Trailers

Have you ever wondered how movie trailers are made? I have. Mostly, though, I wonder why it is that so often, absolutely all the good stuff is in the trailer and if you then watch the movie expecting more good stuff, you just feel cheated.
The point is, I thought it might be nice to post a link to some information or videos or something like that about the actual process of making such trailers. Except the net has kinda dropped the ball on that, and there really isn’t much out there like that. Specific stuff like “The Making of the Trailer for Really Big Expensive Action Movie 12!” is easy; general stuff, not so much.
So I offer you the following as a consolation prize — the Five Awesome Movie Trailers that Made the Movie. See what you think of their choices.
You can also check out this
tribute to the late, great Don LaFontaine, aka that Movie Voice-Over Guy. He was cool.

Planet 51

Yes, I was the only grownup in the theatre without a kid in tow. This is my first time reviewing a movie aimed at the younger set, so it was kind of an experience. And I wasn’t really sure what to expect — some people kept saying it looked silly, others that it looked good and they wanted to see it. As it turned out, it was actually pretty fun, once I got over the idea that all the other adults were looking at me funny because I was there by myself.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — except I think this is actually in our galaxy. Anyway, there’s a planet out there that’s full of little green aliens who don’t wear shoes, eat food that glows, drive little round hovercars, and are obsessed with scary 1950′s-style sci-fi movies about being invaded by beings from outer space. Best-known are the Humaniacs, villains of an ultra-popular movie trilogy. In spite of the name, they don’t look very human; they’re roughly human-shaped, but have just one giant hypnotic eye where their heads should be. And they want to eat your braaains!
So says Skiff (voiced by Seann William Scott), comic-book store employee and alien expert. His best friend, Lem (Justin Long, wisecracking computer hacker from Live Free or Die Hard, newly promoted to junior assistant curator at the observatory, isn’t so sure. He’s busy mooning over the girl next door, in true 1950′s style, because everything in this movie is pretty 1950′s, basically. Everything’s also round, hovers, and/or looks like crop circles. But the girl next door is Neera (Jessica Biel), who’s learning all about something new called “protesting”, and though she likes Lem, too, it’s almost impossible for them to get a minute alone.
That problem only gets worse when Captain Charles T. Baker, astronaut (Voice of Dwayne Johnson, of Get Smart fame) lands in the middle of Lem and Neera’s perfect little suburban neighborhood, thinking he’s just claimed an uninhabited planet for the United States of America. As startled as the natives are to see him, he’s even more startled to discover that he has an audience, and things just go downhill from there. It turns out that Rover, the adorable little mobile camera and sample-taker that was sent out to investigate the planet, was programmed to find and photograph rocks, so that’s what it did — just the rocks. So the little green aliens turned out to be quite a shock.

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Skiff is the one on the left, and he’s right to look nervous.

Paranoid as they are, Len’s friends and neighbors are all ready for this alien invasion, led by tough General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and mad scientist Professor Kipple (John Cleese). Except all Chuck wants is to get back home, and he has to get back to his spaceship before the automatic liftoff sequence begins, or he’ll be stuck there, with everyone trying to kill him. But of course the army’s ready, and they’ve got his spaceship surrounded. It’s just like a scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still, either version. In fact, this movie features all sorts of famous lines and images from just about every sci-fi movie you can think of, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Terminator to Alien. In fact, if you liked the Alien franchise, be sure to keep an eye on what they call a dog on Planet 51.
Anyway, the kids in the theatre seemed to like it, I enjoyed trying to find all the in-jokes and rooting for Rover (because really, how can you not root for something so cute?) and it was basically a fun ninety minutes. I’m giving it a respectable three and a third idols. Parents, you probably won’t be bored, and kids, you’ll love Rover. So Ashley, go ahead and have mom and dad take you to see it. And don’t leave as soon as the credits start! They’re fun, too.

Giant Freaking Kaleidoscope


So… what happens if you make a kaleidoscope with three foot wheels and giant mirrors?
You film the thing for an hour and sell it on Etsy!
Have you seen high quality kaleidoscope footage before? Not synthesized filtered electronic things that look like kaleidoscopes… but real glass kaleidoscopes? This is freaking cool stuff… I’d like to see an excerpt, but the screenshots are amazing.

2012

Apparently, someone that worked on this film is from Wisconsin. Or maybe it’s some kind of in-joke. But the fact is, they mention Wisconsin three times in this flick, and the (Wisconsin) audience loved it.
As for the rest of the movie, there opinion was sort of divided. It’s intense, that’s for sure — during one especially tense scene, someone down the row was heard to tell her companion that she didn’t think she could stand it anymore. I kept catching myself bracing to run away, just like the people on the screen. So in that respect, screaming success. Judging by the credits, I think half of the world’s image effects companies worked on making the film just that overwhelming.
But (and you knew there had to be a but), in other respects, it’s a little disappointing. Once or twice, the stuff being destroyed on screen actually looked like the miniatures they were, and with all the technology that was thrown at this film, that should never have happened. As for the science… well, you always expect some of it to be either distorted or just plain wrong. Sometimes what would actually happen just isn’t dramatic enough, and the filmmakers have to make people want to pay to watch. I don’t really know enough geophysics to judge how close they came as far as the overall cause of the disaster, but I can tell you that their grand scheme to rescue the human race is so full of improbabilities and obvious things being overlooked, that it could only have been designed by a committee, consisting entirely of contractors who gave the lowest bid — you know, like the usual U.S. government project.
There isn’t much of a plot, either, though that’s also usual for the blockbuster disaster movies. John Cusack is struggling writer Jackson Curtis, who had one of those “brilliant debut novels that marks the appearance of a triumphant, powerful voice in fiction.” It didn’t sell, though, because those rarely do. On top of that, his wife Kate (Amanda Peet) left him and took their kids with her because when he was writing, he didn’t notice anybody else was in the house with him. The kids are the adorable Lilly (Morgan Lily) and Noah (of course), played by Liam James. And yes, the movie is very cutesy with the references. That got kind of annoying.

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John Cusack checking to see if the sky is falling yet.

Anyway, while playing Weekend Dad and taking the kids camping at Yellowstone, Jackson encounters a guy who apparently lives in the park, even though I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to do that, and who broadcasts wild conspiracy theories from his own little radio station in his trailer. The character (played by Zombieland’s Woody Harrelson, clearly a very busy man lately) is called Charlie Frost, but I’m pretty sure he’s meant to be Art Bell, only because this is fiction, Art Bell is actually correct.
Jackson doesn’t really believe a word, but because Charlie is entertaining and generous with his beer, he hangs around and listens as Charlie explains that the world is about to end and the Mayans knew it all along. That’s wrong, too, but it’s like the Y2K thing. It’s apparently more fun to be a doomsayer.
Right after Jackson gets the kids back home to LA, bits and pieces of the city start falling into brand-new canyons or slipping into the ocean, and from then on, the destruction only gets worse and worse. Seriously, just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse for the human race, they do. Things break. Bad coincidences happen. Power-hungry government science advisor (weird as that sounds) Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) gets all power-hungry at really bad moments. When the president is Danny Glover, you’d think a science advisor would know better than to mess with him, but this one has nerves of steel.
There are lots more characters, and they do a good job making a global disaster seem global, instead of being all about the U.S. like usual. And you do get to like the characters, even some of the minor ones. There’s just nothing new here, though. Well, okay, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an airborne plane nearly struck by an airborne train, but I for one would’ve liked it better if everything hadn’t played out exactly as I predicted it would.
As disaster movies go, it’s pretty good. So comparing it to, say, Day After Tomorrow, it’s wonderful. As blockbusters go, it’s also not bad. The acting is all first-rate, even from the kids. But as movies in general go, the highest I can rate it is three idols out of five. It was an excellent effort all around, but in the end, the acting and the special effects can only distract you for so long. But it is kind of cool to see a tsunami coming over the Himalayas.

Flickitty

There have been quite a few iPhone apps that are using my music. What makes this game special?
Well, the game developer gave me 5 promo codes so you can play too!
Update: All the promo codes are gone.

Offer will run out when the promo codes run out. Cheers, all! :-)
Only available for users of the US App Store.

The Box

Once upon a time, a man named Richard Matheson wrote a short story called “Button, Button,” and it was good. Sixteen years later, that story was rewritten for the small screen as an episode of the Twilight Zone, and it was still pretty good. Now, it’s been rewritten yet again for the big screen, as The Box, and frankly, it’s pretty awful.
It’s Virginia, 1976, and Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden — Cyclops from the X-Men series of flicks) have two neat jobs (she teaches at a fancy private school, he works for NASA), a son named Walter (Sam Oz Stone), and a nice seventies house that’s all gold and orange and brown, with some of the scariest wallpaper I’ve ever seen.
But it isn’t all sweet and perfect. Norma limps, having lost part of her foot in a freak accident. Her boss has just informed her that she will no longer get the teacher’s discount for her son’s tuition. Arthur has just been told that his services as an astronaut will not be required, and he’s stuck staying as just a technician, working on cameras that will go into space without him.
Enter the terribly disfigured Arlington Steward (Frank Langella, Nixon from Frost/Nixon) and The Box of the title. It’s just a nice little polished wooden box, with a lockable glass lid and a bright, shiny, candylike red button beneath. He wakes up the Lewises at 5:45 in the morning so he can ruin their lives. His proposal is simple — if they press the button, he will give them one million dollars in crisp one hundred dollar bills. (Remember, these are 1976 dollars. A million means foot surgery for Norma, tuition for Walter, and plenty left over.) The catch? Someone, somewhere in the world, who the Lewises have never met, will die. They have 24 hours to decide. No pressure or anything.

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James and Cameron discussing the moral dilemma of accepting money for their work on this film.

So far, it’s all just like the Twilight Zone, really. But they’ve got to fill up an entire movie-length time slot now, and this simple, clean little plot won’t do. So they add NSA agents, “employers” no one can talk about, “employees” that are a lot more like slaves, mysterious nosebleeds, bell-ringing Santas, water that has a mind of its own, and all the space craze of the seventies about getting to Mars and finding little green men, or at least the artifacts they left behind. Actually, I’m not sure what that last part has to do with anything, unless the “employers” are supposed to be Martians. Which would be silly, but then, that wouldn’t be unusual for this movie.
The acting is good. They do what they can with a script that buries all the good stuff under a pile of cryptic comments and random slack-jawed people staring at the main characters wherever they go. It’s supposed to be a character study, a test of what people will do when faced with a temptation that seems to have no real repercussions attached. And it tries to be. Cameron, James, and Frank are all acting their hearts out. But they couldn’t save the film, and by the end, I just didn’t care anymore what happened to anyone. I’m usually a credits watcher, but this time I bolted for the door. I’d already wasted too much of my Saturday afternoon by that point.
But I’ll be generous and give it two idols. Everyone on-screen does do their best with what they’ve got to work with, and it isn’t their fault that what they had was so dull. Apparently the screenwriter is also something of a misogynist, though I can’t talk about that without giving too much away. Anyway, if you feel the urge to watch it, might I suggest instead tracking down a copy of the 1986 Twilight Zone airing instead. Season one, episode twenty. The faces aren’t as recognizable, and the budget is tiny, but it’s a lot more entertaining.

What, me Twitter?

Yes, your Movie Critic Next Door has given in to a trend. I’m now on Twitter, as MovieCriticND. So head on over and watch me struggle to keep myself within 140 characters. It’s amusing.

The MCND has not disappeared!

I’m trying to figure out this Twitter thing everyone keeps tweeting on. And yes, me trying to complete a thought in a mere 140 characters is difficult. Just those first two sentences would put me over by twelve letters.
But! If you’re interested, you can now follow me on Twitter, as MovieCriticND. MovieCriticNextDoor was too long, because EVERYTHING I want to type in Twitter is too long, apparently. See you there!