This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Great Trailers for Bad Movies

We've all seen and even loved movie trailers. Yet, they don't seem to get as much attention as the movies they are promoting. Whether the movie in question becomes a classic, an embarrassment, or forgotten, its trailer usually isn't given much lip service after the fact except by movie fanatics such as yours truly. Still, as Jamie Lee Curtis said in Coming Soon, even bad movies should have a little good footage.
So, to ring in 2014, I have decided to look at trailers that did a great job whetting my appetite for films which, alas, turned out to suck. Ironically, USA Today recently posted an article on the same subject.

1. Dune (1984): This film, directed by David Lynch and based on the classic epic book by Frank Herbert, had the same anticipation that would greet Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The previous year's release and success of Return of the Jedi only added to the potential for this flick to be another science fiction classic. Sadly, the film's budget and jumbled narrative (the exposition given by Virginia Madsen at the beginning of the film can be seen as an omen of what's to come) ended up turning this film into a bomb. Lynch, depending on what source you read, either was disinterested in the film from the start or was frustrated with the restrictions the studio and legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis put on him. While Lynch's original, longer version is now available, he's kept the film at arm's length since its release. In either case, a complex read such as Dune could not possibly have fit into 2-3 hours of screen time (imagine if Jackson had made Lord of the Rings only that long). But the movie's trailer did a great job at projecting the epic feel that the story should have had:

2. The Godfather Part III (1990): The only thing more anticipated that this movie, which was released Christmas Day, was Christmas itself. Francis Ford Coppola, of course, had scored Oscars for writing The Godfather (1972) and writing, directing, and producing The Godfather Part II (1974). By the start of the 1990s, though, he was in need of money, which is the main reason he accepted Paramount's long-standing offer to direct a third Godfather movie. Like the Star Wars prequels, the film falls flat on its face even though it tries to bring back many beloved aspects of previous installments. In the plus column, Al Pacino is great reprising his star-making role as Michael Corleone, and the climax at the opera looks great.
Many say that Sofia Coppola, who plays Michael's daughter, is the worst part of the movie, but I thought the worst part was the movie's attempts to bring the Vatican (specifically the real-life events of the Papal Banking Scandal and the death of Pope John Paul I) into the narrative. Even putting aside the fact that Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, which was released the same year, became the classic everyone thought this movie would be (in the same way that 2012's The Avengers was the great superhero film that everyone expected The Dark Knight Rises to be), the film's trailer only heightened our anticipation for what should have been a wonderful Christmas gift:

3. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992): It's sad that I have two films from Coppola on this list. As far as I'm concerned, though, this film had even more specific criteria to meet than The Godfather Part III. This is because Coppola and screenwriter James V. Hart kept insisting that this film was the definitive adaptation of Stoker's classic book. But, despite great production values and a perfectly cast Sir Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, the film was a huge letdown because it was NOT the definitive take on the book that Coppola and Hart said it would be. The main reason for this disappointment was due to the misguided decision of having Mina (Winona Ryder) as the reincarnated love of the Count (Gary Oldman). Perhaps the film's tagline, 'Love Never Dies,' should have tipped us off, but, as anyone who has actually read the book can tell you, there is no such past romance between these two characters. Making this aspect the main focus of the film makes Dracula far less menacing than he is in the book (never mind Bela Lugosi's or Sir Christopher Lee's famous portrayals of the character). The trailer seems to at least promise us a thrilling joyride:

4. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002): The fourth and final movie from Star Trek: The Next Generation came with the tagline 'A Generation's Final Journey Begins.' Sadly, the film itself, like the previous three TNG movies, becomes only concerned with being an action movie at the expense of both a coherent story and the aspects which made TNG such a great series. The film involves Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew fighting a man named Shinzon(Tom Hardy), whom the Romulans made to resemble Picard years earlier before discarding him. But now Shinzon re-emerges with a plan to conquer the Federation.
But the reason this film lacks the effectiveness of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), which was the final voyage for the original Trek crew, is that none of the events have any emotional impact, especially the climax when Data (Brent Spiner) sacrifices himself. The only scene that I truly liked was the ending when Picard bids farewell to Riker (Jonathan Frakes) as the latter heads off to captain the U.S.S. Titan with Troi (Marina Sirtis), who is now his wife. But its trailer at least gave us the hope that the film would be as great as Star Trek VI. Alas, this film reinforced the idea that TNG's curtain call should have been its magnificent series finale "All Good Things..."

5. The Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999, 2002, 2005): Like The Godfather Part III, the Star Wars prequels had a great deal of hype before they came out. But, while Coppola returned to the Corleone Family to raise money, George Lucas decided to make the prequels because Jurassic Park (1993) had shown how far his company, Industrial Light and Magic, had come in the field of special effects since he made the original Star Wars trilogy. Lucas had, more or less, exiled himself from moviemaking during that time, despite his input in films such as the Indiana Jones series and, infamously, Howard the Duck (1986). The sad thing is he did not take the time to hone his writing skills during his self-imposed exile. As a result, all three prequels were plagued with the same problems, such as bland acting (wasting Sir Christopher Lee in these films was unforgivable) and overused SFX. The first prequel, The Phantom Menace, is regarded as the worst of the three films, but the following two, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, really weren't any better, because, as the documentaries behind each movie will show you, Lucas spent most of the time parked in front of a green screen simply saying 'Action!' I suspected I'd be disappointed in Sith by the time it came out, but felt I should see it for, if nothing else, a sense of closure.

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