Best/Worst Movie Promos of the Week: From 'The Darkest Hour' to 'Dark Horse'

Best/Worst Movie Promos of the Week: From 'The Darkest Hour' to 'Dark Horse'

Aug 04, 2011

Drive PosterIt’s tough to make a movie for everyone. Even those four quadrant films don’t really appeal to every demographic. The same goes for promotional material, but, in the case of Best/Worst Movies Promos of the Week, selling power must always beat out my own personal preferences.

Speaking of which, despite my disdain for the Alvin and the Chipmunks series, clearly the Fox formula works, so there’s no use in changing a good thing, even if the actual content is pure garbage. Clearly the studio has the same thought in mind, as Chipwrecked’s new trailer is packed with goofy faces courtesy of Jason Lee, cheesy dialogue and pop tune singing Chipmunks. Similarly, as someone with no taste for karate combat, even though the trailer hints at some heart, Shaolin looks as though it won’t do it for me.

As for material more my speed, Shark Night 3D gets credit for delivering a short and sweet clip with a killer conclusion. Tower Heist also makes an impact with its very first trailer. Sure, some of the jokes fall flat, but in general the piece looks like a fun version of Oceans 11, but with some less experienced and tactless thieves. The Justin Timberlake starrer In Time also dropped a new trailer, which successfully lays out the details of the film’s intriguing premise and features tons of ticking clocks and pretty 25-year-olds.

Marvel’s got two new items floating around, one of which is a bit of an anomaly, a teaser for a teaser. Rather than post the post-Captain America teaser for The Avengers in its entirety, the studio released snippets with an appeal to see the full thing after Captain America at the end. Smart marketing move, albeit the slightest bit frustrating. Something the hardcore fans will surely appreciate, Marvel also released a piece of one of their short films, "Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant" to appear in its entirety on the Thor DVD and Blu-ray.

In the poster department, we’ve got a surprisingly good showing from Apollo 18, which adds a particularly disconcerting image to its promotion repertoire. However, it’s Drive that’s really deserving of some attention as it was barely edged out of the promotion department this week. The poster says nothing about the film’s plot, but it really doesn’t need to; the design of the image is so striking. It draws you in and rather than simply handing over the answers, leaves you curious, and perhaps curious enough to lead your eye towards the release date in the bottom right corner.

What had the promotional power to speed past Ryan Gosling? Check out the top and bottom three promotional items of the week below.



1. Red Tails: What better way to catch an audience’s attention than by opening a trailer with a highflying firefight? A highflying firefight that makes the perfect transition into some story development, of course. The first 30 seconds of material isn’t just action for the sake of action; it makes for a beautiful introduction and appropriate segue into the summary of the story courtesy of a fittingly simple sound bite from Terrence Howard. Once the stage is set, the trailer uses its remaining time to do just what these pilots are doing in the film, building morale. After just two minutes and 36 seconds, the gang has already earned respect and compassion, making us invested in their situation and concerned about their fate.


2. Our Idiot Brother Clip: Yes, a film in its entirety needs to be a coherent and engaging experience, but if you break it down, each individual scene should have similar qualities. Time and time again obscure clips from upcoming releases hit the web merely to show off some cool digital effect or spoil a good joke. While those tactics may make decent cheap shots, there’s nothing more promising than getting a single clip from a film that tells a complete mini story. This moment from Our Idiot Brother is wonderfully structured. We’ve got an inciting incident – the cop asks for weed, a turning point – Ned has a change of heart and then a surprising and impressively poignant ending.


3. The Darkest Hour Trailer: Sick of alien invasion films yet? As Attack the Block proved, I’m clearly not, but it’s getting harder and harder to make an impression in the genre as Hollywood is constantly churning out mindless, explosive nonsense. However, based on this trailer for The Darkest Hour, Chris Gorak has something fresh to offer. I was lucky enough to catch this trailer at the presentation for The Darkest Hour at Comic Con and ever since, had a feeling it’d trump the competition and make its way into the promotions department. Sure enough, it’s finally arrived and I can’t stop watching it. The visuals are incredibly stimulating, especially the electric design of the invaders and the effects of their prime weapon, shredding. It’s properly paced with the heart pumping background music coming in when necessary, but not overpowering the material. And, best of all, the trailer doesn’t leave you in the dark. (No pun intended.) It offers just enough information to make you feel as though you’ve already got one foot in this world, a connection that will likely remain leading up to The Darkest Hour’s opening day.




1. Like Crazy Trailer: Is there something wrong with my speakers or is the dialogue in this trailer incredibly difficult to hear? Luckily the footage and that beautiful rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” are more than enough to get the point across. However, that’s still only enough for folks with a taste for dramatic romances. Even if there is something more to Like Crazy than Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones getting all mushy with each other, based on this trailer, you’d never know, which will end up alienating those without a pre-established appreciation for this type of film.



2. Twixt Trailer: There’s a reason most trailers are around two minutes and 30 seconds long; they can typically hold a viewer’s attention. In Twixt’s case, Francis Ford Coppola opts for the more ambitious route and sends us something that’s a whopping three minutes and 36 seconds long. Sure, this could have worked and the extra time might have been welcomed if the trailer had the power to make us want more, but patience runs thin around the minute mark. It’s an unnecessarily bloated synopsis. Do we really need to see the cop wheel out the dead body? Clearly Kilmer’s Hall Baltimore isn’t interested in Bobby LaGrange’s (Bruce Dern) offer at the bookstore. The writer’s block montage could be cut in half. The bats vs. the birdhouse speech? If this is some sort of clue to help us start solving the mystery, perhaps it’d be appropriate in a subsequent trailer or a standalone clip. Not all trailers have to go for the clear and simple sell, but should they bring up curiosities, they need to be the type that leaves the viewer curious; this one is easily dismissed. I can nitpick away, but the grander problem is the trailer’s pacing. It’s really nonexistent. Should there have been some sort of build, the end text set to that friendly chime would have made for a striking conclusion. If only Coppola could read this and edit the trailer on the fly.



3. Dark Horse Clip: Clearly this is not a good week for Toronto International Film Festival entries. While I’m usually a supporter of promotional material that offers a more in depth look at a film by sticking with one scene for a long period of time, here’s an example of that effort failing – big time. Even worse? This isn’t a trailer or teaser we’re talking about; it’s a clip from Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse. This single clip idea doesn’t really work for a moment that’s nearly dialogue-less. Perhaps in context this 15-second silence broken by the suggestion to ditch the medication would be amusing, but in this format, how are we to know what to make of it? If a clip is going to stand alone, it needs to be driven by action or performance, neither of which are present here. If anything, this clip suggests Solondz has a tendency to let moments breathe a bit too much and that the feature film could be on the slow side.

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