“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

“The Witcher” First Trailer!

Firstly, let me preface this post by apologizing for my delay: I’m more than an hour late by now, due to not being able to get home fast enough. Destiny has arrived, so have I, and so has the first teaser trailer for The Witcher on Netflix!

My first impressions are a mix of chaos and confusion: I’ve never read the books or played the video games that this series will be based on, so I have almost no idea what the plot is – I am slightly familiar with the main characters like Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Ciri (Freya Allen), mostly because I watch a lot of videos by BookTubers who are devoted fans of The Witcher series: specifically Elliot Brooks – go check out her channel, it’s great.

But for right now, until she publishes her own review of the trailer, which will undoubtedly be far more intelligent than mine, I must work from what I know: very little. Okay, let’s dive in. Let’s see, we’ve got Elves, beautiful dark-skinned Elves for a change, and we get a tantalizing glimpse of the paradise they created long ago in this strange world, known as The Continent. These Elves were sorcerers, and taught the arts of chaos magic to humans – only to have the humans rise up against them and massacre them. From what I gather, that is a core theme of the series, both in book format and TV – humans are horrible, despicable creatures, little better than the monsters that populate their myths and dark imaginings. This trailer shows off just how wicked people can be, through some montages of them killing people…wait a second, for a moment there I thought this was Game of Thrones.

Netflix wants this to be Game of Thrones for a new audience dissatisfied with how that show ended, and so they’ve gone to elaborate lengths to make sure this show looks incredible. The production values are insane – beautiful costumes, realistic CGI, and mostly good wigs (there was a lot of worry about that last point, after Henry Cavill had shared a picture of himself wearing one depressingly-cheap set of platinum extensions). The only thing that indicates this show has to work on a somewhat smaller budget than your average movie studio is the general absence of top-notch talent – Cavill is the biggest star by far, and his co-stars are virtually unknown actresses. But thankfully, they do a pretty good job, in this trailer at least, of being mysteriously magical. Magic is one of the trailer’s big attractions, in my opinion: it’s always been an element that fantasy films and TV shows are wary of, because it can easily look and feel slightly ridiculous. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones both steered clear of depicting much magic onscreen, unless they absolutely had to: magic is something that usually finds its way into more light-hearted fare, such as The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. But The Witcher doesn’t shy away from fancy lights and displays of sorcery and enchantment: we have glowing trees in the desert, plenty of monsters (including giant spiders, can’t go wrong with those), catastrophic explosions of uncontrollable power, and even people throwing lightning from their hands. When was the last time you saw that in mainstream fantasy? It’s actually been a while since we’ve seen anyone but superheroes and psychic teenagers harness supernatural powers like this. At least, it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything like this.

Overall, it looks really good, definitely something that I’ll want to binge-watch when it arrives on Netflix this…Winter? I don’t know, the trailer doesn’t inform me. Well, whenever it comes out, it looks like it will be really good. Fingers crossed, people!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” Full-Length Trailer!

Who expected Maleficent to be the year’s most epic family drama? Even Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, with its all-stars cast, pales in comparison to a film starring Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer as rivals vying to control – and mother – the rebellious young princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), in one epic custody battle involving magic, witchcraft, and giant bears ripping people limb-from-limb. We even get the pleasure of watching Jolie literally turn people into burning skeletons, while Pfeiffer takes aim at her with a hefty-looking crossbow, and – wait a moment: this is a Disney movie?

Indeed it is, proving that the Mouse House isn’t afraid to take some risks every now and again. After the first teaser for the film dropped, I was a little worried that the whole thing was just going to be a sparring match of witty one-liners between Jolie and Pfeiffer, and it might still boil down to that in the end: Jolie’s performance as the demonic sorceress Maleficent seems to be mostly about evoking a “mood” – with lines like “Don’t ruin my morning!” and “Love doesn’t always end well” dropped as if they’re mantras to live by, while her variety of outfits continue to stun and dazzle (though I still hate the wings: even worse, there’s more wings on the way, but we’ll get to that in a moment). Pfeiffer’s character, the Queen Ingrith, is quite clearly a villain: the smirk on her face as she embraces Aurora makes it kind of obvious that she’s not just concerned for the princess’ well-being – though it’s still a little unclear as to why she wants to risk open war with Maleficent’s forces of magic. As we go “beyond the fairytale”, a lot of things become unclear.

Granted, there’s still a lot of good stuff in the trailer: the darker elements are still very cool and surprising; Jolie and Pfeiffer are still good actresses, so their dynamic looks interesting and it does appear that we will indeed get some intense showdowns between them, such as I asked for after the first trailer; the production values look great (except for Jolie’s wings and horns: for some reason, Maleficent is the only character in the film whose costumes look completely bizarre and uncomfortable). The first film was criticized for relying too heavily on special effects, but honestly…the special effects look like they’ve only gotten better. There’s a real sense of danger from the trailer, something that Disney doesn’t often indulge in – I genuinely don’t know what will happen: will Maleficent conquer the forces that oppose her, and win back her adopted daughter? Will Aurora choose to leave the beguiling witch, and instead risk it all for true love? And what’s going on at the end of the trailer?

Near the end, we watch Jolie’s character get hit by crossbow arrows – fired by some of Ingrith’s own henchmen, or at least it appears that way. Anyway, she falls into the sea and is saved by a strange dark shape, that carries her away to some other mystical place of labyrinthine tunnels and glowing caverns where she encounters…Chiwetel Ejiofor? Sorry, that’s Chiwetel Ejiofor dressed up with horns and giant wings (wings that look just as ridiculous as Jolie’s). In fact, it turns out there’s a whole bunch of other demons like Maleficent (all of them winged and horned, to my dismay), and they want her to join them in their…war against Ingrith? Quest for world domination? Hunt for a better costume designer?

I don’t know what’s going on there, but it looks like both Maleficent and Aurora will be conflicted as their mother/daughter relationship is tested by the forces of evil – including Maleficent herself.

Trailer Rating: 7/10

“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