Trailer Mash

Revolution, art and leather pants mingle in our weekly review of new movies based solely on their previews

In a thrilling handheld tracking shot, a woman pulls cobbles from the ground, bundles them in a headscarf, and runs 20 yards toward a group of men, who take them from her to use as weapons against an armed police force. It could be a scene from a Bertolucci movie about Paris in '68, and whoever selected this clip as a teaser for Tahrir Liberation Square perfectly well knows that. Filmed during the Egyptian uprising of last year's Arab Spring, the effect is instantly dizzying. Is this for the cameras? Is this history or myth in the making? There's a line from Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle: "The true is a moment of the false." This is the sort of thing he was talking about.  We're all in the ad business now.

Like revolution, art is something you do. The question at the core of the trailer for Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present is, How good is the work? Centered on Abramović's mind-bending MOMA show from March 14 to May 21, 2010, during which she sat on a chair for more than seven hours a day, silently staring into the faces of museum visitors, one after another, for as long as they could stand it, the trailer is nevertheless opportunistic enough to include full-frontal moments from other examples of her X Games (or indeed XXX Games) performance art. Asking the question about quality is Abramović herself. On this evidence, the answer seems to be that to her mind, at least, the greater the physical and psychic challenge, the greater the art.

A long way from art is the means by which Adam Sandler makes a living. The trailer for his new vehicle, That's My Boy, is the old story of a deadbeat dad trying to impress his estranged son because he needs to borrow money from him. Sporting an Al-Pacino-after-a-bad-day-at-the-salon hairdo to go along with a weird Al Pacino-after-throat-surgery voice, Sandler draws on every glimmer in his vast reserves of twinkle to find the appeal in this idiot. Astoundingly, in this trailer at least, he manages it. This may be because everything else that happens is just wallpaper: The guy who plays his son is also a very famous comic, but you wouldn't know it.

Black nail varnish, big tattoos, fur coat, giant sunglasses and leather pants are the styling details selected for silly old Tom Cruise's portrayal of fictional '80s rock legend Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages. Stunt casting aside (Russell Brand, inevitably, Mary J. Blige, and in a fright wig, Alec Baldwin), there are a couple of moon-faced tween avatars yodeling at microphones, suggesting this actually wants to be a family musical for the X Factor generation. And the longer it goes on, the more it looks like a big-budget version of an end-of-semester school show written by a frustrated rock-star music teacher in the absolute certainty that the parents of his students will not have cast even a cursory glance at the autobiographies of the Nikki Sixxes, Tommy Lees and Anthony Kiedises on which the story is based.

Extraterrestrial is evidently what happens when Spanish surrealist comedians take the conceit of every third sub-budget Hollywood sci-fi of the past five years and bolt it onto a social satire of contemporary mores. The key message of the trailer seems to be, try not to be caught cheating on your spouse when the aliens invade, unless you want hilarious consequences to ensue. Director Nacho Vigalondo was also responsible for the impressive Time Crimes a few years ago, so this may well be cleverer than it looks here.

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