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Posts made in: 'Judging by the Trailer' (54) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 54

November 13, 2014 at 11:37am

Judging by the Trailer: "Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas"

Washed-up kid-star-turned-professional-God-botherer Kirk Cameron teaches his own family the true meaning of the season.

First things first: Yes, this is a real movie. No, you did not pass out in a snow drift, the friendly visage of Kirk Cameron beckoning you toward eternal salvation. This is a production that almost certainly involved cameras and crew and some sort of catering company to keep said crew motivated to tell the story of how atheists and the government continue to crusade against your god-given right to say, "Merry Christmas."

I've personally seen two Kirk Cameron-starring religious vehicles (the first two Left Behind movies), so the sudden presence of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas doesn't quite surprise me. What does surprise me is the tone of this trailer, which must set a record for the time it takes for our atheist strawman to get knocked down by our Christian hero's impeccable arguments. Christian movies, like this one, always have atheist strawmen who need to see the light, but this one seems to be depicting the debate at light-speed.

Kirk Cameron stars as Kirk, and Saving Christmas' writer/director Darren Doane costars as Christian, who is having a crisis of faith. Sitting in a car, together, Christian lays out all the things that are wrong with the holiday (the Christmas tree is based on a Pagan tradition, Jesus wasn't born in December, etc.), while Kirk Cameron condescendingly wonders about what phrases like "season's greetings" even mean. Doane's manic performance feels like a man doing his best impression of Robin Williams riffing, so I can now also blame Saving Christmas for making me think of how much I miss Robin Williams.

Once Christian is shown that Christmas really is all about pretty lights and jubilant breakdancing, everything's in the clear. Which makes me wonder just what the rest of the movie is. If you want to see a truly batshit take on the "War of Christmas" genre of film, I'd suggest Last Ounce of Courage. That one has a cowboy Jesus ghost, so it's automatically better than this garbage.

October 30, 2014 at 3:37pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Saw" 10th Anniversary

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the promo materials for a Saw flick could actually carry the tag line "Straight from Sundance!"

Well, here's a rarity for Judging by the Trailer: a movie I've actually seen! Yes, it's Saw, the movie that inspired a decade of tedious and disgusting American, mainstream torture-porn. Thankfully, this appears to be a genre that is dying out with the glut of haunted house pictures that we're currently experiencing, but I'll never pass over an opportunity to express my displeasure with Saw and its ilk, so let's begin.

In addition to inspiring Saw imitators, Saw also inspired a fanbase that would frantically argue with you if you dared to call into question the inherent morality that the franchise hinges upon. You see, the hero of the Saw movies is the murderer himself, known as Jigsaw - but even saying that could get you in trouble. Fans of the series will point out that Jigsaw actually does no killing. Rather, he puts victims into impossible circumstances with elaborate contraptions that effectively force them to kill or maim themselves. Fans will tell you all about the turgid, insincere backstory of Jigsaw (that he is a man dying of cancer who punishes people for not appreciating the wonders of life) and completely ignore the nightmare machines that rip people appendages off or poke their eyes out or whatever.

I can't say for certain, but I'm willing to bet that my first encounter with such a fan was with my brother. There's an impenetrable boundary when it comes to explaining to such people that Jigsaw could be dying of 10 different cancers, and that still doesn't justify putting someone in a device that explodes their head like a watermelon. Luckily, the series seems to have finally died out, so these conversations don't happen anymore. But, with the 10th anniversary re-release, I would advise steering clear of anyone that's seen more than one of these. They are not someone you'd like to have corner you at the bar.

October 23, 2014 at 2:22pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Ouija"

"Ouija" filmmaker Stiles White has ??" you guessed it ??" never directed a picture before. ...

We're through the looking glass, here, people. Thirty years after Clue became a movie and everyone began simultaneously making snarky comments about what other board games might limp out of uninspired Hollywood producer's closets and out onto the screen, we now have Ouija. Of course, this does come after the brutal disappointment that was Battleship (how they made it through that entire movie without getting Liam Neeson to solemnly utter, "You sunk my battleship," is beyond me), and presumably before the adaptation of Candyland, but this must still be a milestone of some sort.

Yes, the classic sleepover game does have a fair bit more traction as a property that could reasonably be made into a movie - pulling taffy and "light as a feather, stiff as a board" might have a rougher transition - though the trailer seems to reveal a movie that is blissfully unaware of the inherent hokiness of its concept. If I gave you five minutes to come up with what the Ouija movie would be about, something tells me you'd present me with something like this.

Think of it like Jumanji with ghosts, which might be the exact pitch that got this movie made. A girl finds an Ouija board in her house, creepy stuff happens, she dies and then a group her way-too-old-to-believe-in-Ouija-boards friends decide to use the spirit board to reach her on the other side. And then, it's just more of the same haunted house jump scares that have dominated mainstream horror movies since Paranormal Activity came out. Dear god, I hope audiences will grow as tired of surreal mirror gags in these movies as I have. Here's hoping slashers come back in style.

But, if we're adapting board games, might I suggest Sorry? That game's some backstabbing bullshit. I can see it easily becoming a David Mamet war of the sexes and/or world of finance psychodrama.

October 16, 2014 at 10:53am

Judging by the Trailer: "The Best of Me"

Nicholas Sparks presents two former sweethearts who seize on their buddy’s death as a chance to rekindle their long-dormant attraction. Coming next: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in "Funeral Crashers"!

Wow wow wow. The first few seconds of the trailer for The Best of Me actually made me laugh out loud. We open with not one, but two, unattributed quotes about love and stuff (the first one, hilariously, credited to "Anonymous"). If you thought you'd seen Nicholas Sparks get all Nicholas Sparks-y, then you ain't seen nothing yet.

The Stephen King of trashy, condescending romance novels has returned with another sappy story of two lovers in peril. Beginning with two high schoolers in love, we then flash forward 20 years to find them reunited after backwoods thugs kept them apart. Because this is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, we can expect lots of kissing in the rain and candlelit proclamations of devotion, right before incongruously pulpy violence enters the picture.

It's amazing how much cache Sparks has just because everyone cried at The Notebook. The bizarre war-torn romance of The Lucky One and the absurd last-act twist of Safe Haven (which I would love to spoil for you right now, if that movie weren't so ridiculously enjoyable to watch and gawk at) weren't enough to shake lose the legions of adoring fans of manipulation and pretty people with Southern accents frolicking.

What might remain the most unbelievable aspect of this movie - barring a Safe Haven-esque left turn - is watching the young leads somehow age into James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan. Like the actually pretty good 17 Again, this aging process seems to involve the fundamental reshaping of skull structures. Also, there may have been a time tunnel involved to account for the non-existent 20-year difference in age between these actors.

Still, I'll eagerly await reading spoilers of The Best of Me, in the hopes that it can rival Safe Haven - which, by now, I hope I've teased you into watching. Seriously, that shit's bonkers.

October 9, 2014 at 10:18am

Judging by the Trailer: "Dracula Untold"

"Dracula Untold": What's the fun of a Dracula who hates neck-biting? Photo by Jasin Boland / Universal Pictures

Alright, fucking ENOUGH. There are great vampire movies, already. I swear to you. Here is a sampling, you broad-foreheaded, mouth-breathing, movie-viewing public: Dracula (yes, the original, in black and white), Nosferatu (legitimately creepy, despite the fact that he doesn't know parkour), Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, the Vampyre (because it's Herzog, and fuck you if you're not into that), and even the most recent-and, likely, the last legitimate take on the vampire mythology - Shadow of the Vampire (starring two actual crazy people, Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich). This is not to mention the stunning Let the Right One In, which you should just go and watch before reading the rest of this.

As much as the well has seemingly run dry on modern takes on vampires, here we're met with another grim specter: Dracula Untold, which has the bad timing necessary to have a title reminiscent of The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story.

To start with, Dracula Untold's trailer has the gall to winkingly reference the Universal Horror era of monsters, with a black and white Universal logo. Much like the gritty King Arthur of several years ago, this film seems to imply that we're going to be getting the raw, uncut version of the titular character's origin. Dracula Untold seems to be dripping with a smug attitude that almost shouts something like, "See! No teenagers or glitter to be found in this vampire movie! It's just what you've wanted!"

Instead of getting back to basics, Dracula Untold manages to complicate Dracula's myth even more, granting him the power to make giant fists out of bats (?), while seeming to ignore most of the blood-sucking aspects that we've come to know and love about Drac. Thankfully, the film seems to take place in an age before hoodies, unlike the risible I, Frankenstein that dropped earlier this year. Granted, I'd sooner believe a vampire in a hoodie than a monster made of various dead body parts, but that's a conversation for another time: never.

October 3, 2014 at 9:52am

Judging by the Trailer: "Left Behind"

Nicolas Cage in "Left Behind."

I haven't tried very hard to keep a secret of how much I dislike most holidays. I've written multiple times about my disdain for New Year's Eve and my lack of enthusiasm for Christmas and Valentine's Day. People tend to think that I'm somehow missing out on the boundless joy that people derive from these celebrations. Do I really go all year without a special day coming along to connect me to my fellow man?

No. That day has arrived, and it is the release of the newly Nicolas Cage-ified Left Behind. I don't know who's been reading my diary, or what star I wished upon, but Hollywood suddenly had the earth-shattering idea to pair film's most insane actor with an Evangelical property that gets all of its tension and suspense from piles of clothes.

Earlier this year, my friend Nicky and I took some time out to get obsessed with films made by and for Christians. The first one we decided to watch just had to be the Kirk Cameron vehicle that was the original, hilariously inept Left Behind. That original run of direct-to-video atrocities capped off at as trilogy, though the books upon which they were based total something in the range of 16 (!). My only hope is that this new Left Behind decided to throw every one of those pages at Nicolas Cage, just to see how badly they can make him lose his shit.

This new Left Behind is directed by former stuntman Vic Armstrong, which is just too good to be true. While making the transition from stunts to directing worked out for Hal Needham, I have little hope for this Vic Armstrong guy. But, you never know. All I want in the world is for this to spawn a reality series about the friendship between Cage and a crazy religious stuntman. I know you've already given me Left Behind, God, but can we get one more miracle?

September 24, 2014 at 1:59pm

Judging by the Trailer: "The Song"

Marital drama. "Temptation" as a plot point. Redemptive message. Limited release with little mainstream publicity. Put ’em all together, and what do you get? JAY-SUS!

I've taken the summer off from reviewing awful trailers, but a siren song called me back into the fray. My ears burnt with the suspicion that a new film will be miraculously shone down upon legions of bussed-in parishes. After devoting more of my year than necessary drunkenly catching up Christian films with my friends (God's Not Dead, in particular, is ripe for camp appreciation), I may have finally met my match - a film that appears to be so stultifyingly dull and frustratingly competent that I can't imagine bearing down and actually watching the thing.

Ah, so, here we have The Song. Allegedly based on the life of King Solomon (a guy from that Bible thing), The Song follows the story of singer-songwriter Jed King (yep!), son of David King (YEP!), as he chases his dream of stardom, even as the road and the lure of foul temptresses threatens his blissful family life. King, as portrayed by Christian rock artist Alan Powell, looks distractingly like Joaquin Phoenix, which is unfortunate, seeing as the movie looks essentially like Walk the Line with presumably less drugs and prison concerts.

As far as how close the film hews to the life of Solomon, I can't very well say. All I know about the guy is that he tended to solve problems by cutting babies in half. If there's any baby mutilation to be found in The Song, the trailer is being awfully coy about it. Thankfully, fellow Volcano scribe Christian Carvajal (a man who's actually read the Bible), had this to say:

"It's based on the life of Solomon to exactly the extent my life is based on that of Spanish conquistador Francisco de Carvajal. I wonder if ‘Rose Jordan' (ugh) will be okay with ‘Jed King's' (get it? GET IT?!) hundreds of wives and concubines, aka sex slaves. Also, she needs to make sure he doesn't peep on his neighbors' Jacuzzi."

Wise words! I'll just wait until Nicolas Cage's Left Behind gets its crazy stank all over theaters next month.

June 26, 2014 at 10:10am

Judging by the Trailer: "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

“Age of Extinction” depicts a new era in the life of the Autobots, as the cars-that-turn-into-robots are joined on screen by the Dinobots, robots that take the form of dinosaurs. Nothin’ but hard-nosed realism as far as the eye can see.

All right, enough, everybody. Just, enough! I don't know who to blame for the Transformers franchise, but surely there's some dark puppet master somewhere in the center of the earth that's pulling the strings for this ongoing series of car wrecks. I'm inclined to blame BuzzFeed, for their unending tour of millennial nostalgia, but I have the distinct impression that BuzzFeed only scratches the sinister surface.

We've somehow made it to the fourth Transformers film, which does have a pretentious subtitle, but I refuse to give it the dignity of typing it out - because, honestly, if this thing isn't called Trans4mers, I don't even know what we're doing anymore.

If we're in the business of doling out compliments for the Transformers franchise - which, I assure you, we are not - then that compliment shall come in the form of finally ridding known plagiarist (and suspected sociopath) Shia LaBeouf from the proceedings. In his stead is Mark Wahlberg, who hilariously makes a reference to being from Texas, even though his voice can only be believable when saying something about parking his car in Harvard Yard.

From then on, it's a parade of Michael Bay-isms - non-stop Dutch angles, obnoxious filters and ominous intonations about the fate of Transformers, as if they weren't just stupid toys. I don't know if you need special eyes to follow the action of a Transformers movie, but that would explain why I can't see these robots as anything other than what would happen if a junkyard somehow got food poisoning.

Should we somehow find ourselves in a dystopian world where we've reached the 10th Transformers movie - years after Michael Bay has used his weather machine to coerce the planet into giving him our every resource - please let me be long dead. Barring that, let me be the man to take on a Valkyrie-esque mission to bring Michael Bay's reign of terror to an end.

June 18, 2014 at 4:14pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Think Like a Man Too"

Who would take relationship advice from Steve Harvey twice?

Think Like a Man Too uses the same sequel-titling pun as Look Who's Talking Too, which makes sense, seeing as both films are about a bunch of talking babies - though, in the case of Kevin Hart, it's basically just all screaming.

Here we are, gazing into the abyss that is the sequel to the film adaptation of Steve Harvey's odious relationship advice book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. This is the rare bit of self-help book that manages to reduce both sexes to their basest stereotypes. Men are pigs; so women must know how to think like them, so as to better combat their piggishness. Women, however, must remain pure and true, despite the gender warfare being ignited by this very book. See what I mean?

The first film, Think Like a Man, existed in a strange universe where not only did Steve Harvey's book exist, but all women read it and utilized its tips to torment their suitors. Once men caught on, they surreptitiously tried to counter by double-bluffing that they were really sweet guys, and no one ever said anything honest forever and ever the end.

There's not much more to say about the trailer for this sequel, except to emphasize that it may be the loudest trailer you'll find this side of a Transformers movie. What I will say is that, with the current climate of men's rights activists rearing their ugly heads in increasingly damaging ways, any film that hinges its plot on the "battle of the sexes" is fundamentally part of the problem.

There's nothing wrong with mediocre movies, like this one likely is, but once toxic gender politics come in to play, there's just no way of viewing this piece of work as anything other than queasy and woefully ignorant.

May 28, 2014 at 12:41pm

Judging by the Trailer: "A Million Ways to Die in the West"

This guy again.

Last year, while watching Ted, I floated a theory that I've since learned is not factually accurate, but may be spiritually true: Seth MacFarlane is a Scientologist. Yes, yes, I know that MacFarlane is an outspoken atheist, but all the warning signs are there. Is he grotesquely wealthy? Yes. Is he shunned by well-respected factions of the comedy community? Yes. Is he apparently good friends with Giovanni Ribisi? Double check.

Only Xenu could've predicted MacFarlane's sudden bid for leading man in live-action comedies, but rules are made to be broken, so I suppose it's high time for a man who can't act to be the romantic opposite of Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron. In a genius act of premeditated damage control, MacFarlane even appeared on The Tonight Show to predict the negative reviews his film would receive.

The thing is, what might have come off as a self-effacing bit of humble comedy instead seems like an orange, teeth-capped millionaire trying to trick the public into finding him to be an acceptable presence in the world. Lest we forget, this is the man who sang a song about how he saw the "boobs" of all of the actresses in the audience of an award show, including Jodie Foster's in the brutal rape scene in The Accused. Oh yeah? You saw her boobs? Congrats, dude.

So, what is there to say about this trailer? Now that Mel Brooks is in hiding and at least half of the Zucker brothers is a raving, conservative lunatic, I suppose there are few places to turn to for slapstick genre parody. A Million Ways to Die in the West will do amazing business, and a million souls will feel a sudden pang of emptiness. If there's a heaven, Saint Peter will be standing outside, demanding to see your ticket stubs. God save you if you paid for this garbage.

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