Grading this week’s movie trailers

Film geeks like myself are counting the days (nine, to be exact) until “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens a huge summer movie season. But the release of some exciting and even controversial trailers this past week triggered endless internet chatter. Let’s take a look at the most buzzworthy, in the order they were released.

“Terminator: Genisys”

Why? Oh why are you showing us so much? The latest trailer reveals that John Connor, the son of Sarah Connor who sent back Kyle Reece to save his mother in the original film, is now … a Terminator. I’m sorry, what?

First of all, that by itself screams of desperation to keep the franchise fresh — but even so, why did you have to show that in the trailer? The trailer for “Terminator: Salvation” did the exact same thing, revealing a crucial plot point. I can’t fathom why this film makes the same mistake.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are even more surprises the movie has up its sleeve. But I doubt it. Bad enough that they cast the bland-as-stale-ricecake Jai Courtney as Kyle Reece. Ugh, my excitement for this film has dropped considerably.

Trailer Grade: D

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

The trailer opens with the slow reveal of a crashed Star Destroyer on what looks like the deserts of Tatooine, accompanied by that dramatic Star Wars theme music. Then we hear Luke talking about his family’s legacy with the Force.

His father has it. Wait, what? Has it? Not had it? Does that mean Darth Vader is alive somehow? Hmmm …

His sister has it. And now, it has been passed down to his next generation. A few clips of action sequences follow, and it ends with an old and grizzly Han Solo telling Chewie, “We’re home.”

I am now taking out my wallet and handing you my $15. Take my money, please. This trailer is perfection.

Trailer Grade: A+

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

Blah, blah, blah … Hey, was that the voice of the Facebook guy playing Lex Luthor? I dug it! Blah, blah, blah … That was a cool line about “can do” vs. “should do” … when “Jurassic Park” first used it over 20 years ago … blah, blah, blah … someone vandalized the Superman statue! Who? Maybe it was the Batfleck!

Let’s be honest. This first trailer doesn’t show much. Its sole purpose is to get people talking about a film that won’t be released for a whole year. Did it succeed? Sure, but the trailer itself is underwhelming. And aren’t we all getting tired of the Christopher Nolan “Inception”-like percussion and horn-heavy BRAWR!!! sound effects?

Trailer Grade: B-

“Fantastic Four”

Oy. Never mind “Ant Man.” That movie actually looks pretty cool now. Looks like “Fantastic Four” could be Marvel’s first disappointment. This trailer is actually a downgrade from the previous one despite showing more of their powers. The look of the film is just a little off for me and I’m really not looking forward to sitting through yet another origin story for characters we’re all familiar with by now. I really like the core cast and have faith in them. But I got a bad feeling about this one.

Trailer Grade: C

“Jurassic World”

AKA “Chris Pratt: The Raptor Whisperer.” I love Chris Pratt. He’s a huge star in the making and I’m glad he’s here to bring a humorous, light tone to this film because man, does it look dark. I really don’t remember anything about the two sequels before this, but I will always remember the original for the awe and wonder that director Steven Spielberg made us feel before unleashing the horror of the wild dinosaurs. “Jurassic World,” however, looks like a straight-up gore fest with dinos running amok and very little evidence of the heart of the original film.

Trailer Grade: B

“Tomorrowland”

Finally! An original film that’s not a sequel or based on a comic book. Wait … it’s based on a theme park ride? Ugh. Still, “Tomorrowland” looks like it will deliver some great visuals, hopefully with some of the heart and wonder that “Jurassic World” appears to be lacking. I’ve been on board with this film from Day One and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. I know director Brad Bird will make it one we can’t forget.

Trailer Grade: A-

So which of these trailers do you like the best? Comment below!

This Wednesday: Abilities Unlimited Film Festival

People with disabilities are out there just like everyone else, working for their money and contributing to society. Abilities Unlimited, a local non-profit that provides community-based support for them, is holding its 2nd annual Abilities Unlimited Film Festival (AUFF) tomorrow.

Local filmmakers will showcase six individuals who have broken through physical and mental obstacles to inspire others. I am deeply honored to be included on the panel of judges for the six short films. I learned a great deal about their subjects and their amazing tales.

AU1The filmmakers are mostly recent graduates of the University of Hawaii and have selflessly contributed their time and talents to bring these stories to the big screen. The filmmakers are:

  • Erin Lau – Graduate of UH-Manoa with a degree in film
  • Romeo Collado – Professional photographer for over 25 years
  • Antonio Agosto and Blake Abes – Graduates of UH-Manoa’s Academy of Creative Media
  • Gabe Cabagbag – Graduate of UH-Manoa with a degree in Art
  • Matthew Bartolome – Graduate of UH-Manoa’s Academy of Creative Media
  • Sherwin Acidera – Graduate of UH-Manoa in Communication and Film

Their subjects are a diverse group. All have overcome a disability to make lasting impressions on those around them.

  • Lynn Mitchell – Former teacher at Maryknoll School and current instructor at Abilities Unlimited
  • Keilani Robinson – Works at Niu Valley Middle School and Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
  • John Kuwaye – Direct Support Worker, Mobility Trainer and Job Coach at Abilities Unlimited
  • Vicki Takenaka – Human Resources worker
  • Ryan Ku – Anime lover who works at Safeway Mililani
  • Robert Yokoyama – Direct Support Worker and Teaching Assistant at Abilities Unlimited

The 2nd annual AUFF takes place Wednesday, April 22 at 6 p.m. at the Consolidated Theatres Ward 16. Tickets are $10 presale and can be purchased through Abilities Unlimited’s Scott Nishimoto at snishimoto@abilitiesunlimitedhi.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the door for $12. All proceeds will directly benefit Abilities Unlimited.

Check out their website for more information.

‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2′ – The sequel no one wanted

Sometimes you just have to go watch a movie because your significant other says so. With most guys that would mean being dragged to a sappy, saccharine Nicholas Sparks movie. For me, it means going to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.”

Yes, my girlfriend is a huge fan of Kevin James. She’s seen every episode of “The King of Queens” at least three times and has seen all of his films as well. And once she decides she likes someone, she’ll stay totally loyal to them. I remember her telling that me that she was really into Eddie Murphy, and to this day still loves “Norbit.” Yes, “Norbit.”

Kevin James as "Paul Blart" in Columbia Pictures' comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop.While I should be grateful that she has a thing for goofy fat guys, I just cannot share her passion for James. I do find him very likable, especially in the movie “Hitch,” but just haven’t enjoyed any films where he was the lead. Some actors just aren’t meant to carry a film. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” doesn’t do anything to change that opinion.

Taking place six years after the original film, the sequel opens very ominously with Blart experiencing both a divorce and a close death within the first minute. I should have known at that point that laughter would be scarce going forward. Blart then gets invited to a security guard convention in Las Vegas and my hopes were up for a quick moment because I love everything about Vegas, but the story might as well have been set anywhere because the movie can’t figure out how to effectively use Sin City as a meaningful backdrop. The audience is basically forced to sit through a 90-minute commercial for the Wynn hotel (Steve Wynn makes an appearance as well), and the film never ventures anywhere else in the city.

blart2Ever listen to a speaker attempt a joke only to be followed by a deathly silence from the audience? That’s the feel of this film in a nutshell. I literally can’t remember anything about the first “Mall Cop” film, but was Blart always this stupid? There is nothing about his character that makes you root for him. He’s pompous, ignorant and just plain obnoxious. James tries extremely hard to throw his body around and make you laugh, but fails miserably every time. Chris Farley made a career (as short as it was) playing similarly out-of-place, surprisingly graceful for their size characters but he was super likable in every role. James is the type of ugly American that no one wants to acknowledge.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is unfunny, unoriginal and unwanted. Even my Kevin James loving girlfriend hated the film. I hope that finally means we can stop watching reruns of “The King of Queens.”

Get discounts for HIFF Spring Showcase’s Frolic-presented films

Frolic is pleased as punch to be a first-time community co-presenter for two highly anticipated films at the Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase: “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Steak (R)evolution.” We pegged both as personal and potential crowd favorites in our HIFF Spring Showcase preview last week.

The best part? Frolic readers can get a discounted price of $8 per ticket (that’s $4 off the regular price of $12) for both films using the following promo codes at HIFF’s website:

  • “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – Promo code HIFFEARL
  • “Steak (R)evolution” – Promo code HIFFSTEAK

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”

Saturday, April 11 at 8:15 p.m.

This story of an awkward high school boy who befriends a girl with cancer at his school is guaranteed to deliver both laughter and tears. HIFF compares the film to “Say Anything,” “The Breakfast Club” and “The Fault in our Stars,” likely making “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” the coming of age film of 2015. This independent gem also recently won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience awards.

earl

“Steak (R)evolution”

Friday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 19 at 4:30 p.m.

Of course you’d expect Frolic to stand behind a film about food. “Steak (R)evolution” is a documentary about the search for the world’s best steak. Take a look into field and kitchen as the film talks to farmers, butchers and world-class chefs in this irreverent look at what makes a steak so damn good.

The promo codes will only work when tickets are purchased online, so get your discounted tickets at hiff.org.

‘Furious 7′ delivers the fun

Each entry of the “Fast and Furious” franchise has gotten bigger and better and movie fans including myself have eaten them up. The rag tag crew of street racers has gone from fighting street gangs, to drug lords, the Yakuza, psychotic mercenaries and now highly trained terrorists and even a black ops agent. What’s next? Taking on God himself?

The films have basically become live action cartoons, and I’ve enjoyed every entry in the series, even the widely hated second one. The 7th edition of the franchise delivers all the familiar goodies it’s known for, such as unbelievable stunts, heart-stopping car chases and of course, gratuitous shots of female butts. And there are lots of all of those.

f71But while “Furious 7” looks like a “Fast and Furious” film, it doesn’t exactly feel like one. That’s where director Justin Lin is missed. Lin has helmed every “Fast and Furious” film since “Tokyo Drift,” but couldn’t continue his run on the series, handing over the reins to James Wan. At first I was skeptical if the director more known for his horror films such as “Saw” and “Insidious” had the know how to direct a blockbuster action film, but thankfully those doubts were put to rest. “Furious 7” has some of the most nail-biting action sequences of the series yet. The franchise definitely cranks up the crazy meter with cars jumping between buildings and skydiving out of airplanes, characters defying the laws of physics and even a killer drone with tracking missiles.

f72Lin did a fabulous job of emphasizing the family angle of the crew and you really believed that all of them would die for each other. The gang’s chemistry was certainly palpable in Lin’s films. “Furious 7” places more emphasis on the action set pieces and a needlessly overcomplicated plot. Wan did have fewer characters to work with due to a few members of the crew dying in previous installments, but I just wished there were more scenes of the gang kicking back and bantering. But it’s obvious that more time and effort was spent on the ridiculous action scenes. Hey, I’m not complaining. Maybe I’m just going through Han withdrawal. I just wish there was more of the heart that Lin’s installments always delivered.

There have been no announcements yet for another entry in the franchise and I’m totally okay with that. “Furious 7” is a very fitting end to a great series, especially with the recent tragic passing of star Paul Walker. But if there are more of these films made, I’ll be there on opening night once again for sure.

P.S. You can save yourself five minutes by not sitting through the credits. There’s no bonus scene this time.