We’re officially 1/4 of the way through the year! WOO! I guess. Anyway, now that the Oscar Blitz is complete and the book has been fully closed on 2021 (the Razzies even recanted their “prize” to Bruce Willis after he announced he had aphasia – but weirdly they didn’t take back their “Redeemer” award for Will Smith), we can finally go forward, full speed ahead, to focus on new and exciting movies.
And wow are there a lot this month. Between streaming platforms (they’re still Academy eligible for the foreseeable future) and theatrical releases, we have 20 new movies premiering in April, starting today. Surely they’re all going to be masterpieces of cinema.
*Cue Gilbert Gottfried voice* YOU FOOL!
It’s true. No matter what we do, Hollywood will always give us more and more trash to sift through. It almost feels like a cruel joke at times how terrible these movies can be. It’s as if the people shelling out the money to get them made have absolutely no idea what a good character or compelling story is. But that can’t be the case. I mean, obviously you have to be at the absolute top of your game to reach the decision-making heights of this industry. There’s no way you could just be born wealthy, buy whatever you want, then shove nonsense down the public’s throat until they acquiesce and go see your shit because there are no other options, right?
Okay, I just made myself super sad.
Anyway, in this month’s maelstrom are six bouts of cinematic diarrhea, from lazy franchise fare to preachy nonsense to the return of film’s antichrist itself. The May flowers are still a month away, so get out your umbrellas for the endless showers of shit.
This is the April 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Morbius – April 1
Jared Leto has NOT had good luck with comic book films. First he gave the world the cringiest version of the Joker, going so method for his eight minutes of screen time that his fellow actors didn’t want to be anywhere near him due to the creep factor.
And now, there’s this. Tempting the gods of the movie world, Sony actually brags in the trailer that they’re the ones who brought us Venom. That’d be like Jack in the Box advertising now about how they had an E. coli outbreak in the 90s.
Anyway, Leto is back, this time as Dr. Michael Morbius, an antihero who is occasionally friend or foe to Spider-Man and Blade. His powers come from a medical experiment to cure a disease which severely hinders his motor functions. He finds himself no longer at death’s door, but now he has vampiric needs to consume blood.
So, he’s like a man, who is also part bat? Like a MAN and a BAT, a Manbat? No, that doesn’t sound right. I’m sure whatever term they come up with to describe him won’t be derivative in any way.
And oh look, there’s Michael Keaton, who played Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He’s here to attempt to tie this into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Except this isn’t an MCU film, and No Way Home established that Sony’s Venom does not exist in the same timeline as Tom Holland’s version of Spidey, which means this is a separate canon. So we’ve got someone who played Batman talking to not-Manbat Manbat, and all I want to do is jam a Twizzler into my brain.
Throw in a shitload of bat CGI, horrible transformation makeup, and the most blasphemous use of the Doors’ “People Are Strange” (Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t even make a cameo appearance), and you’ve got a surefire stinker that proves once again that unless it’s an animated multi-verse, Sony doesn’t know how to do jack or shit with the property.
Better Nate Than Ever – April 1
You want to know how bad this title is? I originally thought it was Better Nate Than Never, because I didn’t think it possible for a movie to fuck up a pun TWICE in its own fucking name!
If there’s one thing this world doesn’t have enough of, it’s Billy Elliot knockoffs. If there’s another thing we don’t have enough of, it’s kids who think they’re infinitely talented with no one to tell them no. And I’m sorry, the boy in this movie needs to be told no so many times.
There’s a difference between encouraging a child’s ambitions and dreams, and placating delusions to the point of it being intolerable. This trailer alone tells you this movie will fall on the latter side of this equation. From the way he declares a school bus door opening to be like a stage curtain to his allegedly heartfelt confession to Lisa Kudrow that he wants her life (which is apparently starring in one Broadway show per year then working as a waitress for a closet of an apartment the rest of the time), you can tell this kid is so extra he’s a pack of fucking gum, and that he needs to get some perspective.
It’s like we’re not allowed to tell children that they aren’t perfect anymore, for fear of hurting their feelings. This youngster is obviously talented enough to get cast in this movie, but the bits of performance we see in the trailer show me nothing but someone who needs a reality check. He’s good, but nothing special, and someone has to care enough to let him know that there are so few spots for people to become superstars, and he probably won’t get there. You can work at it your entire life and get nowhere. If he still wants to try, that’s fine, but it’s a simple truth he needs to accept.
I’ll give you an example. When I was younger, like every boy my age, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I dreamed of winning the World Series for the Phillies. Every kid I knew did (if it wasn’t the Phillies, there was surely some other favored team to substitute). It’s part of being a kid. That’s why we have Little League, to at least learn the game and play it in an organized fashion, to see who has the talent to give it an honest go, and who’s just having fun playing with friends, all valid outcomes. One summer, after the season was over, my birthday present was to attend a week-long fantasy day camp with the Phillies. It was awesome. I got to play scrimmages, learn new throwing and swinging stances, and during a trip to Veterans Stadium (the Phillies’ former home, demolished in 2003), I was the one person in my group who actually was able to hit a ball over the center field wall. We were standing in the middle of the outfield, so it didn’t really count as a home run, but in the moment I did not give one shred of a fuck!
But I also got a crucial dose of reality, as the camp was run by professional coaches and scouts at every level of the organization, and they told us the hard truth. Out of the 80 or so of us at the camp, odds were that maybe three of us would ever play professionally, and only one would make it to the Majors, statistically-speaking. At the end of the week, when the elite campers were given awards for their skill, I didn’t win anything.
That told me I would not be one of the chosen few. It hurt for about 10 minutes, and then I moved on. I still loved the game, and still tried to play it in an official capacity, knowing it would just be for fun. I played one more year of Little League, then when I moved to New York for high school, I tried out for the JV team my freshman year, failing to make the cut. Oh well. It’s still an amazing game that I love to watch and play, and I look forward to teaching my own kids (or my nephew) how to play someday. It’s still fun, but I was able to learn fast that some dreams just aren’t meant to work out, and that’s okay.
That’s what “Nate” needs to learn in this movie, and sadly, all indications are that he’s not going to. Instead of taking rejection with an ounce of humility and self-reflection, it instead becomes a mission to prove why everyone who doubted him is wrong. And of course, he becomes a viral star in the process. Remember kiddies, if things don’t go your way, don’t try to improve yourself, just become magically famous through social media to shove it in everyone else’s face! You don’t have any flaws, the rest of the world does for not giving everything to you!
Disney, what the fuck happened?
Ambulance – April 8
A couple of months ago, I played a little game with you guys regarding Moonfall, where I asked you to, in the comfort of your home, raise your hand the moment you could tell from the trailer that it was a Roland Emmerich movie. Well, now I want you to play the game again. Raise your hand and scream, “FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKK” the moment you realize that Ambulance is a work by the Satan of the Silver Screen himself, Michael Fucking Bay. If it took more than the second shot, with the helicopter flying overhead through a Dutch angle, you haven’t been paying enough attention.
This movie is so full of Bay cliché that I’m honestly surprised the titular emergency transport vehicle doesn’t turn into a third-tier Transformer. As always, the trailer is filled with tons of unnecessary shots of sunsets and muscle cars, commentary about the military being “heroes” that government bureaucracy fucks over, “real men” in the forms of Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II doing what’s necessary to take care of their families, and of course, a shit-ton of explosions, crashes, and guns to substitute for plot. How many, you might ask? Well, because I’m a glutton for fucking punishment, I actually counted. In this three-minute trailer, there are a whopping 42 shots of them.
And we’re not done here. We have the overly dramatic pan shots from low angles to make a nothing conversation seem dramatic, music swells that are so on the nose they might as well be ingrown hairs, entry-level moralizing about right and wrong, deification of cops, and a heist where we’re supposed to feel something for the robbers even though Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen’s greed is off the charts and you know the whole thing is gonna go tits up. Speaking of tits, all we’re missing is Megan Fox to play a paramedic that is way hotter than any paramedic could possibly be, with her jugs staying just inside her shirt enough to garner a PG-13 rating. Well, we actually don’t have that. Instead we have Eiza González from Baby Driver to fill that role. I guess Fox got too old.
And then to top it all off, a nonsensical EDM/R&B cover of “California Dreamin'” plays over half the proceedings, ending with a stylized title that highlights the “LA” part, in what counts for cleverness in Bay’s world, as if we couldn’t tell that this takes place in Los Angeles. I mean, we only have multiple skyline shots, freeway chases, and a head cop wearing a USC hat for fuck’s sake! Also, real smooth political commentary to bitch about medical expenses when the whole story involves a hijacked ambulance in Los Angeles, where all ambulances are private except for those run by the Fire Department, which this one is not. Dumbass.
Father Stu – April 13
Look, as Christian movies go, this one doesn’t seem all that bad. The tale of a ne’er-do-well rudderless man who finds meaning in the priesthood is purposeful, and apparently there’s genuine inspiration in Stuart Long’s life story that Mark Wahlberg felt the need to note it in a preamble to the trailer itself.
But it’s still manipulative in the extreme, and if you need any evidence, look no further than the fact that Mel Gibson is the “skeptic” who gets converted by Stu. Mel Gibson, hyper-Catholic, Passion of the Christ, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” MEL FUCKING GIBSON, is your token non-believer? Really?! Goddamn Kevin Sorbo would have been a more intellectually honest choice.
Beyond that, the story seems to have as little direction as its main character, at least from the looks of the trailer. I mean, they introduce the wonderful Teresa Ruiz (from Narcos: Mexico) as a potential love interest, only for the plot to necessitate kiboshing such an idea in service to Stu’s Holy Orders. I mean, it’s not like priests don’t fuck, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the message this movie wants to get across.
I’ll admit that this doesn’t sound like the worst idea in the world, and if this became the floor for bad religious movies, I might be inclined to watch them more often. But seriously, if you think for one second that I’m gonna buy Mel Gibson being remotely believable as a Doubting Thomas, you can blow it out your cassock.
The Bad Guys – April 22
Remember last year when Sweet Girl ended up in this column? I said back then that I had a feeling the title was chosen purely in service of using “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in the trailer. Well, Universal and Dreamworks have apparently decided that this is meant to be a template going forward, and thus we have The Bad Guys, which exists solely to rape your ears with Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” which as I’ve mentioned before, is literally just the the theme from the video game, Plants vs. Zombies sped up. You know, because she’s an “artist.” The fact that she got an Oscar before Lin-Manuel Miranda should be considered a hate crime.
Basically, this cartoon is about a gang of animals that I suppose are thought of in negative terms, because they all work in a heisting crew together. There’s a wolf, a snake, a spider, and a shark that somehow can breathe out of the water even though there are humans in this movie. It’s essentially just a bias against predators to lay the foundation for sophomoric jokes (see: the shark pretending to give birth). Anyway, on one particular attempt to pickpocket an old lady, the Big Bad Wolf (Sam Rockwell, slumming it worse than he did in Iron Man 2) ends up helping her, and in her moment of thanks, his tail starts wagging uncontrollably, indicating that he likes being appreciated for doing good deeds. This, of course, leads to him and the group trying to reinvent their images as good guys through a PR scheme ripped straight from Hancock, and it wasn’t all that good back then. The rest of the cast includes Craig Robinson, Marc Maron, Richard Ayoade, and Misspelled Bottled Water doing her “black-cent” yet again.
But I mean really, how could this idea possibly fail? It’s not like the animation looks so cheap that you could tell the entire film’s budget was spent licensing the terrible song that gives the movie its title, right? And of course, there have never been animated movies about villains turning good before! I mean, such an original idea would have to come from a genius mind, like, way bigger than yours or mine. A Mega-mind, if you will. And once that idea takes hold, I’m sure it’ll be a GRU-eling task to escape its do-MINION!
Do something new, you dicks.
Still, after all of that, there is one entry even worse. We’ve seen manipulative mythology, uninspired explorations of good and evil, a glut of nonsense special effects thrown at the screen, patronizing kiddie fare, and a franchise spinoff that should have never been green-lit in the first place. So why not take a deep dive into a trailer that combines all of those negative elements into one, like a Captain Planet of shit! This is “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month.”
No curse is too unforgivable for this pile of garbage.
Finally, as always, let’s end this column on a high note and go into the month of April with renewed hope. Here is this month’s “Redemption Reel.”
Apollo 10 1/2 – April 1
Premiering today on Netflix, Richard Linklater’s latest film is another rotoscoped animated journey, like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, the latter of which is one of my favorite movies of the 2000s. That alone is worth giving it a look, but there’s so much more going on here.
First, in a turn that feels like the correct way to go about exploring a childhood ambition – unlike Better Nate Than Ever – the story is complete work of fiction about a young boy named Stanley (Milo Coy as a child, Jack Black as an adult) who gets to do a test flight of the Apollo program’s lunar module, essentially allowing him to land on the Moon before the actual Apollo 11 mission that sent man to our natural satellite for the first time.
This is a brilliant idea, because every kid dreams of being an astronaut, and through this fantasy – whether its depicted as such or as an actual event – we’re allowed to truly live in that wonder. It’s so different from modern animated stories because its premise has – gasp – imagination to it that stays grounded (forgive the pun) in some semblance of reality. Even ambitious projects like Over the Moon still mostly dealt in complete bullshit for the sake of the adventure, but this one seems to acknowledge how silly the idea of sending a kid to the Moon is, while at the same time creating a somewhat believable pretense to make it happen. That’s not easy.
Even better, Linklater appears to, for once, give us a justification for his fetishization of Texas. I get that it’s his home state, but the obsession is borderline creepy at times. I still get a shiver down my spine thinking of the scene from Boyhood where schoolchildren have to pledge allegiance to TEXAS! How does a state have such a huge collective ego that swearing fealty to a political border within your own country feels normal, like you’d actually make people choose between Texas and the United States someday.
Here, however, there’s actually a point to it, as Stanley lives in Houston (also Linklater’s hometown), where Apollo Mission Control is located, and where several other space flights have been based. So it makes sense here to have Stanley be right in the center of the action. If this film were made by any other director, it would be just as logical for them to place the scene here as well, so it works.
The film debuted at SXSW last month to near universal acclaim thanks to its visuals, story, and feeling of genuine nostalgia for the wonder that was the Space Race (geopolitical posturing notwithstanding). I can’t wait to see this!
That’s all for this month, folks! Hope there aren’t too many rain clouds in your future (send them here, California is still in a state of drought), especially if you haven’t filed your taxes yet!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Will you see any of these movies? Was I too hard on some of them? Who do you think will play Grindelwald in the next pointless movie? Let me know!