By Kim Hollis
February 25, 2009
Well, this looks like a slickly-produced Uwe Boll film. But it's not! For starters, the effects are simply too good. They're pretty akin to what you might see on any given episode of Battlestar Galactica, which is to say, they're not super duper high quality but they don't suck, either.
What does suck? John Malkovich, who couldn't be phoning it in any worse. Lacking in any inflection whatsoever, the trailer consists of a conversation between Malkovich's character (I have no idea who he is or where he fits into the story) and Ron Perlman, who seems to be a monk or priest with a bad Irish accent. The two are discussing the fact that the world seems to be infested by mutant zombie creatures, and it might be time to start evacuating the Earth. Perlman's character disagrees with this notion, because there is a team out there that can take the mutants down. This team includes Thomas Jane, Devon Aoki, and a bunch of other people I don't really recognize.
The action is actually kind of okay here, but the acting and the vagueness of the trailer lead me to believe that it's probably going to be a pretty crappy movie. If Malkovich can't muster up any enthusiasm, you've got to know you're in some trouble. Still, I give props to the person who cut the preview, since it does a solid job of making the movie look better than it likely is.
It would be easy for Judd Apatow to stagnate in the world of bawdy sex comedy. He's had smashing success directing The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and he's basically become a cottage franchise unto himself, producing and/or writing such flicks as Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights and You Don't Mess With the Zohan.
That's why it's so wonderful to see that it looks like Apatow is taking things to a new level with Funny People. Yes, the movie features such tried and true performers from the Apatow crew such as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Leslie Mann, but this movie feels like it's for grown-ups. Honestly, it almost has a Cameron Crowe feel to it, and I mean that in the kindest possible way.
The movie looks to begin as we meet a famous stand-up comedian who looks an awful lot like Adam Sandler, but is named George. Another lesser-known comedian named Ira (Rogen) follows his act, and the two make a connection. George asks Ira to write some material for him as he seems to want to take the younger performer under his wing. Soon, George reveals to Ira that he has a terminal and incurable health condition, and they begin to form a real friendship.
The trailer for Funny People is very genuine and has a number of laugh-out-loud moments (the Die Hard joke kills). I'd been worried that perhaps Apatow might be losing his magic touch a bit - and that Rogen's shtick might be wearing thin - but if this preview for Funny People is any indication, I'll be in the front row on opening night.
This trailer forcibly reminds me of Moulin Rouge! and Mrs. Henderson Presents. Like those movies, this one is set within a theatre amidst hard times. As the title might indicate, the film takes place in 1936 France, a time of political turmoil in that country due to factory strikes. When the gangster owner decides to close the theatre down, the workers all get together to keep the place going nonetheless.
The set pieces are quite lovely, and much of the music in the movie is clearly inspired by classic musicals of the actual 1930s and 40s. For those put off by subtitles, this is a French film from the director of The Chorus, which was nominated for two Academy Awards. I think it looks pretty darned enjoyable, but then again I like musicals.
Bart Got a Room
This trailer is surprisingly charming, though I might be a little bit weary of the whole "quirky indie teen comedy" thing. The movie tells the story of a young man named Danny (despite what the trailer might say) and his efforts at finding at date to the prom. He takes solace in the fact that at least he's not the dorkiest guy in school until he finds out that "Bart got a room", meaning that Danny is the only kid in his class who hasn't got a date and a hotel room for the evening. Even his mother (Cheryl Hines) becomes sympathetic to his plight when she realizes that Bart Got a Room. It's repeated several times during the trailer, so we can be pretty sure where the movie's title comes from.
I'm not entirely sure what makes this trailer work so well for me. It might be the young lead, Stephen Kaplan, whom I've never seen before but is quite believable in the role of Danny. Also, I do love Cheryl Hines, who is practically unrecognizable with a super curly brunette hairdo. But really, it comes down to the fact that Danny is a very sympathetic character and easy to empathize with. My hope is that the Bart Got a Room can deliver on the promise the preview provides.
Battle for Terra
Following in the proud tradition of Space Chimps, Fly Me to the Moon, Igor and - worst of all - Delgo, Battle for Terra is an animated film that looks to be trying desperately to dupe families out of their hard-earned dollars during these troubled economic times. They're even putting the movie in 3-D theaters. Tricksy Lionsgate.
Battle for Terra has some poorly-animated humans desperately searching for a place to call home (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?). The trailer flashes to some sort of Bug's Life looking creatures who live on a planet called Terra. Apparently, Terra seems like the perfect place for humanity to crash for awhile, which disturbs the idyllic nature of the world on which the bug-creatures live.
There's not a shred of originality in this one. There are shades of WALL-E, the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Star Trek, and pretty much any other television or show with the word "star" somewhere in the title. There's even a little WALL-E look-alike whose head pops up a couple of times. The CGI looks pretty similar to what we saw in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The bright spot, I suppose, is the voice cast, which features Brian Cox, Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, James Garner, David Cross, Justin Long, Dennis Quaid and Chris Evans. We all know that celebrity voices don't mean much to box office or quality, though. Give me Mark Walton as Bolt's hamster-in-a-ball, Rhino, any day.