Tag Archives: Serena

Trailers of the Week — Jennifer Lawrence Season

Let’s just dive straight in:

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1

My worry for the Hunger Games series has been how it goes bigger, how it goes from a franchise about very orderly deathmatches to a franchise about chaotic, messy war. The series’ strength has never been its action. Its strength has been psychology. From the first moment of the first film, Hunger Games invoked the Depression-era photography of Dorothea Lange. The games were secondary, a function of presenting fashion and celebrity. They could just as easily have been a football game, or a celebrity feud on reality TV distracting us from our everyday struggle. That’s the whole point – deathmatches are just more cinematically compelling.

I remember walking out of the second Hunger Games and thinking, This is the franchise we need. This is my generation’s most complete, mass-market call for resistance. Not the kind of guns-out resistance in the movie, but a social and cultural resistance. Films like Hunger Games and this year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier make the reality of how our nation’s evolved toward oligarchy a little easier to comprehend for many. The broadest tools for social change can’t be the sharpest – they have to be accessible in order to reach a wide audience. These are the movies that most finely balance being a blockbuster with translating social commentary.

So I worry for Mockingjay Part 1 not because I have reason to, but because maintaining that complete social comment across multiple films is a truly staggering task. In going bigger, in becoming messier, will it lose that psychological edge, that critique that makes it compelling not just on a cinematic level, but on a social and political level? It has created an opportunity event franchises just aren’t allowed. I have no doubt this film will be good, maybe even great, but it can’t just be that. It needs to be socially crucial. It needs to build exponentially on the ideas of its predecessors, like the second entry did.

The subtitle on this blog is “Movies and how they change you.” There’s a real chance The Hunger Games can not just embody that, but that it can continue to redefine the scope and scale on which event films are able to take social stands.

SERENA

Mockingjay isn’t the only Jennifer Lawrence movie to trailer this week. Serena has been held back as Lawrence’s star continues to rise (and as the studio figures out how to sell it). It would seem to re-unite her with Bradley Cooper, but this was actually shot before American Hustle.

Serena follows timber barons George and Serena Pemberton during the Great Depression as they scheme their way to power. There will be tragedy, neat costumes, and acting your face off aplenty. The trailer’s ill-defined, but Lawrence and Cooper – aside from sounding like a law firm – are enough to make it must-watch. Danish director Susanne Bier is a staple in the Oscars’ Foreign Language category, and her In a Better World won the award in 2011.

I named this one of my top 10 most anticipated films at the beginning of the year, but I’d begun to think it had been pushed once more. The release date is still in question, but it looks like October 24. Frankly, whether the film is good, bad, or indifferent, Magnolia Pictures is doing an atrocious job of advertising what should be easy money. People will go watch Jennifer Lawrence read a phone book for two hours at this point, and she’d still do it well enough to win an Oscar for Best Documentary. Put some money into advertising and get it out there.

MR. TURNER

EFFIE GRAY

Originally, the title this week was going to be “British Painter Season,” but then Mockingjay hit and, well, that was that.

In truth, I held Mr. Turner off from last week so it wouldn’t get quite as buried. The visuals of Mr. Turner look particularly striking, and I enjoy that the film appears to be as focused on his watercolour landscapes and their impact as it does on J.M.W. Turner’s personality.

Effie Gray excites me a little less, if only because the trailer makes it unclear quite what’s happening. Is Dakota Fanning secretly the painter in question, or is she the wife of the painter, or some combination thereof? The film looks like it has potential, however, and at this point, you don’t overlook a film with Fanning’s involvement (and Emma Thompson’s, for that matter).

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE

Revenge comedies are few and far between. In fact, when the Coen Brothers and Guy Ritchie aren’t applying their talents to one, all we’ve got left is Scandinavia.

Thank the gods for Stellan Skarsgard. Whether delivering the best one liners and running naked through Thor or charming and terrifying his way through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he’s too overlooked for his dynamic and disarming performances.

In Order of Disappearance looks like a superb vehicle to showcase his talents, and I can’t wait to see it.

JOHN WICK

You can take Keanu Reeves’ dignity. You can take Keanu Reeves’ car. But you better not lay a finger on Keanu Reeves’ dog.

That’s a message I can get on board with, and that’s the theme to this wackadoodle-meets-Euroslick trailer for John Wick. Put Nic Cage in this, and it makes Worst Trailer of the Week. Put Keanu Reeves in it, and suddenly it’s stylish as hell. Such is the power of Keanu.

A host of unexpected actors and the sheer grace Keanu possesses in the choreography they drop at the end suddenly takes this from iffy into got-to-see-it territory.

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN

I’m not much for slasher movies, unless you’re talking Italian giallo films from the 70s. The problem is that American slashers dropped all the psychology, opera, and art history from the genre and replaced it with torture, cheesy masks, and fear-mongering misogyny. That said, The Town That Dreaded Sundown looks like it has potential, with a small-town mystery at its center and some brilliant shots and color composition in the trailer. Then they drop in the guy with the cheesy mask and I lose all hope. Still, it’s one to keep an eye on just in case it delivers on those wonderful visuals.

Worst Trailer of the Week: MAPS TO THE STARS

This is one of my more anticipated movies this Autumn, but boy oh boy, is this an awful trailer. You’ve got to be careful cutting a David Cronenberg film for ads. His movies are composed of long stretches of quiet, of set-up, of reinforcing the mood, and sudden explosions of outright violence. That’s hard to define in a two-minute stretch, but my god, do they do a terrible job of it here. There’s a complete lack of dramatic timing in how it’s edited together.

A Whole Lotta Christian Bale: The Films of 2014, #10-1

The Missing Picture

10. The Missing Picture

March 19 — Rithy Panh tells his memoir of the Khmer Rouge massacres in 1970s Cambodia, using clay figures to fill in for the archival footage that’s missing from one of the most forgotten genocides in 20th century history. It’s an idea that sounds like a student art project gone wrong, but it’s one that in its simplicity becomes overwhelming even in a 2-minute trailer. The Missing Picture is currently up for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. You can watch that trailer here.

Gone Girl

9. Gone Girl

October 3 — If Se7en, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have proven anything, it’s that David Fincher is the greatest modern director of the movie mystery. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the bestselling novel, is handling the screenplay solo, and it’s rare for a first-time screenwriter to be given that kind of carte blanche for a major release. Rosamund Pike joins Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris in what has got to be the strangest cast Fincher’s ever lined up. This last gives me pause enough to not rank this higher, but Fincher’s track record is just too strong to keep it out of the top 10.

Noah

8. Noah

March 28 — Darren Aronofsky makes dark, disturbing films like Black Swan. His Requiem for a Dream, about the drug addictions of four New Yorkers, requires emotional recovery time after viewing. Noah is out of left field for him, though he says it’s been his dream project since youth. No one knows how accurate to Judeo-Christian interpretation his adaptation of the Biblical Flood will or won’t be. Previews make it look like he’s playing it straight. Some test screenings for religious groups resulted in criticism, some didn’t. It was enough to cause the studio and Aronofsky to fight publicly over final cut, which any Aronofsky fan could’ve predicted miles off. Let’s hope Aronofsky kept his vision intact. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson star. You can watch the trailer in all its madcap visual glory here.

Inherent Vice

7. Inherent Vice

No date set — There Will Be Blood was a statement film that immediately took its place as one of the most important movies in America’s cinematic history. Director P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice, based on the Thomas Pynchon novel and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Jena Malone, earns a place based on the fact that Anderson has yet to misfire. Phoenix is already one of our best actors. Malone is overdue for recognition. They’re joined by Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon.

Exodus

6. Exodus

December 12 — Starring Christian Bale as Moses. If that’s not event viewing, I don’t know what is. The last time director Ridley Scott ventured back in time in the Middle East, it was for the Crusade-era epic Kingdom of Heaven. The theatrical release was a gutted mess that cut out entire protagonists, and it was only in the director’s cut that the film evolved from a middling action movie into a profound contemplation on faith, moral obligations, and one’s place in the world. That director’s cut is Scott’s best film by far, and most will never see it. It’s exciting that he’s finally returning to his favorite subject matter, and with Bale, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, and Sigourney Weaver on board to boot.

Jiro and paper airplane_out

5. The Wind Rises

February 21 — I hit on this in my Godzilla preview, but the most important filmmaking in the post-World War 2 era was done in Japan. It was a country possessed by regret and a national shame for blindly following its fascist leaders into war, and traumatized by the dropping of two atomic bombs. Hayao Miyazaki is the director responsible for Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. His animated worlds are evocative and emotional, but in his swan song, he trades in the fantasy genre to tell the story of an idealistic dreamer, a Japanese airplane designer, whose creations are used for war. The Wind Rises is currently up for an Oscar as Best Animated Film. Watch the trailer here.

Knight of Cups

4. Lawless & Knight of Cups

No date set — Terrence Malick is one of the most enigmatic directors in history. He made only three films in 30 years, each more lauded than the last, and now he’s made four films in the last four years. Both Lawless and Knight of Cups star Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman. Knight of Cups is about a man’s celebrity and excess in Hollywood. Lawless, which will likely be retitled, is about two intersecting love triangles in the Austin, TX music scene. It’s the higher profile of the two and also stars Angela Bettis, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Holly Hunter, Val Kilmer, and Rooney Mara. These aren’t to be confused with Voyage of Time, which is Malick’s upcoming film about…the universe?…and was filmed in Kenya, and may not arrive this year. Heck, it’s Malick, we might not see any of these films until 2029, but chances are we’ll get the Bale pairing this year.

Serena

3. Serena

No date set — Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. Her In a Better World won it in 2011. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are both nominated in acting categories this year for American Hustle. It’s Lawrence’s third nomination. She won Best Actress last year.

In Serena, Lawrence is Serena Pemberton, a depression-era Lady MacBeth to Cooper’s timber baron George. Serena is the single role I’m most excited to witness in the coming year. Based on its pedigree, if a man had directed this, it’d be on everyone’s top 10 lists. As is, it’s virtually nonexistent.

The Raid 2 e

2. The Raid 2

March 28 — The usual answer to, “What is the best action movie ever made?” is Die Hard. This is wrong. The correct answer is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Well, it was. In 2011, The Raid: Redemption complicated that answer. It was an Indonesian film by a Welsh director about an ill-fated police raid, and it combined the best of martial arts, gangster, horror, and Western action movies. The action was brutal, fast, emotional, and intelligent, but the tension that gave it its context was unparalleled. It wasn’t just a superb action movie, it was a superb movie, period. The sequel looks every bit as artful and intense while broadening the scope of its story. Watch the trailer here.

Interstellar

1. Interstellar

November 7 — Little is known about director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight trilogy. It’s about space travel and the discovery of a wormhole. A mysterious, heartbreaking, and inspirational trailer is our only clue, yet it doesn’t give a shred of plot away. The cast is a you-pick-’em of top flight actors – Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow. Nolan’s last standalone film was Inception, and that was worth the wait. Interstellar is the movie event of the year. Watch the trailer here. It’s worth it.