Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. This week, we’ve got an even dozen trailers for you, and most are for the kind of prestige pictures that the end of the summer movie season usually has us salivating for. Not to worry, though, fans of things that are awful: there’s also a new Ghost Rider. Check ‘em all out after the jump.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
The sequel that nobody asked for (except, presumably, Nic Cage’s accountant) is directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the mental cases responsible for the Crank movies, and they’re on hand to growl an intro to this astonishingly terrible-looking (even by Ghost Rider standards) trailer. Mindless action, bad Cage acting (we talked about this, sir), unconvincing CGI, and then, just when you think it can’t get any worse—yep, he pisses fire. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance comes out in February. It’ll probably be a giant hit.
This nostalgia-soaked comedy from the usually-reliable Polish brothers (Twin Falls Idaho) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival — in 2009. It sunk without a trace afterwards, and for good reason: it’s a terrible picture, a mishmash of clichéd characters and tin-eared dialogue, executed by a random cast that runs from Winona Ryder to Chevy Chase to Hilary Duff to Josh Holloway to Sean Astin, who takes the supporting role of the flamboyant gay best friend to heretofore unknown lows. We’re not sure why it’s suddenly resurfacing two and a half years after its inauspicious debut, but here it is, and as cringe-inducing and laugh free as the trailer is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the movie itself.
Machine Gun Preacher
When we first heard the title and saw the poster for Machine Gun Preacher, we figured it was another one of those fake-grindhouse-trailers-turned-movies, like Hobo with a Shotgun and Machete. But nope, it’s a real, and serious movie — just one that’s got itself an utterly laughable title. That title pretty much sinks the trailer, which works just fine until it appears; sure, the picture looks formulaic as hell, but there are some good actors in it, and Marc Forster is a fine director, inspiring true story, so on. But in the midst of all that divine music and stirring rhetoric, there it is: “Machine Gun Preacher”. We’ve not yet seen this trailer with an audience, but we’re betting on audience giggles to match the Devil trailer last summer.
The Family Tree
The cast is promising here (Hope Davis, Christina Hendricks, Selma Blair, Chi McBride, Dermot Mulrooney), and we’re all for a good old-fashioned raunchy sex comedy. But there’s a slight whiff of desperation to this trailer, a bit of flop sweat in its assurances that it is, in fact, ribald and dizzy and funny and charming. The trailer tries a little too hard; we’ll have to see if the movie does too.
Back in the early ‘90s, Luc Besson was one of our most promising directors — his La Femme Nikita and Leon (aka The Professional) were tense, thrilling shoot-‘em-ups backed with genuine emotion and skilled performances. Then came the trashy (but, let’s admit it, fun) The Fifth Element, which was followed by his Joan of Arc movie The Messenger — a flop with audiences and critics alike that pushed him to concentrate mostly on writing and producing rather dopey action franchises like The Transporter and D13. But he has occasionally returned to the director’s chair (mostly for animated films), so the notion of him tackling a big and potentially controversial epic like this one is exciting. The short teaser doesn’t tell you much except “hey, Luc Besson directed this big epic starring Michelle Yeoh.” But that’s enough for us.
Mateo Gil’s “what if” Western (what if Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid weren’t killed in that famous shoot-out with the Bolivian cavalry, and Butch went into hiding in Bolivia?) was one of our favorites at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival; it’s a Spanish production with an international cast, touches of artsiness, and a low-budget offhandedness, but more than anything, it’s a good old-fashioned dusty B oater. And more power to it for that. The thrilling new trailer plays its two most marketable elements (the Western action and Sam Shepard’s grizzled, weary performance), while keeping a lid on the picture’s emotional and psychological subtext.
The Rum Diary
Johnny Depp’s second turn at playing an alter ego of Hunter S. Thompson — third if you count that animated cameo in Rango — is based on an early Thompson novel (written in the early ’60s, though not published until 1998), which would presumably make it a prequel rather than a sequel to Terry Gilliam’s film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Screenwriter/director Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I) doesn’t appear to be going for quite the same level of surrealism as Gilliam, which might be wise (a little of that goes a long way), and while some of the humor in the trailer is awfully childish, there are some good laughs in it (“Are they not complimentary?”). Depp was an outstanding Thompson double in Fear & Loathing, and became friends with the genuine article during the last years of his life, so we’re intrigued to see what he’ll do with this early work.
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Sean Durkin’s Sundance hit has been generating Oscar buzz, pretty much since its first screening, for leading lady Elizabeth Olsen (who is, for the time anyway, not quite as well known as her sisters. They’re twins). Based on this short trailer, we don’t know much about the movie — other than that it looks strange, and creepy, and unsettling, and we want to see it.
This acclaimed SXSW favorite from writer/director Andrew Haigh appears, from this teaser, to be just as warm, intimate, and matter-of-fact as advance word has suggested. The lead performances (by newcomers Tom Cullen and Chris New) are naturalistic; the cinematography, while handsome, appears to match their low-key, low-fi approach. Mark us down for this one.
Roman Polanski is at the helm of this adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s award-winning play God of Carnage, and while we’re not sure why didn’t use any of the Broadway production’s movie-friendly cast (James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis), the ensemble of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly is nothing to sneeze at. And unlike the blunt four-person drama it closely resembles (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), Polanski appears to have resisted the temptation to “open up” the play, instead placing his characters in the production’s single location and squeezing it like a vice. Good cast, good script, good director. We’re all in.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
We’ve been excited about Martin Scorsese’s Harrison documentary since it was first announced, for about a thousand reasons: we love George, we love the Beatles, we love Scorsese, and his Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home is one of the best music docs of all time, period. Now we’re getting our first peek at the picture (airing in HBO in October — in two parts, like the Dylan film) and we’re positively ecstatic about the treasure trove of archival footage and new interviews it seems to promise. And the music cues, while fairly obvious, are astonishingly effective; if you don’t get goosebumps when “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” hits, well then, you haven’t got a pulse.
No, the Weinstein Company isn’t just being artsy with this dialogue-free trailer; Michel Hazanavicius’s melodrama is an honest to God black and white silent movie, a period valentine to the Hollywood of the 1920s. It’s a conceit that’s rarely been attempted in the modern era (Mel Brooks did Silent Movie back in ’76, and Charles Lane made the low-budget Sidewalk Stories in ’89, though both films were modern stories told via silent movie methods), and this trailer has got us all a-flutter at the notion; if the final product is half as jazzy, evocative, and fun as the teaser, we’re in for a real treat.