There are few things worse than a bad movie. You spent the $10 to go see the movie (more than that if you took a date and/or bought concessions) and you are committing a chunk of your life to see something that you hope is good. Fortunately the movie trailer can be a good guide of how good or bad a movie is. Here is a handy guide on how you can tell if a movie sucks merely by watching the trailer.
The Too-Serious Comedy
You know these trailers. They use several tricks to make themselves appear to be far more earth-shattering than they actually are. The first is the big voice guy. You know him from every dramatic movie ever. Here's a good trailer for an interesting movie that features him in the only way he should be featured in a comedy:
The second is music. If a comedy is using anything dramatic for its trailer cues, you know you're in trouble. The most notable music, of course, is "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana. It's a classic piece of music from a Carl Orff opera, but it has no place being in a comedy. Movies that have used it in their intros include such bombs as Jingle All The Way and Bushwhacked. Alas, most of these movies are too old for me to find a trailer online, but if you can find it, take a look.
The Terrible Action Movie
Here's one that's a bit harder. You can get away with "O Fortuna" and the big voice guy in an action movie. On the other hand there are a few tricks that they generally pull if the movie is junk. The most notable that is specific to action movies is the quick cut. They cut between scenes like a stuck remote control so you can't tell that the movie is terrible. Take the trailer for this Bruce Willis bomb The Jackal. Now that's a terrible movie and a classic example of an actor slumming it for a paycheck. It brings me to my general rules of thumb for any bad movie.
Any movie that declares the pedigree of the actors has definite bad movie potential. I can't find a specific example because I don't go to the theatre as much as I used to but you've seen them before. Imagine each of the following lines as white letters on a dark background.
Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman
Academy Award winner Kate Winslet
Directed by Academy Award winner Ridley Scott
Pants on Fire
Unless it's a drama (the only exception to this rule) if it says how darn great the actors are then it's a piece of junk. The actors' names should stand for themselves instead of wanting a globe or a man to speak for them. If they don't and they have to lard it up with kudos, you're in trouble.
If the trailer for the movie itself isn't good, you know the movie won't redeem that. A trailer is the best 2 minutes of a movie and if it doesn't leave you saying that you want to watch it, the movie is best left unwatched.
Hopefully these tips will leave your pockets fuller and your lives less like my mom's DVD cabinet, where Blockbuster goes to get its rentals and you can't trust anything she has because there are no gems.