This Week In Trailers: 76 Days, Russian Raid, Mayor, Girls Can't Surf, Muscle

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 talk about COVID-19, go along for a Russian ride, see what it's really like to run this town, get swole, and fight the patriarchy out in the ocean.

76 Days

Director Hao Wu is in the eye of the storm known as COVID.

MTV Documentary Films is pleased to announce the release of 76 DAYS, a raw and emotional look at the struggles of the people of Wuhan, China, in the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Directed by New York filmmaker Hao Wu (People's Republic of Desire) and two China-based journalists, Weixi Chen and "Anonymous," who took enormous personal risks to film at four different hospitals.

On January 23rd, 2020, China locked down Wuhan, a city of 11 million, to combat the emerging COVID-19 outbreak. Set deep inside the frontlines of the crisis, 76 DAYS tells indelible human stories at the center of this pandemic—from a woman begging in vain to bid a final farewell to her father, a grandfather with dementia searching for his way home, a couple anxious to meet their newborn, to a nurse determined to return personal items to families of the deceased. These intimate stories bear witness to the death and rebirth of a city under a 76-day lockdown, and to the compassion and human resilience that persists in times of profound tragedy.

I know we're all feeling a little fatigued by the words pandemic, COVID-19, virus, and anything else related to our current situation. That said, I'm moved by what is in this trailer. Aside from China playing down the severity of what would soon knock out the rest of the world, those who are powerless are truly the ones affected the most. It's heartbreaking, rage-inducing, as well as serving as a document of both the failures and the selfless acts of humanity shown during this crisis. It's content like this that should bring the world closer together, knowing how similar the story was all over the globe.

Muscle

Director Gerard Johnson is getting up in your face with his latest.

An unhappy office worker's life is gradually taken over by Terry, his new, very hands-on personal trainer.

I like the aesthetic. The trailer sets up the narrative so effortlessly and smoothly, the establishment of its film festival pedigree is done so well that it hooks you before you know what's coming. Then things get increasingly unsettling. The mood, the tempo, the questioning of what might be coming next, this is one of those under-the-radar kinds of films that just need the right audience to find them. It reminds me of Judy Berlin, if not because both are in black and white, but because of how limited the narrative scope was. You're obviously taking a gamble here, but this looks like a solid bet for a good time.

Girls Can't Surf

Director Christopher Nelius is not here for your misogyny.

The untold story of how a band of renegade surfer girls in the 1980s fought to create their own professional sport, changing surf culture forever. #GirlsCantSurf is coming to Australian cinemas March, 2021: http://mad.mn/girlscantsurf

It's the 1980s and the world of professional #surfing is a circus of fluoro colours, peroxide hair and radical male egos. GIRLS CAN'T SURF follows the journey of a band of renegade surfers who took on the male-dominated professional surfing world to achieve equality and change the sport forever. Featuring surfing greats Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and more, GIRLS CAN'T SURF is a wild ride of clashing personalities, sexism, adventure and heartbreak, with each woman fighting against the odds to make their dreams of competing a reality.

This looks like it's more than just an us-versus-them kind of documentary. Whenever the world has had something that has been traditionally male-dominated, especially sports related, the introduction of women always seems to bring out the worst in some people. Obviously there were some men who championed the inclusion of women into surfing, but as the trailer shows, it doesn't matter if it's golf, football, baseball, or anything else, there's always some people who make things unnecessarily difficult. The trailer balances sexism with what this really should be about: women who fought to have an equal place amongst their peers and how that road has been paved with both frustration and hope.

Mayor

Director David Osit is giving me something I didn't know I needed until I saw this trailer.

MAYOR is a real-life political saga following Musa Hadid, the Christian mayor of Ramallah, during his second term in office. His immediate goals: repave the sidewalks, attract more tourism, and plan the city's Christmas celebrations. His ultimate mission: to end the occupation of Palestine. MAYOR offers a portrait of dignity amidst the madness and absurdity of endless occupation while posing a question: how do you run a city when you don't have a country?

This trailer definitively shows you how real-life can beat anything scripted. Somehow, seeing how politicians have been politicking all throughout this election cycle has fatigued my sense of what's real and what's not. I didn't know boo about Hadid before seeing this, but ended up being completely charmed by his personality. He seems like any average person presented with the task of being mayor. His reactions feel genuine, his earnestness endearing, and his frustrations look candid. Somehow, this hits the right spot after an election season like we've had.

Russian Raid

When it comes to silly, throwback entertainment, director Denis Kryuchkov is here with something epic.

A mercenary with a cause is a hero. Nikita (Ivan Kotik), a former Russian Spetsnaz operative, is hired to neutralize the large private security force at a local factory so that his shady employer can extort the business from the factory owner. But Nikita and his group of highly trained fighters get more than they bargained for when it turns out the factory is actually owned by a dangerous warlord connected to the Russian military. By the time the 'hostile takeover' is complete, Nikita reveals that he has orchestrated his own secret mission to take personal revenge on the most dangerous man in Russia.

I look at something like this and wonder whether every country has its cinematic guilty pleasures. This is one of those movies you wouldn't watch until they're playing on Hulu or Netflix, and even then you need to be in the right mood. There is a steady hand at work here as someone wanted to craft an epic action movie but only could afford to shoot in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. Still, I'm tickled by the over-the-top acting, the implausibility of everything you see on the screen, and the dedication to playing it all straight. Look, you could do worse, but I don't think it would be as fun.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion 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:

  • The Prom Trailer - To whoever is trying to make James Corden happen, please stop