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?

The Horde Trailer

The genre is not dead. I can categorically declare that there is some life left in this lifeless corpse of a subject many have said is well past its welcome. I’d say that with the advent of things like The Walking Dead and the fabulous Dead Set (starring a pretty spunky Jamie Winstone) from a couple of years ago there is still creativity to be mined here.

This trailer shows just how you get someone interested in a subtitled French film when you think long and hard about what it is that can get this demographics’ attention: guns, blood, and violence. Malevolence, really. I can’t really get any kind of meaningful, narrative footing, at all, when watching this trailer but that’s fine. When you really get down to it, unless this is going to be Harvey Weinstein’s latest Oscar push, it’s alright if the principal actors don’t open their mouths. It’s a great sleight of hand, really, as your head spins too fast to notice no one ever utters a word throughout the running time of this thing.

It doesn’t waste any time from the beginning with the dog who’s barking like a madman, the ski-masked thugs who are on one side of a door, some shotgun toting baddies on the other, a taut violin just screeching in the background, and then, bam, we see a pack of zombies locked in cages. It’s a split second but it’s long enough for you to do the dude math: guns + violence + no talking + crazed zombies in cages = good. You don’t question why there are zombies in a cage, not how someone put zombies in a cage or why someone’s keeping these zombies as pets. It just looks cool and Empire’s pull-quote only strengthens its value proposition.

From here it is just a flurry of ADD style direction with people running, zombies crunching, people fighting, ladies kicking, and a stylized line of guys with guns just unloading a hot hailstorm of lead into an advancing pack of bloodied, frenzied ghouls. Directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher ought to be proud of how close this looks to a film that could have been mistaken for a Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor production as this is the kind of movie that is just daring you to at least watch some of it.

Additionally, I know there is a debate about whether zombies should lumber or if they should be of the speedy Zack Snyder, Dawn of the Dead, variety. Myself, if zombies are a representation of mindless consumerism, as some have said, shouldn’t it follow that as the world’s social and commerce institutions have grown in speed so too should follow the zombies? I think so and I like the idea of Die Hard with brain eaters at the center of it. Yippie kai yay.

The Man From Nowhere Trailer

Tony Scott’s Man on Fire was one of those movies where the idea of savage revenge, as a means to an end, was crystallized perfectly on the screen.

While not so stylized as the 2004 action film, Korean director Jeong-beom Lee looks like he’s developed his own version of a kindly giant being softened by the kindness of a midget only to have that midget snatched away from him. Like all good Korean films where revenge is the crux, the motivating factor of a character’s raison d’être, violence is perpetrated on a spectacular level and this trailer captures it wonderfully.

Bin Won, who some may recognize from the phenomenal Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War, is introduced quickly in the opening of this trailer as the man with a past. We’ve seen this one before, where a bad guy is trying to make things right in his life, but the twist is a spirited, cute as a button, little girl who hangs out with this guy and the two become close. It doesn’t mess around, however, as we move from one beat where all is twinkling serenades on the piano to screeching tires and guns popping off rounds left and right.

I don’t rightly care that I have no idea what this guy has done, what his motivations are, why he cuts his hair in a way that makes him look fresh from an International Male photo shoot or why he needs to kick major ass in a sport coat and nice pants, because I’m just in the mood for a movie like this.

Like The Expendables showed just weeks ago, it doesn’t rightly matter sometimes if you have a movie that is as shallow as its stars. It isn’t to say that the warbled pop song that kind of puts the skids on things is anything to get jazzed over but some guy who is running around with a gun, blowing out tires with precision marksmanship, trying to get a little girl back is my kind of fun as this trailer is just peppy.

Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen Trailer

It just never gets better than Donnie Yen.

Director Wai-keung Lau, who many would remember from his work on Infernal Affairs, shows why he is so adept at cinematography and directing. Keeping in mind he worked with such guys a Wong Kar-wai when he started out, it’s no wonder that his films feel a step above so many others in his class.

One of the things that this trailer does well, and shows why this deserves, at the very least, your attention, is that it packs so much within the first fifteen seconds. You have no idea why you’re watching some guys ride a train, and to be honest I almost jumped ship on this thinking it was going to be yet another tired Asian history lesson, but that’s when the bomb goes off. Literally. It’s 1925. It’s China. You’ve got some guy in a gui dispatching men to a permanent slumber with no context at all. This all adds up to an opening that simply hums with electricity.

And as if that’s not enough we get a slew of things that have no common thread running between them but who cares because we have a masked warrior who honestly looks like Kato from The Green Hornet if Kato lived in 1925 and wore shiny leather, looking like The Wachowski brothers put together the ensemble themselves. As well, Donnie Yen comes out screaming, literally, as he throws down in a circle of men who obviously have no idea that Donnie is about to let the pain train out of the station.

I simply can’t contain the smile as fight after fight pops up on screen, narrative being pushed to the backseat in lieu of more action, because that’s what sells me on this film. It seems like a movie that earnestly wants to talk about China’s battle with Japan in a cursory way but it’s obvious where the real appeal is and that’s Yen. Bless that man as he seems intent on not being one of those guys who is looking to hang it up anytime soon with regard to action films like this. I still believe, as the trailer closes out and shows us, that the man really could take on a room full of martial arts students all by himself. I want to believe. [Twitch]

The Kid Trailer

Let’s just get this out of the way: could we all agree to move on past the cinematic representation of bad parents as something other than chain smoking, creepy looking, dirty wife-beater wearing, mongoloids? Yeah, it’s an easy thing to do, to somehow distinguish the victim from their assailant thus making our projections of anger over the situation much more easier, but it’s lazy. Lazy from the standpoint that as our kid in this trailer is thrashed about the body the mother doing it looks like a parody of what an abusive parent should appear to be.

That said, what really elevates director Nick Moran’s trailer about yet another kid who has been through the fire and come out the other side in tact, fully able to live a normal life, is Paul Weller’s “Wild Wood” that plays underneath the narrative. Somehow, the soundtrack fits like a perfect puzzle piece that neither exploits what’s happening on the screen nor takes away from what we’re learning about our beaten boy but yet enhances the mood already established.

Further, I like that we sort of gently come to know our protagonist by his past abuse. It’s rough, to be sure, to watch but mixed in with the film festivals it’s played at it’s nice to see the breadth we’re dealing with here. As we plod on, seeing how he’s become a one man Danny The Dog with his bouts of street fighting, it’s then we learn this is based on a true story. It’s significant to note this because the trailer turns at this moment from being a film about a kid who grows up to be pugilist to a tale of a kid who grows up to publish. A writer, it seems, who wants to regale us with a tale of how he came from auspicious beginnings to world renowned author.

The pull-quotes do all the heavy lifting near the end as it starts to be something that’s treacly, with a soundtrack that shifts from cool to popish barf,  dripping with the kinds of things you put in an underdog movie but I’m more than convinced that this could be a good diversion.

The Amateur Monster Movie Trailer

Three reasons why this was included this week:

1. I was a fan of Mystery Team and this trailer telegraphs that kind of vibe.

2. This genuinely seems like a movie made with a love for all things schlocky as it pertains to monster movies, hence the title I’m sure.

3. Mark Borchardt. If you’re a deep devotee of American Movie as I am this one is self-explanatory.

I can appreciate the lengths that director/writer Kyle Richards has gone in creating a trailer that perfectly encapsulates what his film is all about but, that said, there is something to say about the non-existent sense of whether we’re playing it for yuks or whether anyone is taking this production seriously.

It’s hard not to be entranced by it’s simplicity and bush league sensibilities, while, certainly, the F-bomb usage in this purported “Red Band” trailer certainly will get a titter or two from the more juvenile segment of the audience.

But I think the real benefit of a trailer like this would be to allow you, the readers, to comment below about what you think of Richards’ efforts here. Would you see it? Does it look like a movie that’s tongue-in-cheek or just all tongue? I’m torn about which way I land after seeing the trailer, I most definitely want to see this little film from beginning to end, but after getting a slew of trailers from independent filmmakers I’d like to open it up to the audience. Would you see this film? Let it be known.

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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