Trailer of the Hour: Free State of Jones

If there was ever a role that Matthew McConaughey seemed born to play, Civil War deserter would be at the top of the list. We’re a couple of years removed from the McConaissance triptych of MudDallas Buyers Club, and Interstellar, not to mention his instant-classic performance in season 1 of True Detective. Apart from a few car commercials, McConaughey’s been relatively quiet. I, for one, am excited about the prospect of watching him tear into a juicy role, but the Free State of Jones trailer seems to promise a story that he won’t have to carry. The tale of deserters who rebel against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi is rife with possibilities. Of course, it could be just another stuffy war picture, but the scene in the trailer with the women joining the fray and the inclusion of Gugu Mbatha-Raw have me hopeful for something with a little more depth.

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Trailer of the Hour: “X-Men: Age of Apocalypse”

I wanted to write about the trailer for The Nice Guys, but I couldn’t think of much more to say about it than “YES. YES. YES. YES. YES.” Whereas with Age of Apocalypse‘s trailer, I have more complex emotions. A lot of how I feel about this X-Men trailer is how I feel about the trailers for Batman v. Superman or Captain America: Civil War. These movies look exciting to the side of me that’s still holding on to adolescence and to the side of me that enjoys when things go boom. As for the side of me that likes nuanced screenplays and artful cinematography, I generally turn that side off with these movies. But sometimes movies with things that go boom think that the booming itself is enough. It’s not. The Marvel movies have (mostly) been very good at imbuing a sense of fun, a devil-may-care sensibility among their main players, that has allowed the parts that boom some breathing room. This trailer and the ones for those other movies have a lot of boom and not a lot of fun.

Now, the trailer for Ultron didn’t look fun either. But when I saw the actual movie, it was clear that Joss Whedon was still able to find his trademark balance of weight and wit. Bryan Singer, Age of Apocalypse‘s director, found a similar balance in Days of Future Past. That means there’s plenty of hope for Apocalypse. There’s just none to be found in this trailer.

Trailer of the Hour: Chi-Raq

CHI-RAQ Trailer from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks on Vimeo.

I get it. For anyone who has not seen a Spike Lee movie before, this trailer must appear shocking. The movie itself deals with the high number of fatalities in Chicago on a year-by-year basis due to gang violence, and yet it appears to be both a musical and a blaxploitation film, neither of which is a genre that seems heavy enough to handle this subject matter. But Lee is responsible for a movie called Do the Right Thing, which was released 26 years ago and was one of the most insightful movies ever released about race and violence. Now Lee’s releases since then have been spotty at best. But I’d be willing to bet that Lee knows the stakes for this movie are higher than for any he’s done in the past 20 years. The Chi-Raq trailer looks and feels much like the tone of Lee’s 1989 classic, and the satirical approach is arguably the best way for Lee’s message to make the biggest impact. If the movie gets the tone as extreme as the trailer, than Chi-Raq could be the best Spike Lee movie since the best Spike Lee movie.

Trailer of the Hour: Beasts of No Nation (10/16)

Netflix has made some fascinating deals recently. Last year they released a documentary produced by Leonardo DiCaprio called Virunga, which was about conservationists striving against poachers in the Congo. It was nominated for the Documentary Oscar, and deservedly so; it’s riveting from beginning to end. Netflix also has deals for a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel (!), four Adam Sandler movies (…), and a new Pee-Wee Herman movie (!!). The most exciting of all of these might be Beasts of No Nation, directed by Cary Fukunaga, who directed every episode of the first season of True Detective– that’s the season that didn’t become a sad joke, by the way, in case you haven’t watched either. This trailer is incredible. The emotion is palpable, Idris Elba looks terrifying in his role, and it’s perfectly paced. It’s only one short scene, but if the rest of the movie has half the craft, it’ll be worth watching.

Trailer of the (Retro) Hour: Gone with the Wind (1939)

I’m still out of town, so here’s another old trailer. Enjoy, me hearties.

I have no idea when this trailer was actually released- probably not before the movie, since it references Gone with the Wind‘s 10 Oscars. And, incidentally, this video appears to have been uploaded by some dude who’s very right-wing, as if Gone with the Wind were a patriotic movie at its heart and not a movie about American selfishness crumbling under the weight of the Civil War. Anyway, this trailer is pretty straightforward. The scenes they show between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara are fascinating, because Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable were fascinating. And they place a large emphasis on its link to Mitchell’s classic book. But the most interesting thing about the trailer is that the first thing it boasts about is its stars, in big bold letters. It just goes to show how different things are now; trailers now begin by trying to sell a high concept, special effects, or a mood. Movies now don’t have stars the way they did back then, and this trailer is proof.

Trailer of the Hour: Casablanca (1942)

I’m out of town, so I won’t be able to keep up with current trailers. I thought it’d be fun to do some old trailers ahead of time.

So trailers haven’t changed much, huh? Okay, so they’re totally different now, but one thing that’s the same is the constant movement. Casablanca actually doesn’t have constant movement, but in this trailer, everything is always moving with the wipe transitions and the shatter effects. The entire first part of the trailer is made up of footage that, yes, is in the movie, but makes up about 1% of what the movie’s plot actually deals with. The second part is where they really do the selling of the movie though. Text over images was far more common back then, as was the focus on who was starring in the movie rather than the particulars of the plot. Anyway, don’t you wish trailers were still like this?

Trailer of the Hour: The Secret Life of Pets

I’m not saying this is going to be a masterpiece or anything, but the level of wit in this 2-minute snippet suggests a movie at least on the level of the Despicable Me movies. My favorite part is the bit with the dachshund getting a massage from the mixer, mostly because my dachshunds are totally smart enough to pull that off. It’s a conceit that should get old after the first couple of iterations, but pets are cute , so it doesn’t. If this is all Universal has up its sleeve, Secret Life will be a one-trick pony, but the cast list (Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Albert Brooks) reads like a who’s who of comedy past and present. That makes me think that as funny as that final sequence with the poodle is, we may be in for something even funnier when this comes out next year.