Welcome to a new article called “Trailers of the Week.” This is our first edition so we’ll start with some housekeeping. Cousins Andrew and Trenton Bodenbach are the main writers, but occasionally Andrew will feature guest writers. We are always looking for others to join in and share their insight.
We are also now putting in a trailer of the week. This can be a combined or split decision depending on the two writer’s consensus. These will be compiled to be used to make a Trailers of the Year edition in December.
Trenton is in Thailand so I have a guest commentator this week. This one also comes from my high school days, but instead of another student it is my religion teacher Mr. Giordano, but we just call him Mr. G.
A couple things about G. He wasn’t the sole influence, but he was a major influence in my growth and appreciation for the art of film/television. He let me borrow ‘A Few Good Men’ which is where I started to love screenplay’s and then he got me into the greatest drama in American television history ‘The Wire’ (he also let me borrow ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ which I really enjoyed, but never finished the third season and never returned it to him either. If you want that back, let me know).
Anyway, that gives you a little background on our relationship, but it doesn’t tell you a lot about how he watches movies. Thankfully, he did that himself.
An initial disclaimer about me – I am very, very predisposed to absorbing and analyzing the music used in television shows and movies. Therefore, I listen to movies/tv as much as I “watch” them (as any of my students can attest to).
You will see what he means further down the list when you get to ‘Free State of Jones’ and especially ‘Colonia’. As far as the actual trailers, we split on our decision for trailer of the week as you will see up front, but the quality of trailers and the potential of the movies doesn’t drop off for awhile. This is a strong week and gives hope for a great year of film ahead of us.
“Hail, Caesar!” (February 5) *Andrew’s Trailer of the Week*
G- Only the Coen Brothers would use a trailer to feature a scene based solely on Ralph Fiennes correcting the pronunciation of the dialogue line, “Would that it ‘t’were so simple.” It’s even caused me to try to say the line correctly myself laughingly. I have the trailer playing in the background again as I type this and am still laughing. In typical Coen fashion, this film also has Scar-Jo, Josh Brolin, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, and oh yeah George Clooney. And they are all essentially ignored in this trailer in favor of focusing on Fiennes instructing a relatively new Alden Ehrenreich on how to not speak with a twang on set. Most viewers are predisposed to either love or loathe Coen movies. I tend to enjoy them, and this trailer already has me amused.
A- Would that it were so simple to explain my predisposed love for the Coen Brothers. I’ve watched this trailer several times and replayed it in my head even more times and each time I have laughed and enjoyed it, especially driving in the car and thinking of Ralph Fiennes line delivery. This is the Coen’s. Finding something simple and playing with it while executing it to the highest degree. I tried to come up with some of the best examples of this from their filmography. To start here’s a clip from ‘The Big Lebowski’ which I rewatched the other night and never stopped smiling. (NSFW) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vGK008c_rA
O, and ‘No Country For Old Men’ (you thought I’d type ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLCL6OYbSTw
“10 Cloverfield Lane” (March 11) *G’s Trailer of the Week*
G- Most of my fascination with this comes from the rapid-fire speculation of “is this related to ‘Cloverfield’ or not” debate. I enjoyed ‘Cloverfield.’ So…I’ll probably go see this just to see if/how it is connected. Trailer Highlight? The great transition using the slow-down of “I Think We’re Alone Now” into this-is-terrifying mode. Hooray for John Goodman, and hooray for the perpetually-underrated Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
A- I love J.J. Abrams. There’s been talk of a ‘Cloverfield’ since the first one came out in 2008 and now less than two months away we get not only our first news of the movie but a trailer! Abrams loves mystery boxes (he did a great job handling the press, promotion and spoilers of Star Wars which might have been more difficult than making the actual film) and Cloverfield is one of the best conceived mystery movies of the last 15 years. Other than being a big fan of the original and Abrams produced material the most interesting aspects of this movie are John Goodman in a horror/thriller and a writing credit that goes to Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. That fascinates me.
“The Witch” (February 19)
G- When the first scene has what appears to be Sirius Black chopping wood wearing only a bedsheet; a child imitating a goat next to a goat; either the goat, or a child, or another child seems to be possessed; a goat starts bleeding…and I can’t even begin to try to explain the rest. It’s quick-hitting, haunting, and mysterious. Were I into horror movies, this trailer would definitely motivate me to go see it. Someone eventually tell me what was with the possessed goats.
A- I hate horror movies. Or I hate what horror movies do to me. But occasionally one comes around that I can’t ignore. Last year was ‘It Follows’, ‘Goodnight Mommy’ is on my dresser and I will be seeing ‘The Witch’. What these movies have in common is the atmosphere of their trailers. There’s so shocks or surprises. It’s all suspense and a feeling of impending something. I say something because especially with ‘The Witch’ I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be afraid of. But I am terrified.
G- I can’t imagine living through the ravages of civil war. I fear what I would choose to do in such situations. Were I a soldier, would I pull a Dick Whitman and steal an identity (with fake wife and child) just to get out of Dodge? It looks like ‘Dheepan’ will bring that question to bear. That being said…I had to read the description of the movie to fully grasp the premise. Is that on me for “being obtuse (‘Shawshank’ reference)?” Or is it a shortcoming of the trailer and those who produced it?
A- Foreign trailers are always a little difficult to grasp without background. A mix of subtitles and not being familiar with the culture the movie is set in puts most of us at a disadvantage right away. The positive to this is that when you go to the movie you can often find yourself becoming invested in a way you can’t when you are more familiar and comfortable with the story being told. I have a feeling none of us have experienced anything like the story in ‘Dheepan’, but the story it is telling is vital and timely to major events happening in our world. Movies can transport us and engage us with people and cultures we have little access to and in turn can provide us with empathy for those same people and cultures. ‘Dheepan’ won the Palme d’Or (best film) at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 (heads of the jury were the Coen Brothers). That award is enough to recommend the film, but everything else it is doing makes it a must watch.
“Sing Street” (TBA)
A- On the surface this looks like a dime a dozen musical-dramedy. But that’s what I thought of John Carney’s last film ‘Begin Again’ until I watched it. There was a loving warmth throughout that film that extended to the relationship between the audience and characters. Plus, the original music was really good. I haven’t seen Carney’s ‘Once’, but that is regarded as his best film and similar to ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Sing Street’. Keep an eye on this one.
G- I liked both ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Once’ (also known as the long-form music video for “Falling Softly”). If it really uses all the music that it says it does (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Hall & Oates, The Cure), I’d be fascinated to see how it’s all incorporated. Plus…Tommy Carcetti (Aiden Gillen) as a smart-aleck father? Maybe he can finally get Norman to vote for him (obscure ‘The Wire’ reference).
“Money Monster” (May 13)
A- Before I say anything about this movie I’d like to mention that the TriStar logo sucks. Moving on. This is a Jodie Foster directed film, but it’s produced by the team of George Clooney and Grant Heslov who have had a very…mixed go of it. They have had a strong political bent to their films and while that started really well with ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ they have sharply fallen since. The biggest problem has always been the inconsistency or miscalculation of tone. That extends to the trailers and this one is no different. It feels like at least 5 movies are smashed into this one and I don’t know what I’m getting into here. That’s a good thing when it comes to something like ‘Cloverfield’ or Hitchcock, but it doesn’t work here.
G- See above. Additionally, George Clooney can be many things, but he’s no Gordon Gekko.
“Green Room” (April 1)
A- One of my favorite movies of 2014 is a small noir-type revenge film called ‘Blue Ruin’. The whole film feels like something you’ve seen before until it upends every convention you think is coming. It’s a little Coen like in how it works inside a genre before messing with the elements that allow us to classify something as genre. Jeremy Saulnier served as the director, writer and cinematographer for ‘Blue Ruin’ and ‘Green Room’ is his follow-up (he’s relinquished cinematography duties). ‘Blue Ruin’ is what made Saulnier a name among big film fans and acting talent (the cast here is impressive). ‘Green Room’ is hopefully an introduction to a larger segment of filmgoers.
G- I had no idea this film existed. For 80% of the trailer, I could have sworn it was being narrated by Bane. Turns out, it was Patrick Stewart, who may or may not be a skinhead in every sense, not just his normal sense. What? Anyway, there is one camera shot which is very intriguing to me. About 18 seconds in, there’s an aerial view of a truck which seems to have hastily backed through a cornfield. The accompanying narration tells us that “things have gone south.” I have no idea what any of it means, but that single scene really grabbed my attention.
“Triple 9” (February 26)
G- Training Day meets Heat meets End of Watch meets Inside Man meets Woody Harrelson Being Rust Cohle Instead of Marty. Also, it seems like the producer(s) is a fantasy sports guy: let’s throw a bunch of Big Names together on a squad and hope it all works out, regardless of whether they actually fit together at all.
A- Grittiness and intensity are words that get thrown around after movies like ‘End of Watch’, to piggyback on G’s comment, to describe what the movie did or how it did it. That is lazy criticism/analysis. It’s the same thing as people lauding practical effects for why the original Star Wars trilogy is better than the prequels. Regardless of how you feel about those movies, saying it’s because of practical effects does not get to the heart of what any of those movies were doing. Let me get back to ‘Triple 9’. Grit and intensity don’t make a good movie. Grit and intensity are there to serve, enlighten and bolster the elements that make a movie good. I can’t say what side ‘Triple 9’ will fall on, but it’s success will depend upon how it prioritizes it’s testosterone.
“Free State of Jones” (May 13)
G- I’m a fan of the McConnaissance, so I was really ready to like this. The use of music wasn’t quite as bad as Colonia (see above), and there were two solid, fitting songs that both carried a “marching” vibe to it. Halfway through, however, I feel like the trailer suddenly lapsed into This-Movie-Is-Significant-And-Important mode. Music and editing jumped all over the place. It also gave away what would seem to be one of the great scenes in the movie (an ambush set at a funeral). Fact: in most cases, Less is More. Except for bacon. More bacon is always better.
A- The first time I saw this trailer I saw the last half in a movie theater and thought they were remaking ‘The Patriot’ during the Civil War. That’s more exciting than anything I took away from when I finally saw this trailer all the way through. This is tepid. But I like McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a rising star and Keri Russell (!) is in it. I have a hard time not seeing something with Keri Russell (everyone go watch The Americans now).
G- (Timestamp 0:00 – :24) – Moody, contemplative “love story” strings. (:24 – :43) – Ominous leading directly to BOMBASTIC Michael Bay editing of scenes which are intended to scream out, “CONFLICT.” (:43 – :56) – Different techno ominous slow throbbing – like a nighttime shootout scene, but it’s not. (:56 – 1:18 ) – Haunting solo piano with synthesized strings and bass. And some throbbing again. (1:18 – 1:22) – More Michael Bay Bombastic. (1:22 – 1:28) – Quick hit of different, quiet building strings again, conveniently ended by some lady beating someone with a whip. Apparently this = mood change. (1:28 – 1:56) – A slow crescendo of “feel tense” music with some indistinguishable vocals of a song I don’t know. Clearly this is meant to be the climax of my emotions for this story. (1:56 – 2:10) – Post-climax fading away. Coincidentally, this was the only portion of music that was in any way related to the part before it. To review, that’s 8 distinct music themes in 130 seconds of trailer material. Is it any wonder that even after repeated viewings, I still can’t figure out what this movie is supposed to be? But it does have Hermione, at least…
A-But, Emma Watson! This wasn’t great. Michael Nyqvist is exceptionally creepy but he’s playing a character named Paul Schafer so all I will be able to think about when he’s on screen is a bald guy playing keyboard while cracking jokes. But, Emma Watson!
Image from FlickReel.