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: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week I’m humming along with Ben Lee, listening to John Forte, learning about what it’s like to be overtaken by Somali pirates, getting beat in a North Korean re-education camp, and what it must like to be Jean-Claude Van Damme for a day. 

Catch My Disease Trailer

I can’t lie, I can’t put on a canary yellow fedora with a scruffy brown cardigan and my hipster boots and say that I’ve been a Ben Lee fan for years.

Fact of the matter is that I have one song, “Catch My Disease”, in any kind of rotation within my music collection. That said, I’m eager to see this. There is just something about watching the trials and tribulations of any artist and Lee is no different. Director Amiel Courtin-Wilson has a handle on what’s needed to get laypeople interested, present company included, and that’s to keep to the formula that makes these movies compelling.

What makes this one different is that there isn’t any real conflict or bottoming out other than saying that there was a time when he went out of fashion. I don’t necessarily think there’s a drug bender or a complete breakdown in this movie’s future, and if there is it’s hidden pretty well, but when you’re a rock n’ roller and that star starts to wax and then wane even a devastating depression will be enough to satisfy my own curiosity about any adversity he’s faced.

The Russian Winter Trailer

Who the hell is John Forte and why should I care?

Not knowing anything about Forte is a good way to enter the atmosphere of this movie’s ecosystem as director Petter Ringbom does something interesting with how we enter John’s life. We start out by having someone on camera ask that question: Who is John Forte?  We’re thrust in the middle of a moment before John hops a plane to Russia. The who, what, where, when, why, and how slowly trickle out and it’s pretty bold.

We don’t have a montage of file footage explaining that Forte was someone who helped produced The Fugees, an interesting omission, instead saying that here’s a man who was handpicked by the former president of the United States to be pardoned. Why does someone who has busted accepting $1.4 million worth of liquid cocaine, 31 pounds of it, get to be one of only 14 people to be pardoned? This is the story but it’s nicely hidden with the existing narrative of what this musician is out to do in Russia. It seems like a real noble endeavor and it’s nice to see this guy play that tough taskmaster role as it gives us a muti-dimensional look at a dude who has been given a second chance, but isn’t suffering fools gladly.

I might not know who he is but this is a story that’s filled with so many questions and the promise of an uplifting tale that’s going to be stuffed with recriminations, ponderous musings about the nature of man, and an ex-con who is out to change the world. Solid.

A Hijacking Trailer 

After hearing about how organized the pirate business is on NPR’s Planet Money and even Morning Edition I have to say I’m intrigued by the economics surrounding this industry. And it is. Like any other operation that requires capital and labor, this is a strange ecosystem that is almost straightforward in its approach to how it handles business, the business of piracy.

What this movie by Tobias Lindholm is out to chart is that very moment when things go south and the act of dealing tough with terrorists conflict with the human beings that are at the epicenter of the whole ordeal. What I love about this trailer is how it digs in deep with its emotional hooks. Yeah, father with a kid is an easy way to do it but it’s effective here at contrasting with the suits back home who really do want to make sure everyone is brought home in one piece. And, yes, it’s a movie but how we transition from the boat, to back home, to the pirates manhandling the crew, to the suits standing tough as our father/captain starts to emotionally break.

The ending deliciously captures that moment when things go completely south. I’m unsure of which way things will go, seeing how the money men back home look like they’re torn about what is happening as well and not acting like we would usually see these kinds of dudes portrayed, but that’s the upside to finding a trailer that knows how to get you interested and invested without tipping the scale too far in the direction of complete reveal.

Camp 14: Total Control Zone Trailer

There’s something about man’s ability to act completely rudderless.

When you see a trailer like this, which looks at a North Korean re-education camp and one of its victims, you can’t imagine how this can still exist. Documentarian Marc Wiese on a slow and steady descent into one man’s life in which he’s now permanently disfigured thanks to a healthy regimin of torture and abuse.

What makes this trailer so striking isn’t that we have a guy telling how he managed to escape a life that, as we explains it, was a slow erosion to his soul but we get animation showing us what it is like for those who have to endure and thrive in this environment. As well, we get a nicely dressed man, holding a cigarette quite gingerly and talking in a calm cadence of how he would blow the brains out of anyone he didn’t like at any time. His honesty and openness is frightening as it’s illuminating. Not satisfied with this sociopath, we get another well dressed man who flashes a smile as he talks about the horror he was capable of.

We hear more from the escapee who will probably have a life of PTSD to look forward to every waking day as he recounts the time when he saw his mother and brother were publicly executed. And it’s about here where you realize that not every country can be allowed to run things the way they want to and that possibly, probably, most likely, there is a case to be made about what an international community should be allowed to do in order to ensure human beings don’t have to endure this.

That old yarn, those who can’t remember the past, the whole condemned, repeat thing…it’s why a movie like this is important.

UFO Trailer

Big ups to director Dominic Burns for making this trailer more about capturing the essence of his film and not leaning on the fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme is in it, for whatever that buys you nowadays.

The low-fi budget of this production, looking initially like something you would expect to see on the SyFy channel late on a Friday, gives it a certain charm and it knows how to get through the initial steps of getting my attention but, more importantly, sticking with it as it makes the case for itself. We get lens flares, a’splosions, guns, fighting, space ships, more lens flares, sexy times, nice quick cuts, and not one shred of narrative. It’s gloriously mind numbing.

While there is just no way I could see myself spending any money at the multiplex to see this I am positive I would DVR it in a heartbeat. You absolutely can see the passion, time, and dedication that went into making this and seeing how the budget is probably close to a shoestring definition I’m stoked to see how this all shakes out.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com

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

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