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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?

Kandahar Trailer

We all have our own narratives.

It’s interesting to see how we deal with the processing of cultural watersheds in our timelines and this movie looks like it’s one that’s important enough to Russians that it warrants a film. Forget about the stories, as Americans, we all know about, Chernobyl, Afghanistan, the nuclear arms race, this is something that doesn’t sound familiar and for good reason. What films like this are able to do is make real the moments none of us know about, as experiencing the drama that other countries go through make real the notion that we all suffer at the hands of those who want to inflict harm on people who didn’t ask for it. Call me silly, but this trailer conveys the weight of what happened to seven Russian pilots who were imprisoned for more than a year before they all overpowered their captors to eventually find their way to freedom.

What’s more, and what’s particularly compelling to me, is that this is set up like an action film with fighting and explosions. Knowing what this movie is about, though, helps to see that this isn’t your average movie-of-the-week. It’s smart in that we see a man we all can recognize as a pilot, some of these things really do transcend borders, with his epaulets and uniform are all mussed, he looks tired. The actor, who I found out was the baddie in the absolutely enjoyable popcorn feature Behind Enemy Lines, Vladimir Mashkov, exudes the right kind of suaveness and with a forlorn expression on his face. It’s a straight on camera shot and it is a moment that informs not only what kind of movie this is going to be but that this is going to utilize the video camera found footage trick along with action style filmmaking which not only feels like a device we’ve been exposed to a lot lately but the ‘asplosions make up for it.

I am further jazzed by this trailer’s editing. Where once we are bearing witness to these pilots’ plight as they seem to be interviewed in their captivity there are additional scenes woven in of pure violence. Walls are being shattered, planes are streaking across the sky, there is rioting in the cramped streets of what, ostensibly, is Kandahar, and these fellas look like they’re on their way of escaping a permanent detainment.

It all crescendos really well in one big moment and I tell you, for my money, this looks like one import I wouldn’t mind getting over here simply to see a good escape film. This movie looks like it has it in spades. Sometimes language gets in the way of what’s happening but this is a trailer where I found myself chomping at the bit in anticipation for how this was going to end. Thankfully, we’re not sure and not told.

The Slammin’ Salmon Trailer

I guess comedy really is subjective.

I liked Super Troopers, I kind of liked Beerfest, but this doesn’t look like the sly humored beast I have come to expect from the guys who really are hit or miss with their theatrical offerings.

Don’t get me wrong, however, as it starts wonderfully as I thought it would set up the kind of funny we’re in for. Not only that, but it’s pretty bold to just start a trailer with zero set up, just letting Michael Clarke Duncan do his thing as he confuses a young man’s Grecian last name for the phonetically correct Meat Drapes. It’s funny, I suppose, and Clarke really sells the joke well but as the joke goes away and the trailer meanders on the premise feels like we’ve been here with Waiting, years ago in fact.

And things just slide right downhill. We get a lame bit with everyone eating some bad fish, you have Duncan punching out a thrashing swordfish inside his own kitchen for reasons that aren’t really funny, we’re introduced to a character named Nuts for reasons that aren’t very amusing, and we’re given a premise for that seems about as contrived as anything I’d see on an episode on Friends as a hackneyed reason to have “outrageous” things happen.

It’s not that the idea of a wait staff competition is lame but for a whole movie to be based on this feels like a warmed up leftover a la Employee of the Month. Strangely, you’ve got Nuts trying to shove a two foot hoagie down some customer’s mouth, Duncan hitting him squarely in the rib cage, and then we pan to someone in the distance puking on his plate. I am not sure in what kingdom this is valued for comedy gold but it isn’t.

The rest of the trailer is much of the same kind of thing. I am holding out hope that this could be because I’m seeing these jokes mid-delivery but the issue I have, and why it’s included this week, is because I don’t think it sells itself well if it really is a raucous night at the movies. If, at best, it’s a dollar bin rental then I’d say we’ve seen all we need to of this movie.

I can’t imagine what else they’re holding back on if it’s supposed to be funnier but I know I’m already on to the next trailer, this one forgotten.

Jump Trailer

Stephen Chow produced, you say?

I am used to seeing films like this tinged with a lot of machismo and a metric ton of violence, legs, arms, funny, fists, and choreography. What this film seems to have, however, is a lot of former and latter but without the anger. In fact, this seems downright exciting. A movie that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, Kitty Zhang Yuqi is bringing over the same bubbly vibe she brought to CJ7 and here she is being leaned on to bring out the real heart of a movie that seems strange but, wait for it, poignant. Yuqi’s father is a Kung Fu master but instead of continuing on her family’s martial artistry she yearns to be a dancer. I read the rest of the synopsis but the trailer is much more focused than the plot twists and turns would have you to believe.

The opening sequence is done well. In no short order, we get introduced to our protagonist, her ambitions, her essence, and the village she lives in. It looks like one fraught with poverty as a local manufacturer looks to hire some yokels to help man the line, as it were, and plays musical chairs to determine the winner. It’s amusing and provides enough context in 30 seconds to warrant further investigation of what is afoot here.

It absolutely is an answer to what a romantic comedy should look like to a younger set living in Asia. There isn’t swordplay and there certainly isn’t the requisite level of aggro many of those who espouse loving Asian cinema to appeal to that kind of audience but, to me, this is absolutely the kind of movie that looks like it could be a worthy entry into a line of films that don’t get exposed much in this kind of forum. Yes, guns are awesome and so is Kung Fu kickery as people get their noggin crushed in with a sandaled foot to the face.

Sometimes, however, a movie wants to jump on the cultural zeitgeist for the moment, here we’re talking about hip hop dancing, and it just happens to be shepherded by one of the more influential men in Asia movie making today, Stephen Chow. You’ve got to at least see this trailer’s glossy exterior and appreciate what it’s trying to do. The very last scene of this trailer blends martial arts and street dancing in a way that seems tantalizing once you think about how both of these forms of bodily expression compare to one another.

My Tehran For Sale Trailer

I have to recommend a book called The Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Hooman Majd for one of the most insightful and sharp examinations of the current Iranian state. Not only does it give a layperson like myself a guide to what helped brought this country to its current incarnation, it absolutely has informed the way I saw this trailer.

Whereas before, thinking that the thought police would try and squelch any remnant of personal liberties is de rigueur, understanding that there is an odd acceptance of western ideas such as consumerism and fashion and music assists in seeing that modern Iran is going through a transitory period in its history. The opening sequence of this trailer, showing a young woman riding in the back of a car with what looks like a swarthy suitor who’s looking at her kind of uncomfortably, rolling through the streets of Iran is one that evokes what we think of this country: old fashioned, still not accepting of a woman’s right to dress the way she’d like and having to suffer the indignities of having to cloister her sense of self behind a socially regulated garment.

But the trailer surprises you.

The scratchy radio that plays as they drive past tenements with colored portraits of popular Iranian figures echoes out into a club beat. It pulsates as women dance around without their robes, they are socially mixing with young men as they drink and smoke and cavort with one another. An interstitial comes up and tells us that a generation is living double lives. I’m jamming out, enjoying this mini rebellion of sorts, and that’s when the thought police arrive. Literally. Cut to these ladies back to wearing their mandated attire, at a detention station, the sounds of a whipping, a beating, as a woman cries out in pain beyond our eyes.

A young woman looks like she has made up her mind to escape her country and start a new life for herself in Australia. We’re not really told if she successfully leaves her past literally behind her but the movie has me hooked on thinking this could be a real portrait of the Iranian experience as told through the eyes of one of its younger generation. What an opportunity to see what is really happening here and how we get to where we’re going and I am just thrilled at the hint that we might get a view into this side of life we don’t normally get to see.

Assassins and Bodyguards Trailer

How many films is Donnie Yen going to be in this year?

I know, he has only been in three this year but I’ve only but recently discovered Yip Man, learned he was doing Yip Man 2, and then saw he was doing this movie, one that has a seriously good premise. I’ll start by saying the movie 16 Blocks wasn’t that good. Bruce Willis was good, Richard Donner’s directing was OK, and Mos Def was mediocre but it was the premise that probably sold some suit with a checkbook. The movie fell short of the promise it held within it but this film looks like it will hopefully bring out the best of having a compressed timeline with an uncertain outcome in a confined space. The film deals with Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a man who is actually eluded to being the father of modern China. A revolutionary, a threat to the established order, you can only imagine that this a story that will be fraught with tension, of building up this man’s importance, and of conveying the dire situation he finds himself in. This trailer delivers on all of it.

This man, this figure, has to survive a singular five hour period where hundreds of assassins descend on him across thirteen blocks. It sounds like something completely outrageous but the trailer eases you into what we’re seeing. Thankfully, it starts slow, controlled and we’re not rushed into much. It literally is a quiet opening, we’re told this is Hong Kong 103 years ago. The sense of time, of place, is captured quite well. A voiceover starts to talk about revolution and what it can do for millions as a guy literally gets pummeled in slow motion right before our eyes. It’s an unforgiving beating and it stands in stark contrast to the words being spoken. The voiceover continues as some people wail for what is being done to this poor guy who eventually gets up and stares unflinchingly to the camera, all battered and cut open.

Then the guy gets all Malcolm X on us and talks about a revolution that is paved with blood and sacrifice as we’re told that this man, the guy speaking of revolution, is a prime target for assassination. Unexpectedly, a dead body falls into a crowded marketplace for reasons unknown.

Things just erupt in violence as the old regime tries to quell this uprising. And what a quell it is as this military/ninja force starts shooting arrows at these people, guys fall out of the roof and douse the rabble-rousers in acid, buildings blow up, and I suppose it does come down to one hour for reasons I am unsure of.

None of that matters, though, as this looks like a historical epic to end all historical epics and I couldn’t be more curious to see how this all shakes out.

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

  • Remember Me TrailerI am absolutely of the forgiving spirit when I say that while New Moon was absolutely abhorrent I am mildly interested in seeing what Robert Pattinson is able to do here. The trailer feels fresh and is hopefully a great showcase for what this guy can do.
  • Percey Jackson and The Lightning Thief Trailer #3I don’t really see the attraction in films like Harry Potter but to those who like to swim in that lake of make believe this looks exactly like more of the same. The effects look decent, the story seems cheeky, and I am sure young boys and girls will love a new franchise to get attached to.
  • The First Gun International TrailerThis is a film where the less you know, the better you’re off. An amalgam of color, theatrics, and craziness puts this as one of the most entertaining trailers I’ve seen this week.
  • Far Cry TrailerI couldn’t tell you what I think of this trailer as it’s like gnat that you’re trying to swat with a newspaper: it doesn’t stop long enough for you to kill it. I nearly got motion sickness just watching it and I can’t imagine I would fare any better watching the whole thing so I think I’ll skip this one for health reasons.
  • The Last Song TrailerI’m pretty sure I’m not the target demo for this. While I may have downloaded Party in the U.S.A. (don’t you dare judge me) I cannot recommend this film, but I will say that it is probably the perfect film for any young lass looking for love at the multiplex next spring.
  • Kick Ass Trailer With Commentary By Matthew VaughnThis is more like the 90 second version of Hollywood Minute as it’s got nothing to do with the trailer. He’s being interviewed and his trailer just happens to be playing underneath it. I thought it might be a mini-commentary but, gotcha, it isn’t.
  • Slayers TrailerI have to agree with Russ Fischer on this one. The premise sounds good on paper but what we have here looks like something I would catch on the Disney Channel around Halloween, not something I would want on a big screen.
  • Across The Hall TrailerI agree with the sentiment that this could be a rather by-the-numbers thriller. What sells it for me, though, is that I am on edge throughout this whole trailer and am now curious to see if it can carry me through the whole thing.
  • Unmade Beds TrailerI am fascinated by this one. A mix of having a good vision, an interesting plot, and a wholly unique way of communicating the film’s contents makes a solid trailer that gets me excited for a film I didn’t know existed before pressing Play.
  • Crazy Heart Trailer - I literally felt my heart ache watching this thing and am now expecting greatness after seeing this trailer. Either it is one of the best con jobs in trailer creation this year or this really is, as it proclaims generically for anyone doing any kind of Oscar bait film, the performance of a lifetime.
  • Leaves of Grass TrailerThe fact that I love Norton more sporing a mullet and a country twang than I do his straight laced doppelganger shows how much creativity went into creating the twin. I am not so sure, however, how long I’ll be able to take the back and forth and whether it can be more than just a witty premise.
  • Black Devil Doll 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!”
  • Gone With The Pope 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.
  • Altitude 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.
  • The Lovely Bones International 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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