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?


L’Immortel (22 Bullets) Trailer

I never really understood how pop stars that sing in English can be so revered in countries where English is not the primary language. Further, I am mystified at how these very same audiences sing back in perfect harmony. After watching this trailer, you see, I wouldn’t mind learning French.

You’ll have to excuse the fact I don’t speak the language of love, and you’ll further have to excuse the fact that this trailer isn’t translated, but this deserves a couple of minutes of your time, no question about it.

I mean, how can you not be at least giddy at the thought of Jean Reno and Luc Besson reuniting once more for a movie about hitmen, revenge, tender mercies of the heart, and violence of the bloodiest kind? I’ll answer that for you, you can’t feel anything less than hope.

The trailer opens with the most delicate soundtrack, a tune in the operatic vein that stands in stark contrast to the bloody bullets that sit in a metal pan. A mother and child lay in a bed. While I don’t know what’s being said, again, the contrast makes an impression on me. It’s all very serene and surreal.

It’s easy enough to infer what’s happening on the screen just by watching what’s being told through the pictures. Reno looks like he’s recovering from being riddled with gunfire while we also flash back to a simpler, quieter time of his life. What’s more is that even though I don’t speak French I do know enough that an interstitial that states this movie is “Inspire de faits reels” means that what we’ve got here is an inspired tale of realism and, for that, I love that Besson can’t get absolutely nutty with the story.

Wherever the truth lies I have to say it at least warrants hearing it out. How could you not be intrigued by a hitman who leaves killing behind, starts a new life, a few years later finding himself on the wrong end of a phalanx of bullets, and then living to tell about it? There is much talking going on in the middle of this thing which I obviously can’t infer, there is subtlety I wish I could understand, but all you need to know is that he had a kid, had a life, and had it all taken away at about the one minute, thirty second mark.

The rest of the trailer just contrasts his life out of the game and how he found himself back in it but the single fact remains that this preview gave me a little hope that a Marvel sized team-up of Besson and Reno could actually be a good thing. So help me God if this turns out to be another warmed-over collaboration.

Don McKay Trailer

This is a joke, right? A farce, perchance?

There is no way this could be anything else but a Tommy Wiseau inspired kind of film because the intended effect this trailer should have had, I believe, is supposed to make me think this is a sultry story of misdirection, misinformation, and the dark secrets we keep from one another.

Um, no.

I honestly don’t mean to be harsh but this trailer utterly fails to stoke the embers that a good, cerebral, Hitchcock-ian thriller ought to do. First time director/writer Jake Goldberger delivers on setting up a promising story but it simply collapses as every frame unfolds.

I sincerely love the beginning of this thing. I do. I was hoping to extol the thunderous powers of Thomas Haden Church, as he just has that presence about him, but as we see the twilight that’s falling on a sleepy hollow, him standing on a doorstop introducing himself, it’s the old sea hag who reiterates his name at the door (Melissa Leo) that just pushes this trailer in a downward direction, waterboarding it completely.

From the way it opens, I was hoping this was a story about a guy who has come back to slaughter a small family in a murderous rage, a prisoner who has come back to kill! Instead, I get Elizabeth Shue. Writhing, no less, on a bed in a negligee, asking whether he got her letter? Whaaa? What letter? Why are you twisting around in your underthings like that? It looks like these two were old boyfriend/girlfriend from high school but it’s all very weird in the way its executed.

In what sums up the oddity that is this trailer, at one point Church is standing behind Shue and he tells her, in a lecherous strangler voice, how beautiful she is…as she curls her hair. Then you get Leo putting on this affect of some strange school marm as she talks and it all comes off as trite.

Further, Shue can’t seem to be clothed in anything less than the back catalog of Fredrick’s of Hollywood and, in a pièce de résistance, you’ve just got to watch as Church says the line, “You’re lying to me.” Dare I say it tops, “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” but I honestly think it does.

I don’t care about this movie as not only does this trailer completely give away his hand, ensuring I really only need to watch the last ½ hour of it, but it just doesn’t inspire confidence or clarity. Pass.

A Film With Me In It Trailer

This is a classic example of when seemingly interesting movies get saddled with poor trailers.

What I enjoy most of director Ian Fitzgibbon’s, who is also bringing us this year’s Perrier’s Bounty, telling of a tale of a guy who just happens to be in the proximity of three people who randomly all die around him is the way the trailer just flows. I realize that it’s a lot to take in with a plot as complex as this as you watch it but the trailer paces itself appropriately and it comes off very, very funny.

The angles used, the shots that sort of linger on the decedents as the confusion and consternation grows within our protagonist Mark (played by writer of the film, Mark Doherty) and the comedic relief in his buddy Pierce (Dylan Moran) who does a smash up job laying out everything that we’re thinking and plays the fool to his role as serious straight man.; the two of them click in the grand tradition of comedic teams like Pegg/Frost. To wit, we see a chandelier fall on a guy, we see a man get a tool stuck in his jugular as he bleeds out on the kitchen floor, and a woman who eats it after falling on a sharp object on her way down from fainting at the sight of a dead man under a chandelier.

It’s all very amusing in how quick we get to this point, and how this trailer just zooms along in establishing the problem our heroes face, but the one and awful issue I have to take contention with is the wretched guitar music driving it all. Was there no one who could hear that what we are seeing on the screen doesn’t necessarily match up with the generic, stock a-chords wailing in the background? It’s obvious there wasn’t and the trailer merely ends with a whimper as it should have been energizing because of the restraint shown in keeping things vague to the viewer.

Overall, by the end of this I know generally what’s happening but it’s not really clear what is going to occur when people find out about these deaths. I think I could have been more excited for a movie that at least looks like it could be a rather funny yarn but, instead, I’m just thankful when it ends.

Salvage Trailer

I’ll state that this looks like genuine fun.

Not only does this trailer hit the right notes with what you ought to do in order to generate some interest in your movie but it tantalizes you with with its opaqueness, not revealing anything that might reveal too much, and has you guessing throughout its running time. That’s also its greatest strength: you have to keep watching to try and mentally put together a puzzle that seems to be right there in front of you.

Is this a zombie movie? Is this a Red Dawn kind of film? How can you have zombies in a Red Dawn kind of film? All these kinds of questions bubble up but it shows a complete sense of restraint on the filmmakers’ part in not just spilling everything in order to generate buzz and for that I am impressed.

How this trailer accomplishes greatness really is attributed to the first 25 seconds. It’s a microcosm, really, of how it ought to be done for all films where confusion and disorientation are at the crux for a film’s plot. Writer/director Lawrence Gough should be proud for slapping the wrist of any money man who wanted desperately for him to reveal what was going on.

You have a good score that instantly makes you feel on edge, uncomfortable; you have no voiceover, no interstitial, to spoon feed your mind about what you’re going to see; quotes from people who have seen it and liked it thoroughly; and just a hint, a smidge, of the plot. These four things at the outset of a trailer will work every single time in order to get people to stick with the trailer long enough to get you through the next 25 seconds and it does so with this trailer fantastically.

The next 25 are filled with guys armed with machine guns who are breaking down doors, people who are getting shot, bloody hands smearing across glass, women freaking out everywhere, and I have not one iota of insight into what’s ultimately happening here. I think it has more to do with an assault of a small community that anything else but since everyone is covered in gore I could care less. I’m in.

This trailer paints this as a movie that moves quick, has some good production values, and at least has the pull-quotes in order to stick it squarely on my radar as a movie I’d like to more about. Successful trailer any which way you look at it.

How I Ended This Summer Trailer

What I appreciate about this trailer is how it eases you into its world.

There is nothing wrong with being launched from a supine position straight into the air at a 100 miles an hour as you get detail after detail about what a movie is about but this one wants to put your slippers on, put a hand under your elbow, and assist you out of bed gently.

Director/writer Aleksei Popogrebsky evokes a sense of isolation and bareness with the opening shot of this trailer which, no doubt, will prove to be a theme explored later on as who shows a desolate land only to have a movie filled with cherubs and BJs.

Oddly, the tone is upbeat when we meet our headphone festooned interloper, star of the film, who is spending some time with the men who man a station that seems to track and report on weather patterns. Who knows what they report on but the mood is jaunty as we watch this guy milling around the site just exploring the area and kicking back. Somehow he messes with the natural order of things and really changes the mood.

The kid is smacked around a little bit and the whole trailer just devolves into a series of quick cuts. Cuts that don’t explain why the leader of these guys just has a mental collapse but his meltdown is my enjoyment because the way things are communicated in the last third of this trailer it compels you to watch. You don’t know what is going to happen, whether there will be a wholesale slaughter of everyone, and you sure don’t know how this kid is going to escape a madman who’s armed and ready to mow down a few people.

In all, this is a thrilling trailer that tantalizes you with the promise for something wicked and even gives you a little something to show you a load of seriousness is about to be delivered to the middle of nowhere.

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

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