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?


Mutant Girls Squad Trailer

This is a first for me, a movie with more than one rooster at the helm.

Three directors, Tak Sakaguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Noboru Iguchi all seem to be bringing something unique to a production that looks like it’s brimming with fun. Now, Tak is someone who I have at least seen, with Versus, but aside from that I am completely new to the movie-by-committee process.

If more cooks in the kitchen is supposedly good for business then I am all for it because this movie appears to be a visual hodgepodge of action, weird sexuality (any movie where the women are dressed in schoolgirl outfits and nursing uniforms, regardless of context, speaks to that strange psychological/social acceptability of older men being able to fetishize their women), and abject weirdness.

I mean, I guess you have to be a little off kilter to start a trailer off with a girl transforming into something, well, mutant-like. Never minding the aberration that is one of the protagonist being strapped down in her bed, bathed in Crayola colored lighting, the introduction of our other delicate flowers who are also able to wield sharp weaponry, the laws of reality don’t apply here.

It’s oddly refreshing to have a movie embrace such a gonzo aesthetic, exemplified in one moment where a girl seems to be electrocuted by an iron mask of sorts or another where girls are at the ready line in a choreographed sword routine all decked out in various costumes more appropriate for Halloween than it is battle, but it somehow works for me as a vehicle for selling the idea. The idea being that this is a movie that is just going to be a genre film and nothing more.

What I liked about how the film is positioning itself, closer to the last third of this trailer more than anything, is that the scenes it decides to include have nothing in common whatsoever. I’ve seen this with other films, true, but here it takes it to a whole new level of dissonance. One moment is completely different than the last and I can’t tell whether this is probably the greatest film I’ll see this year or whether I’ll look on in complete horror at what some people decided to do with their time.

Either way, the trailer sold me insofar that now I have to see how this one plays out. I need to see why some woman is wearing a bird mask and why some others are donning football pads as armor. Sold. [Twitch Film]

Gone With The Pope Trailer

“Looks like Brillo.”

I think there’s a special place for movies like this. Like last year’s Black Dynamite with Michael Jai White there’s a special place in my heart for films from the 70’s that were poorly shot, poorly lit, but had so much raw imagination. This trailer hearkens back to the batch of trailers that caused such a stir when Grindhouse was released but the exception here being that this one really was shot in the 70′s.

I can ashamedly admit that I have not seen director/writer Duke Mitchell’s first, and only other, film The Executioner or, as it’s commonly known around town, Massacre Mafia Style. The fascinating thing about these two movies is that Duke directed The Executioner in 1978 and his resume on IMDB goes cold. Nothing is recorded prior to Executioner and nothing after until 2010. Before you start wondering what happened in between, it looks like someone found this movie, thought lost forever in the annals of time, and it’s definitely worth a couple moments of your time.

I really dig this trailer not so much for it’s hardcore NSFW content but, rather, it is the film’s aesthetics and sensibility that put it right back in the decade a lot of people still see as a breakthrough time in cinema. When you have an opening that has our hero telling the world to shove something in their mother’s nether regions, a lone trumpet cutting to a title card of the film with the date, such a nice touch, it just launches us into a world filled with guys you thought went out with patent leather suit jackets.

I have a hard time telling whether this trailer was pieced together in 2010 or if it was the way the movie was supposed to be marketed but this thing is a riot. You have dudes getting popped with really bad squibs, dialogue that seems it was pieced together by a delusional screenwriter who obviously thought there was no way you could lose with the gems he was thinking of, and sets that seem cramped and look like it was shot in an abandoned Italian restaurant circa 1974.

Its charm is in its effort and it comes across between all the gratuitous shots of nude women of many sizes and shades. It feels gangster because it truly is gangster. While the premise is laid out at the beginning, these guys want to kidnap the pope and get ransom from every Catholic in the world, there are some gritty moments of Mitchell knocking guys around, the middle and end is pieced together using disjointed moments that don’t so much inform but telegraph the vibe of the movie. Yes, the acting is horrible but that’s not why you see a movie like this. It’s like a crime film if it was made by Troma, essentially.

I don’t know much about Mitchell but now I am a personal quest to enjoy this gem. [Twitch Film]

5 huajai hero (Force of Five) Trailer

I am in love.

In an attempt to try and rinse the taste of bad dumb fun out of my mouth this summer,  sorry A-Team, you didn’t even come close, my heart went aflutter after watching this trailer.

Sometimes you have to just sit back in awe of how good staged action sequences can be if they’re done just right and I think there is something to guys getting their heads knocked in, literally, by flying knees to their temple. I mean, there a ton of flying knees to the temple and it’s glorious. Direct to DVD/Blu-ray, no less.

Forget about wondering whether first time director Krissanapong Rachata’s previous works somehow inform this one. It’s his first movie. Don’t even bother asking if screenwriter Nonont Kontaweesook has ever given us a memorable character in the Asian film canon. It’s his first script. However, one of the other co-writers Napalee did help bring last year’s Chocolate to life and I am not sure if that is any indication but this could be, at the very least, somewhat attractive just based on that entry. As well, with movies like this stunt work is everything and with producer Prachya Pinkaew on board who helped bring Ong-bak, The Protector, and scads of other top notch, breathless action to life, along with the director for a couple of Ong-bak sequels, you’ve got some power in your pocket.

How can you not marvel at the cartwheel kicks to the face, the slo-mo grandeur of bone colliding with soft facial tissue? The answer is you can’t.

The sight of these kids who look like the more nimble, roided up offspring of Ernie Reyes Jr. is pure fluidity. I have no idea what it means when a guy takes a rocket launcher to a cop car means in the narrative of the story but we literally go from showing these kids to a guy blowing stuff up. It’s tonally insane insofar that context doesn’t seem to be an issue with these marketers but I think they got it right when they figured “Who cares?” I certainly didn’t.

One of the things I took away from watching this, besides wanting to watch it again which I certainly did, was how the pressure seemed to be off of wondering what was going to happen with the heroes. They’re kids. It’s kind of implied and somehow this is less a movie about the whole point of it but, rather, the choreography and inventiveness of it all.

At one point there is a double knee to head combo with one kid taking the front of the face with another taking the back, camera shooting dead-on, and while it would be easy to laugh a little bit it’s nonetheless entertaining. As does a combo with a kid using his frontal assault momentum to take a bad guy through a large plate of glass which, in slo-mo, just amplifies the joy of seeing these kids get wicked on screen.

The Extra Man Trailer

“There’s a dwarf in that picture!”

There is a wonderful moment of specificity in this trailer that goes by so fast that you could miss it entirely.

Our protagonist Louis, played by Paul Dano, who in his own right is maturing quite well as an actor, is trying to woo the object of his desire, Mary (Katie Holmes). At one moment we focus ever so slightly on her frame; specifically, on a blue switch of cloth which we see is part of her bra. It’s such a nice thing to reveal about these characters in a trailer where we’re really not supposed to get nuance. Trailers are supposed to sell big ideas, big thrills, but this is wonderful.

The entirety of the trailer is like this, though. We establish the story right from the moment we meet Dano’s character but it manages to be complex and interesting without ever feeling we’re being told too much.

Kevin Kline, for his part, is perfectly crusty as an old man seeking a male roommate. Bypassing the usual tropes of crotchety old man imparting wisdom through forced situations we get a very loose character that is lovable instantly. Egged on by a script that is written and directed by the tag team duo of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini who brought us American Splendor and the miserable Nanny Diaries this film establishes both men as interesting fellows who both radiate charisma.

I don’t know what’s funnier, Kline’s quick quips that pepper this trailer with enough laughs to sell it on its own merit or Dano’s irresistible dweebiness. Toss in a few quick quotes from Variety and New York Times and you’ve got an almost airtight seal of goodness.

What I enjoy most about the trailer most, though, is that I am sure we will have a moment where these men will have to confront some seriousness. That much I can almost be certain of. However, the trailer makes a conscious choice to simply sell it on its levity and, I would assert, it does it very well.

Kline seems at the top of his comedic game with Dano realizing his part as his foil. The duo seem unstoppable if this trailer is even partially honest.

Note bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com

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

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