Summer Shorts: Office 2010

21-May-10 11:00 AM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Summer Shorts: Office 2010

Shorts can take many forms: cartoon, parable, excerpt, vignette. Sometimes the teaser for a film is the film itself. Trailers are created for nonexistent movies with no intention of expanding it into a feature-length production. Popular examples are the World's Finest trailer for a Superman/Batman team-up, as well as Grayson, a project by the same team that puts Robin in the leading role after Batman's death.

It's easier to create a standalone trailer based on an existing property, as with so little time in which to draw viewers in, using familiar characters will quickly bring them up to speed sufficiently to appreciate the tale being teased. At the same time, creative types can still use such trailers to reinvent established franchises, taking them in bold new directions. No more dramatic effort has ever been witnessed than in this trailer for Office 2010: The Movie.

Even if the popular yet despised productivity suite is not destined for the silver screen, it does have its share of stories. At ROFLCon II, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Kevan Atteberry, creator of Clippy, the much-maligned assistant found in Microsoft Office 1997–2003. He disavowed responsibility for the loathing Clippy incited — "I only invented the chracter; I did not invent the functionality" — but is nonetheless happy with the fame it brought him, saying that he still gets 3-4 letters a year about Clippy. "It doesn't matter to me if you like him or not. As long as you know who he is, I'm happy."

Should the above trailer ever prove fodder for a feature film, expect fans to be dismayed at the source material being betrayed:

Reimagining TRON 1.0

21-Apr-10 9:52 AM by
Filed under Films, Trailers; 1 comment.

In the eight months before the release of TRON Legacy, fans are whetting their need for new media by reinterpreting the franchise's origin. TRON, now 28 years old, reflects the era in which it was crafted: crude CGI and evil supercomputers aren't as much en vogue now as they were when both fields were nascent. What if it had been made thirty years later … or earlier?

Trailers have also changed a great deal over the decades, having once been more verbose, lackluster, and narrated, as evidenced by this 1982 preview for TRON:

Now let's take that same source material and recut it into something a bit more exciting:

A drastic improvement, no? The new trailer even runs the same length as the original, showing how much more effectively one can use an equal amount of time. But imagine how disappointed it would be to have been enticed into the theater by such a stunning an action-packed film, only to witness these opening credits:

These credits are designed in the style of Saul Bass, the graphic designer and filmmaker whose credits include North by Northwest, West Side Story, and Love in the Afternoon. As stylistic as TRON itself was, I don't find it's one that meshes well with this colorful intro.

How much of these design aspects can we expect to see in TRON Legacy? Will it be a successor in aesthetic as well as plot? Its first trailer bodes well; it's not long until we'll know conclusively.

(Hat tip to 8 Bit Weapon)

Benny Hill: The Next Generation

10-Aug-09 2:15 PM by
Filed under Films, Humor, Star Trek; Comments Off on Benny Hill: The Next Generation

There are all sorts of ways to remix existing media: you can turn movie trailers into TV shows, or change a film's genre, or simply add a humorous audio commentary. All these require work and creativity. But what do you do if you have neither?

Why, you use the Benny Hillifier, of course!

Younger theatergoers may not know the name Benny Hill, but they'll recognize the tune and style of the show that ran on the BBC for twenty years. The Benny Hillifier applies that same theme to any YouTube video: just submit the URL, click "Go", and watch as it replaces the audio track of your chosen video with "Yakety Sax". The video can optionally be sped up to double-time, though the site states that "Speeding up is broken for now".

Fortunately, back when the site was fully functional, I slaved to find the best videos to Benny Hillify. Half the fun is seeing familiar media in a new context, so of course I turned to the vast library of Star Trek material. First, the new movie's trailer:

Notice the crashing car is a recurring theme between this video and the actual Benny Hill credits. Who knew the BBC had such a subtle but indeniable influence on Gene Roddenberry's universe?

What about Data? If any Star Trek character is inclined to unintentional humor, it's our white and nerdy android. Let's Benny Hillify a familiar clip:

This trick is applicable to other franchises, of course. The plot of The Matrix may be laughable, but the excellently choreographed fight scenes are not. So let's bring them down to a more consistent level:

What are your favorite clips to Benny Hillify? Or do you prefer the site's similar instant drama, instant tragedy, or all-purpose dubbing tools? Share your efforts here!

Hat tip to Bill Corbett!

Super Bowl Trailers

02-Feb-09 12:13 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

So I guess there was some sort of game on television last night, and it was supposed to be a big deal. Or something. I must've missed whatever it was — but when I woke up the next day, I found a bounty of newly-released movie trailers. Let's take a look at a few of the geekier ones.

First up is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Though I'm encouraged to see one of my favorite actors, Dennis Quaid, the team he's leading does not have much chance to shine in this particular trailer. We see too little of the colorful heroes and villains like Snake Eyes (played by Ray Park) or Destro that made the cartoon so memorable.

Next up is the return of G.I. Joe's Eighties contemporaries, those robots in disguise, in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Readers to Showbits will recall that I absolutely loathed the original film, and nothing in the sequel's trailer indicates a departure from that model — though the scope of the new robots piques my interest:

Finally, there's yet another adaptation of a television show, this one a live-action series from the mid-Seventies: The Land of the Lost. With few exceptions, almost anything Will Ferrell stars in is going to be a silly spoof, and this film looks to be true to that trend. Though the original series could definitely be described as campy, it was no Gilligan's Island, which this version appears to be:

The above movies are just three of the many upcoming films being adapted from television shows. Other trailers that debuted yesterday and are now available online include a mix of new and old:

Dr. Manhattan Project

29-Jan-09 12:30 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on Dr. Manhattan Project

I don't often post historical material to Showbits, but I found this news broadcast from 1970 sufficiently compelling:

Watchmen premieres Friday, March 6th, courtesy the recent resolution of legal issues between distributor Warner Bros. and Fox. See the full trailer here.

Star Trek Trailer: Past, Present, and Future

17-Nov-08 8:00 PM by
Filed under Star Trek, Trailers; 4 comments.

With still six months to go, Star Trek XI has already traveled a long road. The intention to develop the property was announced in April 2006, with the first poster coming out in June of that year. JJ Abrams (Lost, Alias, Mission Impossible III) signed on to direct in February 2007, and filming began in November 2007, with a wrap date of March 2008. The film-footage-free teaser trailer was released before Cloverfield in January 2008, back when we thought we'd be revisiting Roddenberry's future as early as this Christmas.

Now, with less than half a year until the May 8th release, the veil of secrecy under which the Star Trek reboot has until recently been conducted provides us with our first significant glimpse of what awaits in the form of this full-length trailer:

I was sorely tempted to not indulge in this trailer at all; if its purpose is to sell me on the film, then its very existence is superfluous. Why not leave that many more surprises until its silver screen debut?

But I'm glad I watched it, and gladder still that it is completely spoiler-free. Almost nothing of the plot or obstacles are revealed, leaving us instead with a more general look of the actors and their environment. I confess that even that little is not what I expected. The Enterprise has always faced the final frontier with a sense of wonderment, though here we find it in not the seasoned and mature crew of TOS, but a younger and less experienced crew. As a prequel, that only makes sense, but I worry that too much rebellious angst will fill the film, as suggested by the conflict between Kirk and Spock. Also, seeing Kirk on two classic means of locomotion lends an even lower-tech feeling than its temporal predecessor, Enterprise.

Other than these minor points, I have a surprisingly nondescript reaction. The fast-paced nature of the trailer left little opportunity to assess the characters in their roles, or even to get a good look at their ship, within or without. I find myself neither more eager nor more anxious about the fate of the franchise; only the final film will allow me that judgment.

The Voice of God

10-Sep-08 2:59 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 1 comment.

Screen actors often lend their voices to various productions, from Morgan Freeman's narration of March of the Penguins to Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy playing shapeshifting robots in Transformers: The Movie. Famed for their on-screen appearances, these actors often lend a voice that is difficult, if not impossible, to separate from their role; the audience hears not the animated character, but a well-known actor's voice.

More ubiquitous yet less recognized are actors who specialize in vocal media, whose tone, resonance, delivery, and diversity earn them a variety of roles. The late Richard Kiley, famous for his work with National Geographic, was written into the novel of Jurassic Park long before he took the actual role in the film adaptation. Frank Welker, though his work tends to lighter fare, has been more versatile by mimicking every sort of person, animal, and robot imaginable, often playing multiple roles in shows such as Animaniacs.

Don LaFontaine, on the other hand, almost always plays himself — and yet, after recording nearly 350,000 commercials and 5,000 film trailers, his name and face have remained generally unknown. For over four decades we have recognized and appreciated his work, including in satires such as the recent trailer for The Love Guru or this Geico commercial. Sadly, it is only post-humously that his name is now gaining widespread recognition, as Mr. LaFontaine passed away on September 1st from complications from a collapsed lung. The following video offers a glimpse into the life and times of the man behind the screen.

Who Watches the Watchmen Trailer?

30-Jul-08 12:00 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 3 comments.

In addition to Terminator Salvation, this month's The Dark Knight also saw the debut of the trailer for Watchmen. This movie, like so many others this summer, is based on a comic book (or, in this case, graphic novel), but not one of a comic nature. There's little to find funny about this contemporary to Frank Miller's gritty The Dark Knight Returns. It setting is primarily realistic, with "super"-heroes who are nothing more than costumed crimefighters with a repertoire replete of human flaws. They hide behind their costumes, seeking refuge from a multitude of sins: megalomania, paranoia, violation. Alan Moore's book is often considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, and many of its diverse elements and plot threads appear in the trailer:

But to the casual viewer — the vast majority of moviegoers who have never read, or even heard of, a 21-year-old graphic novel — the above montage will likely be unintelligible. It clearly portrays a dystopian setting, but its variety of brooding characters does little to suggest a storyline. I expect the movie will be successful in capturing the book's themes; what I question is the studio's ability to sell it. Will they call it a cross between Sin City and 300? Their pride in Watchmen's printed origin is evident, and given the recent success of other comic conversions, there's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. So they're likely to continue promoting that background, unlike Constantine or Road to Perdition, which you'd think were meant for the silver screen.

It will be interesting to see the evolution of public perception as we near the watching of Watchmen.