Sneaky Previews: Beware the trailer for “The Grey”


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“The Grey” with Liam Neeson opens this weekend. It’s a good movie. I’m just not sure it’s this movie:

When that trailer hit the Internet a few months ago “The Grey” quickly garnered a jokey reputation online as “The Movie Where Liam Neeson Punches Wolves.” I don’t really want to spoil the film for you, but I almost have if you’re going to enjoy this thing. If you’re planning to go to “The Grey” because you want to watch Liam Neeson beat the shit out of a pack of of wolves, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Last year, a woman sued the makers of the film “Drive” because she found its trailer “misleading.” If that woman sees “The Grey” based on its trailer she might try to sue the entire film industry.

The trailer’s not really misleading per se; (just about) everything you see in it, along with Neeson’s stoic voiceover, does appear in the final film. It’s not so much the details that the trailer gets wrong, it’s the tone. The aggro music, the shots of Neeson running and screaming with broken liquor bottles taped to his knuckles like a drunk trying to imitate Wolverine, it all suggests an intense and slightly cartoonish action spectacular. Which is pretty much what you expect from Neeson and director Joe Carnahan. The last project these two made together was the big-screen adaptation of “The A-Team.” After you’ve had a tank fight a plane in mid-air, what’s a little wolf punching between friends?

In reality, though, “The Grey” is one of the darkest movies to come out of Hollywood in a very long time. A plane carrying Neeson and the employees of an Alaskan oil refinery goes down in the middle of nowhere, and the few survivors need to band together to find their way back to civilization and, yes, fight off some very angry wolves. But the film is less about action than philosophy — about what it means to be alive and why we struggle so mightily against death. It’s structured like a survival horror film — a large cast is whittled down one by one — but Carnahan doesn’t fetishize death the way a survival horror movie would. Instead, he brings us into the lives of the characters, who are fully formed and painfully real. And when they die, brutally and mercilessly, it hurts.

This is a sad, powerful film. It sticks to your ribs like a good meal. You’ll be carrying it around with you for days. But it ain’t what the studio’s selling, namely The Movie Where Liam Neeson Punches Wolves. Is that a problem?

I say it is and it isn’t. On the one hand, if you saw “The Grey” because of that trailer and felt ripped off afterwards, I’d be hard-pressed to argue with you. On some level, that trailer is a bait-and-switch. It’s not particularly cool to promise folks one movie and give them another, even if the movie you actually give them is deeply moving and totally satisfying, albeit in a completely different way.

On the other hand, if there’s anything worse than a trailer like the one for “The Grey” it’s a trailer that’s the exact opposite of the one for “The Grey;” in other words, a trailer that spoils everything. This is a subject we’ve discussed a couple of times on IFC.com, most prominently in this list of trailers that totally give away the ending of the movie. Though spoiling your own movie seems like a terrible idea, the strategy has occasionally worked, most famously with Tom Hanks’ “Cast Away.” The trailer revealed the fact that — SPOILER ALERT, WHICH IS MORE THAN THE TRAILER GAVE YOU — Hanks manages to escape the island on which he gets stranded (just like “The Grey,” the film takes place in the wake of a harrowing plane crash). The trailer couldn’t have been more clear that Hanks survived his ordeal and returned to to civilization. The film still made over $400 million worldwide.

But why? Why pay for a movie whose outcome you already know? It was a question that vexed me when I wrote that list. Here’s the answer I finally came up with: many audiences aren’t going to movies for entertainment, they’re going for reassurance. They don’t even want the happy ending — they need the happy ending. They need to be coddled and comforted and told that even if you get stuck on an island with a volleyball as your only friend you needn’t worry because somehow you’ll make it home okay. And more than needing it — they need to know that’s waiting for them in the theater before they pay for the ticket. If there’s a chance Tom Hanks dies, they don’t want to go. Life’s tough enough already. They don’t need that heartache.

So maybe that’s what “The Grey”‘s trailer is — not really misleading as much as it is reassuring. If we’re going to watch people get threatened by wolves, we need to be sure Liam Neeson will be there, bottle claws and all, to protect them. The problem here is that “The Grey” itself doesn’t really believe in reassurances. In Carnahan’s view, you can be a good person, you can have a beautiful family, you can cry to God all you want, but when those wolves come, no amount of single serving liquor will protect you. It’s a profound statement. But profound statements don’t put asses in the seats like guarantees do.

I can’t guarantee you’ll like “The Grey,” but I think you will. I can guarantee you ain’t gonna see much wolf punching. Proceed accordingly.

Did the trailer of “The Grey” make you want to see the movie? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Star Trek III Everett

Speak Klingon?

How Well Do You Know the Aliens of Star Trek? Take Our Quiz!

Catch a Star Trek movie marathon on IFC this month.

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From the Klingons to the Borg, the various Star Trek crews have encountered many alien races in the final frontier of space. Before you catch IFC’s Star Trek marathon, take our quiz on the various aliens from the movies and TV shows. We promise it’s easier than the Kobayashi Maru.


Old School

Best Party Ever

Top 10 Wildest Parties in Movie History

Party on with the Benders season finale tonight at 10P ET/PT.

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With the Uncle Chubbys boys throwing a wild party for Karen and Paul this week on the season finale of Benders, we thought we’d pay tribute to the biggest and most badass parties ever thrown on the big screen. Which parties would you die to go to? Which ones are you most likely to die at from going to? Before you catch the Benders finale tonight at 10P ET/PT, check out our list of the craziest parties to ever grace the silver screen.

10. Bachelor Party

20th Century Fox

Name the last party you went to attended by Tom Hanks AND a literal high horse. And if you can, kudos.

9. Animal House

Universal Pictures

Hey, does anyone want to hear me play gui—Ah, Bluto, what the hell??!!

8. Old School

DreamWorks Pictures

DreamWorks Pictures

Kegs, a hot DJ, random streaking…the Old School party has it all. We’re betting Frank never made it to Bed, Bath and Beyond, though.

7. Revenge of the Nerds

Revenge of the Nerds Thriller

Ain’t no party like a nerd party, particularly when “Thriller” starts playing. Don’t forget the “Wonder Joints.”

6. Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

If you ever find yourself at a party filled with ’70s adult film stars, remember to put a towel down.

5. House Party

New Line Cinema

If you’re wondering what the ’90s were like, watch any of the House Party movies. They were like this.

4. Can’t Hardly Wait

Columbia Pictures

This party is like an uncut blast of ever ’90s high school movie. When the kid from Hook is bringing down the house with an epic lip sync performance of “Paradise City,” you know it’s a good party.

3. Weird Science

Universal Pictures

Mutants, missiles and Kelly LeBrock. Whatever you do, don’t tell Chet!

2. Real Genius

TriStar Pictures

Val Kilmer knew the one secret to a kick-ass party. In a word, lasers!

1. Risky Business

Warner Brothers

Before there was Xenu, there were hookers. High school would never be the same.

Marc Maron – Maron, Gallery Art – Photo Credit: Katrina Marcinowski / IFC.

WTF with Bob & David

Listen to Bob Odenkirk and David Cross Talk Comedy With Marc Maron

Todd Margaret returns January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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For fans of Todd Margaret and Better Call Saul, this week’s episode of WTF with Marc Maron is mandatory listening.

Bob Odenkirk stopped by Marc’s garage to talk about his new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Not content to have one of comedy’s new legends on hand, Marc got David Cross on the phone so the duo could talk about working with the Mr. Show gang once again on the new project, Bob’s work on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and more. David also dropped some hints about the third season of Todd Margaret, which he calls “quite different” and Bob dubs “mind-blowing.”

Listen to Bob and David on the latest episode of WTF below, and be sure to catch the return of a very, very different Todd Margaret when season three premieres January 7th at 10P on IFC. You can also catch up on seasons one and two of Todd Margaret on Netflix and on IFC this Thanksgiving during our Sweatsgiving Marathon.

Who is Todd Margaret? Find out below.

Want more Todd? Check out the season three trailer below.

Catch up on seasons one and two of Todd Margaret right now on Netflix.

D Gets Animated

Hit the Road to Festival Supreme with Tenacious D’s New Animated Shorts

Festival Supreme hits Los Angeles Saturday, October 10th.

Tenacious D Animated

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Tenacious D is very animated about this year’s Festival Supreme, which returns to Los Angeles for a third awesome year on Saturday, October 10th. With a line-up that includes Amy Poehler, The Kids in the Hall, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion, Aubrey Plaza, The Darkness and many more, can you blame them?

Now all they have to do is get to Festival Supreme in time to get the party started. And you can follow along as Tenacious D hit the road in a new animated mini-series.

In episode one, tragedy strikes when The D finds out the IFC jet has been double booked. (Maron strikes again!) How will they get to Festival Supreme now?

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As the dynamic duo makes their way to California, someone crashes their road trip—literally.

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The Kids in the Hall may have forgotten to get their passports, but that will never stop them from making it to Los Angeles’ Shrine Expo Hall & Grounds by Saturday, October 10th.

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Will the gang be able to make it to Festival Supreme in time? Watch below, and be sure to grab tickets and follow IFC on Twitter for more updates on Festival Supreme 2015.

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