April 6, 2018
Trailer Watch

'The First Purge,' 'Night School,' Paul Schrader, & More Trailers You May Have Missed

Staying on top of the trailer circuit is a full-time job in and of itself. We're here to help.

There's no better way to kick off your weekend then by looking ahead to what's arriving in theaters in the coming months. In this edition of Trailer Watch, we feature the latest from master auteurs Spike Lee and Paul Schrader, a new documentary by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, a creepy children's film by horror maestro Eli Roth, a new fall comedy that reunites Malcolm D. Lee with Tiffany Haddish, and a prequel to the politically conscious horror franchise, The Purge. Take a gander below and let us know which of the six you're most looking forward to.

Pass Over (dir. Spike Lee)

Every few years, Spike Lee will take a momentary break from directing his celebrated narrative features to turn his camera toward nonfiction projects, sports docs, music videos, and, in very rare instances, live stage plays. His filming of the 2008 Broadway rock musical Passing Strange, about an African-American who travels to Europe to find himself and discover "the real," was incredibly vibrant and electric, and Lee now returns to the theater space with Pass Over, his filming of a Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of an Antoinette Nwandu play.

The film follows two men on a street corner who dream of a better life where they're not constantly confronted by harassing police officers, to pass over to a better way of living. The story appears like a cross between Samuel Beckett and well, Spike Lee, as it drifts through fantastical situations—who's that guy in the vanilla suit who shows up straight out of a different century?—and  the unfortunately very real horrors of police brutality. Judging by the trailer, the theater audience, shown viewing the play at attention in several shots, may see themselves in the characters too. Release Date: April 20th, 2018, via Amazon Studios.

RBG (dir. Betsy West and Julie Cohen)

25 years after being sworn in by Bill Clinton as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the highly influential Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the subject of the latest documentary from filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen. A vocal champion for women's rights (and an opponent of gender discrimination), the Brooklyn-born Ginsburg has inspired generations of women fighting for equality, and her likeness and inspirational quotes have been seen across t-shirts, web pages, and coffee mugs the world over.

Still very much active—you're never too old to pump weights—Ginsburg remains a cultural icon, and the film, which premiered at Sundance last January, feels like a solid documentation of her endless determination. And thumbs up for this very simple but clever theatrical posterRelease Date: May 4th 2018, via Magnolia Pictures.

First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader)

Paul Schrader, the celebrated screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (as well as the director of some cinephile-adored titles himself), has been receiving nothing but praise since his First Reformed premiered in Venice last summer. Festivalgoers who have already seen the film have advised those unfamiliar not to watch the trailer, but as its own beast, it's a compelling work of beauty that only has us more excited for the director's complete accomplishment.

Shot in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio, the film appears to have some expertly designed, claustrophobic framing, a compelling lead character struggling with his religious faith (a Schrader hallmark), and a solemn, overcast visual texture that instantly draws you in. The trailer is both subtle and big in its tonal output—we'll never tire of witnessing Ethan Hawke arrive at a deliciously restrained emotional explosion—and it's the rare marketing material that's "critic pull quotes" actually increase the weight of the tension on screen. Release Date: May 18h 2018, via A24.

The First Purge (dir. Gerard McMurray)

A prequel designed to answer the question of, "But wait, why would anyone actively participate in the slaughtering of innocent people?," The First Purge is the fourth entry in the Blumhouse series that kicked off smashingly well in 2013. This entry appears to go even deeper in its examination of the slimy, bloodthirsty, soulless nature of American politics—CNN's Van Jones has a cameo!—and makes a point to show how citizens unwilling to participate in the purge (what if they just want to party with friends?) are forced into the mandate by soldiers posing as regular civilians. Issues of class and race are also given their due.

Three-time Academy Award nominee Marisa Tomei plays the conflicted evil mastermind behind the operation, and with the film opening on July 4th, you could say it's a little on the nose, but what in American politics currently isn't? Release Date: July 4th 2018, via Universal Pictures.

The House with a Clock in its Walls (dir. Eli Roth)

Eli Roth, the gore-loving filmmaker who revitalized the "torture porn" horror subgenre with Hostel and Hostel: Part II,  is directing an adaptation of a famous children's novel from the 1970s? And Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment is producing? And Cate Blanchett and Jack Black are co-starring? The answer to all of these questions is an emphatic yes. Roth is taking on his first blockbuster—and with an interesting "off brand" choice of source material—that looks to be a fun haunted house flick that's whimsical, magical, and a little scary.

The trailer, accompanied by a gloriously grainy, old-school Universal Studios logo, feels like a throwback to when children's films were darker and danger was ever present (the clips glimpsed at here, including one shot of Blanchett and Black waving creepily on a sidewalk, feel uncomfortably uncanny). No word yet on if the clock is stuck in the walls of the house due to devilish intentions or faulty, sloppy architecture. Release Date: September 21st, 2018, via Universal Pictures.

Night School (dir. Malcolm D. Lee)

Girls Trip collaborators director Malcolm D. Lee and star Tiffany Haddish reunite for a new comedy that, along with current superstar Kevin Hart, should be a fall breakout crowdpleaser. The plot is thankfully simple: Hart's character, a high school dropout who has dreams of becoming a stockbroker, signs up for night classes to get his GED. Haddish plays his instructor who deems him "clinically dumb" and the two spar as Hart's difficulties and unorthodox approach to learning cause a riff between pupil and instructor.

Oddly, cameos by rapper Fat Joe and a poultry spot called Christian Chicken do not feel out of place in the trailer. And hey, it appears both funny and cautionary: never propose to your girlfriend in a store that sells BBQ grills. Release Date: September 28th, 2018, via Universal Pictures.     

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