“Dark Phoenix” Final Trailer!

So…this is it. Presumably we’ll get some TV spots before the film comes out in June, but this is apparently the last full trailer. And unfortunately it has basically nothing new to say, nothing new to display, nothing new that audiences will pay to see. This trailer is pretty much identical to the last one, and that’s fine – it’s just not…great.

To be fair, though, there is some good stuff to dig our teeth into, even though it’s really not a lot. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey is pretty much the best thing we’ve seen so far; though, to be fair, she’s so good she kind of makes up for everything else. Of all the Game of Thrones actors, she is the one with the most promising future, in my opinion. Her showdown with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto looks to be epic stuff. Jessica Chastain still looks creepy.

And then…there’s all the rest, which I’ve discussed in my previous trailer review. Some new footage, mostly in space, and just a few glimpses of more action sequences and People Talking To Each Other About Jean™, plus a shot of Charles Xavier being engulfed by the Dark Phoenix. It still looks decent, but this is a final trailer: it should be a game-changer. It should have some stinger that hooks us, some big reveal or some really incredible shots that we haven’t seen before. It has none of those. It’s also kind of weird that this is the final trailer for a movie that comes out in June – is something wrong with the marketing for this film? Do I even need to ask?

Whatever. I just hope these trailers are misleading, and the final product is really good. My expectations are pretty much in the exact same place they were before.

Trailer Rating: 4/10

“The Lion King” Trailer!

For one of the most highly-anticipated movies of 2019, the marketing for The Lion King has been virtually nonexistent up until today. One teaser back in November, and then just…nothing. Until today. And today, they made up for all that with this.

It starts off nice and slow, tingling with suspense: young Simba and Nala are scampering through the Outlands beyond Pride Rock. Hyenas dart around them in the shadows, and the two lion cubs cower as a voice narrates to them about how “life’s not fair” for those who “spend their lives in the dark, begging for scraps”. Then the hyenas approach, and with them comes their leader: Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor). He looks terrifying: the way his tattered ear twitches as he advances on Simba; his ragged and disheveled coat of fur; his cold, malevolent voice. He’s perhaps lacking just a little something of the original, that almost exaggerated Shakespearean vibe to the character as voiced by Jeremy Irons, with his wild black mane and angular shape, but those are minor nitpicks – Scar looks absolutely awesome.

Then the trailer briefly turns into a nature-documentary: Mufasa brings Simba up onto Pride Rock, and in the voice of James Earl Jones tells us how the Pridelands exist in a “delicate balance”, while the music swells up, scenes flash by of Simba playing with other animals (including Zazu, voiced by John Oliver), and antelope prancing around. In this tranquil and idyllic corner of the world, we see Scar’s words made clear: Mufasa’s evil brother is bitterly jealous of this beautiful, bountiful kingdom – must be hard, when you live with a pack of ratty hyenas and your brother is living it up in this exquisitely-lit CGI paradise.

(I am aware of the fact that Mufasa and Scar apparently aren’t brothers, or are brothers, depending on which Disney executive you ask: I’m calling them brothers, for simplicity’s sake).

And, because Disney is evil, they even have the audacity to show us glimpses of a certain scene…hmm, is this a spoiler? Technically, I guess it is, so I won’t clarify exactly what this spoiler is, just that this scene in the trailer happens to involve a canyon, and a herd of stampeding water-buffalo. Yeah, they show us part of that scene.

In a throwback to the original animated feature, there’s a scene of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa walking, while the background behind them changes, and Simba grows older. I’m still left wondering how much of this film will literally just be a copy-and-paste of the original, but, hey, it looks beautiful.

We get our first good look at Nala, voiced by pop icon BeyoncĂ©, and she looks…like a lioness. Not much more to say about her than that. She doesn’t sing, if that’s what you were expecting.

But, on that note, the trailer is not entirely without some lively song-and-dance: it closes, in fact, with Timon and Pumbaa skipping merrily along through the jungle, singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, which is peculiarly hilarious.

It looks good. It looks really good, in fact. There’s an epic quality to all the scenes, or maybe that’s just the brilliant visual effects, but it has beauty and atmosphere. The tone is perfect. A better voice-cast could not have been assembled – though I still have some reservations about Donald Glover voicing Simba himself. The movie looks like it will be incredible – or, at the very least, it looks like it will look incredible.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Toy Story 4 Trailer Review!

Deeply conflicting though this whole endeavor might be, I know I’m still interested to see how the Toy Story saga comes to a close. I love the first two Toy Story movies to infinity and beyond, but the third was a massive letdown, and I still don’t want to get my hopes up for the fourth – the final installment in this series that is so deeply ingrained in the public conscious, and in the hearts of so many people.

It’s been a harrowing adventure getting to this trailer – the first teasers were rather dull, and the first look at Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was so different, that I think a lot of people have been slightly concerned, or maybe just uncertain whether or not this film is worth going to see in theaters.

But come on, this is the end of Toy Story. Even if it is awful, are you really going to miss out on this movie?

Well, let’s take a look at the trailer that Disney/Pixar dropped today, and we’ll see.

So it starts out with Woody (Tom Hanks) introducing us to a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale) – who is, as the name suggests, a fork: or, rather, a spork, as one of the other toys says when they meet this pessimistic piece of plastic.

It soon becomes clear that Forky is no ordinary toy. He was created by the toys’ owner, Bonnie, and he clearly has no idea why he’s alive, or what it means to be a toy: in his own words, “I was made for soup, salad, maybe chili, and then the trash!”

So he tries to escape, by literally jumping out of a moving vehicle. And Woody, who has decided that nothing is more important than keeping Bonnie happy, jumps out after him, in a desperate attempt to rescue the spork, and bring him back.

The logistics would suggest that a spork that goes flying out of the back of a trailer would be lost forever on the highway, but Woody finds him and tries to remind him of his duties as a toy: he is there to “help create happy memories”. Forky doesn’t seem particularly interested, and you can’t blame him – I mean, the chances of them ever finding Bonnie and the other toys again is slim to none.

But…all is not lost.

The two lost toys stumble wearily into the town of Grand Basin, which hosts a large fair and a massive antique store. Woody glances through the grimy window of this store and happens to spot something quite unusual: a very familiar lamp. It’s a real gasp-out-loud moment, and I love it. This lamp, of course, is Little Bo Peep’s lamp.

So Woody enters the antique store, and goes looking for Bo Peep. Instead, he finds a collection of extraordinarily creepy antique toys, led by a frightening little doll named Gabby Gabby, who rides around in a perambulator with ventriloquist-dummy bodyguards. Woody and Forky look to be in a dangerous situation when they are suddenly rescued by the intervention of Little Bo Peep herself, who comes flying out of nowhere, wielding her shepherd’s crook with skill – she expertly nabs Gabby Gabby and tosses her off a shelf. Seeing Bo Peep as a crime-fighting superhero is rather odd, and takes some getting used to, but there’s still something natural about her, that makes her likable, and fun. Clearly, something has happened to Bo Peep that we’re only now going to learn about – the mild-mannered shepherdess has become tougher and wiser, and she’s decided to take risks and go solo: she tells Woody that toys don’t have to spend their entire lives making kids happy: they can have lives of their own, on their own.

What’s really surprising is that we see Woody beginning to agree. The roles are now reversed: Forky asks him if they’re going back to find Bonnie, and Woody doesn’t even seem to hear him.

But the other toys aren’t going to just let their friend go this easily: Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) make a plan to go find Woody, and they end up at the fair too. There’s a clip of Bonnie searching desperately for Forky, and crying – Pixar’s going to have us all in tears by the end of this, of course.

Meanwhile, Woody is having the time of his life: in fact, he and Bo Peep are going to clubs and going on dates – “Change can be good,” Bo Peep tells him, and it seems she’s right.

Obviously, Woody will be having an existential crisis, as is normal for him, but this one seems more serious than anything he’s faced before. Something tells me that, at the end of this, the toys might all go their separate ways. Some might stay with Bonnie. Some might stay at this fair, where Bo Peep seems to be living. Some might just go off into the world. But nothing’s ever going back to the way things were: the trailer helpfully inserts a flashback of Andy, the toys’ original owner, playing with Buzz Lightyear and Jessie, to illustrate this point.

Except, it’s not Andy.

Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of Toy Story knows that Andy’s room had wallpaper decorated with clouds: it’s iconic. The cloud wallpaper is closely tied to the whole franchise, and was even featured in the first teaser for this movie. But here, where, supposedly, we are getting a flashback to the good old days when Andy owned the toys, there’s no cloud wallpaper: there’s large yellow stars on the walls, and they stand out like…like, large yellow stars. The kid clearly has Andy’s hat – so my best guess is that Buzz Lightyear and Jessie end up with Andy’s kid, somewhere down the line. I don’t want that to be true, but that’s my prediction.

Anyway, the trailer than packs a last little punch: there’s a scene with Woody and Bo Peep standing under a car in the rain, which looks like it’ll be incredibly emotional. “Kids lose their toys every day,” Bo Peep reminds Woody.

In the end, it’s Forky who, surprisingly, looks to be the moral compass of this movie: he tells Woody that “everything’s gonna be OK”, and then we see one last shot of Woody smiling, before the title appears, and the screen fades to black.

Now, in some ways, I really like this trailer: Pixar knows how to leave us sobbing in the theater, so I have no doubt it’ll be an emotional sledgehammer. But will it be a fitting conclusion to the story? Will we be given a chance to say goodbye to each and every one of these wonderful toys? Will Andy ever show up again? Where will Woody, Buzz and Bo end up spending the rest of their lives? There’s too many questions, and too little time to wrap up all the loose ends.

But yeah, the movie could be good, bad, or just middle-of-the-road, but it’s the last one. Let that sink in before you decide to skip this film in theaters.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

 

EDIT: I have learned that the star wallpaper is in fact in Toy Story 2, and I feel quite humiliated that I did not realize that – I guess my supposed knowledge is less than comprehensive. So, yeah, that probably is a flashback: I will, however, point out that the animation there does nothing to convince me of that, since the kid looks nothing like Andy from the original Toy Story movies.

James Gunn Reinstated by Disney

Last July, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from Disney after old tweets of his surfaced, in which he had touched on multiple sensitive and offensive topics, making jokes of them. Gunn appeared to apologize, and the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy came out in support of him – most notably Dave Bautista, who plays the character Drax in the Marvel films. There was a social media debate that lasted for months, James Gunn retreated from Twitter, and there was even speculation that Dave Bautista would also be let go.

James Gunn then got picked up by Warner Brothers in October to direct the DC Suicide Squad sequel. Meanwhile, Disney appeared to be looking for someone new to helm the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 film, but it seemed no one could be found. However, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he had supported the unanimous decision by Disney executives to fire Gunn, and, “I haven’t second-guessed their decision.”

Yeah, well, today, it became clear that he did.

Today, Disney brought James Gunn back to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. There was fanfare about it too: Marvel directors such as Peyton Reed and Scott Derrickson welcomed him back, and Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan quoted the franchise’s mascot Groot with the line “we are groot”, as if to say the Guardians family is back together at last.

James Gunn himself has issued multiple apologies for his offensive statements, and it is worth noting that the tweets were brought to light for overtly political reasons: on the other hand, was this really the right move? As a marketing strategy, certainly, this doesn’t seem like a good idea: for Marvel fans, it has already proven divisive, with some saying the firing was misguided and provoked by politics, and others claiming that Gunn shouldn’t get a second chance after some of the remarks he made.

For myself, I believe that Disney should not have rehired Gunn: I just feel that this will increase rifts between the opposing sides of the fandom. A new director, such as Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), could have filled Gunn’s shoes easily. I also understand, though, that a lot of people believe the outrage that sparked the firing was itself contrived, and that the tweets were made long ago. But I don’t know if I, personally, can feel comfortable supporting this decision yet. If I can have solid proof that Gunn’s old tweets do not represent who he is as a person (proof other than his own apologies) then maybe…maybe I can get on board. But this is simply not the sort of controversy that should have to accompany the MCU going forward, nor was it unavoidable. Disney could have hired a new director: however, we know now that they never even considered the possibility. They always meant to bring him back on. Which means Bob Iger lied.

And that…that is what makes me so angry. Why fire him in the first place, if you knew he was blameless? Iger’s plan seems to have been to let the scandal die down for a few months before bringing him back into the MCU. This is something that, even if it is entirely innocent, simply doesn’t look good.

Will it prove to be a blunder for Disney? Will James Gunn be re-fired and re-hired again? Well, we don’t know yet. But I know that from this point on, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 will become a hot-topic in the Marvel fandom, and maybe not in a good way. But who knows? Maybe Gunn (who apologized again today) really is a better person: maybe he isn’t the man that he implicated himself to be with those tweets: maybe.

This debate, I feel, does not end here.

Aladdin First Full-Length Trailer!

As someone who (a) was never a die-hard fan of the original animated Aladdin, (b) isn’t too fond of the Disney Remake trend, and (c) wasn’t impressed by either of the two teasers put out for this Disney Remake of a film I don’t really care one way or the other about – I went into this first full-length trailer more than slightly concerned that this would just be…flat. Meh. Forgettable.

But now, I see how wrong I was.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, this could just be a trick of the trailer-editing: after all, the teaser was greeted with so much backlash that Disney basically had to put together a trailer that was beautiful, nostalgic and action-packed, so I shouldn’t be surprised that this looks so good. Maybe they just stitched together all of the best parts from the movie, and the rest of the film is less than perfect.

But look here: the trailer opens with a cool action sequence of Aladdin (Mena Massoud) dodging some soldiers in the marketplace of Agrabah. After escaping from them, he runs straight into our beloved Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). The tingle of romance in the air is palpable: Massoud does a great job in this scene, and looks completely infatuated. Jasmine herself is in street-garb, maybe hiding her royal identity: it’s been said that in this remake, Jasmine takes more of an interest in the people of her city, and is trying to explore Agrabah to help the impoverished citizens.

The trailer then takes a turn, and gets dark: Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) strides confidently through his underground lair at 0:24, while Iago flies past (more on him in a minute). Jafar looks good enough from the back, though I’m still not sold on his voice. He leads Aladdin through the desert, promising him wealth: wealth enough “to impress a princess”. At 0:35 Jasmine appears again, but now she is in full royal garb: she’s got her tiger, and her guards, and she looks majestic. The palace itself looks absolutely stunning: we haven’t gotten quite enough wide shots of the entire palace, but what we see in this teaser is enough to make me feel very awed and humbled.

Anyway, the next shock is that Aladdin actually speaks! This is the first time that our lead character has said a single word in the promotional material for this film – such an achievement. Well, now that he actually does speak, his voice sounds fine: he’s not got an impressive voice, by any means. Better than Jafar’s, though.

The Cave of Wonders! At 0:43, we enter the Cave – it looks fine. Very blue-toned, still. Not, maybe, as wondrous as I would have liked, but good enough. But whatever: we’ve seen this same scene in all the teasers now, and – but wait! The Lamp! It’s so beautiful, and it’s filled with swirling blue light under what seems to be a transparent lid: a nice touch. I’m now holding my breath, waiting to see what I think of The Genie (Will Smith), The Genie that will emerge from this beautiful lamp and possibly make or break this movie, The Genie that looked so awful in the second teaser. The purple and blue smoke begins to rush from the lamp…

He looks fine.

The Genie looks fine. Still looks like a blue Will Smith, but the CGI has been much more exquisitely handled, and at least now it doesn’t seem like Will Smith’s head has been superimposed on someone else’s body. I mean, am I blown away by The Genie now? No, not exactly – that is to say, not in his Genie form – but he at least looks good enough now that he’s downright bizarre or even disturbing. There’s a snipper of “A Friend Like Me”, which seems good: Carpet has maracas, and that’s what really stood out the most to me about this scene. It really looks fun, and kind of awesome.

Our time in the Cave of Wonders is brief, as we are suddenly back in the desert, with Aladdin and The Genie side-by-side looking out over a barren landscape at 1:09. The Genie is only seen from a distance here, but the CGI looks not-so-good in that one shot.

But now, the trailer really starts making me interested – no, not just interested, but invested. The Genie transforms into, well, Will Smith, but not blue anymore, and it’s a relief. There’s some great humorous banter here. It’s great to see how Aladdin is prepared to just shamelessly take advantage of the fact that he now has three wishes at his disposal: he asks immediately “Can you make me a prince?”

The Genie, though, has a great response: “There’s a lot of gray area in: make me a prince” he states, and demonstrates by literally making a prince for Aladdin. I hope he has more scenes like that in the movie – it’s an almost Alice In Wonderland type joke, and I just love it.

Things start moving really quickly: The Genie changes Aladdin into Prince Ali; there’s a celebration in Agrabah – and another great shot of the palace; and there’s a party where The Genie is playing matchmaker for Aladdin and Jasmine. The next scene after that has Aladdin and Jasmine speaking to each other, probably after the party – Aladdin says he “thought a princess could go anywhere”. “Not this princess” Jasmine replies.

And then, we get our first look at “A Whole New World” – and it looks great. Pure magic, even for someone who really doesn’t consider the original Aladdin to be a great film. This looks really awesome. As our two lovebirds sing their hearts out, however, there’s other stuff going on onscreen that shouldn’t be ignored: Jasmine and Aladdin dancing, Aladdin falling towards the water, Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders again, Aladdin creeping along the rooftops of Agrabah, Aladdin in an icy landscape (wow, this trailer is going overboard to show us Aladdin after barely showing him at all in the first two teasers), and then Jafar with his cobra-staff, looking more impressive and villainous. At 2:02 we see Jasmine singing – this probably comes from the solo musical number they’ve given her for the remake. And then at 2:03 we have…

Wait, hold up…

Aladdin being chased by a giant Iago?

I honestly have no idea what this scene could be, or why Iago is gigantic, but it looks COOL, so I’m going to just accept it.

And then it ends, with one last beautiful glimpse of the Cave of Wonders. It looks very fun, very enjoyable, and everything looks so much better. I can’t wait to see more, and I can’t wait for May, to go see this film! Here’s hoping this is actually indicative of the finished product, and not just the work of some very savvy editors!

Trailer Rating: 8/10