Saturday, April 23, 2011

Movie (trailer) reviews

In which I evaluate movies at length based on two minutes of carefully-selected footage. Who needs to see the movie when they just put all the best parts in the trailer anyway?


It takes about twenty seconds of the trailer for Submarine to extrapolate the entire movie. A precocious high schooler searches for himself while engaging in a range of quirkily offbeat activities, like monitoring his parents' sex lives and wearing funny hats? He falls in love with the plainest girl in school? She for some reason reciprocates, despite him being a social reject (for good reason, it appears), and her dial being stuck on "unyielding contempt?" They go on offbeat adventures together, and although no honest emotions are ever expressed, everyone grows up a little bit?

First: we've seen this movie like a hundred times. (They even found a Paul Dano lookalike!) Second: with the exception of Rushmore, it's never any good. Third: who is writing this garbage, and why? Is it pure exploitation of the hipster market? Or is there a cohort of screenwriters out there that really believes life's highest aspiration is to engage in pointlessly quirky hijinks, preferably in the company of an unsmiling, brown-haired girl? God forbid, but I'm starting to fear that some of these writers actually identify with the headcases they're writing about. Why else would you make a child so self-consciously "adult?" You can practically hear the writers screaming "I'm just a child inside, too!"

Dear Screenwriters of Submarine: if you identify with the people in your movie, you should talk to a professional. Part of the reason Rushmore succeeded where Submarine will almost certainly fail is because Rushmore recognized that Max Fischer was interesting, but also really weird. So we see Max bounce off the people in his life, and a lot of the drama is rooted in whether or not they'll ever accept him. By contrast, Rushmore's unbearably quirky cinematic offspring never bother to interrogate their characters in the same way, instead opting to accept at face value the skewed worldviews of their protagonists. And of course, their protagonists, being really weird, never have any friends. So the whole enterprise becomes an exercise in solipsism.

What's worse, and actually super creepy, is the way that these characters invariably seek out women to validate their insane lives. Again, Rushmore had the good sense to show this behavior for what it was: strange and inappropriate. Submarine, on the other hand, seems firmly in its protagonist's camp: anyone who can find someone to love them can't be that bad, right?

Another Earth

Humanity discovers -- and by "discovers," I mean "wakes up to find floating in the sky" -- a duplicate Earth. Apparently, it's a duplicate in the literal meaning of the word, right down to a duplicate of every person on the planet. This raises, of course, all sorts of questions: How did Earth-1's astronomers let an entire planet sneak up on them? Will tidal havoc wipe out millions of lives? Which Earth will be the first to band together and attempt to colonize the other? How does any of this even make sense?

Fortunately, the movie dodges these dreary subjects, and keeps the focus on something fresh and new: the inner turmoil of attractive, listless American twenty-somethings. Another Earth, the trailer sighs. Another chance. It's about a girl. She did something. She goes to apologize but she loses her nerve. Attractive, listless American twenty-somethings gaze up at Earth-2, and see not the greatest scientific wonder in all of history, but the opportunity to finally, finally escape from their own ennui-fueled existences while sacrificing literally nothing at all. A more cynical man might suggest that the entire premise of the film is designed to give voice to the sad fantasy of starting a life that's new but also exactly the same. Which of course only makes sense if your life is pretty darn good to begin with. "Another Earth?" They should have just called it "I'm Moving to Seattle."

The Troll Hunter

Norwegians looking for... trolls? At first I don't think they're actually going to show us any trolls. People driving in the woods, talking to the camera. We know this mockumentary game. Cloverfield blah blah Blair Witch blah blah.

Then they do. Three-headed trolls. Trolls smashing cars. Trolls smashing sheep. Trolls smashing people. Norwegians fighting trolls with crazy science equipment. Norwegians driving away very very fast. Oh wow that is a really big troll at the end. Wooow.

This movie is the anti-Another Earth. It's about a girl. She did something. But she doesn't really have time to worry about all that because there are huge monsters and she's shooting them with machine guns and running around trying not to get mashed. Will I see the rest of The Troll Hunter? Yes I will.


  1. 1. Submarine takes advantage of the timeless principle that Americans think English people sound interesting and clever no matter what they say.

    2. Another Earth is the greatest heap of what-the-hell I've ever seen. It makes Back to the Future seem like a documentary. It's like watching Moon but without having to think.

    3. Norwegian is highly frustrating because it (a) sounds like English enough to make you feel like you should understand it, while (b) being different enough to render it incomprehensible, resulting in (c) feeling like you're not listening hard enough, leading to (d) utter failure and fatigue.

    OH and they totally showed the monster in Cloverfield.

  2. I never saw Cloverfield. I just watched the trailer.

  3. Diden's comment #1 explains hugh grant's entire career