2007 Year in (p)Review

Marking my first year in the trailer review business, I spent a great deal of time praising and panning over 450 trailers from 386 films and more than 400 posters from 350 pictures.

Looking back at the best trailers and posters of 2007, here are the best along with a few words on each plus some interesting other honors.


Three films earned an “A” rating on their trailer. They blended humor and anticipation to create a thoroughly engaging preview.

Topping the list has to be the second (of two) trailer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It did something few trailers have ever done, put untold numbers of my personal trailer pet peeves and delivered a trailer that got me ultimately excited for the fifth film of the franchise.

What Would Jesus Buy? became one of the first documentaries I was ever intensely excited to see. It challenged my funny bone to stay quiet while encouraging me to check out the Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping.

The state of period drama trailers has become such that the films they represent seem lifeless and sequestered in an unused bedroom in their massive estates. Atonement‘s trailer stood that concept on its ear and delivered an engaging premise that was certain to provide some excellent understated performances, alter the way we perceive period dramas and deliver the conventional alongside the unconventional.

Across the Universe looked from the preview to be like a new strange twist on the musical genre. Thanks to Julie Taymor’s inventive theatrical background, the trailer is an absolute delight visually.

As Iraq anti-war films go, it’s not surprising that Brian DePalma’s Redacted would be the most controversial. Despite all the negative press the film received and the fact that critics seemed to have ignored this, the way the trailer explains the term “redact” and then proceeds to exemplify it is not only intriguing, but beguiling.

Another animated feature makes my 10 Best Trailers list. Persepolis presents a courageous young woman’s attempts to break free of the repressive nature of the Islamic cultures. Based on a graphic novel from first-hand cultural experience, Persepolis‘ trailer could do little but intrigue the audience, especially with its rock score.

We all owe a great deal to the first astronauts, boys and girls have all fantasized about traveling in space and hundreds of films have explored space from a narrative perspective, thus the impact of a documentary like In the Shadow of the Moon is evident. The fact that the trailer does a good job of capitalizing on that emotional core is testament to its quality.

Day Watch, the sequel to the cult favorite Night Watch, continues the Russian narrative as it explores those who protect the day. This surrealistic martial arts film plays incredibly well in trailer format, making it seem like the right blend of off-beat style and hip narrative structure.

Some trailers, despite giving away the vast majority of the associated film’s plots, are so funny and interesting that you can’t help but smile. Ladron Que Roba a Ladron (literally translated to “Thief Who Stole from Thief”) is a humorous situational comedy about thieves attempting to rob one of their own defying the conventional thought “honor among thieves”.

Rounding out the 10 Best Trailer list is a film that managed to come off on screen differently than it did in the trailer. La Vie en Rose features a star-making turn by French actress Marion Cotillard and captivates the audience with Edith Piaf’s strange story and brilliant vocal abilities. The preview was certainly engaging and the music alone helped sell a film that might not otherwise have been seen.

One can’t look at the best without also examining the worst. The 10 Worst Trailers of 2007 list is filled with a number of big-budget blockbusters and box office duds.

Thoroughly ludicrous in conception, Black Snake Moan leads off the list of worst trailers with its Tarantino-esque style attempting to make an otherwise abominable subject seem hip. Samuel L. Jackson holding Christina Ricci is far-fetched but the reasons suggested in the trailer makes it far worse.

You expect terrible things from stupid comedies and Eddie Murphy’s waterloo pic Norbit certainly fits that bill. The movie that many considered to have sank Murphy’s chance at an Oscar is every bit the behemoth its lead character appears to be. Taking the children’s story Jack Sprat to a gross extreme, there’s no question this trailer was going to epitomize the film it represented.

Hot Rod suffered from poor conception. In an attempt to appeal to the audience that made American Pie a success, this trailer shows us how stupid and ignorant a film can be without having to be seen. It may appeal to some but when compared to the trailer for Superbad, Hot Rod makes it look like the Taj Mahal.

All I was thinking when watching Hostel: Part II, indeed from the minute I heard they were making it, was why do they need a sequel? The first film was only a moderate success, but studio bosses probably thought it was a good idea to turn the tables and make the sequel about women being abducted at European hostels and then tortured. This trailer cemented in my mind the idea that the film was indeed unnecessary.

Jerry Seinfeld’s humor is far from the best to grace television, but even I would watch Seinfeld again if it meant I didn’t have to suffer from the apiary version of Antz that is Bee Movie. This first trailer was done entirely in live action, assuming that the computer animation hadn’t yet been completed. And while it might have been funny in certain circumstances, Seinfeld’s ego soured it quickly.

More enigmatic than why there was a sequel to the horrendous Underworld is the decision to make another similarly-themed film that came to be known as Blood and Chocolate. Supposedly the vampire/werewolf fans presented enough box office dollars to Underworld and Underworld 2 that they made this film and last year’s equally unnecessary The Covenant.

Home Alone in the mall, Christmas in Wonderland isn’t even the first such film to be made in the last two years. The trailer makes the film look identical to Home Alone, its sequels and last year’s Unaccompanied Minors. And the trailer even makes it seem like a Chris Kattan film, which should cause everyone to run away.

Lucy Liu kicking butt. Good in concept, bad in execution. Rise: Blood Hunter is another pseudo-vampire flick and has similarities to Halle Berry’s dismal performer Gothika. Liu has just as much talent as Berry, but neither is capable of escaping the abominable nature of their projects.

Despite being an otherwise entertaining picture, Meet the Robinsons featured an absolutely abysmal trailer. There were only two funny moments in it and there was little more than the stink of Disney Dud in the air. Whether the film was good or not, the marketing strategy was clearly aimed at kids, not adults.

Spider-Man 3 made a heap of money for Sony, but this trailer couldn’t possibly have helped. The film’s name alone would have guaranteed it box office, but this trailer is an affront to the quality of production in trailers for other blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Shrek films. Even if the film hadn’t stunk, this trailer would have.

 



They may not be the in-your-face propaganda that trailers are, but posters are as integral to the cultural phenomenon that surrounds motion pictures as anything. They are required in one image (though, some films use multiple) to capture the essence of the film, sell the product and provide a visually-pleasing result. There are dozens, if not hundreds of great classic posters that have ever been crafted, but for every masterwork, there are at least a dozen underwhelming or ineffective ones.

Before heading into the worst, let’s take a look at the best posters crafted in 2007.

Premonition has to take the award for most inventive design. Crafting a human visage out of trees has been done before in film visual effects, but seldom has it been done so well in poster format. This poster may be associated with an easily-forgotten film, but it’s certainly worth remembering.

Entering the poster race late in the year, as did the film, the poster for The Orphanage is exceptionally well crafted. It captures the essence of the film while presenting a creepy and enigmatic look.

Looking at the day and night dichotomy of the poster for Day Watch, the viewer is caught at once by how colorful it is. There aren’t a lot of shades, but it jumps off the wall at you and blends with the imagery to create a small work of art.

The film is an absolute wreck, but this highly predictable poster for Evan Almighty is nevertheless wonderful. If only the visual effects in the film had been this good, we might have been spared the sermonizing.

In the same vein as Premonition, the poster for Zodiac features the Golden Gate Bridge spanning San Francisco bay, which in itself isn’t interesting. What is interesting is that the cables of the bridge make the faint image of two closed eyelids. It’s a chilling effect that works well considering the film’s subject.

Close to Home has one of the most simplistic designs of any poster this year. It doesn’t rely on fancy designs or graphics, but instead focuses on the touching human drama portrayed in the film. The glow of sunset highlighting the two figures with a simple skyline in the background is straightforward, but moving.

I combine Amazing Grace and Silk into the same paragraph because they share similarities in color, not necessarily in style. They both represent period films and while Amazing Grace uses images included in the main, Silk takes its romantic image and fades into the image, thus accomplishing virtually the same task.

The black suit was the selling point for many comic book fans to the latest Spider-Man film. The second sequel in the series made no bones about the pseudo-evil Spidey being a core aspect of the film. If only they’d told us that six or seven other plot lines were going into it, we might have been prepared. Nevertheless, the black-suited Spider-Man on the darkened skyline is eye-catching.

Paying homage to the double feature pics of the 60s and 70s, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’ retro Grindhouse got everything right, even down to the genre-style posters. The best of them is the one that capitalizes on the film being a double feature and showing each included movie’s poster.

Looking back at the first poster for La Vie en Rose, I’m reminded how distinct and visually appealing the artwork is. While many film posters focused on black, white and red styles, this one stuck with the single dominating color tone of the red rose. It was simple and dramatic.

Making me realize that the black-and-white posters with color accents weren’t entirely devoid of style, the poster for The Nines takes the seldom-used (at least by 2007 standards) color of green and uses it to accent the wristband that is obviously a key aspect of the film.

Following up the good, are the bad and the ugly. The 10 Worst Posters of 2007 I’ll highlight below excludes the title-only placeholders that generally gave poor grades to.

When I first saw this poster and then read it, I was struck by how self-serving it was. The poster for September Dawn talks about an incident involving the founding of the Mormon settlements in Utah. Having to read so much on a poster is discouraging enough. To have to do so with a poorly-colored visage at the bottom just makes your skin crawl.

Overly simplified, the only Fracture on the poster is in the film’s title. Even with the faces of two find actors of different generations, there’s nothing exciting or engaging about the entire art piece.

The definition of cluttered comes to us straight from the hip-hop-umentary Rock the Bells. There are too many images all neatly squared off into a rectangular morass of visual disorder.

It’s difficult to tell what exactly you’re looking at, but it’s clear that Hostel: Part II‘s poster has no idea what interests its audience. Presumably mutilated bits of skin, this poster is enough to put anyone off their popcorn and easily marks this film as the worst-promoted film of the year.

Code Name: The Cleaner is willfully simple. Hoping that Cedric the Entertainer’s visage is enough to sell the film, they add the film’s much thinner and much more beautiful female actors. It’s ill-advised, but fitting for a film that had received such a critical drubbing.

For every Premonition and Zodiac, there’s an I Know Who Killed Me. This poster takes great pains to make obvious its profiles at the edges of the rose and the red droplet from the blue flower. The makers of this poster wanted to be cool, but have come off foolish.

The pair of posters that first welcomed the unnecessary back-from-a-coma comedy about break-dancing in Kickin’ It Old Skool were as unappealing as the film itself appeared initially. Using a chaotic background to show the two opposing characters of the film just doesn’t flow.

While the second poster for Stomp the Yard better highlighted the film’s subject and story, the first poster only showed one aspect. The colors are obvious and garish and the silhouette of a man and the entrance to the school don’t blend well with them.

Chaos reigns in the poster for Daddy Day Camp. The days of screwball camp comedies of the 1980s are over, but someone forgot to tell the artists who came up with this marketing foible. Using all the tricks of the trade to show various characters in situations similar to the ones in the film doesn’t work because it’s no longer funny or cool.

Famed actresses Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton have each been having problems choosing films and both came up this year with ill-advised comedies. Both comedies, Georgia Rule and Because I Said So, have posters that take over the top half to show characters from the film and position the title in the lower half. The fact that they are so similar makes their inclusion in the 10 Worst Posters of 2007 list all the more appropriate.

 



Several films had abominable trailers, but generated excellent movies. Bridge to Terabithia was most surprising. It was not the poorly executed The Chronicles of Narnia rip-off I was expecting. It even turned out to be one of the years 10 best films.

Meet the Robinsons certainly wasn’t the best film of the year. It wasn’t even more than a good time, but it far outshone the trailer that many of us had been forced to watch on television so frequently.

And then there’s Hairspray. I commented that I didn’t like the music highlighted in the trailer, which turned me off the movie entirely. Then I caught it on DVD. What a marvelous little film it turned out to be. With great performances from the young cast and music that really is catchy, the John Waters adaptation suffers only from casting John Travolta and Christopher Walken as Nikki Blonsky’s parents.

I didn’t see most of the films that were critically drubbed, so it’s hard to pick a bad film that has a good trailer, but here are a few.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets was pre-sold for me as I was surprisingly entertained by the first film. So, when I saw the second of three trailers, I thought it might not be so bad. However, the third trailer confirmed what watching the film suggested that it wasn’t terribly good at all and quite a miserable disappointment.

Enchanted, The Nanny Diairies and A Mighty Heart were good enough, but did not match the quality of their trailers.

The third Spider-Man 3 trailer is among the worst of the year, but the very first teaser trailer held promise. Too bad the actual movie had to deny that early buzz.

When looking at the most exemplary trailers when looking at the comparisons Good Trailer equals Good Film and Bad Trailer equals Bad Film would probably start off with Away from Her, which carried forth the good will of the trailer and didn’t disappoint.

If you compare the first Ratatouille trailer to the film, you have a good match, although the second trailer can’t really compare. Also in the animated tradition, the trailers for The Simpsons Movie were highly diverse in terms of quality, but none were abjectly terrible, which matches the movie quite perfectly.

The Golden Compass trailers were extremely different. The first was intriguing, the second annoying, but when the film actually made it before my eyes, I almost completely agreed with the wonderful first trailer.

There weren’t a lot of bad trailers that really matched their film, at least from my perspective, since I didn’t end up watching most of the films with terrible previews. The only film I saw that really came close to the horror of its trailer was Epic Movie which seemed like such a ludicrous farce in preview that I wasn’t surprised at how awful it was as a movie.

 

Now that my first year of previews is wrapped up, I can’t say it was a terrible experience. While there were some frustrating weeks where more than a dozen films needed an update, I think everything went quite well and I’m excited at what the next year can provide since we’ve already seemed to have gotten into it full swing.

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