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?


Love Life Trailer

A few weeks ago I talked about a trailer called New Kids Turbo. I received a good amount of e-mail letting me know what it was about these nitwits that looked so damn odd, albeit hilarious, to those who lived in the Netherlands. Well, Reinout Oerlemans was listed as a producer on that film and he’s back at the forefront again, this time, for a trailer attached to a movie originally titled Stricken which is neither odd nor hilarious.

Writer Gert Embrechts had the unenviable task of adapting a novel by Ray Kluun, a book that deals with a young family dealing with breast cancer. Kluun’s wife died of it when she was only 36 and left him to raise his daughter alone. I know we’ve got all the ear marks for a Lifetime movie of the week but there’s something special in this trailer, believe me. Like High Fidelity, as our brave woman is in the throes of pain, agony, and sadness that she won’t see her daughter grow up, we see the husband cavorting around and partying.

This is a movie I have to see.

While I understand the beginning seems like a Mastercard commercial, and it does, you have no idea how well it is telling you everything you need to know. With the interstitials alluding to marriage, that this is a happy family, that these people are living a life some could only dream of, at the thirty second mark we get this guy’s descent into hedonism. He’s out clubbing and man-whoring while his wife seems bound at home. We see the moment when she’s given bad news by the doctor. While he seems to really care about what’s happening, at about the minute mark, everything seems to unravel into a chaotic whirlwind of suck. I love that we haven’t had one word come out from the lips of these players and we don’t need it because the visuals are communicating so well. Such solid editing.

By the time this ends, and he’s crashing his car and people are in a heap of their own tears, and all the ladies this guy’s been with seem to come out of the woodwork. You see this couple’s little girl looking on, and he’s carrying his dying wife around, I’m conflicted by what I’m supposed to be feeling. I do know, though, it feels good to be provoked in this manner. Not a single utterance needs to be tossed out there because by the time this trailer finished you are either on board or standing with your arms crossed, refusing to give in to the melodrama. I happen to love it.

The Other Side Of Paradise Trailer

You take a director like Justin D. Hilliard and put him against other auteurs like Jay Duplass who have made personal looking films like this there wouldn’t be an argument of whose film looks better, visually. However, this trailer shows the promise of a filmmaker that knows how to frame a moment when he needs to and who can display flashes of brilliance in-between scenes that absolutely do feel like an artist still learning his craft.

What I appreciate more than anything about this trailer, through, is its opening when no one is saying anything. We are experiencing the pull-quotes that extol this movie’s strengths from its actors, its material, while also getting a feel for the aptitude of our director. If it was a car ride I would say this was a pleasant roll down an empty block: not much else to do but look and admire. Then someone abruptly slams on the brakes and I spill my Crystal Light Apple Mango Icee on my crotch.

Our characters start talking at a dinner table and I’m confronted with the notion that this has all the earmarks of an independent movie, with the faux anger and outrage feeling a little forced as our quest begins. The physical set up and the execution looks like something closer out of The Room than it does something dramatic but that’s where amateur hour ends.

We’re on a road trip and it becomes something more. I’m intrigued by the people who we’re paired up with on this excursion.

They seem to have depth, some emotional honesty with one another that feels genuine. I’m honestly hooked by the notion that I am unsure of what’s happening but that I should feel fine with that. The music is absolutely a delight as we get to know these people a little more. From a hook-up to people revealing things about their lives I find that I’m in a buying mood and would absolutely pay to see how this all unfolds.  Arianne Martin, John Elliot radiate a kind of heat that makes it easy to believe that they ought to be together and I like being able to feel that just by watching them in this trailer.

The Be All And End All Trailer

Maybe by wishing hard enough I can make a movie appear that is marginally better than Flipped. What I found lacking in Rob Reiner’s ode to youth I may have found in Bruce Webb’s ode to losing virginity and exploring the bonds that boys share as they get older.

So many trailers that deal with young guys like this lend themselves to being cheeky and flat exercises, and there certainly is a little of that going on here with the plain looking font and uninspired design choices that essentially tell us what’s happening with the story, but it does gets better. I thought at first this was going to be the story of how one friend goes on after his friend dies but, instead, he’s just dying. And wants to lose his virginity before he does. Consider my interest piqued.

The trailer gets better and gets away with as much as they can when we hear the dying kid’s last request is to be deflowered, shouting it out loud enough that we all get what’s going one. The process of finding appropriate female companionship is an amusing bit as these two consider who might be up for a roll in-between some hospital sheets. When it’s decided to break out of the hospital and we see the healthy friend pushing the other around in a shopping cart, trying to get some play at a hotel that gets raided by police, I have to believe there is something genuine embedded in a story of two guys who are dealing with something that’s untimely. I’m a sucker for good looking coming-of-age tales and this one got me.

Like I said, I am hoping to get some of that Rob Reiner feeling again so as one of them convinces the lady who was no question the bottom of the barrel, asking her to mount up and take one for the team, I again get the sense there could be a movie here that’s good but not great, touching but not deep. Routine.

For me, I’m fine with fielding an occasional ground ball every now and then.

Wolf At The Door Trailer

When you think independent do you envision a movie that talks about the nuances and vagaries of the human soul or a movie that taps into something universal so simplistically that you wonder why anyone would spend millions to say otherwise? Me neither.

What I appreciate about this trailer, more than anything else, is that it is completely demented in all the right ways. It’s hard to put into words about the difference when it comes to weird for weird sake and weirdness that feels completely natural in a moment but there is one. This preview wants to suppose a universe where the odd and normal rub elbows together in a fanciful tête-à-tête. Between a guy who rolls around town with cordless home phone as his cell and the appearance of an angel on high who tells our protagonist about a mission to go 18 holes of putt-putt whereby he needs to sink every ball with a hole in one I am bathed in strangeness.

I know, it feels like it’s staying into the precious and high concept but, I assure you, get through the first minute to get its language, its pacing, its offbeat patina, and you’ll be rewarded with the kind of weirdness that is utterly amazing. Director, co-writer, actor, man of letters, Bill Benz no question makes his vision known. From a two-eyed monster that c0mes up from the toilet for reasons we’re not let in on, to special effects that would give Tim and Eric a run for their basic cable dollar, this trailer isn’t concerned with telling a narrative as it is just trying to define the universe that it exists in and you should appreciate that. While there’s little to indicate the presence of some female mojo to counterbalance this sausage fest, actress Kelly Baugher pops up to reassure us there will be a little estrogen pumping through the mix.

We get that the ultimate thing that happens in this movie, if we’re to believe with what we’re presented with, is that this movie is going to revolve around the most important round of mini-golf ever. Beyond that, I am not sure of anything. But that’s what makes this such a compelling trailer. It’s avant-garde but there’s a real independent, accessible vibe that some romance is tucked in there somewhere along with the proof that there’s some snappy dialogue to go with it. What’s more, there is a genuine confidence in the vision for this movie. It may be warped but those who’ve made this forged ahead and made what looks like a movie that cannot be classified by anything else but original.

It’s knowing films like this still exists out there that I know creativity hasn’t died completely in modern movie making.

Red Princess Blues Trailer

A long time ago I was introduced to filmmaker Alex Ferrari. Besides having a snappy last name the guy had some skills that I thought the world should know about. That was over five years ago and the guy has always stayed on my radar. With forays into animation and live action, Ferrari has stretched the boundaries of what a guy with a passion for special effects can do with little budget and gargantuan ideas. The man lives and breathes action and SFX so it’s interesting to see how, if you’re someone who can’t afford Weta to come in and make an average film that much better, you move in relation how you shoot.

This trailer shows you the kind of whip smart vision he has when it comes to telling a story about, well…that’s not important because this is about action. You’ve got Richard Tyson playing the kind of skeevy guy you know he’s always capable of but it’s the bath of sepia and garbage that gets your attention. See, when you’re trying to appeal to the same crowd that ate up The Expendables, to those who would like their action in big bites and set pieces, your aims are different than someone trying to chart the progress of a puffy chair across America. It’s a different sensibility and Alex gets that here. He cuts an intro that just gets into it and isn’t messing around.

The action is quick, the cuts are fast, and there is barely enough time to realize who is kicking whose ass. As with any action movie the what and who is less important than how good it looks. From my vantage point it teases you with level of intensity that it will have and the amount of tropes we’ve come to expect out of any film where it’s all about how many squibs, kicks, and body count you can rack up.

Should there be a curve when thinking about how good or how intense someone with limited resources can make something look? I’m not sure but the trailer at least looks solid and I am always supportive of anyone who is looking to push into a genre that has grown a bit stale in the past few years.

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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