The world is beset by a pandemic, and all of us are wondering how that’s all going to turn out. Will we ever get back to normal? Can we go outside again? When can we pay money to physically go and see terrible movies again?
Well, if you live in a state run by an ignorant governor, right about now, actually. Yes, despite the fact that we have no national testing system, more Americans have died in six weeks than the entirety of the Vietnam War, and there hasn’t been any decrease in the reported cases, several states are defying logic, science, and the pleas of bombarded medical personnel to re-open their states and cities, in some cases even declaring that no individual community can override based on factual evidence or boots on the ground. You know, for freedom! Some, notably, never shut down to begin with. As such, there are places in this country where you can actually see a film right now. And that means I still have a job to do, which is to preemptively warn you about all the garbage that might be available.
It’s been a year since the first TFINYW, and giving you guys (and myself) this monthly dose of Haterade is one of the few things I have to look forward to. This is especially true now, as Los Angeles remains RIGHTLY shut down, meaning I can’t go see anything, and won’t be able to for quite some time. Even if the lockdown ended tomorrow, AMC won’t reopen until July, and after the Trolls World Tour fiasco, it appears that when they do, they’ll never show Universal movies again (which will be really awkward given that there’s an AMC at the CityWalk in Universal Studios).
Most of what’s available is still via Netflix and other streaming services. Even stuff that was scheduled for theatrical release is instead filtering out online. For May, the noteworthy entry there is The Lovebirds, a new comedy starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani that was supposed to come out in late March, but got delayed thanks to SXSW being cancelled (it was going to debut there), and will now premiere on Netflix on May 22. I’m actually really looking forward to that.
Still, we do have some movies coming out in theatres, and as always, regardless of platform, there are some certified turds waiting to drop in our collective punch bowl. Be they missed opportunities, studio cash grabs, or Rob Schneider licking a snorkel, they still look like shit, and that’s why I’m here.
This is the May 2020 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
The High Note – May 8
Director Nisha Ganatra earned a mild success last year with Late Night, a movie I didn’t see because I can barely stand Mindy Kaling. I didn’t think it would be a bad movie, it’s just not my cup of Earl Grey. People like her and think she’s funny. I don’t. It’s simply a matter of taste.
Anyway, how does Ganatra follow up her noteworthy effort which involved a minority woman breaking down barriers to help a middle-aged celebrity reboot her career? By having a pretty white girl do the same thing!
Yes, this entire film centers, not on Tracee Ellis Ross as an aging diva looking for the second wind of her singing career (she’s literally Diana Ross’ daughter, you guys!), but on Dakota Johnson as the clichéd personal assistant who’s constantly put upon, but who has the spark, talent, and ambition to succeed if she just got a chance! Yeah, cause attractive white women NEVER get opportunities in the entertainment industry! Shoot me.
Based on the trailer, there are the makings of an excellent story here. Ross’ character, Grace Davis, is being pressured to accept a Las Vegas residency. However, not-Stella wants to get her groove back and put out new stuff, which she hasn’t done in a decade. Cue Johnson, who “studied composing” in college (so she can mix beats on a computer) to literally be the white savior.
While surely it won’t be on the level of, say, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I can already tell this movie is going to suffer from the same core problem, and that’s making the obviously wrong decision at basically every turn. Even when we get a scene that reaches for poignancy, it’s misplaced. For instance, in a moment of asserting her own value, Grace points out that only five women have ever hit #1 after they turned 40, and only one of them was black.
Again, how that’s relevant to Dakota Johnson of all people is a gargantuan leap of logic, but let’s take it at face value. First off, making it to #1 on the Billboard chart is essentially meaningless, and has been since at least the late 1980s. There are scores of legendary artists who never sold enough copies of a song in a given week to hit that mark, including The Kinks, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and Nirvana. It’s about quantity, not quality. Don’t believe me, just look at the Hot 100 #1s for the last decade. I defy you to name five truly great and lasting pieces of musical art in that entire list. That doesn’t mean there’s not great music out there, and it also doesn’t mean that making this mark means the stuff automatically sucks. It’s just that it’s 100% marketing, and has nothing to do with whether or not a song is actually good.
And as far as 40+ women who’ve done it? Honestly, when I heard Ross say this line, my immediate thought was Shawn Colvin with her (unfortunately) one-hit wonder, “Sonny Came Home,” but that peaked at #7, illustrating my entire point. Anyway, I haven’t been able to confirm the whole list, but most recently it was Sia for “Cheap Thrills,” which is a shitty song (though I’ll give her credit for at least writing it, something that definitely cannot be said for most of today’s performers), but she only recorded it because Rihanna passed on it, and if one of the most manufactured pop stars in history says it’s not worth her time, THAT is saying something. Before her was Madonna with “Music” back in 2000, which is also shitty. I actually really liked Madonna when I was younger, but this is arguably her worst song. The only black woman to sell this well (solo anyway; Aretha Franklin hit #1 with “I Knew You Were Waiting,” a duet with George Michael) was Tina Turner with “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
That right there is an iconic song. It was also Turner’s ONLY #1 hit. Yeah, all the stuff she did before? “River Deep, Mountain High?” “Proud Mary?” Those don’t count based on this film’s logic. And what does the movie offer as Grace’s brass ring? A generic ballad that sounds like it was fished out of Diane Warren’s septic tank, which means it’ll be inexplicably nominated for Original Song next year.
This seems like a well-meaning film, but sadly it’s going to go down as a missed opportunity because it veered in all the wrong directions for tone and character in favor of lame gags where Grace thinks a food truck counts as a drive-thru window. “My life is a joke!” moans Johnson. Well, at least now it’s not only for Fifty Shades.
The Wrong Missy – May 8
Last year, Adam Sandler gave such a strong performance in Uncut Gems that I literally wanted him to get an Oscar nomination. Adam. Fucking. SANDLER! So in the opening shots of the trailer for this Netflix offering, where I see David Spade looking like the years have finally caught up with him, I had a faint glimmer of hope that the rest of the early 90s Saturday Night Live surviving cast might have finally matured as well.
Then it hit the :30 second mark.
Let me be 100% clear on this. I love Lauren Lapkus. Like, irrationally so. She’s hilarious, brilliant, witty, and committed. She has that nerd-cute charm that hits me right in the cockles. Hell, she was arguably the best part of the first Jurassic World movie apart from the ending when the motherfucking T-Rex teams up to beat the shit out of the CGI-Pussysaurus.
This is Lauren Lapkus being reduced to the worst possible version of herself: a spastic, clingy, “crazy chick,” and the titular incorrect Missy that Spade invites to Hawaii instead of his intended target, a former beauty queen with whom he had a meet-cute in an airport. Never mind that both women are miles outside of Spade’s league (*checks Lapkus’ Wikipedia page to make sure she’s not somehow married to David Spade, exhales*), which makes his turn as a leading man here utterly baffling. The real problem is that this is the same tired shtick he’s been doing in movies for nearly 30 years (along with Sandler, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, and so many others), where deeply flawed guys somehow get away with being complete dicks and landing beautiful women that they treat as living MacGuffins.
And of course, trope after trope ensues. Unbelievable physical comedy? Check. Thinly-veiled disdain and entitlement from Spade? Check. Eventual warming to the point of affection once he “gets to know her?” Check. God awful Fitz and the Tantrums song that makes no sense whatsoever in the background? Check.
Seriously, I can only hope that this is David Spade’s equivalent of Murder Mystery. Last year, Adam Sandler made that barely passable Netflix movie before giving the best performance of his career. I better see Spade running the Irish mafia in a movie by the end of this year, goddammit!
Scoob! – May 15
I’ll qualify this somewhat. I won’t promise NOT to see this, and from the trailer it still looks decidedly better than Trolls. So if you have to pay out the nose to pacify your children during this pandemic, I’d certainly prefer you take this over the alternative. That said, this still looks like a complete waste of time.
The beauty of Scooby-Doo is the campy nature of the mysteries and how the entirety of the gang leaned into it, while still expanding characters and subverting hippie tropes. This? This just looks like it was hastily thrown together by a focus group that’s never known happiness, joy, or critical thought.
The trailer begins with Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker, the original Fred, now replaced in that role by, ugh, Zac Efron) literally watching their own trailer and Scooby trying to do the classic Dan LaFontaine (RIP) “In a world… ” bit. Cheesy? Certainly. But still in character, so I’ll allow it.
However, the whole thing devolves from that point on, as Scooby narrates that this film is meant to be an origin story for his and Shaggy’s relationship – admittedly an intriguing angle – then quickly fast-forwarding to the crew as teens/adults after one nonsensical scene of Shaggy naming the dog (what cop would ask for a dog’s full name, including middle and surname?) and a hastily thrown together Halloween scene where Daphne dresses like Wonder Woman and Velma is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. My eyes couldn’t roll further if I tried.
So is it an origin story or not? Is it a feature-length Scooby-Doo episode or not? Trailer doesn’t seem to care, and I’m guessing movie doesn’t either. Otherwise they a) wouldn’t have tried to shoehorn in an IKEA joke (cause the kids are all about Swedish furniture), and b) would have seized the opportunity to advertise Warner Animation Group, which they shorten to “W.A.G.” with AN ACTUAL DOG WAGGING ITS FUCKING TAIL! Do I have to think of everything here?
Still though, I sat through the 2002 live-action Scooby-Doo movie. There’s no way this could possibly be worse.
Survive the Night – May 22
Remember when Bruce Willis did that horrible remake of Death Wish and we thought he couldn’t sink any lower? Well, this time he has Chad Michael Murray to drag down with him, cause when I think “action and suspense,” I totally think of the guy who was in the unholy WB trinity of Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, and Gilmore Girls.
It’s your basic siege thriller, as a criminal gets shot in a botched robbery, so he and his crew follow a doctor to his secluded home in the woods (naturally). They hold his family hostage at gunpoint to make him perform live-saving surgery on their injured comrade. But of course, Bruce Willis, being a manly man of manhood, decides to attack one of them rather than just let his doctor son do his job and protect his family. You see, he has to show his son how to properly protect people… by shooting and stabbing home invaders. Jesus Christ, if a movie trailer could have a MAGA hat on this would be it. At least the robbers aren’t minorities. That’d seal it as the headlining feature at the NRA Film Festival.
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That’s all we have for this month. Hopefully things will start to clear up soon, and I yearn for the day where I can sit in the back row again. Until then, keep yourselves and each other safe.
Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you plan to see any of these films? Have your local theatres opened back up? What disease would you rather have than see David Spade hit on a beauty queen? Let me know!