Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

Posts made in: 'Judging by the Trailer' (54) Currently Viewing: 11 - 20 of 54

May 21, 2014 at 2:46pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Blended"

Adam Sandler is on permanent vacation, popping out crappy movies between naps.

It's my distinct pleasure to share with you yet another presumed tax write-off from the good folks at Happy Madison. Adam Sandler has spent the past decade, or so, creating a tidy cottage industry of tricking movie studios into giving him money to take his friends on vacations, and Blended sees him pull this scheme with his frequent costar, Drew Barrymore.

As an onscreen couple, Sandler and Barrymore created two of Sandler's most warmhearted efforts, with The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. It's discouraging, then, to be confronted with the trailer for Blended, which literally begins with Barrymore spewing French onion soup all over the place. The soup-spewing moment caps off a disastrous first date between our two leads, and simultaneously caps off any desire I might have had to continue watching this preview. Being the intrepid journalist I am, however, I soldiered on.

Explaining how these two single parents both find themselves and their children on the same African vacation may require some kind of flow chart, but let it be said that it seems to involve a mutual friend of theirs apprently having EIGHT plane tickets that he suddenly couldn't use. What fresh Groupon bullshit is this?

And now, we find ourselves in Adam Sandler's comfort zone: shaky racial politics, deadeningly unfunny slapstick and cloyingly maudlin melodrama. Any illusions that might have remained that Sandler is, in some way, superior to Tyler Perry, should be summarily stricken from the record. At least Perry writes and directs that garbage; Sandler just breeze through in basketball shorts on his way to the bank.

I'd rather watch a million trailers for shitty found-footage horror schlock than site through the entirety of Blended. To make one man feel so gross in two minutes is, in some way, a laudable achievement, but not one to be celebrated. Blended is like the invention of weaponized chlorine gas: I guess it's neat that you managed to create it, but did society really need it?

May 14, 2014 at 10:44am

Judging by the Trailer: "Million Dollar Arm"

Isn't "having fun' all that matters?

Now that we've settled into the unlikely chapter of our collective history, titled "The Reign of Matthew McConaughey (or, the 'McConaissance')," it's high time we begin exploring the frustrating state of American Treasure Jon Hamm's film career. While Hamm remains a shining, handsome beacon of light on one of the greatest TV shows of all time, he's never managed to take his rightful place as a successful leading man.

Since Hamm's Mad Men coming out party, it seemed like an almost forgone conclusion that he would follow in the footsteps of George Clooney, and Cary Grant before him. Funny, great acting chops, once again blindingly good-looking, Hamm was a shoe-in to take Hollywood by storm.

It's surprising, then, that Hamm has mostly seemed content to be relegated to stealing the show in supporting roles (The Town, Bridesmaids) and making glorified cameos in dreck (Sucker Punch, The Day the Earth Stood Still). Opening this week, Million Dollar Arm is an unexpectedly uncommon thing for the man: a starring role in a feature film.

Instead of capitalizing on Hamm's almost wood-carved gravitas, Million Dollar Arm is a light and fluffy Disney sports movie that explores the (apparently real) journey of a sports agent looking for baseball pitchers in India. The agent surmises that young Indian men would be natural pitchers, seeing as how cricket and baseball are almost identical (minus cricket's five-day games and breaks for tea, of course).

While Million Dollar Arm doesn't seem particularly offensive (minus the sad realization that this is once more an immigrant's story being told from the perspective of a rich, handsome white dude), it also feels like a step in the wrong direction. Denzel Washington made Remember the Titans eight years after Malcom X, not the other way around.

Still, if it takes Disney fluff to remind audiences of the talent we're currently wasting, I guess it couldn't hurt.

May 7, 2014 at 10:31am

Judging by the Trailer: "Mom's Night Out"

The moral of "Moms' Night Out" might be that moms should never get a night out.

As 2014 continues, unabated, to be the Year of the Religious MovieTM, we find ourselves faced with an unusual entrant in the growing genre of pandering Christian movies. Whereas claptrap like God's Not Dead and Heaven is For Real (to say nothing of the forthcoming Creationism screed, A Matter of Faith, which I look forward to downloading and devouring with a group of friends), which wear their messages emblazoned on their sleeves, Mom's Night Out is a bit of a Trojan horse.

Billed as a comedy of errors about a harried mother of three who takes an opportunity to hit the town with her girlfriends - only to have her evening out plagued by hilarious mishaps, while her husband struggles with even the briefest stint of solo parenting - underneath the labored comedy beats the heart of conservative family values.

If the presence of Bible-thumping celebrities like Patricia Heaton and Trace Adkins isn't enough of a tip-off, take a gander at the co-directing team of Andrew and Jonathan Erwin, who were previously best known for their anti-abortion drama October Baby and their faith-based 9/11 documentary The Cross and the Towers.

Who wants to wager $5,000 that Mom's Night Out doesn't end with our frazzled heroine realizing that her true calling is to forever remain at home with her shitty kids - and that, even though her husband may not be around all the time, a certain guy named Jesus will always be there for her? Part of me hopes that this is a covert sequel to Baby's Day Out, and the film will morph into a thriller about Joe Mantegna chasing people around Los Angeles, in and out of gorilla cages and the like.

Though, just my luck, they'd stop in front a gorilla and make some kind of smug comment about how those godless heathens think we came from monkeys - but then, why are there still monkeys, smarty pants? Check and mate!

May 1, 2014 at 9:49am

Judging by the Trailer: "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"

Spider-Man does the same things Spider-Man always does.

Can I be honest with you, for just a moment? Usually, this column is full of blowhard nonsense that just comes from a deep insecurity in my abilities as an artist, thus necessitating my shitting on films that I will never see. This week, I interviewed Ira Glass. Ira fucking Glass. I've been holding my breath to puff my chest out, and now I'm deep into a bottle of whiskey. It feels great.

And now, reality reaches out and gives me a wet willy, because I've been FORCED to watch the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I never saw the first (read: fourth) Spider-Man movie, because I magically found better things to do with my time than watch a reboot of a five-year-old franchise. What I gathered from the brunette, be-hoodied Peter Parker was that Spider-Man was finally being given the completely necessary Dark Knight treatment. Everything is gloomy and sad in comic book world, just like your miserable life! Cartoons!

Here, we find ourselves at the threshold of what Marvel has promised to be a series of sequels and offshoots that will distract us from financial ruin for at least another 15 years. Instead of bread and circuses, we get multiple yearly superhero extravaganzas that increasingly lean less toward escapism and more in the direction of human despair. In response, Lars Von Trier was heard to have sighed and swiftly taken an eraser to his chalkboard.

Jamie Foxx is featured in this film as a human Otter Pop, fully completing his arc from In Living Color to Oscar winner to middling comic book villain. Part of me suspects that his music video with Ron Howard is at fault. Paul Giamatti also dons a CGI rhino suit, in a move that would have made his Sideways character commit suicide with a wine bottle.

Raul Julia let his swan song be the Street Fighter movie, because his kids talked him into it. For future reference: your kids are assholes. Every movie could be your last, so err on the side of not letting that movie feature you in a goofy rhino costume.

April 23, 2014 at 10:05am

Judging by the Trailer: "The Other Woman"

Nick Cassavettes directs Cameron Diaz as a woman who forges an unlikely alliance with her three-timing boyfriend’s wife and mistress.

Nick Cassavetes has never had the track record of his father, John. The elder Cassavetes was unimpeachably important as one of the catalysts of the American indie film movement, and his catalogue is peerlessly valuable to the cinematic landscape. Though his directorial output was relatively brief, even a cursory glance at his credits reveals classics such as A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Gloria.

Meanwhile, the younger Cassavetes has seemingly struggled through the years in search of a directorial voice. Recently, it seemed like he was beginning to find it: the execrable John Q led into the improved The Notebook, which then led into the quite good Alpha Dog. Unfortunately, his career then dipped into the mopey My Sister's Keeper - his first dalliance with Cameron Diaz - and we now find ourselves flinching at The Other Woman.

This is far from the first film to feature three jilted women taking revenge on their mutual cad - Chasing Papi and John Tucker Must Die both come immediately to mind, which indicates that there are likely scores of other examples. What all of these movies seem to share in common (besides plot) is the odd choice to subject their scorned women to the further humiliation of starring in a shitty comedy.

I'm not asking for these women to go full-on, scorched earth, Falling Down on this guy, but it feels just the slightest bit gross to watch these beautiful, accomplished women slapstick around for 90 minutes in the wake of a betrayal. It doesn't help that, while Cameron Diaz may have many bright spots, comedy is one that seems to have alluded her.

Still, full judgment of The Other Woman will be held until I inevitably find myself staring blankly at it one hung-over Sunday afternoon. God help me.

April 16, 2014 at 10:48am

Judging by the Trailer: "A Haunted House 2"

What can we do to keep "A Haunted House 3" from happening?

Once again, we find ourselves poised on the edge of a crevasse, gazing into the howling void that is Marlon Wayans. But what gazes back? Only madness. Madness and homophobic jokes.

A Haunted House is finally receiving its long-awaited sequel, after a whole year of anxious debate online about what events could have transpired for the beloved characters of the first installment. Well, all those Wayans-heads on the forums at hauntedhouse.biz will be happy to learn that Marlon Wayans is reprising his role as some guy in A Haunted House 2. Also rejoining the cast is everybody's favorite gun-toting stereotype, Cedric the Entertainer.

Seeing as the first film so limply skewered horror movies, why mess with success? This time, the found-footage conceit is taken to absurd lengths, allowing all of the side characters to carry cameras at all times, enabling Wayans to finally just cut to the chase and shout jokes directly at the audience.

What would A Haunted House 2 be without Wayans' trademark racist, sexist and homophobic humor, all of which are well-represented in the interminable two minutes of this trailer. Also featured: an unfortunate homage to one of the best gags in A Fish Called Wanda, involving a dog and a safe.

I wouldn't go so far as to call the Haunted House franchise (ugh, to have to say that) the bottom of the barrel-that distinction still belongs to Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, the auteurs that brought us Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, and The Starving Games (awesome title, dudes). However, I think there's very little arguing that this franchise is certainly familiar with the bottom of the barrel, its belly grazing against it, ever so delicately, entangled in the terrible dance of garbage comedy.

Best to look away and hope that, once A Haunted House loses your attention, it'll fade away like Marty McFly in that polaroid.

April 9, 2014 at 12:15pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Oculus"

Holy crap, is that Karen Gillan? Yep, Doctor Who’s very own Amy Pond has her first starring role in a stateside flick.

If I had a haunted mirror for every lame horror trailer I've had to endure for this column, I'd have entirely too many mirrors for one person. Like, you'd come over to my house and it'd be the first thing you'd notice. A crazy amount of mirrors. And they're all haunted. A house full of haunted mirrors.

"Did he buy them all at once," you'd wonder, "or is it the sort of thing where he sees a mirror at a thrift store and he just has to pick it up? Is it a bet he's got going with a friend, to see who can have the most mirrors? Was he bequeathed these mirrors by an eccentric uncle? Does he even like having this many mirrors, or is it just a compulsion at this point?"

Which brings me, sadly, to Oculus - a trailer notable not only for a scene where a woman mistakenly eats a light bulb, but for the mysterious presence of World Wrestling Entertainment's production logo (try as I may, I could spot nary a wrestler in this preview). We find ourselves transported to the terrifying world of antiquing, where mirrors are serial killers (hilariously, the mirror is credited with 45 known murders), and ghosts embrace cliché by donning sheets.

Such is the reality of the hacky haunted house boom through which we find ourselves joylessly trudging. Like the recent, surprisingly competent Mama, Oculus is adapted from its director's earlier shorts - a sign that Oculus may end up surprising the skeptics, though that outcome remains an unlikely one. I will say this: when our heroine tries to eat an apple, but it turns out it's a light bulb, I genuinely guffawed. Maybe there's some camp value to be found with Oculus, but until such time as this is proven, I'll just get back to polishing my many mirrors. It's the only full-time job I have.

SEE ALSO

A Nerd Alert has been issued for the South Sound

April 2, 2014 at 12:38pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

At least someone in D.C. is kicking ass.

I do a lot of indiscriminate bashing of movies (sight unseen, never to be corrected) for this column. It's fun! In the case of movies like the recent, bafflingly shitty God's Not Dead, it's both rewarding and entirely warranted. Other times, I take potshots at movies that might end up being quite good. (The Lego Movie, anyone?) My point is that I'm swinging wildly in the dark, over here. This is the nature of Judging by the Trailer.

Which brings me to the trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I would rather be writing about literally anything else. Watching this trailer, my eyes blurred and a ringing tone sounded in my ears, interrupted only by the obligatory BWOOOMPs that are required of every "dark" superhero trailer, thus decreed Christopher Nolan. Captain America appears to me only as a muscular assembly of blonde-haired pixels.

I took a hard pass at the opportunity of seeing the first Captain America movie, deciding I'd just catch up when The Avengers came out. As a result, I now find myself faced with your standard gritty sequel, populated with characters about which I couldn't care less, facing a super-villain who - though exhaustively detailed in the trailer - seems to be mostly notable for possessing a "metal arm," as Cap puts it.

Of interest to other folks who don't have an affinity for Captain America, this film is helmed by the Russo Brothers, Anthony and Joe, who directed lots of episodes of Community. That's neat! Maybe, when #SixSeaonsAndAMovie finally reaches fruition, the Russo Brothers can take a break from bathing in $100 bills to take a stab at Community's theatrical debut. Until then, I'll continue my hot streak of never seeing a Captain America movie (except for that truly awful 1990 version that starred J.D. Salinger's kid).

March 25, 2014 at 10:54am

Judging by the Trailer: "Noah"

Darren Aronofsky re-tells the bible story of Noah and the great flood, with Russell Crowe as the bearded do-gooder.

If gopher wood could withstand a world-killing flood, you'd think we'd be using still be using the stuff. Well, maybe Noah took the last bit of it with him for his boat.

Here we're, once again, greeting another entrant in 2014's Year of Religious MoviesTM. This time, though, we're going about as Old Testament-y as you can get. No washing of feet to be had in Noah, just blood-soaked soil and the madness of Darren Aronofsky.

Even before its release, Noah has garnered more than its share of controversy - from jumpy studio executives, to confused test audiences, to scores of Christian groups who bristle at the (Biblically accurate) telling of Noah's story - and will now arrive at theaters bearing the following disclaimer:

"The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."

No doubt, if all of these huffing and puffing Catholics would ever follow that disclaimer's advice and, you know, actually read the story of Noah, I'm sure they'd find a much more complex tale than the one they were told in Sunday school. Many-armed fallen angels, a drunk ark-builder and an epically violent, petty god - these are just a few aspects of the story that don't quite gel with cartoons about fluffy animals having a boat trip (and those poor dinosaurs who got left behind).

If the trailer for Noah is any indication, this a return for Aronofsky to the batshit operatics of The Fountain, and less a somber character study of a man on the brink, like The Wrestler. If religious groups are incensed already, I wonder what'll happen once they finally see the thing.

March 19, 2014 at 1:08pm

Judging by the Trailer: "God's Not Dead" and "Muppets Most Wanted"

This sequel finds the Muppets inadvertently caught up in a heist.

Recently, I wrote about a movie called Last Ounce of Courage. It was a Christian film about the War on Christmas (trademark), wherein the villain was a politician who wouldn't allow Jesus to be celebrated in a public square. Such is the case with Christian-produced films - the atheist is a fascistic enemy, blind to faith and morals and lacking in any kind of empathy, holiday-related or otherwise.

So is the case with God's Not Dead, the latest in the line of religious movies that seem to be permeating the theaters in 2014.

Look, I've already written about the aforementioned Last Ounce, as well as Son of God, so there's no use rehashing those discussions. What I want to make clear in this writing is that, despite how negative my feelings toward the Catholic church may be, I am not the robotic scold that these Christian films tend to make atheists out to be. I am a living, breathing human whose life has been shaped not by the teachings of Jesus Christ, but by the innate intuition one feels to do good. I may fail sometimes, in that regard, but I am never subjected to the ever-present danger of finding myself in some ring of hell. I make decisions to do good on my own, and my punishment for not doing so is my conscience, which frequently finds itself wracked with guilt.

Anyhoo, God Isn't Dead is a polemic starring Kevin Sorbo (TV's Hercules) as an atheist professor whose wicked ways are righted by a Christian student. It looks terrible. It will get money from its audience.

Let's, instead, look forward to Muppets Most Wanted, which looks entirely pleasant, despite its unfortunate release date, as its Eastern European themes only bring images of a bear-riding Vladimir Putin and a charred Ukraine.

Boy, there's just now way to not be heavy this week. Join me again, next week, when our film will be Noah. Aw, shit.

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