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Ghost in the Shell
Based on the famous Kodansha Comics manga series of the same name (written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow), Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders and starring Scarlet Johansson, follows The Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
Ghost in the Shell drew criticism for the casting of Scarlet Johansson in the lead, as it was seen as an example of whitewashing. Despite, ironically enough, support for the casting from Japanese fans, the controversy has loomed over the movie for a while now – however, if the trailer is any indication, Ghost in the Shell seems to be in really good hands. While I’m unfamiliar with the source material, the trailer definitely peaked my interest. Visually rich, with a strong cyberpunk feel, the trailer is light on story details but big on style, hinting at larger themes of identity.
Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and scripted by John Gatins and Max Borenstein, is set in the 1970s, as a diverse team of explorers is brought together to venture deep into an uncharted island in the Pacific — as beautiful as it is treacherous — unaware that they are crossing into the domain of the mythic King Kong.
This trailer gives us our first real look at Kong himself and he definitely lives up to the promise of being the biggest Kong yet. We’re also introduced to the so-called Skull Crawlers, which are described as the Devils to Kong’s status as God on the island. They’re certainly interesting looking beasties, but considering Peter Jackson’s version had Kong fight three T-Rexes (they’re technically called V-Rex, but no one really calls them that) at once, Skull Island certainly has its work cut out for it. John C. Reily gives us a taste of the movie’s brand of comedy, which seems alright. The general impression from this trailer is that the movie will be really loud and really dumb, but possibly a lot of fun as well.
Beauty and the Beast
Directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, Beauty and the Beast is a live-action retelling of Disney’s 1991 animated classic of the same name. The movie also stars Luke Evans, Kevin Kline and Josh Gad, while featuring the voices of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson.
Disney’s live-action reimaginings are a curios oddity. Opinions seem to be split on whether or not they’re necessary, but they’ve been sure fire hits with critics and audiences so far, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of them soon. The first full trailer for Beauty and the Beast… certainly looks like Beauty and the Beast, except it’s live-action. Obviously, the longer running time allows for a deeper story, but whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. It’s a solid cast working off of a tried-and-true template, so… odds are it’s going to be good. The trailer doesn’t really ignite the imagination as much as it does tickle a nostalgia bone.
Directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Noah Oppenheim, Jackie stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, former First Lady of the United States. The movie is meant as an intimate, psychological portrait of her in the days right after the assassination of her husband.
Jackie seems to be playing right into the stereotypes of Oscar-bait movies (a period drama set against the backdrop of tragic historical events, with a critically acclaimed actor or actress in the lead), but not in a way that panders or cheapens its subject matter. No, this looks like the kind of movie most Oscar-bait movies wish they were – stirring and complex, with a powerhouse performance front and center.
Directed by Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures aims to tell the true story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — three brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit back in the 1960s.
Hidden Figures seems to snugly fit into the category of “inspiration porn” – in this case, it’s inspiration porn about three women crossing race and gender lines behind-the-scenes to help pull one of the greatest feats of the last century. It seems earnest, even when it plays up some well-worn tropes and with a solid cast behind it, it might just turn out pretty good. At worst, it’ll end up being all too familiar.