Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we beat the hell out of our neighbor in the name of Jesus, get on a runaway train, try to live forever, take on America’s Toughest Sheriff, watch a studio go under and spend some time with The Sheik.

Fight Church Trailer

“Can you…love your neighbor as yourself…and, at the same time, knee him in the face as hard as you can?”

When we last checked in with directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel they were out hustling to make this documentary become a reality. Much like in the vein of news stations who come back around to follow-up on stories they report upon, it’s been almost a year since we last checked in with this project. The end result looks mighty as it does gripping. When you consider that the topics that are being intertwined together, faith and violence, on the surface, don’t really mesh it’s the trailer here that tells us otherwise. While you can be quick to laugh when we get to the point where it’s literally pastor versus pastor in an MMA cage, this documentary is sublime in the way it focuses on the simplicity of the message when it comes to why they do what they do. The narrative flows so smooth even though we see people getting grounded and pounded while talking about their faith in Jesus Christ; it’s the way in which we understand these men that will make or break this film. They have a warrior spirit and as long as we see how they overcome and use their faith as a guiding force in what they do will this be something that be digested by anyone from any belief system. Seeing kids cry, watching men get beat down, there needs to be redemption of some kind to make me believe that there is a story worth telling. Hallelujah, I say.

The Sheik Trailer

I stopped listening to Howard Stern last year but I do miss hearing from this crazy guy.

Director Igal Hecht probably thought so too when he thought that a documentary on this guy was long overdue. While I grew up in the time that The Sheik enjoyed most of his popularity I didn’t know anything beyond his inside-the-ring persona. These are the kind of profiles that show you the side of the story that wasn’t scripted out in black and white. The trailer expertly takes us through what we saw, what we thought, and then deconstructs these notions one by one. From his personal life being such a sad story when you consider what happened to his daughter to the kinds of physical debilitation that were certainly made more real in a movie like The Wrestler, this doesn’t look like the work done by your average jabroni. Instead, it appears to show us that behind every villain there is heartbreak and fire behind it all.

The Immortalists Trailer

Don’t dismiss this out of hand.

What directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg seemed to have created here is a platform for some very interesting people to discuss their thoughts on aging and being able to reverse the natural clock of time. While one of the guys, strangely, looks like Hugh Jackman straight off the set of The Fountain, talking about immortality there is not so much craziness in their voice as it is genuineness. These men believe that they can halt human entropy. But, while this could a very dry and uninteresting conversation, the trailer takes great pains to paint a different picture of what it’s like to try and stop something that is (currently) unstoppable. It’s small stories and vignettes about what this could mean to those who are in relationships and what it could mean for those who have aging parents, that their work could save their lives. It’s heartbreaking and sad without you feeling pity for them. It’s a fantastic exploration into the depths of what it will take to pull off such a feat, whether or not it’s even possible is almost besides the question.

The Joe Show Trailer

I have no love for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in my town.

After my car was vandalized (all that was broken was a shattered windshield after a stray bullet entered at point blank range) and the local sheriff came out to inspect the crime scene and turn what would have been a zero deductible fix, the cost of the windshield, into a $950 fix after they tore up the roof lining of my car to find the bullet which they never found, leaving a hole that they said was my responsibility to take care of, I looked at these guys’ boss in a whole new light. Director Randy Murray looks to have cracked the media whore code that is this county sheriff’s raison d’être which is that if there isn’t a camera nearby to tell the story, there isn’t a story to tell. Thanks to diligent reporting in other news outlets about the abuses of power in his office that have been brought up in the local media for years now. What I like about the trailer is that it doesn’t look to be apolitical as it does with wanting to let him bloviate while the archives tell the other side of the tale. For all the wonderful photo opportunities and press conferences about whatever initiative he wants to think is driving people to do the right thing and how tough he is on illegal aliens, this trailer lays it all out to see. I honestly hope for a documentary that is fair and paints the right kind of portrait of a man who has been at the center for many controversies since he took the post of being “America’s Toughest Sheriff”.

Misfire Trailer

Ah, The Shooting Factory.

I remember watching Judy Berlin in a theater back in 1999 and being taken with the talents of a vibrant and fascinating Edie Falco. This movie has stayed with me ever since seeing it and it still stands as a movie I would revisit in a heartbeat. There was no pretension or lofty metaphysical navel gazing going on here, it was a touching film that felt small and compact, intimate. What documentarian Whitney Ransick seems to have done here is to chart the course of a start-up that made films instead of widgets and subsequently blew up at the hands of those who mismanaged its reputation for it being home to movies that wanted to be more than just audience pleasing fodder or even art house snobbery, they wanted to tell stories. The adage of someone taking one tent-pole feature and breaking that up to allow 100-150 different movies to be made seems to have resonance here and we see what they were up against while those who were busy minding the kitty were all too eager to set this studio on a collision course towards bankruptcy, both artistic and monetarily. Watching implosions like this is hard but the trailer gets in, strikes hard and gets out.

Last Passenger Trailer

Yes, it looks fairly basic.

That said, director Omid Nooshin appears to have made something I wouldn’t mind checking out. Sure, we all may know Dougray Scott from his breakout role in Mission: Impossible II and then into a mass public Bermuda Triangle where he was never really seen again but I’ll be gosh darned if this wasn’t just a treat to watch from start to finish. Yes, it gives a lot of the juicier bits away by flashing to the many money shots but, save that, what you have here is great in terms of establishing what’s at stake for these people, what the threat is, and keeping up the ambiguity about why in the hell this is happening in the first place. It may not be Travolta/Denzel or Snipes/Harrelson level train action but this trailer keeps you hooked from start to finish with a nice smooth polish on it all.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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