Holiday Trailer Round-Up

There’s a lot of laughably awesome films on the horizon, so let’s check them out as a family, won’t you?


Aside from the creepy pseudo-prosthetic CG keeping young Jeff Bridges in motion, everything in this trailer is mind-numbingly boner-inducing. It might be an after-effect of the robotic backwards walkin’ love slaves, or the fact that Olivia Wilde is constantly eying our main character like a slab of man meat, but there’s something markedly sexified about the new Tron. ‘Sexy’ isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe the old Tron– maybe ‘awesome’ or ‘virginal to the point of embarrassment’- but this film’s imagineers clearly want geeks, gamers and lonely losers alike to flock in droves with the hopes of catching a stiffy from the mass quantities of silicon and silicone inherent in this picture. Sign me up, assuming this film hasn’t lost its sense of humor during the two decades of anonymity. Bridges may be mumbling for a paycheck, but he’s still more watchable than most stars even when bored to tears and wrapped in vestments from Space Mutiny. I’m at a loss for words when it comes to clearly sexist yet sexy pictures like these. You might as well treat the whole ordeal like a Katy Perry music video. Just turn the sound down and space out to the visuals as if you were a 7th grader discovering his erection to a Blink 182 album cover. (Also being really, really stoned couldn’t hurt.)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This is literally the most expensive looking movie trailer I’ve ever seen. The quality of the effects alone are enough to draw my interest. They really help me overlook the whole Jesus-Lion parable bullshit wreaking havoc on the narrative. Minotaurs and talking rats are always a plus, not to mention the overt sexual tension with an amorphous spirit goddess. I guess the past two movies were popular (I thought the first one was shit and didn’t see the second- I always liked that hokey BBC miniseries better) because the filmmakers clearly have enough dough now to throw wads of it at the screen with reckless abandon, like Kanye West hucking gold doubloons at his television to change channels. Let’s hope this movie has a decent enough story to justify the insanity of its budget (whatever imaginary number that may be) and that the filmmakers haven’t gone the Gore Verbinski or Raimi route and let the studio fund their movie under the auspices of dumbing it down to the point of statutory boredom. Then again, with all the Christian godliness at play maybe this movie could use a few trainwrecks. Spider-Man 3 dance sequences, anyone?

Red Riding Hood

Is this one of those parody trailers preceding Tropic Thunder? Did American McGee crap this out while doodling rape fantasies on the back of a napkin at Comic-Con? I can understand why Catherine Hardwicke would want to exploit her Twilight fanbase for another quick buck, but even she has to understand how shamelessly moronic this is. At least her visual style is improving, evolving from the too dour blandness of the Twilight saga to this oversaturated self-important nonsense. I could only stomach the first thirty minutes of her Twilight movie, but I have a feeling the warm colors and cinematography will make this picture slightly more watchable, even if the acting and story can’t. Little Red Riding Hood is all grown up, but she still has the emotional maturity of a third grader (that way teenage girls can relate). I just hope that when they cut Red and Grandma out of the Wolf’s belly it’s presented as an even-handed metaphor for the Planned Parenthood generation.

The Green Hornet

Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen’s frequently delayed foray into superhero action-comedy is finally about to hit theaters (maybe, probably, sometime soon, we promise), and it looks like there’s a decent chance that it might actually be watchable. While I’m still skeptical as ever that Gondry’s unique softness of style will translate well into American blow-em-up cinema, Rogen’s likability and charm may mask the obvious filmmaking flaws and allow audiences to overlook the fact that the guy playing Kato can’t fucking speak English. As usual, the marketing campaign seems myopically focused on Seth Rogen’s rich party-boy anti-hero (*cough* Tony Stark *cough*) and his pseudo-gay relationship with his live-in Asian man servant/bodyguard. Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz struggle to breathe from the cutting room floor, their exclusion serving only to benefit Christoph’s Oscar-winning credibility and Cameron’s lack thereof. I enjoyed Inglorious Basterds and What Happens in Vegas about equally, so I suppose I can survive this movie too. Ugly, bare-bones set design and 90s action-comedy gags might be the real nail in the coffin here, because aside from that guy who doesn’t speak English (who- Gondry or Kato?) there’s enough charm and personality here to make something fun happen. And if it’s bad, it’ll be easy to forget, because let’s face it- what superhero is more forgettable than The Green Hornet?

Green Lantern

This movie trailer is a crash course in killing credibility. Ryan Reynolds has so much smugness and goodwill built up in his jawline that it’s almost impressive how quickly the filmmakers are willing to date-rape their audience. I’ll admit that the effects look better on the big screen than the computer screen, but even given that caveat the big purple fucking face at 1:00 is an absolute career killer for all humans involved. Not only is the Tinky-Winky spaceman a disappointingly awful reveal, it’s also an indication of the absolutely dorky tone the filmmakers are taking to an otherwise interesting character. The Green Lantern is an everyman called to duty by a higher power. Sounds biblical, right? Kind of ruins that momentum when your godlike deity figure turns out to be the bastard love-child of Frankenstein and the California Raisins. If it had been Jar Jar Fucking Binks I would have been more excited, honest to God. Oh, and speaking of Episode One, here’s the rest of the goddamn trailer. Blake Lively vomits dialog at the epicenter of the movie’s shittiness, radiating shit tremors around her at a twenty mile radius. If this movie were a literal black hole, crushing credibility down to an unknowable quantum singularity, it would still be an understatement to say that she sucks. She sure is pretty though! And I’m sure that’s exactly what the film executives thought when they greenlit this monstrosity and released the nuke that killed us all. I don’t know if this movie is going to be any good, but I can guarantee that some kid is going to shove one of those Green Lantern action figures right up his ass. And that’ll still be the best thing to happen to this character all year.

Cowboys and Aliens

At first I thought this was a live-action adaptation of Red Dead Redemption, fulfilling my geekiest of fantasies by saturating its cast with eye candy (again Olivia Wilde) and elderly show-stoppers (Harrison Ford). Then I realized it was some shit with aliens. Whatever. Wild Wild West was a huge smash hit and Iron Man 2 was a stunningly cerebral triumph, so why shouldn’t this be perfect? I don’t know. I give up. I’m going drinking. (Also, the modern James Bond franchise is dead, so this is as close as we might get to Daniel Craig kicking real ass on the big screen for a while. Let’s just hope this goes the route of Men in Black instead of the route that its asinine title might suggest.)

Movie Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Getting in character for Fantastic Mr. Fox?

It was disappointing to see this movie so close to Paranormal Activity, as they’re both equally forgettable. This is more of a Rush Hour 2– “I can barely remember what happened in that movie!”- kind of forgettable than a Men in Black 2– “Wish I had a neuralizer to wipe my mind!” kind of forgettable but that’s forgettable nonetheless. Why am I comparing this movie to two of the most all-time mediocre sequels? Because The Men Who Stare at Goats is basically a sequel to all of your favorite movies. It features so many redundant situations, conversations and experiences that you’ll feel like you’re watching a mixtape of better movies. Does that make it bad? Not necessarily. But when you exit the theater after seeing this picture I guarantee the only thing you’ll be thinking about is something else.

The basic premise of Goats is that Ewan MacGregor is an American journalist (already shaky casting here) trying to prove himself as a man of worth. While doing puff pieces on the supernatural he stumbles across evidence of a secret government organization that attempted to use psychic abilities for warfare purposes. Ewan meets George Clooney, a quirky former-member of the psychic warfare platoon and they head into the heart of Iraq for a moderately enjoyable flashback-filled road trip. As mentioned above, there’s nothing insulting or patronizing about the premise alone. It’s frankly kind of amazing since a majority of the movie is based off of true events. That proves to be the movie’s greatest comedic asset, as well as its downfall. Everything in the movie is so logically explained that even its broadest comedic strokes seem plausible. And with the film’s basis firmly set in reality, it’s hard to imagine any sort of escalation plot-wise that could result in someone actually using psychic powers to down a foe, at least not without some practical explanation too. And that’s the problem. With a cast this impressive it’s a shame that we never get to see the psychic squad working together to take down a common foe. Even if the movie ditched its supposed basis in reality for a trip to Tropic Thunder-land, it would have been a welcome surprise to see someone do something fun or unpredictable during the course of the story. Instead we watch grown men behave like children for 90 minutes with no other conclusion to be drawn than “Gee, that looks fun.”

Is it really so surprising to see George Clooney as a quirky soldier on a seemingly impossible mission? If that sounds like a cross between his roles in O Brother Where Art Thou and Three Kings (or even laugh-out-loud comedy riot Syriana!) that’s because it is. You’ll be seeing a lot of that trademark Clooney charm but nothing new. As for Ewan, he’s so busy keeping his accent in check he barely has time to develop a character. Most disturbingly, the nickname for the psychic platoon is the “Jedi” so expect a lot of uncomfortable moments where people stare directly into MacGregor’s eyes and say, “You’re a Jedi!” Yeah, because that was so entertaining the last three times he did it. Yeesh. If only the pointless redundancy ended there! Get ready for Kevin Spacey’s breakthrough performance as a snarky and self-serving villain, not to mention Jeff Bridges’ unprecedented work as a free-spirited stoner. This is only time you’ll hear me say this, but I would have rather been watching K-PAX. Honest to God, K-PAX.

It’s not that Goats is entirely poorly cast. Any director should be commended for wrangling together this much talent in a passably entertaining film. The problem is that we’ve seen all these choices play out before in much better movies. The Men Who Stare at Goats is so shamelessly derivative of popular films from the past two decades that it fails to distance itself enough to make itself distinct. Watching Jeff Bridges’ LSD-fueled rants about psychic energy just made me want to watch Big Lebowski. Watching Ewan MacGregor generically deliver line after line in a phony American accent just made me want to watch Trainspotting or any other movie where he didn’t suck so much. And if you’re looking for a movie devoid of female eye candy, this is the one to see. Aside from a few brief shots of the redhead from Lost, there are no female characters in this picture. Whoops.

I hate the fact that it’s so damn easy to rag on Goats, because at the end of the day it is hardly a terrible movie. It’s fun and light and the kind of movie I could easily recommend to somebody’s mentally enfeebled grandparents. But the reason it’s so much fun to mock is that Men Who Stare at Goats just barely misses the mark. It’s like the one note in a symphony played a half-step off-pitch that spoils everything. It’s not that the movie is a travesty. It’s that the movie isn’t a travesty. The movie isn’t anything. The only commendation I can share is for the director. The movie is competently shot and edited (which is definitely more of a challenge than most people give it credit) and it was never distractingly bad visually. But that’s a microcosm of the whole enterprise: Passable entertainment, complete with competent camerawork and decent performances. Rarely have I seen a movie so inoffensive yet so ultimately unlikable. In a day and age where movies cost upwards of ten dollars, this is one you can surely skip. Instead, I recommend taking a second look at your DVD collection. Chances are you’ve not only seen The Men Who Stare at Goats before, you’ve also seen it done well.

Grade: C