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:
TRAILER OF THE WEEK
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.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION
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.
THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED
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.
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.
WORST TRAILER OF THE WEEK
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.