This Film is Not Yet Watchable – October 2021

I love October. It honestly might be my favorite month of the year. My mother’s birthday is at the beginning, and my nephew’s is at the end. There’s costumes and candy to be had on Halloween, as well as some good-natured scares. When I lived on the east coast, it was the time when fall foliage was at its peak. Living out west as I do now, it’s the time when we can start hoping for rain again, along with slightly fewer fires. The Eagles aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, and the Sixers and Flyers are ready to go. And most importantly, you can tell who among your friends is the most garbage person depending on their obsession with pumpkin spice bullshit.

But when it comes to film, this is the month where we have the most uncertainty. Festival Season is drawing down, with Awards Season gearing up. We start hitting submission deadlines for the Academy and other outlets. In fact, about 16 countries have already finalized their entries for the International Feature category (one of which I’ve already seen, review coming soon). Those studios who chose not to strike first in September have a better chance of their work staying fresh in voters’ minds. Also, of course, we typically get the best horror entries of the year, taking advantage of the spooky season.

However, it’s always hard to pin down the exact direction the month will go. Some years we get a plethora of great movies, to the point that some really well-made art gets lost in the shuffle. Other years, October is used as a last-gasp dumping ground for the worst films of the year before the studios launch their For Your Consideration campaigns with full force. You just never know year to year how it’ll go, which in itself can be exciting, because you’re never sure what to expect. There’s legitimate mystery to everything.

For our purposes here, I looked at 21 trailers for mainstream movies coming out this month, a lot of which are either stacked into this weekend or are held off and backloaded into the final two weekends. That tells me two things. One, studios think they can muscle out the middle weeks with blockbusters and avoid competition. Second, now that I’ve been through the list, a LOT of the crap is dispensed with early on, leaving the more intriguing stuff for the end, as we get closer to the proper Awards Season rundown.

Of the films I’ve previewed, 12 of them I deemed passable to varying degrees. Throw in the Redemption Reel and we get to scary number 13, wooooooooooo. That leaves eight movies that ought to be cast into the fires of Hell from which they came, which is particularly ironic given the subject matter of two of them.

There’s no “fun size” here, people, just a bucket full of diabetes! Gimme some Twix! This is the October 2021 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – October 1

I decided today to end my communications and not meet up with a girl I matched with on a dating site. The first few days we chatted she seemed like a real fun person, someone I could nerd out with on many occasions. But today I left it after she tried to argue with me against vaccine mandates. (side note: If you haven’t done so yet, get the shot, assholes! Unless you’re allergic, you have no good reason to risk everyone else’s lives!) Mind you, that was just the final deal-breaker. The first red flag was when she said she was excited to see this movie, and that she thought the first Venom was really good.

Look, I love Tom Hardy as much as the next gal, but you ain’t fooling me twice. I won’t say that I’ll never see it, but with the bar set incredibly low by the last film, this trailer suggests that this sequel will somehow be even worse. If nothing else, it looks like Sony couldn’t pick a tonal direction for the project, with Woody Harrelson’s (much more groomed from the last film’s end-credits teaser) Carnage presenting a legitimate threat, only to cut to mindless slapstick between Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote. Are you a light comedy or a high-stakes action flick? Pick a lane, movie!

More than that, this shouldn’t even be a choice. Carnage is one of the most deadly, badass villains in comic book history. His arc was the only reason the 90s Spider-Man cartoon was even watchable, and Maximum Carnage is still one of my all-time favorite video games. Both of those influences knew to treat Carnage as the nigh-unstoppable killing machine he really was (and that Green Jellÿ soundtrack was so awesome!). To even entertain the possibility of making Brock and Venom a comedy duo against him almost feels insulting. I’m sure there’s some comic arc where there are more jokes than normal, and every superhero movie basically has to have some quips, but the trailer hints at an almost equal time dynamic here, and that just screams that it won’t work, just like me and the apparently pro-Venom, anti-Vax girl I almost dated.

Also, somehow the CGI looks even shittier than the last movie. Shame.

The Many Saints of Newark – October 1

Hey, if you’re a fan of The Sopranos, more power to you. I didn’t have HBO at the time, so I missed out, and there’s no real point of going back now. I may someday, but it’s far from a priority. I think I’ve seen three episodes, the one where Tony strangles the guy during the college visit, when Big Pussy got whacked, and when Eugene (I think) killed himself, because that was the big Season 5 premiere death that everyone was speculating about.

But even if I was a die-hard fan, I would not endorse this movie purely on principle. We have to stop with all these prequels, sequels, reboots, and combinations thereof. The show ended nearly 15 years ago, James Gandolfini died eight years ago, and there was no public outcry to expand the story. I’ll give credit that his son is playing the younger version of Tony in this prequel, but honestly, what’s the point?

Are we really so bereft of ideas and creativity that our only source for entertainment is to dip down into a well that had a natural, satisfying (if controversial) ending? Why do we keep going back to stuff we’ve already done? Hell, ABC just debuted a reboot of The Wonder Years because they thought America could use a new version centered around a black protagonist. Okay, fine, but we already had that. It was called Everybody Hates Chris. So now you’re ripping off two things for what apparent reason?

More to the point, what mass audience is this film supposed to serve? The whole reason for a major studio theatrically-released film is to reach as wide an audience as possible, and in doing so, make a bunch of money. No one is going to go into this thinking, “Well, I never watched the show, but maybe if I watch this prequel with no real context, I’ll suddenly want to.” This movie is only for the show’s biggest fans, which is a very niche audience. That doesn’t mean the film shouldn’t be made, but it should be TV/Streaming only. There is no earthly reason for Warner Bros. (through the New Line label) to put the budget behind this, along with the marketing, for a theatrical release. Just put it on HBO and be done with it.

The Addams Family 2 – October 1

I watched the first animated film, and I enjoyed it well enough, mostly because some of the jokes were on point, Charlize Theron made a compelling Morticia through voice alone, and the movie gave Pugsley something to do, which the 90s live-action ones did not.

But this sequel looks like absolute garbage. It’s Hotel Transylvania 3. It’s Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp, which isn’t even real, but a joke from The Simpsons. In what universe is there an audience clamoring for the Addams family to go on vacation? Sure, they sent the kids to camp in Addams Family Values, but that was just the B-plot. The A-plot and C-plot were still focused on the antics at the family homestead, with Morticia and Gomez going through a sort of mid-life crisis as new parents to baby Pubert, and Fester falling for a black widow in the form of Joan Cusack.

What does this movie have? Pugsley blowing up the Grand Canyon. How lazy can you get?

Also, Hollywood, please, Please, PLEASE learn how to use rap music. I mean, “Ridin’?” Really? Oh, because the family has a hearse-shaped van. I see. You know the song is about police brutality and racial profiling, right? And as much as I love Snoop, speeding up his “izzles” to make him Cousin Itt was the dumbest decision of the last movie, so of course we’re doing even more of it. Fuck me!

The Jesus Music – October 1

Like I said, there’s a LOT of stuff out this weekend, and with the barely intriguing exceptions of Old Henry and Mayday, all of it is crap. But at least this is the end of this particular block party of suck.

Just like with The Sopranos, I’m not here to bash your individual tastes if you happen to like Christian music, although I’m always curious as to where the Jewish or Muslim music is, and as far as I’m concerned, you can’t spell “Christian Rock” without “crock.” What I will bash, however, is the fact that this movie just looks incredibly boring and self-congratulatory.

I’ve listened to my fair share of the genre. I liked Amy Grant a little bit back in the 90s, and sometimes I got right up and danced to Kirk Franklin’s choir. It certainly has its place in the grand spectrum of music. But the vast majority just sounds like the same basic worship message set to the lamest rhythms, whether it’s trying to sound like country, pop, or even heavy metal. There are plenty of great mainstream musicians who happen to be Christian and incorporate it into their art. Bono and Lenny Kravitz spring to mind immediately, and even more low-key or flash-in-the-pan acts like Sixpence None the Richer and Flyleaf had their moments. But for the most part, these people are great musicians and songwriters first, whereas Christian music acts are religious first.

And again, if that’s your thing, more power to you (except for political power; you guys have way too much of that already). Not a damn thing wrong with that. What there is a problem with is that propaganda peddlers the Erwin Brothers are behind the film, and there’s absolutely no chance that there’s going to be any nuance to this so-called “documentary.”

I mean, what exactly would a general audience learn from this film? Is there going to be any exploration of Christian fundamentalism and how it can negatively affect music? Of course not! We’re not going to hear about the guys from Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees leaving the Mormon church because of its stance on homosexuality. That’s why we had Believer a few years back. We’re not going to hear about two of the founding members of Paramore leaving the band because they found Hayley Williams’ lyrics “insufficiently Christian” before they committed hate crimes. We’re not going to hear anything about record label disputes or sales pressure, or anything of the like.

No, we’re not gonna get any of that honesty or intrigue. The Erwins have a brand to maintain. That’s why this will fail as a legitimate documentary. There’s absolutely nothing new under the Son of God here. There are no real insights, just continual preaching to the literal and figurative choir. No matter what subgenre the performers belong to, everything will come back to their love of God and their love of music, with maybe the occasional anecdote about how faith helped them overcome addiction or something. Do you really want to hear the same story told over and over again for 90 minutes? At one point, one of the brothers asks from off camera, “Would you change anything?” What kind of question is that? What possible answer do you think you’re going to get from such a lead-in? Hell, I’ll make you all a deal right now. If anyone answers that question with something other than “No,” (or a qualified “Yes,” like, “Yes, I would have found God sooner,” or something), I’ll put it on my Netflix list when it’s on DVD. If someone actually says something like, “Yeah, I would have totally done more drugs, banged more hookers, and worshipped Satan before cashing in on this scam,” then I’ll not only pay to see it this weekend, but I’ll buy other people tickets! Show me the clip where it happens, and I’ll fork over the cash. I feel very secure in the safety of my bank account.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough. If that’s your jam, if that’s your faith, that’s perfectly fine. It’s just not a compelling basis for a documentary, and certainly not worth your time and money.

God’s Not Dead: We the People – October 4

Now these so-called “Christians” I’ll bash all day. If this is your jam, it is most decidedly NOT fine. Somehow, somewhere, somewhy, this is the FOURTH movie in this borderline terrorist series, and the insults to facts, knowledge, faith, and basic human decency show no signs of stopping.

The crusade target this time? Education, which was also the target in the first two (the third one was about the government daring to pass laws where tax-exempt churches can’t endorse political candidates – the horror). Specifically here, the strawman is an alleged federal standard for education and curriculum, which conflicts with two fine, upstanding Christian parents who wish to home school their child as a righteous member of the evangelical flock. Never mind that no such mandate exists, and that parents are free to home school their kids across this nation without government interference, the big bad liberals are going to take God out of the classroom again! There’s a point in the trailer where one of the advocates literally accuses the government of teaching a “revisionist history.” First off, all history is revisionist. That’s how history works. That’s what you do when you learn new stuff. You revise the previous assertions as facts are uncovered. Crazy concept, I know. Second, refusing to teach Creationism isn’t revisionist, it’s just simple settled science. You wouldn’t want Darwin taught in church, you don’t get to teach the book of Genesis in public schools. Third, again, this is about home schooling, where you can teach whatever you want. There is no government encroachment on this front. Religious indoctrination is kept out of public schools, not private or home ones. Fourth, and most importantly, fuck you!

At best, one could make an argument about accreditation, because federal and state governments do set standards of curriculum for home schoolers to qualify for a GED or other public certification. But even then, just answer the questions on the test. You don’t have to believe in evolution to acknowledge the material and just fill in the answer you know they want so you can qualify for a college education if you so choose. The big bad liberals aren’t banning these parents from teaching their son. What they are saying is that if you choose to teach him fundamentalist doctrine rather than established facts, that choice has consequences, among which may be the denial of official credentials.

But that’s the problem with these societal assaults disguised as films. These people don’t really care about religious freedom, no matter how many times they scream it while running away from a vaccine needle. They want religious endorsement. They want the government to officially recognize their warped version of faith as the one true answer and force the rest of us to conform to it. At minimum, they feel entitled enough that they believe they should get to do whatever they want in the name of God with impunity, and that’s just not how any of this works. The film has the audacity to use We the People as a subtitle, invoking the preamble to the U.S. Constitution while flat out ignoring the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. As a free thinker, I’m insulted. As someone with a passing knowledge of history and civics, I’m insulted. As someone who has critical thinking skills, I’m insulted. As someone who used to be a Christian, I’m insulted!

And just for good measure, who are our heroic soldiers of God? Well, you have Isaiah Washington, who got fired from Grey’s Anatomy after threatening to out his gay co-star and calling him a faggot. You have Antonio Sabàto Jr, who still maintains the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim and whose father died of COVID, yet he still supports Donald Trump, truly the most Christian of us all. And presiding over the court case (as opposed to the fake Congressional hearings that somehow draw standing ovations despite looking like they were filmed in a dirty cafeteria) is Jeanine Pirro, the former judge and prosecutor who is now neither, instead spending her time as a screaming Italian stereotype on Fox News spewing hate speech and bile that would get her disbarred if she were still practicing, and who needed Trump to pardon her ex-husband before he left office. Because you know, she’s all about the rule of law. Seriously, if I wanted to be fed bullshit this badly, I’d stick a spoon up a cow’s ass.

I left Show Me the Father out of last month’s column because I didn’t want to dignify it by acknowledging its existence. But this, THIS, has to be actively fought against, as well as the people who promote it, because our very society could be at stake if these assholes ever get enough power.

No Time to Die – October 8

We waited a whole extra year for Daniel Craig’s 007 swan song, even though that meant still suffering through Billie Eilish’s terrible theme song that will almost certainly get a huge campaign for an Oscar nomination (I will give credit that she at least attempts to actually sing here, but she still sounds like Lorde trying to take a constipated shit), and this is what we get? This looks like the most generic, lackadaisical Bond trailer in existence, and Craig himself looks like he’s sleepwalking throughout the entire thing, like he’d rather be doing anything else. And honestly, after doing this for so long, he probably would. On the rare occasions that he’s gotten to branch out in roles unrelated to Bond (Logan Lucky and Knives Out, for example), he’s been able to stretch his range and just have fun. After Spectre, it really feels like the James Bond experience has held him back more than anything else.

Also, as much as I love Rami Malek, he looks exactly 0% menacing as a Bond villain. It just feels like a bad fit all around. Apparently Christoph Waltz has one scene as the rebooted Blofeld, but the less remembered about that disaster, the better. I just don’t see any way this works. It just feels tacked on and lazy, and that’s a disservice to the cast, to Craig, and to the character of James Bond. Even the title is stupid. No time to die? Everyone’s got time to die. In fact, I’m pretty sure that when you die, the rest of your schedule for the day goes out the fucking window. Death takes pretty high priority over your calendar, there, mate.

Halloween Kills – October 15

The last film was a noble effort that fell flat, because while it sucked, you could at least tell that Danny McBride et al cared enough about the material and the legacy of Michael Myers to give it an honest try. But a failure is still a failure, so there’s little hope for an improvement here. Picking up right after the last movie ended – with Laurie Strode’s house burning down with Michael inside and firefighters inexplicably driving towards the blaze – the trailer commits a cardinal sin right off the bat by revealing what are likely to be the coolest kills in the whole movie, showing Michael’s escape and gruesome murder of the fire crew. The trailer then squanders a few more righteous bits of gore, including him stabbing a woman in the neck with a fluorescent light bulb.

I mean, why give that away? I can’t imagine how you’re going to top either of those sequences for sheer theatricality, and you waste them in the trailer? What possible sense does that make? Even if some of the kills not shown are spectacular, there’s absolutely no point in giving away your major moments in a trailer, especially one for a well-established franchise where fans know what they’re getting. You can still tease the moments, but cut away before the deed is done. Give us an incentive to come and watch.

Instead, we go back to Jamie Lee Curtis’ deranged version of Laurie leading another “final” fight against Michael with Judy Greer and Andi Matichak, with the latter looking three years older than the minutes before this film began. That’s another curious choice. Why lead with the whole “evil dies tonight” angle when we all know that won’t be the case? We know she won’t kill Michael, and even if she does, it won’t stick. She already decapitated him at the end of H20, only for the next sequel, Resurrection, to retcon that by saying it was mistaken identity and she killed an innocent man. And of course, this film and its immediate predecessor are retcons of all the other Halloween sequels, writing them off as no longer being canon, so what’s to stop the next creative team to get the reins of this franchise from doing the same thing? We’re just going in circles here, people! McBride and his cohorts may love the franchise and the character, but they don’t have the balls to kill him permanently, and it’s a waste of time, effort, and energy to pretend otherwise.

I’m all for a good slasher flick, or even a gratuitous one, but it seems like McBride and company want us to take this one seriously like we did last time. Well, last time was underwhelming, and as fans of the series, they have to know that we as an audience are too smart and too conditioned to this formula to ever trust in the idea that it’ll ever end. So why bother? Just make a good Halloween movie with some awesomely graphic violence and don’t blow your load on the good kills in the trailer. Why is this such a hard concept?

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin – October 29

This is honestly kind of depressing. October is supposed to be the pinnacle of the year in horror, but apart from low-budget creature feature Antlers, none of the horror movies, or even the horror-adjacent ones, shows any real promise. The latest Paranormal Activity is just the another example. The “found footage” subgenre died off years ago, thanks in large part to this series running it into the ground, and this newest sequel/reboot appears to not even bother with that conceit anymore. There are a couple scenes in the trailer that seem to still hint at it, but the bulk of it looks like it’s devoted to some kind of Menonite-like cult ritual stuff that’s staged like any other movie.

Also, not for nothing, but when a) your trailer is only 30 seconds long, and b) you’re coming out on Paramount+, the streaming service so lame it couldn’t even hold viewers when it was CBS-branded, you’re pretty much telling us all we need to know to stay away.

***

And finally, we move on to this month’s Redemption Reel, for a movie that on the surface would appear to be something I’d steer completely clear of, but instead, I’m super excited.

Dune – October 22

If you know this blog, your head is probably spinning right now, because me pre-endorsing Dune seems like a blatant violation of my Remake Rule. But if you’ll recall, I do make an exception for remakes that give me a compelling reason to watch. And here, there are several.

First, let’s just admit it, the original film wasn’t all that good. It’s certainly achieved cult status, and there are some cool elements, particularly Sting and Patrick Stewart, but on the whole, the movie drags, and Kyle MacLachlan just didn’t do it for me. More importantly, the studio execs interfered so much in the production that some cuts of the film have David Lynch replacing his own directing credit with Alan Smithee, the collective pseudonym given by directors of terrible films who don’t want to be tainted by their stench.

There were a lot of problems with the 1984 original, and this trailer goes to great lengths to show that this production is aware of them and is trying to rectify them. On those grounds alone, I’m okay with this, as usually remakes are bad rehashes of classic films, whereas this one knows the original was crap and is looking to do justice to the source material.

Moving on, the film’s title is stylized as Dune: Part One, as Denis Villeneuve acknowledges that Frank Herbert’s book was too long and too dense to be properly adapted in one movie. The plan is to make two, with this film covering the first half of the book and the eventual sequel (which hasn’t been green-lit yet) doing the back half. So that’s two compelling reasons to see this right off the bat. The story will be given the proper space to breathe and explore Herbert’s world more than the previous one could have even attempted.

Three, the moment you say “Denis Villeneuve,” even if you completely manhandle the pronunciation, I’m in. The man has basically never made a bad movie, and since his mainstream breakthrough with Sicario, he has only delivered the highest quality, including Blade Runner 2049, proving he can work wonders with ambitious 80s sci-fi. There’s no reason not to trust his cinematic eye here, similar to when the Coen Brothers remade True Grit. He’s got enough credibility that we can give him the benefit of the doubt

Fourth, and most importantly, this trailer just looks fucking epic! The size, the scale, the effects, the cast, the score, the production design, the costuming, the makeup, I wouldn’t be surprised if this film is competing heavily for every technical Oscar next year. That’s how grand this all looks. Honestly, the only moment that didn’t look 100% authentic is when Timothée Chalamet retracts the visor on his helmet (always a lame, superfluous effect) and his face looks like it’s a CRT computer screen. Everything else looks so real I could touch it, even though the vast majority is CGI. That takes a lot of effort, artistic vision, and commitment of budget. You don’t expend all that if this is just a tossed-off cash grab.

I normally only require one compelling reason to see a remake. This version of Dune has at least four. Not only will I see it, I might even shell out extra money for a larger format. I could just watch it on HBO Max when it gets the simultaneous streaming release, but this is the first movie in a while, maybe all year, that feels like it HAS to be seen in a theatre.

***

That’s all for this month. God speed, everyone!

Join the conversation in the comments below! Will you see any of these films? Are you a fan of any of these franchises? What’s your favorite scary movie? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “This Film is Not Yet Watchable – October 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s