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?

Violent Blue Trailer

Consider this my Christmas present to all of you.

A lot of times I present movies that appeal to me on some level and try to explain, through run-on sentences that seem to go on forever and ever, why I like a trailer. Sometimes it appeals to some part of me or it feels like an echo of a movie I’ve seen before. I really to try and understand what it is that is being sold to me because, obviously, filmmaking is not for the most part a non-profit endeavor. We’re constantly pitched on this or that idea and I just love picking apart these things to understand what it is that’s going on.

I have no clue, no idea, no inkling, no indication, no reasonable amount of logic to explain what in the hell this is.

I mean, obviously, it’s a movie. There are actors, there is dialogue, but there isn’t any cohesive narrative that I can understand. Oddly, though, I would love to see this thing end to end. I don’t know why but it’s weirdness is only rivaled by its annoyance, like a hangnail that bothers you, yet you can’t stop playing with it, only settling for it being completely ripped from your body before immense pain and relief sets in. I am not familiar with director/writer Gregory Hatanaka’s previous effort, Mad Cowgirl, but this movie looks like it fits right into his aesthetic if that film’s trailer is any indication.

The screaming at the start of this is brilliant for the sole reason that it spells out, like a warning sign, of what’s coming. The yelling has no context, no explanation. The Art Film Pretension Meter is clicking so loud I don’t know if this is a movie or if I’m standing next to a burnt out, smoking husk of a nuclear reactor with a Geiger counter.

There is a moment, however, where a man talks a little bit about obsession at some length but it’s so out of place I won’t even try to help put it in some kind of cohesive light. There is a nude man standing in the dark wearing a motorcycle helmet (?) talking about becoming Electra Glide in Blue (double “?”) , and we get more people screaming for reasons unknown. It’s so strange that I feel like it’s visual LSD just for observing it with a sober eye.

Throw in the Gimp from Pulp Fiction, a pack of women writhing on the ground, giving each other human steamrollers with all their clothes on, a woman trapped in a human birdcage, and what you have is a family fun night at the movies.

This really isn’t my thing but it’s a movie that I not only want to see all of but the trailer is actually delightful in the way in which it’s artfully constructed.

The Ghost (Domovoy) Trailer

Every country deserves its own escapist fun.

What I see in this trailer is something that’s part action movie, part silliness, and a little bit of a thriller all wrapped in one. Hot on the heels of his presence in the trailer I talked about a few weeks ago, Kandahar, actor Vladimir Mashkov, besides having a name I wish I could posses, goes from sympathetic hostage to homicidal killer.

The thing that distinguishes this trailer from many of the others I’ve seen this week is that this one really gets back to the rudimentary theory of taking an ordinary person and putting them in an absolutely extraordinary situation. Our Average Joe is a crime writer and then gets involved with an actual hitman. Yeah, nothing really extraordinary going on here but the funny thing is that the trailer opens with the proclamation this movie was a Toronto Film Festival selection. I don’t usually fall into that trap of being sold on the many festivals a film has played at but it does buy this trailer some time in establishing why I ought to spend more time with it.

I appreciate, however, the expediency of it all. The trailer doesn’t spend a lot of time with a lot of needless exposition, instead opting for the quickest way between two points: action. Guy writes book about crime, another guy likes to kill people, the two meet, and killing starts to go down in mass quantities. The writer-following-murder film is something we’ve already seen in a movie like Kalifornia but here there seems to be less of a dependence on the weirdo factor than there is here of a good popcorn adventure. I mean how on earth can you go wrong with a line like, “If he’s not careful, his next masterpiece could be his obituary”? Please.

Guns, cops, running, explosions, cars crashing into one another all combine into a delicious mix. What appears to be afoot here is something more than your usual brainless fare in that the trailer makes it seem that the relationship between hoity author and killer goes south. What I am hoping happens, as this thing promises, the two go against one another. The production values look rather good for a shoot ‘em up and I am still intrigued by the idea that this one was solid enough for Toronto.

I may be all about the movies that look to inspire but this appears to be one movie that can bridge the cultural divide quite nicely.

Portrait of a Zombie – Teaser from Portrait of a Zombie on Vimeo.

Portrait of a Zombie Trailer

There was a writing exercise, I remember, that was given out as part of a class assignment by American novelist, and all around great professor, Ron Carlson. The task was to write a short story involving changing a tire. That’s it. Interpret it any which way you’d like. The variations on that one constant varied widely as the responses were all over the map.

Zombie movies are the modern cinematic equivalent of this exercise.

I like that other people from around the world want to fashion their own yarn around an idea that seems tired, busted, and ought to be left to rot in a shallow grave. Somehow, though, I enjoy seeing what other people want to do with this subject in a way I don’t feel for other kinds of films. This trailer makes me think that there is still some life in this undead genre and this one is coming to us from Ireland, hotbed of film production.

Not since Once have I been so interested in the filmic output of a land that spawned my ancestors and I have to say, without question, the premise is fascinating: a kid (Billy) becomes a zombie, his parents elect to take care of the kid at home, a documentary film crew (of course) wants to tape the family, and then we watch the havoc unfold.

The trailer opens very strangely: a group of people take to the streets to protest something. It’s in slow motion, there’s no voice over, and we’re left wondering what it is they’re protesting against. We have some person getting swarmed by a pack of zombies, a woman lets us know the whole country is “shite,” a guy gets his hand cut off with a meat cleaver, and then we meet Billy. Treated more like a rabid dog than human I am impressed with the idea of where this is going.

Slow-mo shots of zombies running around, of people evading certain death, and then a mom trying to console a thrashing Billy who is bound up in a straight jacket and muzzle all the while with a minimalist touch. This feels intimate, claustrophobic.

The final seconds of this trailer are an especially nice touch considering what we’re dealing with: a first time director/writer, Bing Bailey, who obviously doesn’t have Hollywood funds but is trying to make it look like it. The execution is grand and really taps into that sense of terror that so many other, highly polished zombie films can’t match.

Tony Trailer

There is still gold to be mined from the metaphorical caverns for ideas that utilize serial killers and this looks like quite a find.

While I’m not as impressed with a work like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, I do appreciate the examination of what it’s like to follow these individuals around. Trying to get a fictional representation of how someone can come off the rails, delving into sociopathic or deranged behavior, is much different and more interesting than just seeing someone be “pushed to the edge” like you see in a film like Falling Down. Here, then, is a trailer that will instill a sense of dread, of making you feel uncomfortable as you watch it unfold.

When we meet Tony, he almost seems like someone who’s related to Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys, and seems like a bit of a goof. The musical bed is a bit generic, its manufactured tension almost screams at us to wait for the punch, but actor Peter Ferdinando sells the hell out of this guy appearing as nothing but inept. I mean, we go to almost the minute mark and there’s nothing to indicate the ratcheted instrumental bed that plays in the background deserves to be there.

If you were to take the music out, you would almost feel sorry for the man. He seems lost, awkward, and absolutely seems like someone who just needs some help in life. Getting smacked around, intimated, yelled at, put down, and pushed obviously takes it toll when he smacks his roommate in the head with a hammer. That’s when things get a little quiet. The act is committed but he doesn’t stop at one.

The trailer picks up a lot of steam on the down slope as the music comes back, earning the right to be there this time, and we see Tony just start going to town on people. Bags over the head, disposing of evidence in a river, strangulation, asphyxiation, Tony likes to kill. The way we’re shown how well Tony takes to this new occupation is one thing, but the other thing this trailer does well is show how gritty the moments are, a testament to director/writer Gerard Johnson’s vision for a film that helps blur that line between real life and a polished film. There’s a great final couple seconds of this trailer that encapsulate what you wish Tony would do but the restraint shown throughout the trailer honestly feels like a masterstroke.

There is just enough here to not only warrant another viewing but it ought to be one you keep track of whenever it becomes available here to watch.

Snabba Cash Trailer

There’s a lot to be said about a Kids in the Hall sketch about a bad doctor.

The doctor talks about how he just happened to fall into the profession of medicine after a lifetime of coasting by, simply getting handouts based on charm; bad as he may be, and as funny as the sketch is, he is a charismatic, inept, doctor who explains about what can happen if you mistake style for substance. I was reminded of this moment in Kids history when I saw this trailer for a slickly titled film, Snabba Cash.

Just the name slips off the tongue like a wet lozenge.

The trailer brims with the style and eye-popping color usually reserved for a Guy Ritchie crime film but here it is indeed something special in that even though you may not understand a word of the trailer it doesn’t matter when you think of looking at this as an artistic piece.

The providence of this movie is pretty damn illustrious when you do a little digging. Starting out as a wildly successful novel in Sweden, and ushering a new genre of fiction, Stockholm noir, what you have is a story that I can distill in one snapshot: three guys come together to sell coke and bad things start to go down. Seems simple enough, but the product here defies any need for translation. Of course it would help, but what you see here is absolutely what you get.

Starting out with the easiest of inferences, a young, svelte social hipster who obviously has connections to the good life and drug life sets his sights on something more than his life is giving him. We meet Jorge, a guy who breaks out of prison in the middle of the day. Next, Mrado. Besides needing a few more consonants and vowels in his name, he looks like he plays the heavy. These three somehow come together after a trip where our skinny blonde gets blindfolded, to a cocaine repository no less, as things go all sorts of bad. Gunfire erupts and there’s a lot of speaking where you just have to wait for the moment that comes through absolutely clear. The elevator scene that I am speaking of is expertly transitioned from as I think the groundwork for this partnership is laid quite nicely and visually and, again, no translation needed.

I mean, as soon as that techno starts, the talking goes away and you are thrust into a world of imagery so wicked and so daring that I think those of you who see what I do should make you ache that we’re not going to see how this all goes. The trailer pulsates with beauty and it ought to be one that brings director Daniel Espinosa some acclaim if even half of this trailer lives up to what’s on display.

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

  • Vinnie & Mario Trailer - I’ve been there for the Pusher trilogy, I loved Bronson, and I can’t wait to see if Nicolas Refn has a comedic edge to him. This trailer makes it look like he does.
  • Valentine’s Day TrailerGreat, a movie I can’t wait to forget about. I mean, really, this trailer does not possess any kind of artistic flourish, nor does it want to inspire any.
  • TV Carnage’s Let’s Work It Out TrailerThis trailer pretty much tells you everything you need to know about why this series is so brilliant. I could have done without the dudes in jockstraps but it’s still all hilarious.
  • Adele Blanc-Sec TrailerWhile I am a little puzzled at what’s happening I am a fan of how this is presented. There really isn’t much to see but it reveals, I think, just enough to whet an initial appetite for this movie.
  • Marmaduke TrailerOC ripoff or not, I would rather have Punji sticks dug under my fingernails than see any more from this film. If Owen Wilson as a talking dog is what passes for a movie aimed at kids I’d rather sit with a selection from Hayao Miyazaki, a man who believes that kids aren’t drooling idiots.
  • Despicable Me Trailer #3While I wasn’t really thrilled with the initial trailers, I do like this one. It’s simple, sweet, and leaves you wondering what this has to do with anything.
  • Kick Ass Red Band Hit Girl TrailerI hope this isn’t considered illegal, watching this thing. I am stoked at what 12 year-old Chloe Moretz is bringing to this big, loud party of uber violence.
  • Frozen TrailerI took Peter’s advice and stopped this trailer about 30 seconds before it ends. The part I DID see, however, just blew me away. High concept, for sure, but I love the way this thing is cut.
  • Robin Hood International Trailer #1Am I the only one who thinks this looks like Gladiator in a forest? We’ve seen the arrow trick with the camera, following it all the way to its destination, we’ve been slammed with imagery of flaming arrows, and I can’t say that the bombastic speech giving does anything for me anymore. Not sold on this one yet.
  • Knight and Day Trailer Ok, I didn’t like Cameron Diaz, her bubbly effervescence, or her stupidity. Tom Cruise, though? I am not to ashamed to admit that he made me smile a few times and I hope this represents a glimpse of what’s to come.
  • Boy TrailerA movie that brims with hope, of happiness, and what happens when your dreams become dashed. The trailer couldn’t be more of a latter-day Son of Rambow but that’s not such a bad thing. The music is excellent.
  • Sex and the City 2 TrailerLike Men on Film would say, “Hated it.” I’m being a little glib, but not by much. My wife dragged me to the first one and I am positive I will be dragged, my nails kicking up wood shavings as I’m hauled out the door, so this trailer just serves as a preview of what I will be sitting through soon. It’ll make a mint.
  • The Back-Up TrailerLook, this movie is not aimed at me so it would be a waste to jump on it like a corpse that needs a beating. It’s aimed at women my wife. Luckily, I will do everything in my power to make sure she never sees this trailer.
  • Furry Vengance TrailerThat sound of crickets in the background? I’m speechless left by the void that trailer made me feel inside after having watched this kid friendly pap.
  • Inception International TrailerWell, just squeegee my 3rd eye because this thing is mind-bending. I love how this trailer is keeping a lot to its vest while giving you a lot to feast on.
  • Repo Men Red BandTrailerI will say that the story is what had me hooked but the direction, not so much. Again, just because you’re red band does not mean showing blood, boobs, and violence is going to make your movie more interesting. In fact, in this case, it actually makes me feel less inclined to seek it out.
  • Cop Out TrailerFrom the Department of Full Disclosure: I write for Kevin Smith’s QuickStopEntertainment.com when not wasting your time here. I would like to recuse myself from making any judgments about the trailer for fear of jeopardizing the gig. That said, however, I thought the trailer was passable.
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