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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?

October Country Trailer

Sometimes you just stumble upon these things.

I was looking to see whether there was a subtitled version of a trailer for the film Kill Daddy Goodnight, a German movie that looks every bit as warped (in a delicately positive way) as its poster, and came across this instead. It’s a movie, if you were to look up about its directors and writers, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, that is coming from two guys who have never written or directed a movie before. Or at least in IMDB’s eyes. This fact was the first thing that caught my attention after watching the initial seconds of this trailer and stopping it to investigate further. Why I found this on a German website, a documentary that gives a glimpse into a wholly American town, I will never know.

The girl at the beginning of this thing is eating an ice cream cone. She laughs a little as she goes on to explain how much her town, well, sucks. There is something so honest being reflected back at me that I just let this thing play out. The music is wonderfully scored, as is the font that introduces us to what we’re seeing, which is a series of unrelated images of a person standing at the precipice of a beautiful overlook, of leaves blowing through a cemetery, of a kid doing a back flip off a wall, parkour style, of snow.

It’s so gentle and soothing that it’s just something that you either give into and watch or just bolt from swiftly. Far more than a Normal Rockwell painting come to life it does feel dingy, dirty but it bursts with the lives of the people that will no doubt be chronicled in this film. You get a little violence between a couple, one woman seems deep in the throes of a bad day, or life, and a host of other slices of life that seem genuine dance across the screen slowly. From the fireworks, to the scenes that play out from a man-made haunted house, I am floored by the tractor beam this trailer has on me.

The tag line “Every family has its ghosts” seems mysteriously tacked on there like the bait it is and I could not yearn to see the movie any more than I am. I am fascinated by chronicles of everyday life and this documentary seems like it could be something far more than just American Teen or the latest Michael Moore construction. The trailer absolutely does the talking for the movie and sells me on what its selling.

At The Game (Na igre) Trailer

I do not care that I can’t understand one word of this trailer.

The notion that writer/director Pavel Sanayev isn’t known here in America for any work he’s done isn’t really relevant to the fact that this trailer hits all the correct notes and cues for a movie that I won’t be able to see this month. And to think that in Russia, where the oligarchy ought to have produced its own version of Mark Cuban, someone capable of churning out media that could seep out of its massive boundaries, there hasn’t been an artistic renaissance baffles me. However, in a land that seems to tolerate the assassination of its journalists I shouldn’t be that surprised. I am, though, befuddled at why a trailer that seems like it could have some international, blockbuster appeal just exists for me to marvel at without anyone else in the know.

No, this isn’t Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and, at best, you have yourselves a summer movie that’s more age appropriate to those in their teens but what a concept that could be, a foreign film from Russia mated with a popcorn actioneer. If it ever made its way over here it could at least help Night Watch not be the only thing of note to come out of mother Russia that has asplosions.

Take, for example, the opening sequence. Not only does it show some impressive CG effects at about the 45 second mark but the entire premise of the film seems to transcend the Russian being spoken. Even though I don’t know what they’re saying I can kind of get we’re looking at a film where we’re going to take the premise of Brainscan and blend it up in a puree a la Gamer. I know many would turn their nose up at it but I’m on the cheerleading bandwagon for this and can see some potential where things are going. The direction is passable, as well, and the editing is top notch; we don’t linger anywhere for longer than a couple of seconds and that’s wonderful for me as I try and piece together the story without any comprehension of the words.

Toss in a little military training, some cash, some lingerie, some young kids acting out their most base of instincts, and then things really get loud. Yelling starts to take the place of actual narrative explanation and, much like us ‘mericans and our action trailers, everything devolves into one long bombastic screaming match with explosives going off every few seconds.

I don’t know what’s happening but I am truly disappointed that this movie is landlocked.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil Trailer

I laughed when I watched this.

I realize this doesn’t really mean anything much to anyone but with as many of these things that I watch in any given week it’s a miracle I feel anything at all. That’s why, when you have Tyler Labine, who really was the comedic force pushing Reaper along its way, in a role that is perfectly suited to accentuate his kind of humor, you have a trailer that is just a delight to watch. As well, Alan Tudyk. For as much as this guy delivers in any role he’s given, he was a bright spot in Dodgeball, a man you cringed at in Knocked Up, you cannot underestimate the silly premise that finds both he and Labine paired up together.

I did, however, have to watch this a few times before I “recognized” this trailer’s flavor, as the kids would say, and appreciated what was going on. The opening sequence alone with Tyler approaching some college kids going off to camp in the woods, and addressing them, is worth a minute of your time. The notion that both he and Alan play accidental murderers, through no fault of their own, and the sort of Jason Voorhees ascribing that goes on when these kids suspect that those two country bumpkins are actual serial killers, is preposterous at best but it is Labine and Tudyk that really shine in this trailer. They sell it.

The musical cue of Nickelback’s Burn it To The Ground is perfect as the comedy of errors is put into motion. The college kids are treated to a grizzly ghost story, Labine and Tudyk then pop into these kids’ lives without intending to, as the premise is blown up to exponential proportions. The farce is brilliantly encapsulated as one of the teens accidentally impales himself on a tree, one jumps into a wood chipper, one shoots himself in the face, all the while Labine and Tudyk are out of their minds hysterical as they believe the kids are in on some massive suicide attempt that they have to bear witness to.

High marks for the blood and gore factor, as well. This thing goes beyond mere comedy as it just jumps right into showcasing actual viscera. The last few moments feel like a screeching of the Tim Robbins, circa War Of The Worlds, air brakes but I am sold on it regardless.

It’s a thoughtful concept but, again, the actors being used here all seem to know their part and know what it is going to take in order to make it work. They make it happen.

The Magic Hour Trailer

I have been so inured in thinking about films that speak to certain audiences that I have divvied films in all sorts of categories without ever considering this genre until I saw the trailer for this film. Not to be confused with the wretched television talk show starring Magic Johnson, The Magic Hour is something you don’t see everyday.

Built with the idea that this is a film that intends to raise the awareness of filmmakers who have disabilities, this is an annual “scheme,” as the web site points out, in the UK to help these artists out by getting their work out to a larger audience. Not only is it just a competition to find the best in films from this field but the eventual release awards the following to four of the most promising filmmakers:

* £10,000 of funding to make a short film up to 20 minutes in length

* Support from top industry mentors

* Distribution support and promotion of the finished films by 104 films, including a UK cinema release and premiere at a major UK film festival

Not too shabby if you’re able to qualify and this program has spawned a film series that, on the surface, looks like something special. Further, if you watch this trailer you can see why there is a feeling of freshness in the stories that are being told.

Disability isn’t something that immediately comes to mind when you watch the opening sequence, and get a wicked trippy sound bed underneath, a narrated bit where an eight year-old boy tells us he lives with a robot. The perspective is unique and there is most certainly a sense of originality but as you’re trying to understand what a robot has to do with an eight year-old boy we’re shoved into a new story. It’s an animated one, stop motion and with clay, that offers no context, no subtext. Its audio levels are little unbalanced but I’m transfixed at what is going on in this trailer.

The third story is a little more complicated, a little more daring, as I think our protagonist in this one is literally being rubber stamped on the back with a number. Again, no clue what on earth is happening but out of no where we get a leather gloved hand shooting someone who has their legs up in the air. Yeah, I know, bizarre as all get out but I dare you not to try and figure out what is up with the woman in the wheelchair who seems like a celebrated artist as she talks about her journey to die as visions of toasters getting tossed into the bathtub, of rocks being attached to someone as they throw themselves off high perches, a woman being hit by a car, pass by on the screen. Tough stuff. Lovingly, the last yarn seems to be about a man who uses sign language…and is a porn star.

I feel like one of those people who have to put a bat on their foreheads, spin around, and then try to run in a straight line for a free t-shirt. I’m completely in it to win it but I don’t know anything about what I’m about to get in to by going along for the journey.

Fix Trailer

You’ve got to love any trailer that includes the phrase, “crazy ass white boy.”

I had a professor once that said if you really want to know what it is like to be a writer write short stories. The compression of time, of having to assess the weight of every word, the accelerated pace with which you have to get from A to Z, it all factors in to why short story collections sometimes can blow away a novel.

I’ve never forgotten that and I always appreciate films that work under compressed timelines. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Superbad, scores of others have shown what is possible when you have a limited amount of time on your hands to deal with in telling a narrative. This film, done by documentary filmmaker Tao Ruspoli, gets out of his usual verite wheelhouse, to take a story that is inspired by a true tale of a guy who is on the hunt for his brother, having to get him into rehab by the end of the day or having him put into jail for three years. We witness the manhunt through the eyes of two documentary filmmakers who are on a journey to find this guy throughout various locales in Los Angeles.

What’s striking about this trailer is that it really does have a hurried, in a good way, feel. The images seem discordant but they’re not. They compose a picture of an addict who is spiraling out of control with a documentary film crew on his tail, interviewing those who have been touched in his wake. There is a dirtiness to the images and the quote from Oliver Stone in bold yellow font, praising the filmmakers and the film, is brilliantly placed: upfront, unmissable, in your face, loud.

The faster beat of the music is subtle but I notice it. It helps to move from the idea that this is a movie not unlike Dog the Bounty Hunter set to a quick beat with hipsters on this cat’s tail looking to charter a course that will inevitably end with rehab or something worse. The praise from Variety is also a coup as it’s, like Stone’s quote, prominent. I don’t usually pay attention to the superfluous adjectives used to hoist a movie into stratospheric heights but the quote that describes this movie as blend of Go and Arrested Development raises an eyebrow. I dare anyone to hit the 1:40 mark and not pulsate at what’s happening before them. What started as a slow meditation on drug abuse has turned into a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of drugs and bad behavior.

I love at how effortlessly this thing shifts gears.

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

  • A Single Man TrailerMinimalist but with the hint of giving away a lot without doing so, this trailer is one of a kind in a landscape filled with those who want to sell you the beginning, middle, and end. Without knowing the plot I would be hard pressed to know what’s happening but who cares, it’s gorgeous to watch.
  • Neckface TrailerHuh? I am not sure what I just watched but it certainly elicits more questions than it does answers. Clearly we’re not meant to know what is happening but I am entranced by its oddly striking sounds.
  • Up In The Air’s Mad Men TV TrailerPlease don’t click the link. I agree with Peter Sciretta on this one:  a lot of trailers give a lot away but this one just empties out the soul of this movie and you shouldn’t be exposed to what comes out of it before “getting to know” Clooney’s character in the film. Stay away.
  • Clash of the Titans Trailer - Honestly, I can sum this up in three words: 300 with sunlight. I am going to see this, I’m interested as all get out to see how they crafted Medusa, but this thing spends way too long on scorpions for some reason; it’s chock full of them, oddly.
  • Kick-Ass Teaser TrailerThe problem with this teaser is you have exposition but it’s not the right kind of exposition for teaser trailer. You don’t really get why this series is such an interesting take on the genre and it lacks a uniform sense of cohesion. Hopefully, they’ll clean this all up for the full length trailer.
  • Date Night Teaser TrailerI might as well kill myself if this is what passes muster at studios looking for quality material for their A-list talent. “What did you just say? Mistaken identity? Parents? Marky Mark without his shirt on? The parents turning into a latter-day crime fighting team? Sold!”
  • Extraordinary Measures TrailerI can say that when seen in a theater this is a trailer that will make anyone with a uterus poke their significant other with their elbow and whisper definitively, “We’re seeing that.” For me, it looks manipulative and has pretty much shown me the entire film by the end of it. Way to go.
  • Leap Year TrailerThanks, a perfectly common and uninteresting trailer filled with all the treacle that will make my wife go “Squee!” thus ensuring I’ll have to see this piece of throwaway Harlequin romance on a screen. From the jaunty piano music to the way too upbeat voiceover guy I already hate this movie as I know I’ll be asked/required to buy two tickets when it comes out. I hate life.
  • Grown Ups TrailerI think at one time this movie could have spoke to my sensibility as a movie lover but then I grew up and stopped being amused at simpletons who share strange proclivities. The trailer doesn’t flatter this film at all but, honestly, and thankfully, these movies aren’t made for me.
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