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!