2Guns, Riddick & Not Seeing Prisoners

The Ninety-Nine Percent


If you make a film that is exclusively about plot, don’t give away the plot.
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Reported on 2nd of October, 2013

There’s really not much to say about Riddick except that it’s pretty good. Lots of long sequences with no dialog, people with clear motives trying to get stuff, and a space doggie. Wish I had seen it. But I didn’t, and this is naturally enough because of the trailer, which makes a break from showing everything, and simply shows everything in the last twenty minutes, which weirdly, with all the CGI space lizards isn’t actually that exciting. I’m getting increasingly bored with the expectation that perfectly rendered vistas of endless toothsome monsters might be exciting or scary. If you’re going to be the ‘When Toads Fly’ level of Rayman: Legends, at least give me the controller.

The Trailer Point


re: 2Guns, Riddick & Not Seeing Prisoners
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And so it comes time to talk about the trailer point, which I haven’t discussed as the headphone scheme has worked so well in avoiding the seeing of trailers, and getting a lot of Satanicpornocultshop under my belt. But sometimes I make the mistake of seeing a film with another (gasp) human being, and then the further mistake of not simply talking all the way through the trailers. Why should we care if the audience thinks we’re rude, if they don’t care that the filmmakers are?

To explain: the trailer point is the place you reach in the film where you’re not going to see anything that the trailer hasn’t given away. It is a time of much relief, where you can finally relax and enjoy not knowing what’s happening. In the case of the remake of The Last House on the Left, it’s the last scene in the film, which means you can relax; you didn’t have to see The Last House on the Left.

2Guns

31 August 2013 @ The Cineworld Brighton


or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 

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In the case of 2Guns, it was the opening scene, because the only thing I saw was the poster, which had Mr. Washington and Mr. Wahlberg with…2 Guns. Well, they had to give something away. It was a pleasant enough experience, less Get Shorty and more Be Cool. But being honest, if you’re going to make a movie about different characters double crossing each other and saying funny things once in a while, you’re not going to make a bad movie. It’s quite possibly the only kind of movie people should make.

The Take: 2Guns

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Profits!
It’s this kind of film.
$10.00
Total Profits
$10.00
Losses!
If it was 10% better, it would be 100% better.
$4.00
Total Losses
$4.00

$6.00

Unfortunately, it was at 2Guns that I actually saw the trailer for Riddick which is what got us down this road in the first place. But as Riddick is an unique case, let’s examine the control in this experiment. How about the trailer for Prisoners, which exemplifies what I call the Touchstone Trailer. ‘I haven’t seen it,’ I used to say, ‘but I’ve seen the Touchstone trailer’, referring to the 1990s company that invented giving everything away, and is now defunct. Make whatever connection you like. JJ Abrams Comes To Town! Mysterious Brain Rot Grips Citizenry!

Not Seeing Prisoners

2 October 2013 @ Nowhere


$10.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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The empiricist in me wanted to see Prisoners, until I made the discovery that it is 150 minutes long. If you’ve made a trailer that shows everything in 3 minutes, the anticipation of agony watching something I didn’t like the first time, and which the second time the T.A.R.D.I.S. stretched out fifty times longer, was substantial. I’d call it the one film I won’t see this year, but rather than simply say nothing, I’ll do what any other critic would do, I’ll review it without seeing it.

The Take: Not Seeing Prisoners

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Profits!
The 40 minutes I didn’t have to experience of the Nicest Family Ever Doing Ordinary Family Things, waiting, ever so desirously, for the kids to get napped. Hey, I didn’t make the movie. It’s not my fantasy. I mean fear. Fear.
$2.00
The 40 minutes waiting for the detective to find creepy Mr. Dano, even though we, as trailer watchers, already know that he will.
$2.00
The 30 minutes waiting for the creepy Mr. Dano to get released on a lack of evidence.
$2.00
Missing the forty minutes of moral wrangling about whether or not to hold ‘prisoner’ (see, the title has so many different…ah Jesus Christ on crutch made of poo) Mr. Dano and torture him for the children’s whereabouts.
$2.00
Missing the 1 minute we didn’t see if the children are alive (resolution!), dead (irony!) or we don’t know (ambiguity), with odds of 10 to 1, 3 to 1 and 3 to 2, respectively. It’s a critical darling, and bad endings make critics feel deep.
$2.00
Total Profits
$10.00
Losses!
Didn’t see the film, hence,
$0.00
Total Losses
$0.00

$10.00

$10.00. I loved it. I have to not see films more often.

The last point is a simple one. There are many reasons to see films: gags, story and character. Okay, there are three. Fine. But still, if you made A Touchstone Trailer of, say Ted, it couldn’t kill the film, because knowing the story doesn’t matter that much and there are a lot of jokes. A film like Prisoners, which is reliant on not knowing what’s going to happen next, doesn’t work if you do know. If you make a film that is exclusively about plot, don’t give away the plot.

The reason it’s got such a high tomato rating is largely based on two things: the vicarious Fox News pleasure film critics can experience without having to sully themselves by seeing a Lifetime movie, and, two, and God fucking knows I’ve said it a million times, critics don’t see trailers. Basically, it’s a code that the moviegoer knows and the critic would not: if you know the response to ‘Let’s call Flatliners Kevin Bacon!’, you’re a filmgoer. If you don’t, you’re a critic. Your analyses have as much relevance to the experience as a geologic survey does to the stone in my shoe.

Now giving away things is obviously not bad. The trailer for The Matrix stands out as one, since they really could have screwed that one up, but instead just have Trinity whisper to Neo: ‘Do you want to know what the Matrix is?’, and guess what, we really did. It’s a fair rule: if your movie’s good, you don’t need to show anything in your trailer that’s not in the first ten minutes. If it takes longer for the story to get going, or that there’s not enough material there, your film sucks. Take a do-over. This rule is currently being violated by the new trailer for Gravity. Having generated a significant amount of interest by simply showing the first two minutes, the new trailer now contains the rest of the film. Or it would have, were it not for my set of closed back German Maestros, preventing me from actually hearing or seeing it.

I’m a critic now. I don’t see trailers. Don’t listen to me.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I still have to actually sit through the commercials, looking away and being forced to wait 25 minutes for the film to start.

So a critic, only angry.

Riddick

5 September 2013 @ The Cineworld Brighton


$4.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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Finally returning to the case of Riddick however, the trailer point is especially reprehensible, since it only shows things from the last twenty minutes. No, really. The film, structurally, is kind of brilliant, as the first part is pure dialog free survival on a desert planet, with a very brief apology as to having made the second film about a survival character in a palace intrigue drama. They know that that have to squirm their way out of the painted corner that is The Chronicles of Riddick, they squirm their way quick, and their embarrassment makes us like them.

The second part doesn’t even have Riddick in it, where he becomes the mysterious background figure, picking off the mercenaries one by one (yes, I’m aware I’m giving away the film. That’s what you pay me for). There’s a really nice shot of him just walking away into the sand storm and then no more Riddick for a while. It’s a big risk to switch entirely to the bad guys point of view, and it works.

The third part, well, I could have done, needless to say, with no trailer at all. But Riddick is the perfect example of why the trailer point is so important to the enjoyment (or lack thereof) in a film. Because the trailer shows Riddick captured. So all the cat and mouse he plays is leading to that, and we’re just trying our best to enjoy not knowing what’s going to happen next, all the while knowing. We do not.

The Take: Riddick

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Profits!
Not sure where to put this, but I think that Mr. Diesel’s ‘One World’ company logo revealing that ‘war is bad’ in fifteen seconds – with no irony – falls under camp.
$2.00
It’s a muscular film, but
$12.00
Total Profits
$14.00
Losses!
having seen the trailer, it is spoilt.
$6.00
Can we please get back to something scarier than CGI? Like dudes with diving helmets in Mork costumes?
$2.00
Total Losses
$8.00

$6.00

Richard says that the amount of plot they show from the trailer tells you how bad the film is, but this implies that there are people who know what they’re doing. And if this ain’t true in the gubment, it ain’t true in Hollywood. The trailer point is not new, and it hasn’t ruined films. It just makes it harder to enjoy them. I’m aware that I’m in the minority, in that I watch films like TV was not invented, and TV like TV killed films. As such, even with my magical headphones anyway, I wind up seeing a lot of trailers, and a lot of times, and know enough about the films going in that it ruins it for me.

On the other hand, I think the marketing folks have subconsciously stumbled on a pleasurable experience for everyone else. They know what I merely suspect: most films can sustain about three minutes of attention, even pre-YouTube. Unfortunately it’s like stretching out pleasure, that the experience of going to the cinema in toto is more consistent. When you add in the trailers, there’s less chance of disappointment, but less chance of fun. There’s an easy solution to this. I propose we simply put the good films to the non-ruin side, and give away whatever we like to the White House Downs and Prisoners of the world. I don’t see the problem. Like I just said, Hollywood is populated with people who know what they’re doing. And dependent on people who think that.

The Lonely Comments Section

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