Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Johnny California: Trailer Camp

 by JB

Is there anything better than going to the movies? I think not. It reminds us that we are alive; it involves precious little standing or walking.

There are so many pleasant parts of moviegoing. It gets you out of the house. You are immersed in a well-realized fictional world for a few hours. Popcorn, candy, and soda are often involved. Moviegoing is the ginchiest, especially if you have a nice movie-buddy beside you.

Last Sunday, my lovely wife and I enjoyed Dumb Money at our local theater. We’ve been going to the movies together now for almost forty years. That’s a lot of movies! We have created a game: as soon as Maria Menounos and her weird pointy elbows leave the screen, we affectionately whisper "Ready," clutch the arms of our seats, and prepare for battle. Whoever is first to whisper-shout the movie title for every trailer WINS. The only prize is the sweet, sweet taste of total dominance.
This being Fall, Sunday's show was chockablock full of trailers, some for Halloween fare and others for upcoming prestige movies that hope to win awards. Imagine a double feature of Five Nights at Freddy’s and Killers of the Flower Moon. That sums up Fall in this nation’s multiplexes. Here are the sneak peeks we co-snuck puck on Sunday:

The Color Purple

JAN: I won this round. The purple Warner Bros. logo clued me in—either this was going to be The Color Purple or Tim Burton's Batman, re-told entirely from Prince's point of view (ARE YOU LISTENING, HOLLYWOOD?)

JB: This is the film version of the prize-winning Broadway show, and Boy Howdy, does this trailer bends over backwards to hide the fact that it’s a musical. I wonder with today’s crazy social media climate and lightning quick world-at-your-fingertips vibe, will ANYONE walk into this on Christmas Day and STILL NOT KNOW that the characters sing?

JAN: I want to see this. I know it's a musical and I am FINE with that. The cast is strong and movies are fun.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

JAN: Though this was my first time seeing the new trailer, I got this one too. It had me at "ghost children." I am basically a human husk crammed with ghost children, so it looks like my jam.

JB: Apparently based on a video game with which I am not familiar, this looks mighty similar to 2021’s Willy’s Wonderland. Prove me wrong, Emma Tammi!

The Hunger Games: Bird Versus Snake

JB: This was my win. There is no way that I’m ever going to see this, but Jason Schwartzman easily takes the “Best Line in the Trailer Award” for his, “Smile. It’s why we have teeth.”

JAN: I hate to put the "dis" in "dystopia", but this prequel looks forced and derivative. The names in this series are ridiculous to me. If you're a huge Hunger Games fan, I hope you have fun learning why that one guy is the way he is.

Killers of the Flower Moon

JB: Now that I have seen A Haunting in Venice (It’s terrific and you need to see it in a theater) this is the movie to which I am most looking forward. A few years ago, my wife read the book, and regaled me with stories from it as she read. Essentially an anti-capitalist fable, the movie tells the true story of the Osage Indians and what happened when oil was discovered on their land. It’s not pretty.

JAN: This was an easy win for me. I am a tiny part Osage (though I was not raised with that heritage) and I've been anticipating this release for years. This new trailer reveals more of the film's scope and it looks absolutely terrific. Fantastic cast, impeccable production design, compelling narrative, and SCORSESE? No one is better at peeling back the layers of hubris and greed that can choke a human heart.

JB: It was a treat to see this brand-new trailer; we had been enjoying the original for weeks. The original trailer emphasized the film’s awesome historic sweep; the new one emphasizes the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro. I can’t wait to see it... in a few weeks.

The Creator

JAN: Another win for meeeeee (I was ON FIRE this afternoon!) As you may have heard in my recent chat with Patrick, Sci-Fi is my thang so I am definitely on board. A little tinge of Blade Runner's "What makes a human... human?" that I love. Plus, I am a sucker for a slow, heavily orchestral re-mix of a classic rock song (see this John Carter trailer that lives in my heart. )

JB: It seems like I have been seeing this trailer since June. This looks ambitious and expensive as hell, but I don’t know. Will I get dragged to this by my sci-fi-loving wife? Will I give it a hard pass? Will I catch up with it after New Year’s on a streaming service some night when I just can’t get to sleep? Which one of these?

JAN: "Dragged?!" Fine, don't come. (I lock myself in another room to do Legos.)


JAN: My point and MATCH. Ridley Scott? Historical epic? Joaquin Phoenix having sex under a table? Triple-whammy. Now add in the slowed-down Radiohead song and Napoleon trailer, you complete me.

JB: I’ve seen this trailer so many damned times, I don’t know what to think of it anymore. I did notice as we entered the theater lobby, the concession stand was taking a page from Disney theme parks and offering decorative popcorn buckets for a healthy upcharge. They had a Jigsaw popcorn bucket from the Saw franchise (in two different sizes!) and a Ghostface one as well. Halloween is coming!

I thought the theater could do something similar by partnering with a local bakery and offering Napoleons for purchase as a delicious desert at the concession stand. A man can dream, can’t he?

Our Feature Presentation: Dumb Money
JB: I really enjoyed this—an admirable, serious piece of work. It helped that I remember the true story from the waning days of the pandemic. Keith Gill (Paul Dano) is a financial YouTube vlogger who thinks that GameStop stock is undervalued and notices that it is being “shorted” by big investment houses. He “likes the stock” and sparks a mini-revolution of day traders versus capitalist monoliths. Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogan) of Melvin Capital Management, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’onofrio) of Point72 Asset Management, Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) of Citadel Securities, and a fledgling trading app called Robinhood quickly enter the fray. Who will win the struggle for the billions of dollars on the table, David or Goliath?

I thought the performances were all terrific. I loved the recreation of our recent past and the attention to detail. (EXAMPLE: None of the rich guys ever wear a mask. Hmmmmm... they must think they are invulnerable and immortal... or maybe they all got the vaccine before the rest of us.)

JAN: I agree—performances were excellent and it's fascinating to see the pandemic vibe captured so accurately on screen as we all try to forget the recent past and embrace "the new normal" or some such bullshit. Pete Davidson finally comes into his own as a "real" actor, bringing surprising depth and pro-level performance skills to his usual "stoner fuckup" role. I recommend this one too.


  1. I love this column! I like your tradition, JB & Jan, and may have to borrow it from you when Andy and I go to the movies next. ;)

    1. Yay, thanks! Have fun whisper-shouting, we always do. :)