Tag Archives: film

Movie Synopses We’re Tired of Seeing

5 Mar

Now playing: At $15 per ticket!

Has your enthusiasm for movies been steadily drained during the last several years by the constant stream of lifeless, depressing films? Adult dramas revel in their own degeneracy and even children’s films are cynical and sexualized. Over and over you find yourself asking, “who would want to watch that for two hours?” Yet they just keep on coming, trying to outdo each other in stupidity or tastelessness or grim depravity.

With entertainment, of course, there are kettles for every fish; but the Maximum Know-How team thinks we as a society could use a little more life-affirmation. So here’s our list of typical film synopses (those fact-filled summaries in movie trailers and DVD cases to entice your attention) and our improved alternatives.

Typical: When an innocent child is kidnapped and brutally murdered…
Instead, how about: When an innocent child concocts a brilliant way to create a faster-than-light-speed pan-dimensional space craft …

Not a romp: Two brothers, one a man-child, the other a divorced sex offender, decide to kill every single…
Maybe a romp: Two brothers, one a blue-collar sports fan, the other a successful but bored defense attorney, decide to build a rocket in their backyard…

Old: A trio of slutty housewives, who live double lives as prostitutes…
Fresh: A trio of intelligent, capable housewives, who live double lives as superhero crime-fighters…

Ho-hum: In the shadowy underworld of sleek, teen, vampire assassins…
Uh, sure. We’ll try it: In the shadowy pre-dawn world of sleek, teen, long-distance runners in training… (okay, maybe not, but we need something new here)

Role models for our children?: In this gross-out teen raunch-fest, we watch a group of boring, brainless morons fail over and over to have a sexual experience…
Do they make these anymore?: In this funny teen comedy about rising above the exaggerated trials of modern adolescence…

😦 Two cops, one a schizophrenic gun-nut, the other a suicidal misanthrope…
🙂 Two cops, one a jazz pianist, the other a father of eight…

I don’t get it. Maybe that means it’s deep: This symbolic adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey follows a brawny, bearded white man as he sails around the world chopping up people, set to the music of modern dubstep artists…
Why read the book?: This refreshing adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey follows an aging substitute teacher as she navigates the absurdities of a modern high school, set to the music of artists from the 70s TV show Midnight Special

Wow, if this is your entertainment, then what…?: Watch as a sadistic serial killer leaves a trail of grotesque clues carved into his victims’ bodies as he travels the country hunting homeless people…
But are there explosions?: Watch as a jolly, compulsive do-gooder leaves a trail of service and kindness as he travels the country doing entertaining activities with interesting people…

Par: Two inner-city high school dropouts, one a drug dealer, the other a rapper and pimp, fight “the man”…
Has this ever been made?: Two inner-city high school seniors, one a fast-food employee working toward college, the other a youth-club volunteer, fight the social pressure…

Never had children: In this animated “family film” punctuated with disdainful sarcasm, unrelenting violence, and poop jokes…
Knows their children: In this well-scripted, sharply animated adventure with interesting, relatable characters you enjoy spending time with…

Wait, this is fiction?: Two congressmen, one a heroin-addicted womanizer, the other a hitman for the mob, struggle to keep their secrets hidden…
Definitely fiction: Two congresswomen from different sides of the aisle struggle to battle mindless party politicking and corrupt special-interest lobbyists to actually get something done…

Science? You mean, like, flashing lights and buttons?: In this sci-fi adventure, rugged astronauts have sex during an alien attack…
Whoa, actual science?!: In this sci-fi adventure, astronauts maintain an uneasy alliance with an alien race as they work together to achieve a stunning breakthrough in faster-than-light-speed pan-dimensional travel …

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Cinema, Simplified

14 Jun

Your guide to movie trailer styles

I love movie trailers because they are efficient. To fulfill their purpose of enticing film viewers, they must promote the best aspects of their source material. This is done by showcasing the highlights—the highest drama, the funniest jokes, the most compelling special effects, the best music—nothing is held back. Brace all these with a mere semblance of plot, and you’ve got the perfect mini-movie, just as entertaining in its brevity as a full-length film.

To promote your enjoyment of this media art form, Maximum Know-How here offers our list of the 12 types of movie trailers:

1. Stable Narrative—This is the standard format. The first half establishes the setting, premise, and characters. The second half is “the collection,” comprising plot points, dialog snippets, and memorable visuals.

Never seen this film, but sure want to. Great trailer.

2. Jagged Narrative—Adapts the Stable Narrative for action, suspense, and horror films by filling  the collection with moments of violence, danger, or swift movement, all cut quickly together. These moments can be taken completely out of context because we’re conveying the visual idiom of the genre, not the plot.

Both trailers for this film are excellent. We learn the players and the premise, and are ready to watch.

3. Give ‘Em What They Want—Used mainly for franchise sequels or adaptations of popular literary works. For the latter, the audience already knows the story and simply wants to see what you’ve done with/to it. For franchise trailers, communicating the plot is less important than letting viewers see familiar characters, themes, or inside jokes.
 
Lightsabers? Check. Laser blasters? Check. Space battles? Check. Weird aliens? Check. Let’s see it!

4. The Assault—A more intense variation of the Jagged Narrative, trailers in Assault mode pummel the viewer with noise and combat spread across the entire running time. The target audience for these films are more focused on eye-candy than plot or characterization, which means they work best for heavily violent action or horror. Pounding techno music increases the tension.

Just about any Jason Statham film should qualify here.

5. Cavalcade—Focused primarily on presenting a large, all-star cast. A great technique for ensemble comedies and war epics.

Look at all these famous people having fun! Don’t you want to see this?

6. Licensed to Sell—Like the movie they advertise, these make it clear that licensing—of music, cars, toys, whatever—is their sole purpose for existence.

In this sense, these trailers kind of serve as public service warnings.

7. Artsy Enigma—Less about plot than creating an emotional connection to the premise or characters, these can work really well. Divided into three subcategories: Esoteric (if you had already seen the movie, then the trailer would feel like a joyous reunion), Spare (franchise teasers), and Ostentatiously Vague (so full of itself that it doesn’t need general audiences to understand the plot).

Sorry, what’s going on?

8. The Giveaway—These are trailers that intentionally give away the entire plot of the film, whether because they think the film is so good that you’ll like it anyway or because the film is so bad they are pretending there’s even more intrigue in store.

Great film, but I was like, “That’s it? I already knew that would happen!”

9. Dramatic Ironicalness—Maybe you’re in on the joke but the actors aren’t, or perhaps the producers break the fourth wall just for the trailer. These attempts are either brilliant or stupid.

This trailer was far, far more entertaining as a unit than the movie was.

10. The Non-Trailer—Video entertainment that has little to nothing to do with the advertised film.

So funny. I watched this over and over again. Never bothered with the movie, though.

11. Deceiver—There’s a (small) difference between marketing and lying: the former portrays the best version of reality; the latter misleads you, knowing but not caring that you’ll be an unhappy customer. These trailers are bad marketing because they’re selling something to the wrong audience.

This movie apparently has stomach-churning violence and gore. Surprise!

12. Fail—Incoherent, boring, or reveals its movie as the piece of rubbish it is.

I haven’t seen this movie, so I’m totally jumping on the insult bandwagon.

Five Best Documentary Films—Yet Unmade

19 Dec

Anarchist school crossing pattern

The staff at POV recently released their list of the greatest documentary films ever made. I may not be an industry insider with decades of experience creating “greatest ever” lists, but I can still complain about theirs. So here goes: “Are you crazy?! What about Living in Emergency and Street Fight? How could you ignore Unser Taglich Brot and Etre et Avoir? These didn’t even make your top 100! But Madonna’s PR film made it in? Snobs! Cultural sycophants! Aaaaiiigh!”

Actually, I’m not really that worked up. But since agreement gives no grist to the blogosphere, I’ve compiled my list of the five best documentary films that no one has made yet. Steve James, take note.

Anarchist Island: Self-described anarchists travel the world protest circuit to disrupt organized marches, vandalize property, injure innocent bystanders, and maim law enforcement—all in the name of demonstrating how the world doesn’t need government. Anarchist Island drops 300 of these freedom fighters onto an isolated Caribbean paradise and watches them live their dream.

Grade School Bus Stop: The drama, the tears, the shifting alliances, the forgotten homework, the overwhelming tension as a seven-year-old races for the bus because, if they miss it, there’s no one to drive them to school! Don’t forget the comedy implications of dress-like-a-nerd day! The confrontation when the bus driver rips into a speeding teen who ignored the flashing stop sign. This… is real life.

The Pattern Repeats: This thrilling look into the cut-throat, artistic world of fabric design reveals the shameless favoritism, the monopolistic industry influence of fabric store powerhouses, and the creative upstarts fighting for their piece of the world fabric pie. It also seeks to answer that age-old question, “How do they get those painted-flower patterns to interconnect so seamlessly?”

The Somber Ones: You always see them standing there—unmoving, unspeaking. They haunt political statements and PR announcements, sports coverage and court findings. They are the wall of people that provide the backdrop to TV news coverage of press conferences. Often they are law enforcement, sometimes in business suits, and occasionally they appear to have just wandered in from the street looking for a bathroom. Who are these silent observers? What is their agenda? Why don’t they ever blink? And what do they want from you?

Painted Ivory: A loving cinematic ode to the much-maligned, often-forgotten backbone of the rock-n-roll music industry: the heavy metal keyboardist. Whether providing symphonic fills to add meat to the music, or synthesizing guitar solos to cover for the overly stoned frontman, these unheralded professionals are often the best musicians on the stage. But without the prop of a guitar or mic stand, they struggle to overcome decades of rock stereotypes that make it difficult to make swishing your hair, leaping about angrily, and prancing in a sexualized manner look anything but silly.