Trailer Hitch for April 23, 2003

By David Mumpower

Go Alexis Denisof!

9. Dischord

While I expect this to be a very good movie, the trailer for it is dull. The themes of harmony and dischord are amped up to a ludicrous degree, leaving the impression that the marketing team doesn't trust the audience to want to see an art-house flick such as this. This is a mistake, because the story of a series of murders somehow tied together among a series of couples has a strong pedigree and should appeal to a largely discriminating audience. The edits that focus on a symbiotic relationship between music and life are too distracting, but there is still a distinctly Gosford Park/The Cat's Meow flavor to it which can't be completely butchered by the dissonance overplay.

8. S.W.A.T.

I genuinely dislike this trailer until the last ten seconds. Prior to that, it is a generic set of explosions and cast close-ups which would make even Michael Bay roll his eyes in disbelief. After they get past trying to sell audiences on the loud noises and shiny things, the last little bit shows that maybe the movie might just understand what made the TV show so much fun. The quick humming of the S.W.A.T. theme makes up for a lot of what is wrong with the clip, but that's not enough to set this one apart in a week which contains a lot of very good clips.

7. The Actors

This is a fantastic cast including Michael Caine and Miranda Richardson plus a very funny British comedian named Dylan Moran, who stars in a clever British series called Black Books. Moran also had a memorable bit as a book thief in Notting Hill, so North American audiences already have at least a cursory knowledge of what sort of scene stealer he can be. As you can tell, I am psyched for the movie but the trailer unfortunately leaves me cold. There is a weird pacing to it, which keeps the ad from ever feeling natural. Instead, it stands out as a series of divergent clips thrown together haphazardly, which is the core opposite of what a good marketing clip should do. I want to like this one much more than the footage allows so far.

6. People I Know

I am not a huge fan of Al Pacino's recent work and generally find his acting to be much more impressive to him than it is to me. When the clip begins with Pacino doing his usual schtick, I cringe and give an audible groan but then something surprising happens after that. As the story edit begins, an unusual Hollywood crime drama is presented. The Tea Leoni heroin chic actress could be modeled on any of a hundred actresses whose name you would know but putting her in the middle of a murder is a nice swerve. Along with a clever twist on the difficulties films faced with the instant news nature of the Internet, People I Know does do a good job of making one wonder what the mystery is, who is involved and whether Pacino's character, which feels a bit too similar to Colin Farrell's character in Phone Booth at first glance, is up to the task of protecting his charge. While there is a huge gap between this one and the films above it on this week's trailer list, I still like it enough to give it a moderate shrug of approval.

5. Jeepers Creepers 2

Would that the people who cut the trailers for these films would be the same ones who shoot the movies. The last one demonstrated a fundamental ability to draw horror aficionados into theaters and this new one is just as good. They have thrown out most of the suspense aspect and gone with a straightforward "Here is the baddie. Try and kill him." philosophy. Since I hated the last film about as much as you can hate a teen horror flick, it speaks volumes that I am still drawn to the sequel. A wonderful job of marketing.

4. The Hulk

Okay, all you nerds. Your giant green hero (no, not the one who sells corn) is back in the final trailer. This one wisely plays down the CGI and plays up the intense psycho-drama that is the life of Dr. Bruce Banner. The decision to emphasize what one would expect to be the strength of Ang Lee film, the story and the characters, pays off. The punchlines about the hulk animations should be dialed down for the most part as people focus on what looks to be a darker turn on the same story that made Spider-man such a blockbuster last year. A tortured man dealing with super-human powers is a film that a lot of you clearly want to see and The Hulk now looks to be less of a joke and more of a force to be reckoned with.

3. Only the Strong Survive

As opposed to Dischord above, whoever cut this trailer appreciates the need to let the music be subtle. The film, a celebration of semi-heralded musicians who are responsible for some of the greatest music of the '60s and '70s, chooses to be a convivial atmosphere of diverse personalities who all share the commonality of having created great art. Certainly following up on the surprise success of Buena Vista Social Club and Standing in the Shadows of Motown, this ad hits the correct note of being a festive jubilee.

2. Underworld

The commercial is selling the movie as The Crow meets The Matrix. Admitting my bias up front, these are two of my five favorite films of the 1990s. As you might have gathered, I rather enjoy the trailer. I would sooner expect Kate Beckinsale to be in the next Merchant-Ivory flick than in an action shoot 'em up, especially considering how miserable she sounded describing her experiences on the Pearl Harbor shoot. After seeing this clip, though, she looks right at home as the next big female action hero. She is sleek, sexy and nothing short of dominant on camera. Plus, her elegant accent makes her voiceover narration that much more powerful. This film went from not anywhere near my radar to being one of my most anticipated films of 2003 within the body of a single white-hot 90-second spot.

1. American Wedding

As with the commercials for the first two films, a majority of the third film in the franchise is predicated upon the awkward humor that comes from Jim, his father, and various sex acts. The surprise of it which I won't spoil here if you haven't seen it yet is perfectly in keeping in tone with the prior gags yet oddly a bit more emotionally moving. In a week with a ton of big budget action films unleashing very strong marketing campaigns, it's the comedy that stands head and shoulders above the rest. If all the titles had been available for viewing today, this is the one I would have seen first. A grand slam.



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