10 for ‘11: The Best Trailers for Upcoming Films

[9 August 2011]

By Ben Travers

With summer behind us, it’s time to look forward to fall. Ah, fall. Leaves turning. Temperatures mercifully dropping. Pro football back to the field (phew!). Best of all, it’s the best time of year for movies. Ambitious Oscar hopefuls make their pitches starting in September while patient box office dynamos wait for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to bring them a bit of luck. We get it all in the fall. What better way to prepare ourselves than previewing it through previews? Below are the most intriguing trailers for the remaining year (sorry, that means no Dark Knight Returns info). Some may turn out as grand as their marketing department made them out while others merely capitalize from the initial depiction before disappointing. Either way, forget Tosh.0’s YouTube videos—these are the ideal form of two-minute entertainment.

 
Best Trailer for Men of All Ages - Killer Elite

Anyone can make an action movie. As long as there are a few explosions and at least one star to root for, the target demographic is going to show up, even if it’s only a few choice representatives. If you want more than that, though, follow Sylvester Stallone’s lead. Ok, so this advice can be applied for any situation in life. Here, I’m specifically talking about bringing all of the best action stars together for one rollicking good time, as Sly did for last year’s The Expendabes.

Now, I’m not saying Killer Elite, a film by a first time feature director, is going to stand up next to the towering presence of 2010’s best movie (ok, best action movie… ever), but Gary McKendry and co. have assembled a crack team of stars to carry out the chaos. For the young, we have Jason Statham. For the more mature generation, there’s Robert De Niro. For anyone not hooked by the aforementioned acting stunt man and veteran thespian (and really, how many of you are there?), we’ll throw in Clive Owen to boot.

Clocking in at a clean 1:40, the teaser for Killer Elite is lean, mean, and, thanks to its closing line from De Niro, apparently funny, too. How can anyone with testosterone in his veins say no?


 
Best Trailer for a Film I’m Obligated to Recommend - Footloose

I’m not a fan of remakes. Ok, the Dawn of the Dead remake was an improvement, but usually they’re a terrible idea. I’m also a man who’s not afraid of doing a favor for his friends when it’s ethically explicable. I have a few acquaintances and one very, very good friend who worked on the 2011 MTV version of Footloose. From what they’ve communicated to me, they loved it; the experience, the cast and crew, and even what they’ve seen of the movie.

That being said, the Kevin Bacon-less trailer (and movie, from what I’ve read online) for Footloose still looks as fun as playing chicken with tractors on a gravel road. What? You’ve never done it? Silly city folk. As a fan of the original film and an even bigger fan of the lost art of dance, I was ecstatic to see the two-and-a-half minute trailer paying more than enough homage to both. There’s the unfortunately requisite Stomp the Yard-esque dance off, but there’s also the black leather jacket and loosened tie. The old VW bug. The dancing through the warehouse in a wife beater. I’m in, and whether you believe my pure intentions now or not, you will be too come October.


 
Best Pre-Workout Trailer (aka Best Rocky-esque Trailer) - Warrior

Though this trailer commits the cardinal sin of movie previews by giving away 90 percent of the plot in two and a half minutes, the hook of brothers squaring off for the world title may be the only thing to put non-MMA fans in the seats. Also, by doing this, I feel there’s an unspoken promise from director Gavin O’Connor there’s more to his film than just who wins. Even if there’s not, though, audiences should still be jumping up and down by film’s end just because of the score (as long as it’s in the movie, that is).

Both brothers get equal screen time befitting two major Hollywood up-and-comers. Tom Hardy already got his breakout role in Inception, but Joel Edgerton, best known as Owen Lars in the two latest Star Wars movies, is ready for his own. Hey, the worst case scenario is we get a preview of Bane’s bulky bod for next summer’s The Dark Knight Rises.  Best case: Rocky of the new millennium (you know, other than Rocky Balboa).


 
Best Trailer for a Film Without a Shot at Best Picture - 50/50

Why no shot? Isn’t it obvious? Sure, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has the chops for Oscar-caliber acting, and, as a cancer patient, the perfect Oscar-bait subject matter. Filmmakers even cast recent Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick and Oscar veteran Anjelica Huston in supporting roles.

Plus, it looks like a perfect blend of poignancy and puerility. It doesn’t look like they’re trying to change Seth Rogan’s crudely charming personality – they’re just placing it in a new, better setting. I doubt he’ll have to carry any emotional scenes, which is good, because Gordon-Levitt can more than handle them on his own.

Yet…it’s a comedy. Comedies never get nominated. Its late September release date also hurts. As does the lack of awards pedigree behind the camera. Ok, so maybe it’s not trying for Oscars. Still, it shouldn’t be disqualified before its first screening.


 
Best WTF? Trailer - Red State

What. The. F. Just. Happened. Really. I had heard plenty of rumors and read a few reviews of Kevin Smith’s first foray into the horror genre, but none of it prepared me for the red-band trailer for Red State. A maniacal preacher shoots a man in the head. A devout follower lures three high school kids with sex and then drugs them into submission. John Goodman, as an FBI agent, is caught in the middle of a shootout between churchgoers and their prisoners.

These are not the scenes I imagined when first informed about the Kevin Smith horror film (other than Jersey Girl, as he jokes in the teaser’s intro for iTunes). By all first accounts, it seemed like a straight scare. Instead, he appears to be taking the most sensitive of subject matters and using it for some seriously dark humor.

We knew the film would be controversial. After all, which one of his films isn’t? The man who made Dogma obviously still has some issues to deal with regarding the right-wingers’ religion he openly disdains. Still, if Smith’s wry sense of humor pairs with his eerie horror plot as nicely in the final film as it does in this surprisingly action-packed trailer, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Best Trailer for the Worst Movie

Best Trailer for the Worst Movie - Puss in Boots

Let me start by apologizing to my mother, who is looking forward to this movie more than my next visit home. That being said, the Shrek films have steadily declined in quality, and even though Puss N’ Boots is second only to Donkey in laugh totals, I can’t imagine him carrying his own film (a theory substantiated by the full trailer). There have been rumors of an Eddie Murphy cameo, but even if the whole cast showed up in spots throughout the picture this would still be terrible.

The trailer, or teaser to be more accurate, is paradoxically brilliant. The animated cat who has oozed more sexuality than any other is front and center throughout, discarding his garments along the way before delivering the perfect closing line – “All that I need…are the boots.” Then he rides away on horseback in front of a sunset. Yeah. That just happened. If only it was a more accurate predictor of its final product instead of merely a solid teaser.


 
Worst Trailer for the Best Movie - War Horse

Steven Spielberg helming a war movie with a late December release date. Sounds like Oscar bait if I’ve ever heard it. It will undoubtedly rack up numerous nominations from the Academy, but it won’t be getting a call from the Golden Trailer Awards. Terrific imagery is let down by a familiar but unremarkable score and cornball, clichéd text like “Hope Survives”. Ugh.

The lack of any star power or even a familiar face doesn’t help, but even if you were to recognize someone I doubt they’re a selling point. Spielberg’s name will carry this, and though I have more faith in it than Scorsese’s latest (Hugo, which would win “Worst Trailer for the Worst Movie”), the clips paired together here are just as alienating. There’s nothing to get attached to and no memorable shots. Spielberg, and his company, Dreamworks, should know better.


 
Best Trailer for a Movie It Can’t Help - Margin Call

Audiences made it pretty clear last September they weren’t interested in revisiting real world problems at the multiplex. From Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps to The Company Men, excellent films with A-list stars were widely ignored because of their too-true-to-life stories. So what do we have this year? Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, and Demi Moore try to sell us on a movie about the days preceding America’s financial crisis.

Good luck. Though some may be tempted to see the movie just so they can understand what happened (who really understands that stuff? I mean, other than me…), that’s not going to mark enough of a demographic to make back a substantial amount of money. People just aren’t in the mood for this, and a first time feature director with one or two Oscar friendly faces aren’t going to be enough to counter that lack of enthusiasm.


 
Best Trailer for a Movie That Doesn’t Need the Help - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I did not read the book, so questions of an accurate retelling should be directed to someone who has (or someone who gives a shit). What I can vouch for is the shockingly dark energy fueling the marketing campaign behind the self-described “feel bad movie of Christmas”. First, there were the scandalous international posters with Rooney Mara’s bare breast (and pierced nipple). Then came the red-band trailer with a bruised, bloody Daniel Craig, a few shots of the girl, and that thumping, rousing unreleased cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.

The constant quick cutting subsequently allows die-hard fans to go back and analyze individual clips for clues while providing plenty of hooks for curious newcomers. Then comes those big, white, block letters dominating the screen with a tagline most conservative marketers would be too scared to implement. It all adds up to a stimulating minute and a half…that will in no way contribute to the movie’s success.

In fact, it’s rather surprising Columbia Pictures green lit such a black campaign for a potential franchise starter. Why not play it safe with a run-of-the-mill murder mystery teaser featuring James Bond? Your built in audience plus the many fans of Craig secure a big payout. Why mess with it? I don’t have the answer executives want to hear, but I do appreciate it. I say the darker the better, even at Christmas.


 
Best Trailer - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise haters be damned – the first glimpse of the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise looks as action-packed with nail-biting thrills as, well, the first and third movies in the franchise. That is saying something quite specactular when coming from an ardent fan of those two underappreciated impossible missions. 

While the last Ethan Hunt adventure was a domestic box office disappointment, it was also arguably the best of the franchise. Thanks to J.J. Abrams the third picture carried an emotional punch and, thanks to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a marvelously malicious villain. Cruise even got to expend his manic energy in more than just action scenes – he had to care about someone in a fierce and immediate manner.

Though Abrams isn’t back in the director’s chair for part four, he is still helping out as a producer while Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, gets to step up and helm his first live-action feature. That’s one of many lively hooks provided by the bustling, pulse-pounding trailer for Ghost Protocol. We also get a few shots of Lost veteran Josh Holloway, including him jumping off a building, turning around in mid-air, and shooting back above him. Simon Pegg appears to be a bigger part of this one, which is always a welcome promotion. Plus…

Jeremy Renner isn’t the star! Ok, ok. That came out a little too giddy. Renner is a terrific young actor and a welcome second operative in the IMF. But we’re paying to see one man do many impossible things, and the two-and-a-half minutes we get here make it perfectly clear who’s front and center. Tom Cruise is running from an exploding Kremlin, sliding over the top of a car, and jumping from panel to panel on the world’s tallest building. All we really need to see is Cruise running, but the movie gods have blessed us with so much more.

The man formerly known as Maverick repeatedly refuses to draw the line at death-defying stunts, and the nausea-inducing shot from above the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, with Cruise running along its glass panels, seems to be the star’s boldest stunt yet. Throw in some talented stars (including Ving Rhames, the only other actor to appear in all four films), a working script (I hope), and a talented eye behind the camera, and all you need is a hook to convince those still holding a personal grudge to get over the hump. They got it with this trailer. The only thing that’s impossible is waiting for December.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/145846-10-for-11/