Friday, June 15, 2012

How about them shiny new trailers?

For a while (as in, before my Prometheus review) now, I've meant to do quick write-ups of a slew of new trailers for some BIG films for 2012. Obviously, I haven't so now it's catch up time. Most of these have been out for two weeks or more, but they're all interesting films, and I'm not going to miss a chance to needlessly scrutinize promotional material (I also need to get around to doing a Month in Review for May and April...or just combine it with June...ehhhhhhh). 

007: Skyfall dir. Sam Mendes

Set for release in November, James Bond finally returns, and it looks like the wait (prolonged by MGM's bankruptcy) will be worth it. What vague plot details exist are intriguing (something about M's past coming back and attacking MI6), and the presence of Mendes in the director's chair is certainly interesting. This looks like a continuation of the grittier tone that has taken over the franchise since Casino Royale, albeit with a bit more polish (thanks, Roger Deakins!!). Granted, it's a rather limited teaser, but this promises to be a return to form for Bond after the decent, but at times dull previous outing, 2008's Quantum of Solace. The structure is nice too, starting off with the world's most solemn word association game before unleashing a quick mash-up of high octane action at the end.

Grade: B

The Great Gatsby dir. Baz Luhrmann

Gatsby isn't the sort of novel that necessarily screams cinematic, but Baz Luhrmann's brand of crazy might just be the key to pulling it off. That, or this big budget, 3D adaptation will be a special sort of disaster. Either way, it at least looks like there's a great deal of energy on screen, and I look forward to Luhrmann bringing his Moulin Rouge instincts to the big, brash (but ultimately, empty) parties that defined the Roaring least for the rich guys. DiCaprio, Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton seem well-cast, and of course it looks gorgeous (Catherine Martin really is a gift to costume and set design), and even the 3D looks like it might be implemented to decent effect. The one question mark (aside from the iffy music choice in the second half) is Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. Yes, the role is supposed to be a little on the blank side, but Maguire seems like he might turn out to be too blank. Still, even Maguire can't make this any worse than that Robert Redford adaptation from the 70s...right?

Grade: B-

Les Miserables dir. Tom Hooper

Even though I had a feeling that Tom Hooper's adaptation of the popular musical Les Miserables would be on the gritty side, I have to admit I was slightly caught off guard the first time I watched this. And while I'm still not sold on a handful of shots - some look a little too much like the film is desperately trying to be gritty/cinema verite - overall I'm sold on this. Hooper isn't a director known for being a stylistically or thematically daring auteur, but his sensibilities should lend themselves well to the material. The cast all seem to fit right in, though of course the trailer basically belongs to Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." Her singing has a rough quality to it that, while not immediately pleasurable in the way a standard Broadway belter's voice might be, works. The cast could all be belting out flawless, bold performances of the songs, but that would be for naught if the acting didn't come through. So even though the film, which had its cast sing live on camera, won't have the most polished feel, if it all works (or mostly works) then the songs will work as vehicles for the performers to act through. When you have the capabilities of the big screen (AKA: close-ups), belting to make sure everyone can hear you is no longer a necessity. It's the emotion that's more important, and that seems to be what Hooper is focusing on, which is good, because the man is good with actors. It may keep the film's soundtrack from being in endless rotation on someone's iPod, but it will likely serve the film as a whole better. Also: Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman singing on screen together? Yes, please (remember their Oscar duet?).

Grade: B+

The Bourne Legacy dir. Tony Gilroy

Paul Greengrass may no longer be directing, but the presence of series scribe Tony Gilroy leaves little reason to fret. The style seems consistent with the previous Bourne films, and the trailer does a smart job of introducing the new protagonist (Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross), while also showing how his story fits into the world and timeline of the initial trilogy. Renner is more than up to the task of being a leading man in a (hopefully) smart action-thriller, so it's good to see him finally get the chance, especially after being wasted in The Avengers. Add in the return of Joan Allen and David Strathairn, along with new roles filled out by Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz, and you have what looks like a good film to liven up the summer season as it enters its usually dire final month (August).

Grade: B+

The Master dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

The Master marks Anderson's first film since 2007's There Will be Blood, and if this first, Phoenix-centric teaser is any indication, the wait is going to be worth. The simple music, coupled with lots of suggestion create a sense of subtle tension even though we have no idea what exactly is going on. And even though the teaser runs less than two minutes, I can't deny that Joaquin Phoenix looks pretty damn mesmerizing here. The way he holds his face, and the bemused detachment in his voice suggest a figure who is dangerously close to breaking, yet you don't know exactly what said break would lead to. Add in cast mates like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, and those rumors that the script's story has parallels to the founding of Scientology, and you have a runaway candidate for the year's best piece of marketing (sorry, Prometheus).

Grade: A

Django Unchained dir. Quentin Tarantino

Though it's still shooting, losing and gaining cast members left and right, Tarantino's Django Unchained managed to put out a trailer. The director's films have always had touches of spaghetti western films in their DNA, even as they tackled wildly different genres, so it's interesting to see Tarantino finally tackle the root of his style. The cast seems like they're having a ball (nice to see DiCaprio loosen up a little on screen), and some of the shots are great (the blood spraying on the cotton is fantastic). However, it seems to run a little long without building to much. Of course, it's just a preview, but it seems to lack the precision of the others listed here (yes, even Gatsby). Tarantino's always worth checking out, though, and I'm excited to see what he does with the material, particularly the issues regarding slavery and racism. It will also be interesting to see how Tarantino fares without longtime editor Sally Menke, who sadly passed away in late 2010. Menke had a way of matching Tarantino's rhythms that probably helped define them, which means there's quite a bit of pressure on Django's editor, the sort of pressure that could make or break the film.

Grade: B

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