Trailer Mash

'Tintin' meets 'War Horse' in our roundup of holiday-movie previews

Against the odds, the first teaser for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was rather thrilling. Against the odds because by the time it appeared this fall, who wasn't bored to death of Lispeth Salander after three novels and three foreign-language movie versions of a story whose notoriety rested largely on one episode early on in the first book? Despite this ennui, the teaser set a frantically cut sequence of snowy postcards from the book to Trent Reznor's crackling cover of "Immigrant Song" and punched it through with texts that owed much to the title sequences of Gaspar Noe films. (Not that anyone knew, because who watches Gaspar Noe films anyway?) Anyhow, good looking, knowing and modern enough, this teaser promised much and even elicited the best of the Muppet Movie parodies. As for the new, actual trailer, well, not so much. Itemizing every detail of the mystery of the first novel, and incidentally reintroducing the world to Julian Sands, the strongest reaction it provokes is to make you wonder why everyone but Daniel Craig is affecting a funny accent. Except for that pronouncing his r's as w's thing he does from time to time.

So, Edgar Wright is a fine and original director, writer Stephen Moffatt has revitalized Dr. Who, Joe Cornish is a British national treasure both for his comedy and to a select few for his Spielberg tribute Attack the Block, and Steven Spielberg is Steven Spielberg. Quite why this illustrious team made the decision to declare themselves the government of Uncanny Valley is the biggest mystery of the new Tintin movie. Since it is barely possible to distinguish a CGI backdrop from a real one, why would human actors not have been a better choice over the retro-style, dead-eyed computer zombies who lollop about like Satanic rag dolls in this trailer? Actors such as these?

As a privileged 11-year-old boy forced to endure the Japanese invasion of China in Empire of the Sun, Christian Bale gave a performance so compelling that he's been struggling to surpass it ever since. In this trailer for The Flowers of War, he's returned to similar territory a few years earlier: the Nanking Massacre of 1937. This time he's a ne'er-do-well posing as a priest surrounded by courtesans posing as choristers in an under-seige and ridiculously photogenic church. Director Zhang Yimou is seemingly uninterested in letting a quiet tale of unlikely heroism stand in the way of his enthusiasm for setting off explosions during every single take.

Angelina Jolie's In the Land of Blood and Honey is evidently a star-crossed lovers affair, Romeo and Juliet updated and relocated to the heart of the Bosnian war that took over 100,000 lives between 1992 and 1995 following the break up of Yugoslavia. You wouldn't expect Jolie to make an easy choice, and this could have gone horribly wrong, especially in light of some of the controversy surrounding the source material. But based on this trailer, it in fact looks insanely accomplished, as though she'd been doing this kind of thing for years. Directing an Oscar-winning serious movie is probably going to be her next job. She's Clint Eastwood, basically.

Kill a couple of innocent bystanders in a trailer or a couple of soldiers and who cares? Kill a dog and you might get some attention. At least, that may be the rationale for doing so halfway through this one for The Darkest Hour, otherwise just a by-the-numbers alien invasion affair with an even less than usually memorable cast of plucky teens waving guns. The major point of difference is that it is set in Moscow, but then, so is the new Mission: Impossible, so you know, been there. 

Horse running, exploding shells, swelling music, dialogue composed exclusively of epithets rollickingly expounded in a range of fruity regional accents, more swelling music… you get the War Horse picture. (Actually the War Horse picture in the village hall placed there for gullible tourists is a fake, but that's another story.) Of far more interest is the debate about the nature of war in the comments under the trailer on the YouTube page. Which really is saying something.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the movie version of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same memorable name about a super-smart kid who loses his father on 9/11 and has a super-smart and often moving brain meltdown. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock supply the ballast for a performance the young actor in this trailer is going to spend a lot of years living up to. See Christian Bale, above.

El Sicario Room 164 gives us the trailer of the season. A static camera shows a man's lap with a notepad on it. You can't see his face, just the pad, and one hand holding a felt pen. Over two minutes he explains very simply, very cleanly and with crude but eerily precise diagrams exactly what it is a Sicario does. And why imitators use too many bullets. Thrilling.

A Separation is apparently the domestic story of a marriage dissolving. There's a well-meaning but compromised husband, a beautiful but frustrated wife, a suspicious-looking female relative and at its heart a murder mystery. Punctuated by a string of accolades possibly somewhat hyped because this is the Iranian foreign-language Oscar entry, this trailer is pretty damn adamant that A Separation is not be missed.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, Ed Burns continues to make personal movies for no money on his own back door, and once in a while they look like they might reveal an eternal truth or two. Newlyweds, about a couple whose recent "easy" marriage catches a snag when his younger sister fetches up out of the blue, has the usual glorious New York locations lovingly shot, another irresistibly attractive cast, and a couple of winning gags. Burns may not be Woody Allen, but he can weave a truthful modern tale, it seems.

Pariah is apparently about a poetically inclined young woman coming out as a lesbian in Brooklyn despite her rather traditional family’s disapproval. In this gorgeously filmed trailer, a catalog of intimate and personal moments are played out with smooth elegance by a cast so glamorous and good-looking that a person might even consider moving to Brooklyn in case people that lovely actually exist.

Back in '80s Britain, there was a satirical TV Show, Spitting Image, in which grotesquely caricatured puppets of government ministers and entertainment figures were made to appear like braying dolts for our weekly amusement. These days we would call such a show reality television. Suffice it to say, Margaret Thatcher was a very popular puppet indeed, and over the show's several seasons morphed from a handbag-wielding harridan with permafrost hair via bloodthirsty warmonger in a Churchill suit until her final manifestation as a deranged psychotic, eyes rolling in her head, a portrait of a certain type of personality utterly corrupted by power. A young John Sessions supplied many of the voices for the show, and in this weird trailer for what is going to be a very weird pantomime experience, he appears as her predecessor Edward Heath while as Geoffrey Howe, the minister whose speech was the first ring of the bell in The Iron Lady's political death knell, we have Antony Head. From Buffy.

And finally, the 2012 Academy Award for Best Actor goes to Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs, oh yes, at least according to this trailer.