I’m usually a pretty good judge of movies before even watching them. I can often tell whether I think a movie is going to be good or bad based on the trailer, logline, filmmaker, cast, or any other factor. Of course, this is not unique to me. Many of us have this super power. But every now and then, my senses go awry and I find myself in disbelief. Here are a couple of recent examples:
Going In: I’m not much for sci-fi, and after having seen the trailer, I just had a feeling—this is not going to be a good movie. And that’s a shame, because Fox Searchlight is my favorite distributor—but hey, even Fox Searchlight is entitled to a not-so-great movie once in a while. (Has anyone seen The Tree of Life?) Another Earth looked sleepy, boring, quiet, and any other number of synonyms that describe bland.
Stepping Out: BEST. MOVIE. OF. THE. YEAR. (so far) I can’t believe how wrong I was with this one. Brit Marling. Remember that name. She wrote, produced, and stars in this micro-budget indie that was directed by Mike Cahill. Nearly everything about this film is perfect. The dynamic performances. The breathtaking cinematography. The mesmerizing music. And most especially, the complex characters in a simple, original story. It just goes to show you, a film’s budget is no barometer for how good a movie is. The writing is (among other things). You can go into space with a tight script. And this film is proof.
THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE
Going In: The true story of the man who was forced to act as Uday Hussein’s double. (That’s Saddam’s son, folks.) I was easily intrigued, quite simply because I hadn’t seen anything like this before. And speaking of something I haven’t seen before, (based on the trailer) it looked like Dominic Cooper was turning in a performance unlike any other he’s done. I’m sold.
Stepping Out: WTF! Sure, there is gory violence, but this film isn’t nearly as gritty as I thought it would be. Sure, Cooper’s performance is solid, but that’s pretty much all this Lee Tamahori-helmed film has going for it. It’s glitzy, golden visuals are clearly implied in the trailer and poster, but I was mostly going into this film with the overall concept in mind. Clearly, I wasn’t paying close enough attention. This film resembled more of a flashy music video than any film worth my time. (I was actually expecting something on par with The Hurt Locker, in style and substance.) Mind you, I didn’t hate it—and “not hating it” is the best compliment I can offer.