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.
KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER
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.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
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.
WELCOME TO ME
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?
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
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.
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR
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.
WORST TRAILER OF THE WEEK
HITMAN: AGENT 47
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.