I’m not Justin Long’s biggest fan (or a fan of his at all, actually), but as soon as I saw the trailer for Going the Distance (the one directed by Nanette Burstein, not the National Lampoon one), I knew I had to see it. Why? Because it was actually funny. I can count on one hand the number of so-called romantic comedies that I’ve seen in the last two years that were actually funny as opposed to awkward and lame. The fact that the only other new movie I could have chosen this week was Machete, Robert Rodriguez’s total gorefest, just made my decision even easier. Here’s a quick rundown of the plot for Going the Distance:
A woman doing a temporary internship in New York and a man who just got dumped aren’t looking for a relationship, but they fall for each other anyway and decide to keep it going long distance when she moves back to San Francisco.
Using long distance relationships as a premise for a romantic comedy is a brave move considering how easy it is for telephone conversations to become boring (which is part of the reason why long distance relationships tend to fall apart in the first place). And that’s if you’re IN it. When you’re watching OTHER people talk on the phone it adds a whole new boredom dimension. So how did Going the Distance fare? Pretty well, actually.
Opening this weekend: The American (starring George Clooney), Going the Distance (featuring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long), Robert Rodriguez’s newest violence fest Machete, and a documentary about Hugh Hefner.
GOING THE DISTANCE
With romantic comedies, you can usually tell whether they’re going to be half-assed turbo rush jobs just from watching the trailer. Turbo romantic comedy trailers will be a) unfunny b) clichéd and c) give away the whole movie. The trailer for Going the Distance is none of these things, so I have high hopes for it. Justin Long seems funny, the premise is different, and they’re reasonably cute together. But because of the distance they’re going to be spending a lot of time on the phone. The movie will have to be REALLY funny to make a series of telephone conversations worth watching, especially considering how incredibly awkward and boring most people are on the phone.
Oh, a contract killer trying to get out of the business – how original. Oh, a main character named Jack in an action/thriller – that’s never been done before. Oh, a secret agenty type falls in love with a lady but can’t tell her his secret – what a different complication! Oh, it looks like his employers are betraying him – what an original twist! Seriously, does this movie have any original ideas at all? Are we supposed to be automatically interested in seeing it because it stars George Clooney? Well too bad, I was never a George Clooney fan. Nice try, “award winning director Anton Corbjin,” but maybe next time.
“Like nothing you have ever seen…” I assume they’re talking about the level of violence, because as far as premise goes it’s been done about a hundred times. Oh no! A very violent man has been crossed! His family has been killed! Watch out for The Punisher/Jonah Hex/Machete! Steven Segal is in this movie, so you know it’s just going to be one of those meathead actionstravaganzas. Sorry Robert Rodriguez, but I’m not interested. I prefer my action movies to have a bit of intelligence to them. Obviously it’s meant to be ironic, but still. Machete himself seems about as relatable as a rabid pit bull, so I’ll be skipping it.
HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST, REBEL
Now, that’s interesting. I never thought of Hugh Hefner as anything other than a weird old perv, but apparently he’s done all sorts of things for free speech and civil rights. I’d be interested in seeing this documentary just to find out more about all that. Of course, in the theaters it’d cost about $12 to see, and I don’t think I’m THAT interested. I’d totally tune in if it was on TV, I’d rent it for a few dollars, and I’d go on super cheap night, but paying full theater prices for a documentary is out of the question for me. Maybe someday when I’m rich and famous (hah!)
Another trailer for one of those award winning movies that never quite gets around to telling you what the plot is… which leads me to suspect that the plot is either nonexistent or too convoluted to sum up in two minutes. Since this movie is Australian, I’m guessing the latter. Normally I wouldn’t be interested in a convoluted movie about (yet another) crime family (what is it with crime families? They’re not THAT interesting), but since it’s Australian, the acting will probably be really good, so it might be worth a look. I mean, Guy Pearce is in it… with a ridiculous Magnum P.I. mustache, but still. It speaks well for the film (Guy Pearce, not the mustache).
Paul Walker is a clone, Hayden Christenson always tries too hard, Zoe Saldana has turned into an attention-sucking vortex since she was in Avatar, and I hate Mat Dillon. Then add in a cast of characters who are jerks and criminals and you’ve got exactly the type of movie I don’t want to see. Now, obviously I’m prejudiced, so there are plenty of people who won’t feel the same way. If you love heist movies and you don’t feel like nine million heist movies being made in about five years is too much, you’ll probably like this movie. Just don’t ask me to go see it with you.
THE LAST EXORCISM
The Last Exorcism looks like it’s trying to capitalize on the success of two different films The Exorcist (obviously) and Paranormal Activity (by trying to look like a sketchily shot documentary). As with most movies that don’t bring anything new to the table, it looks pretty standard. There’s nothing in here that hasn’t been done before, but it’s hard to tell from the trailer if they manage to create actual tension (which is the most important part of a horror movie). Those running around in the dark bits make me think maybe they did, so if you like scary movies, maybe give this one a try. I think I might, given it’s lack of competition this week.
If there’s one thing you can say about James Cameron, it’s that he loves money, and he knows how to make it. As if his 3D extravaganza of epic blueness didn’t make enough the first time around ($2.7 billion), he’s sticking in a couple extra minutes of footage and releasing it again. If you’ve seen it already I wouldn’t bother. If the sixteen extra minutes were important they would’ve been in it the first time around (when it was ONLY two and a half hours long) and they’re not new real Sam Worthington parts, only more blue parts. But if you haven’t seen it, just go already so everyone in the world will have seen it and James Cameron can stop insisting that his movie needs to stay around in theaters taking up space that could be given to newer 3D movies. All’s I can say is that it better give way when The Legend of the Guardians comes around or I’ll be mad. You can read the full review of the original Avatarhere.
It’s getting near the end of the summer and a whole bunch of late-comers are pouncing on us this weekend. There’s a The Switch, Piranha 3D, Nanny McPhee ReturnsThe Lottery Ticket, Get Low, an Italian movie called I am Love, and an IMAX documentary called Hubble 3D. Here are their trailer reviews so you can pick which one you want to see.
The summer movie onslaught continues this week with four new titles coming out to join the approximately 4 million that are already in theaters vying for our attention/money. A movie will have to be pretty good to draw our attention away from films like Inception and Despicable Me, but that’s not going to stop Eat, Pray, Love, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, and The Expendables from trying. I’ll review the trailers for you so you can see if any of them are going to be worth your time (and money).
If you’re looking to see a new movie in theaters this weekend, you’ve got three choices: Flipped, Step Up 3D, and The Other Guys: a sort of kids’ movie, a dancing movie, and yet another one of those “two cops who don’t get along” movies. Whether any of them are worth your time/money remains to be seen.
Okay, so Flipped is less of a kids’ movie than it is a nostalgia movie for adults. That’s why it’s (seemingly arbitrarily) set in the 50s, when the filmmakers were young, instead of now, when actual kids are young. It still looks cute though. Those two kids (Madeline Carroll, who was really good in Swing Vote and Callan McAuliffe, whom I’ve never heard of before) are just adorable. I just hope the “flipping” of the boy’s opinion on girls isn’t something that happens at the END of the movie, seeing as how it’s the whole point. This trailer could either be a good one that gives away just enough or a bad one that shows the whole thing depending on when the flip happens. I guess we just have to trust that Rob Reiner knows what he’s doing.
STEP UP 3D
“Now in 3-D for no reason other than it’s cool!”
“With hot new tracks by a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of, because you’re old and out of the loop!”
That’s fine, I can honestly say this is not a loop I want to be in. The dance moves are neat looking I guess but I hate the music and the story/dialogue in these movies is always a) painfully clichéd and clunky and b) trying way too hard to be “hip”. Both of the main characters in this movie look like they’re well on their way to thirty, especially the girl. I hope they’re not going to try and convince us that these people are all teenagers. I am ashamed to admit I’ve actually seen the first two Step Up movies (and not entirely because my friends dragged me) but this trailer effectively killed my morbid fascination with the series. I have no desire to see this one, even for free.
THE OTHER GUYS
This is the second of two “pair of cops who suck” movies coming out this year (the other one being Kevin Smith’s Cop Out), and it looks just as unfunny as the previous one. I only like Will Ferrell in some of his roles, because I don’t think the one character he plays over and over is funny in and of itself. I do like Mark Wahlberg, but he’s mostly just there so Will Ferrell isn’t talking to himself all the time. I’d like to see Wahlberg carry a comedy on his own. I think he could do it. Steve Coogan is in here too, but I doubt he gets to do much other than get thrown around. Some of the material in here doesn’t look too bad, but I’d only have seen it if they picked a frontman other than Will Ferrell.
Things are starting to slow down a little bit on the premiere front. Only three coming out this Friday: Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Charlie St. Cloud and Dinner for Schmucks. They’re all so widely different from one another and they all obviously fit into a specific genre, so it’s likely that you already know which one you’re going to see. But on the off chance that you don’t, here are the trailer reviews for the weekend of July 30th.
CATS AND DOGS 2: REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE
The first Cats and Dogs came out in 2001… though it seemed earlier than that to me… anyway, I dunno why they waited 9 years to make a sequel. They’ve definitely jumped on lamer sequels faster before (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel). Maybe they were waiting for computer animation to get better so it would look less fake and creepy when the animals talked. If that’s the case they failed horribly. I hate movies where “real” animals move their mouths when they talk. It looks so unnatural. It also bothers me that this movie is called “revenge of kitty galore” like Kitty Galore was the villain from the first movie, but the villain from the first movie was Mr. Tinkles. There is, however, a small chance I might see this movie eventually, since the cats aren’t actually total evil bad guys like they ALWAYS are (see my cats in movies article). People who will see this movie are either under ten, have kids under the age of ten, or are nostalgic for the first one (this last category contains about three people).
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
I love Paul Rudd, and Ron Livingston, too (who was in the trailer, in the background, for like five seconds). I even like Steve Carrell most of the time. This is not one of those times. I wish fewer films relied on the “painfully embarrassing” type of comedy. It may be easy to write but it’s like torture to watch. If you like it you’ll probably think this movie is hilarious, but if you have to bury your face in a pillow every time someone on TV embarrasses themselves, this is not the movie for you. It’s definitely not the movie for me. Dinner for Schmucks is the movie of choice for Judd Apatow fans (i.e. men who still think the armpit fart thing is funny).
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD
I guess this is Zac Efron trying to be a serious actor instead of just a Tiger Beat cover boy. I hope he makes it, I really do, just because he’s actually tying to have a real career instead of milking the High School Musical thing until he’s 45 (which would probably work). The only problem is they’re hurting his efforts to attract a new audience (or the same audience to a new movie) by SHOWING THE ENTIRE FILM IN THE TRAILER! I can’t tell you how much I hate this. Also bugging me: when that teen girl goes “He’s misunderstood… like James Dean.” Get real. No one under 30 knows who James Dean is. In the 80s, stuff from the 50s was retro. Now it’s just ancient. That “modern teenagers with an 80s obsession” thing is an invention of older writers who want to milk their own teenage years for material but not write historical fiction. Even so, I think I’ll still see Charlie St. Cloud this week. I mean, look what it’s up against. No contest. Other people (besides me) who will want to see this movie: teenage girls who love Zac Efron… and people who love to cry at sappy drama.
As you may or may not know, Tuesday is the day that new DVDs come out. I don’t know why, I just know that that’s how it works. And it’s not even like SOMETIMES they come out on Monday or Wednesday, like in the theaters movies usually come out on Friday except for the really eager ones that come out on Wednesday or Thursday. It’s always Tuesday for DVDs. So I thought I’d give you a run down of what’s coming out this week so you can rent it if it looks interesting. Just the new ones, though. None of that special edition/super old stuff just being released nonsense. I don’t have all day, and neither do you!
Clash of the Titans
Clash of the Titans is a remake of an 80s movie starring Sam Worthington as a skirted Greek warrior battling monsters. You can my full review here but suffice it to say though it was lacking in characterization and could have used a more complicated plot, there sure were was a lot of swordfights and yelling. Rent this one if you love swordfights and yelling.
I was really looking forward to this one in the theaters, but for reasons I can’t seem to remember right now I never got to see it. It stars Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as two guys who repossess organs for a rent-to-own organ company. Such a cool idea. I’ll totally be renting this one, and if you’re at all a fan of sci-fi or horror you should too.
I confess I hadn’t even heard of this one until I looked up the release list, because I haven’t watched a Batman cartoon since I was 12. Batman: Under the Red Hood looks pretty standard: there’s a villain called the Red Hood. Batman kicks his ass. But the trailer made me nostalgic so maybe I’ll actually watch this one. Plus it attracted a bunch of name voice actors (Jensen Ackles from Supernatural, Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother, Jason Isaacs from the Harry Potter movies, etc) so it must be at least decent.
Ip Man is a biographical account of the martial arts grand master named Ip Man (Donnie Yen) who taught Bruce Lee. This in itself will be interesting to both martial arts fans and Bruce Lee devotees, but the really interesting part for me is that he lived in a really turbulent time. Looks well made and interesting, I’d totally watch it. There’s subtitles though, just in case you hate reading.
I don’t understand how this show is still on. Not only does it have the exact same premise as half of sci-fi TV shows (a group of people is stranded somewhere, they try to get home) and is a direct ripoff of Stargate Atlantic but without the interest factor of being located in Atlantis. But not only has Stargate Universe made it to a second season, it got nominated for prime time Emmys! Rent it if you’re a massive Robert Carlysle fan, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother.
It’s a slow weekend for Hollywood movies: only Salt and Ramona and Beezus are coming out this Friday, along with a couple of foreign films. But that’s no comfort to me. I’ve still got a backlog of movies I want to see that’s as long as my arm. I envy the “real” critics. They get to go to whatever they want for free! As for us, we have to spend our hard earned cash buying tickets. $12 on the weekend! $15 if it’s 3D! Highway robbery if you ask me. I’ll tell you what’s worth it and what isn’t.
I have a brilliant idea, and it goes something like this: when movie trailer makers put the entire plot of a film into the preview, they should be required to slap it with spoiler warnings. The MPAA could look after this. After all, they already make filmmakers post warnings if there’s going to be sex or drugs or bad language.
Spoliers are a danger to youth as well, because it teaches them to have short attention spans. Why would they spend two whole hours sitting still and paying attention to a film when there’s a two minute version available? Some companies aren’t making trailers anymore, they’re making movie Cliff’s Notes.
To illustrate my point, I will pick on one of my favorite targets: Leap Year. Note that I will warn you now, before you press play, that watching this trailer will make it unnecessary for you to see the entire film.
As you can see, this trailer covers the entire plot structure:
– main character’s life before (Anna expects to get married)
– the problem (Jeremy doesn’t propose to Anna)
– inciting incident (Dad suggests she follow him to Dublin and propose on Leap Day)
– refusing the call to adventure (“I’m not going to Dublin!”)
– accepting the call (going to Dublin)
– trials and obstacles standing in her way (weather, diversions, bad shoes)
– meeting love interest (Irish guy… Declan I think he was called)
– road trip (“I need to get to Dublin”)
– fighting with love interest (over sandwiches and cows)
– road trip obstacles (car in a pond… how original)
– pretending to be married to fool innkeepers (again, so original)
– discovering their attraction (kissing for the innkeepers)
– getting along (shower, jokes)
– confusion over choice of man (lying in the same bed)
– forced to choose between men (Jeremy proposes)
The only part they don’t show is who she chooses, but from the type of movie that it is (romantic comedy) and the type of endings these movies have (happy ones) and the fact that she’s spent the entire movie with Irish guy (Declan), it doesn’t exactly require a degree in rocket science to fill in the blank.
This isn’t a promotional trailer. Promotional trailers are supposed to give audiences a taste so they pay for the whole thing. This is a pitch, like you would make to a producer or a studio to get them to give you money to make the film. They need to know the whole story to figure out if it’s worth making… but it’s a video pitch… because they already made the film… so we’re supposed to, what? Admire its (totally unoriginal) structure? Be spoiled on the full length film, more like.
But in a perverse way, they’re actually doing you a favor by ruining the movie for you. They’re keeping you from wasting two hours and ten bucks (five now, it’s on DVD) on a piece of crap.