The trailer court

A critical look at the previews of the first films of 2011

The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet

For me, it used to be the teasers and trailers before the feature film were an integral part of going to the movies. The trailers and the poster art were generally the only way of heightening awareness of a project, and so they were art forms unto themselves. And while it may be nostalgia on my part, it seems like these days posters are handed off to interns who PhotoShop floating heads, and trailers are nothing more than two-minute synopses of the films. Which is all well and fine if you like to know how a movie ends before it begins. For me, I’ve taken to showing up 10 minutes after post time for movies to avoid the trailers and the spoilers.

It’s reached the point where, having been schooled in Hollywood formulae, I suspect that I could review a movie off of the trailer itself, saving myself a couple of hours of sitting through something in which I’ve already filled the blanks.

So, then, let’s see how that goes for the first films of 2011. I’ve browsed through the January slate of releases to prognosticate which ones (under this theory) should be experienced in an actual theater, or whether one should bide a couple of months for the DVD or just wait for when it eventually turns up on cable.

No Strings Attached

Season of the Witch (opens Jan. 7)

A medieval knight (Nicolas Cage) is sent off on an epic journey to deliver a hot witch to her burning. Swordplay, dragons and attempted seduction ensue. Not exactly compelling, and pretty humorless looking (aside for an anachronistic Jaws in-joke), but it’s from the director of Gone in 60 Seconds and Swordfish (Dominic Sena), so it’ll at least be flashy and might even end up being endearingly loopy. Theater.

The Green Hornet (Jan. 14)

Pretty much every action movie trailer cliché in the book, with gratuitous amounts of Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz. Despite that, it looks like it’ll deliver on the promised things blowing up, especially since it’s directed by cult fave Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Wait … WTF? It’s also in 3-D, so there’s that. Although, is eight bucks worth sating morbid curiosity? Yeah. Theater.

The Dilemma (Jan. 14)

Vince Vaughn discovers that his best friend’s wife is seeing another man, and goes through all sorts of uncomfortably comic set pieces trying to resolve the eponymous dilemma. The jokes on display seem pretty tepid, and when you factor that most trailers give away all the good jokes, that’s not a good sign here. A worse sign is that it’s directed by Ron Howard. It does have Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder to balance out Vaughan and Kevin James, although I suspect that might not be enough. DVD.

The Mechanic

The Company Men (Jan. 21)

This movie sells that it’s an affirming look at the upside of downsizing, as the company men get pink-slipped from their cush jobs and are led by the nose until they find their true calling. One of those trailers that pretty much hits every narrative arc in the movie, even presumably the resolution (I’m fairly sure Ben Affleck isn’t gonna end up going postal in this one). Eight bucks to have the details filled in? I don’t think so. DVD.

No Strings Attached (Jan. 21)

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman play a couple of longtime friends who finally hook up and then go through titular awkwardness. Wonder how that works out? It looks cute, it’s nice to see Portman lighten up and it’s directed by Ivan Reitman (Ghost Busters). Theater.

The Mechanic (Jan. 28)

Pretty much everything an action movie trailer needs to be, with a pounding neo-metal track and machine-gun-style editing that teases with beaucoup explosions and ass kicking (it is directed by the dude who did Con Air, after all). Plus, aside from In the Name of the King, Jason Statham by himself elevates anything he’s in. Theater.

The Rite

The Rite (Jan. 28)

Under threat of an apocalyptic rise of possessions, the Vatican sets up exorcist school. One gets the vibe that a few plot twists are given away in the trailer, which comes across as sort of Angel Heart with Catholic priests (one of whom is played by Anthony Hopkins). Employs its share of jump scares, so it might be fun with a receptive audience. Theater.