Imagine all the trailers for this week's opening movies condensed into a minute-long sequence. Look up. There it is. And now look down. Why, there's rumination on the content of Hollywood's finest produce of the week adduced exclusively from promotional materials and trailers.
Imagine what would happen if a group of regular kids developed superpowers, just like in the funnies? And imagine how they would record that discovery on their own personal video recorders in a chronicle of events? Imagine the moral dilemmas—what happens when real people lose their grip on their superpowers? When the outside world finds out about them? Imagine the previous few sentences had been written in 2002. That would have been an awesome movie. Chronicle comes out this week, some considerable time after the TV shows Heroes and Misfits, and the movies Kick Ass, Defendor, Super 8 and The Blair Witch Project. Nevertheless, this trailer still has a boneheaded, maybe-worth-a-look charm to it. As does the Lego version.
The Chemical Brothers' Don't Think, "un film de Adam Smith," does not seem to be terribly different from what you might imagine a state-of-the-art feature-length music video from the guys who made the music for the Matrix movies might look like. Or how one feels after bad seafood. Repetitive thudding noises, random images of Japanese kids pulling odd faces as multicolored lights strobe across their faces, giant toy robots, lasers, clowns … What else? Oh yeah, some trees at night, lots of neon and a rising sense of nausea. In either case, best to take as many drugs as you can get your hands on.
The Woman in Black is an English horror novel very much in the MR James tradition (and with an overt nod to Wilkie Collins), though it was actually written and published in the early 1980s. The book became a memorable BBC TV adaptation and then a theater production that has delighted the London stage since 1989, the longevity chiefly due to a couple of stunt effects. Hammer, the vintage British horror movie producers recently back from the dead with Let Me In and the overlooked but rather brilliant Wake Wood, now takes the story to the big screen. The trailer, heavily featuring star Daniel Radcliffe (Twitter has already dubbed the film Scary Harry Potter 9), promises all the necessary ghostly beats of a glamorously dilapidated house, scary toys and a children's voiceover, until it crescendos nicely with an understated shocker at the end. Boo.
You've seen that Gregory Brothers video "Can't Hug Every Cat"? The one with the girl making the video for eHarmony who can't talk about cats without crying? Here, allow me. Big Miracle is the exact same thing, only the girl is Drew Barrymore and instead of cats you have whales. It also stars Kristen Bell, who recently demonstrated not dissimilar reactions when confronted with a sloth. Ahoy captain, splice the Kleenex. And for those who care a damn, since the whales are called Fred, Wilma and Bam Bam, what the hell happened to Pebbles? And Barney and Wilma, Bam Bam's parents, for that matter? Did the other whales eat them?
If you ever fancied cashing in and moving to CT to fix up a hotel, the trailer for The Innkeepers may be the perfect antidote. Knowingly trading on a couple of obvious horror tropes (as the voiceover breathes, "You mustn't go down into the basement," the heroine tiptoes down into the basement), it nevertheless does a clever and rare thing. While showing off the cute indie-looking cast and credible reasons why the story is being told, it doesn't quite give the game away, and indeed it actually whets your appetite for more. In part, this is because it looks like an extended version of that party scene in The Shining, and in part it's because of the sound. As the brilliant Spanish movie El Orfanato showed, once you set up the idea of equipment designed to record ghosts, you can mess crazily with the audiences ears, even in a trailer. And, you know, Kelly McGillis.
W.E. went out briefly on an award-baiting release in December, at which time … no one and nothing will give this film a break, not even its own trailer. As Wallis Simpson, a radiant Andrea Riseborough is here surrounded by decorative interiors, decorative men and endlessly perambulating cameras, oiled castors seemingly welded to their undersides. Yet for all this glamour and motion, it does rather plod along. This may have to do with the super-expository dialogue, which seems to require every cast member to state exactly what is going on at any given point. If Winston Churchill popped up in the film and said, "I'm going to drink a large Scotch and then write a rousing speech in my bath," you would not be surprised.
If you happened to visit a cinema to watch Kevin Smith: Live From Behind, then you will have witnessed a moment of some historical importance in the development of interactive media—and, no doubt, a bunch of marijuana and Bruce Willis jokes, some thoughts on the rehabilitation of Jason Mewes, and possibly some consideration of promise unfulfilled. Either way it is intriguing that the event was promoted as a sort of cartoon. C'mon Kevin. Make a great movie. You've got one in you.
There's a fine tradition of entertainments about making the beneficiaries of wills do things they don't really want to do in order to reap the rewards—The Heart She Hollers being a recent, extremely enjoyable and utterly deranged one. Dysfunctional Friends is seemingly a more traditional affair. A group of old friends whose lives have taken different paths are forced to live together and review their relationships in order to benefit from a fortune left them by the one pal who made his money using the contemporary method of "investing in social networks." Seems to have a lot of sex jokes but maybe some hugs, too. And George Clooney's new arm love, Stacey Keibler, is in the mix, which certainly lends the trailer that curiosity factor.
Doc of the week Windfall shows what happens when big corporate money finds a reason to move into a small town, buys the approval of half the population, sets them against the rest, and reaps the rewards, caring nothing for the carnage left behind. In this case, the town is Meredith in the Catskills, and the big corporate money is in green technology. A group of people fully prepared to do their bit to help wean America off oil dependency, and, er, to earn a little cash, find themselves the stooges of wind-farm manufacturers. "It's not green energy," says one resident, "it's greed." (He should have said, "it's greenbacks," that would have been funnier, but you get the idea.) Evidently beautifully shot and seemingly carefully told, this is as much about the process of carpetbagging as it is about the perils of having ranks of 600,000-pound windmills in your 'hood.
The other doc this week is an undeveloped world problem: Splinters is ostensibly about a surfing competition in Papua New Guinea. Back in the '80s, so a card tells us at the beginning, "a pilot left a surfboard in a remote seaside village in Papua New Guinea," and thus began a local passion for the sport. At this point, you're expecting a glamorous tale of a local surfer all set to take on the best of the world. But what the trailer actually teases is a grim tail of a deeply frustrated group of young men desperate to exit their tiny corner of the world. "I want to surf like the white man," says one, and for all the thrills and sheer joy taken in the sport, to some that board is a ticket off the island, and no price is too high to get it.
As they came to power, the spoiled toffs recently elected to run the United Kingdom added to their catalog of crimes the destruction of the U.K. Film Council. Having had their error pointed out to them by the entire international film industry, they backpedaled like crazy and with untypical wisdom appointed Labour Peer and former Arts Minister Chris Smith to oversee a review of British Film Policy. Just before its publication, David Cameron talked some ill-considered rot about wanting to use lottery cash to support commercial films, presumably in preference to the anti-commercial films British film makers strive so hard to make. The grand and lovely Smith then calmed the waters by distancing himself from Tory philistinism with the line, "We are not trying to dictate an artistic vision here," and introduced 56 recommendations largely approved of by film people, who, for once, know what they're talking about. Phew. Which is all by way of saying that without the U.K. Film Council, you would never have the trailer for Kill List, about the most thrilling and mind-boggling trailer for a British film since Shane Meadows's Dead Man's Shoes. One can only hope it's half as good. A baby-faced guy patrols neglected corners of the U.K. to kill people. You have lots of serious gargoyle faces, innocent kids, some very clever camerawork, a handful of quotes from overwhelmed critics, and then at the end a shift of gear into something far more mysterious and compelling. Absolutely one of those movies you want to know nothing about until you sit down and watch it at the cinema, at least according to this trailer.
(Trailer Mash edit by Max Blecker.)