It won’t be remembered as a rumble as royal as Ali vs. Fraizer, but 16 April, 2015 will go down as the day two of the most highly anticipated films of 2015/2016 squared off for their fair share of fawning/frightening fanboy love/hate. First out of the gate was the long awaited second “trailer” for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. Featuring more footage from the December release, as well as a final shot that sent aging admirers into a tizzy (more on this in a moment), it was greeted with glee.
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Orphan Mei-Mei (Zhu Lin) thinks she’s found the opportunity of a lifetime when she travels to Sydney for a concert with the children’s choir from her orphanage. For Mei-Mei, Australia is more than just a foreign country that offers a chance to see something new and learn a little about the wider world. It’s also the home of her long-time sponsor, Dean Randall (Guy Pearce). Though Mei-Mei and Dean have never met, they’ve exchanged dozens of postcards and letters over the course of a decade. Mei-Mei writes to Mr. Randall and tells him that she’s eager to see him while visiting from China.
But Mr. Randall doesn’t write back. Mei-Mei and her schoolmates arrive in Sydney, excited by the sights of the exotic city. Despite the joy of traveling with the children, Mei-Mei is eager to find Mr. Randall even if Miss Chen (Elaine Jin) expressly forbids her from leaving the hotel to find him. The 16-year-old girl’s journey to find her sponsor—and the truth about him—will forever alter the lives of the pair. By contrasting the postcards that Dean Randall wrote Mei-Mei with his actual life, we come to see something about how we construct ourselves in text and how powerfully we dream to be something other than ourselves. While director Pauline Chan’s 33 Postcards is predictable at times, it’s still a worthwhile movie and great coming-of-age tale.
Ambition is in short supply in today’s Hollywood. Yes, some might consider Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman to be a bit on the grand side, but he’s also dealing with material that is decidedly outsized. That he keeps his comic book characters grounded in a sense of reality and humanity is about as far as his vision goes. No, unless it’s micromanaged down to a specific niche demo and accompanying formula, unless it’s made to maximize receipts both here and (more importantly) abroad, Tinseltown tends to steer clear. Perhaps that’s why the web has been buzzing over the first trailer from the seemingly epic effort from The Matrix‘s Wachowskis in collaboration with Run Lola Run‘s Tom Tykwer. In scope and storytelling span alone, the October release of Cloud Atlas appears destined to stir passions and fuel aesthetic debate.
When you consider the background of the artists involved, such schisms would be hard to deny. Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) made a massive splash with their philosophical sci-fi take on virtual reality. To this day, fanboys are either celebrating their trilogy as one of the best, or lamenting its placement in the law of diminishing sequel returns. As for Tykwer, he’s been out of the loop since Franka Potente turned a goal of saving her misguided boyfriend into a three part exercise in gamer grandstanding. Sure, he’s made five films since then (and a few before), but outside of Perfume: The Story of a Murder he’s not been part of the practiced industry conversation. In fact, outside The International, few recent audiences would know who he is.
It’s purported to be the next Twilight, a young adult literary sensation making the leap to the large screen. Some are even hinting at Harry Potter like crossover appeal with Stephen King actually singing the praises of the series. Still, if fans know to be wary of anything, it’s the concept that Hollywood will actually treat their favorite book or fictional series with any artistic or aesthetic respect. Leave it to Lionsgate to give it a try with Suzanne Collins’ beloved Hunger Games. Currently ramping up the hype machine for a March 2012 release, the latest in prerelease promotion saw a trailer rolled out last week… and the snickers of sour disappointment already beginning.
There is no denying that Gary Ross can handle this material. His skill as both a writer (Big, Dave) and director (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) argues for his handle of scope and concept. True, he is not the scribe here. That is being left up to Ms. Collins herself, and with her tenure in kid’s TV (Clarissa Explains It All, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo) she seems perfect to realize her own ambitions. The casting also boasts a cross section of cultural knowns, including Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, and perhaps most importantly, Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) as the main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.
With summer behind us, it’s time to look forward to fall. Ah, fall. Leaves turning. Temperatures mercifully dropping. Pro football back to the field (phew!). Best of all, it’s the best time of year for movies. Ambitious Oscar hopefuls make their pitches starting in September while patient box office dynamos wait for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to bring them a bit of luck. We get it all in the fall. What better way to prepare ourselves than previewing it through previews? Below are the most intriguing trailers for the remaining year (sorry, that means no Dark Knight Returns info). Some may turn out as grand as their marketing department made them out while others merely capitalize from the initial depiction before disappointing. Either way, forget Tosh.0’s YouTube videos—these are the ideal form of two-minute entertainment.
// Notes from the Road
"Cage the Elephant rocked two sold-out nights at Summerstage and return to NYC for a free show May 29th. Info on that and a preview of the full Summerstage schedule is here.READ the article