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?

Future X- Cops Trailer

If I had any money to give someone to make a movie, if I had any pull to give someone all the time in the world to put their creative vision on the screen, I would give all of it to writer/director Jing Wong.

Without question this trailer has to be one of the most unintentionally bizarre examples of what is possible when you mix a hyper stylized vision of the future with an action movie that looks like it belongs on basic cable circa 1986 as a dubbed import that would have been played after Lazer Tag: The Cartoon Series but before Soul Train.

This is my new favorite film.

I mean, you cannot watch this and think this is anything but an episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers that got plumb out of control in the wardrobe department, where the director decided to steal wholesale from action movies from America, and where the writers campaigned, and won by attrition, to have a love story crammed within its action scenes.

When you start a trailer that rips off Iron Man’s assembly montage, and does it without winking an eye and plays it completely straight, while also having a battle sequence where a guy has bulletproof, pterodactyl wings and another guy with metal alligators on the end of octopus tentacles a la Spider-Man 2, you’ve got my attention. It’s phenomenal. It’s glorious. It’s a battle royale that I can’t help watching a few times over because it is just that good. You’ve got a guy doing battle with a Conair hair dryer, the costumes are outrageous, and a guy gets crushed with a mega forklift arm that seems to be straight out of Aliens.

This trailer is above reproach because after all this insane stuff happens, the mood changes and we get a violin suite that sounds like it should belong in Gone With The Wind, our hero cuddles with a woman he deeply cares about. Smash cut to a flaming helicopter falling to the ground. Bad guys start terrorizing an amusement park, one guy hand cranks a Ferris wheel hard enough to jettison a car while another removes some track off a roller coaster in a special effect sequence you can’t help but wonder who authorized it, while some woman is driven through concrete walls by a flying motorcycle. Cut to violins and our hero making out with his girlfriend.

This trailer is utterly insane and defies any rational explanation.

The ending of this is no better, with our hero (Andy Lau) becoming a glossy white Iron Man, looking like it was designed with Mega Man in mind instead, and literally boring a hole through one of the bad guys.

I couldn’t make this up on paper if I tried but so help me God I want to own this movie and savor it today.

The Myth of the American Sleepover Trailer

Look, three things:

One, these kids are way too self-aware to be the kind of horned up, late teen crowd that I, and many of my cohorts, was back in the day. Some of the dialogue is way too snappy for some pimple faced geek who is looking to break himself off a piece like a Kit-Kat bar, splittin’ a log if you want to get vulgar about it I guess, to be spewing as some of these kids are in this trailer.

Two, as anyone who is a regular reader of this column knows, I am an avid lover of most anything teen related. I was personally felled with great sadness when PBS’ American  High was over, but the subject matter of this trailer reminded me of that series in a way.

Three, high fives to director David Robert Mitchell for getting a cast, mostly, of kids who at least look like they could be your average American teenagers on the screen; this helps to not only create a sense of voyeuristic realism but it enhances the drama unfolding on the screen.

By his own admission, as it states on his website, Mitchell cuts movie trailers. This helps to explain how this thing starts out feeling like a film and not a trailer cut by a first-time director who only knows how to make movies. There’s a subtlety to it and it shows here as we ease into this film with girls being girls; it’s a little cutesy but it gets to the heart of what we’re watching.

The music accompaniment is perfect, eschewing some emo blowhard band and putting in a nice pop track that doesn’t overpower what’s happening on the screen, and the subsequent scenes only help to flesh out those who we’re going to be following. Like I mentioned, we get a little too cerebral with the language in some areas but the cinematography just makes up for it.

Dare I say it but this trailer has the strongest final half I’ve seen of many trailers this year. It’s a bunch of seemingly unrelated moments but those moments make you want to see this film that much more. It’s when you realize the trailer’s over that you’re left wanting. Kudos all around for making me feel something on the inside.

No One Knows About Persian Cats Trailer

You’ve got a lot of things people can project on this film happening all at once.

Bahman Ghobadi has directed a movie that feels like a documentary shot within Iran. In that regard, you wonder whether this is a movie that was made in a clandestine manner as it is set in a country where political and social unrest lies just beneath the hard crust of their patriarchal exterior. Then you have the actors who brim with such joy and are passionate about their love of music you can feel your mind drift as you think why our 24 hour news cycle hasn’t told us about the normal lives of Iranians. The trailer is a wonderful mix of all these things, it keeps you engaged throughout, as we try and piece together what it is we’re supposed to be focused on.

What I like about this preview, primarily, is that we’re given a solid push from the start. The interstitial lays it all out from the beginning about informing us about what it’s like in modern Iran for those who love talking about their government and who love to listen to rock n’ roll. It’s a dichotomy that drives the entire trailer.

The Cannes recognition at the front helps to establish its pedigree and, like a popularity contest, says how special important people think this movie is. And it is, as the trailer’s musical beats feel peppy and hard to not root for as the action on the screen tells the tale of a band who wants to play music. It’s a mix of the traditional and the sacred as we see some of the more fundamental aspects of traditional Iranian music give way to these long hairs who find themselves playing in alcoves and cow farms. There does feel like there is a tension simmering below what’s happening on the screen and that’s when the fuzz pops up.

The trailer spells it out, what happens to people like musicians who decide to play for passion and for creative expression. It’s all very hush hush and the risks that these kids take in order to express themselves through their art is captured wonderfully. The tail end of this trailer, filled with quotes from people who excite you with their praise of this picture, packs little moments that show you further the line between doing what you feel and doing what you’re told. Glorious.

Shelter Trailer

When Timur Bekmambetov was tapped to direct Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy in Wanted, I was intrigued more than anything else.

It’s not that I thought that Timur was going to light the world on fire with his brilliance or ability to film a scene in a way that’s never been done before but I was nonetheless curious at how an artist goes from making films in his own style to making one in a studio system. Forget about geography, I would bet dollars to doughnuts there was an adjustment in making a movie that conforms to the way us here in America like our action films given to us. Truth be told, he nailed it well and he seems to be doing fine on his own.

Now, with this film, Shelter, co-directed by Swedes Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, you have a movie that stars Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers with these guys’ previous directorial credits being “Snapphanar” and “De drabbade.” Again, it’s interesting to see how the language of an artist comes through when they do a project wholly separated from the system they’re used to. Here, I would say, there seems to be nothing lost in translation as I was pretty dialed in to what was happening in the beginning of this trailer.

It absolutely has the vibe of a big picture thriller, no question; we’re all used to how sanitized these movies can be but there does, at the very least, have the sheen of something foreboding, exciting.

Meyers plays someone with a multiple personality disorder which does open the door for overacting, I know, but it seems pretty well in check along the lines of Primal Fear. That was a movie that depended on the strength of its story and of the actors in it and this trailer at least teases that Meyers is channeling something great along with this movie being penned by Michael Cooney of Identity fame.

Yes, it’s a little hokey with the flashbacks to when Meyers wasn’t mental, his illness being explained as a result of emotional abuse, but I will tell you what I really do love the cut scenes with images of deformed freaks, dudes wielding tire irons in the rain, snakes being drained of their poisonous juices, and a plot line that isn’t spoiled with anything revealing.

It’s refreshing not to have something like this ruined with too much information and it’s equally pleasing to have a movie that looks like it could be enjoyed by the older set as it seems like it’s skewing that way. No matter, as the mix of weirdness and the fantastical makes this appear like a solid two or three star thriller. As well, this trailer knew, and embraced, what it is and it made for a viewing experience that didn’t feel false or a lie and for that I think it deserves a place on the radar.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed Trailer

Taken surprised a lot of people last year so with a little effort at least this movie has something to attach its hitch to.

No matter that you have one of the most frightening actors working in the UK today, Eddie Marsan, starring as a wicked kidnapper but the trailer just gets right down to it without any set up. In fact, we start out with a video camera capturing the plea of a tormented victim founded in actress Gemma Arterton that we don’t need background, we don’t need an explanation. With that, we’re off and running wild to put together how we got to this point.

I’m not sure of the particulars but the story elements that we’re given just make this look like a straight kidnap tale with a pack of guys who planned everything out. It’s all so well-presented that when the script is flipped and the kidnapped becomes the person in charge it all becomes so much more interesting.

This trailer just explodes with its concept that it’s not she who is going to blow these guys away with a gun she wrests away from one of the kidnappers but that she’s going to allow the ransom to be paid so she can take a slice of it, much to Marsan’s ignorant disappointment. Seeing how Marsan is on the outside it just follows that the plan concocted will eventually be sniffed out and the trailer just does an excellent job in ratcheting up the excitement. It’s a game of who will figure out whom first but this trailer plays it simple with just giving us enough information without being too predictable.

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

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