Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NWTE – "Warriors of the Dawn" Review and the 1st Biannual Trailer Update

The Author complains about condescending tropes in a Korean action movie no one's seen and reviews 53 trailers for overhyped films that will probably disappoint.

Around the middle of Warriors of the Dawn, a guy gives an amateur screenwriter, foreshadowing speech to another guy about the imprudence of attacking an enemy that’s backed against a wall. “Courage comes from fear,” he says, or something like that. Hence, he reasons, the protagonist needs to face his fears soon, lest he never mature from the fledgling, cowardly prince that he is into a commanding and magisterial king.

In a more intelligent, realistic, and ‘sloppy’ script, this quip about being cornered against a wall would merely be a throwaway line used to illuminate the characters and their quirks, but Warriors of the Dawn had already given me so many reasons to doubt its basic competence that I spent the rest of the feature wondering whether the king and his mercenary entourage would end up fighting a larger force with their backs against a wall. This they inevitably do, but more than that, the guy who earlier forecast the plot even prods the audience to recall this dialogue, literally telling the king to his face that he’ll be fighting with his back against a cliff, as if to scream out for the audience’s benefit, “This is where the plot is going to effect a change in the protagonist!” Such an exchange is more noxious than the Special Move trope that pervades animated kids films, whereby the main character practices and fails to execute a certain fighting maneuver that is reincorporated in the climax to represent how far he has come. Those who have seen Wonder Woman (at least 20 million people in America by this point, estimating by box office) should have encountered a live-action version of this cliché, coupled with the equally clichéd word of inspiration that the protagonist crucially repeats when she comprehends its meaning (“It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe”).

I’ve got nothing against set-ups and payoffs or some modest narrative symmetry; many of my favorite Korean movies recycle or reframe images for dramatic effect, and a surprising number begin upon the ending or something resembling it (Stoker, Barking Dogs Never Bite, Poetry, Memories of Murder, and Mother to name a few). Warriors of the Dawn doesn’t even feel like a Korean film, though; it has the timbre, and the title to boot, of an overlong, stupid Hollywood movie cobbled together from assorted Hollywood tropes, with the notable difference of having an all-Asian cast. Apparently the movie was produced and distributed by Fox International Productions, though I find that an inadequate explanation for the movie’s failure, since Fox just a year ago produced Na Hong-Jin’s riveting and thoroughly Korean genre-bender The Wailing. Between Warriors, Alien: Covenant, Wimpy Kid 4, and A Cure For Wellness, maybe the corporation has been making a streak of stinkers on purpose in the hopes of reducing its tax liability. Maybe they brought this movie to the West just to drop a truth bomb on Asia-fetishizing, self-loathing white males, the type who elevate Kurosawa, Miyazaki, or Wong Kar-Wai to god status while making stupid generalizations about the quality of American cinema.

Rarely does it cross these people’s minds that countries like Korea and Japan make scads of cheap entertainment every year that never make it America, and most of the films they deign to love so much are weeded out from the chaff through festivals. Every now and then, though, something like Warriors or The Man From Nowhere seeps through the cracks to prove that eastern directors make dumb action movies just as proficiently as American directors. Few films show such a fervent dedication to hitting all the right notes as this, so it would appear fitting to enumerate at least a couple of the tropes herein, such as:

* The song-and-dance routine placed in between action sequences to prolong the movie artificially and give some requisite humanity to the soldiers.

* Overly dramatic score supplanting the diegetic sound midway through the dance routine because the director can’t convey the impact the dancer is having on his spectators by purely visual means.

* Goofy and nameless side characters who disappeared earlier in the movie showing up before the climax and saying, “You didn’t think we were going to let you save the crown prince all by yourself, did you?”

* Sniping with 16th century muskets (stupid in The Revenant, and still stupider here).

* A straggling woman making the long dash back to the fortress, the Japanese on her tail. Her countrymen are cheering her on from the gate, all seems well, the path is clear, but then slow-motion – she’s shot before all their eyes! The hero screams in agony, and his scream reverberates through time, as screaming in slow-motion tends to do.

* “Let’s make it out of here alive first, then I’ll tell you my true name.”

Even before the so-called “proxy soldier” spoiled how the movie was going to culminate at a wall, I was sorely tempted to leave the theater, feeling the wasted hours being wrenched from my life as brutally as digital blood was being wrenched from actors on screen. Curiosity stayed my legs, however, as well as the nagging echo of a video log in which Mark Kermode discussed the professional ramifications of leaving a movie prematurely. “You can’t review the film if you haven’t seen it to the end,” the British critic said, recounting the story of a cursed Nicolas Cage screening he attended. “And I really had suffered through it up until that point… So I saw the whole film, from beginning to end… which means I’m perfectly justified in telling you that it’s rubbish.”

Warriors of the Dawn is a 130-minute indulgence in rubbish, but only 44 people have seen it between IMDb and Letterboxd, so I guess it doesn’t matter. The movie is currently playing in Regal specialty theaters nowhere near you, and it would probably be rated R for violence, although its horrible CG blood effects are impossible to take seriously. Lone Wolf and Cub or Oldboy this is not.

The Author’s 1st Biannual Trailer Round-up of 2017

Born in China – This is a movie made for babies, and kind of unbearable to me having seen non-narrative nature films like Baraka and Koyanaisqatsi. The whole thing has this constant, cloying voiceover projecting human attitudes and thoughts onto the animals so that little children won’t get bored and start talking aloud in the theater. Or maybe the soothing, gentle narration is supposed to put babies to sleep at home – I don’t know. Either way, it vexes me that bland Disney features like this always crowd out documentaries that generate a lot more buzz, e.g. Tickled or Voyage of Time, the latter of which looked stunning but played in 15 theaters over three days.

Silence – Pretty good film, far more moving and invigorating than The Wolf of Wall Street. The trailer doesn’t really capture how long and arduous and painful it is to watch.

Dunkirk trailer #X – This movie has been over-advertised to oblivion, and none of the umpteen trailers since the teaser have given any intriguing information about the plot, so what’s the point of them?

The Founder – This is the biopic about the man behind McDonalds starring Michael Keaton that I was always begging for Hollywood to make.

Gold – You say, “Inspired by true events,” I say, “Looks like a boring movie about a white guy trying to get rich without doing any real work.” I also can’t wrap my head around why The Weinstein Company would think it smart to remake Fool’s Gold with the same guy who starred in Fool’s Gold. Do they really take the public for such fools?

Stupid question. This is The Weinstein Company.

Monster Trucks – Well, that thing happened.

The Circle – The trailer really undersells what a fascinating mess its movie is.

Zookeeper’s Wife – I’m getting kind of tired of liberal Hollywood’s endless parade of mediocre Holocaust programming that expects to be praised merely upon its weighty subject matter.

The Last Word – Looks like one of those unfunny, feel-good indie movies, but I give props to whoever wrote this for shining a light on the unsung profession of obituary writers.

The Nut Job 2 – This was a Lego Batman trailer and I didn’t pay much attention, for obvious reasons.

Power Rangers – And the most unoriginal use of a Kanye West song in a movie trailer goes to… In fairness, they did get one thing right about this, when the voiceover man said of Elizabeth Banks, “She is pure evil.”

Despicable Me 3 teaser – To Illumination’s credit, they did mostly leave the minions out of this ad, and one has to appreciate a studio that uses animation aimed at kids to mock Apple’s anti-gun messaging. The movie still looks like a psychological torture device ready for Club Gitmo.

Despicable Me 3 “Gru’s brother trailer” – If I was a parent, this would make me want to take my kids as far away from the theater as possible.

The Boss Baby – Glad to see Alec “____sucking fag” Baldwin back up on the big screen in a movie made for families. Incredibly, The Boss Baby is nowhere near the worst that 2017 has had to offer in memes.

Lego Ninjago – I rather hope that these Lego flicks don’t become a biannual, Marvel-like extravaganza, because if they do, their self-aware and hyperactive style of humor is going to wear out fast. With that said, Ninjago may be Lego’s most definitive and versatile property, somehow blending skeletons, snake monsters, mechs, and transforming ninja, so I’m sure this will reward on a visual and comedic level.

Kong: Skull Island – Most of the warning signs issued in the trailer (bad one-liners, CGI, and a Suicide Squad-esque soundtrack) were delivered on in the final product, but it still succeeded at piquing my interest.

Life – Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum? Check. Counterpoint reading of children’s book / nursery rhyme playing over escalating scary music? Check. Letting it get to earth will risk all human life? Check. Not showing the monster except fleetingly? Check. This is a movie trailer, and one that does a pretty fair job presenting the pointless Alien mimic that Life is.

Ghost in the Shell trailer 2 – There’ve been much worse movies released so far this year, but Ghost in the Shell was still a dull and flavorless adaptation of rich source material, pressed down on the boilerplate of generic sci-fi ideas, most of which are disclosed within the trailer (“They created me, but they cannot control me.”). I’ve already written a Not Worth the Effort review of it, which may or may not see the light of day depending on whether I find another film to pair with it.

Alien: Covenant – Even the trailer was a disappointment. Alien: Covenant parodies certainly haven’t taken off in the same way that “Prometheus-style” trailers did.

Deadpool 2 – I think I laughed harder at this cheap, protracted joke than I did through the entirety of Deadpool 1.

Fast and Furious 8 trailer 2 – Looks stupid. I only watched the climax of this movie and a bunch of other snippets like the jailbreak, but I’d sooner see the rest of Fate than sit through all of Transformers 5 again. At least this series has a smidgeon of self-awareness, plus the Rock.

Unforgettable – Two of my friends with weird senses of humor laughed uncontrollably at this in the theater, and I don’t think that anyone there objected. An epic trailer in its scope, it runs the gamut of emotions and TV movie storylines in two and a half minutes flat.

Atomic Blonde – And the best use of Kanye West in a piece of advertising goes to…
I swear there's a slightly cleaned-up version that runs about 10 seconds shorter in Regal cinemas and better preserves the momentum of the track, but this will have to suffice.

A Ghost Story – I was really looking forward to this for a while, but A24 has been on a bit of a losing streak with their more arty, unconventionally shot movies, so I’m checking my enthusiasm now. It goes without saying that this is a really manipulative piece of marketing, between the music and the low-angle shots and the adulatory pull-quotes… so I guess it passes the Author’s trailer test?

My Cousin Rachel – Whose bright idea was it to make this period romantic mystery out to be some kind of dark erotic thriller? They probably hurt this movie’s business in the long run by selling it to the completely wrong crowd.

Wish Upon – American teens are growing up with warped perceptions of the horror genre and its possibilities, all thanks to a steady stream of crap like this. My generation sorely needs an Argento of its own, but I doubt we’ll ever see one surface if high-school girls (and it is mostly under-25 females who go to these) keep financially endorsing flicks like Lights Out, The Shallows, or those darned Insidious-Conjuring movies. I’m used to hearing, “I don’t like scary movies,” from peers, but horror movies don’t need to revolve solely around “scaring” or startling people, and it’s regrettable that the Wish Upon’s of the industry have conditioned people to think of horror in such terms. 

Ingrid Goes West – Yay, a movie that makes fun of Millennials’ addiction to their handheld devices, starring Aubrey Plaza from the ingenious comedy Parks and Recreation. Hilarious and original.

Valerian trailer 2 – This is going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.

Baywatch trailer 2 – “Get Rocked, Get Ef’d” is funnier as a tagline than any ‘joke’ in this future heavy-rotation FX movie.

Annabelle 2 – Cross-apply everything said about Wish Upon. The only creepy doll movie I want to see in 2017 is Freddy Vs. Chucky, long overdue.

The Beguiled – I’m not a fan of Sofia Coppola’s previous work (or the work of any Coppolas saving the O.G. Francis Ford Coppola). In fact, I’ve actively hated a majority of it, but this looks like it could actually be good, mainly due to the presence of an unhinged, yelling Colin Farrell. I’m kind of concerned about Elle Fanning’s career after she runs through all of these trashy virginal-teen-on-the-brink-of-sexual-awakening roles.

Coco – As if I needed any more fuel to light my contempt for Pixar, now they’re ripping off The Book of Life but doing it in their trademark flat, computerized art style, because Donald Trump is president, or because the Fast and Furious movies showed there’s good money to be milked from Hispanic-oriented pictures, or because The Book of Life has garnered a small cult following and Pixar thought, “Let’s do more of that mariachi player and Day of the Dead stuff, but slap the Disney Pixar label on it, so we can reap at least $300 million from parents who unconditionally patronize everything our company produces.”

And don’t give me any of those “Coco predated The Book of Life but took six years to make because of Pixar’s high standards” excuses. For one, the director/writer of Book of Life was developing it with Dreamworks as far back as 2007 according to one article, but even if Pixar had no knowledge of the project whatsoever, I find it implausible and incredibly daft that no one behind Coco watched the other movie or suggested, “Maybe we should switch gears on our own film so it doesn’t share so many indisputable similarities with this smaller film that preceded us.”

I can’t be the only one who sees this as a crooked and unethical move by a powerful corporation that has the resources to turn countless original ideas into profitable films.

Cars 3 – I didn’t pay close attention to the commercial and didn’t care to revisit it. As I predicted, the tone had completely changed from the uber-dramatic teaser, and it looked more or less interchangeable with all the other Cars and Toy Story movies.

Wonder Woman “Origin Trailer” – I’ll probably be chiming in a little on this movie later, like all the tech blogs in the country, but first I have to comment on the hatchet job that Warner Bros. ran promoting it. I didn’t ask to be shown Diana’s 30-minute backstory (most of which was omitted from the teaser trailer), the highlight scene of Wonder Woman storming the village, most of the London fish-out-of-water jokes, the kissing scene, the poison gas, or a lot of the destruction in the last ten minutes, but DC exposed me to all of this as I sat unguardedly in the theater, waiting for Your Name to start. I’d be lying if I said that anything in Wonder Woman’s story surprised me, or that the trailer impeded my enjoyment of it, but next time I’d appreciate it if Warner left their Good Parts Versions of a given movie online for fans to seek out of their own volition.

Spark: a Space Tail – Ratchet and Clank called an hour ago. They want their space adventuring and straight-to-DVD animation back.

Baby Driver – I am going to watch this for two reasons, which are essentially the same. The first reason is that the star of Cinderella, Lily James, is in the movie, and the second is that I’m like Steve Martin from L.A. Story: a big dumb male.

On a more serious note, Baby Driver will likely pack a wallop of toxically unfunny humor but make up for it in its chase sequences. I intensely dislike Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (best known for Shaun of the Dead) and would consider it the most overrated series ever if not for Toy Story, but this looks more like a romantic action thriller than a straight comedy, and Wright does tend to handle action and romance quite well. So as a wise man once said,

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – In Bruges is an awful, awful movie, but I’ll still take a chance on this one because Frances McDormand is a badass.

Megan Leavey – More of a dog lover’s movie than a war movie, or so it seems. I skipped it.

The Big Sick – Not directed or written by Judd Apatow, but looks a lot like Apatow’s annoying shtick all the same, and so the trailer wants you to believe. I’m betting that the white people mistaking the Pakistani main character for a jihadist is going to drag, but there aren’t a lot of movies that tout themselves as semi-autobiographical, so I guess I’m somewhat intrigued.

It Comes At Night – Arguably the worst horror film ever made, and I’ve seen a lot of them. “It” may not come at night, but It does come with the most willfully dishonest ad campaign since Hope and Change. Half of the shots in the trailer that are meant to disgust and horrify the viewer are taken from dream sequences extraneous to the plot, ergo they don’t happen in the movie’s own reality. Lots of websites are comparing It Comes At Night to The Witch as a case study in misleading marketing and ensuing consumer backlash, but It has nothing on The Witch artistically, and trailers for the latter movie didn’t blatantly lie about its subject matter.

I hope to write more about this soon.

Blade Runner 2049 – Directed by Denis Villeneuve, shot by Roger Deakins, and scored by Johann Johansson, this is already shaping up to be one of the decade’s most impressive features, just aesthetically. The story itself is vague and up in the air, but if we’re being honest, most people don’t revere Blade Runner for the story.

Kingsman 2 – It’s obviously hard to judge with so little context, but bringing back Colin Firth kind of mitigates what happened in the first movie and reeks of a studio crunching numbers for profit. It did get a song stuck in my head, though, so kudos for that. “And now the end is near…”

47 Meters Down – Obligatory summer shark movie.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – I had to go peruse some comments online to figure out that this is parodying a Whitney Houston movie from the 90s called The Bodyguard, which I’ve never heard anybody speak of in my life. In any case, Ryan Reynolds continues to cement his status as the go-to guy for lackluster buddy cop/agent/spy movies. Remember R.I.P.D.?

Murder on the Orient Express –
Features possibly the worst use ever of an alternative radio song, and when will Hollywood learn to stop casting former USA Today contributor Josh Gad?

Geostorm – Obligatory summer weather disaster movie. A bunch of cynical strangers in Wonder Woman were audibly snickering at it.

The Mountain Between Us – Obligatory hiking disaster movie (although these are less common than obligatory weather disaster movies).

Justice League – Not as pathetic as some others have claimed, but it’s still the most try-hard trailer released so far this year, mainly on account of its phony, hackneyed Beatles accompaniment.

The Dark Tower – The moment Idris Elba said, “I don’t kill with my gun,” I knew he was going to finish by saying, “Guns kill people, pound sign Not One More, stop the killing.” How predictable.

Nah, I’m just kidding, he says that he kills with his heart.

Good Time – When in want of a better pitch, just throw some neon and synthwave on it.

Battle of the Sexes – “I’m going to put the show back in chauvinism –” But do male chauvinists think of themselves as chauvinists? This looks pretty bad.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – A lazy and formulaic tease for a movie I could hardly care less about after Disney looked over Rogue One and said, “There! All ready for public consumption. Good job, everybody, that’s a wrap.” 

Thor: Ragnarok – The Author’s personal pick for trailer of the year, which he’s more shocked about than anyone. Marvel keeps plot details to a minimum, chooses an awesome Led Zeppelin single over stock epic trailer music, showcases a lighter, goofier tone more suited to a series about Norse gods, and caps the whole thing off with a hilarious and completely natural joke.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Thor says to some unknown audience, but also to us. “How did this happen? Well, it’s a long story.” Trailers are not an optimal medium for for telling long stories, but it’s reassuring to know that somewhere out there an editor still understands their purpose.

1 comment:

  1. Well. I know/care exactly nothing about 99.8% of these, but I can say of the original du Maurier My Cousin Rachel: it's neither romantic nor erotic.


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