As we enter mid-August, trailers geared towards the holiday season are ramping up; one such features the next outing for Disney’s recent line of live-action films ensconced firmly in the fantasy genre. Following Maleficent (as a spin-off of Sleeping Beauty and the live-action rendition of Beauty and the Beast comes The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.Read More
Featuring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart and arriving in select theatres September 14th, Lizzie captures the story of Lizzie Borden, the infamous Massachusetts woman who was tried (and eventually acquitted) for the murder (by hatchet) of her father and stepmother in 1892.Read More
Due for release this October, Mid90s arrives as the promising promotional material for Jonah Hill’s (best known as a partner-in-laughs to many Seth Rogen films) potentially auspicious debut as director.Read More
This week we are looking at and listening to The Darkest Minds, a new thriller that is one part Stranger Things (produced by the same people, no less), and one part X-Men – “if you can hear this, you’re one of us” intones a voice underneath grainy radio static at the beginning of the trailer, immediately suggesting the kind of psychopathic horror/adventure that Stranger Things has become emblematic of, but as will be seen and heard, definitely of a more action-oriented lilt.Read More
A top winner at Sundance 2018, The Miseducation of Cameron Post’s trailer is comedic, quirky, and bears a loveable brand of eccentricity not unlike a Wes Anderson production, taking on the difficult subject of gender and identity and conveying a difficult experience in a relatively light-hearted way.Read More
Coming in early 2019 as part of TNT’s “Suspense Collection,” I Am the Night promises to be a thrilling match-up, with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins directing Hollywood phenom Chris Pine. In this series, a runaway woman discovers that she’s familially connected to a doctor-come-murderer, George Hodel. The suspense that ensues promises equal parts horror and film noire, and the trailer certainly obliges.Read More
Written by Brooks McLaren and directed by David M. Rosenthal, How It Ends is an upcoming Netflix original set to premiere July 13th, roughly eight years after the the initial script in 2010.Read More
Not quite a reboot and not quite a sequel, Halloween is part of an eleven-instalment franchise stretching back to 1978. Without particular for continuity with its previous sequels, this version of what’s become a sort of re-told myth in the American slasher tradition of filmmaking sees Jamie Lee Curtis reprise her original role as Laurie Strode, seeking some forty years later to enact violent revenge on the escaped mental patient and original film’s murderer, Michael Myers (Nick Castle). As such, the film is best thought of as a direct sequel to the original, within its own continuity.Read More
In recent weeks on this blog, we’ve been tracking a recent spate of biopics, including seminal musical legends Whitney Houston and Freddie Mercury / Queen. This week we’re continuing this trend with an upcoming feature retrospective on Elvis Presley called, suitably if obviously, The King. The previous trailers were relatively straightforward, presenting a predictably positive overall image of Houston and Mercury. However, with The King, it becomes apparent midway through the trailer that this film is as much an extended metaphor acting as a comparison to and appraisal of the current American cultural moment as it is a remembrance of where and how Elvis Presley impacted his own time.Read More
While this first teaser for the biopic on late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has garnered some cause for concern with a late-stage director swap and some criticism regarding addressing Mercury's sexual identity in a misleading way, the editing and music itself is tremendous in the way it staves off the obvious approach.Read More
The Golden Trailer Awards nominees have once again been announced. Practically the Oscars of motion picture trailers and television marketing, the nomination tallies reflect a shifting of the cultural guard over from the traditional major studios towards the major players in streaming such as Netflix. This year, both Warner Bros. and Netflix round out the top two studios with 62 nominations each.Read More
Mr. Rogers needs no introduction. It’s all too easy to gently pluck the heartstrings of many a grown adult with the same dulcet tones featured in the theme song he himself wrote back in 1968.Read More
It’s only natural that the music of Whitney Houston would take centre stage in the trailer for her biopic, due for release July 6th. A joint release by Miramax and Roadside with Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald on board, the trailer includes an interesting choice of music that balances a view of Houston in popular culture with the deeper understandings of an individual that any biopic worth its salt will offer.Read More
After a trailer campaign that has thus far opted for the quirky and unconventional so far as trailers go, the final promo for Deadpool 2appears to gear decidedly towards a broader audience, establishing a narrative setup and delivering both the gritty action and wry humour that the first film was critically acclaimed for.Read More
In 2004, when the first Incredibles film was released, Sony’s Spider-Man 2 stood out as an anomaly as an Oscar-winning superhero movie; these days, the films comprising the Marvel Cinematic Universe and some notable exceptions routinely rake in both dollars and award nominations. In this context, how does The Incredibles 2, some fourteen years later, stack up in response?Read More
Not detracting from a noticeably rampant Hollywood affliction of “sequelitis”, Johnny English Strikes Back is nonetheless a sequel that relatively few might recognize as its entries have been released about seven to eight years apart. Including 2003’s Johnny Englishand 2011’s Johnny English Reborn, which both earned $160 million worldwide, the series is a send-up of the Bond franchise, probably drawing inspiration from the Austin Powers trilogy (1997 - 2002).
Strikes Again sees Rowan Atkinson back in action as a bumbling MI7 agent. While best known as “Mr. Bean,” Atkinson’s brand of comedy shines here, while also giving him the ability to have a speaking role and to fit a bit better amongst the broader cast, something that “Mr. Bean,” taking after the Charlie Chaplin school of comedic miming, was never intended for.
The trailer opens by taking advantage of the fact that few are expecting a sequel to Johnny Englishright now: a solemn cello is paired with a sombre drone in the upper strings against a shot of the London Eye; an incredibly sophisticated MI7 headquarter is presented as a trailerized version of Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero” is sung against stark images of phones off the hook and a few action shots.
The ruse is revealed, however, on the word “hero,” which is contrapuntally juxtaposed with the image of Atkinson’s famously goofy visage, as he raises a martini glass and opines that someone is “looking particularly beautiful tonight.” It turns out there is a second reveal, as we realize he is actually, for some reason, teaching this gesture to a large class of schoolchildren.
At 0:38 we’ve reached the second third of the trailer, and with it, after the reveal, a marked change in tone, with a rollicking rock riff pausing only on cue for the comedic dialogue, with the occasional trailer-signature “winding down sound”for good measure.
At 1:18 the music changes track to more of a stomping groove as various other cast characters and new gimmicks particular to this entry are introduced, such as a virtual reality gag.
By 2:00 the final third of the trailer is in play, which, while keeping the same music, has moved from presenting an assortment of clips to a more extended scene involving magnetic boots. At 2:12 we get the main title card, and at 2:20 there’s a moment of synchronicity between the music and image, as the music seems to be building towards a climax, only to end in Atkinson’s thudding body as he falls off a cruise liner’s railing, emphasizing Atkinson’s penchant for slapstick humour. The music returns at 2:28 with the release card (“coming soon” – more precisely, September in North America and October in the UK).
Strikes Again’s trailer reaffirms many things that we already know of the modern comedy trailer, including the trope of the fake-out opener. It is interesting, however, that the editors would go for a completely new rendition of an existing Bonnie Tyler song rather than anything fully new or pre-existing. It could be that by presenting such an over-the-top song in this context, it could act as a subconscious indicator that the world of Johnny Englishis fundamentally satirical and more than slightly ridiculous. The effort to lampoon the slow pop song trope in a way that completely lifts from Bond openers, including the slowly rising and falling chromatic embellishments, is noticeable.
– Curtis Perry
For the Season Two trailer of recent hit HBO show Westworld that dropped on March 29th, the music is a true highlight. Credited to series composer Ramin Djawadi, the music embodies the second season’s tagline – “chaos takes control.”
While it is another trailerized cover song in an environment where such an approach has become if not tired then certainly a norm, this rendition of seminal grunge band Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” is impactful on multiple levels. The first and most immediate aspect of note might be its intertextually allusive power. For a series that is a “dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin,”fn the themes implied in the title of “Heart-Shaped Box” resonate with those of Westworld, a series that is nothing if not an elaborate rumination on suffering and consciousness.
The trailer begins with a 19-second dialogue between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright); both of them are “hosts” (artificial beings) who have both recently become aware of their apparent inhumanity. According to biographer Michael Azzerad, songwriter Kurt Cobain said that the song was inspired in part by documentaries about children who have cancer. The music video, meanwhile, was a surreal landscape that included imagery from The Wizard of Oz, and various other absurdist, surreal elements such as artificial crows. In this context, the choice of song is generationally powerful; those in the teenage demographic at the time of the song’s release are now well into their 40s and well in the position of recognizing what the song stands for and how it ties into the themes in this HBO drama.
All that being said, this pairing also works not least because the music is quite powerful in its own right, whether or not you might be aware of the original song. At first, the piano simply outlines a minor chord, and even the keenest listener would be able to identifiably discern that a cover song is underway.
By 0:38, however, the piano plays the quasi-famous riff in full, and there is no doubt for those familiar with the tune. At 0:50 a cello enters with the main melody and the dialogue continues over a montage of violent and dramatic scenes. At 1:15 we get a subtle pick up of energy; with every repeat of the riff, the intensity slowly builds. At 1:27, the staccato strings enter and we get additional harmonization to the main melody that wasn’t present in the original.
At 1:35 we get a brilliant musical takeout as everything cuts out except a closely-mic’d piano playing a tritone (known sometimes as “the devil’s internal”), which in turn allows the chorus of the song at 1:38 to enter in full epic bore, with pounding orchestral percussion and blaring brass. The jarring tritone that acts as the chorus’ hook works in tandem with the clearly mounting and ever-escalating conflict. At 2:14 we get a slight shift in the melody to direct it towards a climactic moment, rather than the usual descending tritone.
A black screen at 2:14 and a soft but clear major piano chord connote a bookending return to the opening aesthetic. Dolores’ smile enters in conjunction with a descending chord that chromatically modulates keys; it is bittersweet – just as we know Dolores’ smile is a brave one, fraught with all of the concerns presented to us earlier, the two major chords are separated by a minor third, and there is an underlying sense that something is fundamentally wrong.
Dolores asserts, “why on earth would you ever be frightened of me?” – and the Westword and HBO with release sate title cards quickly enter at the end as the piano plays the tritone motif once more, with a static hiss in the background and the last few notes fading out. It’s an ending as creepy as it is intriguing.
Westworld’s Season 2 trailer joins a fairly short list of paratextual media that very convincingly justify its sustained use of a cover song. It’s most reminiscent of the campaign for last year’s Logan, which used Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails track “Hurt.” In both trailers, both the musical motifs and their connotative thematic resonance feel effortlessly compatible with the trailers they underpin.
– Curtis Perry