Welcome to the newest feature here on the blog! I’ve been tooling this one around in my head for a while now, more than a year actually. The initial seed of the idea was to do a “Back Row Thoughts” column about movie marketing methods that just need to die (and boy are there a LOT of them). That article may still yet come, but the biggest thing I could identify that bothered me were that movie trailers use several devices that actively make me NOT want to watch the film they’re advertising.
That eventually led to this latest addition to the “Actually Paid” rotation, where I break down trailers. But this isn’t like other sites where they pore over the two-minute ads looking for plot clues or Easter Eggs. No, this space will be dedicated purely to the movies that, based on the trailers alone, appear to be abject shit.
The old axiom is to not judge a book by its cover, but in the modern age, it no longer really applies. Yes, one should always avoid biases and preconceived notions, but nowadays books have artwork and critical press printed right on the cover itself, which gives you enough of a clue to know if you want to actually read it or not. Similarly, the inner flap of the cover sleeve will basically give you a plot synopsis tease. In essence, the book is now giving you enough information via the cover to make an educated judgment. This isn’t the 1850s anymore. A book cover is no longer just a piece of leather with a title and an author.
The same applies to movies. Back in the day, a trailer would basically just be a couple of shots with a narrator giving a brief sentence or two, and maybe a listing of the stars. Now, the creation of a trailer is in itself sometimes an artistic endeavor. The editors and producers in charge of them have to create a two-minute movie to advertise their movie, sometimes incorporating techniques, shots, and sounds that aren’t in the final film. As such, we as viewers have enough info to decide where our money might go, without any feeling of prejudice.
And let me tell you, sometimes the trailer tells you all you need to know to see that a movie will most definitely NOT be worth your time. The current movie experience includes 10-25 minutes of these things beginning from your film’s listed start time, which in some cases feels like homework, and in others just feels like an unfair test on your bladder if you’re going into a longer movie (I still don’t know how I survived Avengers: Endgame without seven bathroom trips – review coming soon).
So I’ve decided through this column to do some of the homework for you. That way you know in advance what’s worth seeing, and you can spend that extra 20 minutes getting popcorn or making use of the facilities. What I’ve done is gone through the list of major studio releases for the month of May and watched the trailers for each (side note: Fuck you, YouTube, for making me watch an ad before I literally watch an ad! Y’all have no goddam shame!). Here I will link to the trailers for the films I deem as currently unwatchable. For example, there are 20 major releases coming in May. Some look good, others not so much. There’s what looks like a silly rom-com with Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, and a touching one with John Lithgow and Blythe Danner. There’s a biopic about one of the world’s greatest writers, and another about two guys who assembled a dictionary. Dennis Quaid by himself plays a charming grandfather and a psychopathic stalker. There’s a lot to go around.
But among those 20 are four films that I have absolutely NO desire to see. It doesn’t mean I won’t see them, especially if you all request that I do. But based on the trailers for these movies, these look like the bottom of the barrel, so I’ll show you those four, tell you why they look like shit, and then beg, Beg, BEG! you not to go see them, unless you really, really want to.
Hopefully this new feature is to your liking. I plan to do it every month going forward. If you like it, let me know. If you hate it, let me know. If you want to see me suffer/hate watch any of these titles, let me know.
Without further ado, here is the first edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable.”
UglyDolls – May 3
Wow, is this a steaming pile of shameless corporate bullshit. From the very first narration we’re told that this story is about dolls rejected from the factory line for being somehow defective, which means a) this movie only exists to sell toys (and also the pop music soundtrack), and b) we’re going to be fed another story about how cool it is to be different, which is a great delusion for kids to have… until it isn’t. If your kid is getting beat up at school for looking different, defiantly stating that his flaws make him special will only invite future beatings, especially if he brings a doll into the picture. Yes, the trailer has the built-in joke of a machine breaking down because the dolls aren’t “models,” but guess what? The models rule the world. Also, with the exception of Lizzo and Gabriel Iglesias, the entire voice cast is comprised of the very beautiful people the film pretends to mock (I guess you can throw Kelly Clarkson in that list, too, but she was everybody’s dream girl before she had kids, and she’s still pretty good looking even after gaining baby weight).
There’s something to be almost admired about someone other than Disney trying to make an animated movie musical, but it’s clear that the film started with the music (for lack of better term), then crafted a story around it, rather than creating a good story and writing music for it like the Mouse House has done to near-perfection for 80 years. And given this cast, the idea is literally laughable. No, seriously, I laughed out loud when I saw the slate that said, without irony, that it contains “original” music from the likes of Blake Shelton and Pitbull. Blake Shelton’s music is about as “original” as something floating in Toby Keith’s septic tank, and as for Pitbull? The only thing he can possibly do that’s original is shut up forever. Seriously, if I never hear the word, “DALE!” again it’ll be too soon. Also, the near-entirety of his library is about getting drunk and hooking up at clubs. How is this in any way appropriate for children? And even if it’s ironic for the sake of a villain, any universe where Nick Jonas is considered the bastion of perfection is a universe I don’t want to be a part of.
You want to see a good movie about dolls having adventures? There are three Toy Story movies out there that I’m sure accomplish more in five minutes than this heap of trash will in 90, so watch those instead, and then watch Toy Story 4 when it comes out later this year. Or watch the two Lego movies if you want toys and terrible pop music (which is at least done tongue-in-cheek).
The only situations where I can see myself watching UglyDolls is if a) my girlfriend makes me, b) one of you, my loyal readers, asks me to, or c) if it somehow gets nominated for Original Song or Animated Feature at next year’s Oscars due to a sheer lack of competition.
The Hustle – May 10
The latest entry in the ill-advised, “Let’s do it again, but with LADIES!” section of the Hollywood recycle bin, The Hustle is a female-centric remake of the classic 80s comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which was itself a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story, proving that there are always exceptions to my Remake Rule). Just with that alone, I already have plenty of reason to ignore this, but the problem is compounded by just how oafish the whole proceeding seems to look.
For one thing, Anne Hathaway has a fucking Oscar! She should know better than to take on such cheap roles, and yet this is the second “Girls Reboot” she’s done in the last 12 months (Ocean’s 8). She has proven that she’s better than this, yet here we are with Rebel Wilson pretending to be blind and feeling up her boobs. I’m jealous of Rebel’s hand, but that’s about it. And as for Wilson, she briefly won me over earlier this year with Isn’t it Romantic?, but now she’s back firmly ensconced in her typecast as nothing more than a walking, talking fat joke, and that shit got old a decade ago. I was hoping the earlier triumph wasn’t going to be a fluke, but that seems to be the case if this is the follow-up.
More importantly though, if there was ever a movie that didn’t require a women’s remake, it’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Yes, the main starring rivalry is between Steve Martin and Michael Caine, but the beauty of the film was that the woman they took for a mark (the late, great Glenne Headly) was the real con artist, always one step ahead of the supposed pros. THE LADY ALREADY WON THIS ONE, PEOPLE! Now, it’s possible that the “tech billionaire” the women target (who appears to be Broadway actor Alex Sharp) will turn the tables on them and come out on top, but I highly doubt it, as it flies in the face of the very concept of these types of remakes for the women to be outwitted by a man. Because of that, this seems like nothing more than over-the-top physical comedy and PG-13 sexual teasing, and I simply have no interest.
Poms – May 10
When you advertise in your own trailer that your film is brought to you by the people who made Book Club and Bad Moms, you’re already in freefall. Oh yeah, remember Book Club? The movie whose soul existence was to attempt to legitimize the Fifty Shades books by way of elderly lady boners? High art at its finest, I’m sure.
Well, here’s another tone deaf bit of pandering to the over 60 crowd, giving us Diane Keaton as a terminally ill woman who moves into what appears to be a hospice community, meeting new friends (Rhea Perlman, Pam Grier, and Jacki Weaver, all of whom are better than this) and forming a cheerleading squad. Are you fucking kidding me?
Ooh, ooh, let me guess. Um, the idea will be doubted and mocked, Keaton’s relatives will tell her she’s wrong and embarrassing herself, someone will likely die, and yet somehow they’ll go to the big cheerleading competition where some snooty teenagers will stick their noses up at the grannies, then said grannies will perform a competent routine to inspirational music that’ll make everyone cheer and we’ll all feel good until Keaton herself dies, having accomplished absolutely nothing. Do any of you honestly think I’m off base here?
There are so many great movies out there starring an older cast, mostly because those films don’t sacrifice the dignity of the amazingly accomplished actors to tell the story. And most importantly, those stories are usually not about the elderly wanting nothing more than to be desired sexually in one form or another. The trailer tries to make it look empowering, but it just comes off as tired pity and cheap sex jokes that we’re supposed to be giddily play-scandalized by because an old lady said it. Tee hee! Gam-gam said “boobies! She’s a feisty one, she is!” Shoot me.
Poms wonderful? Almost certainly not. And if you groaned at that joke, imagine what you’ll have to sit through if you see this dreck.
Aladdin – May 24
Sincerely, the movie-going public that has functioning brain cells.
This is but the second of four movies coming out this year where Disney has decided that they can’t leave well enough alone with their animated classics. Now they all have to be remade with super duper A-list celebrities, and even though they all but universally suck donkey balls (The Jungle Book being the lone exception so far), people still shell out money for them at an alarming rate.
Within the trailer itself, everything looks fake as shit. I mean, what’s the point of doing live-action if you still overload it with a ton of lazy CGI so that it’s at least 50% cartoon anyway? What was once a revolutionary bit of animation is now just, “Hey, look at these Arabian costumes we made! Ignore the fake-looking monkey, though!” Will Smith as the Genie has to be some form of blasphemy. I kept hearing this creaking noise that I’m pretty sure was Robin Williams spinning in his grave.
And even the recreated musical numbers seem to slap us in the face and gaslight us.
Jasmine: “A whole new woooooorllllllllldddd!”
Me: “No it’s not, it’s a remake.”
Jasmine: “A hundred thousand…”
Me: “Do you not even know what ‘new’ means?”
I’ll probably be compelled to see this one way or another, but I’m already prepping the F-grade in my head.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What do you think of this feature? Do you want me to see any of these movies despite my myriad misgivings? Are there trailers you think should be added to this list? Should I be more aggressive, B-E-more aggressive with the cheerleading film? Let me know!