24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Trailers

Preview review: Girls just wanna have fun in 'Friends With Benefits' and 'No Strings Attached.' Or do they?

November 9, 2010 | 12:15 pm

Nsa2-1288906930 If a woman has sex with a man, she wants to be in a relationship with him.

At least that's the message that comes through loud and clear in new trailers for two of Hollywood's latest romantic comedies, "No Strings Attached" and "Friends With Benefits" — despite titles and an implicit promise suggesting the contrary. (Incidentally, "No Strings Attached" was also previously titled "Friends With Benefits.")

In "No Strings Attached," two friends (played by Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman) end up sleeping with each another after a years-long friendship. In keeping with the unwritten rules of romantic comedies, Portman's character is a workaholic doctor who doesn't have time for a relationship.

"I'm a doctor. I work 80 hours a week. I need someone who's gonna be in my bed at 2 a.m. who I don't have to eat breakfast with," she tells him. Later she suggests that some "ground rules" be established so that things don't get too serious: "No lying, no jealousy, don't list me as your emergency contact. I won't come."

But lo and behold, when Kutcher wants to get serious, she seems, at least judging by the trailer, to change her tune.

Meanwhile, in "Friends With Benefits," two friends (played by Justin Timberlake and  Mila Kunis, who, incidentally, stars opposite Portman in the upcoming "Black Swan") also decide to have sex after a years-long platonic relationship.

"It's just sex," Timberlake's character explains to a friend, played by Woody Harrelson. "That never works," Harrelson's character advises. Kunis too winds up embracing a relationship.

Real-life relationships are complicated, but in these movies, it seems, one rule applies: If a man wants to get serious, the woman is suddenly ready to get serious too.

We're seeing these types of stories more lately: A similar dynamic emerges between Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal's characters in Ed Zwick's November release, "Love and Other Drugs." But is Hollywood picking up a real relationship dynamic or just harping on the same old stereotype?

Check out the new trailers and let us know what you think.


— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher star in "No Strings Attached." Credit: Paramount.


Olivia Wilde will be Justin Timberlake's...mother?

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Preview review: Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl in 'Killers'

Can James Cameron gain fans with a movie that isn't 'Avatar'?

October 28, 2010 |  6:18 pm

MV5BMTMxMTYzNTU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODUzMzQwNA@@._V1._SX640_SY939_James Cameron may be plumbing the depths of "Avatar" one more time (and then one more time after that). But there will  be some non-"Avatar" Cameron storytelling with "Sanctum," a more modestly budgeted 3-D tale from Australian Alister Grierson. The king of the world is executive producing and godfathering.

At least we hope it's original.

There's long been a bit of a fear around "Sanctum" that Cameron would simply apply new technology (and a lower budget) to his 1989 underwater classic "The Abyss." The first trailer for "Sanctum," due in theaters  in February, indicates that those fears are unfounded. But he and Grierson may be borrowing from some other movies just the same.

After some opening shots of the pastoral sea that could have come right out of "Oceans," the "Sanctum" trailer tracks underwater cave divers who become trapped deep in caverns during a tropical disaster. Those shots evoke memories of "The Perfect Storm."

As the divers encounter rising water and false exits, the spot takes on water -- or at least a vibe similar to "Buried" and a host of other trapped-explorer narratives (including the Chilean-miner saga). Breathless exclamations of action-movie cliches -- "You'll find a way out" and "We're running out of time!" -- don't help either.

Of course it's hard to see the scope of Cameron's and Grierson's world on a computer monitor, and Cameron has always been about the visual first. Trapped-men stories are also highly dependent on performance and a dozen other nuances. So there's a benefit of the doubt to be given. But those of us hoping that we don't need hundreds of millions of dollars and a voyage to distant Pandora to see some trademark Cameron chops probably won't be encouraged either.

--Steven Zeitchik




Photo: "Sanctum" poster. Credit: Rogue.


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Preview review: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' comes to life


Justin Bieber tries to make the big screen his world

October 26, 2010 |  8:30 am


The newly released teaser for Justin Bieber's 3-D nonfiction movie, "Never Say Never," promises that, on watching the film, you will "experience his world." Whether that's a selling point we'll leave for others to decide. What it does suggest -- with its recollections from Usher and archival footage of a young(er) Bieber -- is that John Chu's quick turnaround movie, whose teaser you can see here, will give the 16-year-old the full biopic treatment. Or at least the "This Is It"-esque here's-your-chance-to-watch-a-musical-genius-at-work treatment. (There's also, apparently, an inspirational element to the film: "He came from such a small town. It gives us hope," a tween girl tells the camera.)

Cultural questions about millennials aside, "Never Say Never" does raise an interesting business issue. Movies built around tween musical sensations have a mixed commercial record -- a trip to the big screen worked out for the Hannah Montana movie; it didn't pan out quite as well for the Jonas Brothers (though Bieber's YouTube popularity dwarfs both of those phenoms). So we'll see how he translates. In the meantime, you have to wonder which will come first -- an ebb in the Beeb's popularity or the movie's Feb. 11 release date. The race is on.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Universal resolves its dilemma

October 9, 2010 |  2:00 pm

After facing heat over its trailer for Ron Howard's "The Dilemma," Universal released a new promo for the film Saturday morning. There are number of different scenes in this new spot, most prominently, of course, a revamped opening. Instead of the "electric cars are gay" line that caused a fracas, the new trailer begins with Vince Vaughn telling Kevin James that "great moments are born from great opportunities," a reference James quips back comes from "Miracle."

The exchange has even less to do with the rest of the trailer -- which eventually gets around to explaining that the movie is about a man torn over whether to tell his best friend his wife cheated on him -- than the opening scene from the previous trailer. Still, critics of the first version will be satisfied; the new trailer is certainly less offensive. Whether it's any funnier is another question.

-- Steven Zeitchik



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Universal yanks its gay-joke trailer


Preview review: 'The King's Speech' makes an early statement

September 27, 2010 | 12:45 pm

THE-KINGS-SPEECH_400 We'll admit that when we first read the logline for "The King's Speech," we weren't exactly sold on the period drama starring Colin Firth. The movie, directed by Tom Hooper, is set in 1930s England and centers on a young King George VI (Firth) struggling to overcome a debilitating stuttering problem. On the surface, the story seems dry -- but the film has already been picking up some serious award buzz and took home the People's Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.

After watching the newly released trailer for the film, we understand the hype a lot better. Although it's dealing with an embarrassing condition and is set against the backdrop of World War II, the movie seems to have something of a comedic tone.

Firth is already getting rave reviews for his portrayal of the endearing king, but we were especially taken with Geoffrey Rush, who plays the royal's speech therapist, Lionel Logue. As Lionel works with the king to prepare for an important nationwide speech that he must deliver right before the start of the war with Germany, the two seem to develop a witty rapport that evolves into a meaningful friendship.

“What I felt the film was really about was that he was saved by friendship,” the director told our colleague John Horn at the Telluride Film Festival this month. "Yes, it’s about a man with a stammer. But we all face blocks to becoming our better selves." It's that sentiment that could move an audience far broader than just the academy voting pool.

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter star in "The King's Speech." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


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Telluride 2010: 'The King's Speech's' eloquent oratory

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp play 'Tourist': Preview review trailer

September 15, 2010 | 11:17 am

Johnny-depp-angelina-jolie-the-tourist-600x250-wdIt was only a few months ago that "The Tourist" began filming in Europe, when fans of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp became so rabid that production was forced to temporarily shut down while autograph-seekers were warded off. 

We can only imagine how excited those admirers are now that an intriguing trailer for the movie -- out in December -- has been released. In the film, Depp plays an American tourist who becomes interested in an Interpol agent (Jolie). She's on a search to track down a criminal with whom she was once romantically involved.

The film looks beautiful -- and not only because of its attractive stars. Set in Paris and Venice, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film shows off Europe's picturesque canals and countryside to good effect.

You can tell from the moment Jolie's spy gives Depp's character the eye that her bravado will work well in a part in which she's both seductress and secret agent. But we're more drawn to Depp here -- the aloof-yet-charming shtick is right up his alley.

"You look ravenous," he tells Jolie's character at one point.

"Do you mean ravishing?" she responds, cunningly.

The two are a great match -- so we're optimistic that their performances can elevate the movie above the sea of other crime thrillers with guy-falls-for-spy plot lines we've seen in recent years.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp star in "The Tourist." Credit: Columbia Pictures


Can Angelina Jolie get saltier?

Preview review: Clint Eastwood finds new life with 'Hereafter'

Preview review: Gemma Arterton gets saucy with director Stephen Frears in 'Tamara Drewe'

Preview review: Clint Eastwood finds new life with 'Hereafter'

September 14, 2010 | 10:24 am

Hereafter01 At 80, Clint Eastwood has made it clear he has no interest in repeating himself.

"At the age I am now, I just don't have any interest in going back and doing the same sort of thing over and over. That's one of the reasons I moved away from westerns," he told our colleague Geoff Boucher recently.

Case in point? Eastwood's latest film, his sixth in fewer than four years, a supernatural drama called "Hereafter."

The film -- which we get a glimpse of in a newly released trailer -- centers on three individuals with unique connections to death and what may happen afterward. There's a young boy grappling with the loss of his twin brother (Frankie McLaren), a French journalist who apparently comes back to life after dying in a tsunami (Cécile de France) and a psychic who holds the power to connect with the dead (Matt Damon).

But if you watched the trailer, you likely weren't able to tell that Damon only comprises a third of the film. He's featured prominently throughout the preview (a marketing decision that is perhaps understandable, considering McLaren is a newcomer and American audiences aren't yet all that familiar with De France).

Playing a reluctant medium struggling with whether or not to use his powers, he's inhabiting the role he's often best in -- a man who's hesitant to show his emotions.

Critics are already remarking that the film seems like a departure for Eastwood. Some of that probably comes from the triptych structure, and some of it from the instances of CG (particularly in an opening scene depicting a tsunami). While scenes like these lead us to believe the movie will be visually stunning, we're a bit worried that the movie could have a somewhat maudlin tone. We don't think anyone cracks a smile once in this trailer.

It's Eastwood and Damon, of course, so we're still intrigued. We just hope that the film doesn't rely on stale ideas about the hereafter -- and is able to deliver the emotional wallop it seems to be promising.

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Bryce Dallas Howard and Matt Damon in "Hereafter." Credit: Warner Bros.


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Preview review: Gemma Arterton gets saucy with director Stephen Frears in 'Tamara Drewe'

August 27, 2010 |  4:35 pm

MV5BMjAwOTUwMjIzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTY1MjM0Mw@@._V1._SX640_SY426_ On the big screen, Gemma Arterton has been no stranger to playing the role of resident hottie. She's was a Bond girl in "Quantum of Solace" and a fiery vixen earlier this year in "Clash of the Titans" and "Prince of Persia."

Her new film -- director Stephen Frears' "Tamara Drewe," which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival next month -- may have been shot on a much smaller budget, but Arterton is again portraying a sought-after female.

The film -- based on Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, which was inspired by Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd" -- is centered in the English countryside. There, a variety of writers and artists are pleasantly surprised when bombshell Tamara Drewe rolls into the sleepy town. Tamara, once not so attractive, has gotten a nose job and now enjoys a wealth of local male attention. She catches the eyes of two men in particular: one guyliner-wearing and surly (Dominic Cooper), the other muscular and outdoorsy (Luke Evans).

We're not sure if all of the elements here seem to work: For instance, the explanatory word boxes (which we assume exist because the film is based on a graphic novel) feel out of place in the comedy and more suited to a movie like "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." The movie also seems -- no surprise here -- to have a distinctly British sense of humor that audiences might not expect given the source material.

That being said, Arterton is really appealing in the role -- self-assured and sassy without making herself unlikable. And it looks like it will be fun to watch her multiple love affairs intertwine until the situation inevitably implodes. If she can bring enough youthful energy to the film -- which we're hopeful she can -- the movie seems like a light, easy comedy from the frequently stellar Frears.

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Gemma Arterton in "Tamara Drewe." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics


The Performance: Gemma Arterton

Faces To Watch 2010

Preview review: Danny Boyle spends '127 Hours' with James Franco

August 25, 2010 |  3:48 pm

127H-06688 It was only two years ago that "Slumdog Millionaire" swept the Academy Awards, claiming eight Oscars, including one for best director Danny Boyle. That's a fact, it seems, Fox Searchlight doesn't want audiences to forget.

The new teaser trailer for "127 Hours," Boyle's first film after "Slumdog," opens by hyping the director's many credits: "Trainspotting," "28 Days Later," "The Beach." Set to music with a strong drumbeat, the trailer's opening definitely has a "Slumdog" vibe to it -- lots of fast-paced edits, wide shots of impressive scenery. "This fall," the preview touts, Boyle "takes us on a ride beyond our imagination -- and it's true."

That journey? It follows Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), the mountain climber who infamously got trapped under a boulder in Utah in 2003 and was forced to cut part of his arm off to escape a near-death situation.

We've heard that a majority of the film deals with Ralston's frightening predicament, and the loneliness and desperation he deals with over the 127 hours he's pinned under a rock. (And is perhaps thematically similar to the upcoming "Buried," in which Ryan Reynolds plays a U.S. contractor who gets buried alive in a coffin in Iraq.) But you might not realize that, having only watched the movie's trailer.

Indeed, most of the footage we see from the movie is, we'd imagine, not in line with the film's larger tone. As Ralston, Franco comes across as an offbeat adventurer -- a dude unafraid to take risks in the dangerous outdoors, who manages to chuckle even after taking a painful-looking fall off of his bike. He's believable in this playful goofball/stoner type of role, especially when he charms the socks off of two cute girl hikers (Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn) in need of a guide.

Watching his performance evolve as the story goes to a much darker, introspective place is something we're looking forward to. But what has us more perplexed is how Boyle will deal with the rest of the movie, which -- as far as we can tell -- seems to take place largely inside the crevice of a rock canyon. We're hoping that the film will take us that deep inside Ralston's mind, too.

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: James Franco in "127 Hours." Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight.


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Preview review: Joaquin Phoenix is more here than ever. Or is he?

August 19, 2010 |  7:48 pm

MV5BNTE5NjA2NzM5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg5NTE3Mw@@._V1._SX640_SY948_ Months before its release, "I'm Still Here" was already generating a healthy amount of buzz. The documentary/mockumentary, out next month, of course has director Casey Affleck filming Joaquin Phoenix as the actor tries to launch a career as a rapper and engages in some very bad behavior.

As we reported in June, the movie apparently contains some pretty out-there stuff:  Phoenix "snorting cocaine, ordering call girls, having oral sex with a publicist, treating his assistants abusively and rapping badly."

But Phoenix -- who only five years ago earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line" -- can't be serious, right? The whole thing has to be a joke, some kind of social experiment aimed at making a statement about the malleable nature of celebrity. 

A newly released teaser trailer -- only a minute long -- throws some light on the movie, though we'll admit we're still not entirely sure whether the film is a joke.

In the trailer, Phoenix appears disheveled, just as he did during that bizarre David Letterman appearance last year while he was promoting his last film, the family drama "Two Lovers." With a bushy beard and a head of hair flying in all directions, Phoenix looks stoic throughout the trailer, frequently hiding behind dark sunglasses. He is photographed numerous times. He puts his head in his hands, overwhelmed. He boards a private jet. He hugs P. Diddy.

The entire thing is kind of a blur, but it seems the film's very obvious message is about identity, and how fame can change your public persona. We think the voice-over of some wise old man telling Phoenix that he's a "mountaintop waterdrop" who "doesn't belong in this valley" with all of the other drops of water is funny, if also a tad heavy-handed.

But that doesn't mean we're not intrigued by Phoenix's journey. Whether or not he's really trying to be a rapper is almost a moot point; it seems like he (and Affleck) are commenting on what it means to be a part of the modern-day Hollywood machine. Which is more than most actors usually have to say.

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: The poster for "I'm Still Here." Credit: Magnolia Pictures.


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