Trailer Watch returns this week with films from two Academy Award-nominated directors, an eerie post-apocalyptic joint by the director of The Handmaid's Tale, a truer-than-life story of an American political race from 30 years ago, and a slasher film that proves sometimes it's best to just stay inside during the Halloween season.
I Think We're Alone Now (dir. Reed Morano)
In no way, shape, or form based on the 1987 hit cover song from the artist simply known as Tiffany, this end-of-the-world, post-apocalyptic (it's always post-apocalyptic) two-hander stars Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as two wanderers who may very well be the last people remaining on Earth. Dinklage's character is nothing if not consistent, cleaning up and burying the remaining bodies that lay across his local community, and Fanning, discovered unconscious as a result of a car crash, seeks to help him out, living a life of bizarrely quiet solitude alongside him.
That's what the trailer innocently implies the film's narrative is about, but it's effectively subdued when it comes to revealing the plot's true details. What caused this massive "outbreak?" Has anyone outside of our two leads survived? Vague and mysterious, the trailer presents the concept without admitting to anything. That's a good thing. Director Reed Morano, a great cinematographer and now, after The Handmaid's Tale and Meadowland, a great director in her own right, is at the helm (pulling double duty as DP), and you can rest assured that all is not as it seems when it comes to this particular tale. Release Date: September 14th, 2018, via Momentum Pictures.
Hell Fest (dir. Gregory Plotkin)
Although the slasher film craze of the 1980s (and thanks to the resurgence brought about by Wes Craven's Scream, 1990s) is no longer at peak popularity, we could always welcome a new creepy stalker for the Halloween moviegoing season. Enter Hell Fest, an ingenious concept that plainly shows that if you're a serial killer looking to off some people, why not just set up shop at a local amusement park that's all decked out in haunted house props and special effects for the Halloween season? Who can tell the difference between a real corpse and a plastic one, amirite?
Directed by Gregory Plotkin (whose feature directorial debut was Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension ), an editor on films such as Get Out and Happy Death Day, the film feels so much like a throwback that each ticket should come accompanied with a snapback hat. The production design looks inspired—never trust a working guillotine that winds up in a theme park—and the kills, as weird as it feels to "rate" them, look specifically icky (anything evolving eyeball damage is a cringe-inducing experience for me). Release Date: September 28th, 2018, via CBS Films.
22 July (dir. Paul Greengrass)
Guaranteed to be an incredibly intense, difficult watch, Academy Award-nominated director Paul Greengrass's (Captain Phillips, Jason Bourne) 22 July recounts the horrific 2011 terrorist attack a white male extremist carried out in Norway, first via a bombing in Oslo and then via a mass shooting at a bucolic camp for teenagers. In all, an astounding 77 people were murdered.
As difficult a subject matter as this material is (and as hard as it is to depict on-screen without risking the opportunity to over sensationalize the material for dramatic beats resembling a thriller), Greengrass is certainly the man for the job, his previous nonfiction-based "cinematic credentials" including Bloody Sunday and United 93. Cinematographer Pål Ulvik Rokseth keeps the visual look overcast and dreary—rain constantly feels like it's in the immediate forecast—and it feels like Netflix will be equally pushing both the theatrical and streaming components for this release. It certainly feels powerful enough to warrant end-of-the-year attention. Will it's being a tough sell hinder that? Release Date: October 10th, 2018, via Netflix.
The Front Runner (dir. Jason Reitman)
Recounting the true story and true campaign of 1988 Democratic Presidential Nominee Gary Hart (and the extracurricular activities that served as his downfall), The Front Runner is the second film, afterTully, being released from Jason Reitman this year. Hugh Jackman plays Hart, the plain-talking everyman who just happens to be a politician, and Vera Farmiga his wife, Lee. The couple's marriage appears to be at the forefront of the film's particular narrative. That makes sense, as Hart's extramarital affair with Donna Rice proved to be the presidential candidate's untimely downfall (his marriage, however, continues to this day, 60 years strong).
As the movie was directed by Jason Reitman, the film finds itself with an all-star cast, including Alfred Molina, J.K. Simmons, Ari Graynor, Sara Paxton, and Kevin Pollak. Using Matt Bai 's book, All the Truth is Out, as its source material, the screenplay appears both funny and deadly serious, and Reitman, having dabbled in the (fictitious) world of politics 12 years ago with Thank You For Smoking, feels like the right director to emphasize both the dramatic and absurdly tabloidic nature of American politics in the 1980s. A Golden Globe nomination for Jackman feels all but assured. Release Date: November 7th, 2018, via Sony Pictures.
At Eternity's Gate (dir. Julian Schnabel)
When the trailer for Sean Baker's The Florida Project first dropped last year, I felt that it was a surefire vehicle that would cop Willem Dafoe his first Academy Award. It didn't (but the movie was still excellent). Now here we are one year later and I feel almost ready to make that claim again. Starring as the late, great painter Vincent Van Gogh, Dafoe looks absolutely incredible in the footage above, showcasing a full range of emotions that bring life to a man that was far more complicated than history may have remembered (or dared to even realize).
The closing night film of the upcoming 56th New York Film Festival, At Eternity's Gate, a film about a painter, is directed by Academy Award nominee Julian Schnabel, a painter turned filmmaker. The choice feels right, and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme, having shot such period pieces as The Merchant of Venice andThe Theory of Everything, is more than capable of pulling the most out of a saturated portrait such as this. Release Date: November 16th, 2018, via CBS Films