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?

Wild Bill Trailer

By all accounts, this is a movie we’ve all seen before.

The deadbeat dad who doesn’t amount to much, comes back into his kids’ lives to set things straight, learns how to be a better dad while trying to fend off the advances by the bad influence who won’t let him go straight, pretty basic stuff. I get it, we’ve been here and done that. However, I’m always a sucker for movies about people who are inveterate screw ups and can’t ever get their life in order; that seems to be what we have here and with Andy Serkis playing the part of the heavy I’m salivating at the combination. It just feels fresh for some reason.

As well, the way this trailer flows it’s really is a case of building proper momentum. While some trailers want to grip you by the lapels and get your attention from jump street, this trailer is all about development of the narrative. We establish who this loser is, get a quick background of his history and then get into territory where most of these stories go. It really isn’t until a very crucial moment where we’re given that peek into his character that things just explode. It’s as Bill’s kid looks at him when Bill asks if his son would like him to help get him out of a bad situation. Goosebumps as that boy nods, I tell you.

As Black Strobe’s “I’m A Man” pops into fifth gear we get glimpses of Serkis, Kill List’s Neil Maskell, and this guy goes balls out to make things right. We get a nice montage of violence, blood, critical reception, and sexy times with the ladies. Things are left fairly vague about the outcome and that’s a great way to end things with a movie like this. I’m sure the family will remain in tact and the boys will live to see another day but you can’t help but give a nod to a trailer that wants to shake it up with some attitude.

So while Dexter Fletcher is a name not many would recognize as the man behind the lens, he nonetheless appears to have made a movie that blends tender family drama and senseless violence quite nicely.

Pray For Japan Trailer

Stu Levy is probably better known for his work in bringing the world TOKYOPOP, not so much for his directorial prowess.

Regardless, the subject matter of what this documentary is getting to the heart of, showcasing the damage inflicted on Ishinomaki, Miyagi in Japan, the trailer here has a tight rope to walk as it tries to balance deep emotion with presenting a story worthy of consideration. Whereas Frontline this week talked about Japan’s nuclear meltdown and did an excellent job in showing how things devolved rapidly, this trailer is delicately structured to show how the natural disaster affected them. Hit from two sides, man made and mother nature, both being equally devastating, I like that what we see here are people who won’t be discouraged.

It’s too faint of praise to say that it’s uplifting but the way things are constructed and presented it certainly paints the devastation in a way that gives you pause because there isn’t Anderson Cooper at the forefront, narrating the destruction and aftermath. There are, though, maudlin and rhetorical statements that are tinged with too much sentimentality at the beginning of this but thankfully we quickly turn and burn away from this marketing strategy.

It enters the mode of showing and listening to those who are tasked with rebuilding their lives and this is where the trailer hooks me. Hearing stories of people who lost family members, seeing a lifetime’s worth of memories just erased by natural disaster, recognizing that these people more than anyone else have the right to be at a pity party but choose not to attend, that’s where the real wonderment of this trailer is found.

Where other trailers would crush under the weight of sentimentality there seems to be an earnestness with which the lives of these people are presented. It’s genuine and it comes though in the presentation.

Mister Rogers & Me Trailer

Benjamin Wagner was one of the few kids who actually met the man behind the velvety sweater, Fred Rogers.

There hasn’t ever been a documentary about one of the most influential childhood philosophizers this side of The Tao of Pooh but this appears to rectify that with a story that is more personal than it is objective. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the trailer cheats a little bit by running longer than the usual length and starting things off with someone who many will notice died four years ago, leading tangentially to think about just how long this movie has been languishing in development.

That aside, there’s something interesting here. Maybe not so much as a theatrical feature but, honestly, its pace seems more like something that you would find having a home on PBS. About mid-way through this I realize how almost completely saccharine it’s getting with the people talking about Fred in such prosaic terms, and how the hyperbole is getting off the charts that it’s almost making even someone like me queasy with the B.S. levels, but it’s nonetheless a road that hasn’t ever been taken. It’s a story about a man who didn’t have a public persona beyond the show he was on and the lessons he taught to generations of kids out there.

I realize that my children will never know Mister Rogers the way I do and the subtle ways he imparted simple, practical ways of treating others while respecting yourself. I’m not sure if it’s had any lasting effects but that’s the lure of the trailer here. Someone of our age and demographic, making a movie about a man who was an enigma beyond a television show. I would be interested to see if the movie is something more than an auditory fellatio fest as we extol the virtues of a dead man because I would like this to be a story of a real person who lived a real life.

Hard Core Logo II Trailer

When you have someone like Bruce McDonald helming a sequel to one of the best movies to ever come out of Canada there isn’t any other response to the existence of this movie other than to assess whether this is was necessary or ill-advised by watching the while damn thing.

The trailer makes a compelling case, though, why you would want to dip a toe into the sequel as it feels rough enough around the edges that the mockumentary style works for the story it’s going to tell. The opening fifteen seconds establishes everything you need to know about the first installment and how it informs the second. In some ways it tries to tie the two narratives together and it feels slightly forced how one has something to do with the other but it’s still a solid sell job.

McDonald making himself part of the story and how he’s looking to use this as an opportunity to exercise the demons of his past is an interesting one, the trailer becoming part music video and part jump cut bonanza, as it feels both funny in some places and wickedly serious in others. I’m not sure if the two tones can mesh as well as it does but Care Failure is a photogenic and interesting subject to behold. She’s sexy, she’s tawdry, has some attitude and comes off exactly as you would expect for someone fronting a pop metal band like this.

The trailer moves quickly, managing to capture the tone and feel for a legitimate portrait of a musician like Failure while being tongue in cheek enough to not be too serious about the whole affair. The music is damn catchy and while the story is easily sketched out by McDonald about what it is the whole film about, it deceptively doesn’t give you any real moments to hang onto. It’s all fragments, fast edits. Like a good music video. The single “Orson Wells + 2012″ that plays in the background by Die Mannequin and carries us to the end is about as infectious anything you’ll hear this week and was catchy enough for me to pony up .99 to get a copy of it.

Mission accomplished on all fronts.

 

Two Little Boys Trailer

This is might be director Robert Sarkies‘ movie but when you have 1/2 of the duo from Flight of the Conchords in your movie, it’s really all about Bret McKenzie.

What I like about this trailer is just how dark it is; it’s not hiding the abject horror of the concept or how it moves from seriously hideous to total hilarity. I’m not sure how it was able to pull that off but the introduction to these two friends and the insane relationship they share was a good start.

The other thing that helps is how the accidental death that McKenzie causes seems more like an afterthought than it does a big deal. It’s comedy on the level of Weekend at Bernie’s but, the difference being, when McKenzie’s friend takes out axe to chop up the body proper there’s no way the comedy should work but it does. Things never get bogged down in morality or mournful reflection and it even takes it up a notch when they start conspiring to kill another friend of theirs after they think this guy could trace back the death to them.

It’s seriously stuck in the morass of feel-good buddy comedy and the evilness of two guys who are planning on killing their friend along with trying to cover up the death of the pedestrian that McKenzie. A comedy of one error after another and it looks like it could go one of two ways: either it completely fails to deliver on the comedy or it totally embraces its absurdist premise and takes it as far as it will go. It looks gonzo enough that perhaps the latter is the case but, at the very least, the trailer gets me interested enough to think that it could be one of the more demented comedies to come out this spring.

Nota 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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