The scratching of a the needle on an invisible recordThere’s no turntable anywhere to be found but the noise happens, sent from the parallel universe where all actions are assigned their own signature sound effects. It indicates a shocking but comedic twist or surprise. When a character’s wife meets his girlfriend, when you find out your son brought home another man for Thanksgiving, when your Golden Retriever dunks a basketball, when it is revealed that your stepmom is, indeed, an alien, the record scratches. James Brown may or may not shout “YOW!” after this sort of thing, but he’s been known to do it quite a bit. Runner-up: Groups of people singing into hairbrushes.
‘Everything you know is about to change’Trailers for sequels, trying to grift you into believing that you’re not actually going to pay $10 to see the same activities that transpired in the first movie, often feature a character — like that Aslan Jesus-Lion — solemnly intoning this phrase. And by “everything” they usually mean that some new characters, maybe a monkey, came along to freshen up the scenery. Or they go off to a new location, like an island somewhere to battle creatures made of molten goo who live in a volcano. Runner-up: Johnny Depp’s seemingly endless enthusiasm for dressing like a pirate.
Terror-vacuum of frightening silenceThe new shock-cut set-up standard of PG-13 horror tedium, it comes late in the scary trailer and usually involves a character walking up to another one who’s seated with his or her back to the camera. Why are they sitting alone in a dark room facing the wall or that spooky painting of the dead child who was part of a Holocaust medical experiment? Everything is silent, unnaturally so, as the ambient noiseless tip-toe gesture leads to the seated person suddenly throwing a wicked combo of twisted monster-face and howling hell-scream at the poor startled innocent other person. The audience, however, has been patiently waiting for it for two long minutes and will use this opportunity to goof on viewing companions who fall for it.Runner-up: Horror trailers where they tell you the whole movie. That’s you, “Sorority Row.”
Garry MarshallIf he’s in the movie that usually means he’s just a passing burden. (Although sometimes he’s funny, like in “Lost in America.” And TV is another story altogether, where he’s been great on “Murphy Brown” and “The Sarah Silverman Program.”) But if he’s the director — and you won’t know if you’re not looking closely at the hard-to-read production credits they flash near the end — then you’re doomed. Super-doomed isn’t going too far. The proof: “Georgia Rule,” “Princess Diaries 2,” “The Other Sister,” “Raising Helen,” “Runaway Bride,” “Dear God,” “Exit to Eden.” And while Romy and Michelle may love it when he finally lets Julia go shopping, if it’s been a while since you’ve seen “Pretty Woman” then you should give it another look and wonder why you enjoyed it so much the first time around for reasons that don’t involve Roberts’ wide-open-mouth cackle. Runner-up: “Starring Tom Cruise.”
A “just might” trailer is usually employed by romantic comedies about eccentric misfits, all-ages family films concerning blended clans with 19 children or “mommy dies of cancer at Christmas” weepies trying to pass themselves off as warm-hearted chuckle-fests. “Just might” trailers are always voiced by warm-throated male narrators. Examples: “When you least expect it, you just might realize (emphatic pause) that the love of your life (second emphatic pause) is right in front of you.” Also, “… she just might find … that all she ever needed … was herself.” Or “… just might discover … that family … is a life sentence.” Runner-up: “In a time,” “In a country” and “In a place,” which now stand in for the much-maligned and thankfully-discarded “In a world.” But they’re exactly the same thing.