This Film is Not Yet Watchable – June 2022

Ten points if you get the reference in the thumbnail. The points have no value. One day they will. I have faith. But for now… no.

Anyway, we’re nearly halfway through 2022, which is shaping up to be better for film than the last two years. The pandemic is still going on, but most of us have hit a more manageable stage. Theatres have reopened across the country, the overall quality has been better so far (I’ve only seen two movies that fall into the Ds and no Fs), and even the Academy is getting back to normal in the sense that they’ve decreed that theatrical releases are once again required for Oscar eligibility. I’m sure there will be some sort of grace period or grandfathering of entries from earlier this year that were either simultaneously released on streaming services or had their theatrical runs pulled almost entirely (Turning Red, for example, only had a one-week run at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood – owned by Disney – so it’ll technically be okay), but basically we’re fully back to the theatre model for AMPAS, with the only remaining change being the expansion to six different cities for eligible runs rather than just Los Angeles.

But as we near the year’s midpoint, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to deride on appearances alone! I’d hang up my laptop if that ever happened, mostly because I would just live in a theatre and watch nothing but great movies for the rest of my life, and I need to concentrate my bile SOMEWHERE!

For this month, we’ll take a look at nine movie trailers. Seven of them look like shit, one looks awesome, and the last one will get the – what’s the opposite of coveted? – title of “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!”

I’m just itching to get started, mostly because I want all negativity for June to be dispensed with as quickly as possible. Some exciting stuff is coming just around the bend, and I can’t WAIT to tell you all about it. So in the meantime, let’s eat Ex-Lax like it’s candy and blast out the biggest shit we can.

This is the June 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”

Hollywood Stargirl – June 3

I don’t expect a lot from Disney+, well that’s not true, I don’t expect anything at all. But I would prefer to not be outright insulted, and this movie seems to fail at even that basic request. This is the story of Stargirl (like, that’s her actual name, so I already hate her and her parents), who has just moved to Los Angeles and wants to make it as a singer and actress. And wouldn’t you know it? She instantly gets every opportunity any of us have ever dreamed of! It’s just that easy, apparently!

I wonder what separates her from the million-plus people who struggle in entertainment on a daily basis, the vast majority of them never even getting a glimpse of their ambitions realized. What could it possibly be?

Oh right, pretty white girl.

This is La La Land without any of the whimsy or charm, to say nothing of musical or acting talent. It’s disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to suggest that a cute girl with a pixie haircut can just go to an open mic and immediately draw the boner, er, attention of someone who immediately wants to cast her in a movie… that’s shot on an iPhone. That’s not how any of this works. Yes, you can get “discovered” randomly, but for the other 99.9999999% of us, it takes a lifetime of work and an INSANE amount of luck. And for Disney to play into this modern princess fantasy as if it’s something that actually happens is a disservice to all of its young audience who might harbor these goals. Just wear a nice dress or a sweater with clouds, sing a song, and then Uma Thurman will take you under her wing and mentor you into stardom. Bull. Shit.

There’s only one bit of curiosity with this movie, and that’s me just wondering if Stargirl ever gets to meet the Weeknd while he’s singing “Starboy,” and what antics might ensue from that. But that song has the swear words, so there’s no way Disney would ever allow it.

Watcher – June 3

I know I’m probably going to be in a minority on this one, as the advance reviews are already enough for a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where it sits at 84% as of this writing. But here’s the thing. Why? The trailer doesn’t show anything compelling. It just looks like yet another stalker horror film, where the initial fear comes from a woman wondering why someone in the building across the way is looking into her window.

Well here’s a thought, CLOSE THE FUCKING CURTAINS! EVERYONE CAN LOOK IN WITH UNCOVERED WINDOWS THAT HUGE!

Far be it for me to victim shame. I would never suggest that anyone deserves what’s coming. But at a certain point, especially in horror films, you have to ask, what else did you expect? It’s the same reason I never got into the Friday the 13th series after the second movie. I mean, at what point do these idiots just let logic win and NOT try to camp near Crystal Lake? You’re not necessarily asking for it, but what other outcome could there possibly be?

I may end up seeing this movie, and even enjoying it. All I’m saying is that the trailer gives me no reason to. Put up some damn curtains, for God’s sake. Problem solved.

Jennifer Lopez: Halftime – June 14

I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret. Well, it’s not really a secret, I’ve mentioned it before, but whatever. A few years ago I signed up for a service that occasionally allows me to watch a movie well in advance of its release. Sometimes it’s like a preview to gage audience reaction to a movie before it comes out, so the marketing department knows how aggressively to try to get asses in seats. Sometimes the film is still in production, and the response to the work in progress can actually change how the final product looks. Through this service, I saw a fair few movies before their releases, including Blindspotting and the charming Ode to Joy, the latter of which sadly went straight-to-digital; I remember sitting behind some studio suits who didn’t care that the audience was laughing and cheering, they were more focused on potential title changes, none of which came about. I even saw Tolkien when it was still in post-production, with the visual effects not yet finished. There were cranes in the backgrounds of several shots (we were warned of that in advance).

I don’t make it out to preview movies much anymore, mostly due to a lack of free time, and depending on where the screening is, I just don’t want to spend the gas. But that doesn’t stop me from getting emails about upcoming opportunities. Among the more recent examples are films I later included in this very column, like Senior Year and Good Mourning.

However, there was one movie that, upon reading the description, I actually fell over laughing. And that was for Halftime, which for reasons known but to God has already been bought by Netflix and will be the Opening Night feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (I’m guessing because there’s a New York connection). I still have the email. Here is how the movie was pitched to prospective preview audiences six months ago:

Halftime, a new feature documentary, explores an extraordinary woman’s journey to find her voice after working for decades as an entertainer on the outside of Hollywood’s boys’ club. Powered by the unflinching drive that has sustained her multifaceted career, Jennifer Lopez pulls back the curtain to let us in on an incredible ride over the course of her 50th year. In the whirlwind of an Oscar bid and the pressure to prepare a historic Super Bowl performance, Jennifer finds her true north, inspiring a new generation of Americans to get loud and follow their dreams.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

(deep breath)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I mean, where do you even begin? Extraordinary woman? Fuck and NO! The outside of Hollywood’s boys’ club? Uh, they weren’t the ones who decided that 90% of her career was going to be ass-based. Multifaceted? I think “two-faced” is the more accurate term.

I have never seen a more self-aggrandizing piece of PR fluff in my life, and I lived through four years of Donald Trump as President. Are. You. SHITTING ME?

But here’s the reason I bring this up. I didn’t just get one email for this film. I got FOUR. You see, these previews are free. You just have to show up at the appointed place and time. For some of the films I’ve seen through this program, I had to get in line up to two hours beforehand just to make sure I would get in. If a movie is exciting enough, one email is all you need to fill the auditorium and get the market research you need.

However, when they can’t fill the viewing on the first go, the studios and/or the preview company will dip into their pockets a bit. The second email offered a $10 prepaid Visa card if you RSVPed, got confirmed, and seated at the screening. This one came about two weeks before the screening, a week after the first one. The third email, now offering a $20 gift card came one more week later. The FOURTH and final email, coming on the day of the preview, dangled one last carrot of a $40 gift card.

That’s right. Someone was willing to pay ME (and everyone else on the mailing list) $40 to watch a movie for FREE! For the record, I only didn’t go because it was an hour-long drive to get to the theatre. Even I could’ve held my nose at that point if the location was closer. That’s all the proof you need that no one wanted this and it’s going to be a disaster.

The trailer does nothing to assuage this interpretation. I mean, this is a puff piece on par with the Billie Eilish abortion from last year, where J-Lo sobs that she wants to be taken seriously, yet the first two shots of the trailer have her rear end front and center. She says she doesn’t do her work for the awards, yet the press release outright contradicts that, AS DOES SHE IN THE TRAILER, saying directly that she wants an Academy Award. And I’m sorry (no I’m not), you don’t get an Oscar for PLAYING A FUCKING STRIPPER, ESPECIALLY WHEN THAT’S BASICALLY BEEN YOUR ENTIRE CAREER! And you sure as fuck don’t get to complain about bias when logic prevails and actual actors get nominated instead. You’re actively campaigning for prestige rather than actually displaying it, so fuck you. It’s this kind of crap that drags the Oscars down year after year, and you expect sympathy because your craven dealings didn’t pan out? No.

Oh, and that “historic” Super Bowl halftime show? Yeah, it was one of the worst in recent memory, not the least of which was because it made no sense. Because the game was being held in Miami, the theme of the show was a “Salute to Miami” and everything that makes it great. So why were Jennifer Lopez and Shakira booked? One’s Colombian and the other is a Puerto Rican from the South Bronx. You could have easily accomplished this goal with Gloria Estefan and Pitbull. And this is not me bashing pop singers in general. I actually really love Shakira, and would be thrilled to see a documentary about her process, because she’s one of those, uh, what do you call them, ARTISTS! She writes her own music. She TRANSLATED her own music for her English-language debut. She plays the fucking PAN FLUTE! She even writes lyrics that say flat out that her sexuality is meant to be secondary to her artistic credibility.

J-Lo, on the other hand? Her entire motif is declaring she’s better than you and asserting her alleged greatness whenever anyone gives her legitimate criticism, even if they like her overall. She treats people like shit for no reason, and expects worship in return. Netflix just announced the other day that they’ll no longer fund “vanity projects,” and somehow named The Irishman as an example, yet they bought this? What the fuck?

Hard pass.

Father of the Bride – June 16

I already devoted one entry for “The Worst Trailer in the World” to a remake of a remake when it came to Cheaper By the Dozen. You think I’m gonna let this shit slide? Fuck and no I won’t. I also won’t give it nearly as much attention, because the moment you blaspheme by using “Isn’t She Lovely” to start the trailer, I’m out.

Lightyear – June 17

I can honestly say that when this year began that I did not anticipate putting both Pixar entries for 2022 into this column. And while Turning Red wound up being perfectly fine (I only included it because the trailer highlighted all the worst elements of it), I simply do not have the same confidence for Lightyear.

Not since the Cars series have I felt like a Pixar film exists solely to sell toys (I mean, just look at the robotic cat). But what makes this potentially even worse is that this is a tail-swallowing adventure to sell toys based on a franchise that was a satire of toy-based consumer culture. Yes, there were toys of Woody, Buzz, Rex, etc., but that was a side effect, not the primary intent. This is just crass. You’re making a toy into a character so you can make more toys! What sense does that make?

But even if you’re on board for that concept, Disney already did it! There was a Buzz Lightyear of Star Command cartoon show! It’s been done! So what is the point of any of this?

Add in the honestly subpar-looking animation, cheap jokes, and the sound of David Bowie spinning in his grave over this particular use of “Starman,” and I am genuinely concerned. I’ll probably still see it, because as I’ve said before, Pixar has to actively try to suck, but I fear that I’ll leave the theatre quoting the cat:

“That was utterly terrifying, and I regret having joined you.”

The Man from Toronto – June 24

You want to know how little faith Netflix has in this? They only released the trailer yesterday, and it’s coming out in three weeks. You want to know how forgettable this movie’s going to be? They say, “The Man from Toronto” a whopping SEVEN TIMES in the trailer alone! You want to know how much this movie’s going to suck? They actually say, “From the director of The Hitman’s Bodyguard” as a selling point! Both Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson are so much better than this dreck.

The only good thing about this trailer is that the music usage made me miss DMX.

Press Play – June 24

Look, I like Lewis Pullman. He just did a great job in a small role in Top Gun: Maverick. I also like mix tapes. They’re a cool relic of music’s past for people like me who know what actual music is.

But beyond that, this just looks so shallow. I mean, how many Young Adult romance novels are we going to make into terrible movies before we stop? Has there even been a single good one? And if you say The Fault in Our Stars, I will fucking kick you. This one sees Clara Rugaard dating Pullman and then he dies. Somehow, she can use the mixtape to travel back in time to different points in their relationship – the first time they heard these songs together – so she can try to prevent his death and/or enjoy a few more fleeting moments with him. Yawn.

I get the idea of reliving nostalgia as a plot device, but it rarely works. Just look at the last two Jumanji movies. But at least those are meant to be goofy adventures with lots of jokes and no stakes. This is meant to be taken seriously as legitimate romance, which is just absurd, and not in the fun way. It’s an empty excuse to license songs that the studio hopes will be profitable, and it’s an utter waste of at least one really decent actor. Get the gas left over from burning Five Feet Apart, splash it on these reels, and light the bitch on fire for the good of humanity and all of cinema.

If you want to watch a real romance revolving around nostalgia and music, watch High Fidelity and purge Press Play‘s existence from your memory.

***

This brings us to “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” I never intended to pencil in a trailer months in advance, but in this case, I made an exception. In 2018, I did not hesitate to name Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as the worst film of the year. It was stupid and nonsensical, the effects were crap, every character made the dumbest decisions possible, the indoraptor literally winked at the camera before killing Wheatley, and the entire affair was advertised in the most dishonest fashion, teasing a world where dinosaurs were in human civilization when in fact that was just the ending montage to set up the next sequel.

Well, that sequel is here, and from the first frames of the trailer, I already had it earmarked for this section. I allowed for the possibility that something else could be even worse to overtake it, but nothing did (J-Lo came close, but I’ve already busted her hump on video once already this year, don’t want to get too repetitive). In fairness, the new movie, which promises to be the final film of this continuity, has a nearly impossible bar to clear of NOT BEING ABJECT SHIT FOR 2.5 HOURS, but all indications from the trailer are that this will double down on the idiocy of Fallen Kingdom by throwing more illogical shit at the screen rather than correcting ANY of its mistakes. So take your bow, you immensely disappointing franchise, you’ve earned it.

Jurassic World Dominion – June 10

The laughter in this video is a recreation of the actual laughs that flew out of me when I first saw this trailer. The other people in the theatre were less than pleased with me.

***

And with that, as always, we end this month’s column on a note of hope. This month’s “Redemption Reel” is for a film that immediately defied expectations when I first saw the trailer nearly eight months ago, and it has quickly become one of the most anticipated movies of the year for me.

The Black Phone – June 24

Congratulations, Universal, you get both of the major prizes this month. The film debuted at Fantastic Fest last September and was scheduled to be released in theatres back in January. But then something strange happened. Critics fucking loved it! It was initially delayed until February (still noted in the trailer) but then pushed back again to the heart of Blockbuster Season because critical and audience praise from its festival run has been, well, universal. There are only 15 official reviews on Rotten Tomatoes right now, but even so, the film stands at a perfect 100% rating. That’s not nothing. In fact, it is the opposite of nothing.

The opening scenes of the trailer by themselves are compelling. The idea of child abduction is a real, genuine fear for every parent in America, which instantly gives the story credibility from a horror standpoint. The best films of the genre tend to be the ones where the terror is palpable and potentially real, and this movie sells it hard. Also, Ethan Hawke as “The Grabber” establishes himself as an immediately memorable threat, with a charming personality that blends the child-friendly but sinister mannerisms of Pennywise with the performative magician motif of Rebecca Ferguson from Doctor Sleep (even though the look is more based on Lon Chaney from London After Midnight). Just the basic premise of this creepy guy kidnapping and murdering children is enough for a delightfully disturbing good time.

But then the story, via the trailer, does something completely unexpected. It makes the supernatural elements actually seem interesting. I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a fan of religion, especially Christianity, being a trope in horror films, and ghost stories seem lame and lazy to me. But here, somehow it feels earnest. I buy that the little girl (Madeleine McGraw from Toy Story 4; her sister Violet played the girl that Rebecca Ferguson first took in Doctor Sleep) could have had a dream about her brother that might yield a clue, and that based on her faith, she does everything in her power to get authorities to act on it. It works because religion is the avenue, not the impetus. She’s desperate to find her brother, and her dreams and beliefs offer a conduit, rather than her just expecting Jesus to save him because he’s Jesus. Further, I’m intrigued by the titular phone ringing so that Finney (Mason Thames) can communicate with the spirits of the Grabber’s previous victims. All of the ghosts have distinct personalities, even in the briefest of looks we get in this teaser. You can tell they won’t just be there for cheap jump scares, and there’s a legitimate question as to their degree of reality. They could just as easily be figments of Finney’s imagination that help his brain work out his situation rather than just being tormented souls. Hell, even Finney’s attempts to extricate himself from his death trap feel like a better escape room story than the actual Escape Room movies.

I’m genuinely excited for this, which I don’t often say about Blumhouse films (for every Get Out there are literally five Purge movies). But here’s a twist that also commands your attention. The film is directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson, who took on the project after leaving his role directing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That movie turned out to be largely horrible, mostly because of Disney and Marvel’s interference and insistence on commoditizing their audience, a sin I will NEVER forgive. But maybe this turns into a blessing in disguise. If Derrickson’s exeunt from that eventual turd sandwich ends up giving us a tremendous horror film, especially a minimalist one, then I think we’ll all be better for it, and it’ll be a well-deserved middle finger to the House of Mouse.

Here’s hoping!

Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you plan to see any of these films? Was I too hard on any of them? Are there upcoming movies you think should have been included here? Let me know!

One thought on “This Film is Not Yet Watchable – June 2022

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