Adam Markovitz
July 31, 2008 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Last week, a friend of mine suggested stopping off for coffee on the way to a movie. But when I said I didn’t think we had enough time, her response floored me: “Who cares? We’re only going to miss the trailers.” Only the trailers? Please. Any good movie fan knows that even if the feature presentation is hit or miss, the trailers never fail. A terrific preview provides the best kind of anticipatory thrill; a dreadful one gives you the pleasure of sneering and jeering, without having to shell out your hard-earned cash to see the whole thing.

In that peanut-throwing spirit, I’d like to present the first installment of PopWatch Previewer, where we’ll cover everything from the muck to the masterpieces, focusing on indies, documentaries, and occasional studio offerings (or at least the ones that my colleagues Susman, Bernardin, and Vary don’t snag in advance of my Thursday deadline). After the jump, check out previews for The Express (starring Dennis Quaid, left), Flash of Genius (with Greg Kinnear, right), Patti Smith – Dream of Life, and Sex Drive, then let us know if you’re going to catch them in the theater—or just chuck M&Ms at your computer screen.

THE EXPRESS
Oct. 3

Plot: Under the tutelage of a hard-nosed coach (Dennis Quaid), real-life football phenom Ernie Davis (Stop-Loss‘ Rob Brown) battles prejudice to become the first African American winner of the Heisman trophy.
Looks like: A sports epic straight out of the Remember the Titans playbook, with Dennis The Rookie Quaid filling in for Denzel.
Verdict: Rudy! Rudy!Oh, sorry. I guess I still have a Pavlovian reaction to slo-moscrimmages, period costumes, and swelling strings; they just send mestraight back to Notre Dame every time. This trailer catches some of Rudy‘s rousing spirit, although it does seem oddly Quaid-heavy for amovie that’s subtitled “The Ernie Davis Story,” no? Not that there’s anything wrong with Dennis Quaid.

FLASH OF GENIUS
Oct. 25

Plot:Based on a true story, a kooky inventor (Greg Kinnear) sues Ford in1978 after the auto giant rips off his design for the world’s firstintermittent windshield wiper.
Looks like: Tucker: The Man and His Dream, with plenty of Erin Brockovich-style “man vs The Man” conflict.
Verdict:The movie looks pretty cool, but honestly my attention during thistrailer was mostly focused on how awesome it would be to have GregKinnear and Lauren Graham as parents. I mean, I’d be the most charming,well-spoken person in the world. What’s that? Oh, come on. Stop. You’remaking me blush.

PATTI SMITH – DREAM OF LIFE
Aug. 6

Plot: A documentary about rocker Patti Smith.
Looks like: Truth or Dare, minus the Dare.
Verdict:It’s about time Smith got the rock doc treatment. The stringy-hairedgodmother of punk has been creating music—and poetry, and politicalstatements—for over 30 years. And apparently, during the last ten, shewas also shooting grainy b&w footage of her life for this intimatedocumentary. The trailer looks pretty stream-of-consciousness: Smithstrums her guitar, talks to her parents, hangs with Michael Stipe, andtakes to the stage. But as long as Patti’s there, I will be, too.

SEX DRIVE
Oct. 10

Plot: A geeky 18-year old (Kyle XY‘sJosh Zuckerman) who moonlights as a giant mustachioed doughnut mascot(who hasn’t?) invents a he-man persona to meet girls online.
Looks like: Must Love Dogs meets American Pie, or The 18 Year-Old Virgin. Or maybe SuperNotSoBad. I can keep going…
Verdict:Nothing here makes me think Drive is going to break new ground in thehorny-teen genre, but Zuckerman gives off a cute JasonBiggs/Schwartzman vibe (that’s a good thing), and the goofy supportingparts—namely James Marsden as a high-kicking biker and Seth Green asa snarky Amish guy—should be good for some laughs. Also, kudos to thedesign dudes who came up with this movie’s wink-wink-nudge-nudgeposter: a close cousin to those brilliantly randy 40 Days and 40 Nights ads from a few years back.

So what do you think, PopWatchers? Does Sex Drive look set to stall? Are The Express and Flash of Genius hits-in-the-making or history lessons with nice lighting? And does Patti Smith’s doc look like a dream, or just a snooze?

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