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Trailer Park

I always find it odd when they refer to movie previews (what everyone I knew called them when I was growing up in Connecticut) as trailers. Trailers (okay, I surrender) are mini movies, assembled for one purpose: to put asses (pun not…oh, never mind) in the seats for the film itself.

The better they tell their little story, the more likely folks are going to want to see the movie. Most trailers today are hyperactive in the extreme, and some are downright misleading. Worse, some give away key plot points. A classic example was Cast Away, which told you something about the end of the film that you really shouldn't know before you see it. There are also films that don't even come close to meeting the expectations their trailers generate. Take Pearl Harbor (please!). Its trailer remains perhaps my favorite of all time, but it promoted one of the most disappointing movies of the decade.

So it's a little risky to rate films based on their trailers. But rating trailers themselves is fair game. And it's even easier today, when trailers of all sorts can be found all over the Internet, at such sites as aol.com and apple.com. Many are even available in high definition (720p and 1080p), though not all computers can download and display these higher resolutions.

I took a look at the trailers for a bunch of high profile films (and some not so high profile) opening this spring and summer. I watched in 480p, which meant viewing them in windows that filled only a fraction of my computer monitor's screen. Nevertheless, I was able to take some educated guesses about what you'll see from the full film (visually, not dramatically) at your local multiplex. Again, the ratings apply to the trailers themselves; how the film itself will fare is anybody's guess.

I also recommend that you check out these trailers for yourself. If they prove uninteresting to you, you can stop them at any point. Try that in the theater!

Poseidon> …. B+ Looks like nonstop action is afoot when a cruise ship encounters a huge tidal wave and capsizes. A remake of a 1972 potboiler from the disaster film schlockmeister Irwin Allen, this one looks to be a significant upgrade on the tacky original—even if Shelley Winters can't be on hand to reprise her underwater swimming routine. At any rate, the trailer kept me entertained for 2 minutes. Director Wolfgang Peterson has a knack sea stories, particularly those involving boats under (or about to be under) water. May 12

Over the Hedge …. A A lot of computer-animated films are coming your way this summer, and the glut could separate the bits from the bytes. But this could well be the runner up for the box office champ (none of them will beat out Pixar's Cars). Here, a gaggle of forest animals invade a local suburban neighborhood. All heck breaks loose (it is a PG film, so we can only go to heck). Hey, there's even a home theater system in the trailer, so the film is already a must see! It looks like the sort of animated treat that even adults will enjoy, if they can find a kid to bring them. May 19

Superman Returns 2006 …. A- Supe, is seems, is destined to return and return and return… The primo superhero of all (Batman and Spidey are cheap knockoffs in comparison), he's appeared in more film and television incarnations than any pretender, fighting for Truth, Justice, and Big Box Office Returns. And he'll probably get them this time around, too. In this film, even Brando Talks (the producers of the Shelley Winter-less Poseidon could learn a thing or two)! The trailer doesn't show much, but is suitably serious and non-campy, setting what I hope is the tone of the movie. It also appears to have special effects that the producers of the 1970s film would have killed for. Director Bryan Singer did get to practice on a couple of smaller superhero movies, so the stars may be in alignment on this one. June 30

X-Men: The Last Stand …. B+ Speaking of Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Men films vacated that chair this time around, handing it over to Brett Ratner. Lots of things get blowed up real good in this hyperactive trailer, but they could probably show a field of daisies for 2 minutes and the film would (probably will) be one of the biggest hits of the year. The only thing I know is they might have to change the title to Maybe the Last Stand to allow for the inevitable fourth installment. May 26

The DaVinci Code …. B+ Historical crock though it may be, the trailer for this pop-novel turned film suggests that the film will be exciting and well crafted. It's definitely a departure for director Ron Howard, who usually handles lighter—or at least less controversial—material. May 19

Mission: Impossible III … B Or, as the trailer suggests, More Stuff Blows Up III with Tom Cruise on board again for the BO (that's box office). I liked MI:I, hated MI:II, but anything directed by J.J. Abrams has a shot at being worth your time. May 5

The Wild …. B+ OK, I'm a sucker for anything that's computer animated or even just plain animated (though I have to admit that Bambi II was a snoozer for anyone over 6). Sure looks a little derivative: Can you say Madagascar boys and girls? And opening a major Disney animated film in April is not a sign of confidence. But the trailer is entertaining, the animation impressive. Opened April 14

Cars …A Disney…Pixar…Cars…Summer. If this isn't one of the top hits of the year, I'm missing something. The trailer has been around for a while, but provides no reason for pessimism. June 9

Lady In the Water …. A- A very classy montage and music soundtrack gives nothing away and still makes you want to see this M. Night Shyamalan film. Style is everything here, and at least in this trailer, it works. July 21

A Scanner Darkly … A Animation for adults—or at least in this case computer animation by way of rotoscoping (in which live actors are photographed in their performances and that live action footage is then used as a template for the animators). The director, Richard Linklater, used the same techniques for his earlier Waking Life. The trailer is visually striking. This could be a big hit, though must fight through the "animation is for kids" prejudice in the adult audience. What the trailer doesn't suggest is the film's paranoid view of a dark future. But then, this is based on a Philip K. Dick story, so how could it be anything else? July 7

The Promise …. A+ I'm not usually a fan of Chinese action-fantasies (didn't like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon one bit), but the visuals in the trailer for this one are nothing short of jaw-dropping. This trailer makes me want to see the film more than any other trailer here. And there's not long to wait. May 5.

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