Trailer Mash

As 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' meets 'This Means War,' the question is asked: What happened to Reese Witherspoon?

Robot Script Syllogism Number 4022: "There's good and bad in all of us. It doesn't matter how far you run. There are some demons you just can't escape." And so say all of us, but perhaps without the conviction of Nicolas Cage as he ponders the financial decisions that resulted in him having to portray for the third time a superhero whose head is a burning lump of coal. As the movie The Artist has shown, not told, obviously, there is an audience for silence. And if ever a movie could be improved by removing its dialogue, it would seem to be Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the trailer for which exults in the lead character pissing a thirty-foot streak of flame.


Once upon a time, Reese Witherspoon was an actress of supernatural brilliance. If recent experiences leave you in doubt, then rent the awe-inspiring Freeway, a gleefully perverted update of Red Riding Hood, and check out the moment in the police station when you can see Dan Hedaya all but stumble out of character as he basks in her performance. If Freeway is too weird, try Alexander Payne's Election, arguably the darkest high-school movie of all, in which there is nothing Reese's villainous Tracy Flick will not do, including destroy teacher Matthew Broderick, to become school president. And now what's Reese doing? She's playing the Cameron Diaz role. In a McG bromance. The new Captain Kirk and Bane from the latest Batman movie are two CIA agents in love with the same woman, though less so than they are with each other. Special-ops-enhanced prankstering ensues. This Means War, alright. On McG.

English author Mary Norton discovered that whenever buttons or other small objects disappeared from her home, it turned out they had been borrowed by 6-inch-high people who lived under the floorboards. Her forensic study of the habits of these "Borrowers" resulted in a series of works published between 1952 and 1981. A few TV adaptations followed, and now the story of teenage Arrietty Clock and her parents Pod and Homily have been given the Studio Ghibli treatment in The Secret World of Arrietty. From the trailer you get the usual lush Ghibli camera movements, brimming eye contact, wind in the hair, and the sense of a fully formed, parallel, hand-drawn reality in which Howl's Moving Castle hovers around the beach where Ponyo came ashore in a bucket. People will be watching Ghibli movies centuries from now.

In the absence of an actual English-language trailer for the Bosnian comedy drama Cirkus Colombia, we get a clip showing a woman and man at dinner with his son in a sparse kitchen. Over soup they discuss a cat and a reunion. Attractively shot, well acted and evidently deeply nuanced, this will no doubt deliver a volt of excitement to fans of the book it's based on. For the rest of us, not quite so much.

After Wallander and Stig Larson, one may travel only a little further north to find homicidal entertainments before heading south again. Fortunately, the trailer for On the Ice suggests an opening salvo in the Alaskan murder-mystery genre. Beginning as if it were a documentary-like study of how people who live in subzero temperatures are not unlike those of us inhabiting more clement climes, it then shows they are exactly like us. Someone disappears, someone lies, and cops have to look for clues in the unlikeliest of places. There's a snowmobile sequence, too, but that's not going to work as a substitute for a car chase.

Thin Ice, on the other hand, is a metaphor rather than a statement of location. Greg Kinnear, slowly turning into Tex Avery's Droopy, plays an insurance salesman whose financial problems are exacerbated by the arrival of a blackmailer in the shape of Billy Crudup and his villainous mustache. The MacGuffin is seemingly to do with a policy that Alan Arkin has taken out on a nonexistent violin (lots of information in this trailer) and an inexplicable murder, but really it's just an excuse for Kinnear to look harried and for Crudup to be badly miscast as a psycho. Based on this, rent The Matador instead. Kinnear is pretty much the same guy, but as his unwanted sociopath sidekick in this adventure, Piers Brosnan is a revelation. Playing a sleazy hit man at the end of his career he is simultaneously ice cool and self mocking while delivering an object lesson in how to wear a mustache on camera. Mr. Crudup, take note.

Russia is an interesting place these days, isn't it? Medici Florence but with worse weather, they say. Putin's Kiss investigates the rise of Nashi, a political youth organization devised exclusively to support Putin's regime. And to silence opposition. Sixteen-year-old Masha begins the trailer as a Nashi commissar and spokesperson but concludes it in an altogether other state of mind after her new chum, anti-Putin reporter and truncheon magnet Oleg Kashin, takes a proper beating from the authorities. Hard to tell how deep the film probes systemic state violence, but even allowing for the overt sensationalism of this reality-TV-influenced trailer, it's impossible not to draw the conclusion that Putin's Russia has not taken to democracy quite as enthusiastically as it might.

Doc of the week, however, is Undefeated, the nearest thing to a chick flick for men. The Southern fat white guy coach of the Manassas football team is feasibly the most inspirational man in cinema. Aaron Sorkin doesn't write better stuff than what comes out his pie hole. "Let's see here. Starting right guard shot, no longer in school. Starting linebacker shot, no longer in school…. Starting center arrested… Most coaches, that would be a career's worth of crap to deal with. I think that sums up the last two weeks for me." Thereafter the film gets on the pitch and into the lives of his young players, and it's hard to imagine your grown men friends getting through even the two minutes and 20 second of this trailer without tearing up, let alone the whole movie: "This is an unbelievably good opportunity. You're down 20-nothing. You come back from that, now you're talking about something." In fact, this is the trailer of the week. Sniff.

Ever wondered about the dark secrets simmering under the surface of the bucolic Netherlands dairy industry? Always thought that the best way to tell that story would be in the form of a revenge fantasy from the point of view of a steroid-pumped De Niro wannabe? Drafthouse picked up on that in you and released Bullhead. Enjoy the sensation.

Self-consciously futile wasted effort of the week, apparently, is Dorothy and the Witches of Oz. Dorothy lives in present-day New York City and has no memory of Kansas or Oz, just like the characters in that stupid but surprisingly successful TV show Once. Inevitably Manhattan ends up being invaded by assorted witches and a bunch of truly ropey CGI monsters. Christopher Lloyd wears a magical mystery tour outfit and winces a lot, which means he's probably the great and mighty Oz. To show you what this film thinks of itself, the trailer has Billy Boyd from the Lord of the Rings movies saying "Munchkins!" Billy was a Hobbit. Geddit? The strangest special effect comes via the great Lance Henriksen as some older relative/friend of Dorothy's. Unimaginably, his voice has dropped yet another octave, and in cinemas with modern sound systems his speech will provoke involuntary bowel motions, at least according to this trailer.

(Trailer Mash edit by Kate Rose)