I can see your furrowed brow as you read that headline. “Huh?” Stay with me. Justin Timberlake, having grown bored with bringing his own brand of sexy back to people who didn’t know it was missing, has turned his hand to acting more than music these past few years, his new album notwithstanding.
What appeared to be a lark in a straight-to-dvd crime thriller, 2005’s Edison, continued in 2006’s Alpha Dog, earning him good notices, The Social Network in 2010, and then got real in 2011 when he top-lined Friends with Benefits and In Time (in which JT was asked to do most of the heavy lifting alongside the slight Amanda Seyfried). This year, Timberlake will appear in two films, both slated for fall release and for which there is already (very) early awards season buzz.
Runner, Runner costarring Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie, is currently scheduled to be released in the US on September 27. It’s a drama that centers on the world of offshore online gaming and an increasingly tense relationship between the founder of one such successful business (Affleck), and his protege (Timberlake).
Written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, the team behind Rounders, Runaway Jury and Ocean’s 13, as well as the upcoming Untouchables sequel, Capone Rising with Tom Hardy, and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (among others), Runner, Runner is directed by Brad Furman, best known for The Lincoln Lawyer. All of the above makes it one of fall’s hotly anticipated flicks, especially since it’s Affleck’s first since Argo. (Affleck has himself gone from punchline to bona fide auteur whose mere presence will give whatever he does from here on out a patina of respect.)
The other film has that same shine because it was written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Inside Llewyn Davis premiered back in May at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize, essentially the runner-up to the Palm d’Or. It stars Oscar Isaac as an aspiring folk musician in the early 1960s. The film, by all accounts, belongs to Isaac and is, after Sucker Punch, Robin Hood, W.E. and Drive, the one that will finally make him a star. The rest of the cast includes Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham and…Justin Timberlake.
The Cannes buzz (it will probably go to Venice and Toronto as well) along with the Coen Brothers pedigree, finally got the film distribution, and it is currently slated for an awards-friendly (limited) US release date of December 3 (before going wide on the 20th). I’ve had my eye on this one since filming began in Greenwich Village in January of 2012. The Coen Brothers. That is all. When can I buy my ticket?
Since all that these two films have in common is Justin Timberlake, I’m but using him as a jumping off point to introduce a trailer for each.
The name of the game is “Trailer or Spoiler”. Those few minutes of footage for Runner, Runner would seem to be yet another example of a “teaser” that gives the game away. It’s a story that’s already been told countless times: wide-eyed innocent gets a taste of the good life, starts to lose his soul (prodded by the devil’s surrogate), comes to his senses thanks to the love of a good woman and does battle with the devil and vanquishes the evil in his life. But, shouldn’t one have to buy a ticket to find out if it is, in fact, the same old song and dance?
The arc of the plot won’t be a mystery to most (especially since Robert Luketic covered nearly the same territory in 2008’s 21), but is that reason enough to lay it all out in these few flashy feet of footage? Shouldn’t the producers have enough faith in their material, not to mention their cast, to let them attract ticket-buyers? The fact that Runner, Runner is being released in September and not in, say, November, coupled with this seemingly no-holds-barred first look, does not bode well for the finished produce. Just my humble opinion.
The clip below is not the first, but the third trailer released for Inside Llewyn Davis and while we can put a lot of the pieces together from what we’ve been given, we do still have to use our noodles to get a clear idea of what’s going on here.
We already know the film is about struggling musicians on the cusp of the folk wave about to break in the early 1960s, but does Davis have any talent? We can tell that Isaacs’ title character has some sort of relationship with Carey Mulligan, but the exact nature remains a mystery (even if earlier trailers gave us more of a hint). Where does Timberlake fit in? Who is John Goodman’s character? Will Davis ever make it big? And why is he carrying around that cat? Will we get to hear more of JT harmonizing with Marcus Mumford?
Perhaps because this film is more a character study than a high-concept adventure/drama, there are still plenty of secrets left to uncover. (Unless of course one chooses to read any of the spoiler filled reviews that came out of Cannes, but that’s another rant for another day.)