Movie: Meek’s Cutoff (April 8th)
Trailer Type: The old “slow paced shots of dust covered people in old fashioned garb looking uneasy and arguing with each other while the soundtrack drags a bow menacingly across the strings of a violin and then throw in some film festival references and some really REALLY intriguing pull quotes from early reviews” routine.
Persons of Interest: Outstanding character actors Bruce Greenwood and Will Patton--you might not even recognize them here behind layers of dust and unruly beards, but trust me, you know their faces. Michelle Williams has proven to be a heavyweight when it comes to choosing and crushing interesting dramatic roles, so her presence alone bodes well.
Moments of Intrigue: I’m going to go with everything here. The locations in this film look so desolate as to put the lifeless outback of “The Proposition” to shame, and that movie could have kept my attention for two hours based on cinematography alone. This film looks gorgeously shot, plus there’s something intriguing about what we don’t see in this trailer: the source of the their stranding, whether the Native American they “pick up” is really a troublemaker or IN trouble at the hands of the travelers, what brings them to be lost or stranded, and so on. Very intriguing.
Possible Signs o’ Trouble: Well, let’s face it, it could be boring. It looks like a slow burner of a story, and those always live and die based on performances and editing.
Anticipation Factor (out of 5): 5
Movie: The Conspirator (April 15th)
Trailer Type: The old “Hey this is based on True Events---now check out all these actors you recognize dressed up in clothes from another time period!” routine.
Persons of Interest: Robert Redford behind the camera means more than you might think it does, especially you younger whipper-snappers out there. If you’ve never seen his directorial work, like the amazingly unseen "The Last Castle”, then you’re missing out. James McAvoy has yet to get his dues despite excellence in everything from action films like “Wanted” to heavy dramatic stuff like “The Last King of Scotland”, so maybe this will be the movie that brings him mainstream recognition, though there are so many character actors in this movie who you’ll recognize that it's possible he won’t be able to grab the screen time he needs (but don’t count him out to steal the show anyway). Robin “I dropped the Penn part” Wright also looks like she’s bringing her A-game as the mother of a Lincoln-assassination conspirator who may have been in on the conspiracy herself.
Moments of Intrigue: Nothing in particular jumps out of the trailer; you’re either pumped at the prospect of a historical courtroom drama based on real events (some really intriguing true events, at that) or you aren’t.
Possible Signs o’ Trouble: It all looks pretty good, though some of the sets and establishing shots look a bit more like Hollywood’s version of the Civil War Era than the actual Civil War Era. Having said that, the on-the-nose line towards the end regarding our Founding Fathers creating a Constitution for a reason should be some cause for concern that this movie might be message-heavy with modern politics, which would most certainly limit its ability to be a sincere and accurate dramatization of one of the most interesting historical crimes in American history.
Anticipation Factor (out of 5): 3
Movie: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (April 22nd)
Trailer Type: The old “show a master of martial arts doing stunts so crazy that the audience is like ‘psh, that’s ridiculous’ but at the same time you can see them thinking to themselves, ‘you know what, I think I’m going to see it anyway because that guy just kicked another dude through a brick wall’ routine.” One of the best routines out there when it comes to trailers, really.
Persons of Interest: Donnie Yen is a name you almost certainly don’t know, but if you can recall the villainous martial arts expert from films like “Shanghai Knights” (which is a good entry point, along with its prequel, “Shanghai Noon”, if you plan to explore the kung fu genre at all) you’ll find his face looking quite familiar. He’s a ton of fun to watch, and seems to align himself with cool projects.
Moments of Intrigue: Let’s see, Chen Zhen runs in a circle at a 15 degree angle to the ground to escape machine gun bullets, he defeats a whole Nazi brigade with his feet and fists, there looks to be a gorgeous scene at a ritzy club paying homage to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, and so many other anonymous villains get their bones rearranged in the final 30 seconds of the trailer that I won’t waste the space here trying to describe it.
Possible Signs o’ Trouble: Umm…his mask is a bit corny. But he could be wearing an Easter bunny suit given the stuff he does in the trailer and you’d completely forget about it. And if you think about not seeing the movie because it’s in subtitles, you’re a bad person. Learn to read—it’s awesome.
Anticipation Factor (out of 5): 5
Movie: I Saw the Devil (March 4th—now playing…somewhere)
Trailer Type: The old “Show them a crime and then run them over with all of the excessive violence that comes in the aftermath” routine. Okay, so I couldn’t think of an actual routine for this one—the Asian Revenge Film is a pretty new genre; they’re sort of defying categorization so far.
Persons of Interest: Very few (myself included) would recognize the name Choi Min-Sik, but you would immediately recognize his face if you’re a fan (like me) of the excellent “Oldboy”, which is itself an examination of the nature of revenge, which this film looks to be also.
Moments of Intrigue: The whole film looks terrifically well shot; there are so many moments where the camera lingers on faces and puts us uncomfortably close to the characters that it certainly looks like a film that will command your attention even as it defies you not to turn your head from what looks to be a lot of excessive violence.
Possible Signs o’ Trouble: Well, some of the last-second cutaways here coupled with the one-word pull line “Unflinching” from one reviewer should make you do at least one hard swallow about exactly how much you’ll be subjected to in terms of grisly revenge tactics. Also, given that Park Chan-Wook already made a whole trilogy of films about revenge and its futility, I’m not sure how much more there is to be said on the subject thematically…
Anticipation Factor (out of 5): 3
Movie: Source Code (April 1st)
Trailer Type: The old “Everything including the taglines buzzes and crackles with electrical noises because this movie is about crazy technology, but there’s totally a great story behind it too, so don’t worry about that, but remember—bzzzzzzttt—technology!” routine.
Persons of Interest: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan are both outstanding; Gyllenhaal needs no introduction, but if you need to know who Michelle Monaghan is you should check out “Gone Baby Gone” before you head out to see this.
Moments of Intrigue: A serious, science fiction version of “Groundhog’s Day” set on a train is an intriguing notion. It also seems like there’s a lot that isn’t shared with us in this trailer, including who “Captain Stevens” actually is and why (what looks like) the government is sending military personnel into other people’s bodies who are about to die.
Possible Signs o’ Trouble: The special effects look more than a little bit rough around the edges, which isn’t a deal breaker but doesn’t necessarily bode well for a film that clearly wants to sell itself as a scifi action movie. Also, the explanation of what “the source code” actually is sounds really, really stupid.
Anticipation Factor (out of 5): 2