Saturday, April 21, 2007

One Film and Three Trailers

Last weekend I saw the movie Disturbia. Having seen a trailer for it and read a bit of the hype, I figured it was a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, with some cosmetic updates such as the involvement of wireless technology and the main character being under house arrest, instead of in a wheelchair. The similarity was actually very slight, but I have to applaud the cleverness of the people who marketed the movie, as they used this slight similarity to great advantage.

The film centers on an almost-eighteen-year-old boy named Kale, whose social and school achievements have been in a skid since his father was killed in a car accident while Kale was driving. His problems reach a head in Spanish class, when Kale decks a teacher and ends up under a sentence of three months' house arrest. The GPS bracelet on his ankle is set to notify the police if he tries to leave his Mom's yard, and the cop who is always "first responder" when he does so is a cousin of the Spanish teacher. With his Mom denying him TV, iPod, and video game privileges, Kale soon has nothing to do for fun except spy on his neighbors. He very quickly pegs one of his neighbors - a solitary, middle-aged man - as a serial killer.

Kale relies on the help of a hyperactive best friend and a sexy girl-next-door to do a little snooping around, but the creepy neighbor knows they are after him and tries to intimidate them into leaving him alone. Kale sends his buddy on one last sortie into the neighbor's garage, leading to a series of increasingly spooky and shocking scenes right up to the end.

Though I didn't think this was really a Hitchcock remake, it was an effective movie. The viewer experiences Kale's shock and loss at the beginning of the movie, his shame and anger in the classroom scene, his frustration and boredom during the early part of his sentence, and his understandable agitation as the danger from next door grows and nobody will believe him. A good deal of the credit goes to 21-year-old actor Shia LeBoeuf (as Kale), whose star has been on the rise since Holes and The Greatest Game Ever Played, and whose young-yet-mature looks enable him to play a range of roles from teenager to 30-something. He gets strong support from Carrie-Ann Moss (Matrix, Memento) as the concerned mother, David Morse in one of the creepiest of his many "heavy" roles (recent examples include Dreamer and 16 Blocks), and cute youngsters Sarah Roemer and Aaron Yoo as Kale's teen sidekicks. Matt Craven (Timeline, Deja Vu) appears briefly as Kale's father.

When I'm at the movies, I usually enjoy the trailers almost as much as the main feature. Three of the trailers that played before Disturbia deserve note. Two of them are upcoming Shia LeBoeuf flicks: the animated surfing-penguins movie Surf's Up (in which LeBoeuf furnishes the voice of the main penguin); and also Transformers, an apparently Terminator-inspired action film based on toys that were popular in the 1980s. But the trailer that got me excited was Stardust, a film based on an exceptional book by Neil Gaiman.

The story is about an English youth who swears to the girl he loves that he will go beyond the wall that separates their village from the land of Faerie and bring back to her a star that appears to have fallen just beyond the wall. When he gets to the impact site, however, the star turns out to be a beautiful and spirited young woman. Suddenly a bevy of deadly enemies are after the pair of them, from a devious witch queen to a family of fratricidal princes. From the looks of the trailer, "Stardust" looks like a spectacularly produced adaptation with a powerhouse cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Claire Danes, and Peter O'Toole.

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