I’m knee deep in the annual Oscar Blitz, one that has been marred by the Academy’s flabbergasting decision to relegate over a third of the categories to a pre-taped ceremony. So what better time than now to highlight the absolute crap coming in the month of March that the ruling corporate powers would rather pay attention to than any actual cinematic achievement? Makes perfect sense to me, but only because I have very little faith in humanity.
Ironically though, this March looks to be a pretty strong month for movies. Out of 18 films, only five truly look terrible. I was going to include a sixth – for the horror movie Fresh, which looks derivative of Raw and The Santa Clarita Diet – but early reviews are largely positive, and it already has an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been appropriately “Certified” with its title. So while the trailer itself is underwhelming, I can’t ignore such consensus before it even comes out. That brings us down to five, which is very respectable for this time of the year.
Still, the ones we’re left with are plenty horrible to sate my hate, so I’m not worried. We’ve got baffling horror, an extended period joke, a Forrest Gump remake in everything but name, and the ever creeping hand of the House of Mouse trying to control all media. So don’t worry. If you came here to satisfy your rage boner, you won’t be left wanting. If you came here to satisfy an actual boner, I am concerned, but you do you.
This is the March 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Turning Red – March 11
Oh yeah, I’m starting with Pixar. The basic idea of the film has a lot of potential, about an adolescent girl who magically turns into a giant red panda when she experiences strong emotions, though I wish the filmmakers had chosen a different animal, as in this context, the red panda just sounds like a 90-minute menstruation reference that younger kids won’t get but will make parents cringe. But the execution in the trailer is an extreme misfire. I doubt the movie will be objectively bad – outside of the Cars franchise it takes almost more effort for Pixar to suck than to be great – but this is looking like a middling year at best for the preeminent animation studio, given that the 2022 output will be this and a movie (Lightyear) created entirely to sell toys starring a character that was already created to sell toys. It’s Toyception!
Anyway, the trailer itself is awful. First off, any story that revolves around tweens obsessed with a boy band is an instant turnoff. The beauty of Pixar is how they can make children’s stories profound enough to entertain the kiddies while playfully giving the adults an existential crisis. That appears to be out the window here, as it seems to be clearly just for kids, specifically pre-teen girls. It is VERY rare for Pixar to narrow its target audience so much. It’s somewhat ironic that the trailer invokes Inside Out, as that film ends with Fear hoping that “Boy Band Island” will just be a phase for Riley, and instead Disney/Pixar decided to make that into an entire subplot of a movie within six years. I’d be impressed if I weren’t so nauseated.
The character designs look awful as well, just these bulbous blobs with features that are way too rounded to not be part of a satire of sedentary lifestyles like in WALL-E. This put me off in Luca as well, and The Good Dinosaur. I don’t know why, but human designs have fallen off significantly for the studio over the years, to the point that most of the characters are only indistinguishable from Minions because they speak plain English and have different skin tones. I mean, look at the thumbnail for the trailer video above. One of Mei’s friends looks like a discarded character from Luca, only with a wool cap and braces. Another looks like an aborted attempt to create a 3D model out of Connie from Steven Universe. The third looks like a giant baby with those overalls. Mei herself looks like she’s straining to take a dump. And this is apparently their attempt to be cool and fun? Just, no.
If you follow along with the trailer’s storyline, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. It opens with a montage of how awesome and perfect Mei Mei is, because as we’ve established in recent years – particularly with Disney – female protagonists are not allowed to have flaws, because that would be either sexist, or force character development. She even has a fourth wall break where she brags to the camera about how she does whatever she wants and rules at it all (a random old lady walking in the other direction looks back in a tossed off acknowledgment of the cliché). Yet later in the trailer, once she’s started to transform, Mei whines about having to be perfect all the time, taking a liking to the awkwardness that her panda form grants her. So, is she a girl boss or an insecure adolescent? Pick one, or at minimum give us some context for how both could simultaneously exist.
Oh wait, we don’t have time for that. We have to wonder why something so drastic as magical metamorphosis is somehow never explained to our hero by her allegedly loving and knowledgeable parents until after it happens to her, then pretend to be surprised when her reaction is less than graceful. We also have to cram yet another repeat of the “It’s Gonna Be MAY” meme as some kind of tie-in to her name. Seriously, when a joke that’s been tired for 20 years is a major aspect of your marketing materials, that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Again, the movie probably won’t be awful, as it’s really hard for Pixar to do that. And if I’m being honest, the studio has more than enough built-in credibility that I’m probably still going to watch it. At the same time, this is the third straight Pixar film – after Luca and Soul – to have its cinematic release scrapped (save for a one-week engagement at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre to ensure Academy eligibility) in favor of Disney+ with no premium. The first time it was justified due to the COVID pandemic. With Luca, however, Disney just used that as an excuse, as they’re doing here, as theatres have been back open for quite a while. And they’ve clearly stated which films they think are profitable, requiring upcharges for the likes of Black Widow, Cruella, and the Mulan remake. Unless there’s some kind of legal agreement with Pixar that there can’t be a separate rental cost, Disney is telegraphing to us that they don’t think the movie is a moneymaker. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it does mean that they think it’s bad.
Tyson’s Run – March 11
You know there’s something seriously wrong with your movie when its distributor doubles as a wedding planner. But that’s what we get from – I kid you not – Iconic Events with this eyesore of a Forrest Gump ripoff posing as inspirational treacle. Tyson, who is meant to be on the spectrum – I think – talks in the most stilted fashion this side of the kid from Old asking strangers their names and occupations. I’m not all that familiar with Major Dodson’s work, mostly because I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but unless these are his actual speech patterns, the whole affair smacks of offensive tone deafness.
Anyway, Tyson is attending public school for the first time, the aptly named Pope High School, which I’m sure is either a reference to Christian overtones (Dodson previously appeared in Left Behind, after all) or just a signal that it would take a miracle for any of this to work. Of course, he’s immediately bullied for being different, but makes one sympathetic friend. He’s also trying to get “closer” to his distant father (Rory Cochrane), the football coach who spends his days with “real” boys.
Unsuited for his dad’s team, Tyson decides to train for a marathon under the guidance of Barkhad Abdi, the Oscar-nominated actor from Captain Phillips. Because with all the other barriers and stereotypes we’re clearly breaking down here, we might as well cast a skinny African as an expert distance runner. Somehow, through it all, he’s certain to succeed and inspire everyone, and without any need for Vietnam flashbacks or a southern accent, because we want to be original here!
God this just looks like a giant insult.
X – March 18
There’s been plethora of silly slasher flicks over the years where young people die horribly despite a ton of red flags that should prevent anyone with functioning brain cells from getting involved. And even though they can have their moments, there was clearly one key element missing from all of them to make them great. Do you know what it is?
Yup, you guessed it. PORN!
My jaw dropped when I watched this. Somewhere, somehow, somewhy, someone thought this was a good idea. A bunch of horny kids in the 70s rent out a barn-like building across from a farmhouse owned by a really creepy old man warning about his wife, who stares menacingly from the windows. He ominously asks for “discretion,” but of course the gang of six in a windowless van is there to shoot a porno. Literally anyone capable of thought would get the fuck out of dodge, but instead they blow him off so they can blow… one another. It’s appropriate that A24 is trying to sell this as being “from the studio that brought you Hereditary,” because it too looks like it’s just going to be a gore fest for the sake of having shocking imagery. The most “shocking” of all? Kid Cudi boning Brittany Snow.
I’m all for B-movies, especially ones that are in on their own joke. Hell, last month’s Redemption Reel was for Studio 666, where the Foo Fighters are intentionally and obviously leaning into the absurdity of their premise. And clearly this is meant to be a quasi-parody of the likes of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where stupid youths (all talking like Matthew McConaughey for some reason) get slaughtered because they’re too naïve to notice the signs and/or fuck themselves straight into the grave. But those movies are 40+ years old AND legitimately scary for their time. This movie doesn’t appear to want to bother with that all-important concern. The filmmakers instead seem to be content with having a naked old lady walking around and have that count as being disturbing.
And it’s not even like porn itself is a bad subject for a film. Just look at Boogie Nights, or more recently, Red Rocket. There is a place for it, but this doesn’t feel like it. This just feels unfocused, lazy, and gratuitous.
And again, I do NOT want to think about Kid Cudi’s dong. He’s inserted himself into way too many movies over the past few years from a figurative standpoint. I don’t want that to become literal.
Alice – March 18
Hey, remember how Antebellum bombed two years ago, getting only a 30% on RT? And remember how The Village bombed 18 years ago, only marginally better with a 43% rating? Well let’s put them together! Throw in Foxy Brown and Django Unchained for good measure! What could possi-blye go wrong?
Yeah, this looks like a heaping helping of crap stolen from much better artists. Very, very, VERY loosely based on “true events,” writer-director Krystin Ver Linden crafts what appears to be an exploitative revenge fantasy about the titular woman (played by Keke Palmer) escaping a slave plantation in Georgia, only to run into a trucker played by Common who informs her that it’s actually 1973, and that slavery is abolished. In a matter of montages, Alice basically transforms into a revolutionary, and decides to exact bloody vengeance against her former master, played by Jonny Lee Miller.
Now, I’m a fan of Miller’s. He was tremendous in Trainspotting, though he’s arguably most famous for being Sherlock Holmes in the Elementary TV show. But both major roles illustrate why he isn’t a good choice to be a Georgia slave owner. His British voice is so distinctive that I can’t possibly buy him as someone from the Deep South. Similarly, it’s hard to see the girl from Akeelah and the Bee not only grown up, but shamelessly turned into a Pam Grier knockoff.
Some of the dialogue here doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense, either. At one point, Common asks, “Who are you, then?” to which Palmer replies, “I’m free.” That’s not an answer to his question. He asked who you were, not what you were. You could literally fix the line by adding two words to make it, “I’m a free woman,” but that would require effort. A couple scenes later, the idiocy is reversed, as the afro-clad Alice emerges from a room to inquire, “How do I look?” only for Common to answer, “Like you.” Thanks, Captain Obvious! What does that frog look like? Like a frog. How about that door, what does it look like? Like a door. Riveting.
Yeah, this was meant to be a festival darling. Instead it was lambasted at Sundance, where consensus gave it a 23% rating after its debut. The trailer itself shows the problem. The scenes on display feel like a crash course on race relations rather than a genuine exploration, with way more emphasis on referencing other, better works that lean into and spoof the blacksploitation motif rather than offering any new dimensions. It got so bad that by the end, I was literally waiting for Alice to scream, “I’m gonna git you, sucka!” Yes, the film with that title was released 15 years after the stated timeline of this one, but clearly they weren’t going for anything resembling accuracy here, so I doubt it would have been a factor if they really wanted to go there.
And with that, we reach our rock bottom, the “Worst Trailer in the World… This Month.” I mentioned with X that my jaw dropped while watching that particular preview. Well, there was one even worse, that forced me to fill that open mouth with alcohol, so much so that my drunken alter-ego, Billy Irish, had to make an appearance.
Cheaper by the Dozen – March 18
God help us all.
Alright, now for the recovery stage. This month’s “Redemption Reel” is for a film that I might not actually see, but still one that I found pleasantly surprising once I saw the trailer. Initially, when I first saw posters for the movie, my eyes rolled about as far as they could. But it turns out, the people behind this just might know what they’re doing.
The Lost City – March 25
I have to say, I’m kind of intrigued. The print materials for this movie just make it look like any other cheap rom-com, but once you see some of the clips, it actually seems quite funny. It’s almost like the movie knows that this column is actively about judging books by their cover and aims to subvert it, and as such, I nod in appreciation to their unknowing skill.
Just about every moment in this trailer is about pointing out just how silly the tropes in adventure and romance films can be, from Daniel Radcliffe’s completely non-threatening baddie, to Channing Tatum wearing a literal Fabio wig, to the fact that Sandra Bullock’s romance novel is called “The Lost City of D,” a clear riff on the vastly underrated Lost City of Z that came out a few years ago, but for dicks.
The jokes are rapid-fire (at least in this presentation; I sincerely hope they didn’t blow them all for the trailer), highlighting the absolute insanity of the genre they’re parodying. There’s the completely impossible coincidence that Bullock’s fictional “Lost City” might actually exist. She comments on the cliché of the death pit trap being full of snakes that don’t attack anyone but are there to kill her leads. Da’Vine Joy Randolph has one of the better lines of the whole affair by declaring the need to save her “best friend and her cover model.” It’s like half the script is filled with ideas and statements that are delightfully dumber when you say them out loud.
And just when you thought all the bases were covered, in swoops Brad Pitt to be an absolute badass with cheesy one-liners of his own. “Why are you so handsome?” asks Bullock, to which Pitt replies, “My father was a weatherman.” It’s such an unexpected bit of nonsense delivered completely seriously that you can’t help but laugh.
Just like with Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, it’s like everyone involved knows that this doesn’t need to exist. But whereas that movie admitted upfront that it would be a disaster not worth seeing (that honesty being why it was itself a Redemption Reel last year), this one decides, “Fuck it, we’re just going all out with the insanity,” and I always appreciate that, even if the final product ends up being substandard. I mean, this trailer had me chuckling so much that it got me to ignore two things about it that I would typically find very annoying, namely any use of “Cake by the Ocean” and the mere presence of Sandra Bullock (I recognize she’s talented, I’m just not a fan).
So yeah, March is overstuffed with what appears to be some high quality shit – The Batman, The Outfit, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Windfall, The Adam Project, and After Yang just to name a few – that I might not get around to this one. It may end up falling by the wayside to make room for all of these plus the continuing Blitz coverage. But don’t think that I don’t admire what’s being done here. If I can devote time to it, I’m confident it will be worth it.
That’s all for this month, folks! Keep it locked here as the Blitz resumes tomorrow night, and keep an eye out for reviews of as many new movies as I can plow through in the meantime.
Not that kind of “plow through,” Cudi!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you planning to see any of these films? Was I too hard on any of them? Seriously, who decided that Kid Cudi got to be an actor? Let me know! I have a nice flaming bag of poo for them!