Trailer Time: A Star is Born, 100 Animated Movies, and More!

All of the trailers came out this week. All of them. If there's a movie slated for 2018 and you've been thinking, "Hmm, I wonder when we'll get a trailer for that", it probably dropped this week. On our social media feeds, I try to comment on all the "big" trailers that come down the pipes throughout the year but this week, there was no chance, the onslaught was too much. So, here's a look at everything we've gotten a look at, so to speak, in the last few days because maybe you, too, have had trouble keeping up. 

Bumblebee (December 25)
Right off the top, I'd like to state that I do not want this movie nor any new Transformers movie to exist. The robots-in-disguise-pool has been spoiled by Michael Bay. However, I don't think Bumblebee is a bad idea and the trailer actually looks like what the Transformers movies should be: harmless fun that is NOT horribly stupid and at times racially insensitive. (I don't feel like this standard should be too difficult to achieve but here we are.) This has a chance to reset the franchise and that would be a good thing. 

The Girl in the Spider's Web (November 9)
This is a tough sell all around for me. The first book was a cultural phenomenon but has resulted in diminishing returns with each subsequent venture in either book or film form (though the Swedish-release films made an impression). We're now seven years out from David Fincher's Dragon Tattoo and 13 years from the publication of the first book and I'm not sure all that many people care anymore. Perhaps the film itself will flesh out the backstory and character development but the trailer points toward a, "Return of a legend" tact regarding Lisbeth Salander and I don't know that will resonate. 

Ralph Breaks the Internet (November 21)
I'm all-in on Wreck It Ralph and have been super pumped up for the sequel. This trailer, though, is...odd. I wasn't expecting such a meta approach to the Disney universe and I feel like that's either a massive home run or a massive failure with no in between. Here's hoping for the former. 

A Star is Born (October 5)
Richard's number one most anticipated movie of the year, A Star is Born has been in some form of pre-production for years, it seems, and all that work looks to have paid off. This trailer is incredible. If the film can capture the essence distilled into this 150 second cut, we're in for an absolute treat and these songs will be EVERYWHERE. 

Operation Finale (September 14)
I've been looking forward to this one for a while because of the cast and story. I'm hoping the clunkiness of this trailer is due to the need to distill a lot of historical information into two minutes in order to get people to the theater. I'm just not sure this subject matter is best suited for a PG-13 movie and the trailer makes me wonder if too many punches will be pulled. 

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (February 8)
I feel like people are starting to forget how much fun the first LEGO Movie was and I won't stand for it. This trailer is a reminder of the brilliance of the first movie and also the Beastie Boys are prominently featured so you know I'm super all-in. 

White Boy Rick (September 14)
The McConaissance has derailed a bit over the last year or two. The Dark Tower, Free State of Jones, Gold, and The Sea of Trees is a farcry from the tour-de-force that was Mud, True Detective, Dallas Buyer's Club, and Wolf of Wall Street. But I've been holding out hope for White Boy Rick and this trailer is excellent. Hoping it carries over to the finished project. 

Widows (November 16)
I'm not a huge fan of Steve McQueen's films or sensibilities but cannot deny the man's understanding of drama and emotion. Widows looks exactly like the gritty crime thriller I expected when it was announced and I love this cast, lead by Queen Viola Davis. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14)
Okay, I know all the competing Spider-Man and Spider-Man-adjacent movies and timelines and what not is confusing and tiring. I agree, I would like to go back to 2002 when Sam Raimi made the first Spider-Man and gather everyone together for a discussion about that future and what we needed to do to avoid this mess. All that said, Spider-Verse looks AWESOME. I'm so excited for this movie and I am in love with the animation style on display here. I sincerely hope this is a huge hit and we get a full cinematic universe out of this, franchise confusion and all. 

Bad Times at the El Royale (October 5)
I'm THE faux-movie critic on the, "Cabin in the Woods wasn't that great" corner; I'm the only one and it's lonely here. So perhaps this comes as a surprise but I've been very excited for Royale since it first dropped onto the schedule and anxiously awaiting a trailer. And wow, this is everything I wanted it to be and then some. This is going to be VERY high on my list of anticipated movies for the back-half of the year. 

How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World (March 1)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The LEGO Movie came out the same year (and in fact, Dragon debuted four months after LEGO) and yet for whatever reason, it feels like the Dragon franchise has been dormant for far longer. Maybe it's because of LEGO Batman and LEGO Ninjago but regardless, Dragon 3 feels WAY past due, so much so that when the trailer popped up, I was genuinely surprised. Like, "Oh. I guess I forgot they were still making those movies?" I love these movies, though; they are some of my kid's favorites and he gets no pushback from me when he wants to watch one (as we are doing right at this very moment). This trailer is strong though perhaps it gives too much away and if this is indeed the end of the Dragon movies, I expect they'll go out with a bang. 

I Have a Bad Feeling About This: On Solo and Rotten Tomatoes Culture

A few weeks ago, I got a surprising text from a friend of mine who is definitely not “up to date” on the Star Wars™ Expanded Universe. “What are people saying about Donald Glover’s Star Wars movie? Bad right?”

A complicated question to get from someone who I would never expect to be interested in pre-Cannes buzz. But I knew where she was coming from. For whatever reasons, the media storm leading up to the premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story has been mixed at best. Early coverage was marred by director shake ups, reports of Alden Ehrenreich getting an acting coach (which I feel like shouldn’t be stigmatized? But I digress), and general palpable stress from the Kathleen Kennedy lead production team, surely not helped by the unexpected polarizing reception of The Last Jedi.

I responded to my friend some variation of, “There was some drama behind the scenes, but since no one has seen the movie yet, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. Plus, sometimes you’ll like a movie that some critics don’t, try not to let any of it cloud your opinions.” A level-headed response that practically screams, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Let’s face it, we’ve all been burned before. “Everyone is saying Batman v. Superman is bad, but I am going in with an open mind and giving it a shot!” Maybe it would have been better to save 3 hours of my life and ten pre-MoviePass dollars.

With time, it seems the Rotten Tomatoes-style conclusions of a movie’s quality are coming earlier and earlier. We all just want to know- Fresh or Rotten? Good or bad? Worth my time or not? Like I said, the movie hadn’t even been seen yet, and everyone online had decided the only good aspect of this would be Donald Glover’s Lando. They may be right. Donald Glover is fire right now. But why are we letting so much of this wild speculation seep into our individual perception? I am sure it can all be tied back to overexposure. I check Twitter hourly, I’m not exactly trying to close myself off from the firehose of opinions leading up to seminal pop culture moments. I mean, this week I ended up listening to five podcast episodes on Westworld alone. It seems that nowadays if you want to be “in touch” with whatever is in the entertainment zeitgeist, this barrage of content is virtually inescapable.

Let’s take a moment away from blaming everything on the internet. Of course, the pre-movie analysis is strong in this franchise. I am not so naïve to think that we could all just step back and calmly let the chips fall where they may. At this point, every movie to come out of this property is essentially 40 years in the making. People LOVE these characters; they’re precious, they feel like they belong to us. We as fans have emotional stock in how they are used and what happens to them. We want to protect them and ourselves. Especially after the famously disappointing prequels. We are quick to put our guards up if we need to, hoping to avoid that heartbreak again.

And yet, at least in this franchise, there doesn’t seem to be proof that any of this hysteria ends up being indicative of the finished product. Before TLJ, we kept hearing about how the studio was loving Trevorrow’s vision. Hype builds. It’s announced that he is shooting some things for the 9th installment, solidifying Lucasfilm’s belief in him. More hype. After initial screenings of The Last Jedi, critics were saying it could be the best Star Wars ever. However, upon release, social media was overrun with immediate criticism. Articles started popping up everywhere about the dichotomy between critics and “fans”.

So, is the endless commotion leading up to these movies just a symptom of an increasingly overactive film media? Of a cautiously cynical fan base? Something else entirely? Am I only adding to the issue by continuing to talk about it? Probably. Now that the film is getting positive reviews after a few showings, personally, I am breathing a little easier. But I still can’t completely silence that voice in the back of my head, whispering skeptical Reddit comments and questioning the quality of past Ron Howard movies. I should probably, “try not to let any of it cloud my opinions,” but why start now?

Megan is a friend-of-the-show and now frequent contributor. You can find more of her work at meganspell.com and follow her on Twitter @spellmegan. 

Reversing The Krasinski Curse

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As I write this piece, I’m watching The Office. This is a very common occurrence around here as I have watched the series from start to finish at least a dozen times and that estimate is probably on the conservative side. I love The Office; it is my second favorite show of all-time (Parks and Rec) and it is undefeated TV Comfort Food that I can watch in any season, any mood, any situation. Over the course of its nine seasons, there came to be any number of reasons why I loved The Office and why so many people gravitate toward it into seeming perpetuity. But when I started, when I sort-of fought through the first dozen episodes or so in hopes of ultimately being rewarded with something great, I watched because of Jim (Jimothy?) Halpert and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. In the moment, Jim Halpert’s Q-Rating was off the chart. (Since the end of The Office, a segment of the population has decided Jim Halpert is the villain of the show, I’m assuming because they have no souls and have never worked in any sort of office or retail environment. Last year, one of my former students tweeted, “Happy Thanksgiving to everyone except for those who think Jim Halpert is somehow a bad guy” and honestly, I’ve never been prouder of any of my former students.)

There are a lot of reasons why Jim Halpert is so compelling in those early days (he’s outrageously handsome, charming, and charismatic but in an accessible, All-American Boy way) but a big part of it is the feeling of authenticity. You feel like John Krasinski actually is Jim Halpert and thus, your love for Halpert is transferred over to Krasinski himself. I’ve often said that you should always expect the absolute worst from any famous person/performer and never be surprised when they turn out to be terrible people. I apply this rule to everyone in Hollywood with the exception of Tom Hanks and John Krasinski. I would be devastated if Krasinski was implicated in any kind of scandal; it would feel like a real betrayal, like how could Jim Halpert, a fictional person who definitely does not exist, do this to me?! It is safe to say, then, that I root hard for John Krasinski and wish him nothing but success in all of his professional endeavors. Thus, it has been painful to watch the less-than-stellar returns on both Krasinski’s hard work and my forceful thoughts and prayers directed his way.

It's a running bit on our show to reference the “The Krasinski Curse”, based on the sheer number of career decisions Krasinski has made that look good on paper but ultimately fail in execution. Let’s take a brief look at those decisions, beginning in 2007 when he began to cash in on the currency allotted by The Office.

First, Krasinski provided supporting voice work for Shrek The Third, a movie that grossed nearly $200 million less than its predecessor and sported a Rotten Tomatoes score of 41% (as compared to the 88% of Shrek 2). Later that same summer, he teamed with both Mandy Moore at the height of her pre-This is Us power AND Robin Williams for the romantic comedy License to Wed. The end result: 7% on Rotten Tomatoes and complete failure at the box office. Krasinski would try the romantic comedy route again in 2011 with Something to Borrowed which was almost just as bad (15%) and almost just as unsuccessful with audiences.

These are normal misfires, the type of failures that happen to just about everyone in the industry. It’s still a little weird to me that we, as a society, wouldn’t accept Krasinski as the new male face of the romantic comedy but perhaps we can chalk that up to the disappearance of the genre as a whole. With this next group of films, though, you start to really see the Krasinski Curse rear its ugly head.

In 2008, he co-starred with George freakin’ Clooney, fresh off the success of Good Night and Good Luck, in Leatherheads, one of the most confusingly bad movies of the decade which, in hindsight, serves as a harbinger of things to come from Clooney. But in the moment? That’s a no-brainer for Krasinski; you absolutely take that gig 100 out of 100 times. The following year, he played the fourth lead in Nancy Meyer’s It’s Complicated, which was fine by Krasinski Curse standards but is, after all, a movie starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin (all three American Treasures, by the way) that literally no one remembers or talks about, probably including Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. After this, Krasinski bided his time a bit, focused on The Office, then teamed up with Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon to produce, co-write, AND co-star in…Promised Land. Oof. That one still stings. Promised Land should’ve been a guaranteed win for our boy Krasinski and instead it’s a total failure on every level. From there, we move on to a small voice role in Monsters University, a fine movie that doesn’t hold a candle to the vast majority of the Pixar universe in any metric. In 2016, he finally goes over to the Dark Side, joining forces with Michael Bay to, at the very least you would assume, make a whole lot of money, the only thing Michael Bay knows how to do. Of course, this movie turned out to be 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a TOTALLY RESPECTABLE movie by Michael Bay standards…that ultimately made less than $70 million, the worst returns of Bay’s career. Even last year, he had a small role in Detroit, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to Zero Dark Thirty, which was hamstrung by a strange release date (August), and ultimately made no impression with either audiences or award academies.

I have, of course, bypassed one very significant moment in the history of The Krasinski Curse: 2015’s Aloha. This one still haunts me. Sometimes I wake up screaming in a cold sweat over the memory of just how bad Aloha is and the deep, unhealable hurt its rottenness inflicted upon me. If there is a poster child for The Krasinski Curse, for, “THIS LOOKS GREAT ON PAPER HOW DID IT FAIL?!”, it is Aloha. You could not have made a movie more specifically for me than Aloha. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (one of my three favorite directors) and starring the likes of Bradley Cooper (yes), Emma Stone (YES), Rachel McAdams (YES!!!), and Bill Murray (*passes out*) plus Krasinski. There is no world in which that movie should be bad…except this one. In this world that we currently live in, this movie is, in fact, extremely, historically bad.

In the interest of fairness, I’m skipping over a few highs in a long run of mostly lows. He did a little voice work in the surprisingly-successful-if-forgettable Monsters Vs. Aliens, he teamed with Maya Rudolph and Sam Mendes for the touching (and overlooked) indie drama Away We Go, and he executive produced Manchester By the Sea. But I would posit, and I think you’d agree, that the peaks here don’t do nearly enough to fill the valleys.

I have no explanation for this run of bad luck and the development of The Krasinski Curse. My best guess is he made a deal with the devil and traded in all of his professional good luck in order to woo and marry Emily Blunt. If this is the case, I don’t blame him and actually I very much applaud his decision. Well worth it, John. But regardless of any Faustian dealings, I’d like to see the curse broken and to be able to once again look forward to Krasinski’s projects without trepidation. And, while I’ve said this before and risk looking very foolish in a few months given the very nature of The Krasinski Curse, I think 2018 is going to do the trick.

Our man Krasinski has three big projects on the docket this year. This past weekend, A Quiet Place, written, directed, and starring Krasinski debuted in theaters nationwide. The buzz surrounding the movie was outstanding and despite my best efforts to keep the curse in mind, I went in expecting great things and was richly rewarded (review to come). This summer, Krasinski ventures back into TV with Amazon’s much-anticipated, highly budgeted Jack Ryan series. This is, (again, on paper) a perfect project for Krasinski, one that highlights both his new-found physicality (the trip to Bay Land wasn’t all for naught) and his subtle charisma and works from a source material that is dying to be relevant once more. Finally, in December, he’ll provide the voice of an older Peter Parker for Sony’s Enter the Spider-Verse animated film that looks, in the limited footage we’ve seen so far, fantastic.

With all of this headed our way in the next few months, I think 2018 is the turning point, the year we’ll look back on in the future as The Krasinski Curse breaker. Of course, I also assume my optimism will only strengthen the curse and I will look very foolish in about three days. Good luck, Jimothy.

Note: I originally wrote this for the April newsletter which we ultimately killed due to schedules, work, etc. No newsletter this month, with apologies. Since it was already written, however, I edited a little and retrofit it as a post-mortem for A Quiet Place instead of a preview. Any tensing issues should be attributed to this change.