This Film is Not Yet Watchable – January 2022

The worst year ever… since the one before it, is finally over, and today, we officially begin our journey through the 2022 canon of cinema (even though the book is not yet closed on 2021). Unfortunately, it’s only January, a bleak, cold month where the days are darkest and spirits tank after the highs of the holiday season. As a microcosm of that gloom, the only warmth in the movie calendar is the steam rising from a giant turd.

This year appears worse than others. Normally there’s at least one film coming out that looks promising, be it a popcorn palate cleanser as we go through our respective Oscar viewings, a hidden gem that the studios bafflingly dumped off thinking it would fail, or the seemingly annual Liam Neeson ass-kick-a-thon! No such luck this time. We only have eight new releases this month, and every single one of them looks like a dumpster fire. Even Morbius, which doesn’t look to have all that much potential, has been pushed back again, this time to April.

This has never happened in the short history of this monthly column. Even during the dead periods, there are usually a couple of films that I can grade on a curve based on a first look and at least say, “Eh, it might not be that bad.” Not this time. Everything looks awful. It’s so bad that I kind of have to cheat in order to have a Redemption Reel this time around.

Strap in folks, we got a bit shit sandwich for everyone to taste. This is the January 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”

The 355 – January 7

I won’t say that I won’t see this, because Jessica Chastain’s last attempt at an action film, Ava, had at least some enjoyable moments in its parade of clichés, to the point that there were a couple of times that I could like it ironically. But it looks like “ironically” is about as much as this movie can hope for.

Just about every tired action movie trope is thrown at the wall here, and absolutely none of it sticks. “Our enemy is invisible,” “We put ourselves in danger so others aren’t,” “They could start World War III.” What’s next, a haughty superior officer telling them they’re on thin ice?

Even within the convoluted context of this film’s premise, none of it makes any sense. Chastain establishes that the adversary uses cyber attacks to destabilize governments, so clearly guns and fists are the answer! The “355” team is assembled with agents from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Colombia (because when we think of elite intelligence agencies, we think Colombia), and China, except that Fan Bingbing is never shown fighting with the team, so either a) she’s the bad guy, b) she was just shoehorned in for Chinese box office while having an almost nonexistent role, or c) both.

Add in standard-issue fight choreography, the stars in strapless dresses, and the completely trite self-doubt that comes with one of the women being a mother (in this case Penélope Cruz), and I’m already bored. So much nonsense and exposition is crammed into this trailer, but the one crucial bit of information is the one they don’t give us – what is “The 355” supposed to mean? Is it the cumulative age of the cast? No, apparently, it’s a reference to Agent 355, a female spy during the American Revolution. Why not include that? It’s far from an instant association that viewers would understand. You’ve got every other “do it with ladies” trope on display here, including the cast beating men twice their size in hand-to-hand combat and quips about how much smarter they are than anything with a penis. Why not include the one thing that’s actually relevant? My guess is because Agent 355 is a wholly American figure, and as such is basically meaningless to the other four.

This is clearly meant to be the start of some new action franchise, but putting it in January means the studio got the finished product and collectively yelled “FUCK!” at the top of their lungs at how bad it was. Even the trailer can’t seem to save it, because if these clips are what you’re trying to sell us on, I can’t imagine how horrible the rest of the movie is.

Also, stop using Rihanna and/or Jay-Z tracks in trailers. Every time it’s either painfully obvious or completely misplaced. In this case, amazingly, it’s both.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania – January 14

You want to know how bad this is going to be? For one thing, it’s going straight to Amazon Prime in lieu of a theatrical run. For another, Adam Sandler isn’t in it. Yeah, after three straight movies that were bad-to-passable, even he’s done with this crap. Instead he’s replaced by voice actor and impressionist Brian Hull. I hope he enjoys the paycheck.

As for the movie, you know you’re completely out of ideas when you decide to just reverse the dynamic of the series without actually saying anything. The core of the first movie, and really of the whole franchise, is a father learning to let his daughter live her own life, and discovering the joys that come with that. The fact that they’re all monsters is just a cosmetic representation of culture clash. So of course the tactic here is to futz with the part that doesn’t matter nearly as much, and turn the monsters to humans and vice versa. Hilarity!

I will give mild credit that I chuckled at the slime guy being turned into a Jell-O mold, and there is a certain fun irony to a vampire getting eaten alive by mosquitos. But that said, when the funniest part of this video is Alex Borstein’s face after eating a bug from an episode of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel tacked on to the Amazon ad on the back end, you’ve got nowhere to go but down.

Scream – January 14

Can I propose a new rule for movie franchises? How about, from here on out, whenever you resume a series after a long time off, come up with a different goddam title? It really is disgusting the way a lot of these films just reuse the name of the original. Halloween and Friday the 13th do it, too, and it’s annoying as hell. Just because you’re too lazy to come up with something to add to the title doesn’t mean you get to attempt to subliminally link it to the original as if they’re in any way comparable. It’s not like if you called it Scream 5 that people wouldn’t see it. No one thinks you’re re-releasing the original masterpiece. The exact same people are showing up as would have if your naming convention followed any semblance of logic, so why bother with the subterfuge?

Can I propose another new rule? How about, once the creator of a franchise dies, you leave it alone, eh? Wes Craven directed the first four films in the series, but he died in 2015, so unless he left very specific instructions for how a fifth installment was to go, at this point you’re just trying to profit off of his genius. If you want to argue that this newest movie is somehow a tribute to him, there are much better ways to go about it, like an homage in an actual original movie!

Anyway, the trailer looks like the film is literally just rehashing the exact same plot beats as the previous ones, only enough time has passed that there’s a new generation of cannon fodder that’s related to the old killers. Whoopie! Oh, and we’re also going to pretend that bringing back Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox is a big deal even though they were in every single one of the earlier films. You know teasing a return only works if they don’t always show up, right? This would be like creating a promo for an episode of Cheers with the shocking revelation that Norm’s at the bar.

Actually, that would be pretty funny. Somebody get on that. I’m sure George Wendt would be game for the bit.

The King’s Daughter – January 21

What. The. Fuck?!

What the hell is this movie? Why are half the daytime shots dark and half the nighttime shots light? Why is there an Uncanny Valley mermaid? Why is there a pop song playing over a trailer for a film set in medieval times?

WHAT THE FUCK IS ON PIERCE BROSNAN’S HEAD?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Did someone think that was a hairstyle? That wig is scarier than anything you’ll find in Scream, I guaran-fucking-tee you!

Redeeming Love – January 21

I can already hear the horrid country song they probably have written for this.

“Oh, I love me some Jesus!
And so I won’t be a hooker no more!
A man come and saved me with Jesus,
So now I’ll just be His whore!”

I think I got the Clap just from watching this trailer.

The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild – January 28

Hey, remember when Ice Age was good? Yeah, me neither. Okay, the first one was alright, but that’s it. But just like Sid in this trailer mentioning his “bad choices,” we’re somehow back for a SIXTH installment. At this point they’re almost halfway to the Land Before Time series, only that previous franchise had the decency to make every sequel direct-to-video.

This time the “adventure,” for lack of a better word, focuses on side characters Crash and Eddie, who join up with Buck (voiced by Simon Pegg), who’s basically a prehistoric version of Jake from The Rescuers Down Under, in that he’s a reckless idiot with a vaguely Australian accent who does dangerous stuff that would get any reasonable person killed, but because he doesn’t die, he’s “cool.” Oh, and he uses a leaf like an eyepatch because… reasons.

But never mind all that stuff, one of the idiot mammals gets a marshmallow stuck in his ear, even though these creatures predate the invention of marshmallows by about 10,000 years. You know, because we’re going for intelligent jokes!

Oh well, if you have Disney+ and children who won’t shut up, this might mollify them for 85 minutes. But if you’re looking for actual entertainment, you’re better off watching the glaciers melt.

Home Team – January 28

A part of me wants to see this, only to see if I can perfect the exact cocktail of drugs that had to have been concocted to get this green lit. You have Kevin James, playing New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, using the year that he was suspended from the NFL for “Bountygate,” to assist in coaching his son’s youth football team like they’re Little Giants. There isn’t enough peyote in the world to create a fever dream worthy of this surefire shit show.

I mean, you’ve got Kevin James trying to do a combination of inspirational coach and slapstick Paul Blart bullshit, but somehow with the NFL’s approval and use of their licenses and logos. You have a ditzy character working for the Saints who doesn’t know who Roger Goodell is. You’ve got Rob Schneider inexplicably showing up to make energy bars that cause the players to projectile vomit all over their opponents. Taylor Lautner somehow has less dignity than the entirety of the Twilight series. And we’re actually going to treat Payton’s suspension – for a program where he and his coaches paid players bounties to intentionally injure opposing players – as a catalyst for father/son bonding and lessons about what makes someone a champion.

Seriously, I haven’t had my mouth so wide open in shock since the last time I got lockjaw from cunnilingus. In what universe could this ever have made sense? I’m rarely on the side of the NFL these days, as the entire organization is basically a criminal ponzi scheme for billionaires to bilk taxpayers while giving insultingly performative fellatio to the military, but I have to wonder how they could have been duped into thinking this would be good for their image. I’m almost impressed, really.

Clean – January 28

Ok, everyone, check your BINGO cards. If you had Adrien Brody as the next middle-aged prestige actor trying to turn themselves into a late-stage action hero, come collect your prize! Your prize is a sympathetic hug for how far we’ve fallen as a society.

Never mind the gratuitous violence. Never mind the cliché of a lost man trying to redeem himself by saving innocents. Never mind the obvious metaphor of a garbageman “cleaning up the streets.” Don’t even mind the fact that only a couple years after an animated character in Isle of Dogs was dismissed as a “white savior” we actually have a white man saving black people from themselves with no hint of irony. All of that was pretty apparent from the opening seconds of the trailer.

What really bugs me here is, why Adrien Brody? I mean, normally these A-listers who do revenge and action flicks are, well, A-listers. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine actor. I enjoy his work. But since he won the Oscar for The Pianist nearly 20 years ago, what has he really done as a leading man? He almost always plays supporting and character roles, particularly in Wes Anderson movies. I’m not saying it can’t work – for the most part Bob Odenkirk did well with Nobody last year – but we’re talking about a guy whose most memorable role post-Oscar was the Stella Artois commercial where he did scat jazz. It’s even weirder when you consider the overly scruffy beard and intense eyes make Brody look more like Jason Mantzoukas than anyone else. And considering his time on The League and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Mantzoukas would be much more convincing for a rampage movie.

***

And now for a new feature we’re debuting this month. Since this column is all about celebrating and shaming the absolute lowest that Hollywood can go, I’ve decided to integrate my own YouTube shenanigans with a special designation for The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!

Every month I’ll single out one trailer that just looks so bad that mere words on a webpage cannot do it justice. For that special (in the short bus way) entry, I will turn on my camera and microphone and break down the video in real time to show everything that’s messed up about it.

Since this month is a full parade of shit, I decided not to pull out one of the eight discussed above, and instead focus on a bit of advertising I’ve had to watch dozens of times over the last few months, as AMC Theatres decided that the one thing needed most of all before you see a movie is themselves sucking their own dicks.

You may get lucky if you go to your local AMC, as there’s a shorter version of this ad, so you may not have to suffer for the full minute. That version uses different film clips, and it begins with Kidman saying, “When I was a little girl, movies were where I came to dream.” One, no one cares. Two, that’s a fine coincidence, because typically I use Nicole Kidman movies as a means to fall asleep and dream about something better myself. Go figure!

***

And now we come to this month’s Redemption Reel. Like I said up above, I had to cheat this one. Strictly speaking, this movie is part of the 2021 canon, as it had its one-week qualifying run for the Academy (where it was submitted for Animated Feature) back in December. But it’s having a wide release in January, and I’m desperate for anything positive to end on, so here we go.

Belle – January 14

Premiering last year at Cannes, this breathtaking adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” for the digital world received the longest standing ovation of the entire festival – a whopping 14 minutes. It then went on to be the third highest-grossing movie in Japan for 2021. Mamoru Hosoda, previously nominated for the Oscar with the absolutely magical Mirai, gives us what looks to be a genuinely breathtaking follow-up that cleverly posits that both sides of the classic fairy tale are hidden behind a false appearance.

Over the last few years, it’s been something truly special as Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai have given us one masterpiece after another, the two unofficially dueling to see who will take up the mantle as the greatest anime visionary once Hayao Miyazaki hangs ’em up for good. Between the two of them, just about everything they put out is on another level from every other animation studio in the world, and I’m including Disney and Pixar in that.

Just look at the visuals on display here in just a few short minutes. The character designs are amazing. The digital effects create optical illusions that delight and inspire. Even the pop idol music has a degree of appropriateness given the context of the story, which appears to be about a girl who’s shy in school but lets her passion shine through an online avatar. I can’t think of a single thing here that doesn’t work. When the Animated Feature entries were announced, I figured the five nominees were pretty much a done deal. Now I’m not so sure, and I haven’t even seen the actual movie yet. That’s how excited I am for this!

***

That’s all for this month, folks. Keep warm, enjoy some cocoa and marshmallows (hopefully not stuck in your ear), and get through these next few weeks as best you can!

Join the conversation in the comments below! Will you watch any of these films? Which trailer looked the worst? Why is January such a bad month for movies? Let me know!

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