Trailer Takes: <i>Ghost in the Shell</i>, <i>Song to Song</i>, and <i>The House</i>

Trailer Takes: Ghost in the Shell, Song to Song, and The House


Ghost in the Shell, Trailer #2:

Eman: From the get-go, I’m a pretty big fan of the original Ghost in the Shell. I haven’t delved into the annals of anime to that much of an extent, but 1995’s Ghost in the Shell is probably one of my favorite animated films in general. That being said, this live action adaptation has been splitting fans with each new piece of marketing. Thankfully, I’m on the side that is so down for this! The visual flare and portrayal of the setting are translated so well here, reflecting the look and feel of the original anime, reflecting cues from other films like Blade Runner, and pumping in a contemporary glow. The fusion of practical effects and computer effects is looking great (those geisha robots are mesmerizing) and I am definitely sold on the presentation of the action. My main point of contention here is the story itself. The original’s story delves into major themes of structuralism, hyperreality, artificial intelligence, gender identity, and what it means to exist. Yet it eventually gets bogged down by how heavy-handed its presentation of them are, which takes a toll on the pace of the film. 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, however, seems to be taking a simpler approach (obviously to appeal to wider audiences), focusing more on the Major herself. On the one hand, this could result in a dumbed down Ghost in the Shell, which is only a visual feast rather than an action-packed intellectual piece. But on the other hand, it could connect audiences with this story and its character in a more efficient way than ever before.

Xavier: The jam-packed action of this trailer snatches my attention immediately. From start to finish, guns are blazing, explosions are detonating, and punches are being thrown. The pulsing musical accompaniment and cryptic dialogue also contribute to the general air of intensity and excitement. Over the course of the trailer, we are introduced to our cyborg protagonist (Scarlett Johansson), are confronted with the conflicts she will face, and are left with provocative questions regarding her past. Important details of the narrative are revealed, while still leaving room for the speculative intrigue of audiences. Behind all the action and exposition, viewers are also offered striking glimpses into the visual world of our characters, abound with futuristic technologies, holograms, and architecture. With its compelling story, convincing visual effects, and a promising leading lady in Johansson, this film seems to have acquired all the necessary ingredients for action movie success. Ghost in the Shell is definitely worth a watch.

Allison: This film immediately reminded me of a combination of Kill Bill, Tron, and the Jason Bourne series. It seems a little bit like a mashup of the stronger plot points and characteristic stylistic choices of all three films. Ghost in the Shell’s protagonist is an upgraded and technologically-enhanced Jason Bourne; she has an implied troubled past that she cannot remember and has been commandeered by a secretive government to do their killing for them. I’m guessing that the film will follow the discovery of her true identity and subsequent rebellion against the organization that claimed to have “saved” her. She’s a badass like Tarantino’s Beatrix Kiddo and Scarlett Johansson has mastered some pretty sweet fighting skills. The special effects look amazing and the city of neon lights is reminiscent of a Japanese Tron. I personally am not a fan of sci-fi films, but Ghost in the Shell looks like it will be an action-packed visual experience.

Song to Song:

Eman: Ooooh yeah. I’m a big fan of Terrence Malick (I promise, I’m not a fan of literally everything); Tree of Life is arguably one of the greatest pieces of film ever crafted. Since that movie, he’s been focusing a lot more on visual poetry, meandering around a basic thread rather than following a concrete trail of events. He employs a visual style full of wide low-angle shots that hover strangely around the films’ characters to make us feel like spectres intruding on the almost other-worldly presentation of these quite ordinary lives. What I like most about Song to Song is its choice to cast Ryan Gosling. As evidenced in Blue Valentine and La La Land, the guy has a talent for realistic charisma, which fits right into the worlds that Malick has been trying to portray in the past decade. He looks and feels like he belongs. Malick’s films always make for stunning trailers, especially since he has an unparalleled eye for unique juxtaposed shot composition that can really easily elicit emotion within seconds. When you put a bunch of those right after the other, alongside some explorative narration and dialogue, it’s easy to be hypnotized by a few minutes of Malick. The film could very well offer thoughtful meditations on excess, ignorance, and whatnot. Or it could just be a visual collage that will ring incoherent to the majority of its audiences. I’m just happy that Malick has still got Chivo [cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki] in tow – dude can operate a camera like nobody’s business! Oh boy, that whip pan!

Xavier: I’m stumped. Either my simple mind is incapable of appreciating the cinematic genius that is Song to Song, or this trailer was ambiguous to the point of ineffectuality. Whichever the case, I have no significant takeaways or insights into the film. Almost every shot shows one of three things: someone playing an instrument, relationship angst, or a scene in a convertible (seriously, why would such a short trailer have so many car scenes?). Sure, there are dangers in revealing too much in the trailer, but even any surface-level exposition seemed nonexistent. Despite its failure to introduce a compelling plot, the trailer’s primary intention was likely to advertise the strength of its all-star cast. With the likes of  Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, and Natalie Portman, this film has the potential to generate considerable box office buzz. I expect that the success of this film will rely heavily upon the talent and recognizability of its core cast, rather than the intrigue or originality of its plot.

Allison: Gosling, Mara, Fassbender, and Portman. I’m hooked. This film looks amazing. It’s beautifully made, impeccably casted, and full of what make movies great: sex, drugs, music, and betrayal. The panning shots remind me a lot of the style of Wes Anderson, but Malick also employs his own unique camera angles. Many of the shots in the trailer begin beneath the actors, placing the audience about 3 feet below their gaze. The color scheme is refined and purposeful; this movie will be one that values style almost as much as plot. The storyline is somewhat unclear, but Gosling looks to be a little known artist living with his girlfriend who is convinced by the devastatingly handsome, but probably psychotic and manipulative, Michael Fassbender to go pro with his music. Gosling makes it big, but ruins essentially every personal relationship in his life. Relatively standard stuff, but hopefully the trailer is purposefully keeping it vague. I’m very excited that Ryan Gosling is returning to a musical role because I loved his piano playing in La La Land. It looks like he is putting his skills to use again, and I wouldn’t put it past him to have picked up another instrument for Song to Song. Even if a plot does not develop, this film is guaranteed to have an amazing soundtrack and beautiful faces.

The House:

Eman: We’re college students. From a certain point of view, we can really relate to this premise: struggling to find the funds to pay tuition. Even well-off families face this problem, as is the case with Will Farrell and Amy Poehler’s characters in The House. Applying radical solutions to relatable problems are a usual recipe for successful comedy, and starting an underground casino to achieve that goal is actually a really funny concept in my opinion. I am really interested in seeing just how the hell they got this idea and how they began to implement it. It’s just that I didn’t laugh a single time throughout this trailer – not even one of those slight smirks! The 40 year old dad thinking that in 20 years he’ll be 90 years old was particularly scoff-worthy. In great comedy, a lot of funny stuff comes from characters improvising a bit on set. But the best laughs are always the ones that were also funny on the page. I don’t know how this script will hold up, judging by the trailer, as it seems like a clever concept with a poor follow through and lots of yelling from Will Ferrell.

Xavier: Ferrell and Poehler seem like they would be a duo made in comedy heaven. However, their charm and humor in this trailer fall totally flat. Simply put, this trailer features unfunny jokes, mildly entertaining characters, and an uninspired premise. The casino aspect of the film is original in its own right, but this brand of comedy just feels stale and tired. Adults who resort to the extreme (even the illegal) in light of some mundane occurrence have already been projected onto our screens. The House seems like the type of film that includes its funniest moments in the trailer, so my expectations for the actual film are low. I can see a few one-liners eliciting the occasional half-hearted chuckle, but gut-busting laughter seems unlikely. If this trailer is any indication, this film will have all the formulaic predictability of every Disney Channel original movie ever (you’ve seen them). I suggest saving your money and time on this one. This is the sort of movie that would be aggravating to pay for, but could serve as the perfect mindless distraction while procrastinating one random Sunday.

Allison: This is a complete digression from a review of the trailer, but being from Pennsylvania, I received many the indignant message when this trailer was released. I have friends who attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, and college the daughter gets accepted to in The House pretty much rips off Bucknell entirely. They have the same logo, same mascot, and same school colors. Buckley and Bucknell? I mean, c’mon that was low effort at best. Shout-out to Lewisburg, I guess! This film takes a relatable financial aid problem and then solves it in the most ridiculous way possible. Student loans are obviously not a familiar concept to this family, but then where would opportunity arise to make a movie about middle-aged parents running an underground casino. I haven’t been that impressed with the work of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler lately, and I’m not sure that this film will change my mind. It’s usually hit or miss with this set of actors and it looks like they may have put their best jokes in the trailer. I promise I will laugh if I see it, because I will laugh at the stupidest things, but I have a feeling this film will rely on mostly physical humor and truly awful jokes.

Image Credits: IMDb

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