The second trailer was for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, which looks pretty silly, but I’m sure I’ll still see it because I have a weakness for any time-travel movie.
The third trailer was a con-artist movie with Will Smith and Denise Richards, which looks pretty good although just from the trailer I can sense what the twist ending will be. At the start (of the trailer, and presumably of the movie) she is totally hopeless, then he trains her how to pull a con, and so forth. I imagine that at the end, it will turn out that all along, even before we first see her, she was actually an expert con-artist and she was the one conning Will Smith. So if I’m right, then sorry for spoiling the movie for you, but I couldn’t really put a spoiler warning since I don’t know for sure if I’m right about that. I hope I’m wrong, but even if that is the twist ending I bet I’ll like this movie. The title is Focus, but that’s weird because I distinctly remember a William H. Macy movie with that title, a few years ago, and I thought there was some formalized system in Hollywood where the studios don’t repeat each other’s movie titles.
The fourth (and final) trailer, it began with a ship that has a run-in with a monster: a big whale or leviathan. It looked like maybe it would be an Anaconda-like thing, a campy horror-comedy, but then cut to title: “From Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard”, so we know this is going to be something with the pretense of true heft, and I was thinking, this isn’t Moby-Dick, is it? Has Hollywood ever done a movie of Moby-Dick? I never read it, but isn’t the novel supposed to be long and ponderous? But no, Moby-Dick is famous for the white whale, and this whale was very dark in colour. So then we get all sorts of scenes of disaster at sea, and then the text, “comes one of the greatest true stories ever told”. Okay, so definitely not Moby-Dick. And then, the text on screen: “Moby Dick”. What? I’m just surprised I hadn’t heard that this movie was coming out. And since when is Moby-Dick considered a true story? Then there’s another shot of the whale and this time it does look white-ish. But then at the end of the trailer, it says “In the Heart of the Sea”. Huh? I thought the movie was called Moby Dick. Why wouldn’t you use that title? In the Heart of the Sea just sounds like one of those boring last-minute title changes that can kill a movie, like Playing by Heart or Edge of Tomorrow.
As for the feature, it was bad. To begin with, there’s this narration, which always strikes me as a bit lazy in movies adapted from novels, just to have some voice-over of the best passages from the novel, and here, it seemed pretty jarring to have the voice-over read by Kristen Chenoweth (I know it wasn’t actually Kristen Chenoweth, but it sure sounded like her), when the novel was written by a man. Anyway the narration never gelled with the action. Much of Pynchon’s dialogue, while I’m sure it seemed clever on the page, was just ridiculous when you hear characters speaking it. But then I started thinking, maybe there’s one level of irony here that I’m failing to appreciate, maybe P.T. Anderson is parodying himself, or possibly parodying filmmakers who emulate him. So for example, there’s a bit early on where a character is described as “technically Jewish but wants to be a Nazi”. Is that line supposed to be hilarious? Or is the idea, that a screenwriter might think the line is hilarious, supposed to be hilarious? I have an easier time believing the audience is intended to laugh at the latter level of irony, not the former. For a time I really thought the movie was on that level, but then, sometime at the 90-minute mark when the film is barely half over, I realized that the whole thing is so boring and drawn out, the characters’ weird names (Penny Kimball, Japonica Fenway) not clever but merely precious, that no irony was intended, I mean beyond the obvious irony. It isn’t P.T. Anderson parodying his own style, it’s P.T. Anderson employing his own style for material not suited to it, with terrible results.