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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?

Defamation Trailer

1.    I didn’t, and still, don’t understand why I had to sign in and show my driver’s license at the Valley of The Sun Jewish Community Center here in Scottsdale, Arizona when I was out selling newspaper advertising. One of my contacts said it was because they check my name against terrorist watch lists but I didn’t ever get confirmation whether they were kidding with me.

2.    Where do these backward thinking troglodytes live, the ones that still think spray painting swastikas on people’s property in the dead of night, because they’re cowards, will somehow bring about the great white hope of like-minded idiots everywhere?

This trailer covers a lot of ground and, unfortunately, due to the number of unsavory ignoramuses who live in every city across this great nation, no one is immune to the subject matter. I would say the timing is right for a movie like this because you can extrapolate the essence of what it’s selling to any number of social problems that racists, narrow-minded people, or fundies who think it’s Jesus’ way or no way, seem to be having as of late and I think the message is wholly resonant. And it certainly got my attention.

Call me silly or old-fashioned but I like snappy openings like we get here. You have some guy, off camera, explaining what the definition of anti-Semitism is and we get the man who is being videotaped be astounded at that because, to paraphrase, the Jews control the world. The world is asinine, isn’t it? I mean, show business, without question. Gelman with Regis and Kelly? Ari Gold from Entourage? They’re everywhere.

It’s a smart move, flag waving the fact that this film was a selection at the Berlin Film Festival. This isn’t some dolt with a camera, navel gazing at his own experience; this is someone with something to say and people have responded.

I have a difficult time, however, with the quick explanation from some kind of expert that it all starts with a denigrating comment and then, if you just give a little bit of water and sunshine, you’ll eventually have genocide. A bit of a stretch to go from A to Z like that, but I love the pace of this trailer. It’s serious subject matter but the music is jaunty and the mood is upbeat.

A quick stat from the ADL about anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. per year, a pull-quote flashes on the screen from Michael Moore, and I am astounded in one of those I-can’t-make-this-stuff-up kind of moments where you have a theoretical situation argued on this point: of a black guy and a Jewish guy are walking down the street and one has to get mugged who will it be? The answer may make you laugh  as will the reasoning.

Throw in a little bit of academic interviewing from those who try and explain away the notion of what this all means in the grand scheme of things, while also getting the lay person’s viewpoint of what they think it means, and you have one powder keg of a film that I hope gets seen far and wide. Like I mentioned, it’s not so much that this is about anti-semitism but that this explains a lot of what we accept in our culture and why we allow it to exist.

Wonderful World Trailer

Well, this is awkward.

Writer Joshua Goldin took a lot of time between films. After he wrote 1990’s Darkman he then followed it up with Out on a Limb, a movie that starred Matthew Broderick, a couple years after that. He then took a little time off, if his resume is to be believed. He took about 17 years off.

He’s back with a film that looks like it reprises Broderick’s former tight ass persona from Deck the Halls but this time it’s cranked up to “High” as he plays a guy who is inscrutably miserable. I don’t know why we start with showing how dour and depressed this little dolt is but after he makes his kid feel equally wretched, and an interstitial says that he’s not a happy person, I wonder why I would spend my time watching this man. Sure, I am positive he’s going to have a grand spiritual awakening and will end up planting tulips by the end of this movie but it almost seems excessive to paint a guy with such a broad brush.

Further, I would assert that smash cutting to a business guy in his business suit talking about business things directly to the camera is a rather overt attempt to show a black and white distinction between classes where there doesn’t need to be any. Oddly, just as fast as this comes up we go back to Broderick and what might be his only friend playing chess. His buddy literally falls and slips into a diabetic coma and, as things would have it, no one wants to help a scrambling Broderick because he’s such a d-bag but it all seems rather pat in order to move this plot along.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the diabetic guy has a hot sister who comes to tend to her brother and so begins a fling that will no doubt, without question, teach this man all about love and life. Honestly, by the time we reach the end I’m convinced I’ve seen the whole film, I don’t believe for a minute that the dramatic shift is possible with a dolt like him, and I certainly don’t buy in that the man’s life could be changed around in the span of this movie’s run time. While I am delighted at the sight of Dan Zanes I can’t say I’m as eager to experience this movie’s ending.

Police, Adjective Trailer

Congratulations, Corneliu Poromboiu, you’ve made a film that a lot of important people in filmdom seem to embrace but whoever cobbled together this trailer needs to help me out in explaining what in the world everyone is so effusively happy about.

I tried to watch this trailer a few times before starting to write about it but I keep coming back to the same idea and that is I do not understand what on earth is happening. I think I maybe get it, I think I’m probably right, but even after that I am unsure of whether I just saw warrants more of a look with regard to a purchased ticket.

I realize this is cheating a little bit, but after not getting it a first time I looked up the film’s synopsis. What we have here is slightly akin to 21 Jump Street. You’ve got this Richard Grieco fella who is a narc that reports back to the police. He sees a guy offer hash to a couple of his school chums but he doesn’t want to turn in the guy who just offered it up because he thinks the act of “offering,” which it spells out in the movie’s synopsis, should be a law that ought not to be punished. A lot of existential pondering goes on by this young man, and I guess there’s a movie in here somewhere, but I don’t see it.

The trailer starts up front enough: it defines what police means. Either it’s a police officer (noun) or it’s a police type of movie or book (adjective). So, which one will this be? Noun or adjective? I don’t know but I’m fairly sure the film’s title gives a hint.

A smoky jazz riff plays in the background as the logo of the Cannes film festival appears, letting us know it was not only a winner at Cannes but it is an official entry for the 2010 Academy Awards. It’s a solid opening but I do take contention with what follows after.

The narc goes back to his police station to report back on what he has seen go down. There is a semantic back and forth between what constitutes unlawful possession, I think, and dealing or offering. Further, the interstitial asks the question of us, the audience: What defines justice? Well, to that I would say, “How the hell should I know?” This is Romania, where you had a guy putting people on sharp spits all those years ago and started the whole vampire thing…Shouldn’t you be telling me what you think justice is? It then asks me what defines morality. Look, this is a movie trailer, not a philosophical treatise on the current social problems of nation states. You want to have this argument, do it on your own time, inside the film. As it stands, I grew increasingly irritated with this trailer.

I am utterly baffled by what is afoot here in this movie and why there are so many critics  quoted who have spooged their love all over this because, from my perspective, there isn’t anything here that would motivate me to spend money to see it. Is it about unfair drug laws? Is it about a cop who doesn’t think it’s right that he has to enforce weak laws that he would like see changed? Is it about his struggles with his own sense of self? I don’t rightly care at this point. It’s funny because, at the very end of this trailer, the protagonist acknowledges how clueless he is about everything.

I couldn’t agree more, my friend.

Gutter King

The comparisons to Fight Club and Fighting will be inevitable.

Whereas the former is a movie that deconstructs more than just underground boxing between two men in a ring where there is no ring, the latter is a throwaway exercise in trying to have a vehicle fit the glossy image of its star. One these movies ended up being a seminal classic and the other represents a movie I couldn’t even give away on DVD.

What Gutter King has going for it is its seemingly raw delivery.

The opening sequence is an oddly hypnotic song that flashes in and out of a guy pounding something. Is it someone’s face? Is it something else? We discover it’s the former as the film’s star is supine, delighting in the fists that have bludgeoned his face. Strange, but the voiceover, which is of a guy who has hand picked this human punching bag to be his protégé (isn’t that always the way?), helps to couch exactly what we’re seeing here and that’s a proposition that, honestly, feels like Fighting with Channing Tatum.

What this film seems to have, however, is a spirit of adventure to delve into what it would really be like to have a kid just duking it out in impromptu fighting contests with nothing more to lose that one’s consciousness. The film’s love interest never speaks but it is an interesting decision to have this raging bull have a cow of his own to try and court. I don’t know if it’s just that but his promoter buddy also has an interesting role and he executes it quite well as he explains the speed bag technique that this kid employs in the field of underground brawling.

The cut scenes don’t really help me understand things any more but it does make the film a little more interesting to me as it seems a departure from your usual indie fare. I also like that this doesn’t tread on themes that we usually see. What it lacks in execution it makes up for in charisma and sometimes that’s what makes a great fighter.


Tomme Tonner Trailer

If ever there was a reason to love what’s possible from other countries who have learned how to navigate the world of film this trailer would be it.

I realize that the reception for Dead Snow was a little mixed. Yeah, you had some people who weren’t down with the whole Nazi zombies thing and weren’t that impressed with the effort but huzzah to the makers of that film for getting another idea in their head to slap together a new movie that has nothing to do with the undead or frozen water.

This time it’s organized crime.

So, while some got hung up on the campy premise of Snow this trailer shows how well these filmmakers can navigate the world of Snatch-like criminality. Pretty well, if this trailer is any indication. As well, what’s important to realize that those who made this were cognizant about the power of making a trailer that doesn’t place it in a specific place but that it transcends cultural boundaries when you understand there isn’t so much as a sentence spoken throughout this whole thing. I couldn’t be more pleased.

What astounds me is that this kind of hackneyed territory is made original once again by personifying the life of small time hoodlumism with an opening of a guy, splattered with blood and breathing heavy. We have no clue of the who, what, where, when, why, or how but it’s a bold choice to just let this freaked out individual just sit there and shiver for a bit. We get introduced to another man who might as well be devoid of any discernible soul as he sits quietly, gazing into someone’s eyes.

Police sirens go off, a swat team stampedes in formation toward something ambiguous. Thumping bass beats behind random images of a shipyard, strippers, guys toting guns, and of a windshield that seems to just shatter in thousands of pieces, mid-drive. It’s chaotic as hell and as the tires screech it all goes eerily silent before a gee-tar kicks in with the A chord as we get even more shots of debauchery and what I can only suspect is illegal activity.

Street fighting, brawling, guys getting their noggin smashed in from higher-ups, more strippers, fast cars, even faster action, a guy with a needle stuck in his neck appears on the screen, guns are blazing forth, and it’s all enough to make you wonder where this movie has been all your life.

I don’t get excited for many films that skip their way across the pond but this one seems like it has something to say. Even if that one word is “fun” there ought not to be anything wrong with that.

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

  • Letters to Juliet TrailerThanks for saving me my $9.50. I not only know everything that happens but now I realize how excruciating it would have been to sit through.
  • Season of the Witch TrailerThe bees! The bees! THE BEES! I would make some snide tax joke but this trailer does a good job, speaking from a utilitarian viewpoint. Doesn’t make me want to see it but it’ll fool a few of you.
  • The Rock-afire Explosion TrailerBoy, this thing takes me back. One of the best advertisements I’ve seen in a long for a documentary that I wish I could see tonight. A hint of nostalgia, a little melancholy, and the promise for a good story is a trifecta in my book.
  • Green Lantern Fan TrailerApplause all around for the people who made this thing. You’ve got admire the passion and spirit in which this was done as it certainly, even though it’s a little rough around the edges, is a respectable effort.
  • Beastly TrailerUm, so what the hell did I just see? If I had zero idea about what this was supposed to be I’m not sure I would be able to even make an educated guess. The effects look spiffy so I am, at the very least, interested in seeing more.
  • Universal Solder: RegenerationIt looks like they had just enough money to shoot in one location. Call me silly but this looks like it could be a perfect rental if I had to entertain a pack of frat boys or a bunch of 13 year-olds.
  • Greenberg TrailerThis trailer, without question, sold me. Finally, a Ben Stiller who wants to act dramatically and a movie that feels like it has something reasonably important to say. A really well put together piece of marketing.
  • Princess of Mars TrailerWasn’t this one of the movies showcased in Amazon Women on the Moon? It looks horrifically awful in a way that I don’t think even 1st year film students would approve of.
  • Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side TrailerI won’t dump all over this if you’re a fan of the series. I just don’t get the humor and I certainly am not swayed by what’s in this trailer with the exception of hearing H. Jon Benjamin’s voice coming out of Yoda. Huge fan.
  • Avatar “Interactive Trailer” - While this hasn’t changed whether I am any more or less excited to see the film this is nonetheless an interesting exploration into what you can do with a film trailer. It really is fascinating to delve into the possibilities of what can be accomplished when you make the user experience before seeing the film a positive one.
  • Prep & Landing TrailerSince I’m not six anymore I couldn’t tell you whether this would get me excited or not. I am more curious than I am crotchety as the voice talent of Dave Foley is a draw for me as is the fact that the Disney stamp of approval is on it although we all know what’s been done to the sequels of films/spin-offs that haven’t needed them as of late.
  • Youth In Revolt Trailer #2I loved this book when it came out years ago and this trailer just confirms, for me, that some of what made that story so interesting to me as a reader might actually have made its way into the film. Besides, Michael Cera, Steve Buscemi, and Zach Galifianakis all in a movie together? Sold.
  • The Last Station TrailerWithout question, this film looks dazzling, rich and full bodied like a cold ale, and without question quite faithful to the period of which its trying to capture. That said, this does not look like a movie I will be running out to see when it drops. I might slowly walk to it if nothing else.
  • Ninja Assassin TrailerI’ll confess: I really want to see this movie. The trailers have been absolutely doing a great sell job and should be commended for convincing me this is the action movie of the year when, in fact, the reviews haven’t been so kind. This trailer, though, still gets my hopes up. Wonderful use of red band.
  • The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond TrailerI’d like to think I’m not some neanderthal when it comes to appreciating art but this screenplay ought to have stayed lost if this trailer is any indication of the dialogue we’ll get. The whole thing feels chintzy, not at all as extravagant as the diamond that’s purported to be lost somewhere in this film.
  • Toy Story 3 Teaser Trailer #2 - Giving us a little better glimpse into what’s afoot in TS3, this teaser shows us much of what I think we’ve come to expect from this franchise. I’m already sold but the hint of the storyline is meted out in such a small dollop that I appreciate its restraint to show us more.
  • The King of Fighters Promo TrailerHilarious. I think this movie was filmed was shot in two angles: 45 degrees and 90 degrees. Besides a ludicrous premise, awful posturing on the part of the film’s stars, I think the utilization of a garbage can as a weapon has ensured I’ll be waiting for this film to come free with any purchase of a chalupa at  Taco Bell.
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