The Trailer Awakens The Movie Geek

For movie geeks around the globe, this particular Black Friday will not be remembered for long lines at Wal-Mart or Best Buy. No no. Today has seen the debut of arguably the most eagerly awaited movie trailer of all time for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens December 18, 2015.

There will all kinds of critiquing of the film’s 88 second trailer and I’ll leave that to others to pontificate on. Here’s my professional movie blogger reaction:

“OMG! THE MILLENNIUM FALCON!”

That about covers it. Why? Just the sight of Han Solo’s iconic spacecraft gave me movie geek goosebumps. After all, it’s George Lucas’s creation 37 years ago that spawned the blockbuster era we’ve been living in ever since. Harry Potter? The Avengers? The Hunger Games? They all owe a huge part of their existence to the galaxy far, far away.

The fact that we will see Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher return to the roles of Luke, Han, and Princess Leia is, frankly, a film lover’s bonus that was once thought highly unlikely. The fact that JJ Abrams is in control of the franchise’s new entry inspires nothing but confidence. The Force Awakens will be scrutinized on a level that is perhaps unheard of so far. At the very least, movie geeks hope it will easily eclipse the disappointing results from 1999 when The Phantom Menace simply didn’t meet expectations – for reasons more than just Jar Jar Binks.

Star Wars, at its best, has the ability to inspire hope in those who love it. And this trailer inspires that hope.

And did I mention – The Millennium Freakin’ Falcon?!?!?!?!

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Trailer Park: Don Jon, The World’s End, We’re the Millers

In this week’s edition of Trailer Park, I take a look at three summer films with comedic elements.

We start with Don Jon, marking the directorial debut of actor Joseph Gordon Levitt. The actor has been on a roll recently with appearances in Chris Nolan’s Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and Rian Johnson’s inventive sci-fi thriller Looper. He’s certainly worked with some A-list directors so we’ll see if that translates to his directorial ability.

Don Jon looks promising. Levitt stars as a buff ladies man who also seems to have a bit of a porn addiction. The trailer shows him falling for Scarlett Johannson and also in a relationship with Julianne Moore. We even have Tony Danza playing his dad!

I didn’t know much about Don Jon before watching the trailer and the spot succeeded in its mission of making me more curious to see it. I’m also curious to see the movie within a movie that seems to be featured here with Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway. And you gotta love that the trailer unexpectedly includes Mark Wahlberg… or rather, Marky Mark as Don Jon sings along to “Good Vibrations” in his car. That is until he comes to a stoplight and gets embarrassed. Been there, done that! Trailer Grade: B+

Next: The World’s End, reuniting the creative team behind 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz. The story centers on a group of British dudes attempting to recreate a classic night from their youth. Their epic bar crawl seems to go seriously wrong with some supernatural happenings that aren’t specifically spelled out in the trailer. Director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have covered this ground before and the trailer does look somewhat derivative of Shaun of the Dead, in particular. Still, these guys know how to do energetic and satisfying comedy and the trailer gives us enough to get pretty excited about. Trailer Grade: B

Last and least is the trailer for We’re the Millers starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. It focuses on Aniston as a stripper and Sudeikis as a pot dealer who pose as a wholesome American family traveling to Mexico to pay back a drug dealer. There simply aren’t many laughs to be had in the trailer. The spot certainly wants to focus on Aniston being scantily clad with her stripper moves, but even that angle seems tired since the actress did the bad girl thing already in 2011’s Horrible Bosses, also with Sudeikis. Everything about this trailer screamed “wait until HBO or Showtime” for me. Trailer Grade: C

I’ll be back next week with fresh thoughts on new trailers!

 

Trailer Park: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Butler

This evening I bring you a new feature on the blog called Trailer Park, in which I’ll review the trailers for upcoming movies that have recently debuted. With the summer movie season freshly upon us, we’re likely to see a nice helping of trailers for pictures coming out this fall and even next summer. I’ll try to do a new Trailer Park posting every week, at least. I realize there’s probably oodles of movie bloggers like myself who also call their coming attractions posts Trailer Park, but hey – it’s a catchy name and you don’t always have to be original.

So what’s my criteria for grading a trailer? Simple. Does the trailer make me more or less likely to wanna watch the featured title? That’s pretty much it. Two recent examples: the most recent trailer for June’s Superman epic Man of Steel was a masterpiece. I went from really wanting to see it to dying to see it right away. Seriously, it’s one of the most effective trailers in a loooong time.

On the flip side, there’s R.I.P.D., coming in July. When I first heard about the movie, I thought “Sci-fi action comedy with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds?” Sure, why not? Then I saw the trailer, in which it looks like a third-rate Men in Black knock-off with terrible special effects. Jeff Bridges has got to be receiving better offers than this!

This inaugural Trailer Park post grade three titles from Oscar-nominated directors. All three pictures are in the early running for awards consideration. How do their trailers measure up?

We begin with Captain Phillips. Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and United 93 brings us this true life thriller based on the Somali pirate hostage crisis of 2009. The title character is played by Tom Hanks. Judging from the preview, we may just have the actor’s first real awards-worthy role since Cast Away over 12 years ago. Hanks is also sporting his New England Catch Me If You Can accent here. The subject matter coupled with what appears to be the perfect director doing the material bodes well. The trailer for Captain Phillips is terrific. Grade: A

Alfonso Cuaron is the brilliant director behind Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. It’s been seven long years since Children and film lovers have been eager to see what this visual genius comes up with next. The answer is Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts whose mission goes horribly wrong. This is definitely more of a teaser than full trailer, but there’s just enough there to let us know this will be a feast for the eyes, as are all of Cuaron’s efforts. I can’t wait to see a full trailer, but the final shot of Bullock barreling helplessly into space earns Gravity a B+ trailer grade.

Lee Daniels receive a Best Director nomination for his unexpected hit Precious and followed it up with last year’s critically panned The Paperboy. His latest feature, The Butler, tells the true life story of an African-American White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who served from the Eisenhower to Reagan administrations. From the Weinstein Company (they know how to get movies noticed by Oscar), The Butler looks tailor-made for Academy consideration. Another selling point: this is Oprah Winfrey’s first major film role in 15 years. I must admit, however, I’m not wild about the trailer. There seems to be almost too much information they’re trying to pack into it. And the brief glimpses of well-known actors playing the First Family – Robin Williams as Ike, John Cusack as Nixon, Liev Schrieber as LBJ, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, and Severus Snape as Ronald Reagan – are somewhat distracting. The Butler may turn out to be a great and inspiring picture, but the trailer is a tad underwhelming and only merits a B- Trailer grade.

So there you have it – my first crack at grading trailers. I’ll be back for more next week!