Posted on Saturday, December 19th, 2009 by Christopher Stipp
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?
City of Life Trailer
The opening is simply gorgeous.
Besides being woefully ignorant about all things Dubai, knowing only that it’s pretty neat to visit, women shouldn’t wear v-necks on the street, and that there’s some good golfing to be had, I couldn’t be more enthralled at a trailer that contextualizes the Dubai experience in a small way. A triptych that explores the lives of three different people in this desert oasis, this trailer exudes coolness, floats some interesting ideas about identity, and, ultimately, personal liberation. Like I said, it’s a gorgeous thing to watch as we all become a little better acquainted with a land not a lot of people fully understand.
As we open on this trailer the music that plays behind the nighttime images of Dubai after dark gives everything a mysterious sheen. We see a couple of buddies just carousing on the town, the Arabic equivalent of a loafing oaf when we see the dad get ornery with one of the guys for not getting a job. The kid is drinking, riding motorcycles, all the while the dad lets us in on that this rich kid has been a kept manchild but that the mofo has to get a j-o-b. Daddy, of course, is helping him do that too.
We meet an alabaster skinned supermodel who meets a rich man. She wants to be with him, although she’s not quite sure. We also meet a cab driver. This cabbie appears to be Hindu, not a Muslim, who dreams to be in a Bollywood film and, wouldn’t you know it, a production descends right in the middle of Dubai. The actor playing the part just gives off an incredible vibe and I find myself invested in not only his, but everyone’s stories.
Of course, not everything goes as it should.
The supermodel finds that being with a rich guy isn’t all it could be, our lazy roustabout gets kidnapped from his job bizarrely enough, and our actor finds his one shot at fame dashed with an accident that leaves his face scarred. A comedy this ain’t and the way this trailer is pieced together you can’t really see how these parts interconnect even though we’re led to believe there is some cohesion between everyone showcased.
Tim Smythe, producer on The Kingdom and Syriana, gets a producer credit on this and you can feel that influence. I may be someone too fascinated with the world around me but this is a movie that looks good and I find its proposition to discover a little more about a part of the world I don’t know a lot about, interesting.
I just appreciate the level of filmmaking going on in this trailer.
Realizing that I scan through a lot of trailers every week it’s hard to pick just the few that make it into this column. When I sat through this teaser, then, one of the things that I was aware of is its quality. It doesn’t do too much, it gives you just enough of a tease to be interested in what it has to say, and it leaves you with more questions at the end than it does at the beginning.
To think that this is writer/director David James Fernandes’ first cinematic foray simply tickles me in that this isn’t an arty treatise on the nature of man, this is a full-on bizarro descent into madness that I can completely get behind. To wit, we open on a guy who looks not only lost in his own skin but sheepishly asking a stranger to “get rid” of something. Obviously, this is all Mamet with the kind of telling and not showing, we haven’t a clue what this guy wants to “get rid” of, but it is the actor our man is playing off of, Shawn Lawrence, that really helps to create some cohesion in what looks like two guys just acting off of one another.
We find out that this gent wants to get rid of fear. The answer is simple enough but with barely a few second flashback to help assist us with knowing what on earth is going on, we are denied knowing any more than this. What we do know, though, is that this guy is about to have a contraption stuck on his head. Whether or not this is more fakery than it is a real electroshock-like cure for what ails this man we don’t know but that’s the brilliance of this trailer. The music, the lighting, the forced path we’re being led down, it all cumulates to the moment we’re waiting to see. Inside a dank, rank subterranean laboratory, with a guy who looks equal part Mengele and any kind of proto mad scientist film has ever given us, this actually looks like it could be a fun way to burn some time.
I wouldn’t purport this to be high art but when you consider first works from any artist I would hope that finding a discernable amount of talent would be one of the criteria upon which it’s judged. This looks like it has a lot of it.
This is my Internet win of the week. If I had a No-Prize to give out, this trailer would get it. When director Pierre Ayotte’s next feature after this is called Satan, Jesus & Elvis you know you’re cooking with gas.
I was always a little curious to know why so many people pointed out that the fake trailers put in Grindhouse were so good. After seeing them, I could see why. The real aesthetic that these films tried to capture were slightly absent, I would assert, in Planet Terror and Death Proof. They were good films, true, but the trailers really came to represent the scratchy, crazy, gonzo moment these movies existed in. You couldn’t recreate the feature length beauty of these movies but the trailers managed to do it; they were able to sustain the qualities that the features wanted to put into a bottle and preserve. This trailer looks like it could harness a dozen bottles of insanity.
I know it’s a lot of build up to call something glorious, as you know there are some that will just say “meh,” but you would be wrong and a communist for thinking this is nothing less than a showcase of awesomeness.
We’re introduced to the Massacrator, an indie version of The Terminator, who looks kinda european and swarthy with a lush head of hair and undeniable good looks. Shirtless is the way he rolls, motoring around on something not unlike something out of The Dirtbike Kid, but when he pounds on some unsuspecting target (love those lo-fi effects) he literally takes the person’s head off. The blood fountain is an excellent touch as is the gritty film stock effect and throaty voiceover. The color balance, which is a misnomer because it’s all sorts of askew, gets worse/better as that motor bike takes off inside an apartment (huh?) as an Elvis impersonator rocks out hard in that same space.
And then voiceover man steps in with the news: this is a battle between The Terminator and Elvis. Not since Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-tep have I been this excited for a re-imagined version of The King but when The Terminator starts landing punches and tossing Elvis head first into a television set, mussing the man’s well oiled coif, I am ready to see a full on rumble.
Yes, it absolutely is bizarre and strange and weird. And, to make it worse, the real thing couldn’t possibly be as good as this trailer you would think, but the mere fact that this trailer exists makes me happy in ways that Grindhouse proper could not.
The Way Beyond Trailer
It’s an interesting set of films, if you happen to look back, when you consider all the movies that have dealt with physical maladies.
One of the toughest documentaries I’ve ever bore witness to was a doc called So Much So Fast on how ALS slowly, and savagely, took the life away from a 29 year-old who was diagnosed with the disease in the prime of his life. Capturing the degeneration process was tough to watch but it illustrated the power of understanding this facet of life and how he embraced it as best he could. So, too, was the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It, as well, artistically portrayed the sapping power of a condition that deadened the body but not the spirit.
In that vein, then, we get a film that tweaks this kind of “trapped in the body” premise in a way that offers a little more drama than it does pity or curiosity. Director/writer Alex Iordachescu’s previous effort, Le tramway d’Andréa, which is honestly the first movie about someone who is perceived as having a too intimate relationship with machinery, doesn’t even come close to matching the themes he explores in this film. Here, we have a man who is in a debilitating accident. He is hobbled and has no hope of regaining the full use of his body until a gene therapist gives the man hope. The premise gets better when this therapy has some unintended consequences and the poor guy who is trying to be healed with science starts losing his grip on reality.
The opening thirty seconds really are engaging. We don’t know anything of our protagonist who is lying in a bed, convalescing, but we hear the doctor treating him talk about the immortality of the human body. Drum and bass techno plays and we see who we are to assume is our man, weaving in and out of traffic on his motorcycle. Toss in a little NSFW imagery of the guy making it happen in the bedroom with a lovely lady and then end it with reality descending hard and fast and you’ve got yourself a movie.
Our man can’t walk correctly and is starting to hear noises in his head. I tell you what, a little hallucinatory element in any movie always ups the thrills in a movie of this ilk so it’s got my attention to be sure. I like the sci-fi elements that blend the man’s slow psychosis and delusions, where the line between reality and dreaming blurs.
The premise feels fresh as the trailer just hums right along and succinctly makes the case why this should be one to look out for.
Chow Yun-Fat and Zhou Xun make a rather interesting coupling.
Besides being two of the biggest names that side of the Pacific I cannot think of a better duo to bring life to a story that is not unlike the massive miniseries events that were part and parcel of many networks in the 80’s. The story is epic, the level of production seems absolutely on point with the fantastic visuals we get but, best of all, the cast seems perfectly suited to tell the tale.
You’ll have to get over not understanding the Mandarin coming out of Zhou Xun’s lips but what wonderful lips they are: delicate, practiced, and lilting over a backdrop of moments that are sweeping in scale. The violins that kick in compliment what we see on the screen and, to be direct about it, I utterly admire the cinematography that’s employed to make this feel not only epic but rooted in a humanity that I think translates well. You feel something for these people, it just comes through. There are disjointed moments, sure, but it feels like it’s in keeping with Confucius’ place in our own collective minds as a poetic philosopher, someone given to the softer side of Sears.
And then Chow Yun-fat says something. With a grin on his face, he barely whispers a word, a phrase, and this is where the really fun part of the trailer comes in. Literally, a cast of thousands descends on my screen: shouting, yelling, arrows firing into the air, stampeding horses everywhere. Chow seems to be taking a different approach to what I thought was Confucius’ pacifism (Was he or wasn’t he?) as there is violence everywhere. I feel like a chubby kid trying to keep up in the one mile run for gym class as we move from moment, to moment, to moment without so much as context but, to be honest, my ADD appreciates it.
We see a little more of Zhou Xun and some inclination of how Confucius became the wise man we all have come to know and love but, and the reason this trailer is being included this week, the movie simply looks like a movie that deserves to be sought out and seen. It’s not often when you get a thrilling epic that’s poignant and seemingly generous with its battle scenes and, based on that, the trailer has done its job amazingly well with nary a word of English.
In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:
- Mandrill Trailer – This looks like the Transporter series with more martial arts and a looser sense of what it wants to be. This kind of trailer excites me and you can count me as someone wanting to see if it can be a tenth of what this preview promises.
- Final Flesh DVD Trailer – I could not, not, look away from this thing. It may be weird and odd but I’m thinking this movie could be just the palate cleanser I need with all that Oscar bait out there.
- Dirty: One Word Can Change the World Trailer – I kind of fall on the side of the Cuban woman in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise when the geeks rearrange the innkeeper’s neon sign of her hotel to declare something naughty when she utters, “I don’t get it.” I may not understand the phenomena that was Dirty but I think this might help me to.
- Crazies Trailer #2 – While the words on the screen are a bit distracting, annoying, this looks like small town destruction done right. Count me in with a vote for fast moving zombies.
- UnProphete Trailer – It gets style points for its soundtrack and how it uses its graphics to promote itself. It also gets a nod from me for looking like an exquisite film about kind of crime and punishment.
- Robin Hood Trailer – Pass. “Hey guys,” I can imagine the trailer creator saying, “You know what this thing needs more of? Lots of A chord, bitches!” Come back to me when you’re bringing your “A” game.
- Lord of the Rings Trilogy Blu-ray Trailer – All I need to know is where to buy to it. I think it’s lame all we’re getting is the theatrical version (this multiple dipping crap has got to stop) but, like a sheep, I’ll buy it anyway.
- Paranormal Entity Trailer – I realize this is trying to be a horror film but I honestly could not stop laughing all the way through this. Paranormal Activity is the little engine that could while this looks like the little engine that ought to have been scraped.
- Alice in Wonderland Trailer #3 – An absolutely rich trailer that showcases more of those on the periphery of this fantastical world Burton has created. I still can’t shake that Depp looks like a vampire, just waiting to drain the life right out of Alice, but this trailer is beautiful to watch.
- Iron Man 2 Trailer – Much like my experience with Avatar, I just think something’s missing. I am in love with the moment shared between War Machine and Iron Man at the end of this but I wish I could be more excited about the film on the whole. Is the opening sequence too much? Is it too esoteric and trying to set up too many moving parts? I don’t know.
- Alice in Wonderland UK Trailer – First they make better television shows than us, then they get better movie posters, now they’re going to get better trailers? I am being facetious but this trailer tempers the insanity a bit and gives us a more steady look at Burton’s creation. I dig it.
- Clash of the Titans Trailer #2 – Yes! Sword and sandals and all things magical. I wasn’t really all that into this new “retelling” but after watching this trailer I can honestly say this is on my radar as a guilty pleasure I am genuinely looking forward to in 2010.
- The Runaways Trailer – Look, I want to hate on this thing more than anyone else but, the fact remains, this teaser is pretty damn good. Dare I say I am looking forward to seeing more about this movie?
- Shrek Forever After Trailer – I can’t muster the energy to even be mildly interested in this film. The first was exellent, the second wasn’t, the third grated on my nerves, and this looks like it isn’t going to be any better.
- The Bounty Hunter Trailer – If this is what passes for populist entertainment in America “From the director of Hitch!” I would like to turn my citizenship card in so I can live somewhere else far away from here.