Hey, so have you heard this year's crop of summer movies has been underwhelming, to the point of disastrous? Because I'm not sure if that notion has been repeated in every nook and cranny of the media. The contrarian in me would like to object, but I can't. It's been a really, really dull summer. And while the fall season might not exactly be just around the corner, it is close enough that we're starting to get a peek at the trailers for movies that actually look like they'll be worth a damn. And you know how much I enjoy talking about trailers.
The best of this batch is the clip for the legal thriller Michael Clayton. This is screenwriter Tony Gilroy's directorial debut, and all I had heard about it was that it was a legal drama starring George Clooney. It sounded pretty mundane on the surface, but I'd heard good things. After seeing the trailer, I can see why. From the very first image of George Clooney, in a suit, running frantically up a wooded hill, it's got my attention. At the very least it works remarkably well as a trailer, filled with folks like Clooney and Tilda Swinton barking out exposition that doubles as dialogue. It manages to create the illusion of urgency ("Holy shit, I gotta see how this ends up!") without giving the whole movie away. I am now of the mind that every movie trailer needs Sydney Pollack telling the protagonist something that turns their world upside down. And Tom Wilkinson looks like he's got a doozy of a supporting role, so maybe that Oscar prediction I made in May wasn't quite so crazy.
The clip for Margot at the Wedding -- Noah Baumbach's follow-up to The Squid and the Whale -- looks murky, and I'm not just talking about the gloomy visual design. I can't seem to get a handle on Nicole Kidman as the lead in a talky, quirky Baumbach movie. It's not that I don't think she has the chops, she totally does, but this seems so outside her comfort zone. And who knows, that could end up invigorating her, busting her out of that "breathless wilting rose" phase she's been going through. It's tough to tell from this clip. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black steal the show to be honest. Again, maybe JJL will prove my predictions clairvoyant and make her big (and overdue) Oscar breakthrough here. I'm holding on "optimistic" for this one, but I'm still up in the air on Kidman. Wait and see, wait and see...
Resurrecting the Champ most certainly did not sound like a movie I would want to see. Josh Hartnett discovers that crazy-talking homeless Samuel L. Jackson is a legendary boxing champion? Thus learning lessons from the Champ that he can apply to his own life and family? Yeah, pass. And yet, maybe I'm a sucker, but the trailer makes it look like something...else. Something possibly not doomed to sucking. Something not swimming in treacle. They've hauled out the "Academy Award nominee" tag for Jackson's credit, so this could make an awards push if it's good enough. If it's not, the August release date won't be of much help.
Into the Wild is the first time Sean Penn's directed a film since 2002's The Pledge. Penn's films have been good, if aggressively tragic and grim (imagine that), but this looks different. Emile Hirsch plays a kid who decided to set off into nature on a series of solo Outward Bound-ish adventures. My tolerance for the kind of "leave the workaday world and find yourself" subject matter is going to be very thin, but this is based on a John Krakauer book, and he's a fantastic writer. All the more disappointing if Penn's adaptation falls short, I suppose.