This Week in Trailers: ‘Anna Karenina,’ ‘Alex Cross,’ and a Slew of Sundance Films

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Every Friday here at Flavorwire, we like to gather up the week’s new movie trailers, give them a look-see, and rank them from worst to best — while taking a guess or two about what they might tell us (or hide from us) about the movies they’re promoting. This week, we’ve got eleven new trailers, featuring Keira Knightley, Russell Crowe, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin James, Tyler Perry, Frank Langella, and John Hawkes — plus the directorial debut of Wu-Tang’s RZA and a new Spike Lee joint. Check ’em all out after the jump, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Fun Size

Here’s how it went: we were kind of going along with this one. Sure, it’s been done a hundred times, probably not even beginning with Adventures in Babysitting, but the whole thing looks cute and reasonably agreeable, and it’s probably not something we’ll see but we won’t say anything mean about it, and then, boom, the kid punches the guy in the nuts. And when you watch this many trailers every week, the nut-punch is the biggest red flag of them all; it is a clear indicator that this is a movie we want nothing whatsoever to do with, because not only were they so bankrupt of ideas that they put that tired gag into the movie, but then they pulled it out of the movie and put it in the trailer, in order to make you, the consumer, fully aware that it’s the kind of movie that has a kid punching a guy in the balls. No, no thank you, we’re not having it, good day sir, I said good day.

Alex Cross

Your film editor is, to it politely, not a fan of the cinematic oeuvre of Mr. Tyler Perry — I haven’t seen all of his films, granted, but I’ve seen enough to know that he couldn’t direct traffic, much less a motion picture. That said, I was willing to give him a shot as Alex Cross in this “reboot” of the James Patterson franchise (after Morgan Freeman’s two stabs at the role), until getting a look at this trailer. Sure, we’re only judging a couple of minutes, but this looks like an uncomfortable, unconvincing, just plain bad performance. And the man guiding it offers no comfort; the film isn’t directed by Perry, but by one of the few major filmmakers less skilled than he. That would be Rob Cohen, whose credits include (brace yourself for these) The Skulls, XXX, Stealth, the third Mummy movie, and the first Fast and the Furious opus. Sure, this isn’t going to suck. Uh huh.

Here Comes the Boom

We were braced for this one, ready to hate it, and for good reason — it is, after all, the latest movie from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, who can’t make an even modestly amusing movie these days, and it features Sandler’s frequent co-star Kevin James and his Grown Ups wife Salma Hayek, under the direction of Click and Waterboy director Frank Coraci (who even brings in Waterboy coach Henry Winkler). But we’ll give it this — we’ve always found James appealing when he’s not slumming at Sandler’s side, and there are a couple of honest laughs in this trailer. Maybe it won’t be terrible. (Maybe it’s just the lack of nut-punching.)

The Man with the Iron Fists

The Wu-Tang Clan famously swiped much of their mythology from the kung-fu movies they grew up watching, and the RZA has been branching out into martial arts cinema for years, providing music for homages like Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Kill Bill. The latter film’s influence is all over his directorial debut, which is presented by Quentin Tarantino and co-written with QT’s buddy (and Hostel director) Eli Roth, and while we’ll grant that it looks more than a little goofy (speaking of goofy — seriously with that “They put the F-U in kung fu” tag line?), it also looks like a lot of fun, and the acting and music talent on display is impressive indeed.

Red Hook Summer

The new film from Spike Lee — his first fiction feature in four years — proved one of the most divisive films at this year’s Sundance film festival, with some critics proclaiming it a return to form for the filmmaker, and others dismissing it as overlong, unfocused, and self-indulgent. We found it to be both; it is too long and too all over the damned place, but it has moments of tremendous power, and the leading performance by Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon on The Wire) is a barn-burner. But its true power comes in its closing scenes, which can’t really be shown without spoiling the picture, so as a result, the trailer looks like nothing special, mostly reduced to pushing Lee’s filmography. That’s too bad, because the film is worth a look, warts and all.

The Sessions

We also saw The Sessions at Sundance this year, under its original title The Surrogate. It was a big buzz hit at that festival, picking up the Audience Award and an acquisition from Fox Searchlight, who are holding it for the fall with an eye on Oscar recognition for both the picture and its terrific cast. The trailer doesn’t quite put across the film’s unique style, which keeps it from becoming what it could have so easily been: a maudlin flimflam about the power of positive thinking and human contact, or a teary examination of polio from a movie-of-the-week perspective. It’s a movie grounded by its candor and wit — and while some of that is on display here, trust us that the movie is better than it looks.

Arbitrage

Another Sundance movie (it’s a big week for those), one we also were able to check out, and found enjoyable in a trashy, Grisham, beach-read kind of way. That’s how it’s being pitched here, too — lots of dramatic, crashing music, big blow-up acting, and suspicious looks being exchanged. With a great cast (and one of Gere’s best performances to date), it’s a slick, clean, entertaining trailer for a movie that fits that description as well.

Epic

Blue Sky Films is a company that seems forever regarded as the JV Pixar — they make computer-animated films that are enjoyable and successful, but seldom garner the kind of critical acclaim and massive box office of Lassiter and company. But this teaser for their big summer 2013 release (going out attached to their new Ice Age sequel) boasts some remarkable sequences and a clever premise; with softening review for Cars 2 and Brave, maybe Blue Sky’s got a chance at some respect with this one.

Robot & Frank

And one more Sundance flick, albeit one we didn’t get to see, a five-minutes-into-the-future comedy/drama where reformed thief Frank Langella pulls one last job with his service robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). They’re showing us too much of the movie here, but Langella is always a treat to watch work, and they’ve lined him up a stellar supporting cast (including the ever-busy Sarandon); we’re always up for a good buddy movie or a heist flick, and this one looks like a sweet and charming mixture of the two.

Anna Karenina

Director Joe Wright re-teams with frequent muse Keira Knightley (they worked together on Pride and Prejudice and Atonement) for this adaptation of the Tolstoy classic that looks, at least in this 2:30, epic and exciting — and that screenplay credit for Tom Stoppard is hardly a bad sign. We could nitpick the always-silly sound of the Queen’s English coming out of these Russian mouths — and how little of the story seems to be left out of the trailer, but I guess it’s safe to assume that much of the audience knows how this one turns out. At any rate, we’re intrigued by this promising adaptation.

Silver Linings Playbook

He’s made some troubled movies, and had a few well-publicized dust-ups on his sets, but you’ve gotta give David O. Russell this much: the guy delivers. After the Oscar-blessed comeback of The Fighter, his new film (which, unlike that film, he wrote) finds the director assembling another impressive cast for what could be a funny and insightful romance between two people with some, um, problems. If Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry is as electric as it looks, if DeNiro actually bothers to act, and if Tucker’s whole role is in the muted (for him) key of his glimpses here, this could really be one to look forward to.