Posted on Friday, July 15th, 2011 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?
Realize that when we showcased the teaser trailer for this film a few months ago you animals went wild with dozens upon dozens of comments about this film’s perceived awesomeness. To that end, then, here is the full on extend-o experience.
Initially, if you’re going question anything about this trailer, and trust me that there’s lot to dissect here like a pinned down frog, splayed out for an eighth grade science class, it ought not to be “What in the hell is going on here?” but, rather, “Why in the hell does our hero have a slow-mo moment with a woman as a car is spinning out of control and why is she touching his face?” If you can answer that then you have the reason why I need to see this as what’s here looks like like a Bollywood mash-up of genres that uses the tried and true method of using old school car crashes, a little bit of wire-fu, practical effects, and a whole lot of costuming that looks like it was smuggled right off the set of Captain EO (Seriously, did they raid the wardrobes of Battlestar Galactica circa 1983?).
Since there’s no audio about the story, or any indication of how things are supposed to play out, the trailer really has to be taken on a superficial level. But, no matter, because this seems like a movie that has all the important elements of a movie that not only is going to leverage that effects budget as it appears to be all sunk into flipping cars and ripping through sets. Director Anubhav Sinha, along with starring actor Shah Rukh Khan, appears to have made a film that wants to be fun as much as it wants to be sensitive.
There’s dancing, attitude, explosions, and the hint that this is a movie that wants to celebrate the genre without an ounce of irony. You’ve got to love that kind of earnestness as it shines through this trailer.
The mere fact that this exists is enough for me to include it this week in the roundup.
For those of you who have been longing for a return to the salad days of yore when it was all about feel-good kids films as we grew up, anyone remember The Mighty Ducks and the cult-like stir to have more wacky mis-adventures of this team be made, those in power listened with sequel after sequel if they thought a property could somehow be revived one more time. Some of you got a little older, a little more mature, and you found Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham and saw a little bit of that same “feel good” quality just beneath the sweet veneer of this wholesome yarn; while it wasn’t going to be praised with discovering anything new about the human condition, it still fed that need to have a movie that wanted you smiling as you finished watching it.
I now give you Rob Lowe in a movie that might as well be a Mighty Ducks/Beckham mash-up of cinematic and comedic proportions, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. I’m floored, to be honest.
I mean, there is no way to talk bad about a trailer that is about as cut and dry as it can be with what’s at stake for everyone involved: there’s the rag tag home team/rival team trope we’ve all come to know and loathe, the difficulty with making the parents understand that their kid is passionate about (stick in competitive activity here) we’ve all heard hundreds of times before, and we’ve also got the hot girl who is hooking up with a man outside of his culture, causing all sorts of light mischief. Again, I ask you to look at Beckham and see the parallels.
What I do appreciate about it, though, and why I’m including it here this week, is that it is a fairly a fresh take on something we’ve seen beaten to death again and again. Culturally, to see this kind of film through another group’s eyes, it is an exercise in seeing how similar, and different, it is when you put familiar elements like this in a movie and letting it play out. While I don’t have much faith it will be any better than any other movie where one group has to overcome another, where a man has to convince his family that he loves this woman who isn’t like them, I am nonetheless eternally hopeful that this could surprise. The best expectations to have going into any movie are low ones and this does engender that feeling.
Besides, looking into the resume of director Robert Lieberman you’ll find that he not only directed that docu-drama Fire In The Sky but he also helmed the 1996 box office powerhouse D3: The Mighty Ducks. I guess he figures if he changes things around a bit we won’t notice the rehash. Write what you know, right?
10,000 Days Trailer
Who doesn’t like a little disaster porn?
For all the grief that Roland Emmerich, deservedly, gets for his masturbatory FX apocalypses there is something to be said for those who want to emulate that end-of-the-world kind of filmmaking. It’s hard to have serious hart-to-heart moments when the entire world is being shown falling into crags and crevices of molten earth.
To that end, though, we have the writer/executive producer of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, Eric Small, who has made a television series that looks like it’s going to be employing the kind of blue screen that made Warrior’s Way a wildly bizarre visual treat. I don’t really understand anything here beyond its basic premise but it lays things out in a straightforward manner: a comet hits earth, people hunker down, groups are formed, and factions are going to battle it out. I get it, pretty easy peasy. There’s nothing really profound that needs inferring.
The dialogue, however, is genuinely dreadful in the way the males here beat their proverbial chest to soundbites that seem like a mix of any random Michael Bay production or something you would expect to be uttered on the set of 300 but it has some testosterone and that propels me forward in sticking with this one. There is an extensive use of slow-mo fighting (as such, speed ramping can’t be that far behind) against something that is most obviously not there but it’s textured in a way that makes you think this is the most gorgeous CGI rendering of a background depicting the burnt out husk of an earth that no longer is you’ve ever seen. It’s stuck between that world of technology, where the obviousness of its plasticine facade is seriously apparent, and the performances of the actors who are trying their best to drag my attention away from the effects. But, the saving grace here is that it’s television. And, because it looks like it’s a ten episode run so far, you can bet that there wasn’t that much devoted to making something like it rolled out of an expensive F/X house. They got what they paid for and sunk everything into making it look about as a good as they could. And that’s not such a bad thing.
It’s serviceable and it certainly got my attention. While I couldn’t tell you why I would want to devote any more time to it beyond writing about it here I can only say that it has a vibe that seems fun, dramatic, and possibly more interesting than the bravado that’s showcased here.
In a landscape where it’s unsure of what’s really hiding behind the quick promos this one is putting out all its cards on the table and letting you make the choice for yourself. Bold and gutsy.
One Life Trailer
The BBC. It would be easy to hoist praise and sing hosannas in her honor, but you would be right to do so. The station is synonymous with some of the world’s greatest programming and where else is the demarcation more clear between the gluttonous American television system where we need dozens of episodes to fill a “season” and the tight schedules of less than half that for series that air on the Beeb. Life is a symbol of such quality. With David Attenborough’s narration, (side note: it’s appalling that someone felt the need to replace his velvety voice with that of Oprah for those of us in ‘Merica who need someone who speaks our brand of English) the series was brilliant in making fresh the very thing anyone could catch on the Discover Channel on any given afternoon.
The producers of that series, Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes, are back on the nature trail, this time as directors, with something familiar. Yet I am drawn in by their impressive credentials. This trailer exudes the family friendly kindness you would expect out of a nature documentary but it’s fascinating to watch from the people who made nature interesting again.
With regard to the genre, it’s really hard to mess up pretty shots of the outdoors. I can’t lie and say that there’s anything here that is wholly original in terms of theme, animals that display human traits, animals trying to get away from predators, but it’s got a Disney like vibe that is at the same time safe and persuasive.
I also like that the film is looking at a wide array of species. From ants, monkeys, octopuses, elephants, hippos, there is a dizzying array of wildlife on display. That, to me, keeps my attention not only knowing it’s not going to be focusing on any one thing but, rather, it’s going to chart some other course that I don’t understand. Surprise me, and this trailer certainly does.
Mysteries of Lisbon Trailer
Indulge me for a moment.
What I see in director Raul Ruiz’ latest isn’t some stuffy period piece but a wily attempt to turn a six hour miniseries into a theatrical film that could be digested in one sitting. We’ve seen a few examples of this kind of releasing in the past year, with The Trip being edited down from a six part series and Carlos being whittled down from a three episode miniseries to a more manageable length, but the same kind of passion to bring a solid story to the table in a condensed form looks like it will deliver here as well.
What I like about this is that it just exudes the class, pomp, and circumstance of a movie that you usually only see being done on Masterpiece Theater in muted tones, bland sets, and stories that maybe classics but bore certain types of individuals (read here: me) to tears. There is actually some sizzle here. There is intrigue, sexiness, and the hint that what’s on display is going to be more than just the wounding of some virgin woman’s pride, a lot more. You’ve got violence, class struggle, and the scope of years and years of growth.
It’s hard to get a handle on what’s really happening, and what I should be focusing on, but it’s the classical interlude around the minute fifteen mark that really drives home that instead of some tame and lame period drama we have a man who looks like he’s trying to define who he is.
The focus isn’t so much on anyone, really, and that’s what really gets to me the most. There seems to be a fluidity in the way we transition from one moment to the next, nothing really feeding into what came before it. It satisfies my ADD need to keep things pushing forward while also tickling my more artistic sensibilities as it’s packaged into a slick looking marketing vehicle that doesn’t believe that just because it’s trying to be arty that it has to be fetid and boring.
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:
- Jack and Jill Trailer – What can be said that hasn’t been said yet? Oh, how about, if you patronize a film like this you’re part of the problem not the solution. This looks like visual misery.
- Juan of the Dead Trailer – To see this as anything less than a fascinating achievement is to miss the point. Looks like pure agave fun.
- Amigo Trailer – I’m not sure I really find anything exciting to hold onto in this trailer. Visually it looks adequate but I’m not moved to want to spend money on it.
- The Adventures of Tintin International Trailer – While it’s not awful, there is just something not quite right about it. Polar Express 2.0.
- Higher Ground Trailer – What a dense trailer. It packs quite a punch with regard to the information it stuffs in there and gives to us. To be sure, I’m interested.
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Trailer – It’s about what you might expect from a film that’s looking to maximize its success from the first go-around. Nothing here seems particularly thrilling or novel but I’m sure it’ll make millions regardless what anyone says about it.
- Arthur Christmas Trailer – They certainly can do better than this. Not really a bad trailer, per se, but it’s not very engaging or original.
- Contagion Teaser – Really, if you’re not going to trump what we think we’ve already seen in a movie like Outbreak then why try with this weak attempt in the first place?
- This Must Be The Place Trailer – If I was handing out prizes this week for trailers that exuded originality this movie would take them all. I’ve just got to know what is up here.
- John Carter Trailer – I don’t mean to be down on so many trailers here but here’s another example of a trailer that manages to not only skip the sizzle but give me unwanted, longing looks at Taylor Kitsch for reasons I still don’t understand.
- The Thing Trailer – Another remake, another bland trailer to go with it.