Mini-Review: Branded

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Branded

Out of the recent Nine for IX series this is the one film that takes on a rather broad subject: marketing female athletes. It takes a chronological look from the early days of the first athletes to sign endorsement deals in the still very sexist world of the ’70s through to today. While many of these titles excel in part due to their truncated nature (50+ minute stories formatted for an hour-long TV slot) this one could’ve dealt with more time. I would’ve welcomed the overlap of discussing Sheryl Swoopes, or delving into the Martina Navratilova/Tracey Austin rivalry more.

The insight that women athletes much choose between a vixen image or wholesome All-American girl to land deals is appreciated if rather obvious. It’s also one of the installments where one of the more memorable moments is an interview not acquired. There is a clip of Anna Kournikova walking out of an interview angered, but no new footage of her looking back on her career. That would’ve been great to put a perspective on the idea of conscious marketing decisions women make simply because her popularity at one point was so great.

That ground is well-covered by Gabrielle Reece and Lolo Jones, especially the former who does well to mention that there is a three-year window when American Olympic athletes can’t get sponsors looking their way. All in all, it’s another very solid installment of the series even if it did leave me wanting more a bit more.

8/10

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Contemporary Trailers That Work

A while back I posted a long, but not ill-conceived, rant about why I hate spoiler-ridden trailers and how terrible they are. I did have a counterbalance of some “newer” trailers that I think evoke mood, create intrigue, and give me that I-wanna-see-that sensation. However, two things have occurred: I’ve wondered to myself “Was that too ‘Get off my lawn!’?” and I’ve seen some really great trailers as of late that are far more current examples that deserve kudos.

This is a great trailer. Owing to the fact that I know the film and can see what’s being withheld:

In The Family

But that’s an indie, you say. So here are some bigger films in terms of budget and marketing push. All of these are upcoming or have not yet been seen by me:

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Wolf of Wall Street

Fruitvale Station

Now with those three the common thread is that at most you have a sense of what the movies about, as opposed to those I complained about that have you feeling like you just sat through that whole film unwittingly and unwillingly. A trailer is small fraction of the content of an actual film but some do make it feel like the film itself, only longer.

Now I realize I may be a bit of a throwback wanting to be surprised as much as I can and not always know what’s coming around, which is why I usually wait to see trailers at a multiplex rather than the day they drop. So here’s what I think is a great trailer but plays closer to convention in form, inasmuch as you see many plot points. What’s great is that it being a suspense film that likely has more twists and turns than indicated, and it jumbles up the pieces somewhat so you don’t feel like you know all that’s a head of you.

Prisoners

So those are some of the trailers that have gotten my attention, and while there will be many more that stink and tell too much I’m always willing to acknowledge those that seem to get it.

Rewind Review- Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time, but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is in large part a victim of a poorly thought out unoriginal marketing scheme as much as Paranormal Activity is the product of brilliant marketing. Having said that we will discuss that later and deal first with the film at hand.

The Vampire’s Assistant is by no means a perfect film, however, I did enjoy it quite a bit and it did leave me wanting more if perhaps a bit too much. The major flaws are the quickly drawn and superficially defined characters. We get enough on each to start such that the story is able to function and begin, yet the information disseminated is given to us clumsily and easily through dialogue. We instantly find out that Darren (Chris Massoglia) is a good kid and Steve (Josh Hutcherson) is a tough guy with a chip on his shoulder and all the reasons therefor.

The things conveyed through voice-over, like their individual obsessions, would have been much better conveyed with more visual information. An example, Steve’s dad left and his mom is an alcoholic so he feels he has nothing to live for when a crucial decision comes about. We learn all this through his dialogue, and have seen neither hide nor hair of his father or mother throughout. Even a flashback quick would’ve enhanced that emotion a bit which was very effectively conveyed by Hutcherson. Both young leads, in fact, elevated the story through their convincing portrayals of their sketched characters. Again each has an obsession that sets them on their path that sets them down their course but we learn this mostly through voice over.

The last issue was that of the character of Mr. Tiny. He’s an enigmatic villain and an interesting one, and his words and the opening title sequence make it clear he is only interested in being a puppet master in the battle between two rival factions of vampires. However, why he is only interested in that, what his timetable is, what his real motivation is, and why he chose Darren and Steve is nebulous at best. There is a mention of a prophecy but it is ill-defined.

Now having said all that the film does have quite a bit going for it, and knowing that Universal was hoping to launch a franchise does explain some of the lack of detail. The first part is that it does not take itself too seriously. There is a quite a bit of good humor had with the vampire genre as it turns some of the vampire clichés on their ear.

Aside from supporting turns by John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe and more the film does have an essential conflict at its core that is quite interesting. You have in this story two best friends who become enemies and a rivalry that could’ve been avoided. You also have hilarious cartoonish portrayals of the adult characters at the beginning, which are deftly altered by Weitz when they re-emerge later on and the tone of the tale has changed. The parents reappearing looking concerned and real the teacher seeming confused and frightened, both merely shells of their formerly goofy selves.

The effects were quite good, which is more than can be said for most films, and this one based on reports didn’t cost an arm and a leg. The cinematography was composed and contained even in heavy action sequences which also can’t be said of a lot of films.

To return to the marketing, this is a film that was pushed into October and then had its title altered to include The Vampire’s Assistant, which is the title of the second book in the series. The use of the word vampire a calculated attempt to try and capitalize on Twilight‘s popularity. These are mistakes because this movie is nothing like, and never tries to be, Twilight. The target audience is different, the conflict at the center of it is completely different, and none of these ploys yielded box office results with the film finishing 8th with just $6.35M in gross. This is a shame because all these questions that came to mind wouldn’t have held any water had it not been interesting, and so now it seems they will be unanswered in celluloid and left only within the pages of Darren Shan’s novels.

6/10

61 Days of Halloween- Homicidal

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Homicidal

Jean Arless and Eugenie Lenotovich in Homicidal (William Castle Productions)

Homicidal is worth seeing for showmanship alone. William Castle was one of the great marketers in the history of cinema. Aside from putting together an impressive resume of hits he also had some of the legendary gimmicks in the history of the medium.

His marketing genius is shown in full force here in his response to Hitchcock’s Psycho. First, there is Castle himself introducing the film but there is also a “Fright Break” in which three quarters of the way through the film a clock appears on screen to countdown a minute allowing anyone who is too scared to keep watching the film to leave.

Having said all that the film is very much worth seeing. It has a twist that I fell for hook, line and sinker. What’s more is that it is alluded to very theatrically in the end credits. If you’re into film pairings you should see this one and A Blade in the Dark back-to-back.

It also is bloody for its time and is bloodier than its predecessor and has a very different kind of twist in store than Psycho had. Interestingly enough this film does have a MacGuffin of its own which plays out very quickly compared to its predecessor. Comparisons aside it is a film that ends up standing on its own and it worth watching based on its own merits.

8/10

A Recap of Super Bowl Film Commercials

The Super Bowl this year, as it is many years was replete with ads that either advertise films or referenced them. Here’s a quick recap.

Captain America: The First Avenger

This is the first look I’ve really gotten at Captain America. At least in terms of a trailer, this seems like a rather good glimpse at at least some of the highlights of the origin of the character. Playing the tale as a period piece is also likely to work to this film’s benefit.

Fast Five

A continuation of The Fast and the Furious series. This installment takes place in Rio de Janeiro, there will be a Brazilian theme. What is most humorous about this one is that our heroes will drive through favelas and mess up hardened criminals and likely walk out unscathed. Very realistic.

Super 8

This was, hands down, the best trailer of the night. Oddly enough, esteemed publications like The Hollywood Gossip ran a headline which reads “Super 8 Movie Trailer: What the… ?!?” Now granted the article does admit it’s somewhat excited for the release but why complain about being confused. Super 8 first released an even more arcane teaser months ago and now about four months prior to its release we see a little more. This is how trailers used to work. You see just enough of a film to be intrigued into watching it, instead now sometimes you feel like you watched a whole movie. I finish seeing many and say to myself “That movie sucked.” because I feel like I saw the whole thing. This gives us just enough to want more and I’m even more amped for it than I was before. Bring it on Abrams and Spielberg.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Another example of why less is more. The original trailer while it was a little annoying when you found out what it was for was a little more mysterious.Now you see more than before and it gets silly from the get go and that’s just annoying.

Thor

While this ad made me giggle because I randomly thought of re-writing the song “War” and inserting “Thor,” it is decent. Not nearly as effective as the theatrical trailer as this one shows some possible chinks in the armor but not bad.

Rango

This is literally a film that has been overexposed and again reiterates the brilliance of the Super 8 strategy. I have been seeing trailers and commercials for this for so long I am fatigued of it and the worst part is the concept was only borderline in my estimation to begin with.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Nothing could be less appealing to me than another Pirates film considering that they have fallen off precipitously and I literally fell asleep during the last one, which was fine by me save for the fact that I needed to be woken up because I was snoring. This ad actually presents the film in a better light than does the full-length trailer.

Cowboys & Aliens

This is the kind of film most people already have an opinion on based on the concept. You either think the combination of two disparate entities such as these is ridiculous or inspired. The fact that the director of this film is also responsible for Elf, Zathura, and Iron Man won’t sway you. Aside from the much hyped ‘seeing more of the alien craft’ not much to be gleaned here or to change one’s mind.

Limitless

Not much to see here. a condensed version of the trailer. The concept has potential but it seems like it gets pushed to extremes. Interesting to note that it’s one of the few films coming out in fairly short order that shelled out the big bucks for a Super Bowl ad. It will be interesting to see what it does.

Rio

It’s a short 0:15 spot but even here you get to see some of the unfortunate aspects of the film: Hispanic actors subbing in as Brazilian and inaccuracies of beach life in Brazil such as the overly-large bikini cuts. While there is some promise in the concept of a film about the birds of Brazil it seems like it might not quite hit in this rendition.

Now some websites are mentioning The Adjustment Bureau, Just Go With It, Priest and Battle: Los Angeles, the last one I saw pre-kick-off. Others I didn’t see in-game. Maybe I was on a health break but I only count kick-off to final whistle and those were the ones I counted. Did I miss them?

There were also a few ads inspired by or referencing films such as the Bud Light Product Placement ad, Budweiser Cowboy singing “Tiny Dancer” reminiscent of Almost Famous, Volkswagen Mini-Darth Vader and Hyundai Sonata a bit callously referencing silent films.

To see all the ads go here.

What was Your Favorite Film Commercial During the Super Bowl?
(polls)