Stop your incessant yowling.
I will be happy to discuss two of the new trailers that flit about the internets this week. I will do so right now, here, with you. To my great surprise and shock, I do not hate them both with the same unyielding passion with which I despised those I last prognositicontemplated.
I am sorry. That means the first of these trailer dissections will be less amusing to read.
Don’t worry. Things will soon get much worse.
The trailer for the latest chapter of Bondage, Skyfall, is damn good. It does as a trailer should. I feel enticed, but not enlightened. I feel introduced, but not familiar. I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and gay. And explodey.
It starts quietly. Dame Judi Dench, back as M, poses a question that sounds more like a charcoal-throated complaint: “What do you say about a man like that?” She’s typing Bond’s obituary, though we know he’s not dead.
We get a sentence of exposition that McGuffins the plot along nicely—covers blown, internationally terrorists, threat. Then the action starts in, but it’s muted. We see a chase, an attractive sniper (Naomie Harris), Bond mistakenly shot off the roof of a moving train; he falls into the water, appearing dead.
But James Bond does not die.
On-screen titles suggest we think on our sins. Then M flinches as a building, right here beside us, in London, blows up.
And let’s pause, thirty seconds in, to assess what we’ve been given. The world thinks Bond is dead. We see why and how and what for. We have the set up to the film. Not only do we get reintroduced to our stars, Craig and Dench, but we meet a third player—the sniper. Because of the decisions M has made, Bond is dead and the as-yet unnamed villains have the upper hand.
Coffins are draped in the Union Jack but we don’t stay maudlin, we get Bond back from the grave. He’s somewhere sultry, drinking tequila with a freakin’ scorpion perched on his hand. Exotic location: check. But James Bond isn’t fully back from there, or the dead yet, it would seem. His aim is off. His reliability is in question. And so we get a taste of our hero’s internal struggle: is he super spy or psuedo spy? Is he among the living?
Then it’s a brief tango introducing both Ben Whitshaw as the new Q and Bond’s new gadget. This bit seems over eager. Do we need to see Whitshaw? Is the gadget worth shoehorning in here? I don’t think so.
Whitshaw, by the way, is good—and a smart choice for Q. He’s appealing and young, certainly when compared to curmudgeonly awesome, dearly departed Desmond Llewelyn. This new version of Bond isn’t afraid to change with the times and I’m glad for another taste of that. Dench is an excellent M; just the right sort of woman to temper the traditional Bond leer. And I expect Whitshaw will be right as Q; clever and keen and—most importantly—young enough to make Bond feel old.
Ah. Bond feeling old. This maybe does make the Q scenes worth including. It ties in with Bond’s resurrection jag and will add weight to his victory when it comes. It also might engage the youth of today and inspire them to be smart and productive instead of texting things without vowels. Am I reading too much into this? You can’t stop me. Nothing is over until we say it is.
Now, a minute in, we jet to exotic location #2—somewhere in China. Our color palette switches from cold to hot. Bérénice Marlohe adds some of the hot, no complaints about that. There’s some simple business no one listens to because they’re all trying to see through a steamy glass shower door—but the editor makes sure we know that we’re going to get our money’s worth. Case in point, Craig introduces himself as “Bond, James Bond.” It’s a small but satisfying touchpoint, particularly given Craig’s delivery; he says it as if daring you to deny it.
And we remember that he’s back from the dead, his abilities under question, and yet still pressing on.
“What do you know about fear?”
“All there is.”
Again the trailer shifts on us. It’s Javier Bardem’s turn to pass out some oogies as the bad guy. He taunts Bond, calling Dame Judy old, saying 007’s been sent to die. “Mommy was very bad.”
Bardem says he and Bond are they same, both survivors. But Bond disagrees. His hobby? Resurrection. And that’s the cue for the big finish. It’s a torrent of cuts from different action sequences from throughout the film. Shooting, jumping, shattering glass, plunging through ice, fireballs of explosions, and Naomie Harris’ delicate fingers slipping a razor over the ridge of Craig’s jaw. We get a quiet breath of hillsides and then the volume goes up again: trains plunging, motorcycles flying, a body plummeting, the whole back of a moving train ripped off with a backhoe so Bond can gain entrance—and pause, even though his chest is covered in his own blood, to adjust his cuffs. And whatever happens after that you don’t watch. It doesn’t matter, because he’s back. He’s survived. He’s taken what death dished out, snarled it away, and pivoted to face any and all comers with fatal panache.
That’s what Skyfall promises. There’s no real mystery to it. What does Bardem’s character want? Who cares. Will he get it? Nearly, but not quite. Will Bond prove up to the task? If you have to ask, you’re going to the wrong film.
We know what Bond is. There will be no surprise, only suspense. Will the ride engage us? Will we feel enveloped in it? Will Sam Mendes (best known as director of American Beauty) manage the action better than Marc Forester did in Quantum of Solace? Based on this, I think yes.
Prediction: I will be seeing Skyfall. You will come with me.
I am very sorry I liked that last trailer so much. To make it up to you, I’ve chosen this one:
pablum \PAB-luhm\ , noun:
1. Something (as writing or speech) that is trite, insipid, or simplistic.
2. (capitalized) A trademark used for a bland soft cereal for infants.
This film, Trouble with the Curve, looks like the kind of movie you would make if you were one of those people who lived with 50 cats and one of them was named Daddy, after your daddy, because he had these whiskers, see? Wait, let me get some more Fiddle-Faddle and I’ll tell you about the time I helped him shovel the driveway.
Now, Clint Eastwood is a fucking national treasure. Seriously. I will stand his body of work up against anyone’s. Unfortunately, this film looks like A League of Their Own, but with all the hard edges taken off. Just look at it. Name one thing about this film that looks in the least bit interesting, surprising, novel, or even satisfying.
We get John Goodman looking like one of the Super Mario Brothers. Clint Eastwood is cranky and old and can’t see too well. In fact, he’s so blind he walks into his coffee table and piles furniture on the couch. Ha ha! Growing old sure is funny. Even Clint makes a joke about it! He says “Fang Shmei” instead of Feng Shui! Oh those crazy foreigners with their crazy words! Who can remember them all? I just add an “em” sound to everything, that way, people know I’m crotchety.
I can already tell this movie is going to suck balls.
Fine. Whatever. Goodman, in voice over, tells us why we give a rats ass about Clint’s character, Gus. Gus was the best baseball scout to ever stop a meteor from exploding into a day care center full of endangered lawn gnomes. He proves this by being recognized by Justin Timberlake and some old dudes. He makes another joke, wait for it… he says, “What are you staring at? I’m not a pole dancer.” Ha! See? It’s funny because he hasn’t been a pole dancer since he was 65. Also, I dare you to picture Clint Eastwood wearing a thong and doing the eye opener to the dulcet tones of Sweet Cherry Pie.
Not funny. Not even remotely funny.
Then, it gets worse. Much worse. Amy Adams is in a boardroom telling men that she can do the job, whatever it may be, because she grew up with her father and is familiar with drinking, swearing, and farting. Oh. Well then. Can’t argue with that. You know what a fart is? Smelled one have you? Okay. Here’s gallon of industrial lubricant and a lobster fork. Get to work.
Then the filmmakers kindly show us all of Act II, in which half-blind, not-funny, but somehow amazingly talented Gus goes on one last baseball scouting road trip with his estranged daughter and their lobster fork. To my great surprise, there is some friction between the two. I know this because Amy Adam’s character, Mickey, drinks a glass of wine and sniffles and because Gus tells her to go home. Even though he can’t see. And it’s her job to come along.
Wait. I’m beginning to suspect that I’ve seen Clint Eastwood play this character before. Where was that? Oh yes. In every film he’s done since he should have stopped acting in films. And that was in 1993, after In the Line of Fire. (If you try and tell me that either Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby were good films I will have to not like you a lot. Gran Torino was idiotic and Million Dollar Baby was like a television movie if that television was in Kamchatka and had a family of ducks living inside it. Stupid ducks.)
This trailer keeps going, though. We’re told why Gus and Mickey are estranged. There’s a very touching black & white bit in which father and young daughter release each other’s hands in flashback that you’ll like if you’re moved to tears by Hallmark cards and car commercials. Justin Timberlake gets to do some romancing. Presumably he’s got something to do with Gus and Mickey and baseball, but I don’t know. I do know that they make me watch him line dance with Amy Adams and that is unconscionable.
Then, in case you’re not hooked yet, they start to tell you what happens in Act III. Gus is having trouble. He’s going to be out of a job! Oh noes! What will happen then? Maybe he’ll fucking retire? A tragedy! Quick, call Hollywood. Get me a smarmy replacement guy who thinks he can scout baseball players using a computer. That would be totally ridiculous. No one would believe that!
A couple of different scenes get hacked together after that point, that I’m guessing are supposed to illuminate different aspects of the characters, but these characters are so painfully stock the scenes just end up feeling like filler. Mickey doesn’t want to talk about her past with whomever Timberlake is supposed to be (Uh. Dad was an asshole. You just showed that bit. And I guess you learned to enjoy his farts long distance since he sent you away? What a stupid thing to fake on your resume: I smell man farts.). Timberlake—get this—dives. in. a. lake! He’s crazy! Wet and crazy! Oh the romance! I feel all moist in my orifices. Can we line dance now?
And just in case you were somehow concerned that this film would not have a happy ending, they show you that, too. Mickey and Gus have a nice heart-to-heart talk about how family is important and they play some baseball together and then someone walks around the movie theater with a baseball bat and crushes the skull of everyone who’s spooning this shit-colored baby food up and smiling. Hooray! Happy ending!
To prove how absolutely dreadful this film is going to be, the trailer finishes with something so bizarre I cannot even begin to explain it.
Clint: (to Amy) “You’re still single aren’t you?”
Justin: “Maybe you’re just emotionally unavailable”
Amy: “Who are you? Dr. Phil?”
Justin: “Hey. That is quality television.”
Is that supposed to be comedy? Or is that an advertisement for Dr. Phil and his repugnant brand of misinformation? Or, wait, is that a pathetic callout that translates to, “If you think Dr. Phil is quality television, you’ll love Trouble with the Curve“?
That, sirs, is lewd. I am shocked and saddened that someone would make a film specifically designed to appeal to Dr. Phil’s audience. That film has already been made.
Prediction: I’d move to Kamchatka and buy myself a brace of stupid ducks to fill my television before letting this film taint my adoration for Clint Eastwood any further. He can defile his own memory if he wants, but I won’t help him.