With the fall season in full swing, the jockeying for position for next year’s Oscars kicks into high gear. We’ve already hit the deadlines and announcements for submissions in Animated Feature and International Feature. On November 21, we’ll have the nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards, and in early December we’ll get the Oscar shortlists.
As such, the studio output is ratcheted up to an extreme level. Earlier this year we had entire months where there weren’t 20 total films released, whereas now there are 20 that passed my smell test to avoid being in this column. There are a LOT of options for November, including a glut of films from Netflix, who, after the success of Roma last year, has aggressively ticked up their awards season strategy, staggering out theatrical releases for a number of films (both to gauge audience reaction and meet eligibility requirements for the Academy) before officially putting them on their platform. There will be a “Downstream” column next month with mini-reviews for the lot.
But even so, no matter how intense the Oscar campaigns are, there is still bound to be a pile of shit on display at your local theatre, and for the most part, this month’s dubious honorees are being marketed heavily, as if the studios are trying to tell you that there are options outside of prestige, and hoping to make a quick, cheap buck in the process with disposable franchise/blockbuster fare that wasn’t good enough to compete during the summer. As happens with a lot of bad movies, the studios are banking on your collective ignorance and idiocy. They’re relying on you not being able to notice that they’re pumping out the same shit they always do, just with a different polish on the turd.
That’s why I’m here. I’m not going to teach you stuff you don’t already know, merely remind you of the same tricks that studios pull time and again, hoping you’re not paying attention. It is my hope and desire that these updates from your friendly neighborhood Hater McHaterson (as my girlfriend calls me; as I’m Irish I prefer Hater O’Haterly) will allow you to save your money for what really matters: trampling your neighbors at the Walmart for a toy.
This is the November 2019 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Terminator: Dark Fate – November 1
As if I’d start with anything else. The first two Terminator movies are sci-fi thriller classics. They’re also more than 25 years old. Since then we’ve had three very ill-advised sequels and reboots (plus a TV show no one asked for!) that have done nothing but sully the reputation of those grand genre achievements.
With Dark Fate, the franchise is trying to right the ship by bringing back Linda Hamilton as the O.G. Sarah Conner, as well as James Cameron putting his name on this in a producer capacity, to try to lend some credibility. In fact, this film is meant to cast aside the previous bad sequels and reset the timeline from the end of T2.
But looking at the trailer, all I can say is, “Fool me once…” This looks more like a reboot of Judgment Day than anything else, with a new liquid metal unbeatable-until-he-isn’t foe sent to kill someone else who’s not Sarah or John, with yet another protector in tow. But of course, the scenes we get completely miss the point. The fun was in the chase, and with T2, a cyborg learning about humanity. What do we have in this film? A pastiche villain, a shit ton of explosions, the return of Arnold somehow, and fucking planes crashing into each other with only a mild jostling of our heroes within, rather than, you know, instant fiery death. Also, if everything the Conners did still didn’t prevent Skynet from taking over (only delaying the inevitable), then what’s the point of any of this? All you’re doing is retconning the things that made the first two great, while setting up an endless stream of lame sequels just to make money. Oh wait, I answered my own question.
Even the marketing materials seem to just assume we’re stupid. Posters advertise this film as “The day after Judgment Day.” Well, in the series canon, Judgment Day was August 27, 1997, and the movie, Judgment Day, was released on July 1, 1991. Either way, you’re between two and three decades too late. TV trailers use pull quotes from one review (always check the sources of those – if they’re all from one source, that source is definitely an outlier, and was most likely paid for his or her praise) that say things like, “Linda Hamilton is back.” Yes, that’s factually accurate, but also meaningless. “The best Terminator since T2.” I mean, it’d almost have to be, given the last three, right? That’s almost by default. That’s not an enticement. And that’s all to say nothing about that goddammed song that plays in the trailer. “I’m going hunting. I’m a hunter.” It’s trying to sound like Nine Inch Nails but just sounds like nails on a chalkboard. There’s nothing deep about announcing that you’re going to do your job, followed by your job title. “I’m going accounting. I’m an accountant.” Are you not entertained? No, no we most definitely are not.
Here’s an idea, James Cameron. Why don’t you stop worrying about this dead franchise, and quit with the fucking Rolex ads, and get back to work on those Avatar sequels you’ve kept us waiting for, for…
*checks phone because it tells time just as good as a Rolex*
… a fucking decade and counting.
Oh, and Linda Hamilton glibly saying, “I’ll be back” as she chucks a grenade off an overpass just hurts my soul.
Arctic Dogs – November 1
Ooh, ooh, let me guess! Um, it’s about a scrawny animal who wants to be heroic like the big dogs, but because he’s small, everyone doubts him, until he is forced into a situation where he does save the day, and everyone respects and admires him now, and he gets with the cute female animal who he’s been crushing on the entire time!
Was I close?
Yeah, this looks like a cheap disaster the whole way through (to the point where the film is renamed Polar Squad internationally). Jeremy Renner’s voice is indistinct, and the target audience is too young to appreciate his contributions as the lamest of the Avengers. Also, Heidi Klum? Really? She’s a fashion model whose only acting credits are basically as herself being a fashion/lingerie model. What could she possibly bring to the table? And as if you needed more red flags, it’s being released by Entertainment Studios. I’ve been over their track record of dreck many a time already, no need to go further
Anyway, this is little more than an excuse to sell toys and prop up Renner’s band, which is a tough task right now, as the man is getting his #MeToo moment. Also, it’s beyond telling that this movie was NOT submitted for the Animated Feature Oscar. I mean, Angry Birds 2 got submitted, but this didn’t. That should tell you all you need to know about how much this is going to suck. Meanwhile, Klaus, which was submitted, is debuting on Netflix later in November. It looks equally childish, but there’s at least a good holiday motif to the proceedings, and the animation looks better than entry level, so I’d recommend just going with that for the kiddies instead.
Playing with Fire – November 8
I understand the need for children’s movies. Truly, I do. But do they all have to be the same lazy formula? Idiotic adult figures either trying to protect or attack savvy younger kids with slapstick antics and poop humor? Can’t we do better? That shit was fine in the 90s, when Macaulay Culkin perfected the art. But it’s nearly 30 years later. Try something new, already!
Anyway, John Cena plays a firefighter who takes himself way too seriously because the script tells him he has to take himself way too seriously. Don’t believe me, watch the totally tacked-on scene where the eldest of his three young charges mocks him for being too macho and muscular. He leads a team of “smoke jumpers,” firemen who dive into fires to rescue people, which somehow includes Keegan Michael Key and John Leguizamo. Because when there’s a fire, you know who I’m calling? Angry Obama and Luigi.
All the jokes look like tired retreads, and of course we have to reach for that sentimental side as well, because we can’t just have fun in a firehouse. But my main problem is why the kids would give this guy shit in the first place. He literally saves them from a burning building and is responsible for their lives, and their response is to mock him and cause havoc? Toss ’em back in the fire, I say.
Last Christmas – November 8
Oh wow, a romantic comedy set during Christmastime? I’ve neeeeeevvvvveeeerrrr seen that before. Wow, sorry there. I think I cracked my neck rolling my eyes back into my head during that bout of sarcasm.
Emilia Clarke has put the dragons to bed, and now she’s serving herself up as a slightly more “hot garbage” version of Zooey Deschanel from Elf. She has medical problems and it’s hinted that she’s terminally ill, so she just wants a bit of romance and happiness before she goes, I assume. This would be compelling if Queen Latifah hadn’t already done it in Last Holiday. She works for Michelle Yeoh and falls for Henry Golding, which basically renders this film as a Mirror Universe Christmas version of Crazy Rich Asians.
The main selling point here is that the film features several hits from the late great George Michael. But unlike a lot of pop music-based films over the last 12 months, the story seemingly has nothing to do with him. They just use one of his songs for the title, and apparently they’ll pepper in some of his better-known works throughout what looks to be an average-at-best rom-com.
I got a better idea. Just go download some George Michael songs, give them a listen, and then watch Love Actually.
Midway – November 8
In December we are going to get what is likely the premier war film of the year in the form of 1917, a World War I epic that will employ the “one continuous shot” tactic used in Birdman, part of why it won Best Picture and Best Cinematography.
Until then, however, we have Midway, about one of the pivotal battles of World War II, which sadly looks like a bad sequel to Pearl Harbor. The trailer is devoid of anything intriguing, just a bunch of explosions and “brave men” posturing about how brave they are and how their bravery will save the home of the brave.
The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, who wowed audiences with Independence Day, but also angered them to no end with the 1998 Godzilla disaster and the vomit-inducing Day After Tomorrow. Seriously, why would you advertise that you made that film in the trailer for a different film you hope people will want to see? That’d be like if Peter Farrelly advertised Green Book last year by reminding you that he did Movie 43. Emmerich is one step up from Michael Bay, in that he occasionally thinks about plot and character. But even then, that’s not saying much. It’d be like saying, “I’ve got Stage 3 Cancer, but at least it’s not Stage 4!” It’s factually true, but no more comforting a thought!
This looks like nothing more than a shoddy CGI explosion-fest, shamelessly propped up as patriotic because they throw in a bunch of American flags and will be releasing it on Veterans’ Day weekend. To the few remaining members of the Greatest Generation, I apologize in advance for the PTSD-inducing insult to your service that’s about to be thrust upon the public.
Charlie’s Angels – November 15
I mean, do we never learn, people?! The TV show sucked. It was just jerkoff material for boys in the 70s who didn’t have pornos. Between the two movies that came out a decade ago, all we got was one good Destiny’s Child song and the sad reminder that Bernie Mac is dead. And even after all that, somehow they rebooted the TV series, only for it to fail yet again.
So of course it’s getting rebooted on the big screen. How do you not, after all the glowing reviews every other incarnation got? And once again, we’re going to pretend that Kristen Stewart and her dead eyes are somehow attractive. Patrick Stewart will be cashing a paycheck, and I’d say that I expect more of my dear captain, but he did do The Emoji Movie, so what should I really expect?
Just like every other iteration of this tired franchise, you get lame action sequences where obvious stunt doubles incapacitate men twice the size of the actresses, some bullshit about “sisterhood,” and whatever the food porn equivalent is for purses and shoes. And yet they still take orders from a faceless man they never meet. Take that, Bechdel Test! For some reason Elizabeth Banks is proud to put her name on this.
But really, this entire movie basically only exists for the sake of the pop song, “Don’t Call Me Angel,” performed by Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande. If you had any doubt as to the priorities with this movie, just watch the trailer and see that the song credit is shown before a single frame of footage for the actual movie.
The song itself came out two months ago, and it’s shit. Don’t worry, Ariana, I was never going to call you an angel. Talentless? Sure. Entitled brat? Definitely. Third runner-up at a beauty pageant for 12-year-old Thai Lady Boys? Probably. But angel? Never.
This whole thing is just another jerkoff fantasy about “hotties” with guns, and ooh, look, one of them flirts with a nerd. You totally have a chance to hook up with the actress now, random chubster in his mom’s basement! That shit might have worked in the 70s. But we have Pornhub now. Your time has long passed.
Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you agree with this month’s list? Do you still want to see any of them despite their inclusion here? Do you think there are even worse movies that didn’t make the list? Let me know!