Top 8 Questions after watching the new trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
An Amazon Prime subscription is a bit like a closet with too many clothes in it: every once in awhile you discover some new thing you forgot you paid for and are pleasantly surprised by it. Among these things is a video streaming service that features a variety of tv and movies, including some originals. There’s also a nifty thing called a pilot season. Viewers can watch a bunch of different pilots, fill out a survey, and Amazon uses the info to determine which ones will become a full series. Essentially, Amazon has turned their entire subscriber pool into a focus group, a market innovation that gives us one more thing to love about the streaming economy.
The concept already has a few success stories to boast, most notably Transparent, which earned Amazon 10 of its 16 Emmy nominations this year, and it won five last year. The show’s lead, Jeffrey Tambor, not only won the 2015 Emmy for Best Lead Comedy Actor, but the equivalent titles at the SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards as well. (I would argue this show shouldn’t be competing in the “comedy” categories based on its content, but I won’t waste your time with that soapbox right now.) There’s also one of my new personal favorites, Mozart in the Jungle, which won the 2016 Golden Globes for Outstanding Comedy or Musical Series and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy or Musical Series. (Transparent was also nominated in both categories).
Netflix recently debuted a brand new traditionally produced sit-com series that is sitting pretty with a 4 1/2 star rating from their subscribers. Having recently finished watching this first season’s ten episodes, here are three things the series gets right:
1. Ashton Kutcher is front and center.
Ashton Kutcher stars as Colt Bennett, a washed-up college football QB, who is forced to move back home to the ranch he grew up on with his never-satisfied father, Beau (the great Sam Elliot), and smart-mouthed brother “Rooster” (Kutcher’s former That 70’s Show co-star Danny Masterson.) Mom, Maggie (Debra Winger) is living in her own Airstream behind the bar she owns due to her estranged relationship to husband Beau.
Ever since he debuted on That 70’s Show in the late 90s, Ashton Kutcher has proven himself to be a natural comedic actor with leading man looks. In television land, this is hard to come by. He’s maintained relevancy in pop-culture ever since we were introduced to him with stints like MTV’s Punk’d, a bunch of hit (and miss) feature films, as a successful venture capitalist and angel investor (AirBnB, Foursquare), stepping back into TV and into Charlie “Tiger’s Blood” Sheen’s shoes on Two & a Half Men, and bringing it full circle with this second outing co-starring to his former 70’s Show co-star Masterson. Through it all he’s been married to Demi Moore and now is married-with-children with another former 70’s co-star, Mila Kunis, yet somehow has seemingly maintained humility and stayed true to Chris.
While Ashton is clearly the lead of the show, Masterson, Elliott, the re-emerged Winger (Urban Cowboy) as Beau’s estranged wife, and Elisha Cuthbert (Kim “Kidnapped” Bauer from 24) as Colt’s corn-fed country-girl former high school sweetheart, round a solid cast. The first few episodes take minute for everyone to gel, but once you know everyone and it feels like they know everyone, it’s a welcome sight when any one of them pops on screen with Kutcher who brings chemistry to each interaction. The biggest surprise comes from the amount of depth that begins to percolate as the these honest familial relationships start to surface. Sam Elliott and Debra Winger have both had long careers filled with terrific dramatic performances, that cache helps bring balance to what could easily have been a Duck Dynasty style sitcom. (I contend Duck Dynasty masquerades more as a reality show, when in reality it’s more situation comedy without the acting talent.)
Welcome to Smash Cut Culture’s annual Trailer of the Year Award. This is the inaugural year and we are excited to showcase six of the year’s best trailers. It will be up to you to determine which of the six should take home the top prize.
Before we continue, we must address the big elephant in the room, or rather, the big bantha in the room. You will notice that there are a total of zero Star Wars: The Force Awakens nominations. This was done for one reason, it would have been a completely pointless contest because anything Star Wars on the internet, wins. I equate it to long discussions about who was the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, in that there are no long discussions because of Jerry Rice. There are long discussions about who is the second best NFL receiver, but the top spot belongs to Rice.
So to keep this interesting and still interactive, Star Wars trailers are banned from contention. Because for the foreseeable future, there will be a new Star Wars trailer released every year that breaks the internet. That is unless The Force Awakens turns out to suck, then all bets are off.
Now that that is out of the way, on to the nominations of which each will introduced by a top YouTube comment.
Adam Sandler has a new comedy and it headed straight to… Netflix? That’s right, in addition to the original series programming that has changed the face of your television with the like of Orange is the New Black, Bloodline, Narco, and House of Cards, Netflix has now brought full-length feature films with heavy Hollywood talent at the helm.
While Adam Sandler’s more recent film efforts haven’t been the huge box office success stories of his earlier slate of films, overall, Sandler still has his fans and most of his comedies turn into cult favorites when they end up on DVD or, nowadays, streaming online. So for Sandler, why not head straight to that medium and ditch the bad press of a low box office turnout for your latest film? Our movie-going culture is so transfixed on box office grosses that it makes complete sense to ditch that bear trap and go directly to this streaming demographic, especially when the bulk of Sandler’s fanbase is made up largely of the under 40 crowd who are more prone to just spend a night at home with Netflix and chill.
As for the movie? Well, it’s a Sandler comedian the great Rob Schneider co-stars, so most will hate it, and I will grow to love it after seeing it for the third time. The Ridiculous 6 debuts on Netflix Dec. 11, 2015.
The first trailer for the new David O. Russel film was already profiled in this space a few months back, it was nominated for Smash Cut Culture’s Trailer of the Year award. That trailer was more of a teaser as it didn’t divulge much about the story only the promise of something worthy of $15 and 150 minutes of your time. The full trailer has just landed and simply doubles down on that promise. Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence seems to channel Michael Corleone by the end after opening up the 2 1/2 minute trailer with, “Don’t ever think the world owes you anything. Because it doesn’t. The world doesn’t owe you a thing.” Preach it sister.
Chances are you probably have seen one or more of the recent Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox music videos over the past few months. Bradlee and his rotating group of singers and musicians record jazzy, bluegrass, swing or standards style covers of pop songs and release these simplistically perfect music videos to accompany them. Bradley & Co. have been doing this for some years now, but there has been renewed interest because of the brilliant cover version of the mega-hit All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor. A version that was so popular that PMJ covered their own cover a few months later.
But this week PMJ released this excellent cover with recent American Idol finalist Joey Cook singing Plain White Ts Hey There Delilah.
Bryan Cranston brings his expertise to the role of real-life blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo. Jay Roach, director of the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises, creates a certain fun loving swagger to what is one of the more serious chapters in American and Hollywood history – the investigation to out Communists by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late forties
While blacklisted, Dalton Trumbo won an Academy award for the screenplay of The Brave One which he wrote under the pseudonym, Robert Rich. In 1993, Trumbo was awarded a posthumous Oscar for his screenplay for Roman Holiday, in which screen credit was given to another writer who was awarded the statue at the time.
The trailer here moves along with some classic swing jazz, behind-the-scenes antics of Hollywood’s golden era, plus Louis CK as Trumbo’s fellow blacklisted screenwriter Arlen Hird (Oscar nod in his future?). The trailer plays out more traditionally than the others we’ve been nominating, but Hollywood loves it when films are made about its history and industry, so including this trailer for some sort of meaningless award, is just par for the course. Plus, any chance to highlight how awful elected officials can be when they decide to go witch hunting American citizens based on what they think (commie or no commie), and to give you another perspective the next time you watch Trumbo and Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration on Spartacus, I’m all for.
2015 Trailer of the Year Award nominees so far:
In 1950 cartoonist Charles M. Shultz debuted what would become arguably the great American cartoon strip – Peanuts. Gracing the pages of nine different newspapers for the first time on October 2, 1950 was a bald headed boy named Charlie Brown. His faithful beagle, Snoopy, made his appearence just 2 days later. 65 years, and 2,600 newspapers later, Charlie Brown, and the more popular, Snoopy, would make up an marketing empire that could rival the one based on some Mouse. But Peanuts had a far more, albeit subtle, impact on the culture than Disney’s band of animal characters ever would. What Schultz and the comic strip did in the 60s and 70s really helped foster forth an era of a new normal, one that centered readers on what real diversity meant – a melting pot. And like a true melting pot, it was a slow cook.
Characters like Franklin, Peppermint Patty, and even Pig-Pen helped acknowledge that race, gender and social status shouldn’t be the focus of societial relationships. Individualism and free association is the best path to achieving a harmonious community – even if Lucy pulls the football every time. It wasn’t all Schultz’s idea though. Like many advancements, sometimes it takes some outside persistance. For instance, Schultz was nudged into introducing the Franklin character by a school teacher who insisted the time was right to introduce a black character that was just as adorable as the others. With literally the stroke of a pen, or many strokes, Schultz agreed and without ever overtly acknowledging such an introduction of a minority character, Franklin appeared and fit right in with the rest of the Peanuts gang.
This is one of the coolest videos of the year. 1000 musicians got together to perform the Foo Fighters’ Learn to Fly. The event was the brainchild of one man, Fabio Zaffagnini, who so wanted the band to come back to his part of Italy to hold a the first concert in Cesena Italy since 1997, that he spent over a year planning this.
Spoiler alert on next page: (more…)
Having been a fan of early Ryan Reynolds comedies, he’s been mostly missing the mark in the past few years due to roles as superheroes, in bad horror films and the occasional indie flick. Judging by the trailer for his latest film Mississippi Grind, Reynolds seems to have finally utilized the secret sauce of comedy (just be honest) for this dramatic turn. It’s refreshing to see the talented filmmaking team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar) put their faith in Reynolds and pairing him up with Ben Mendelsohn, an actor who just stole the show on the Netflix series Bloodline. Mendelsohn and Reynolds are an unlikely pairing, which makes this trailer promising of unlikely hit film.
In case all we were concerned we wouldn’t get another nominee for the Trailer of the Year Award, along comes David O. Russell and his trio of players Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro to save the day. It’s more of a teaser with little dialogue and Russell continuing his ode to prime Scorcese with The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing throughout. I am a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook, I enjoyed American Hustle and but now, here comes Joy… with a shotgun.
2015 Trailer of the Year Award nominees so far:
It’s officially summer here in the northern hemisphere and to kick it off, this week’s Trailer Tuesday brings us the 40th anniversary of the first ever summer blockbuster movie, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece, Jaws.
Courtesy of MovieClips Trailers on YouTube comes a “Modern Recut” trailer for this classic film. Incorporating modern sound effects and editing styles, this trailer gives it the old college try at making the film look as though it may be hitting theaters for the first time ever. Sadly the film’s greatest asset, John Williams brilliant score, is missing throughout. The music that is used over powers the dialogue, feels out of place and for a film 4 decades old and beloved by many, to not even offer a taste of Williams’ classic score is downright criminal. Ultimately the trailer fails, as the final 15 seconds looks to promise not a bonafide cinematic achievement, but a laughable SyFy midnight movie. After watching this Modern Recut, go ahead and cleanse the palate with the original trailer from 1975 just below it and you’ll realize that it’s hard to improve on perfection, even when it comes to marketing.
Off of the tease announcements from McDonald’s that the Hamburgerler is coming out of hiding, filmmaker Leigh Scott debuts this re-imagining of our favorite fast food mascots. From Wendy to Col. Sanders to the King and the Clown , in all honesty, this works great on so many levels. My particular favorite appearance is from the purple guy himself, Grimace. It’s the Supersize Squad.
Our third nominee for the Trailer of the Year Award is definitely going to be a long shot in taking the top prize, but it’s a fun trailer full of all the right camera shots, a campy tone, with accelerating soundtrack all topped with Kevin Bacon as the bad guy with a mustache that might win ‘Stache of the Year.
Two young boys come across an abandoned police cruiser with the keys still inside, they decide to leave well enough alone, walk to the nearest adult and tell them what they found. Oh no, wait… that’s the boring version. These kids take that sucker for joyride. Sirens, lights and high speed, it’s all fun and games until the cop (Bacon) who left it behind comes looking for it.
Film opens August 7, I hope it’s as campy-fun as the trailer.
Jerry Seinfeld, who’s most famous stand-up comedy bits usually revolve around socks, pajamas and clothing in general, spoke to ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd on the state of doing stand-up comedy on college campuses around America. Seinfeld admits he doesn’t perform at colleges, but offers an insight into what college students today consider to be sexist, racist, bigoted or any number of the other SIXHIRB words that are bandied about without any rational thought.
I still watch The Dick Van Dyke Show nightly on Netflix. The wife and I have followed The Dustbowl Revival around Los Angeles for years now. When these two worlds collide, the outcome is all fun. Watching 89 year old Van Dyke dancing like he did 50 years ago, to the pure, Americana sounds of a band made up of 30 somethings and under is pure gold. And who said there is no culture in Los Angeles?
Reminder as you are watching this footage, director George Miller was 69 years old and cinematographer John Seale was 70. These two and their production team just schooled every action film made in the past 15 years. Green screen should used to enhance the story, not be the story. Mad Max used green screen, but you will notice it only for certain camera angles and shots that required it for the safety of the actors and stunt performers.
Any wonder why the actors in the Star Wars prequels felt like they couldn’t act their way out of a cardboard box? They couldn’t because they were acting to nothing except the chroma green box they were placed in. Never underestimate the power of doing it real.
Don’t click away just yet…this isn’t that aimless, laughless comedy about Google that you’ve probably never seen…or at the very least never remembered. No, this is something different entirely. Trust me, that’s a good thing! “The Intern” brings together a very unlikely duo in Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, which is only the beginning of the genius behind this comical concept!
The first shot sets this “buddy dramedy” up perfectly. A young, successful interviewer asks the dreaded and most contrived interview question of all time, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Sitting opposite him is not another young and hungry interviewee hoping to land a big first job. No, it’s 70-year-old Ben (DeNiro), whom retorts with the best answer…”When I’m 80?” Hilarious.
Cut to Ben entering his new internship working for Jules Ostin (Hathaway), whose chemistry here is immediately undeniable. As the two begin working together, we see Ben completely immersed in a world he doesn’t understand with new age millenials running the show. Jules is the CEO of an online fashion site and although she’s seemingly Ben’s successful superior, her dramatic arc seems to center on the fact that she might not be as experienced and cut-out for the job as she thought. You’re sure to laugh and cry and be horribly offended at the cross-generational jokes that are understood by some, and over the heads of others.
Next up in our ongoing series highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you another comedy web-series. Wigs was created by writer Richard Mattox and director Matt Edwards (both SCC contributors).
Sick and tired of seeing all the attention that comic book superheroes garner on the sidewalks of Hollywood Blvd., Virginia, a widowed grandmother with some disposable income, forms “Wigs on Wheels”, a group of historical re-enactors who travel around Los Angeles bringing real American heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Dolley and James Madison to life. Overzealous police, smart-aleck kids, and internal subversion are all present in this hilarious comedy.
Wigs garnered first place and the filmmakers were awarded $2000 for their work during the 100 Day Challenge of the Liberty Lab for Film.
[Update: Taliesin Nexus has extended the deadline to apply for this year’s Liberty Lab for Film until midnight Monday the 25th for all you last minute shoppers out there.]
Smash Cut Culture: What drew you to becoming a filmmaker?
Richard Mattox: I was always interested in the performing arts. I had experience acting, playing music, and singing all throughout my childhood. But I think it was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that inspired my to become a filmmaker. I remember writing my own sequel to the films. It was a 10 page script in which I was the lead. I can still remember standing behind my mom as she operated the camera, banging pots and pans together for sound as my neighborhood friends tromped around the snow fighting with plastic swords.
Matt Edwards: Growing up in Los Angeles I was exposed very early on to the behind-the-scenes action of some of my generations favorite TV shows. With action scenes from shows like Knight Rider, The Fall Guy and The A-Team being filmed on the streets of my neighborhood, I figured every kid knew how the “sausage was made” and it was no big deal. When I hit college and met more people not from LA, I realized how lucky I was to have sort of a home court advantage when it came to being comfortable trying to make it in Hollywood and I better not waste the chance. Plus I fell in love with Hitchcock movies at about age 9, and never looked back.