Movie Trailer: The Thing (2011)

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of this film for a while – it’s a risky idea, but then this does seem to be the era for receiving unexpected sequels/prequels to Eighties films that flopped on release, but built up a major cult reputation in the years that follow. It counts for Tron – but John Carpenter’s version of The Thing is a different kettle of fish, a film that isn’t just remembered well out of nostalgic affection but is a genuinely brilliant, savagely nasty piece of horror filmmaking that was simply not released at the right time. It’s still an amazing piece of work – tense, dark and claustrophobic, and what’s really impressive is exactly how well the truly insane creature effects have stood the test of time, simply thanks to the demented imagination of chief make-up effects guy Rob Bottin. Attempting to even equal that, let alone better it, takes a hell of a lot of nerve – and what we’ve ended up with the 2011 incarnation of The Thing is a rather odd example of a prequel that essentially looks to be a loose remake (in the way that most horror sequels were, back in the Eighties) but which does fit into the timeline of the earlier film, essentially showing us what happened at the Norwegian base where the shape-changing alien monstrosity was first uncovered.

Of course, just to make this even weirder, this means that in certain ways, this’ll actually be closer (at least in its opening sections) to the 1950s original The Thing from Another World, which the Carpenter film itself was a remake of. And, just to make things extra-confusing, they’re basically selling it as a remake and calling it The Thing. Considering it’s a story about an alien that turns itself into what it consumes, all this duplication is probably fitting – the trailer is not bad, and certainly makes clear that they’ve at least well-cast the film, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead looking like a good choice for the lead, and Joel Edgerton being the sort of excellent and rugged-looking character actor that John Carpenter would have stuck in a film back in the Eighties. The screenplay is from Battlestar Galactica mastermind Ronald D. Moore, so there’s at least a good chance that this will be a respectful attempt to measure up to the 1982 original. For fans of the Carpenter film, there’s of course the danger that this could end up as a carbon copy – certain shots in the trailer are note-for-note duplicates of shots from the 1982 original – and the real test is going to be the creature effects, which they’ve sensibly kept under wraps in this trailer. At the least, this could be a fun bit of pastiche that’s actually attempting to capture what made the original great (unlike the Assault on Precinct 13 remake, which completely missed the point), and again it’s amazing to see another under-appreciated gem from my childhood getting a multi-million dollar remake/follow-up. However, it’s going to have to have a lot more than funky visuals, and if it’s a missed opportunity I don’t think anyone’s going to be as forgiving as they were with the fun but deeply flawed Tron: Legacy…

Movie Trailer: John Carter (2012)

Hmmm. That’s my main reaction to the first trailer to John Carter, Disney’s upcoming adaptation of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars (the first in the John Carter of Mars series). It’s not a negative hmmm, but it’s not a completely convinced hmmm either, and that’s mainly because this is a project I’m going to have a hard time being objective on. Burroughs’ pulp SF adventures have been massively influential over the years – they don’t quite have the atmosphere and weird poetry of something like Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, but they’re still a brilliant example of early 20th century high adventure, packed with colour and adventure and one man battling against strange foes. They’re also books that were read to me by my father starting from when I was five years old – we got through almost half the entire series, and so there are chunks of the John Carter saga that are indelibly imprinted on my imagination.

This adaptation has been in the pipeline for decades, and became much more likely with the rise of CG – there was a version with the director of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow attached which never happened (and some might say that’s a good thing), while the most recent director to walk was Iron Man helmer Jon Favreau. However, it’s finally happened under the directorial eye of Andrew Stanton, the helmer of Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E, making his live-action debut on a movie that’s also the first live-action Pixar co-production (alongside Disney and – gulp – Jerry Bruckheimer Productions), which is certainly promising (even if, in a fit of nervousness, they’ve lost the ‘of Mars’ from the trailer). And the teaser is intriguing in a whole number of ways, from the lush design to the opening scene that shows they’re keeping the framing device intact – the classic pulp trope of having the tale of wild adventure be a discovered manuscript bequeathed to or discovered by the author. Of course, for anyone who suffered through X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the fact that they’ve cast Taylor Kitsch (aka Gambit) as John Carter and Lynn Collins (aka Wolverine’s immensely forgettable love interest) as Martian princess Deja Thoris is a little less reassuring. Also, it’s not quite as pulpy or as – frankly – Martian as I expected, with a lot of shots looking a bit too Earth-like for my preference (I mean, I know it was shot on location in various US desert areas, but it’d be nice if it looked a bit more alien), while the fragments of dialogue we get here are a tad clunky out of context. This is a teaser, of course, that’s simply out to set the scene and get the 99.99% of the audience who aren’t seriously into Edgar Rice Burroughs adventures excited. I’m going to be really interested to see exactly what they pull off here – my fingers are crossed, but it’s going to take a little more than this to completely blow me away…

Movie Trailer: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Now, I’m not sure that anyone was actually saying to themselves “You know what I’m desperate to see? A fourth Mission Impossible film!” It’s not as if there are extra layers to find out about IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, other than him being a chance for Tom Cruise to do cool stuff, and the previous films have also been tonally all over the place to an extent that’s rarely seen in film series (from the overdone Le Carre action of Brian DePalma, to the ludicrous pomp of John Woo, and the fun but deeply forgettable JJ Abrams). However, throw Incredibles director Brad Bird into the mix – finally making his live action debut – and you’ve certainly got me interested. Now we’ve got the first trailer for Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and it’s certainly one of the more weirdly constructed trailers I’ve seen in a while. There’s several deeply cool moments in here, and some shots that certainly hint at how Bird’s visual style is going to transfer (especially into the action sequences, considering that The Incredibles is dangerously close to being a flawless action movie), and yet there’s a lot of stuff that, to be honest, looks a bit daft – most of it involving Tom Cruise running REALLY FAST, or Tom Cruise doing that odd face he does when he’s fighting. There’s also the decision to slather an Eminem track over half the trailer (because when I think of sexy spies on the run and the title ‘Ghost Protocol’, I think ‘Eminem’), the way the trailer seems to reboot itself halfway through to be a completely different tone, and the unintentionally homo-erotic showdown between Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…). I’m still very interested in how Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol is going to turn out – but here’s hoping any future trailers are a little more willing to blow me away…

Movie Trailer: Captain America – The First Avenger (2011)

Well, those Team America comparisons certainly aren’t going anywhere. The latest Captain America – The First Avenger trailer has hit, and it still looks like (a) Marvel have done a pretty good job of making a pulpy action blockbuster, and (b) Chris Evans was absolutely the right man for the Captain America role. It’s been a relatively crowded superhero summer so far, and while Thor and X-Men: First Class have done good business, Green Lantern has certainly not been a critical success (for reasons I’ll go into once I do my upcoming review) while not quite performing to the level DC and Warners would have liked. However, I have a sneaky feeling that superhero fatigue hasn’t set in yet, and while this particular Captain America trailer features way too many cock-rock guitar chords for my liking, it’s also got enough engaging banter, action and Hugo Weaving being evil for me to have my fingers crossed. Plus, the fact that the 1940s Brooklyn scenes were filmed on location (with plenty of set dressing) in Manchester about a minute’s walk from my local comic shop is just the icing on the cake…

Video: Doctor Who Anime

Found via BoingBoing (and lots of other places), this is one of the more impressive fanfilms I’ve seen out there – mainly the work of one person, this is essentially a 12-minute ‘highlight reel’ that gives you an Anime-style look at what would have happened in the 1980s if a Japanese animation studio had got their hands on Doctor Who. And it’s rather astonishing – there are rough edges here and there (and the voicework that isn’t hi-jacked from the classic series is a bit on the rough side), but some of the design and animation work here is really good, especially the stylised anime take on the Third Doctor, and all in all it’s a gloriously fun mash-up of genres that has to be seen to be believed…

Video: Outside Aperture (A Portal fanfilm)

Fan films are a sometimes fascinating subgenre, especially with digital effects getting cheaper and cheaper to realise, and this particular fan film takes one of the most distinctive games ever made and actually manages to capture the oddball mood. There’s a reason why computer gamers go into complete geek-pleasure mode over Portal – it was an out-of-nowhere surprise, an experimental quickie project released to bolster up the Orange Box compilation (and make up for it taking so long for Half Life 2: Episode 2 to get released) that managed to get almost universal acclaim for its brain-twisting 3-D puzzles and its pitch-black humour. Built around a simple mechanic – with a gun that fires portals at walls (allowing you to put an entrance or an exit into a whole variety of locations) you navigate a series of increasingly difficult puzzles set by a derranged computer – it’s a short but perfect example of atmosphere, storytelling and gameplay.

I recently got to play Portal 2, the full-length sequel, which is rather as if someone took a quirky indie SF film and made a $200 million dollar sequel that’s bigger, bolder and in many cases much broader in humour – and yet still manages to carry off the unique atmosphere of the original. It’s a brilliant, hugely engaging game and also shows careful hints at a bigger backstory, while leaving us on a sort-of-cliffhanger. This fanfilm I’ve spotted is set after Portal 2’s ending, and while it doesn’t really have a story and is more of an exercise in mood, it’s incredibly well realised, and the opening sequence has some genuine “Oh my god!” moments for any self-respecting Portal fan. If you haven’t played the game, this won’t mean anything to you – if you have, sit back and enjoy ‘Outside Aperture’…

Movie Trailer – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Updated – now with HD Version…)

Rooney Mara Girl with the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher Remake Publicity Shot

Okay – I don’t usually like posting shakycam Youtube recordings of footage – but when the red-band trailer for David Fincher’s upcoming remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hit the net, I couldn’t resist. I was already intrigued by the idea, especially after exactly how good The Social Network turned out to be (especially when I’d become a little unsure of Fincher – I hadn’t exactly been entranced by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and I still haven’t seen Zodiac…), and when I heard Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were doing the soundtrack, I became genuinely excited. The Social Network soundtrack is something I’ve had on near-constant play since it came out last year, and while I’m not onboard with the critical love the original film version got (I thought it was an intriguing, well-acted but slightly overlong and pulpy thriller), I was definitely keen to see what Fincher did. And now we’ve got the first trailer – and even in shakycam Youtube format, this is something else. This won’t be up for long, and a full-quality version will be hitting at some point next week (and well done if you’ve got that level of patience), but if you’ve got the chance, click below, as this is a seriously well-crafted trailer…

(Update – 1/6/2011 – Well, Sony have finally yanked the redband from Youtube, but we’re still waiting for a proper, official release of the trailer. There’s a greenband, safe for work version floating around (which has no blood or nipples, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to hear) but that keeps getting taken down as well. Tomorrow should be the day for it turning up in full-on HD, and not before time…)

(Further Update – 2/6/2011The official teaser is now up at the Apple site in glorious shiny high-def, and I’ll be slapping an official Youtube embed up here as soon as possible (it’s an Apple exclusive at the moment). Of course, it’s the green-band, work-safe version (with none of that bloodletting or nudity, thank-you-very-much), and rather annoyingly they’ve also cut a few sections of the trailer that worked perfectly well before (there was a tracking shot close to the beginning that worked brilliantly with the music, and now isn’t there. And the previous end of the trailer, which went from the fantastically blaring titles to a quick shot of Rooney Mara and the brief caption “She’s Coming”, has now lost the “She’s” part. Que?). For those who’ve seen the redband, it’s still a strong trailer, but it is interesting how removing the slightly harder images does at certain points make this look like an extremely dramatic film about people walking through doorways. Cracking cover version, though (with vocals from Karen O, apparently), and I’m still definitely intrigued…)

The Thursday Trailer: Shock Corridor (1963)

Trailers. I love them. In all shapes and forms, they can be fascinating in the way that they try to distill down the essence of a movie to roughly two minutes of screen-time. Some trailers are memorable. Some trailers are better than the films themselves. Some trailers sell the film in such a bizarre way that you’re left bewildered that anybody ever thought that would be a good idea.

So, as a way of celebrating my love of trailers, I’m starting a weekly feature. From now on, each week, on every Thursday, there will be a trailer. Sometimes they will be old, sometimes they will be new. There’ll be a mix of classics and underappreciated gems, alongside the weird, the wonderful and the just-plain-confusing. There also be, when the mood takes me, ‘Honourable Mentions’ after the main trailer – links to new trailers that have premiered during the week and are worthy of attention (and occasional ‘Dishonourable Mentions’, covering the trailers which to be honest, are hypnotic in their badness but still demand to be seen).

And we’re starting off with the example that gave me the idea in the first place – the hilariously OTT trailer for the 1963 drama Shock Corridor, a film from writer/director Samuel Fuller, who regularly took on tricky subjects in a way that was, for the time, pretty edgy and adventurous (in this case, following a newspaper reporter who goes undercover as a patient at a mental asylum, but ends up losing his mind as a result). Of course, the trailer uses this as an excuse to crank the dial marked ‘Lurid’ up to eleven and then just keep on going, but it’s worth it just for the line: “And then, there was the day that Johnny was trapped in the ward of love-maddened women!”

Honourable Mention:

Just one this week – the gloriously Eighties-tastic full trailer for JJ Abrams’ Spielberg/Amblin Entertainment homage Super 8, which looks like it could be a genuine throwback to the era of E.T., Close Encounters and The Goonies. It’s now available in full HD at the Apple Trailers site, and is well worth a look.

Dishonourable Mention:

And then, on the other hand, there’s the teaser trailer for the not-very-promising-looking new screen version of Conan the Barbarian. A silly trailer-voice intro, lots of weak CGI smoke, and the line “I live! I love! I slay!” – in short, the kind of trailer that actually makes you want to avoid the movie in question.

Video: ‘E.T.:X’ (A fan trailer for an E.T. sequel)

Fan trailers. There’s a bewildering number of recut, manufactured or satirical trailers out there – from the original Internet sensation of The Shining recut to become a touching family drama about Jack Nicholson reconnecting with his new foster-son, to the determined Nathan Fillion fan who cut together a fictitious trailer casting the actor as the superhero Green Lantern (which, it has to be said, manages to be rather more exciting than the trailer for the genuine upcoming blockbuster). And now, via, I’ve found another – someone has created an extended (6-minute long) trailer for one sequel that’s thankfully never happened. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial has thankfully remained a standalone, but this entertainingly goofy video essentially imagines what would have happened if Steven Spielberg had handed the directorial duties over to Michael Bay. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s amazing how much of it works (especially the footage containing the grown-up Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore) – it’s daft and funny (even just for spotting exactly where all the movie footage comes from), and for anyone who actually watched E.T. first time around, it’s got occasional moments where it’s weirdly effective. Nonetheless, I’m still very glad that I don’t live in the parallel universe where ‘E.T.: X’ actually got made…