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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?

Contact High Trailer

I love it.

I don’t remember a time when someone has distilled the drug life in a way that makes it feel real, and funny, since the days of Cheech and Chong. One of those reasons those movies worked, I would posit, would be the rough production values of these movies. The film experience, absent all the acting and comedy, feels like the time in which it was made: rough, splotchy, with hints of rawness. Cheech rolling around on the street felt real because it looked real.  Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle did well, in my opinion, was that there wasn’t a lot of polish on that ball. The movie’s sequences play out in slapdash fashion, the hang glider scene is a perfect distillation of this where night turns to day in mere seconds, but that’s its charm.

Director/writer Michael Glawogger has a made a film that feels like it is part of that tradition of the druggie movie but the special effects that are used to enhance the movie’s appeal look absolutely amazing.

Now, even though I don’t speak Austrian the movie goes in and out of English (love our school system here where we can’t get our population to even speak one language fluently) that ought not to disturb your experience one iota. All you need to know is that there are two funny buddies on a mission to get a bag and there are also some bad people looking to also get that same bag which seems to have some pretty serious contents although we aren’t let in on what that is. What separates this from other road films where people are running to retrieve a valued object is the wicked psychedelic effects.

The first five seconds thrust you right into it as our two buddies take some mushrooms on a train (I’m pretty sure that’s the narcotic in question) and then end up on the ceiling of that train. Mix in a little classic rock and you’ve got yourself a smashing beginning. Knowing that this is a story of people on the hunt for a bag and its mysterious contents makes everything else that’s said a little easier to sit through. We rush into a club where these two nabobs start seeing things. People’s heads are replaced with dog faces, go-go dancers appear to be sultry schnauzers, the screen’s graphics go all 60’s era font like, as the rest of the trailer feels like a Smokey and the Bandit, cat-and-mouse kind of film.

The trailer just bleeds originality as literally a Skittles like explosion of a rainbow paints a picture on my screen with some of the trippest visuals this side of Timothy Leary’s cerebral cortex. I may be lost by the end of this thing but I do know my 3rd eye has been thoroughly entertained.

Kids in the Hall: Death Comes To Town Trailer

I owe a lot of what I find funny to The Kids in the Hall.

These five guys represent my version of The Beatles in that it shaped modern sketch comedy for me, and for a lot of people, in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It challenged what people had come to expect out of their comedic performers and of what was possible within a half-hour block of time. Saturday Night Live had 90 minutes to fill but these kids had 30 minutes to get in and get out. If it weren’t for these gents of the germane I am not sure what kind of disposition my funny bone would have but I do know that Dave Foley, Scott Thompson, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCullough, and Kevin McDonald worked equally well together on screen. It was a shame to see the band break up, as it were, but watching all of these guys have creative lives past the show’s lifespan was one of the bittersweet benefits of growing so attached to the troupe.

One of the things that was tough to take, however, was that one of the last productions these five guys worked on, Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, felt incomplete as Dave Foley was the only one not credited with helping write the screenplay. Whether or not his input could have saved that production from being anything other than just enjoyable remains to be seen but this eight part mini-series that’s being labeled as a murder-mystery represents the first time all five guys are sharing writing duties.

Details are hard to come by but it is known that, as the trailer opens up, the man getting off the bus in a small Canadian town is, indeed, death incarnate. While we’re not sure why he sports a leather jock or rides on a bike into a small town to do what death is wont to do. The anticipation is high, I can assure you, on this end.

That said, the rest of this teaser is rubbish.

The point of the tease should be to entice me, seduce me with the raw wit of five guys who took nearly a decade and a half away from each other only to reunite and give a teaser that seems poorly edited. The video jumps from persona to persona, not giving us any clue why these characters are interesting enough to be excited by, and the audio borders on wretched. The scenes here don’t help to complete the sell of why anyone should tune in and I can’t understand why this is the face of the comeback that took so long. I will admit that Death shooting out fire urine, as he pees on a lawn, is a great gag that’s followed up with an excellent retort but one joke does not a series sell. Make me joyous that these guys are back together, not fearful that their best days are behind them.

Made for Each Other Trailer

I am here to declare that you can judge a book by its cover and I would assert that this one ugly book.

As a trailer, this is one of those films where you can’t understand who thought it was a sound financial bet to make it, then trying understand who was desperate enough to slap together a trailer that ought to be slapped with a NSFW band around it. I mean, I love a good, raunchy, offensive experience as much as the next guy but when all you have is shock and no awe I just feel embarrassed for you. Cutting a trailer like this obviously tries to reach a particular kind of cineaste but not even a slovenly, perverted ape would find this amusing or interesting.

One of the first things that this trailer wants to do is jolt you. You have Christopher Masterson, one-third of Malcom in the Middle, and bad independent film if this trailer’s any indication, getting married. He has a dumb buddy who seems to not only be sleeping with Masterson’s mom but the NSFW goodness starts quick with a comment that makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong as a writer if this is what passes for its level of comedy.

Seems that this couple can’t close the deal, so to speak, and the issue here is that Masterson isn’t able to actually consummate the marriage. What could be an interesting comedy is relegated to the gutter as Masterson has a moment with a neighbor girl who declares that she’s getting more vayjay than he is. It’s the frequency of the “P” word that’s tossed around in the first 20 seconds that seems desperate.

Masterson can’t take being a sexless newlywed so he decides to sleep with his wife’s sister. The way this is communicated in the trailer is sloppy, the audio seems like it was done with a Sound Blaster 16-bit sound card circa 1992, and the visual effects of putting letters on the screen appears to have been done in MS Paint.

No matter, though, as the plot devolves into a story we’ve already seen this year in the mediocre Extract: Masterson thinks having a guy sleep with his wife will help assuage his guilt for having slept with his wife’s sister. Patrick Warburton is the only part of this trailer even worth writing positively about insofar that he’s essentially Patrick Warburton, like he is in every production.

I can’t tell if first time writer Eric Lord or second time director Daryl Goldberg are the ones mostly responsible for what looks like one of the more miserable movies to come out this year but I can say that this is certainly has inadvertently helped me recalibrate what I like, and don’t like, in trailers.

Waiting for Armageddon Trailer

Ok, I am not one of those 20 million.

If you were to ask me who I do think those 20 million people who think the world is coming to an end soon I would give you an answer peppered with the words “fundamentalist,” “easily startled,” and most definitely, “those who think rock music really is the mouthpiece of the devil.” You come into films with your own preconceptions but when it comes to trailers if you don’t know what’s coming then you’ve got a captive audience who would otherwise not see your film. Lucky for those who made this documentary I had no clue what I was stepping in and just listened for a moment about what the message was and it’s remarkably interesting.

One of the things that the trailer does well is controlling the pace in which we are given information. We have the matter-of-fact declaration of what the rapture really will do if and when it comes, you have someone supposing what the disappearance of millions off the face of the earth at one time will mean to the rest of us heathens, but you also have something that struck a chord in me: an interview with a woman who tries to put into context what this cataclysmic event will have on her. She’s sweet, demure, and I can’t help but feel for her.

I know many of us who grew up in religion have some idea of the rapture but the trailer deconstructs exactly where the event will happen. Not only that but we see a group of select scholars, or readers, of the bible visiting Israel to go where literally a true, final battle is supposed to take place. I haven’t the first idea of what this will look like but you get a glimpse into the fanaticism. One guy leads a group to talk about the removal of a mosque that sits on a site that is a bit contentious, from a biblical point of view. We don’t get any real background on the specifics but getting some talking points out from people on both sides of this issue is a real selling point for me and really ratchets up the tension.

This might not be a movie I rush out and see but it is a movie that makes me wonder what it, ultimately, has to say.

Mr. Bjarnfredarson Trailer

This is what I live for, stumbling upon a trailer like this.

I don’t know how many of you like to traverse to the other side of the globe to get your comedy and drama but when a movie trailer smacks you in the face with its open palm you just have to stand in awe of it and admire what makes it resonate with some boob here in Arizona.

To start off with, I have never heard of director Ragnar Bragason. I apologize to the residents of Iceland that I have not watched his other cinematic efforts, 2007’s Foreldrar (Parents, in English) or 2006’s Börn (Children, just in case you wanted the exact translation), but I did read about how this movie is supposed to be a furthering of the process he started with these other films and resembles the end of the triptych for Bragason. Taken from a note he sent the fine folks of Twitch.com with this trailer, Bragson puts it best about what this movie is about:

“It’s a story of self realization, in essence a story about all of us. Our struggle for happiness, love and security, and how we all have the same basic emotions, wherever we are in the world. It’s also a reflection on the political and sociological situation in the 60′s and 70′s. How socialist and feminist ideals fare against the contradicting US influence on Icelandic society and how quickly high moral ideals like communism turn into fascism.”

And, you know what, the trailer expresses this wonderfully.

An opening sequence that sets up the movie just slow and steady, we meet our protagonist Georg when he looked like a cheeky Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch. So full of life and promise, we’re thrust forward decades from a kid who’s asked what he wants to be when he grows up to a man who is shouting insults to men unable to properly execute some simple calisthenics. He seems like a demonic drill instructor but the cinematography is wondrous, the premise revealing itself without wasting any time whatsoever. It doesn’t waste anyone’s time.

Smash cut, he’s jailed for involuntary manslaughter. Without getting into the who or why we see our guy emerge from the pokey, the brisk pace of the trailer not really lending itself to any kind of reflection, the plucky music not allowing us to think it was anything sinister. The guy seems to be at odds with his past and his present. The trailer blends moments he had as a child in flashbacks as a way to inform his current state. The heady issues of how our parents and their influence shape our lives in ways we may not be aware of are absolutely on display here. The trailer does seem more than a ploy for you to spend money to see it as it feels more like the beginning of a really good story.

I may not understand every nuance of how Icelandic society works but I can appreciate that what we have here is a dramatic, comedic look at how a guy is trying to define himself after society did it for him.

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

  • 44 Inch Chest TrailerSexy cool. A trailer that has me asking more questions than it’s giving answers so I am applauding the restraint it’s showing as now I actually have to SEE the movie to find out how it all fits together.
  • Crazy on the Outside TrailerFor the love of all that’s holy, please let this movie be accidentally poisoned or bumped off a cliff before it hits theaters. The trailer is a travesty and a slap in the face for every real filmmaker slugging it out in the trenches. I can only offer condolences.
  • Nine Trailer #3I am feeling Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench in this trailer but I am not sure if I am feeling it for the rest of the cast. I was a huge fan of Chicago and it absolutely changed some opinions I held for select members of that cast so hopefully this can do the same.
  • Daybreakers TrailerYou can’t help who you fall in love with and the same applies to trailers. I love this one as it just exudes the kind of hopefulness of a movie that might be able to deliver in a way that equally makes me afraid the film can’t top its own marketing.
  • Lost Season 6 PromoThis thing gets high marks from me in that it took what it was given and made something wholly unique and interesting. Kind of like a Pinewood Derby of television spots.
  • Exam TrailerSomething that looks like it could play out on a stage, this trailer bubbles with tension. Without so much as an inkling about what is happening here I am surprised how much I enjoyed this curious tease.
  • Human Target PromoThis series looks like it belongs to an 80′s era that gladly dished out series based on men with too much machismo. That said, this promo gets points from me for using the Wilhelm Scream and for the copious use of ‘asplosions.
  • Babies TrailerWhat an utterly fascinating trailer that takes a creative turn in explaining what it’s all about, which is not much. A catchy tune and disconnected images of babies doing their thing has me curious to know more, a true mark of a solid trailer.
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