“Last Christmas” Trailer!

I waited a very long time for this trailer to drop last night, but eventually sleep beckoned, so I apologize for not rushing out a review at 1 A.M. This morning, when I woke up to find Last Christmas and Emilia Clarke trending, I thought I would have very little to talk about in a review: I watched it. It looked cute, charming, but inconsequential. I was already planning an excuse not to write about it – when I saw the main topic of discussion about this trailer, and realized that this has sparked a debate so weird and laughable, I simply had to get involved.

For those unaware, Last Christmas is a cheerful holiday rom-com inspired by the music of George Michael (though, there’s really no sign of that inspiration in the trailer, other than the accompanying music). It stars Emilia Clarke as a cynical, embittered Londoner suffering from what appears to be alcoholism, working as a Christmas elf in a department store. Somewhere in between electrocuting fish and getting yelled at by her store manager, Clarke’s character, Kate, runs into a man named Tom who seems almost too good to be true, always smiling and laughing, who donates to charity, volunteers at a homeless shelter, and is basically an all-around Awesome Person. Tom and Kate fall in love, and…well, it’s a romantic comedy. They fall in love. Is there supposed to be any more to it than that?

According to the internet, yes. The general consensus is that there’s no way this movie could ever be entirely happy. I’ve seen two theories gaining traction that both are theoretically plausible, but highly unlikely: the first is that Tom is so pure of heart that he must be an angel, come to change Kate’s life and teach her the values of love and Christmas spirit, etc, etc. The other, sadly, is that Kate, whom we see being wheeled into a hospital, communicating with a therapist, and getting wildly drunk, is actually dying, and that Tom is a hallucination, some last-ditch attempt by her brain to get her to change her ways – or that Kate’s condition is actually heart problems, and that Tom is the ghost of the heart donor who saved her life. We’ve seen funny plays on “I gave you my heart” before, but this one really takes the cake.

Is it that hard to believe that Henry Golding’s character Tom is just a decent guy?

If any of these theories turn out to be true, it would certainly be a shocking and bittersweet conclusion to what, on the surface, looks like a really sweet Christmas comedy. It would also be a startling choice from Emilia Clarke, who recently revealed that she barely survived two life-threatening brain aneurysms. I kind of want this to just be a cheerful, low-stakes romantic comedy that doesn’t have to be a tearjerker – we’re already going to be crying our eyes out over Little Women, another holiday movie: can’t anything just be nice? Do we absolutely have to make it weird?

What are your thoughts? Do you think the theories carry any weight, or is this movie just what it appears to be – Emilia Clarke dancing around in a bright green elf-costume while Henry Golding stands by, looking handsome and too-pure-for-this-world? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7/10

“1917” First Trailer!

It’s shaping up to be a good year for World War I dramas – between this grim, harrowing account of two men racing against time to prevent a massacre on the battlefield, to The King’s Man, which seems to present a more romanticized view of British spies and assassins weaving through early 20th Century politics, pretty much all your bases are covered. So let’s talk about the first trailer for Sam Mendes’ 1917, which has just dropped today.

First up, the fact that it’s a joint Universal Studios/DreamWorks Pictures release stunned me right off the bat – I’m just not used to seeing the DreamWorks logo before a trailer filled with mustard gas, military chaos and the horrors of war: but here we are, and that’s what we’ve got. The trailer is masterfully edited to reflect the claustrophobia of the trenches on the front lines: it opens with a man running across an open field, being peppered with bullets and bombs, but the camera frame shrinks tighter and tighter around him, quickly becoming the second 1 in 1917, while the man himself is lost in a cloud of smoke. That’s quickly followed by darkly-lit shots of soldiers creeping through an abandoned building, guns at the ready – the shadows encroach around them oppressively before being abruptly shredded by a bomb exploding in their midst. As the air rings around the survivors, their voices are muffled and distant, their figures merely dark silhouettes in a fog. There are haunting shots of men wading through rivers clogged with dead bodies, or staring into the ever more rapidly shrinking title cards as if they’re caught in the enemy’s crosshairs, while the music beats in time to their gunfire.

And then, of course, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch: no decent British historical fiction would feel right without him. The cast also includes Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Richard Madden – as of right now, the film looks very (as in, entirely) male-driven: there’s only a single female character credited on IMDb, and since she doesn’t have a name except for “Mother”, I’ll bet she’s very unimportant to the story. That’s not necessarily a mark against the film, but plenty of war dramas can and do find enough time for at least one named female character to appear: though they’re typically little more than plot devices who inspire the soldiers to invoke their name as they charge into battle, or who can cry over said soldiers when their dead bodies are returned home for burial.

All in all, though, the film looks very good: with the market currently wanting more war dramas, I hope 1917 has enough appeal to win out over bigger, more mainstream releases like Roland Emmerich’s Midway, or The King’s Man.

Trailer Rating: 5/10

“Gemini Man” Second Trailer!

Nobody’s changed the boring sci-fi logo for this film, which is a real shame – but at least this time around they’ve made it glow, so that’s something. Seriously, I give them three months to swap that logo out for something even remotely interesting, and they give me the exact same thing but in neon blue?

As for the trailer itself, its content has gotten more convoluted than last time, but at least they’ve extracted some of the cringey dialogue like “You made a person out of another person”. But just wait; I’m sure that memorable line is still somewhere in the movie itself, they’ll just trick you into thinking they’ve changed so they can get you into the theater. Who would do such a thing?, you might ask. David Benioff, I might answer in this hypothetical scenario. Benioff, one of the two Game of Thrones screenwriters now literally synonymous with “bad writers” in Google’s database,  is undoubtedly going through a hard time – but that honestly doesn’t excuse the fact that he apparently wrote this film: and besides, he’s getting a job with Disney writing a Star Wars trilogy, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Will Smith still seems to be trying really hard to sell this story about an assassin trying to rescue his young clone from a life of brainwashing and manipulation: granted, Gemini Man is able to get to that premise before the upcoming Marvel film Black Widow, which looks like it might include that element as well. But take a wild guess which one will succeed. Anyway, one problem with the trailer is that Will Smith – obviously – plays both himself and his younger-looking clone, and it’s very difficult to figure out when he’s talking or his clone is; leaving aside the fact that they look similar enough that it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. And to top it off, Will Smith is the film’s only selling point, so he has to be the brunt of really bad title-card puns, like “Who WILL Save You?”

One thing this trailer improves is its action: apparently you can do quite a lot with a bicycle – though said bicycle scene seems to be the film’s crown jewel of action scenes so far, which makes me a little nervous. We’ve got a fight in a hardware store with young Will Smith riding a tank into battle – I think it’s young Will Smith, could be the random dude in the suit who shows up occasionally to look evil, though. There’s one cool sequence where our Will Smith throws a grenade at young Will Smith, only to have young Will Smith hit it with a bullet in mid-air and send it ricocheting back. Honestly, I’m having a very hard time finding anything interesting here at all. And having Will Smith (our Will Smith, not young Will Smith) tell the other Will Smith ominously at the end of the trailer that “This has to be stopped, because what if somebody knew what we really are?” – well, that doesn’t cut it either. Because I don’t frankly care what they really are: they’re Will Smith and a CGI construct of Will Smith – the trailers haven’t given me any reason to want to see what happens to them, or what secrets about their past might be uncovered.

Trailer Rating: 4/10

“Harriet” Trailer!

This trailer makes me so happy and so sad at the same time: happy, because it’s about time someone adapted the incredible story of Harriet Tubman to the big screen; sad, because it’s a Focus Features film, and mainstream audiences rarely, if ever, go to see those in theaters (last I checked, the official trailer had less than a hundred likes on YouTube)  – for this one, though, I have to hope they’ll make an exception: it can’t just be critics who get to experience this!

The film will explore the true story of the life and times of Harriet Tubman, the legendary black abolitionist who fought to free African Americans from the horrors of slavery, as one of the leading conductors on the Underground Railway. The trailer showcases drama, and a lot of action: unusual for Focus Features, which tends to be more small-scale and intimate – but Harriet looks to have a whole bunch of battles and the like, led by one really awesome and inspiring black heroine. Plus, it’s got a really catchy song. Harriet herself will be played by Cynthia Erivo (inspired casting), while Janelle Monáe also has a substantial role in the film – yes, like, the real Janelle Monáe: as in, how many good reasons do I need to give you to go see this film when it comes out in November? Honestly, it looks better than the Fred Rogers biopic also premiering that month, and I didn’t expect that at all.

Maybe the film won’t be as good as it looks to be, but this trailer is a work of art: until I actually see substantial proof that I’m wrong, I’m declaring this to be one of those films that you must see at some point, even if you catch it on streaming afterwards or whatnot.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

“A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” Trailer!

Fred Rogers is one of those incredible, iconic figures that lingers in the background of the public conscious – at times, he almost seems less like a person than an embodiment of some higher concept, some divine enigma. There’s no way anyone could ever be Fred Rogers, because Fred Rogers literally isn’t possible in the world we live in. Even during the time he lived in, he was viewed as an eccentric, an anomaly. These days, he’s positively alien.

But Tom Hanks is going to try to recall the man’s presence into his own performance as Fred Rogers in the upcoming biopic A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, regardless of how difficult that task will be. The first trailer, released today, is a tantalizing glimpse into a world in which Rogers still lived and breathed, a world so blessed by his presence that people would spontaneously start singing the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood theme song on subway trains when they spotted him (something that actually happened in real life). It’s a world where cynical journalists could learn the values of empathy and compassion from the man himself. It’s a world that seems so unreal it might be set in an alternate reality.

And as for Hanks, he’s so very…Hanks…it’s hard to imagine that he is Fred Rogers, no matter how many sweaters and sneakers he goes through: his voice, for one thing, sounds very little like Rogers’, and his face is much younger-looking (casual observation: how is it that Tom Hanks ages but doesn’t get old?). It’s hard to tell from a trailer, too much of which is focused on our cynical journalist and his family dynamics, but Hanks hasn’t yet captured the essence of Fred Rogers, at least for me.

For comparison, here is Fred, the man himself:

"A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood" Trailer! 1
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And here is Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, looking oddly plastic:

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I mean, appearances are beside the point. Tom Hanks is a great actor, one of the best, and that’s what’s going to make or break this movie. But I’m keeping my expectations to a minimum for the moment.

Trailer Rating: 5/10

“The King’s Man” First Trailer!

No offense to director Matthew Vaughn, but now was probably the worst possible time to release this trailer. At least for me – probably only for me.

You see, I have only recently finished watching The Last Czars on Netflix: a semi-dramatized documentary about the final days of the Russian Czar Nicholas and his entire family, who were brutally murdered in 1918 during the Bolshevik Revolution. Their story was very closely linked with that of the highly mysterious monk and spiritual healer Grigori Rasputin. Now, I went into this six-episode series knowing full well what happened to each and every one of these people, and how they died horrific deaths: what I did not know was how the series would choose to depict each and every one in the most awful ways imaginable – from Rasputin’s terrifying ability to defy death several times even while he was poisoned and brutally injured, to the slow and agonizing deaths of the Czar’s four daughters, who were probably the last of the family to perish since they were wearing diamonds sewn into their clothes, granting them a temporary immunity to their murderers’ bullets. I was expecting the deaths to happen off-screen, preferably with a minimum amount of anguished screaming. I watched it at night (could it get any worse?), and I couldn’t sleep for hours afterward. The next morning I tried as hard as I could to forget what I had just witnessed.

And who shows up in today’s first trailer for the upcoming spy thriller The King’s Man? That’s right – the bearded monk Rasputin, looking rather more fictionalized, and showing an impressive skill at wielding…glass ornaments? Teapots? I’m not entirely sure what he’s holding at the 1:18 mark, but it’s also very difficult to focus on anything other than those wide eyes, eyes which supposedly hypnotized and enchanted the Czarina of Russia, to the point where she was unable to break free of his spell. I suspect we even see the Czarina in the trailer: one of the two women clinging to Rasputin’s arm as he strides through an elegant ballroom. Then again, the characters in this film are clearly only loosed based on their historical counterparts, since the IMDb page reveals that the fabled spy Mata Hari will also be in this movie, played by Gemma Arterton (who’s been getting her fair share of spy thrillers recently, coming off the unexpected success of Murder Mystery on Netflix), alongside characters like Field Marshall Haig; U.S. President Woodrow Wilson; the Kaiser Wilhelm II, Czar Nicholas II, and King George V of England, all played by Tom Hollander, which makes me suggest that somehow all three warring heads of state are going to be revealed to be the same man; and…and Rasputin’s real-life killer, the Russian prince Felix Yusupov (played by Daniel Brühl, Marvel’s “Baron Zemo”).

And this is what has me slightly upset. Not the fact that Rasputin is actually as terrifying as all get-out, and his portrayal in this film by Rhys Ifans looks even freakier (well, okay, that too), but the knowledge that this film is going to necessarily fictionalize a whole bunch of this part of history. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like historical fiction. Usually, seeing Mata Hari cross paths with Rasputin wouldn’t be a problem for me – but coming at this time, just after I’ve watched the most grim, grisly, realistic depiction of this very intense period of human history…well, it’s just coming at a bad time. Especially because this has so much potential: it could do so many things – it could, for instance, seek to capitalize on the very popular myths of the “escape” of Russian princess Anastasia Romanov. Let me stress that those are myths: trust me, I’ve just watched the documentary – the bodies of all seven Romanovs have been found as of this writing, and Anastasia is among them. She did not escape, no matter how much we may want to believe that she did. I’m going to make myself cry just writing this, because I loved imagining all the creative ways in which she could have made her daring escape from the House of Special Purpose. But, sadly, none of it’s true.

Anyway…that’s all I’m trying to say. At this moment, watching this trailer, my emotions on the subject are very raw, and I’m not currently relishing the idea of watching our British protagonists smuggle the princess out of Russia before the Bolsheviks (or Mata Hari?) can catch her. I don’t even know if that’s one of the film’s plot points – but if it is, I’d rather not know about it for a little while.

Moving on. The rest of the trailer looks really good, though I do have one other complaint. Namely, that this film already looks like it’s trying to copy certain aspects of my all-time favorite World War 1 film, Wonder Woman. Like, literally, right down to some of the shots in the trailer, such as when Ralph Fiennes (I think it’s him, at any rate) gets thrown through a wall by an explosion, while holding what looks to be a Germanic shield of some sort: it’s basically this shot:

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But with a lot less dimension: seriously, if you’re going to throw a guy through a wall, have him…I don’t know, fall from a height or something? Instead the man in question just falls onto a really barren patch of gray dirt. Not very visually interesting, if you ask me.

Aside from probably coincidental similarities (such as the scene of British soldiers going up over the trenches), we also have the peculiar appearance of a very familiar name in the cast: that of General Ludendorff, whom Wonder Woman fans will remember for his large role in that film, where he was…a glowing superhuman possessed by the Greek god Ares. I know, I was just complaining about fictionalization.

But leaving all that aside, I’m still a sucker for anything set during the Great War; I like Ralph Fiennes as an actor; and I think this film definitely has potential. It’s got elegance, wit, and a good dose of classic British daring-do. Let’s see how it is – and whether it’s got Mata Hari smuggling Anastasia out of a Russian empire controlled by King George – before we make any assumptions.

Trailer Rating: 6/10

“Charlie’s Angels” Trailer Review!

My first thought while watching this trailer was that Sir Patrick Stewart clearly didn’t want to be left out of all the wickedly charming fun that his good friend, Sir Ian McKellen, is having in The Good Liar. Yes, the first trailer for the upcoming spy-thriller Charlie’s Angels has dropped, giving us our first look at a fun, diverse cast of all-female heroines – and a cameo from Stewart, who strolls into the scene grinning from ear to ear. Interestingly, the two films will probably have to go up against each other in the busy November scene. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d predict that Charlie’s Angels will have the slight advantage at the box-office, due to its more light-hearted, comedic tone. But both films will likely be swallowed up in Frozen 2 fever, which leaves The Good Liar with the last laugh, as it can at least stick around long enough for an awards-season bonus round, whereas Charlie’s Angels…probably can’t.

But this film has something that too few films can boast: the aforementioned all-female lead cast. Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska – and Naomi Scott, still fresh off her own magic carpet-ride: here, though, Disney’s newest princess is a government whistle-blower, trying to prevent the creation of a dangerous new weapon that could lead to global catastrophe. These three talented women come together under the direction of Elizabeth Banks from The Hunger Games, who also stars in the movie as the leader of the team.

The action and adventure elements showcased in the trailer do tend to verge on the over-the-top and ridiculous – not so much because the stunts and situations themselves are humorous, but because the actresses are: even Scott, who was actually rather dramatic in Aladdin, but plays wide-eyed naivete very well here. If you’re looking for a Mission: Impossible movie, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place. But if you’re looking for Project Runway meets Mission: Impossible, well…that’s a little more like it. The actresses are perfect paragons of modern fashion.

And, the other notable thing to mention: the song. I feel like I’d be guilty of a crime if I didn’t mention it, considering the way this film is pushing it as if it’s one of the main marketing attractions. A collaboration of three talented musicians like Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey is never a bad idea, and it sounds pretty good from what we hear of it in the trailer, but seriously, the film shouldn’t have to rely on its soundtrack to sell tickets. The cast pretty much sells itself.

One last thing: the trailer ends with the women answering, almost as if brainwashed, to the commands of some robotic voice called “Charlie”, which presumably explains the film’s title, but I (casual viewer that I am) have no idea what I’m supposed to make of that: a hint of suspense in an otherwise upbeat trailer? Just a fun nod to the 1970s TV series this film is based on?

Trailer Rating: 7.5/10

“The Good Liar” Trailer Review!

Sir Ian McKellen is one of the more interesting and unique faces on the Hollywood scene, popping up every now and again in a bizarre array of roles, from the kindly wizard Gandalf, to British novelist Arthur Conan Doyle, to a talking clock in Beauty & The Beast, and then disappearing quietly. Now, the Shakespearean actor is looking to nab his first Academy Award (not to mention a tidy profit at the box-office) with an elegant thriller where he will portray the cunning con-man Roy Courtnay, as he attempts to swindle a wealthy widow (Helen Mirren) out of her fortune.

The trailer itself is a work of art, beautifully edited and armed with the combined talents of McKellen’s charming (but oh, so evil) criminal and killer, and Mirren’s upper-class delicacy – whether arguing with her grandson or sprawled in shock across a floor, the actress is a portrait of perfection in these two minutes of action, suspense, and romantic drama.

Well, let’s amend that to just drama. While the official synopsis claims that McKellen’s character will develop true feelings for Mirren, leading to conflicts between him and his shadier business-associates, we see virtually none of that here – for the better, in my opinion. We’ve seen a sweet, mild-mannered McKellen so many times over the duration of his career that it will be a nice change to have him show off just how dangerous and dastardly he can be. That’s the McKellen we want to see, and that’s the McKellen we do see here – he’s throwing people in front of moving trains and smiling over his wicked schemes. He even has a villainous mustache! But you better savor this version of the character now, before the film reveals him to be a troubled soul who’s really not quite as bad as he makes out to be.

The film has a juicy release date in the middle of November, where it will undoubtedly be ripe for awards season (apart from McKellen, I could see Russell Tovey maybe winning some much-needed recognition for work in the film, where he plays Mirren’s concerned grandson), and could also rake in a comfortable profit at the box-office – director Bill Condon was the mastermind behind the huge financial successes of Beauty & The Beast and the final two Twilight movies.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

“Frozen 2” Official Trailer!

Brisk and tightly-paced, the first Frozen 2 full-length trailer gives us some interesting food for thought, but not a whole lot of answers to our burning questions. We do know, now, that the story will indeed focus on Queen Elsa’s magic, specifically its origins, as many suspected after the first teaser trailer.

So, right upfront we see the same beach-scene from the teaser, with Elsa running across the ocean, apparently trying to escape – but this time we see what happens after she plunges underwater, seemingly crushed by tons of falling ice. Obviously, she doesn’t die (thank you, plot armor!), but she does have a really weird encounter with a blue glowing horse…underwater. The horse seems to scare her, before it disappears in a cloud of bubbles. I don’t know what that’s about.

Vague exposition is then provided by my absolute least-favorite characters from the first Frozen movie: the Trolls. I mean, yeah, it makes sense that they might know what to do, since the chief Troll (his name is Pabbie, apparently, but I refuse to use that ridiculous name) was the one who originally made Elsa and Anna’s lives miserable. The Trolls sound concerned about Elsa’s powers and helpfully remind her that “the past is not what it seems”, while also providing flashbacks of a young Elsa staring out of the palace window, at the Northern Lights in the sky. The Trolls don’t seem to be the only people concerned for some reason, though: we can clearly see a whole bunch of citizens of Arendelle standing around in the background while Pabbie is talking – it seems clear: Elsa must have done something truly horrible with her ice-powers again, and she needs to figure out how to make it stop.

But…we get a glimpse of what she’s up to these days, and honestly it seems pretty innocent. She’s using magic to conjure up beautiful spectral horses (like the one she encountered earlier, perhaps?), giants, and amazing firework-displays – and she looks really happy about it. Who wouldn’t be? It looks pretty harmless. But no, for some reason, Elsa, Anna, Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff, and their snowman Olaf, all have to pack up and head north, on a journey “across the enchanted lands”, according to them Trolls. Like, seriously, Trolls? You couldn’t even give them a map, or decent directions? Go north across the enchanted lands. What does that even mean? And why do they have to go north? Is there something there that will explain Elsa’s powers?

Clearly, something goes wrong with their little road-trip (thanks a lot, Trolls), because we see Anna and Olaf off on their own, boating down a river in a charming little ice-canoe – and plunging over a waterfall. There’s a pink wildfire spreading through an autumnal forest, and interestingly we can people in gray outfits running away from it: do they live here? Then it looks like the fire was caused by Elsa, as it takes the shape of some hopping, glowing, star-burst thing. Kristoff swoops in on a reindeer to save Anna – except…wait a moment. It’s a quick scene, but we clearly see Anna running towards Elsa, who is curled up on the ground, motionless, when Kristoff rides in and grabs Anna. Why would he do that? Is Kristoff evil? What is going on?

Oh I see, we’re going “into the unknown”, now, thanks to Troll-narration.

Then we get more Trolls, and now they’re talking about how they “always feared” that Elsa’s powers were “too much for this world”. Again, though, the scenes used to back up this preposterous claim are happy, beautiful ones of Elsa conjuring giant snowflakes and stuff – though I’m really confused about one particular scene of her skiing up an ice-ramp and then just standing still, staring up at thousands of tiny crystal-diamonds falling from the sky. But on a side-note, the city of Arendelle has never looked as beautiful as it does in this trailer.

The trailer ends on an ominous note. Elsa and Anna walk hand-in-hand into a foggy circle of standing stones: as someone who knows my Celtic history, I can tell you for a fact that nothing good comes of walking into a circle of standing stones. Those are places of sacrifice, typically of the ritualistic variety.

And the last shot is of Elsa cowering behind a tree, as, in the background, something huge rises up from the darkness.

So, yeah. Something has gone wrong in Arendelle. I’m blaming it on the Trolls, personally, but it definitely looks like we’ll see the mysterious origins of Elsa’s power: is she the only one out there like her? If there are others, what can they do? After the first teaser, there was a lot of speculation that Elsa would run into somebody with Autumn-powers, since that trailer featured so much Autumn imagery, like falling leaves and stuff. Not as much of that shows up here, and we don’t even see the strange boy and girl that we glimpsed in the teaser.

So what do you think? What’s going on? How can Elsa fix this situation – and, what exactly is the situation? Too many Trolls, not enough answers.

Trailer Rating: 7/10

“Ad Astra” Trailer Review!

It’s been difficult for any sci-fi films to compete with the indomitable force that is Star Wars over the last couple of years, and so we’ve seen the genre descend into something of a niche – sci-fi and space-adventure films like Gravity and Interstellar still win awards and get critical praise, but tend to fall short at the box-office. Sci-fi adaptations have been few and far between: even Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which should be an easy win for any studio, has been stuck in stasis over at Apple TV.

This year, 20th Century FOX (now owned by Disney) is going to be attempting the impossible, with a new, completely-original sci-fi epic that transforms award-bait Brad Pitt into an astronaut living in the shadow of his father, who was lost in the deep expanses of space. He’s got all the trademarks of one of your generic astronaut protagonist of the last few years – maybe it’s just the astronaut suit and the sort of vaguely Midwestern name, but our hero Roy McBride feels like an amalgamation of many stellar explorers who have come before.

The first part of the new Ad Astra trailer only seems to reinforce this: Liv Tyler gets the thankless job of playing Roy’s wife – again, one of the archetypal characters in modern astronaut thrillers. After meeting her, we’re then treated to some fairly generic explosions on the International Space Station that send Roy plummeting towards the surface of the Earth (I honestly have no clue how he makes it out of that alive). As he wakes up in a hospital bed, I’m already yawning and waiting for this to turn into a sequel to Gravity.

Yeah, no.

Immediately after that point, the trailer changes radically – Tyler’s character is going on about fires and explosions all over the world, Pitt discovers that his father is alive somewhere on the far side of the solar system, working on alien tech that could destroy the earth, and there’s…a car-chase on the Moon? The way this trailer plays on your subdued expectations, and makes you think you’re watching another sad, ponderous astronaut drama: and then suddenly throws you into a full-speed-ahead science-fiction epic? That’s brilliant. It’s like the best of both worlds – because don’t get me wrong, the trailer still unabashedly shows off how much Ad Astra wants praise (and awards) from critics; aside from Pitt and Tyler, the film also stars Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones and rising star Ruth Negga (who, unfortunately, is not seen in the trailer).

And yes, there is one epic action-scene on the Moon, with astronauts in little space-buggies zipping around shooting at each other – you honestly can’t go wrong with something like that.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

“Toy Story 4” Final Trailer!

On June 21, for the last time, we will join Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Little Bo Peep and their gang of toys on an epic adventure to save a spork.

While the previous trailers for this final Toy Story outing have mostly been designed to bring tears to our eyes and leave us heartbroken, this one is a fun and goofy callback to this franchise’s golden age and the characters we love – with a few new additions, like the aforementioned Forky the spork, as well as Canada’s Greatest Stuntman, Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) and a plushy duo voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key. Bo Peep herself might as well count as a new addition, considering how much she’s changed since her last appearance in 1999.

The new trailer gives us a lot of great humor but very few plot details, so there’s not exactly a lot to discuss. Woody is taking a leap of faith on the back of a toy-motorcycle, Bo Peep is a daring adventurer who seems to have great proficiency at zip-lining, and Bunny and Ducky ambush an elderly lady – which, to me, is the most interesting moment in the trailer: in all the previous Toy Story movies, the toys have kept their existence a secret, “playing dead” when a human would enter a room – but here we see them literally attacking a lady. I’ll be interested to see if that has any consequences, or if it’s a purely hypothetical scenario, as it’s edited to look like in the trailer. Even if it is, Bunny and Ducky imply in their conversation with Buzz Lightyear that they’ve done “the ole’ plush rush” before – so…how does that work? Do the human residents of this town know about the animated toys waiting to attack? Why does this sound like the premise of a horror movie?

The trailer doesn’t bring much to the table, but it reinforces my tentative faith in this upcoming movie. I’m going to need that faith when walking into the movie theater – endings are the most difficult part of any story. I don’t expect Toy Story 4 to be a perfect finale to my favorite Pixar franchise, but it needs to be better than Toy Story 3. Fingers crossed.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Downton Abbey” Trailer!

The Crawley family has been expecting us at their iconic English country house, and this time around they’ve got company. The Downton Abbey movie places these familiar characters in a new predicament – preparing for a royal visit from the King and Queen.

If you ever doubted whether interior decorating could look epic, you should watch this trailer: you are wrong, I assure you. The situation might seem like proper fare for a comedy, but not here. There is drama and elegance in every folded sheet, every polished banister, each and every meticulously-scrubbed silver dish. There is suspense as Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) holds the family together even as the tension threatens to break them apart. There is a palpable sense of fear as the dreaded car arrives at the very end of the trailer – the music swells to a crescendo. Will the King and Queen be properly entertained by the royal luncheon, parade, and dinner? To quote Mrs. Patmore – “I think I might have to sit down!”

Downton Abbey knows the kind of audience its targeting – the audience that will cheer and gasp when all of the characters are revealed at the opening of the trailer, getting out of their fancy automobile; the audience that watched the TV series and will recognize every little Easter-egg hidden throughout the trailer, tiny British callbacks to the show. Downton Abbey‘s new status as a feature-length film, however, also means it’s targeting another type of viewer – the critic. The show broke the Guinness World Record for the highest critically rated TV show of all time, winning 3 Golden Globes and 15 Emmys, and an 86% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Focus Features, the studio behind the Downton Abbey movie, is itself a critical darling, and star Maggie Smith has two Oscars to her name. Is this small-stakes, charmingly antiquated movie about laundry-folding and royal brunch actually going to aim for an Academy Award? It would certainly be a triumphant way for all involved to finally leave the show.

Well, I am certainly intrigued by the possibility that this movie might be more of an event film than previously guessed. It’s time to polish up the silverware and pour yourself some tea, sit back and eagerly wait for September.

Trailer Rating: 7.5/10