The summer movie season kicks off in earnest with this Friday's release (finally!) of The Avengers. So let's have a look at which trailers are doing the best job of making us excited to hit the theaters.
Snow White and the Huntsman (opening June 1)
The Details: The second of two competing projects based on the fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman (rated PG-13) is much darker than the comic Mirror Mirror. Charlize Theron stars as the evil Queen Ravenna, with Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as the Huntsman, a role turned down by Johnny Depp, Viggo Mortensen and Hugh Jackman. First-time director Rupert Sanders is behind the camera.
The Trailer: Literally the first shot is Theron taking off her clothes, making it clear that this ain't no Disney version of the story. Theron's nude milk bath is intercut with scenes of epic armored carnage, Middle Ages-style. The filmmakers are so enthused by both Queen Ravenna and the battle scenes that neither of the title characters even appear on-screen for nearly the first 60 seconds of the trailer. The dwarves only get one fleeting scene. Also, everything and everybody seems to collapse into hundreds of these things that look like railroad spikes when they get hit with a sword, which I certainly don't remember from the fairy tale.
The Buzz: Mirror Mirror scored a resounding "meh" from both critics and audiences, but this looks even worse. What little actual acting is on display substitutes over-the-top screaming for actual craft, except for Stewart, She sleepwalks through all of her scenes with her usual dead-eyed blankness. Is there a worse well-known actress of her generation? I sure can't think of one. Based on this deadly-dull, draggy trailer, this looks like it might be the worst major movie of the summer.
That's My Boy (opening June 15)
The Details: An adolescent Adam Sandler had an affair with his teacher, resulting in her going to jail and him raising a kid by himself at the age of 13. Seems legit. And 30 years later, the alcoholic loser is facing a jail sentence unless he can convince his now grown and successful son (Andy Samberg) to ... OK, that part isn't at all clear, but anyway, he's back in his son's life just as he's about to get married. Hilarity, naturally, ensues.
The Trailer: This is absolutely the worst kind of trailer for a lowbrow comedy. It tells the entire story of the movie, spoiling most -- if not all -- of the jokes before you even plunk down your $10 for a ticket. And frankly, much like last year's reviled Jack and Jill, this doesn't even look like quality Sandler. Yes, such a thing exists, in a relative sense: when he's being a relatable Everyman (think Grown-Ups), he's a lot more charming than when he's being an idiot manchild.
The Buzz: Sandler's most diehard frat-boy fans will go. Everyone else will likely stay well away.
Lawless (opening August 31)
The Details: Based on the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, itself based on the author's family history, Lawless (rated R) is a Prohibition-era tale of moonshining in the American South starring Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke as the whiskey-distilling Bondurant brothers, Gary Oldman as the local gangster boss and Guy Pearce as the arrogant U.S. Marshal trying to bring them all down. John Hillcoat directs a script written by goth-rock icon (and novelist) Nick Cave.
The Trailer: Booze! Old cars! Men in hats! Machine guns! The trailer shows all the important tropes of the Depression-era gangster film, but filtered through the dust and grime you associate with a western. Despite the southern setting of Franklin County, Virginia, Hillcoat and Cave give the film a distinctly wild west vibe.
The Buzz: This was a fantastic book, and Hillcoat's previous films, The Proposition and the underrated The Road, were excellent. I have high hopes for this stylish-looking film.
This Is 40 (opening December 21)
The Details: This "sort-of sequel" to Knocked Up finds writer/director Judd Apatow focusing on that film's secondary characters, hapless Pete (Paul Rudd) and his tightly-wound wife Debbie (Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann), as they make their way into middle age. Apparently quite reluctantly on Debbie's part. Jason Segel, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks and Charlyne Yi co-star; Apatow and Mann's own daughters reprise their roles as Pete and Debbie's kids.
The Trailer: Based on the trailer, this looks more like The Five-Year Engagement than Bridesmaids: more slice-of-life than full-on comic hilarity. But that's a side of Apatow's work that I've always liked, and since I'm on that path through my early 40s myself, I'm pretty much the target audience.
The Buzz: Apatow's been dealing with haters for the last few years, and some of them are no doubt smug that the really quite good The Five-Year Engagement flopped during its first weekend in theaters. But we fans are definitely going to be there.