Fading of the Actors [July 8, 2011]

Welcome to the week of unwanted movie stars. There’s apparently been a dearth of talent in Hollywood as of late, so, this weekend, we get Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jason Sudkieis all in one film. The other major opening this week? It’s a fucking Kevin James vehicle. I can’t believe it’s that hard to find watchable actors in LA; go to lunch at any restaurant, and you’ll find fifteen of them working the floor. Apparently, new actors have no guarantee, so it’s better to squeeze as much money as possible out of people we already can’t stand.

D. Suth, you aren't in the trailer, so your existence in this group is excused

What’s that? A lot of people like Jason Bateman, you say? Name one good movie he’s starred in since Juno. Name one good movie he starred in before Juno. Come to think, he didn’t even fucking star in Juno. Suffice to say that Jason Bateman does not make a good leading man. Jennifer Aniston became too irritating somewhere around her second or third post-Pitt-celebrity-fling. Both of those actors are relentlessly clinging on to their glorious TV sit-com notoriety just as Foxx and Spacey are continuously singing the woes of their respective Oscar curses.

Doesn't help when you take roles as characters from Chapelle Show.

Jason Sudkieis, like everyone associated with SNL in the past 5 years, should probably change his name if he wants to be respected as an actor. I haven’t mentioned Colin Farrell, but that’s only because I don’t think he knows what he’s doing in this film either. Probably why he donned a ridiculous disguise and his name doesn’t initially show up on the IMDB page for horrible bosses.

And, then, we have Kevin James talking to animals. Fuck it. Let’s get on with this crap.

Horrible Bosses or Strangers on a Train With Two More People and No Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s early masterpiece is revisited. Except there are 3 parties exchanging hits. And all parties are in agreement on the deal. And, instead of killing girlfriends, they’re killing bosses (though, really, what’s the difference?).

Okay, so, beyond the basis of the plot, it’s not really like Strangers on a Train. It’s also nothing worth watching. This here is what the business calls a high-concept, package deal. Instead of artistic endeavor, this film is made simply by piling big names together with a ridiculous, over-the-top premise.

For examples, see every Schwarzenegger comedy.

Now, I’m not typically a huge fan of high-concept (read: Hollywood) films, but, if you’re gonna do it, try to come up with something at least a little bit creative.

Did I mention Schwarzenegger comedies?

We’ve seen the Strangers on a Train killer-switch done enough in the past and with a bit more ingenuity. Horrible Bosses‘ big twist to the plot? “Hey, let’s have three guys switching murders instead of the usual two.” For a producer, this is a brilliant idea, as it allows room for another two stars (an extra killer and an extra kill-ee) to be packaged into the movie. Good thing they went out of their way to find two strong actors. That third group is Jennifer Aniston and Charlie Day. I actually like Day, as do most people who watch(ed only the first 2 seasons of) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Nobody else knows who he is, though.

The trailer feels like it’s preposterous bullshit heaped into a two and a half minute train wreck. I can’t figure out why Day, Bateman, and Sudkieis would ever be friends. They seem like they have as much in common as Led Zeppelin and a garden gnome, but I guess we’ll accept it for the time being. The trailer shows instances of each boss harassing our protagonists: Colin Farrell tells Sudkieis to fire the fat people and the disabled; Kevin Spacey forces Bateman to drink on the job; and Jennifer Aniston sexually harasses Day. Sudkieis and Day could take their respective superiors to court and get a good six figures in settlement money, but, instead, they decide to kill each other’s employers. Sounds smart to me. Throw in Jamie Foxx as your murder consultant (because he’s black, duh), and you’ve got yourself a hit. There is a good line at the end about drag racing a Prius, but, when the only laugh comes as the button of the trailer, it’s typically not a good sign.

Despite my ranting, this is going to be a big hit because it followed the Wild Hogs code.

Donning a leather jacket makes you a biker?

Wild Hogs had zero premise, starred four actors going down hill, and made 250 million worldwide. Why? Because the stars consisted of a TV sitcom star, a (former) A-list actor, an independent film star, and a black comedian. Everyone with half a wit watched the trailer and said, “why the hell are these four guys in a movie together?” Everyone else said, “oh! It’s *insert name of one of the four stars here*. That guy makes movies I once enjoyed! I’ll see that.” It didn’t matter that their careers were nearly over. They had names we had once heard of before.

Someday "the Beek" will have that effect. Someday...

Horrible Bosses took the Wild Hogs code to the next level. They have sitcom stars from three completely different eras and target audiences (Aniston, Bateman, Day). They have two former Oscar winners, one of which fills the “black comedian” gap. Hell, they are even trying to reel in the documentary audience by casting Steve Wiebe, the subject of King of Kong. I guess if you can play Donkey Kong, you can act.

If it weren’t for the summer competition (which is actually rather lackluster this year), I would expect this movie to surpass Wild Hogs, which was a spring release. Still, it’ll make an easy 200 million.

Zookeeper or Kevin James Needs to Stop Existing

Why Kevin James has a career is beyond me. I am not a comedian or a comic actor, nor will I ever be, but I have more comic ability in my penis than Kevin James has in his decade long career

And that's saying something.

Did you ever see The King of Queens? Did you laugh once? When I saw James in Hitch, I wondered who let him out of the TV set. He once had a stand-up special on Comedy Central. It was like going to an open mic night where a sad, overweight man refuses to get off the stage. Turns out he’s pretty good at giving head because he eventually got a starring role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Everyone hated that movie, but it was rated PG, so it made 145 million in the box office. I believe that is the general idea behind Zookeeper.

Here are a few things that make a terrible trailer:

1) A stupid voice-of-God narration that says stuff like “…Now…” Seriously. At one point, the voice just says, “now,” apparently not proceeding anything. It’s doing the work of a simple title card or, I don’t know, common sense. Take out the narration, and the trailer is exactly the same.

2) Talking animals. These haven’t been acceptable in live action since they started to animate the mouths. Homeward Bound and any fully animated movie are exceptions.

3) Kevin James. Completely unacceptable.

4) A reluctance to show Rosario Dawson, even though she’s second billed. Dawson is pretty hot, and I would think her existence in the movie is something you’d want to promote. However, she’s in the trailer for about two seconds. The stupid porcupine gets more screen time than she does. If I hadn’t looked at the IMDB page, I would have missed her completely.

5) Product placement for TGI Fridays.

Again, this movie will do well. A couple of people with zero credentials gave it a PG rating, which means it can be enjoyed by toddlers, Southern Baptists, and Mormons alike.

 

The Ward or John Carpenter’s Still Making Movies?

Carpenter made three of the best films of all time: Halloween, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China. I don’t care if you don’t agree with me; I am simply stating a fact. When it comes to horror, the man is only rivaled by Wes Craven and the Devil himself. So, it’s with great trepidation that I say: this movie is going to be shit. 

Excuse me. I’m afraid I’m going to have to interrupt your regularly scheduled programing of reading Physoo’s ramblings while your brain slowly turns to mush. This is the Mistress of Horror, aka Physoo’s girlfriend, personal chef, copy editor, and occasional photo editor. I believe I’m going to have to take the helm for this trailer review as a) I may have left my blog to molder in obscurity for the time being, but I still know a lot about horror, and b) I actually think this looks awesome. Oh, and c) Physoo has no fucking clue what he’s talking about in this case.

Let me explain. The Ward does look like crap. I mean, the trailer shows basically every horror cliche imaginable. Scantily clad blond running through the woods? Check. Flickering lights and an ominous yet nondescript setting? Check-a-rino.

They even dragged out this set, which I'm fairly certain has been used in every film about a psychiatric ward ever

Ambiguity about the sanity of the main character/narrator, to thus put everything that follows in a suspicious and possibly other worldly light? Checkster. Gratuitous boobies? Well, ok, the trailer itself doesn’t show boobies, but there’s a shower scene where they’re all in one of those big rooms with no dividing walls and just a bunch of showerheads. I don’t think those showers actually exist in real life…especially not in girl’s locker rooms. So, trust me, there will be boobies. I’m giving that a big fat check mark. As this is a horror taking place in a psychiatric hospital, they went ahead and threw in the evil nurse trope and the electroshock therapy scene, which is mandatory in any film about a psychiatric hospital, despite the fact that the technique is rarely used anymore. Who cares though? As long as it seems frightening, it should be thrown in there.

The consequences of electroshock therapy just aren't pretty.

So, why am I actually excited about this if it seems like such a horrible mish-mash of horror movie cliches? To begin with, it’s directed by John Freaking Carpenter. For those of you who have lived under a rock your entire lives, he’s the guy who did Halloween, one of the iconic slashers of all time. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it. Turn up the volume, listen to the music, watch Michael Myers show up in corners when you’re least expecting it, enjoy Jamie Lee Curtis turning in a fantastic screaming performance, and, then, let me know if that same song (which was also written by Carpenter, by the by) does not send a chill down your spine whenever you hear it in the future. I heard someone have it as a ring tone once in the subway and felt the need to get up and move away from the guy before he stabbed me with a butcher knife. Then again, I do live in New York. That feeling is fairly common on the subway.

The Rob Zombie remake will terrify you as well. But only because someone actually thought it was a good idea to make it.

For the rest of you who might know Halloween but not his entire body of work, he also did a whole slew of b-movie horrors and action flicks, replete with preposterous fight scenes, wicked practical make-up effects, and decapitated heads with spider legs.

This would probably haunt my dreams were it not so ridiculous and awesome.

He’s also the guy who realized that Kurt Russell + b-movie = amazingness. Basically, he’s a master of mixing the absurd with horror, and the result is generally positive.

So, yeah, Carpenter flick. Automatic thumbs up. But the trailer itself shows promise. This isn’t just a blend of horror cliches.  It is an over-the-top, comprehensive, relentless blend of horror cliches. It’s as if the writers just sat down and wrote down on little slips of paper everything they’d ever seen repeatedly in horror films. Then, they mixed up the papers and pasted them together and called it a script. Were it not being advertised as a serious movie, I might think that it was one of those horror spoof movies.

Like Scary Movie. Except funny.

It seriously has everything I could imagine being in a movie like this. And that’s just what they’re showing in the trailer. It could mean that the movie is seriously terrible, I’ll give you. But, it could also mean that the movie is incredibly entertaining because it is so chock full of what we, the audience, expect in these types of films (a la Scream, except less slasher and more b-movie psych ward). If it does it well, it could be fun both for the fact that we think we know everything that’s going to happen and for how it startles us by deviating from the given tropes to try something new. Given that this is Carpenter and that some of the moments in the trailer look like they could give some good suspense and jump scenes, I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for the latter.

Most importantly, I believe I mentioned that Carpenter’s films have amazing practical effects and make-up art. It looks like, with The Ward, we can expect more of the same. Now, I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t show your monster too soon in a horror film, if at all, so the fact that you can see the “evil witch/ghost/demon/haunted former patient/hallucination of crazy girl” in the trailer somewhat bugs me. Or it did, that is, until I realized that said “ew/g/d/hfp/hocg” looks like she will actually be played by a real person instead of some utterly lifeless, unscary, CGI POS.  Real is scarier than computer about 95% of the time (if not more) – go watch the TV scene from Ringu as opposed to the one in The Ring, and you will see what I mean.

Or get to the end of Cloverfield and have the inevitable "are you fucking kidding me?" moment when they reveal the monster.

If the big bad is done by make-up effects, I will be happy.

Oh. And one of the production companies is called “A Bigger Boat.” Jaws references make me even happier than make-up effects.

Ironclad or Paul Giamatti is the Little Engine the Could

Jesus Cristo, woman! Leave me alone, already. You’re always like, “clean up the cat box,” “stop leaving your socks on the couch,” “don’t throw your shoe at me!” And don’t pretend that you love Carpenter more than me. You fell asleep in the first five minutes of Big Trouble in Little China.

Where was I? Oh, right. New trailer.

Leave it to Paul Giamatti to go from John Adams to Duplicity to The Last Station to 30 Rock  to Win Win and, now, Ironclad. Seriously, this guy’s career is like a controlled roller coaster. If there is a spectrum of career paths for squat actors, that spectrum is anchored by Giamatti on one end and Kevin James way over on the other fucking side. To be fair, he doesn’t really look all that great in this movie, but, if you’re Paul Giamatti, “not all that great” translates to “still worth watching.”

Most of the time.

Ironclad looks pretty good for an indie period piece. It probably isn’t a very good movie, but it still looks passable. That, in itself, is a huge feat for a indie movie set in medieval times. The story has something to do with a king, Giamatti, who isn’t a cool guy, and he’s attacking a castle defended by 25 people or something. I’m not quite sure, I was kind of distracted by the thumping rock music. I would say don’t mix contemporary music with medieval movies, but the last movie to do that was pretty awesome. That being said, this doesn’t exactly look like A Knight’s Tale.

I expect this film to go mostly ignored. Paul Giamatti will then follow it up with an Oscar worthy supporting role, succeeded by some film written by an internet blogger.

The Ledge or Avoid Taking God in Large Doses

Chalie Hunnam philanders with Liv Tyler, who is the wife of an insanely Christian man, Patrick Wilson. Terrence Howard plays a cop who was brought in to give this movie credibility.

And now my blog is credible.

When Patrick Wilson discovers his wife is cheating on his Christian ass, he does the same thing every Christian has done when faced with this situation: he tries to work through it with counseling for about 6 months, and, when that doesn’t work, he lets her go her own way while he takes care of the kids and the debt.

Wait, I’m sorry. I forgot this was a movie. Wilson responds to his wife’s adultery by holding her captive. He then threatens to kill her if Hunnam doesn’t jump from a building at a specific time. This is definitely the more sensible route to take and the first obvious choice for any God-fearing Christian. While Hunnam is standing on a ledge ready to jump to save Tyler’s wife, Howard shows up to let us know someone credible is in this film (I’ve watched the trailer a few times, and I’m almost certain that’s his only reason he’s there).

This is definitely a fantastic premise. Polarizing religious views and stereotyping entire groups of people is definitely the best way to instill drama and suspense into your plot.

Hey, it worked for Crash.

Throw in a good attempted suicide, and you’ve got yourself a winner. If I have learned one thing about Christianity from the movies, it’s to stay the fuck away from anyone who is Christian. Clearly, they are evil people who just want to control things and kill people.

If I’ve learned to two things about Christianity, it’s that people become angels when they die.

Either that or strange, bulbous ghosts.

Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish …Yiddish

Admittedly, this trailer is a bit of a let down. It is not Romeo and Juliet performed in Yiddish; it is just a tribute. And I was really hoping to hear Rabbi Lawrencestein call Romeo Montagueberg a schmuck. Instead of actually performing the play, the movie is about young Hasidic Jews trying to translate the text to Yiddish while they gather funding to produce it. It’s more like a fictional “making of” documentary.

As for the actual content of the movie, it seems a little…off. I’m not a Jewish historian, but I’m pretty sure studying too much Kabbalah doesn’t make you “leak magic” as the movie claims.

If your a gentile studying Kabala, you leak plastic surgery.

The Sleeping Beauty or How Frenchies Tell Fairy Tales

The Sleeping Beauty is the latest movie from edgy French director Catherine Breillat. Using the word “edgy” in front of “French Director” is kind of like using the word “gay” in front of “Harvey Fierstein,” but I digress.

Hello, lover.

Breillat is most famous for her movie Fat Girl, which I’ve never seen but I assume to be about a overweight young female. This isn’t her first foray into fucked-up French fairy tales, having released a retelling of Blue Beard in 2009. I didn’t see that one, either, but I trust it was very French.

The Sleeping Beauty is definitely French, which could be fun. It looks like the French treat fairy tales in much the same way they treat comedy; they don’t quite understand either, so they just make them quirky, dark, and confusing.

You know. French.

Luckily those aspects mix better with fairy tales, and Sleeping Beauty looks like it could be awkwardly entertaining. Though some recreational substances might be necessary to make it all more intelligible.

Project Nim or The Prequel to the Prequel to The Planet of the Apes

Just watch the trailer. This is definitely how the apes will eventually take over. Even though it’s a chimp and not an ape.

To be fair, they already fucked up that discrepancy in the new movie...

Fading of the Cries is Finally Being Released

I first saw this trailer in February of 2010. I thought, “wow, what a cool independent action flick. I wonder when it will be on Netflix.” For a long time there, it looked like the answer was going to be “never.” I’m not sure where this film got caught up in getting released; maybe it was hoping it would create more buzz, or it struggled win strong distribution. Whatever it was, I don’t think the delay was healthy for the movie. First, I nearly forgot about it completely, as did its nine or ten other fans. Second, the distributors decided to cut two more trailers, both of which make the movie look crappy compared to their original. (Check out the link in the title to see that one).

This one isn’t so bad. It just feels a bit clunkier. I think they wanted to show more special effects, but, as they are using low budget sfx, a lot of them wear thin. Without proper context, we are quickly reminded that this is an independent movie, and it isn’t perfect and glossy. In addition, this trailer switched out a lot of the awesome shots in the first trailer, which showed there was some grandeur to the film even without effects.

Then there’s this trailer. What the fuck were they thinking here? It starts off with a voice over attempting to explain the plot. That’s two strikes on one pitch.

Two strikes on a single pitch? Challenge accepted!

Why they would use a voice over and why they would attempt to explain the plot is beyond me. The first two trailers paint a perfectly ambiguous story, and we imagine it is all t0o complex to fit in to a 2:30 trailer. On top of that, this movie is obviously not about the story. The story is going to be convoluted and porous, so you shouldn’t draw attention to that fact. After that stupid voice over, they go into a scene with acting. Big mistake there. The acting is abominable. Again, not what the movie is about. Why draw attention to this?

They decide not to do themselves any favors with this trailer, following the atrocious acting with a shitty pop song. With fucking lyrics. Seriously? The music you used for the first two was perfect, why screw with that? Anyway, after struggling through listening to that terrible song, I discovered there are at least three scenes in this trailer that they have completely recolored since the first two trailers. This is a pet peeve of mine, as I believe the footage from the film should appear exactly the same way in the trailer. Obviously we get tricked like this constantly, so I feel the need to point it out whenever it happens.

What’s my consensus, now that the film has been delayed over a year, and we’ve been subject to these two sub-par trailers? Well… I still kinda want to see it. The guy who made this is obviously a CGI guru. He was in charge of the team that made the Satan baby in Passion of the Christ, and I think his talents will be much more appreciated here. Add in some overt Crow influences, zombies, pale-crazy-tongue girls, and a magical realist setting, and I don’t see how this movie will be anything less than entertaining.

Unless they have that damn pop song playing throughout 90% of the movie.

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