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?

Imaginary Forces Trailer

Getting sent an unsolicited trailer is tricky.

Sure, every week I ask for them (send them directly to Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com for your chance to be featured here, so act now…) but you never quite know what will happen when you press play. You really want it to be the next 300 but most of the time it’s, well, not worth showcasing. Something like this, though, let’s me know that there are people out there gettin’ it done without a publicly traded company at its back.

Director Ruairi Robinson looks like he’s crafted a short that is a little bit They Live and a dash of the Twilight Zone. It’s a little like visual judo in the presentation of what’s here but that’s the real hook when you let it wash over you. The music is atmospheric, very light, in the background. The visuals that accompany the thinly playing score are simply a delight as it’s not only photographed quite well but we’re never allowed to gain our bearings. I love that.

Much like the protagonist here, the whole idea of something being not quite right in someone’s mind takes over  the cues we’re given about someone who may very well be a schizophrenic. It’s not an outside looking in as it pertains to this guy who comes off as erratic and unstable. That’s when we get a mess of violence. Men with very heavy guns appear from out of nowhere, our man decides to brandish a shotgun, he beats something senselessly with a rock like he’s from the mesozoic age and has just been shown how a remote control works, but then it’s the clitter clatter of a subway. It plays for a little longer. Things calm down.

That’s when we see the alien. Aaaaand cut.

What the hell this all means is a mystery that I need to have solved. It sets up multiple paths of how this could all play out and what it all could mean. By leaving it so vague I’m allowed to fill in my own gaps. Kind of like a blank coloring book that merely shows the outline of the picture, this trailer lets me fill in the shapes with my own imagination. I like the anticipation of thinking I know which way it’ll all go and then being surprised when that’s not the case.

Resurrect Dead Trailer

Director Jon Foy seems like my kind of guy.

Becoming obsessed with a subject like this is not only odd it’s the mark of someone with a singular focus on doing something because it moves you. You can see in this trailer the marks of an artist working through something. A director with a subject that doesn’t really have a hypothesis beyond wanting to prove that there is something behind these weird etchings on the ground in major cities.

While I admire the trailer’s proud declaration that it won some Sundance prestige, there is something far more interesting than some film fest kudos. There’s a mystery of little to no importance and that’s what’s special. We are hit with the oddity that are these street signs embedded on the ground and he wants to find out who has done it. Slowly, a picture takes shape and it’s uncertain of what it is. It’s the little nuggets of information, the vague notions of why we should care about any of this, and the unwillingness to create a concise portrait that I like.

I don’t know what is so compelling about this goofy quest to get to the bottom of what is something that is about as relevant as trying to understand why there are random OBEY stickers on street signs in any urban area but I could find myself being entertained with a story that simply can be enjoyed if it doesn’t waste my time and makes the material entertaining.

Detective Dee Trailer

Over a year ago we showcased a trailer for this film, the latest from Tsui Hark.

Now comes a little something with some sizzle and a whole lot more ingles.

“Nonstop Ass-Kicking”

This trailer is a delight in that even thought there won’t be any Queen’s English to be spoken anywhere in here, and it appears that the movie is leaning heavily on CGI renderings to make everything look more expansive and lush but that’s all background noise to the above quote that flashes before us. It drops the hammer and things just unspool in a montage of violence. The kind of violence that is at the same time orchestrated delicately and beautifully.

Yeah, we’ve seen this kind of battling before and it doesn’t particularly do anything to challenge the paradigm but damn is it fun to watch. The drum beats, the wild choreography, the wire-fu, it’s all scintillating. And to say nothing of the deer that gets kicked in the face. By the way, don’t think I didn’t notice that the deer makes a noise reminiscent of a billy goat. That is no goat, fo’ sho’, but I don’t really mind because it is so Goddamned strange.

I don’t have any idea about what is happening and who is fighting whom for what reason but that’s part of the joy I get out of this trailer. It’s not open and shut, it’s not all foretold and unsurprising, there is a real reason to stay tuned to find out what really is going on here and I appreciate the mystery more than you know.

Knuckle Trailer

Director Ian Palmer must have looked at Snatch and thought to himself that there had to be something worth delving into about the lives of a people who live in caravans. So, as the film suggests , Ian spent twelve years steeped in the bare knuckle brawling tradition with some Irish Travelers and for the time he spent it looks like he grabbed a portrait of life that many of us only know through Guy Ritchie.

The thing about this trailer, though, is the war beat that is constant and pounding. Seeing that it made its way through to Sundance,  obviously a positive selling angle, but what really seals the deal happens at about the twenty second mark, just about when you’re getting your bearing. That’s when a guy gets the hammer thrown down on his glass chin while the guy throwing the punch is standing there in his sweatpants, looking like Jason Statham’s paunchy older brother.

The core of this film for many is obviously going to be the fighting angle but we do get to see that this fighting isn’t done out of sheer pleasure to beat another man down. It’s very subtle here in how it’s narrative angle is couched because having doughy guys throw down, literally, in the middle of the street is a sensationalist way to try and get people to see this movie but there is a deeper social ill, however, that permeates this brutality. There’s a sadness, almost, in the way these participants are not always willing and, in fact, have hesitations when it comes to what these men are asked to do. While I’m all about the bumfights I have to admit being interested in knowing what this is all about and why these guys seem to be locked in eternal battle.

But, for the rest of you? Seeing the guy get popped at the end with a strong uppercut ought to be all the enticement you need to get excited in wanting to see the outcome of that brawl. If this still isn’t good enough then I’m sure the Smurfs is something more your speed.

The Whale Trailer

Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm look like they’ve made something, while not as compelling as The Cove, that I would sit down and watch on Nat Geo on a Saturday night with the kids.

Sometimes it doesn’t make much to get my interest, other times it takes a whole helluva lot, but I like what’s being pitched because it hits those nerve centers which concern animals who find themselves in danger. This is a small nature documentary that apes a Free Willy vibe but I’m fine with that. Maybe it was the low dose of estrogen I was injected with this morning but the trailer goes down a meandering path that is more concerned with making an emotional connection than it is selling a film and that’s something rare.

You see an animal making connections with those who live above the water and Ryan Reynolds’ dulcet tones narrating it all in a way that is at the same time saccharine sweet and riveting.

The story is pitting one whale against those who want to separate it from humans and those who think it’s an animal that needs contact. While, when you look at the whole trailer, it seems like a movie that’s about as exciting as a monkey flinging its own poo but it’s the editing here that makes this snappy and lean. I don’t know which way things are going to go but I’m a fan of the way this is looking at one beast’s struggle to either get free or be left alone.

Suing The Devil Trailer

This is the kind of thing that makes me weep.

I realize everyone has to eat, I realize that everyone deserves to have their voices heard, but this, honestly, is the visual equivalent of someone taking a metal trowel across a dry chalkboard.

I take not an inch of contention with the film’s message, it’s all but telegraphed by the end of the trailer, but it’s the shoddy workmanship I take issue with. I was going to mention that even the trailer for Fireproof did a better job at not being so melodramatic but I just re-watched that thing and it’s awful. Terrible.

I don’t know why marketing is such a problem with trailers like this, even wretchedly made movies can sometimes fool me, but the workmanship is disappointing. If subtlety is the way to write persuasively, this script, which showcases the line “Have you ever done Internet porn?”, I’m amazed that someone opened their checkbook without ever opening a dictionary. The moment is tough to get through, much like many other moments here. I’m just utterly floored by this thing.

To know it exists is wonderful, to have to endure watching it I’m sure would be its own hell on earth.

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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