TRAILER BREAKDOWN: EX MACHINA
These are the DROIDS we’re looking for.

written by Audy Elliott
Ex Machina or the “Great Machine” is a super naturalistic hyper sci-fi movie that preys on your heart as much as it does on Domnhall’s little cubicle trapped program engineer. The movie, written and directed by Alex Garland (writer for 28 Days Later), is predatory like a titanium razor-sharp hug from a beta tested C-3P-OH MY, Audrey Toutou looking robot. The teaser trailer for this sci-fi film is a socratic, scientific art of war like gesture, where one keeps his robot friends close, and the little mobster guy from Drive closer. There is a predominant motive apparent in the trailer where Gleeson is, in his own way, being controlled either by Oscar Isaac’s brilliant but eccentric robot “whose-a-was-it” creator Nathan, and the coy, angelic “Fritz Langian” Ava, played convincingly by Alicia Vikander, whose come-hither programmed look is convincingly enticing to our young pip. If this was Dickens' “Great Expectations” Gleeson’s Caleb character would be off to bigger and better ascendency to life (as he is called up his entry level techno-silicon valley like droning from a contest getting “the golden ticket” to have face to face time with C.E.O. Nathan) and like Pip in Great Expectations, he is chosen to attain a better wealth (of knowledge), a better shine (attention, study with the big secluded boss), but still couldn’t possess the one thing he wanted: Estella (Ava and her natty wig). You can clearly tell Caleb is not only fascinated with Ava, but also entranced by her needing to be seen by him. He can’t, for all intents and purposes carry a relationship with her even though they are both chained to the same endemic trapped circumstance. 

You can see that for a sci-fi thriller this trailer is made out of some good things: Oscar Isaac, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, to a claustrophobic, scenic environment where things are not as attractive as they seem, in Nathan’s mono-chromatic fortress of solitude/Resident Evil “Umbrella” research lab. But the main draw is Ava. She is the oil tin-can woman wild card to this movie. The more she becomes “real” and enticing, the more we are perplexed and awed. Clearly, it’s established that manipulation is going to be a precursor to Gleeson’s character before, during and possibly after all of the shrapnel of metallic bullshit resides. He cannot determine, if he is being manipulated by Nathan or Ava or both. Maybe, it’s the trailer that is manipulating us. Isaac looks as he is continuing to string together quality roles that show him off to people without shoving him into the lime light. This movie also comes together with the anticipation, of two principal actors for the upcoming Star Wars Episode 7. I feel it’s a nice added bonus in which I can see if they have chemistry or not, and how that might (probably will) translate to Abrams over-agreeable franchise operatic hypebeast. Isaac, who is small in stature, comes across like a whopping Teddy Roosevelt bull-like intensity that may be good natured, but is more than likely insincere, or again, this is what an impressive teaser trailer is showing us. Gleeson in contrast, plays the same character he did in the wildly off-beat Frank as a young, impressionable but likable kid that is the right combination of “gee whiz” and “oh gosh” with a little of his father’s acidic reactionary wit. 

 
 
TRAILER BREAKDOWN: FOCUS
Will Smith’s comeback movie and the sexual over-reliance of it.

written by Audy Elliott
The ironic thing about this film titled ‘Focus' is just how unfocused the presentation of the trailer is arranged in this stylistic double-crossed underworld, Romeo and Juliet, heartache. Does the mood want to be sardonically funny? Does it want to be “Sinatra” jazzy cool? Or does it want to be a madcap embodiment of a cautionary titled track of one of Rick Ross’ faux-luxurious crime capers? We don’t know with this movie but it’s apparent that certain scenes are drenched in clichéd angst hip-hop “ride or die chick” thug life misguided allusions. What we do know is that Will Smith is back and this is the role he intends to come crashing through movie aisles with. As always he looks slick, wearing clean esquire photo shoot suits, and extra fitted muscle shirts while exuding the right amount of Michael Bay arrogance. Focus is a con movie in which Margot Robbie flaunts her Australian goods with an eagerness to prove that there is a brain in there somewhere behind the high voltage of her blonde off-centered looks. A lot of the setup, jokes and conflict is played off of Robbie’s clichéd pin-up presence. There is one scene where an associate lustfully-verbal daps Smith, inquiring if indeed Will is sleeping with her – He claims he not, and she confirms it by actually being in the back seat during the misogynistic inquiry. It’s not as if Robbie can be mad. It’s clearly this sex kitten trait that got her in Will’s backseat to begin with. The ultimate question is, can Smith keep it under control as smoothly as he sells himself to be? It’s clear that chemistry sizzles with her and any unsuspecting B Actor she shares the screen with in this trailer: as she knows what she possesses and how to use it in getting Smith to lapdog scene to scene after her with the least questions asked. This role doesn’t challenge Smith as he can sleepwalk backwards with it after taking a whole bottle of unisoms and still courageously “heroing” his way to the end, due to his professional talent alone. 

So apparently, Smith is given an apprenticeship to Robbie’s character for her junior girl scout long-con merit badge. The movie is obvious in the way that you can’t trust anyone and regardless of what your trade, craft, or expertise in criminal activities warn you against, Smith just can’t say no to the “unicorn in the forest” white woman at the pool party winking back to him in the black Prada bikini. This marks Robbie’s opportunity to show people that she is more than a real life Barbie by aligning herself with a real life Ken Doll: Smith, (who seems to work on his physique more than his filmography) by throwing herself to play off of his chemistry and bankability as a follow up from Scorsese. Ff she can’t be taken seriously as an actress, at least she is “name fucking” the right people for her resume. In one scene it appears that she uses the same “cat-daddy” voice to Smith at the dinner table as she used to DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street. If you blink fast you could be confused that both movies merged with the same character. She is just about one note as you can get in a limited amount of trailer time. This is not Sharon Stone we are talking about here. Stone’s sexuality came from her understanding how to harness it, and defy it by daring the audience to not believe in it. Stone owned it. Robbie’s sexuality comes pre-packaged with no assembly required thus objectifying her attractiveness more than making it elemental to the plot and movie itself in an understated way of not having to say it, repeat it and force it. Unfortunately the trailer can’t move on until we are browbeaten into believe it.

The lens, and film of the movie look artificially good but only because its copycat good. There isn’t anything pervasive or tangible that screams anything other than glorified music video, nor are we given an opportunity to see Smith in anything else other than the sensitive, macho, tough, gentleman that emphasizes the “OH HELL NAW” caricature. Again he looks good in designer sunglasses being stoically chiseled like John Shaft’s millennial nephew, but do you expect Smith to show you anything else? The movie is delivered with hokey-narcissism in the vein of a smiley emoticon burnout.  

We all waited for Will Smith to come back, but this looks less than overwhelming but more than underwhelming – it’s perfectly just whelming. I would like to see Smith challenge himself in a way where immediately you know he gave a shit as an artist and would turn off the movie star auto pilot template. Smith at this point in his career, is the marketing “brand” everyman instead of a self-challenged crafted actor. If it fits within his brand, and template, he will say yes. If it’s too controversial he will denounce it with a politician’s impunity like his backwards ass excuse for turning down Django. In the past there were three guarantees: death, taxes and a big Will Smith movie opening weekend. Shit, thank god we can still count on death and taxes. I find it hard to believe that audiences will accept this movie to make it number one opening weekend, not with Will Smith sheepishly busting his ass over a caper plotted film. The long-con is on him with the self indulgent hopes this hackneyed premise, one dimensional co-star and ho-hum trailer will exceed its delusional expectations. Unfortunately, this time he doesn’t have any aliens or robots to play off nor the luxury of Martin Lawrence "yahooing" shared scenes to a disarranged hysteria. Now he’s got the pop-tart co-star doe eyeing her way into his belt buckle to less than promising cinematic contrived influences of better movies.
0:06  |  Opening overhead shot. Never seen that before, how original.

0:29  |  Establishing shot of the city, just to make sure we know which anonymous city we're in.

0:31  |  Camera shot of Will Smith’s back as he is walking (aka Shady Bad Guy camera trick #714)

1:11  |  Self reverent, Will Smith wants us all to know that he is still aware of his blackness and he reaches for his card at the bar.

1:27  |  Second camera shot of Will Smith’s back shot in a white suit and brightly lit hallway, implication of a character “turn." He is no longer an antagonist but going to be the good guy now.

1:46  |   Will looks longingly up the stairs at Margot Robbie... the Feels… ooooh the feels!! 

 
 
TRAILER BREAKDOWN: INTERSTELLAR
Nolan's time and space epic that no one is talking about.
TEN... NINE… EIGHT… SEVEN… SIX… FIVE... A looming countdown is the connective spine at the heart of the trailer adding to the anticipation of the characters launching into the great unknown frantically gripped with a mix of fear and wonderment. Han Zimmer’s score, per usual soars and gives the trailer a feeling of not aspiring to reach the stars but actually able to do so. Love is the most apparent theme that drives McConaughey to become a heartlanded, yahoo, earnest astronaut, as he promises to his young daughter that he is leaving, and he is leaving to prove his love for her. You get the usual wonderful placement and blocking with Nolan’s IMAX compositions with strong side to side camera action. Anne Hathaway, ditched the catskin and night goggles, to be the female concerning monotone voice of reason. Predicated by all of this is that there seems to be strong parallels of flashbacks in McConaughey’s reality merging with Chastain’s adult longing real timeline. 

So, with the demonstration of tremendous thundering cinematic power placed into the trailer, and the brand name of Nolan, why is no one excited or anticipating this movie? This is Christopher Nolan we are talking about here. He is box office money. Big Box Office money. He set the IMAX world on its over-leansed ears and practically reinvented what direction you could go with superheroes. But for some reason or another a collective meh is transcribed with a casual malaise. Interstellar is impressive, but at a cost - we expected it to be. Are we at the point with Nolan’s films that because he doesn’t have to prove anything, we don’t have to prove our anticipation with film nerd gusto? I don’t think so, but I do think with this particular movie, based upon its limited news, and purposefully crafted trailers that seemed creatively contractually bound by narrative non-disclosure agreements, there is a groundswell of people clutching dollar bills. I honestly still feel this movie will do well and by all accounts be another solid to very good movie feather in Nolan’s cap. It doesn’t look like Inception as much as it’s looking like Prestige. And I own Prestige, but it didn’t light the world of fire. To me, after all, he is commandeering at certain filmmaking level where no matter what he does, his fans will turn out, and honestly how many directors now a days can pull that feat off? 

I for one like the trailer and feel it gives me enough but not the whole plot. And to their credit, I say "HA-ZA" with movie trailers practically giving you all the details in 2 – 3 minute spots and some with four different trailers coming out in succession on Youtube; it’s shamefully to the point where you could faintly put together a jigsaw puzzle to the actual critical details of a movie. Interstellar has a lot of promise that will obviously transcends themes, just as much as Hathaway’s didactic speech about love. However, I hope we are not at the point of taking Nolan for granted, because his filmmaking deserves much more than that: regardless of whether we don’t know or care to know what retread space ideas could be explored, or possibly won’t be, in this movie, I’m buckling my safety belt. Nolan is Nolan and that is good enough for me and definitely more than good enough for anybody else.
0:33  |  You get the first shot of the ship, which looks cool and expected. No Xenomorph’s were killed in the making of this movie!!    

1:04  |  What is that??? Three things stood out to me: 1) It looks like a Black guy not named Morgan Freeman is in this film 2) It looks like a liquid sleeping chamber perhaps? 3) It’s a black guy in a liquid sleeping chamber. I hope it doesn’t foreshadow a death cause we got to keep out minority characters alive, Nolan! 

1:18  |  McConaughey’s character says to a little girl, “I love you” who I assume is his daughter, and is Jessica Chastain’s younger self.

1:44  |  The first time you see an actual planet that the crew lands on. The ice planet looks vivid under Nolan’s IMAX camera, but my gut is telling me there is danger with this planet than meets the eye. This IS Nolan we are talking about after all.     

2:07  |  Topher Grace sighting?? He still alive and making films??? Damn... :mind blown:

 
 
TRAILER BREAKDOWN: BIRDMAN
This is the most normal Michael Keaton’s ever looked

Who are you??? I’m Birdman! For the 12 people on the planet that ever wondered what happened to Michael Keaton, your questions are weirdly answered. In the movie, ‘Birdman,’ directed by Alejandro Inarritu, we see the titled star walking down a long hallway that appears to be in the back of a stage. Disgruntled and fragmented out of his mind, he cruise missiles his way to the dressing room as the movie’s mockumentary film style hits you in the face, and in the background, a stripped down version of the excellent Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ is playing. The premise of this strange but amusing film is that Keaton plays “a washed up actor who once played an iconic superhero” who must overcome his fragile ego as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim this past glory. I love a good meta storyline and this one looks like it would not disappoint. This trailer has everything a good trailer should show – familiar faces, an intriguing premise without giving away all the critical plot points, and visual flair. It shouldn’t take Keaton a very long time to connect with the audience under this character. Inarritu, who is a very good director but not one of my personal favorites has an impressive catalog with ‘Babel’, ‘Amores Perros’, ’21 Grams’ and ‘Biutiful." He seems to want to personally experiment in a different theme from his typically form with 'Birdman.' This is the first time I recognize that Inarritu is blending different movie forms from fantasy to slapstick humor to a study of an washed up actor to shades of 'Donnie Darko' - post apocalyptic  derangement. 'Birdman' is a realistic superhero movie spoof that ironically saves Keaton’s career as much as the genre destroyed it. We shall wait and see. 

0:36  |  “How did we end up here – In this Dump, You were a movie star?” Smash through that door Keaton META ALERT!!!

0:53  |  Emma stone looking longingly at a post apocalyptic comet headed towards her, should I be concerned?

1:03  |  Marching Band on stage in a wide lens camera angle, but no Nick Cannon gyp!

1:21  |  Keaton vs Norton slapboxing in their underwear is already better than Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice 


Birdman is released in theaters October 17.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis