The Joys Of A Good Movie Trailer

I had been thinking about writing a post about movie trailers for a week or so, when I saw this post on NPR‘s pop culture blog, Monkey See. Let me just say that Monkey See is a great blog. If you’re every feeling frustrated that I never seem to post new things here, check out that blog and see how the professionals do it.

Some movie trailers are bad. Some movie trailers compile all the good bits of a movie into 90 seconds to lure you to the theater to be disappointed for 90 minutes (or more). But some movie trailers are good. Some movie trailers are great.

The Social Network: Good use of dialogue

One of my favorite movie trailers of recent years has to be The Social Network. Sure, when I first saw this trailer, I was skeptical. But that was more because I didn’t know yet that Aaron Sorkin had written the script. First off, this movie is great. It’s beautifully shot and the dialogue is smart and snappy. But what makes the trailer great is that a) there’s no obnoxious voiceover, b) the pacing builds up speed and thus tension as you go through the trailer, c) the music – the music starts out being the main thing you’re focusing on. You’re listening to the lyrics and they provide an interesting commentary on the Facebook phenomenon. And then after we stop just looking at close ups of people’s profiles we start focusing on the dialogue and the action. It gets to the point where you’re not even noticing the music anymore, but actually it’s building just like the pacing. It all supports itself so well. And it was this trailer that made me think I might want to see this movie, despite me being skeptical about the premise of a Facebook movie.

Hanna: An excellent action example

Another example of a trailer that uses good music (by the way) is the trailer for Hanna. This is a great action trailer. It makes you feel bad ass just watching it. And it applies similar tactics of using the music to reinforce the pacing as The Social Network trailer.

Where The Wild Things Are: Good use of no dialogue

And sometimes, sometimes trailers eclipse the actual movies in terms of greatness. My favorite example – Where The Wild Things Are. Where The Wild Things Are was an interesting movie. But it faced a difficult challenge of stretching a 20-page kids book into a feature-length film, and it didn’t really pull it off perfectly. But the trailer. The trailer is the perfect encapsulation of the book. It’s exciting. It’s sad. It makes you think about the magic of childhood. Sometimes when I need a small boost of inspiration, I watch this trailer. The music is perfect. The text is perfect. The lack of dialogue makes the images more powerful. If you need an example of how they could have done this trailer wrong, check out the second trailer. Too much dialogue and explaining a trailer can definitely kill the magic.

And unrelatedly…

Music videos. Sometimes music videos can add a whole new layer to a song that does more than just add a visual element. This music video for “Somebody I Used To Know” by Gotye emphasizes certain emotional undertones at specific moments beautifully. The music video itself is a clean concept – not cluttered with multiple locations and outfits. It’s a complicated concept that is impressive in terms of what it took to pull off. When I listen to this song, I picture this music video. Somehow this seems like a sort of related concept to me. Music plus visuals equals a happy awesome 2 to 3 minutes.

Definitely share any favorite trailers of yours. I love trailers. If I get to a movie before it starts but I miss the trailers, I think about going home and trying to make it to a later showing. I’m almost serious.

Posted in Film | Leave a comment

Hanna (2011)

I write these posts with little thought to spoilers. Beware.

Hanna (Saorise Ronan) is always on the alert. And she has good reason to be as she's chased across two (plus?) continents in this strange, exciting and funny action flick.

Synopsis: A teen girl goes through some tough transitions to adulthood as she learns about independence and the fallibility of her father. Also she kills a lot of military goons.

I knew from the moment I saw a preview for Hanna that I was going to like this movie. To quote Dark Angel, “Girls kick ass. Says so on the t-shirt.” Hanna kicks ass. And Hanna whether knowingly or not is very Dark Angel-inspired.

This film has a lot going for it. Great acting on the part of everyone involved. Beautiful cinematography. Excellent timing. And this bizarre, off-kilter feel that leaves you with the sense you’ve just seen something completely original. All of the adults in Hanna do excellent jobs with their performances. And Saorise Ronan is fantastic as a bemused and lethal wild child. But the proverbial show is stolen by Jessica Barden who plays Sophie, a girl Hanna meets and be-friends as she tries to escape capture by the government or worse. Sophie delivers so many side-splitting one-liners in such rapid succession, you’re just left kind of in awe of her pure teen insanity. She’s a delight and she adds to the laughs that make Hanna more than just bad ass.

The movie portrays violence quite graphically without ever being gruesome. It's a fine line to walk, but I appreciate the end result.

The film sets up some beautiful contrasts between the locations Hanna visits and the life she leads isolated somewhere in the Arctic north compared to her life on the run from Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). The cinematography, by the same man that did Sunshine, is breath-taking.

Funny, weird, mysterious, smash ’em crash’em. This movie has it all. If I had to pick one thing it’s lacking, I would say that it could have done more with the idea of taking a girl who was raised hunting deer in the frozen wilderness and transplanting her into mainstream culture. We get some delightful moments of culture shock in the film and Hanna herself could best be described as quirky. But there is definite potential to dig deeper into what fundamental differences Hanna would possess with her singular upbringing.

That being said, the film is a delight. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. And if you have, check it out and watch it again.

Takeaway quote: (Hanna, regarding her date, whom she has just tackled to the floor) Should I let him go? (Sophie) As opposed to what, you lunatic? Of course you should let him go?

Posted in Film | Leave a comment

Super 8 (2011)

I write these posts with little thought to spoilers. Beware.

Joe (Joel Courtney) and his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) realize they're going to have to put their coming-of-age storyline on hold. They're in a sci fi/suspense movie too.

Synopsis: The Goonies have a close encounter with E.T. who turns out to be a little bit more like the shark from Jaws… or maybe the velociraptors from Jurassic Park.

I finally went and saw Super 8 last Thursday and I liked it. The beginning was an amazing movie, and the end was good. This unfortunately made it feel like a bit of a letdown. But when I went and saw it again last Friday, I liked the whole film even better. I’m not going to tell you how many times I saw it over the weekend, but the trend has continued. The more I see this movie, the more I like it as its own movie.

This is made a little difficult because the movie is pretty derivative. This is a movie-lovers’ movie. It’s got E.T., The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, Jurassic Park and more all rolled into one movie that is not only nostalgic for the 1970s (the movie’s setting) but also for the type of movie you loved as a kid. Part of this movie strikes me as an auto-biography of director/screenwriter J.J. Abrams. And it is delightful.

The biggest flaw in this movie is the thing that has been let loose on the small Ohio town. Rather than being a character, it is a plot device. And so in the end it’s a little hard to care about what happens to it. E.T. was a movie about Elliot and E.T. This is a movie about Joe.

Joe's friends are all a treat, and the actors all do a fantastic job. Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard is especially fantastic.

And the movie about Joe is great. Joe, who has just lost his mother in an accident at the steel mill, is helping his misfit friends make a zombie movie for a local film festival. The kids are incredibly believable – inhabiting the space between childlike innocence and self-possessed maturity that is the end of middle school. Super 8 hits some great emotional notes, making me laugh out loud, jump with surprise and even tear up (Elle Fanning gives a heart-breaking performance of trying so hard not to cry that it becomes hard to breathe).

The last third of the movie errs on the side of gratuity. Rather than spending time on giving us a connection with the mystery menace, we set fire to the majority of town. J.J. Abrams, much like Joe’s pyromaniac friend Cary, can’t seem to stop blowing things up. But while this ending is a bit of a come down after the delightfully nostalgic earlier acts, it’s a perfectly adequate end. This movie is so close to perfect, I wish it had been a first draft.

Takeaway quote: Would you hate me if I started our relationship by asking a favor?

Posted in Film | Leave a comment

Blog Mitosis

I submitted on a Friday afternoon. So now all weekend I get to look at the phrase "ready for review." Joy...

Well folks, I have submitted the first part of my application to medical school. I’ve gone over my extracurricular descriptions and personal statement to the point that I think I might have them memorized. I’ve asked everyone who’s willing to read over and edit them. I tried to minimize the time I spent agonizing over whether to hit the submit button. I was moderately successful.

This is gonna be a loooong process. I have a lot more essays to write for each school’s individual secondary application. Then there’s waiting to hear if I get an interview, going to the interview and waiting to hear on acceptances. My goal for this whole process is to stay calm and to try not to check the status of my application too many times a day.

In logistical news: All cooking, baking, etc. posts have moved back to Cooking Between Classes. Sorry to keep moving everyone about, but I wanted to start narrowing the focus of my blog without losing any of my topics. So Kino will be for movie musings and my general steam-venting about applying to medical school. Cooking will be for what I’m making in the kitchen and what’s going on with food locally and nationally. Hope this isn’t too trying for my dear readers.

Posted in Applying to Medical School | Leave a comment

Thor (2011)

I write these posts with little thought to spoilers. Beware.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) talk about Thor's inability to improve his attitude the apparently teeny tiny amount his father wants him to in order for Thor to maybe ascend to the throne.

Synopsis: There’s some exposition, which is confusing, and then some funny stuff with me Thor and you Jane (Natalie Portman) and her band of nerdy misfits. And then some epilogue. I will be waiting with bated breath for The Avengers…

Let me start by apologizing for how very long it’s been since I last posted. After some family health problems and then the sudden, but inevitable end of the semester madness, I have returned…to rant about a movie I was expecting to enjoy and thoroughly did not.

Rotten Tomatoes, you led me astray with your 66% from top critics. 66% implies that a movie at least leaves you not feeling wholly unsatisfied at the end of the film. But despite some enjoyable and entirely quotable lines from the middle third of Thor, this movie was poorly written – both in terms of dialogue and plot. And I’m sorry, but I’m only willing to accept failure on one of those counts. It felt as though the three writers listed as the films screenwriters each took on a different section of the movie without referring to the rest of the film. Characters’ motivations were confusing and unclear. The bad guy was befuddling. The hero didn’t change very much. The romance was limited and then overplayed at the end. And Thor’s mom was one of the lamest characters to grace the screen in quite some time.

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth are both pretty in this movie. And they get a few good lines (Natalie Portman in particular), but I'm not sure that justifies this film's budget.

And look movie, you’re the one making up these new-fangled sci fi rules – you’ve got to stick to them.

I was left with so many questions at the end of this movie. Most of them involving the words “why” and “Loki.” And let me just say that the man who directed a four hour (and quite good) production of Hamlet should not be making 3D comic book movies. It was doomed from the start folks.

If I had been a better mood and/or if my expectations had been lower I might have enjoyed this movie. But as it was, I was expecting a quality summer sci fi/comic book flick and I was let down. I have now paid Hollywood back for being pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Fast Five. Don’t mess me around on Super 8, Hollywood. Just don’t do it.

Takeaway quote: Next time you taser someone, make sure they’re already in the car.

Posted in Film | Leave a comment

Dare (2009)

I write these posts with little thought to spoilers. Beware.

Johnny (Zach Gilford) and Alexa (Emmy Rossum) are two or the three leads in this movie that is yet another standard high school coming of age story...for all of about thirty minutes

Synopsis: Three high school students rattle each other’s cages as they figure out who they’ll be after graduation. I know it sounds like you’ve seen this before, but this shit gets real folks.

Ok, first off, two things about this movie are super pretty – the cinematography and Zach Gilford. I’m not going to lie to you, I totally watched this movie because I recently developed an obsession with Friday Night Lights (thank you the ability to stream Netflix to my TV). Matt Saracen, the awkward, and carrying-the-world-on-his-shoulders quarterback is one of my favorite characters on the show. But if you’re looking for the same wholesome character here, prepare to be slightly shocked. I wouldn’t qualify Dare as super risque or over-sexed or anything…but it’s not pulling a whole lot of punches either.

So this movie is pretty to watch. It’s drenched in color and sets up really interesting contrasts between warm and cool colors throughout the film. But the story, and particularly the narrative style through which it’s told make it the most interesting movie I’ve seen about high school students in a good long while. We spend about a third of the movie with each of our main characters, Alexa (the preview identifies her as “the good girl), Ben (“the best friend” played by Ashley Springer) and Johnny (“the bad boy”). And by the end of the movie you realize that all three of these characters are too self-involved (and this isn’t really a critique, I think it may be an inevitable part of being in high school) to see the very different perspectives of their two counterparts.

We start with Alexa and end with Johnny, and so initially I found myself “taking sides with” Johnny. But the more you think about it – and if you’re at all like me, this is a movie you’ll be thinking about – Johnny is misinterpreting and, in a way, trying to take advantage of Alexa and Ben just as much as they are doing the same to him.

This film is actually based on a short (of the same title) that is solely about Ben and Johnny. Which may be why I find Alexa the least interesting character of the three of them.

I appreciate a movie that doesn’t try to answer all of it’s questions. And I appreciate a movie that gives me more layers to characters as we go along, such that by the end of the movie, I feel compelled to re-watch the beginning to find new meaning in the interactions that had seemed so typical when the movie began. I found myself a little less satisfied with Alexa’s section of the movie by the end. It’s interesting for a standard high school flick, but we get so much more depth from Ben and then Johnny (and this is part of the way the narrative builds, so I can’t really think of a better way to handle it), that Alexa’s struggle to not be a good girl seems a little pat by the end.

Takeaway quote: (Johnny’s very young step mother offers him one of her unidentified prescription pills even though he tells her he’s not having a panic attack right now) It’s preventative. I might not be around later.

P.S. It was actually hard to find a takeaway quote from this movie. This isn’t to say it’s not good dialogue. It’s just, everything is in people’s faces more than their words.

Posted in Film | 1 Comment

The Perfect Genre – An Homage To The Heist

I went and visited Della this weekend and we had one of our classic movie marathons. This weekend’s theme: Heist films.

We wanted to include some we didn’t have time for or couldn’t get a hold of (Sneakers, Thomas Crown Affair, Sugar and Spice). And we ended up including some that should not have qualified (thanks a lot, internet). But all in all it was a resounding success. So here’s the breakdown:

The Classic Heist (Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and The Italian Job (2003))

Ocean's Eleven takes the classic heist to a new level by amping up the number of heisters

The classic heist film has a few key elements. We begin with a first job – or in the case of Ocean’s Eleven, the end result, our main character getting out of prison. An essential heist element is justification for heisting. Danny Ocean is a criminal, but we later learn he has a non-criminal justification. Charlie Croker, of The Italian Job, has to get back at a former fellow who betrayed his crew. Which brings us to another heist element, the crew. We have to have several key players, each with defined roles – examples include the computer expert, the getaway driver, the explosives expert. Ocean’s Eleven adds more than average, but it also plays up the con man element of the heist. Several of the Ocean’s characters serve the team by pretending to be a variety of characters to finesse and finagle there way into their con.

Heists have to show you something you've never seen before. Like minis in the underground.

What else can I say about the classic heist? The characters ooze class. They are cool as cucumbers. We have to have a planning montage at some point in the movie where the point man explains to another character what the plan is. They have to run into an unexpected complication and adapt the plan (preferably once things are already under way, but often before). And even though we had that planning montage folks, we still have to be surprised by the actual plan. You thought you knew what was happening, but you had no idea. You have been classically heisted.

The Politcal Heist? (Three Kings (1999))

Ok, so it's not a montage, but they are planning!

Della argues that Three Kings is not a heist film. But I say, we have some lovable rogues (one or two of whom are suave), a plan, a plan that has to change, and a crap ton of stolen gold. If this isn’t a heist film, it’s certainly a variation on a theme (with a whole bunch of other themes thrown in). Plus it is all around well-acted, written, and filmed. Watch it if you haven’t already. And if you have, watch it again.

Not a Heist Film At All (Point Break (1991))

I'm not sure what good I can say about this movie. Other than it made me want to watch Bill and Ted again.

This film popped up on a list of best heist films that Della found on the internet. And while I’m glad that I now get more of the references from Hot Fuzz, this was in no way a heist film. The rogues were not the main characters. There was no planning. And there was almost no time spent on actual heists. This my friends was a Rouge Cop film. And it was also an example of why we should all be glad the 90s are over.

The heist film folks. You can see it popping out throughout film history. Most recently it was given a new twist in Inception (which we totally would have watched this weekend if it weren’t for the fact that I need a little Inception break folks. A short one. Then I can return to the world of classy criminals who like to make their plans in montage form. And work together).

Posted in Film | Leave a comment