Trailer Time Theater: Oh, Fox, you magnificent bastards.

by |
01/27/2009 1:08 PM |

Jesse Hassenger on new offerings from the worst of the studios, which perplexing also gave the world Hamlet 2 (holla!).

20th Century Fox is known as one of the whoriest, least filmmaker-friendly big studios. Recent Fox atrocities presumed and confirmed include Bride Wars, Marley & Me, The Day the Earth Stood Still, What Happens in Vegas, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Babylon A.D., Jumper, Epic Movie, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, Eragon, and the Fantastic Four movies. When they occasionally get something very right, like those first two X-Men movies, they tend exact revenge on anyone who might’ve breathed a sigh of relief by doing stuff like X-Men: Ratner’s Turn.

Granted, you can make just about any major studio look like the lowest-rent purveyors of crap around with this kind of selective listing, but the closer you look at the list of Fox’s recent achievements, the more the likes of Moulin Rouge look like a fluke.

Fox’s overachieving younger sibling is Fox Searchlight, which distributes and/or finances the kind of movies Fox Classic treats with outright hostility: Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Juno, The Darjeeling Limited, Sunshine, Once, The Savages, Millions, I Heart Huckabees, Garden State, Sideways, Napoleon Dynamite, 28 Days Later, In America… not everyone loves all of those movies, but you can be too cool for all of them and still admit that they seem like exactly the movies their writers and directors wanted to make. That is pretty awesome.

Which brings me to two trailers.

Obviously this 500 Days of Summer movie, which just played Sundance, is being sold to me: Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel and she sings and it’s bittersweet and romantic and sad and stylish. I’m the target market, same as I was for Garden State and Juno, movies where I was a little disturbed by how much I pre-liked them — how affectionate I felt towards their damn trailers, before I saw anything else. Same goes here. This trailer is a cute girl with classes sitting by herself in a coffee shop reading comics; it can’t be real, can it? Did I participate in some market research last year and forget about it?

On the other hand, I do still like Garden State and Juno — backlash isn’t inherently more honest, fellow members of my generation! — and part of me is already constructing defenses against the inevitable blogicles about the commoditization of Zooey Deschanel, or the alt-weekly (wait, this movie comes out in the summer — so let’s make that online, I guess) reviews railing against the superficial navel-gazing twentysomethings who will fall for this movie, at least some of which will be written by dudes who just turned twenty-nine-and-a-half and have secretly spent a lot of time convincing themselves that Waltz with Bashir is fascinating. Seriously, I saw that movie over the weekend, and halfway through I was wondering how many of the people who reviewed it actually sat through the whole thing.

Anyway, I guess the point is, I’m a little disturbed by how charming this movie looks. Also by the trailer voice guy. It’s cool that they’re using a trailer voice guy I haven’t heard before, but I don’t know how it will play in a theater. I can imagine giggling.

Over at Big Fox, the studio who thinks you can’t take a joke when you tell it to stop saying “that’s so gay” as a pejorative, and also punching you in the arm, we’ve got this trailer:

This trailer for 12 Rounds may require additional explanation. Michael Cena is apparently some kind of wrestler. Not the poetic Jersey suburbs kind that wins you Oscars. Not yet, anyway. More like one of those guys scuffling over who gets to be the next Schwarzenegger, which is sort of like scuffling over who gets to be the next Demi Moore, isn’t it? A couple of years ago, Cena starred in a movie called The Marine which did not make very much money, probably because on opening day, its target audience went to Best Buy and got really confused when it didn’t meet them there. I highly recommend watching The Marine on cable sometime when you’re in the mood for Commando.

What’s hilarious about 12 Rounds (or at least the trailer) is that it appears to be more or less a remake of The Marine: someone kidnaps Cena’s wife and his Cro-Magnon version of Jason Bourne is unleashed. It also appears to have a touch of Saw, and, you know, the other two billion movies with a taunting psychopath. The trailer appears to assume that its audience hasn’t seen The Marine (fair enough), or they have and are dying to see a virtual remake.

As the trailer implies somewhat obliquely by referring to “the director of Die Hard 2,” this also marks the return of one Renny Harlin to the realm of high-octane, theatrically released trash. He made a brief detour, you see, with Cleaner, a Sam Jackson vehicle that was low-octane, direct-to-DVD trash. I personally love Renny Harlin because he made Deep Blue Sea and that movie is at least four kinds of awesome, but I’m a little appalled that he can still get hired given that it was also his last decent-sized hit, followed as it was by Driven, Mindhunters, Exorcist: The Beginning, and The Covenant. I mean, I haven’t even seen most of those. Me. The guy who saw The Marine. So while 12 Rounds seems like it should be the last chance for Cena, Harlin, and, hell, whoever plays Cena’s kidnapped wife this time, they’ve probably all got at least three more crap movies in them before they have to stop making more than I’ve earned in my life for a month’s worth of work.

This being Fox, even the awesome dumbness of 12 Rounds has to come from a bad (worse) decision: They let Lionsgate take over the Stath business, but felt a de facto sequel to an unsuccessful eighties throwback would be money in the bank.

2 Comment

  • It’s certainly possible that I/we/whoever forced ourselves to be interested in Waltz with Bashir because we’re too cool for Garden State and Juno, but maybe an alternate explanation for why people have different taste than you do is that… people have different taste than you do.

    I can’t tell if that 500 Days of Summer trailer is a parody or what the fuck, but it seems likely that I will see it.

  • I’m sure most of the praise for Bashir comes from a genuine place, obviously, but I do get suspicious when I see such unanimous praise for a movie that I don’t even think had a clear understanding of how to use animation, nevermind a revolutionary or shattering way to do so. And I do think movies that are in any way enjoyable will always get higher spots on the critical tear-down list.