This Week In Trailers: Samsara, Chained, The Ambassador, Tetsuo: The Iron Man / Tetsuo: The Body Hammer, Death By China

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?Samsara TrailerRon Fricke may just blow away every single National Geographic photog there ever was.

Back in April we showcased the first trailer for this movie and, now, there seems to be another one that builds quite nicely off the amazingly intense initial effort. What's pretty exceptional about this latest trailer isn't so much that we see anything new but that the punch that it delivers is just as satisfying as this one.

There are a few new moments that add a little extra visual context to the movie but the overall effect is that this is a movie that seems like a visual compendium of the most disparate people and places and events that somehow, some way, will come together. How it will do that has yet to be explained in the marketing materials but this is just one of those films that is begging you to see it on a very large screen. The colors pop, the compositions of the moments that just hang there seem like living tableaus, and it all coalesces into a cohesive whole. Incredible.

Chained TrailerVincent D'Onofrio is just an interesting actor to watch.

Sure, director Jennifer Lynch may have Boxing Helena under her belt, following that box office comet with a turn on Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater  (loved that show...), and then only came back to directorial prominence some years ago but she doesn't have anything on the man who wore the Edgar Suit. The trailer here hits that usual notes of trying to define how we got here, there just isn't a way to beat around the bush, but that's when the trailer excels.

It's all Vincent from the moment these people get abducted and it lives and breathes because of how twisted he's able to play it up. It's incredibly violent, to be sure, you see people getting all tore up and bloodied, but it's D'Onofrio's demeanor and cadence that drives the screw in that much harder.

It's very sparse, as it pertains to set pieces, it looks like there's only a few variations but that's the other thing that makes this an interesting proposition. It can't get by on having characters get placed in different moments or situations where the physical environment is a factor. The actors have to sell this with their performance and you see a glimmer of that with what you see here. It's a whole lot of dark, weird, and uncomfortable.

The Ambassador Trailer

I don't know Mads Brügger but he has to be the craziest man I know right now.

The trailer, first of all, sets up things quite nicely. I didn't know who the guy is or what this movie was even about but once it laid everything out as quickly as possible I got onboard. This thing moves at breakneck speed and does not relent for one moment as it explains why this pasty white fellow is galavanting around Africa pretending to be something he isn't.

The quotes, oddly enough, are the one thing that helps reinforce that the notion that even though we're hearing music that would indicate something very silly, the action on the screen really is about as serious as you can get when it comes to uncovering political corruption and a blood diamond trade which could very easily get you killed. It's, no doubt, a hard sell but the trailer moves through the necessary narrative beats quite effectively as the ruse gets deeper.

It's unclear whether he comes close to being found out or is ever in any real danger of things going south but just the threat of it is enough to make me think, at the very least, will be an intriguing expose into the clandestine world of seedy African politics with a director who seems to have a fun attitude about the possibility of an untimely demise.

Death By China TrailerPeter Navarro has created something pretty amazing.

It's not that it's effective in establishing a positive dialogue about what's really driving China's economic machine, i.e. slave labor and slave wages, and what it's doing to the manufacturing world with how much we depend on them for an alarming amount of goods but the trailer is brilliantly able to be completely a piece of propaganda without so much as an attempt to hide its bias.

Look no further than a minute, fifteen seconds when you have a preposterous statement made by an author who wants to invoke the tone of someone who is trying to warn us of a coming apocalypse with a foreign superpower by saying China is training, right now, at this very moment, to kill Americans (I think we're training to kill them...and everyone else too, Gordon) but it's what comes after the mayor of Crazytown states his case. It's the image of a bowie knife being driven into the heart of the American flag, the blood spurt is a nice touch, that not only makes everything else you have to say suspect, fair and balanced this isn't, but it's laughable. It's honestly pure comedy once you see that this isn't going to be a honest dissection of how we got here and what we can do to better our own situation as a country.

I honestly haven't laughed this well in weeks and it took this trailer to get me out of my drought.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man / Tetsuo: The Body Hammer Trailer

Confession time. On my List of Shame, the dozens of films that I just haven't gotten around to see but realize that some hold them in about as high of esteem as one could, this ranks pretty high on that running tab of things I need to get to.
Now it looks like my excuses will be coming to an end, to some degree, for this duo of films that I've always wanted to check out. Yes, it's a odd to be showcasing what amounts to a commercial release but, to someone like myself, and many like me who may only know the man's work by name, by praise alone, this is a thrilling proposition. Besides also only being aware of Shinya Tsukamoto from his recent work, the trailer is an interesting bit of artistry. How else do you experience two separate movies and make it seem like one, singular pitch? By getting creative.
The way this thing just ebbs and flows, giving the middle finger towards any attempt at narrative cohesion, it's a work of pure vision. I still don't know what the hell is happening to our characters as the mental instability they go through seems to be just as tenuous as our grip on the reality of what's is occurring around us. I can't assume to know how to take the events that are unfolding but the industrial noise and sharp edits are all I need to know about someone I very quickly want to know more of.

Save Saved the Catlow

Well, that didn't take long.

I know I've been reading a lot about small, independent theaters closing all around the country. Take your pick as to why it happens: not enough variety, too small, too niche, too far, the list is endless. It wasn't until the looming closure of a historic movie theater in my old hometown that I really took notice. I didn't grow up in LA or New York where some of these theaters really mean something to thousands of people. This one, I figured, would only mean something to a few dozen. The Catlow Theater in Barrington, Illinois opened in 1927 and it's always remained something of a beautiful novelty in my own mind. Hell, you could've caught The Artist this year for a five spot. The theater only shows one movie, the cost, even in the 90's was only a few bucks, but it is the interior of this palace that really has to be seen. It's gorgeous. However, the move to digital was all but certain and, just like out of a movie, they needed to raise a $100,000 before progress would claim another victim.

Cue inspirational music, slap together a montage of hundreds coming together to clean the place up to have "one last shot" at making it work, and then falling short miserably when one thing goes awry. That wasn't the case here, though.

I thought I would make the case why strangers ought to take a moment and consider saving a true landmark. Within seven days, this little theater that could has raised over $100,000 to make the switch to digital projection. Somehow, between Sunday and today a real fire was lit under a lot of people. From TV to newspapers to online, the story was something that took on a life of its own. It's not often when we see and hear that a community has come together to preserve the one thing that many of us cherish and appreciate so I thought I would pass along a positive signal that even in 2012 there is hope that even the little guy wins every now and then.

Cue inspirational music.

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

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

  • Taken 2 Trailer – More of the same from the original that I can't not watch when it comes on basic cable.
  • Skyfall Trailer - Even after the abhorrent Quantum of Solace I'm excited once again. I hope I'm not wrong.
  • Paranormal Activity 4 Trailer - You got it. Cheap, nasty and rough. Just the way I like it.
  • The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 Trailer – I like the animation and tone. Peter Weller is a great choice.
  • The Big Wedding Trailer - If anyone sees me in a theater watching this, call the police because I am there not of my own free will.
  • The Words: Trailer #2 Trailer - Interesting. I would be sold if this was a movie of the week but, the big screen? I'm not so sure.
  • The Paperboy Trailer - This looks like pure misery.
  • Killing Them Softly Trailer - What a surprise, an honest to God surprise. Loved the vibe.
  • Bachelorette Red Band Trailer - If this is just going to be dirty, so be it. I'm onboard with its foul mouth.