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Category: Preview Review

Trailer for 'Battle: Los Angeles' fires new salvo [video]

January 12, 2011 | 11:32 am

The latest trailer for Sony's "Battle: Los Angeles" probably won't strike you as the most original concept in the history of cinema. But for what's essentially "War of the Worlds: 2011 Edition," it's pretty appealing stuff. The early scenes of fiery explosions and earthly panic (with requisite close-up of tortured-but-heroic military man Aaron Eckhart) all land. And a later montage of melancholy depicting various scenes of destruction and rescue hits a surprisingly emotional note. The only problem: The end of the trailer seems to give away the climactic battle scene.

The March movie, from up-and-coming director Jonathan Liebesman, comes on the heels of "Skyline." That film, a lower-budget fall offering in which aliens also invade L.A., was directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause, who also did some of the effects on this film. The brothers have taken pains to note the differences between the two movies. Sony might want to do that too: That film bombed, in more ways than one.

--Steven Zeitchik




'Cedar Rapids': Can Ed Helms pull off a leading-man role? [Trailer]

December 23, 2010 |  1:01 pm

Cedar-Rapids-movie-trailerUntil now, Ed Helms has largely been an endearing but supporting character on both the small and big screens: as a correspondent on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," as the whipped boyfriend in "The Hangover," as a sweet but slightly pathetic salesman on "The Office."

But Helms finally gets his turn as a leading man in February's "Cedar Rapids," in which he again plays what's becoming his stock-in-trade character of the lovable loser.

In the newly-released trailer for Miguel Arteta's film, we meet Helms' character Tim Lippe, an up-the-middle, uptight Midwestern insurance agent whose company sends him to a convention in Cedar Rapids. There he meets a group of agents with a penchant for partying (played by John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr.).

The movie, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, seeks to augur a comeback for Arteta ("The Good Girl") after his ambivalently received "Youth In Revolt" this year.

In a way, Arteta's new film almost seems like an indie version of "The Hangover," except that the cast of zany characters here seems more square. (Helms' character is the kind of person who finds that the car he’s rented is a run-of-the-mill Chevy and seems genuinely tickled.)

The movie hinges on the idea that Tim attends the conference as a last-ditch effort to save his struggling company. Instead, he becomes distracted by his new wild cohorts and a budding romance with Heche’s character. The stakes don’t seem all that high, but there appear to be plenty of enjoyable moments.

While Reilly is as amusingly over-the-top as he was in "Step Brothers," it's Helms who shines. He's reprising the entertaining role of naive goofball , and, fortunately, this time we're getting a lot more of him.

--Amy Kaufman



'Water for Elephants': Can Robert Pattinson perform under the big top? [trailer]

From a black swan, a tree grows

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

Photo: Ed Helms, far right, stars in "Cedar Rapids." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

'Water for Elephants': Can Robert Pattinson perform under the big top? [trailer]

December 16, 2010 |  5:19 pm

Robertpattinsonwfetrailer Though Robert Pattinson has slowly begun to carve out his post-"Twilight" acting career, many critics still wonder whether the young star has the acting chops to successfully move past the world of vampires. While it wasn't a flop at the box office, Pattinson's latest non-"Twilight" film, "Remember Me," barely registered with filmgoers.

But next year, it seems the actor will finally have a real chance to show audiences what he's got: he'll star opposite Uma Thurman in "Bel Ami" and with Reese Witherspoon in April's "Water for Elephants," for which a trailer was released Thursday.

Based on a bestselling historical novel released in 2006, "Elephants" centers around a veterinary school student named Jacob (Pattinson) who falls for circus performer Marlena (Witherspoon). Despite their shared affinity for the big top, the pair and their burgeoning romance are threatened by Marlena's husband (Christoph Waltz).

Neither of the romantic leads says much of anything in the trailer. Instead, it's filled with hazy, glowing shots of life in the circus: Jacob peeking in to catch a glimpse of Marlena in the center of the ring, delicately laying her svelte body across a horse; the two together, gently stroking one of animals.

We like the langorous, moody tone, though it's nearly impossible to judge from the trailer if Pattinson has any acting skills beyond that longing gaze thing. It's also mildly difficult to believe the 34-year-old Witherspoon could truly be wooed by a young man a decade her junior, but that's a conceit we think we'd be able to get over.

One definite bright spot in the trailer? Hal Holbrook, who plays an older version of Pattinson's character. [UPDATE, 7:05 PM: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Holbrook's character is a mentor to Pattinson's character.] We loved the 85-year-old's performance in "Into the Wild" a few years ago, and it seems his presence here will add weight to the film beyond the romance at its center.

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: "Water for Elephants" poster. Credit: 20th Century Fox.


From a black swan, a tree grows

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

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

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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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.


A pair of 'Avatar' sequels is on its way from James Cameron

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


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.


Toronto 2010: 'King's Speech,' 'Incendies' among award winners

Toronto 2010: Can 'The King's Speech' become the awards movie 'A Single Man' was supposed to be?

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

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

September 23, 2010 |  1:25 pm

Potter It probably doesn't really matter what's written about the new trailer for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part I." Potter fanatics will be spellbound, and even those that drifted away because of age or indifference will likely come back for the final chapter.

Luckily, both groups should be as pleased as, well, Dobby with a sock.

The first half of the final chapter of "Deathly Hallows" hits screens Nov. 19, and the trailer is filled with action, suspense and intrigue. As with the book series, this movie does not appear to incorporate the sense of wonder that the first few installments had. But judging by the trailer, it does effectively take on the look and feel of a dark thriller. Ralph Fiennes' Lord Voldemort appears to have a much more active role in this film, as do his cadre of disciples. Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter), Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and the other baddies are the ones driving the story.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is also on the run with his pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), and that fast-paced sense of dread, as the Death Eaters search and close in, is nicely portrayed in the trailer's constant cuts. And in 3-D, it could all be even more intense.

There was a small amount of outrage when it was announced that there would be two movies -- another studio ploy to squeeze extra dollars out of a long-running franchise! But those voices seem to have subsided, and, from the look of the trailer, will probably be replaced by delighted reactions from wand-wavers worldwide.

--Jevon Phillips


For other Preview Reviews, click here.

Photo: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are on the lookout in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part I." Credit: Warner Bros.

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.


Eastwood and ‘Hereafter’ speak to the dead: ‘I knew right away I wanted to do it’

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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

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