Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?


American Grindhouse Trailer

A good documentary ought to be a blend of information and context with all the proper elements of good filmmaking. A trailer for a documentary, by default, ought to show whether there is something worth being educated about and whether you could be properly entertained by its message.

This trailer makes me wish I would’ve taken a class in Exploitation Cinema.

I am thrilled by the beats this takes right from the opening in that it deals with the subject matter from a proper baseline. It doesn’t care that some guy watching this knows all about Truffaut’s influence or what soviet bloc country put out the greatest minimalist, post-op tranny dramas in the late 60’s. The trailer just gives everyone a common starting point and, for that, I appreciate the quick lesson in what we’re about to see.

Watching the file footage of New York’s 42nd Street, lined with cinema after cinema, you get the vibe of the era in the 70′s. Interviews with guys like Joe Dante (his story pretty much sums it all up) and William Lustig buttress interview snippets from a whip smart film historian like Eric Schaefer. But, what’s more, I was intrigued by the explanation of the gradient difference between grindhouse and exploitation film. I didn’t know such a dichotomy existed but this trailer just establishes parameter upon parameter, without you even realizing, that what’s happening is they’re defining the boundaries of what’s going to be explored.

Great praise and exultation should be heaped on the trailer at about the two-minute, thirty second mark where all these elements of exploitation and grindhouse coalesce into a visual and auditory barrage of clips from this time. It goes on for a while in this regard and it’s brilliant. You get these small glimpses into the films that defined an age that not many who’ve spent time outside of a screening room who’ve consumed these works can fully appreciate.

Without question, this is one of the most anticipated documentaries I want to see this year.  Director Elijah Drenner seems to have created a film that is not only going to be filled with teachable moment but looks like a wild ride to the dark side.

Cargo Trailer

A little Aliens, a little Sunshine, a little Hunt for Red October, and mix vigorously.

I like high concept films that want to push their ideas out as far as they can. Whether or not this actually results in something enjoyable remains to be seen but it is interesting, nonetheless, when the trailer jumps right out of the gate with information and not superfluous padding.

Right away we figure out that we’re following someone who applied for a job to spend eight years in space as a medic. Alone with six other people who seem to have an extreme sense of shift work, these people slog away for eight and a half months alone. Another observation: what is up with the dark conditions? Seriously, can no one afford fluorescent lighting in space films? I get it, you’re creating a mood but, come on, fire up a torch or two, would you please?

What this is all about, how these people are in suspended animation for long stretches, is kind of irrelevant because it seems like it’s going for something more dramatic. All textured to evoke a sense of mood and style that is not your typical sci-fi, the trailer does a great job in setting up what triggers the waking up of everyone in the ship so that they’re all huddled together. But it does feel like we’ve been here before.

It’s classic stranger on a (insert vessel) but there’s always room to push the genre and this looks like it does try and do just that. I mean, yes, all the common tropes for what makes these so much fun at the movies is on display here but while the idea isn’t fresh I do like that the use of confined space and a heightened sense of tension that this trailer communicates.

The last third of this trailer gives us the usual things you want to have with a movie that looks like it will have  more twists and turns than a Shining garden maze: weaponry, yelling, fighting, screaming, close-ups, string instruments that slowly crescendo to nothing but quiet.

Cue a soft voice, speaking in hushed tones.

I mean , you can’t fault someone for making a trailer that does as well as can be expected for a genre movie like this. As it stands, I want to see this movie simply based on what I saw; not only do I not know what is happening, mind you, but I also don’t have a clue which people are going to be done for by the end of it. A little lack of information goes a long way with me.

Perrier’s Bounty Trailer

I’m not the only one who really enjoyed Intermission, right?

I realize no one really talks about it in retrospect as being anything special but I was a fan of the talent and of the story that it told. Kind of like a little girl who sees a pony under the tree on Christmas morning, I have to admit I was delighted to see that here was a movie that was written by the guy who penned that film, and starring some of the biggest names from the Emerald Isle.

The trailer, graciously, doesn’t dally a moment with its opening. There is no fumfering around, no wastes of anyone’s time. Cillian Murphy owes money to a gangster and has four hours to come up with a grand. That’s it. End of story. All that in under twenty seconds, too. Not only does this help understand what’s going on but it hits the right beats with introducing us to Murphy, his pretty neighbor who offers to help him out with this debt, and the two henchmen representing the gangster who look like unintended comedic relief. And they are funny.

I’ll also have to admit being utterly delighted upon seeing Brendan Gleeson pop up on the screen; say what you will about Colin Farrell but Gleeson helped make In Bruges such a good comedic romp. I lit up at the sight of Jim Broadbent slithering on the screen as Murphy’s crazy, disheveled old dad who believes that the next time he falls asleep he’ll die. He has a few moments in this trailer that show he knows what kind of role this ought to be and he’s playing it for all it’s worth. Pack on the moment when Gleeson declares a bounty on Murphy’s head and you pretty much guess where things are going to go after that. A cavalcade of oddballs who are no doubt going to be in the hunt for the guy all come out of the woodwork. It’s a little old hat but this looks like it has the promise of being something good.

The remaining third of the trailer does a solid job in doing what it ought to do: throw up a fistfuls of quick clips that have no context whatsoever.

We do get an insight into the snappy character of Gleeson who very well may match Brick Top from Snatch for sly witticisms while also possessing a furious sense of power. The end result for all of this is a movie that looks like it will be a fast paced film that will hopefully take us all over Dublin with strong performances all around if this trailer is any indication.

Give Me Your Hand Trailer

Now this is an interesting trailer.

Filled with a little bit of strangeness coupled with a storyline which defies normal standards with regards to the conventions of what a “road trip” movie is supposed to be, I am befuddled to try and wrap my head around what I think this movie actually is or is not. It’s just flat out weird.

I mean, we’ve got two brothers, twins, traversing the countryside. The soundtrack is just clutch, any way you slice it;  a jaunty Parisian number with a little bit of jazz smokiness, as we try and understand why these two men are hitchhiking. I think they’re deaf mutes because none of these boys can utter a word yet one manages to pull a little bit of side action and impress a lady on this journey of discovery. How he does this is beyond my ken but the graphic imagery we get tossed in our faces just make you realize how open other countries are about nudity in general as this girl and dude just start pounding.

The twins seem to hate one another with no plans of being nice to one another. I mean, they don’t seem to be very in love with each other’s company as they look like miserable twits on a journey to nowhere. At one point they start beating on one another and I am screaming out in anguish, wanting to know what in the world is their problem.

I think one has a thing for guys, much to the disappointment of the other brother, and I believe this raises some concerns, perhaps, about the nature vs. nurture argument with regard to homosexuality. The other brother even pulls a prank on the other one, offering his brother’s backside to a stranger who thinks he’s in for a quick bathroom stall hump.

Overall, I’m confused, disoriented, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that they’ve managed to reveal not one, simple plot detail.

A Somewhat Gentle Man Trailer

How would you feel about a trailer with Stellan Skarsgard, master of the morose, cut to a soundtrack with a beat so peppy you swear you could dance to it? If it’s nothing less than excitement you’re just not right.

I wouldn’t have thought it was possible for the man to even crack a smile in films, lest his face crack from the hard set marble it seems to be made out of, but this trailer was all kinds of funny in ways that translate quite well. Who knew Stellan could be such a nutty guy?

I appreciate very much that (and this is brilliant) we don’t go backwards to find out why Stellan is fresh out of the joint at the beginning of this thing. No narration lets us know why he was there or the circumstances surrounding his release. Instead, we get him standing in a diner, wondering why no one came to pick him up when he was let out. The way the camera is set up, and the way Stellan’s approach to playing this man who seems to have learned whatever lesson prison was supposed to teach him comes across, the mood is set perfectly. This looks like a trailer filled with rubes and characters of the silliest type but it works.

What’s more is that the story just goes forward, either you’re with it or against it, forsaking any oportunity to put into context what “score” needs settling as Stellan seems to be a heavy of some kind. It never says why he is sitting in a hotel room with a little person showcasing a bevy of guns but, at the minute mark, the funniest line of the trailer is said and it kills.

It’s all a rush and a blur from here.

We see Stellan try and get back in touch with his son, who knows how long they’ve been separated, see him pull the Kingpin trick in order to knock a few kronor off his monthly nut (literally), albeit in a much more graphic fashion, and watch as he gets back into the trouble that no doubt sent him to prison in the first place. The subplot of him wooing a lass from his workplace is a nice touch.

Now, are there any readers out there who can place this film within director’s Hans Petter Moland oeuvre as something he’s always done or this is a new direction from a director who looks worthy enough to go pillaging his back catalog? As far as I’m concerned, this guy had me laughing through the whole thing.

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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