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Posts made in: 'Judging by the Trailer' (54) Currently Viewing: 41 - 50 of 54

October 9, 2013 at 4:33pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Machete Kills"

All grown up - Alexa Vega as "Killjoy"

With the release of Gravity, Rush and Captain Phillips, award-season is really starting to gear up, and what better way to celebrate than to go see a tongue-in-cheek sequel to a tongue-in-cheek movie that was based on a tongue-in-cheek fake trailer?

No? OK, but what if I told you that Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson and Lady Gaga were in it?

Still no? Fine. Let's just watch the trailer instead.

Machete Kills picks up where Machete left off - so deep in the realm of self-satisfied parody that Robert Rodriguez probably wouldn't notice or care if it were playing to an empty theater. Beyond simply being homage to the grimy B-movies, Machete adopted the tact of the Hangover movies in paying tribute to low culture in general, featuring the stunt casting of ne'er-do-wells like Steven Seagal and Lindsay Lohan. The bar has once more been raised with the inclusion of the aforementioned triumvirate of Gibson, Gaga and Sheen.

Danny Trejo - once a noble character actor, now an ironic icon in the mold of Betty White - returns as the titular Machete, a renegade antihero hired by the hard-drinking, hard-loving President Charlie Sheen to bring down Mel Gibson's terrorist. An endlessly pulpy series of quips and explosions follow, including a particularly eye-roll-inducing scene of Machete proclaiming that he doesn't tweet, as he brandishes an iPhone equipped with a switchblade.

Machete and its sequel are an exercise in the vein of Pulp Fiction's career revival of John Travolta, but for Trejo. The problem, though, is that it highlights Trejo as a badass man of few words, which certainly was always part of Trejo's appeal, but anyone who's seen his tender and charming work in movies like Sherrybaby can attest that there's much more to the man than what Robert Rodriguez chooses to show in the Machete series.

Character actors, by their nature, are designed to convey a wealth of information sheerly through their appearance. Because of this, Trejo will never want for work (he has 15 film roles in 2013 alone), but it'd be great to see him explored further than skin deep.

Oh, and fuck Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.

October 1, 2013 at 11:51am

Judging by the Trailer: "Runner Runner"

Justin Timberlake takes a gamble in the lead role of the casino crime drama "Runner Runner." Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

A quick aside before we dive into the ludicrous Runner Runner: When I worked at The Grand Cinema, I had a friend and coworker who made the majority of his income in two ways, neither of which had anything to do with working at a movie theater. The more fanciful of the methods was that he would spend hours playing World of Warcraft, collecting in-game items that he would then sell to other gamers for real-life money. One man allegedly paid him $1,500, which he had to do in installations so his wife wouldn't notice.

The rest of his money was made in online poker. Needless to say, my friend's continued work at an art house theater should be an indication that online poker is, generally, not nearly as sexy and dangerous as Runner Runner says.

Starring Justin Timberlake in yet another role that comes nowhere close to matching the promise he showed in The Social Network and Alpha Dog, Runner Runner quickly raises its banner as the spiritual sequel to the equally ridiculous fake-poker classic, Rounders. Timberlake needs to raise funds for tuition, so he starts playing online poker (three tables at a time, which my friend also did), and almost wins the jackpot before being cheated by a mysterious opponent.

Soon enough, we're off to Costa Rica where Timberlake is seduced by Ben Affleck and the promise of endless riches as a professional poker dude (technical term). Brief glimpses of Deadmau5 and bikini-clad women follow, hammering home the point that it's pretty great to be rich and in Costa Rica. Ah, but the law catches up to Timberlake, turning him against Ben Affleck - who, it must be said, is chewing the scenery with even more voracity than that of the crocodiles he keeps in his super-villain backyard.

Poker on film is notoriously difficult to make exciting, which should explain why Runner Runner has made the choice to instead focus on people yelling at each other in a tropical locale.

Of interest to fans of Comedy Bang! Bang! and Parks and Recreation is the presence of Ben Schwartz, which just might make the experience of watching Runner Runner worth it. But probably not.

September 24, 2013 at 12:46pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Don Jon"

Who's the boss?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, record holder for Most Well-Adjusted Former Child Star, has revealed himself, over the years, to not only be a surprisingly capable dramatic actor, but a closet old-school showman. This is a guy who longs for the days of the triple-threat - acting, singing, dancing, with an impeccable sense of class. It would seem, then, given his druthers of writing and directing his first movie, that he would steer his ship in the direction of some winning musical in the style of Donald O'Connor or Gene Kelly.

It's befuddling, then, that he would make his directorial debut with the story of a Jersey Shore meathead and his struggle to overcome sex addiction.

Don Jon's manic energy and questionable choice of subject matter recalls Romance & Cigarettes, the genuinely odd directorial debut of John Turturro (a man who, more and more, seems like he might be a legit weirdo).

Gordon-Levitt, in voice-over, runs through the most important things in life: his car, his family, his church, his friends, his porn, his - wait, what? Soon, the picture becomes clear of a self-obsessed sex addict whose life is dominated by an insatiable need to see - just see - every naked woman that it is possible to see.

Soon, though, Gordon-Levitt's world is turned upside down by the appearance of Scarlett Johannson and her atrocious Jersey accent. Can Don Jon learn to give up his porn obsession so he can win the love of a good woman? I mean, can he? And why? And who cares?

Tony Danza pops up as Gordon-Levitt's spaghetti-slurping father - a role he was born to play. Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, was born to never play the role he gave himself in Don Jon. If I wanted to watch a movie about a greasy-haired gym rat who refers to women in terms of whether or not they're "10s," and who refers to his friends as his "boys," and who just can't quit watching porn long enough to sleep with Scarlett Johansson, I'd, uh... No, I actually just don't want to watch that.

QUESTION: Did you see Battle of the Year?

September 18, 2013 at 1:37pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Battle of the Year"

Hang on a minute. What's going on here? Why is everyone wearing a matching tracksuit?

In writing about Battle of the Year, I find I have a battle of my own to fight: is it possible for me to review this trailer without simply spending 300 words talking about the most reprehensible man in existence - and star of this movie - Chris Brown?

This is a man whose entire nature has steadily morphed into utter repugnance and mystifying lack of self-awareness - oh he of Rihanna-beating fame and nonstop verbal diarrhea and neck tattoos. That his popularity remains unfazed by years of some of the most jaw-droppingly awful acts anyone can commit in public is a testament to how little of a shit the American public has decided to give when it comes to the morality of people who dance real good.

But back to Battle of the Year. In a terribly misguided (and woefully on-the-nose) attempt to combine the breakdance pyrotechnics of goofy fare like Step Up with the feel-good inspiration of sports movies like Remember the Titans and Hoosiers, Battle of the Year posits a world where a disgraced former basketball coach is brought in to reinvigorate the American team in what appears to be an international breakdancing competition after a 15 year losing streak.

To whip them into shape, Coach brings them to a prison (where Chris Brown should be, anyway) and shows them the value of hard work and stick-to-itiveness. Brown opines, "Dancing, for me, is like breathing," and breathing, for him, is like viciously beating women and homosexuals.

What follows is a flurry of team-building exercises and uncomfortable, rah-rah patriotism with Koreans as our sworn enemies.

In my time reviewing movies for the Volcano, my best experience at a screening was seeing Step Up 3D - an utterly goofy and enjoyable experience, bolstered by a completely frivolous plot and legitimately awe-inspiring dance sequences.

But, I mean, who wouldn't give all that up for a jingoistic Chris Brown vehicle?

QUESTION: Did you see Insidious: Chapter 2?

September 10, 2013 at 10:23am

Judging by the Trailer: "Insidious: Chapter 2"

"Wake up! Wake up! Don't give up on this film yet."

In 2010, a horror movie called Insidious was released. Unseen by me, Insidious garnered many positive reviews, praising it as an unexpected return to the sort of fun, slow-burn haunted house movie that had long ago disappeared from mainstream cinemas.

What shocked me even more than the positive reviews was that they were attributed to a film directed by James Wan, the schlockmeister responsible not only for the further proliferation of the torture-porn genre, beginning with his Saw, but for the return of the beat-it-to-death philosophy of sequels, with the subsequent six Saw installments.

So, no surprise, then, that he would ruin the good will of Insidious the first by releasing Insidious: Chapter 2.

The first film put a spin on the haunted house story by having not a haunted house, but rather a haunted child (how this is different from a possessed child will be up for historians to decide). In the trailer, we return to the family from the first film, happy with their lives and rejuvenated by the fact that they will never ever have a run-in with another spooky g-g-g-ghost.

Ah, but this bliss is short-lived, as ominous music starts to fill the soundtrack, and people make worried looks on their faces. Soon, actors with pancake makeup start getting all creepy, and it's up to Patrick Wilson (oh he of good acting chops and unreliable acting choices) to figure out why his teeth are falling out.

Ghostbusters (not the trademarked kind) and psychics are called in to help, and the most eye-rolling use of "happy music playing over scary stuff because of irony" ever occurs when the dulcet tones of Tiny Tim appear, as he croons "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."

Someone says, "Whatever was haunting my family, it's not done with us," which makes sense. Even ghosts know a cash cow when they see one. If I were a betting man, I'd guess that the ghosts won't let up until the fourth or fifth outing, or at least until the audiences diminish. Whichever comes first.

Until then, just leave Tiny Tim alone, OK?

QUESTION: Did you see Riddick?

September 4, 2013 at 11:53am

Judging By The Trailer: "Riddick"

Vin Diesel battles aliens.

If the race to determine who would be the next Sylvester Stallone hadn't already been decided in Vin Diesel's favor, that dubious honor would surely be awarded to him just on the basis of the trailer for Riddick.

Ah, yes, the third in what was surely always intended to be an epic trilogy. After the modest sci-fi flick Pitch Black, and after the bloated sci-fi embarrassment that was The Chronicles of Riddick, self-styled auteur of dumb stuff Vin Diesel is back with the stupidly succinct Riddick.

In a world where green screens have grown sentient and taken over the universe, there is only one chosen man with a voice gurgly enough to stand up against intergalactic tyranny: Sly Stallone! Er, I mean, Vin Diesel.

Diesel, looking like a big old hunk of meat in a slightly-too-small meat sack, returns as Riddick: Tough Guy of Space! Armed with the ability to see in the dark-a skill somehow not yet developed by other future-people-he must fend off bounty hunters on a desolate planet, with only his trusty space-dog at his side.

Fighting, gurgling, more fighting, still gurgling, and Riddick has been captured by the bounty hunters. How's he gonna get out of this scrape?!

Surprise of all surprises, it turns out this remote outpost on an alien planet is totally crawling with aliens! Better free up the meat sack so he can help defend the humans from those Prometheus penis-monster things.

One thing the trailer for Riddick really wants to get across is that seeing in the dark is basically the best super power you could ever have. Yeah, Wolverine has those adamantium claws and unstoppable regenerative ability but, like, what if it's super dark outside?

"You're not afraid of the dark, are you?" intones Vin Diesel's neck, once again pushing the issue, as the nonsense word Riddick flashes on the screen, practically begging me to make a "ridiculous" joke.

Not this time, Riddick. Not this time.

August 27, 2013 at 11:40am

Judging by the Trailer: "One Direction: This is Us"

All right, look: I realize that, by even saying anything about One Direction: This is Us, I'm creeping up on cranky old man territory. And yes, yes, old people be hatin', but can we just talk about that title?

One Direction: This is Us. This is us? In the pantheon of rock documentaries, we have The Last WaltzDon't Look BackStop Making SenseGimme Shelter and, uh, This is Us? They've managed to come up with a title with even less personality than the actual, homogenous boy band itself.

But back to the trailer. ... We're treated to childhood photos of One Direction (read: photos taken 10 years ago), while identical narrators muse remembrances like, "In school, I was always the guy that made people laugh," and "I used to get kicked out of class for singing Irish traditional songs." Somehow this is all supposed to justify how they're now "number one in 37 countries."

And now, an exploration of fame and what it means to be in a boy band 15 years after the initial craze died out. How are One Direction working to separate themselves from the rabble? By not choreographing their dances, we're told. Then, it's a race to the bottom for each member to establish themselves as the "funny one," taking turns doing bland recreations of bits from A Hard Day's Night, if they even know what that is.

Finally, we're made to look at sad shots of middle-aged women crying with delight at the sight of these hairless boys.

It's worth pointing out two things about this trailer. First, very little of One Direction's music is featured, validly giving the impression that this is much more a cult of personality than an actual band. Oddly honest, I think.

Second, this movie is directed by former agit-doc director Morgan Spurlock - which is certainly a relief, as this seems to suggest that there is no more change to be made in the world if this guy's getting off Ronald McDonald's back long enough to follow some lithe British boys around for a while. Rejoice!

August 21, 2013 at 4:54pm

Judging by the Trailer: "You're Next"

Silent-but-deadly "You're Next" killers, aka Scary Wolf Mask, Scary Tiger Mask and Scary Lamb Mask (what, was the store out of Scary Hamster Mask?)

You're Next's first offense comes swift and unexpectedly, as Lou Reed's beautiful "Perfect Day" scores the opening moments of a truly lousy trailer to what will assuredly be an even lousier movie - creating an effect similar to a pig wearing makeup (more on that later, unfortunately), or a turd wearing a really nice hat.

Oof, and we're still only five seconds in.

A WASP-y family descends upon a ridiculous palatial estate in the woods for the weekend. What could go wrong?

Well, reader, not a moment after I start to suspect that this might be some sort Mike Nichols, Masterpiece Theatre, slamming-doors drama about the haves and the have-nots and what it really means to be an extended family in today's ever-changing - HOLY JESUS IS THAT A DUDE IN A CRAZY ANIMAL MASK LURKING OUTSIDE THE WINDOW?

Before you know it, arrows are being fired through the windows of the palatial estate, while interchangeable actors make intonations like, "This wasn't a random attack" and "They've been watching us for days," and various versions sounds you might make when someone suddenly shoots you in the head with a crossbow.

Guys, it's full-on dudes with animal masks and axes and other not-quite-ideal killing implements. And you know what else? "Perfect Day" is back on the soundtrack, and now I TOTALLY GET IT, man! It's, like, irony? Because this is not like any sort of perfect day that I would imagine if given an opportunity to imagine a perfect day!

I don't think animal masks would even enter into it, honestly.

I learn from every press release and commercial I've seen of You're Next that it's somehow a fresh take on the "home invasion genre." Well. Huh. While I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that that may be the case, I'll also say that - now that humans have apparently invented the home invasion genre - maybe it's time we just pack it in and call it a day as a species.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll just grab my bunny mask and mosey on out of h-ACK! (That's the sound of me getting shot with a crossbow.)

You're Next hits the local screens Friday, Aug. 23.

April 24, 2012 at 11:02am

JUDGING BY THE TRAILER: 'The Raven'

"THE RAVEN": Poe, Poe all null and void.

WEAK AND WEARY >>>

Great news, guys! It turns out that 2012 is the year of historical fan fiction! Later on in the year, we'll get to experience the origin story of Scientology in The Master, as well as the re-imagination of Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter (in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, natch), but first, let's see what it would have been like if Edgar Allen Poe had been a detective hot on the heels of a serial killer who culls inspiration for his dastardly deeds from the works of Poe. Awesome, I guess! I think it would have looked a little something like this. ...

In The Raven, the famously homely, potato-browed alcoholic is rather forgivingly portrayed by American Sweetheart John Cusack (Lloyd Dobler, lovably loquacious kickboxer). Poe's attention is called to a string of grisly (GRISLY!) murders, which draw inspiration from Poe's macabre stories. Detective Fields solemnly declares, "I believe the killer is taunting us." Don't you just hate it when that happens?

All of your favorite Poe stories are represented, here: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Cask of Amontillado" (probably), "The Case of I Know You Stole My Bottle of Absinthe, Poe, So Why Don't You Just Fess Up and Quit Ruining This Dinner Party" - all the classics.

I suppose the take-away from the bewildering existence of The Raven is that someone out there is looking out for what I can only presume is a very dedicated - though almost certainly troubled - collective of fans of From Hell ("A psychic Johnny Depp battling with Jack the Ripper? From Hell, where have you been all our lives?!" cries a desperate nation).

My idea for the next great historical fan fiction? Jack Ruby. Not only Lee Harvey Oswald's murderer, but a suave international jewel thief. It's called Jack's Rubies. Patent pending.

April 16, 2012 at 3:50pm

JUDGING BY THE TRAILER: 'Think Like A Man'

"THINK LIKE A MAN": Or Turtle.

LOL >>>

The film is called Think Like A Man, and the trailer opens with renowned woman-hospitalizer Chris Brown gleefully skipping out on a girl post-coitus. Ha ha ha ha barf. Thanks, movie, but if that's thinking like a man, er, uh, I'd rather not.

Are you ready for some Adaptation-style mind-freaking? Get this: Think Like A Man is based on Steve Harvey's book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which appears to be too cliché for comment. BUT! In the world of the film adaptation of Harvey's book, the book actually exists and provides the crux of the movie's conflict. Inception!

Basically, here's the situation: All of the ladies who have been continuously used and fucked-over by every man they've ever met start reading Harvey's relationship advice book, and all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, women become aware that men are the most awful creatures to ever walk this disgusting planet. Their plan is to act even worse than men, because everyone is terrible and dear god why was this movie made?

Of course, men figure out that ladies have been reading that book, and then promptly label Steve Harvey as a "traitor" (which surely must be some weird, internalized guilt on Steve Harvey's part for betraying all that secret men stuff). Their response? Continue the cycle of woman-fearing subterfuge as a means of sleeping with as many randos as possible while avoiding any kind of actual communication that might lead to a greater understanding of the opposite sex and possibly even a fulfilling relationship.

Awesome! Glad we got all that cleared up! What healthy adults we all are! Can I please be excused? I think I have some more Chris Brown puke to work through.

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