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?

Some Days are Better than Others (trailer) from matt mccormick on Vimeo.

Some Days Are Better Than Others Trailer

Some mornings as I trudge into work, walking that Trail of Tears from the parking garage into the office, I wonder if it would help my day if someone were to take a pillow case full of a quarters and barrel it into the small of my back. I mean, everything to happen after that should be glorious if you were to front-load your day’s misery and, if it were to happen to random people walking into work, it would recalibrate everyone’s idea of what a bad day really is.

Not one of my more popular ideas that I floated during company meetings.

To watch a trailer like this you really do have to be in the right frame of mind of what a painful existence can be like. I think it would be easy to dismiss this as an exercise in whining. It’d be real easy, in fact. However, something happened when I watched this all the way through and I think it’s because it got the idea of misery and sadness telegraphed just right. This minute, thirty-five second trailer is cut well as writer/director Matt McCormicks pedigree in music video directing eeks through the details. Oddly enough, these video artists have a knack for knowing how to get maximum pop in these small bursts of time. Looking at (500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb and the amount of success he had last year is reason enough to give the benefit of the doubt that music video directing is a solid proving ground for something longer.

Staying away from the film’s description, I just let the trailer play. Right away, and notably, we get Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and James Mercer from The Shins taking the lead here and I think it’s a curious choice. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the opening sequence assuages any concerns about using rock stars as leads in your film.

Brownstein kicks it off with a near teary breakdown as she tries to navigate the nature of heartbreak. It borders on the maudlin, almost syrupy with the crocodile tears but it still works. Smash cut to a wet car, overlooking a beach and some surf. The scene is framed so well, and scored so minimally, that it’s hard not to be wowed by the moment.

Further into the trailer a sad old man talks about the loss of two women in his life. He’s just as bad as Carrie with the moroseness in his voice but it’s the story that’s pulling me in like some hankie tractor beam. The music is assaulting because it fits like a glass slipper around this whole thing; it’s perfectly chosen and, when the characters talk, it blends seamlessly into the background.

Mercer opens his yap as he talks about a feeling lasting forever but it doesn’t take a pack of rocket scientists to get what he’s selling. I’m already there, desperate to see how things turn out, because if this is going to be a movie about plodding through painful times in your life you only have two options: be a Debbie Downer of a movie that only pretentious art majors will want to see or craft something that might be inspiring to those who want a reason to believe that life can go on after something shatters your emotional insides.

Serbian Film Trailer

At the outset, please let it be known that you should not watch this if you happen to work for anyone other than Playboy, Hustler, Oui, Vivid Entertainment, Barely Legal, NAMBLA, the KKK, Buzz’ Porn Emporium, Barely Legal, drug dealers, meth addicts or in the business of kidnapping poor women for the international sex trade. Without question, this trailer is not safe for anyone’s place of business.

With that out of the way, let me say this is a fascinating trailer. One of the best trailers I’ve seen in a quite a while, in fact. And it’s not just because of the copious amounts of skin but, rather, it’s the content that keeps you wondering what it is you’re watching and what it, ultimately, all means.

When we meet the protagonist Milosh, the guy seems normal. Wife, kid, nice house, nice life, you wonder what in the world could make him seem interesting. Then we get a shot of him rhythmically pounding something (in the nude?) with blood on his face, his hand wielding a weapon of some kind like a latter-day Spartan who is engaged in a furious sexual battle with who knows what.

Downshift to him taking a leisurely jog like nothing’s wrong and, surprise, it’s mentioned that he’s a retired porn star. As if to provide some kind of wacky dichotomy we get the guy’s young kid doing voiceover duty while we see samples of said porn on the screen and, to make this an even more uncomfortable moment, the kid is talking about how he felt when he saw the skin vids themselves. I don’t know whether to keep enjoying or wonder whether Interpol is now monitoring my Internet usage after looking behind both my shoulders. Honestly, I was made a little uncomfortable.

Now, before you have the chance to think that this may be a movie where the old porn star starts to have second thoughts about his past indiscretions, and what it means to have this guy thinking to get back in, possibly in order to make ends meet, we’re told he’s in financial dire straits. The guy gets back into the biz of throwing around his money maker but the twist is that this isn’t your ordinary porno. Something truly bizarre is afoot and we, not even he, are let in on it when he makes it to the set.

In the most classic senses of the phrase, the proverbial wheels come off this thing. After being drugged and slapped around and drugged some more the production feels like an Aronofsky nightmare. Nude women in various states of duress pepper the screen, we see this guy’s crank at one point, and we see some of the most depraved imagery ever to be put in a trailer. I mean, when was the last time you saw a birth of a child and had it associated with a masochistic, ritualistic sexual encounter? None, I guarantee it.

Somehow, I think, the wife and kid get involved, our father/porn king pees blood at one point; the music devolves into Trent Reznor techno babble; our protagonist is shown ready to thrust a huge pig sticker into someone; we certainly see dad squeeze off a few shots from a gun; and there is no way I could tell you how this ends or what direction we’re headed with this narrative. Director/co-writer Srdjan Spasojevic has made a trailer for a film that both shocks and thrills me. Kudos to him.

Love In A Puff Trailer

I’ve never had much love for those who get to sneak away from their work in order to indulge, satisfy their drug habit multiple times during the day. Since I have nothing but contempt for these people it amazes me that I have such a strong, positive feeling towards a film that has smoking at its epicenter.

I may not know filmmaker Pang Ho-Cheung’s previous works but this trailer works for me in that it seems like it is a small film about two people who each share an interesting quirk. Not only that, and I have no idea how far our Stalinist government now goes in regulating the quantity of smoke you can have in an advert, there is at least a metric ton of billowing smoke oozing out of these people’s mouths.

Taking a page, ripped from the headlines, out of their pop culture, out of their news we get introduced to Hong Kong’s stance on smoking. They may be half a world away but in quick fashion we get the government’s stance on what they think of the cancer causing pastime. It communicates so much without saying anything. I get it.

Next, we are introduced to our boy and girl. Somehow they immediately click for me as there appears to be a mutual attraction between the two of them.

The music is joyous in a Parisian way, very light and lilting to the ear with music I half expect to be playing if I were to be eating a warm croissant and butter, as these two enter into what looks like a genteel relationship. The trailer then goes into a slow, delicious burn. The philosophical implications that the subtitles throw up about the girl (“She inhales not smoke but solitude”) and the boy (“He exhales not smoke but romance”) are endearing but don’t ever feel too arty.

It’s playful to see these kids romance one another, the camera work feels organic and not rigid, there’s even a nod to American Beauty’s floating bag moment that I feel absolutely encapsulates what kind of movie this is. There are no high-arching metaphysical conceits here, just two people who are coming together thanks to their addiction to nicotine. It certainly made this softie a little squishy on the inside.

Prince Trailer

Is it possible to be in awe, to gaze longingly at some lady bits, to have a good laugh, and be left with the sense you had no idea what you just saw? This trailer will make you do all of the above and it couldn’t be more welcomed as this trailer has a lot of heart.

Bollywood filmmaker Kookie V. Gulati, according to IMDB, hasn’t had any directorial features attached to his name before this one and I think it shows. It’s not a bad thing, per se, to have your first film be an action movie spectacle that incorporates a lot of what the movie going public has already experienced through movies like The Matrix and Crank but, and I would mount a defense in support of this theory, the guy has put his influences in a blender and mixed in some bikinis, bullets, and that undeniable swagger of a Bollywood production in order to make a movie that shows off what he’s learned from these movies. This trailer really is interesting to watch, no question about it.

You can’t get three seconds into this trailer without recognizing the auditory fingerprint of the wood instrument a lot of us who grew up on Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme films could pick out even if we were deaf. Smash cut. A guy base jumps from a tall building, clad in his super undercover brother garb, natch. Cut to him executing a sweeping leg kick in slow mo, cut to him feeling a building to a waiting helicopter, a la The Matrix, where bullets are nicking the water’s surface. Smash cut. This guy tarries in entering a car long enough on one of the emptiest streets I’ve ever seen in my life to take on a pack of guys all at once with some of the most awkwardly placed bullet time camera work I’ve ever witnessed on film.

The reason why I love this trailer is that it feels different than a wholesale rip-off. There are moments of this guy crashing through glass of a high office building, of him taking on armies of men all at once, of him flashing the high cheekbone Blue Steele in almost every shot, of him getting the girl. We find out that the guy only has six days to live, possibly from a parasite of some kind, who knows, and this is the day he dies (the convenience of it all!) but I don’t know why I can’t be harsher on this than I should.

Maybe it’s the music that makes me want to get up and dance, or the heart that I feel coming through, but from my perspective this looks like a great time that could be popped in the DVD player and enjoyed for what it is. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to blend all the action tropes from the past decade into one film. I think this one could show you.

Shank Trailer

I need to know from the UK readers whether someone hanging their hat on a movie like Kidulthood is something that helps or whether it hinders. This is director Simon Pearce’s first film so it stands to reason if one has anything to do with the other.

To me, I could care less if the distributor’s last film was Freddie Got Fingered but this movie feels like it could be something more than your usual teenage fare. In the U.S. we have Save The Last Dance, Fighting, Cradle 2 the Grave or any number of films that try and get to that young teen, young adult demo. This, however, feels a little more mature, a little more reckless, thrilling even and it’s something you don’t see a lot of in the theaters.

When we open up on a scene with a guy free running through the back alleys of a city street, trying to avoid being clipped by a maniac on a motorcycle (isn’t that always the way), we get that this is supposed to be London, 2015. It would be easy to start knocking this trailer for a lame premise but the editing is solid, as well as the musical selection. These two blend well with each other as we get to the emotional core of this story which seems to be two brothers who lean on one another to stay safe in this reckless, dystopian vision of the future. Well, things don’t go too well. The big brother gets shanked, imagine that, as the younger brother is pushed to some breaking point where he’s ready to throw down.

The music picks up, and the editing gets faster and more furious with the zigs and zags we take, but the tempo couldn’t be better suited to match the fury of this kid who wants revenge on those who killed his brother. The trailer genuinely engenders a feeling of excitement and interest as every little moment of this movie seems to build on the one that came before it. You feel like there is some real honest violence about to go down, you can feel the rhythms of the club where our boy is probably going to get his rocks off, and you should feel uneasy as you see all kinds of people swinging fists in what could be one of the more visceral teen movies to come out in quite some time.

Honestly, if you were to tell a producer or a director to make a contemporary Warriors-like movie, replete with gangs of nutballs who all identify with some crazy visual detail, this likes like the film that would come out the other end.

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

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