Another Visit to the JMHO Trailer Park

Frank, movie, still, Michael Fassbender, papier-mache head

Welcome to another edition of JMHO Trailer Park, wherein I attempt to bring you the best of (what I consider to be) the best trailers for upcoming films.

First up, to celebrate Michael Fassbender‘s much deserved win for Best Supporting Actor (for 12 Years a Slave) at Sunday night’s Jameson Empire Film Awards, as well as his 37th birthday tomorrow, I bring you the trailer for Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. which I had mentioned briefly back in July.

Frank is the story of Jon (Domnhall Gleason), a would-be musician, who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an avant-garde  pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Fassbender), and the very scary Clara, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.  Frank is mysterious and enigmatic mostly because he never appears in public (or anywhere else really) without his giant papier-mache head.  The film is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedian Chris Sievey, as well as other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.  The screenplay was written by Jon Ronson (based on his memoir) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and the flick’s cast also includes Scoot McNairy, and Tess Harper.

In the world of alternative music, The Soronprfbs are the ne plus ultra of outsiders. A brilliant, ramshackle, barely functioning band, they are built around the eponymous Frank (Michael Fassbender), an unstable yet charismatic musical savant, who at all times wears a large, round fake head with crudely paintedOon features O like Daniel Johnston hidden behind a cartoon smile. His closest musical collaborator is the forbidding Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal); part caretaker, part jailer, Clara is the antithesis of all things mainstream. The band is completed by Nana (Carla Azar), a Moe TuckerOlike drummer, and Baraque (Francois Civil), a beautiful Frenchman who plays bass. Into this mix comes replacement keyboard player, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), after the band’s original keyboardist is hospitalized following an attempt at drowning himself. In his head, Jon’s is a true creative, a maverick musical force; in reality he’s a very ordinary young man trying to escape his humOdrum, smallOtown life. For Jon, this is the break he’s been waiting for, his chance to climb through the looking glass and into the world of artistic collaboration, real musicOmaking, and rock ‘n’ roll adventure that he’s always dreamed of. But he discovers (and perhaps has always suspected) that he lacks the one thing he needs to make his dream come true – genuine talent.

While most of us wonder why anyone would hire Michael Fassbender and then stick a giant fake head on him, I can also imagine that for Fassbender, the reluctant movie star who can probably sympathize with Frank quite a bit, it would be freeing. Having filmed 12 Years a Slave then The Counselor, both requiring a lot of intensity, throwing himself into something so completely different, a comedy of sorts, would almost be a vacation.

Frank premiered at Sundance in January, played South by Southwest last week and will play Sundance London in April before opening in the UK on May 2. No US date yet, but I have no doubt one will be forthcoming, for NY and LA at least. Unless I miss my guess, it’ll be VOD for the rest of us.

Devil's Knot, movie, poster, Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth

It would appear that Michael Fassbender (not to mention James Brown) has some serious competition for the title of “the hardest working man in show business”. Colin Firth has four titles that will be released in 2014. In addition to Railway Man, Before I Go To Sleep and Paddington (all featuring Nicole Kidman), there’s a project called Devil’s Knot, directed by Atom Egoyan and costarring Reese Witherspoon, and is based on the story of the “West Memphis Three”. It played the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but I don’t remember hearing a thing about it.

The story is probably at least a little familiar. In 1993, three teen boys (here played by James Hamrick, Seth Meriwether and Kristopher Higgins)  were convicted of the murder of three eight-year-olds, in what was widely reported at the time to have been a satanic ritual. Subsequently, private investigators were able to pull apart the original prosecution case, but the presiding judge in their appeal, who freed them after 17 years in prison, did not overturn their convictions (so they are not entitled to any form of compensation).

There have been four documentaries made about this case: Joe Berlinger’s Paradise Lost series of three films, and Amy BergWest of Memphis, but this is the first dramatization. Witherspoon plays the mother of one of the victims, and Firth a private investigator trying to discern fact from fiction in a scared and angry community.

“The savage murders of three young children sparks a controversial trial of three teenagers accused of killing the kids as part of a satanic ritual.”

Take a look at the trailer:

This one may not have been on my radar before, but it certainly is now. Also starring Alessandro Nivola, Amy Ryan, Mireille Enos, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer, Kevin Durand, Martin Henderson, Bruce Greenwood and Dane DeHaan, Devil’s Knot has been given a US release date of May 9. It’s already played Egoyan’s native Canada. The UK will get it 13 June.

Under the Skin , poster, movie, Scarlett Johansson

Under the Skin has gotten a lot of attention because Scarlett Johansson walks around Glasgow  (and into the wet-dreams of a million fanboys) stark naked.  It’s also garnering director Jonathan Glazer comparisons to less a master than Stanley Kubrick. I enjoyed Glazer’s first two films, the gangster flick Sexy Beast with Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley and the under-rated (at least at the time) Birth with Nicole Kidman and Danny Huston, I’ll have to see Under the Skin before I can endorse that kudo. (Not that anyone’s holding their breath for my endorsement lol).  Birth, about a woman’s husband who may or may not have been reincarnated in the form of a young boy who is determined to convince her,  would seem to have more in common with Under the Skin at least visually, with it’s scenes of a stark New York in winter filled with gray half-light and chilly fog.

The premise is simple: “An alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland. ” But from the accounts of people who’ve seen it at festivals, that’s only the beginning and it is pretty damn scary. Sounds good to me! Check out the the ethereal posters by artist Neil Kellerhouse (via TotalFilm) below.

Under the Skin doesn’t have a big name cast. In fact you probably won’t recognize anyone other than Johansson. It opens here this Friday, April 4. Counter-programming for Captain America?

Only Lovers Left Alive, movie, poster, vampires, Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton

And in the third and final Michael Fassbender reference in this post, we have the trailer to Jim Jarmusch‘s imagined lives of vampires,  Only Lovers Left Alive. The vampire love story which would seem to ooze even more cool than blood (and it won’t be short of that I’m sure), pairs Tilda Swinton with Tom Hiddleston. What’s that got to do with Fassbender? Michael Fassbender dropped out,  making way for Hiddleston. I have no problem with that whatsoever. It would undoubtedly have been great fun watching Fassbender with Swinton, but  it would definitely appear that T.H. OWNS the role of Adam, a vampire who has been in love with Swinton’s Eve for eons, drifting in and out of each other’s “lives” and the centuries, searching for meaning.

Much like Anne Rice’s vampire prince, Lestat, Adam is a musician – in this century a rock musician. Unlike Lestat, it appears that Adam does not crave the spotlight. The movie begins when Adam’s  depression over the direction human society has taken sparks a reunion with his lover Eve.  Their romantic interlude is interrupted by the appearance of her little “sister” Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska. (Every time I see the trailer I have to remind myself that it is Wasikowska, and not Juno Temple.)

“Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangiers, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?”

Jarmusch uses his usual light, sly touch with an emphasis on the humor of the situation and the intelligence of his characters… and his actors. Despite the fact that it’s a movie about vampires, this might be the director’s most accessible film yet. Watch the trailer and then watch the clip below it as these two impossibly and preternaturally beautiful people discuss the merits of Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Shelley and an author in her own right) and suck blood…on a stick.


I have an admitted vampire fetish and I have been waiting for this one for a long time. Also featuring Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright, Only Lovers Left Alive opens here in the US on April 11

The Drop, movie, Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, poster

And finally, “Tom Hardy Week” rolls on with the very first trailer for Michaël Roskam’s The Drop (formerly known as Animal Rescue) that we told you about a few days ago.

The story, once again centers on Bob (Hardy) and Marv (James Gandolfini), the bar where they both work and the mob:

THE DROP is a new crime drama from Michaël R. Roskam, the Academy Award-nominated director of BULLHEAD. Based on a screenplay from Dennis Lehane (MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE), THE DROP follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funneling cash to local gangsters – “money drops” – in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

The action has been moved from Boston to Brooklyn, but The Drop still feels very “Lehane” to me.  (And while I think Hardy’s Brooklyn-ese is pretty good, it would kill me if he butchered a Boston accent.) Matthias Schoenaerts is obviously a heavy (since he’s seen menacing the doll, played by Noomi Rapace) but judging from the synopsis, it sounds like the real villains will be the Russian mob and there may be more to his story.

In yet another WAY TOO EARLY Oscar prediction, if The Drop is as good as it looks from this first trailer,  James Gandolfini might just have one more shot at a posthumous Oscar.

It’s going to be a long wait until September. At least it looks like it’s shaping up to be a pretty good spring, at the multi-plex anyway.

 

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