By Zach Kolkin
August 8, 2005
Welcome to Trailer Hitch, your weekly look at the latest movie trailers to hit the Internet. We've got previews for a number of smaller, indie-ish films this week, as well as several very interesting literary adaptations. Keep reading to see which clip is our Trailer of the Week.
Who ever thought this was a good idea for a movie?
Yours, Mine and Ours
This week's winner of the There Are No New Ideas in Hollywood Award is Yours, Mine and Ours, a family comedy that, in addition to bearing a striking resemblance to both The Brady Bunch and Cheaper by the Dozen, is actually a remake of a 1968 flick starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. That's a lot of unoriginality, folks. The trailer is decent, providing a good introduction to the premise, however unoriginal it might seem to older moviegoers. I can only surmise that since the film is primarily designed to appeal to children – it is being released under the Nickelodeon Movies label – the studio is assuming that kids will not see the storyline as being so derivative (although the Cheaper by the Dozen remake only came out two years ago, so who knows). Though Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo make a nice onscreen pair, it's difficult to get past one's frustration at the mere fact that this movie is being (re-)made. Seriously, can't anyone think of something new? Please?
Can you ever just be, like, whelmed?
Don't Come Knocking (Warning: trailer contains nudity)
Despite a fantastic cast, which includes Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Tim Roth, Sarah Polley, and Eva Marie Saint, I was rather bored by this teaser for the latest film from German director Wim Wenders. The clip is almost completely devoid of any introduction of the film's plot; even the tagline introduced in the trailer is rather unenlightening ("Hit the road with the creators of Paris, Texas for a showdown with love"). Also adding to the preview's incomprehensibility is the fact that there is not a single line of dialogue. Instead, we are given two minutes' worth of meaningful glances and country music – not my idea of a good time. Though I'm willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt for now, given its pedigree, Don't Come Knocking sorely needs a full trailer with dialogue and some semblance of a premise.
OK, I'm intrigued
Everything is Illuminated
Actor Liev Schreiber makes his screenwriting and directing debut with this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's first novel. Although the trailer starts slowly – introducing us to a quirky young man, played by Elijah Wood, who takes a trip to Eastern Europe in order to learn more about his family's history – it becomes significantly more engaging as it progresses. Interestingly, the preview focuses in large part on the stereotypically wacky people with funny foreign accents that Wood's character meets on his trip, something which I suspect is not as prominent a part of the movie as this ad might have you think. It seems that perhaps this was a choice made to try and make an easier mainstream sell of what is most likely not a very mainstream film. While I have my doubts as to whether or not this is a book that will translate well on screen, it does look rather interesting, and I'm certainly intrigued to see how Schreiber does behind the camera.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Although I have not seen Chan-wook Park's Oldboy, its reputation clearly precedes it. The film is lauded, it seems, by anyone who has had the chance to watch it. It is thus with a certain amount of anticipation that I watch this trailer for Park's latest picture, a story about a man who must take his revenge after he is deceived in an attempt to help his sister, who is in need of a kidney transplant (sounds thrilling, right?). For, now, however, this is a film that is going to have to be sold on reputation alone, as the trailer is rather obscure. It's hard to get any sense of the film's plot beyond the notion that it deals heavily with revenge – but of course you probably could have figured that out from the title alone. Other than that, it's clear that the movie is filled with a lot of sex and violence, and the preview does a nice job of highlighting this; even if you're unsure of the film's story, you'll know what you're in for nonetheless. Though it would have been nice to have a slightly more unambiguous trailer, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I think this movie looks quite good.
What would happen if you crossed Snatch with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? It would seem to me that you'd get something similar to The Business, a new film by British director Nick Love. The film stars Danny Dyer – who, funnily enough, was actually one of the voice actors in GTA:VC – as the newcomer in an '80s crime gang whose exploits are just as amusing as they are illegal. The movie clearly takes full advantage of its time period, as does the trailer; the choice of "Video Killed the Radio Star" as the background music in the clip is completely at odds with the action on screen, but it makes for a good comic effect. Whether this movie will turn out to be as good as some of Guy Ritchie's work remains to be seen, but Mr. Madonna's influence is quite clear here, and I'd certainly imagine that fans of British gangster flicks will be quite intrigued by this very funny trailer.
I'm already counting down the days
It would be extremely easy for this film to be nothing more than a cutesy schlockfest about two 11-year-olds in love. While it's still quite possible that Little Manhattan might turn out to be absurd, this trailer does an excellent job of selling the film as endearing, rather than irritating. The premise of the movie is simple: take your typical romantic comedy, including all of the genre's conventions, and transport it into the world of two young middle schoolers. Certainly, the ultimate quality of the picture will depend heavily on the acting of the leads, but my fears were allayed by this preview. Josh Hutcherson especially looks fantastic, and it's honestly hard to believe this is the same boy I saw when I watched the trailer for Zathura last week. His co-star, Charlie Ray, is making her acting debut here, and while she makes less of an impact than Hutcherson, she also appears to do a nice job. Cynthia Nixon and Bradley Whitford seem like good choices to play Josh's divorced parents, and of course, one can expect that the two will be drawn back together by their son's own romance. Clearly, this is a film that unabashedly embraces movie conventions. Whether it can paradoxically do something new and interesting with these conventions remains to be seen; this first trailer, however, is a positive sign.
Thumbsucker (Trailer of the Week)
Writer-director Mike Mills has assembled a terrific cast for his first full-length feature film, a picture which one might be tempted to compare with the breakout hit of another young "indie" director, Wes Anderson. Just as the part of Max Fischer became a breakout role for Jason Schwartzman, young actor Lou Pucci, probably best known for his small but crucial role in this year's HBO production of Empire Falls, seems poised for big success after playing Justin Cobb here. The movie follows Cobb, a socially awkward teenager with ADHD, as he tries to grow up with and despite the help of a group of adults including his parents, his hippie orthodontist (played by Keanu Reeves), and his quirky debate coach (Vince Vaughn). The movie is actually an adaptation of a book by Walter Kirn, but if this preview is any indication, the story has been translated brilliantly by Mills. Obviously, any comparisons to someone like Wes Anderson are premature at this point, but regardless of his skills behind the camera, Mills has found an extremely engaging story for his first film. One can only hope the picture itself is as interesting as this trailer.