read the news, when we see police firing at protesters, cameramen being beaten just for doing their jobs. None of us quite belong to this society. None of us look at the state of things and imagine: this is what I expected, this is what I hoped for.

Tomorrowland, at least in this trailer, doesn’t communicate a fantastic world very well. It communicates a disappointing one. It communicates a desire for something better, a desire so overwhelmed and constantly assaulted that it can’t even take shape.

Dozens of trailers tell us, “Go here. See this. Feel better.”

This one tells us, “Look around. It’s OK to be overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed, too.”

This is the only trailer we’re featuring this week. That’s an experiment, and runs counter to the purpose of this series, but everything else seems to dilute the impact of Tomorrowland. This is the one that’s got me thinking.