THIS IS THE END Red Band Trailer: A very special shoot

Having spent the past 2 months writing about the earliest trailers, I figured it was high time to check in with movie marketing in its second century.

I sought inspiration from MTV which has a page that tracks the most popular trailers. While Movie 43 interests me, both for its lousy box-office reception, its scores of bankable stars and its multi-vignette, train-wreck of a concept, there was just too much to describe and not really that much to say.

But with the comedy This is the End, directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg starring Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill & Jay Baruchel as “fictional versions of themselves in the aftermath of a global apocalypse,” (thx, Wikipedia), I could once again dilate on one of my favorite trailer topics: the special shoot. (The Red-band trailer also made me laugh.)

In The NC-17 trailer, a 3+minute frankenstein in which two distinct special shoot segments are succeeded by a slick “trailer-esque” action montage seems to be what it is: cheap, simple, silly, and dude-crude improvisation, using the in-person “host” approach to compel interest and generate laughs. Without the star talent on board to exploit their fame and make fun of themselves and each other, it wouldn’t work. Note to unknown filmmakers: don’t try this approach for your low-budget, comedy.

The self-contained first segment (approximately :55), shot from a fixed commercial security camera with time code and occasional lines of distortion, captures Rogan and Franco, playing themselves, seated in Franco’s bomb shelter discussing the predicted end of the world (12-21-12) and their upcoming film, scheduled for Summer 2013 release. With distortion bars indicating the passage of time, we see the two friends addressing their boredom by sparring with sword and sauce pan (and later, a floppy dildo), smoking pot, jack-assing around with guns, sharing intimate personal details, masturbating at opposite sides of the room and quarreling before retiring, in spoon position, on the lone cot in the corner for their first night in the bunker. That’s the concept. One angle. One room; two actors who say and do things that male leads are not supposed to do and say.

This segment ends with the MPAA Red Band card, leading me to think the “teaser” was over. But not so fast. In their brief remarks about their upcoming movie, they mention that they’ve prepared a scene. And it’s that scene which provides the focus of the next, nearly 2:00 self-contained segment.

In this “act”, after establishing shots of burning hillsides and the smoking, exterior of a contemporary luxury home, we cut to Franco, brushing his teeth as he notices Danny McBride, sitting down to a groaning breakfast table in his (Franco’s) kitchen. Franco rouses his mates – Hill, Baruchel, Robinson and Rogan–to the breech of apocalypse etiquette, and they approach the table where Macbride is blithely overconsuming their precious supplies. He scorns their alarm as the effect of an as yet-to-be completed acid trip, after pointing out defects of dress and grooming, nailing Franco in particular for homosexual behavior that Franco, playing to rumors and his pretty boy looks, shrugs off well short of a denial.

Mcbride then reads Rogen and Hill for their acting in this scene (whether it’s a special shoot or not, I couldn’t say) and in recent films, before a loud battering on the front door, punctuated by Robinson’s high-pitched shriek, leads into a conventional trailer sequence of scenes from “end of the world,” in which the bros will be involved. The trailer closes with “confessional” button, shot on home video, in which Robinson admits that he has been obliged to drink his own urine, presumably to survive, but then cracks a piss-drinking smile in remarking that it tasted good. The trailer exploits the public personalities and profiles these actors have established for its humor, a humor that wouldn’t work without that “extra-diegetic” contribution.

Although there appears to be a female co-star somewhere in the film, the trailer makes plain that this is in essence a coarse, self-conscious buddy film featuring 6 talented physical comedians, among whom three have attained true stardom. Their chemistry within a situation that is ripe for banter, put-downs and improvised dialogue is what the film is selling. If you like these crude or gross out humor, if you like these actors and if you find the “set-up” promising, you will probably like the film. It might also be a hot mess of self-indulgence masquerading as comedy. But perhaps that’s entertainment enough.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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