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 Legend Of The Mighty Soap Trailer

When I was a kid I watched HBO relentlessly. Whenever there wasn’t reairings of Fraggle Rock, Braingames, Heartbeeps, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome there were lots of short films that played between movies. The actual “program” was called Short Take (anyone remember Recorded Live? Still creeps me out.) and even though I only have a vague recollection of them there was one really odd film about a talking, shrunken head. It was strange even by my 10 year-old standards as the thing somehow was hanging out with a couple of kids, for whatever effed up reason, stuffed it into a soccer ball and was kicked around a field to the sounds of something equating to macabre whimpering. This trailer reminds me of that moment.

To that end, there is no other, correct, response to have after watching this trailer other than realizing you need to see this film. It’s probably the strangest thing you’ll see today but it’s worth it. While I couldn’t tell you what the hell is happening I can say with some certainty that the style is a little Tim and Eric with a dash of bizarro, netherworld action. Director Andrew Bond has made something that even those at a Freudian institute would be hard pressed to explain without breaking out into fits of frustration. There is a narrative here, though.

From what I can deduce by watching,  I can’t understand the vocal track because they’re not speaking American, the visuals really are reminiscent of those brainiacs behind the Old Spice commercials (Again, Tim and Eric for those who didn’t know) but it’s a perfectly apropos comparison. Those ads worked for P&G in the number of units that were moved because of how well the public received them; they were irreverent, funny, creative, but had a purpose. This trailer has a purpose because it’s not just content with being strange. It wants to express itself as a story that is pitting the unwashed masses who want to be clean against a bile shooting monster.

Sometimes an explanation is too much. It’s best to leave the oddness be. [Twitch]

The National Parks Project Trailer

Moving out beyond the usual nature photographers who simply stick a camera out into a field and expect to capture nature in all its splendor, this project seems like it’s something a little more unique. The opening of this trailer is representative of why it’s such an evocative piece of marketing material simply because of its plain, white, snow swept mountain ranges. It’s not just  a canvas that is waiting for you to give it some kind of meaning. There are no words, no guide about what we’re seeing as you focus on the hills that look like ribs jutting up from the ground. This something more than what it appears to be and you can sense it. All the unwashed hippies in the audience ought to be crying at this point at the beauty of it all.

Smash cut, we’re now on the shore of some lush wilderness. We get close to a tree as the jangling of a guitar slips in and envelopes you in some nature photography that is certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I can’t exactly put my finger on it but this is a different kind of nature documentary. It seems hipper in a way, with a modern sensibility. And that seems to be the case when the narrator drops in.

Literally, a voice of God simply lays it out simply and effectively about why we’re here, what we’re looking at. That’s it about Canadian parks is one thing but when the information scrolls by and tells us that it and it is going to utilize 13 filmmakers and 39 musicians to essentially guide us through this walk through nature my curiosity is even more piqued.

What strikes me as I watch this is that it’s like something we would expect to come from authors if this was the 19th centuries; writers who looked at nature not as a utilitarian source of power but of an entity endowed with an inherent beauty, as something to be celebrated. This is the 21st answer to Henry David Thoreau or Emerson and it simply looks like it’s a movie where you hunker down and let it wash over you.

The Elephant In The Living Room Trailer

This obviously goes beyond people who own some ferrets.

Director Michael Webber has done something genuinely novel here while also creating a trailer that is both ambitious and tense. What grabs you immediately is that even before we know this is a story about people who keep really dangerous pets we get the 911 call and the police officer who fields them. We’re not really sure what this is all about, it sounds a little goofy honestly and it does appear to be humorous, but that smile is turned upside down once we hear from this cop who looks deadly serious about his role in playing the part of exotic pet wrangler. He’s not so much afraid as he is worried about the possibilities of what could happen.

We get quotes from /Film’s own David Chen and Michael Moore (always good company to be in) and it’s about as an explosive, riveting opening as you’re going to get for a documentary all this year. I, honestly, loved how well it pulls you in with not only the kudos, its editing, its pacing, and the ability to emotionally tug at you that all the rest is gravy. Gravy being the one thing that sustains the goodness of this thing because it is flat out enthralling.

We get crazies of all kinds and that’s just glorious. There’s some guy who looks like the wizened, slouchy brother of Captain Lou Albano who is *really* into his lion, some dude who wants to talk about the dangers of legislating controls on the ownership of these beasts, and opinions that straddle the grey lines in-between. I love that we get a shot of some jamoke who is casually and nonchalantly hanging out with his mountain lion in his living room as the scene we get directly following this is of a police officer pumping his shotgun as he slowly walks into some tall scrub.

This film shot up to the top of my most wanted list of documentaries based on the strength of the trailer as not only does it make clear what the story is about it smartly stays out of the way for the thoughts that come out of it. The people are allowed to get their opinions out without judgement and without guidance from the filmmakers about how we should think about this. It’s refreshing and exciting.

Tracker Trailer

I honestly wish Australia could have been a good film.

To that point, I would have loved to have had a compelling story to go along with the lush landscapes and places we were taken in that movie. Alas, what we got was painfully unwatchable pap that went nowhere quite fast and labored like a sick dog all the way to the end. It’s interesting, then, that director Ian Sharp, who hasn’t directed anything of note since 2002′s blockbuster Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War, might be able to bring some of what Australia could have been to the screen. And, yes, I realize that New Zealand is a wholly independent continent but it’s a pretty close facsimile. The trailer is quite precise as it establishes what is happening in the film and that it seems to focus on the relationship between Ray Winstone and Temuera Morrison. It’s that focus on the duality of these men that really appeals to me.

The first half of the trailer sets up things solidly with not only establishing the persona non grata status of Winstone but explains why Morrison is on the run from Johnny Law. Instead of a good guy/bad guy demarcation there is a whole lot of gray to for both parties as the manhunt is on.

As the trailer goes into its back nine, the physical landscape provides a great postcard for anyone looking to be ensconced in a world that seems to be punctuated with sound stage set-ups. The “out in the open” quality of key moments in this story are not only well presented here but have really been appealing to me as of late after seeing how the Coen’s used physical landscape in True Grit. There could be some meat on this script if it can be more than just a movie about inequality and Winstone’s journey to be accepted in a culture that seems to not want him around. From the looks of it there are some exciting set pieces and interesting directorial choices.

It’s been a while since I’ve caught Winstone in something reaching the epic proportions of The Departed and while I didn’t get it with 44 Inch Chest there is the distinct possibility this could be something close.

Bloodrape Trailer

The last time I checked in with this film, I was pretty much blown away by its ferocity.

Well, Tucker Bennett, Taeer Maymon, and Zach Shipko are back to melt whatever was left of your face off in a trailer I simply love for reasons that I cannot justify in any coherent, factual way.

By all accounts I should be annoyed by the construction of it. The sound is just pounding through the speakers, the visuals are more methed up than a junkie who just found a c-note in the street, there is no direction to it whatsoever, or any clear vision of what they’re trying to “sell”, but it’s the rawness of it all that’s so alluring.

There isn’t any way to talk about this trailer in a manner that breaks down the core components of what makes this a trailer worth mentioning only because you can’t watch this and not feel this is either one of the most fascinating things you’ll see all week (make note: I’m not saying great, I’m just stating “fascinating”) or something that you are completely repulsed by. I happen to fall in the former camp as this isn’t just a slapdash trailer that’s put together with some snot and invisible tape, you genuinely have a focused piece of performance art that not only is giving you bits of this film’s content but it’s got an independent style that eschews most everything you would consider necessary to get you interested in a film you’ve never heard of.

I have no doubt some of you will think this is the most obnoxious, attention whore-ing piece of trash you’ve come across but I would counter that the minds behind this have a clear voice and don’t care about anyone else thinks. That indifference isn’t punk so much as it is having a vision of what you want and just shoving it out there for everyone to see. From the vampire orgy, the feasting that’s being done on humans with blood that seems more pink than red, the music that is damn near bleeding through your speakers, the editing that seems unable to focus on anything for more than mere milliseconds, and the last fifteen seconds that is out to melt what’s left of your cerebral cortex with its distorted volume and disjointed narrative that offers no help in deciphering what in the hell is going here, it’s all wonderful.

I embrace the work for what it is and respect the insane vibe of it all.

Elephant White Trailer

Um. Ok.

While everyone is in white hot anticipation for Kevin Bacon in X-Men: First Class maybe seeing Bacon plying his trade at trying out a British accent would be of interest. I’m not sure what’s worse, his attempt or the premise of this film. Chocolate, Ong-bak, The Protector, all films that director Prachya Pinkaew ought to be really proud of but this is just amazing in its average-ness. It’s not enough to say we’ve seen this before in films like Taken or Man on Fire because that would be generous to those films. This is a wholesale, played out, construction that starts off so modestly that you wonder whether this was conceived with the idea of this movie never making it to a large screen; instead, this direct-to-DVD film would probably best be deployed as freebies to those buying a Previously Viewed film at a closing Blockbuster. That, or Antonio Sabato Jr.’s latest.

The trailer just doesn’t inspire to be anything, really. Of course it possesses the rudimentary elements to be classified as a story, some guy is on the hunt for a girl who may have been kidnapped and is in the sex trade, but as the story is unraveled all we get is gold and red lit scenes where people are acting like this is an action blockbuster that’s much too hot to be contained but it’s clunkier than an AMC Pacer.

There’s some pretty bad choreographed fighting, uninspiring heaps of strained dialogue from both Bacon and Djimon, and pathetic running-through-crowded-streets moments that don’t even manage to top the gold standard set by Bloodsport. Oh, and there’s elephants. A few times. For whatever that’s worth to you. For me, it just means disappointment.

Operation Belvis Bash Trailer

Never before has a trailer felt like having to watch Shoah without ever getting up to pee than this did.

I think this will make a lot more sense if I simply let the press release I received on Monday morning set things up:

George Bush’s backyard was the backdrop for what turned out to be an unexpected ending to an exciting evening for actor/singer Corey Feldman.  Feldman’s latest film, Operation Belvis Bash premiered on May 1, in Houston,TX, and is the story of a special military operation whose goal is to assassinate Osama Bin Laden.  Just a few minutes after seeing what audiences thought was a purely fictional assassination of the world’s most hated terrorist, they exited the theater to learn that it had happened in real life.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” commented Feldman.  “I was in New York on September 11, 2001, with Michael Jackson, and then, nearly ten years later, I walk out of the premiere of my latest film, which I had postponed to be able to attend Corey Haim’s Decisions premiere and memorial, to learn that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by a special operation, just like in the film we’d just screened. The timing is simply unbelievable, and whether life imitates art, or art imitates life, now is a time for all Americans to express their gratitude to the brave men and women who serve our country and helped make this happen.”

What’s here, though, is awful. I watched this with the kind of fascination that a baby gives to someone speaking to them: I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t believe what I’m seeing, and I can’t understand why anyone pumped dollar one into a story that seems to be thinner than a stick of gum. Apart from the Soup Nazi, the Iron Sheik, Daniel Baldwin, that guy from the Twisted Sister video, and Corey Feldman in a role that is too bizarre for even me to describe, I am unsure of who anyone is or what it is I’m supposed to be buying into as this film’s premise. It’s uneven, choppy, and doesn’t sell me at all on what a lot of people sunk their time and money into in order to make this.

I was amazed by the press release and I’m even more amazed by this trailer.

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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