I’d say it’s kind of hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year, but I understand how calendars work, so it’s not like it’s a surprise or anything. That said, the last several weeks have been exceedingly busy, so it does feel like time has flowed a bit faster than normal, especially when I blink shortly after 10pm and then hear my alarm going off at 6am.
As such, I have a bit of a backlog when it comes to reviews. I’ve got two in the chamber, a new edition of “DownStream” that I’m working on, and by the time this weekend’s over, I may be four or five movies in the hole. Such is life. Until I perfect my time manipulation machine and use it to conquer the world, there are in fact only so many hours in the day.
Thankfully, I still retain some ability to properly manage my schedule, and as such, it’s time for another edition of “TFINYW.” Tomorrow is the first of the month and the first day of 2022’s back half. In a year that continues the “hold my beer” trend of shittiness that began back in 2016 in this country, crossing to July is something of a double-edged sword, as we’re over the hump and can celebrate the better parts of our history, but there are plenty of horrible moments on the horizon, especially if you are part of any demographic that isn’t mine.
This makes it even more disheartening to know that July looks to be the worst month of the year so far for movies (not counting January, of course). Of the 22 films Wikipedia tells us will come out this month, EIGHT of them have a dubious place in this column. And it could have been fully HALF the field. Two movies – Sharp Stick and House Party – would almost certainly be included here if there were trailers available on YouTube. The former has a trailer on its IMDB page, and it looks terrible, but there’s no YT version for me to embed here. The latter is a remake of one of the worst films of the 1990s, and there is no publicly available trailer at all. But rest assured, there’s no way it can be quality. The third film, A Love Song, stars the brilliant Wes Studi and debuted at Sundance, so I’m guessing it might have been spared the indignity of being listed here, but again, no trailer, so I can’t be 100% sure.
Still, we have plenty of shit to sift through, even without those entries. So crank up the air conditioner, crack open a nice, cold beer, and declare your independence from terrible recycled cinematic trash! This is the July 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Hot Seat – July 1
Remember Phone Booth? It came out in 2003, and was a pretty decent hit, even though from the moment it debuted its relevance was numbered in days and weeks, not months and years. For those who don’t know, the story was a fairly tense thriller starring Colin Farrell as a hot shot who has a brush with death as he steps into a New York City phone booth, one he normally uses for shady dealings, and receives a call from a sniper (played by Kiefer Sutherland), who has him literally in his sights and dead to rights. The hostage situation that ensued in the claustrophobic space was quite compelling, but also almost instantly dated, as even the opening narration discussed how landline phones and booths were almost extinct in the digital age. To watch it now would be almost an exercise in comedy because of how quickly the underlying concept could be dismissed as obsolete.
So what better way to honor its non-existent legacy than by remaking it as a cybersecurity film starring disgraced running gag Mel Gibson and Matt Dillon’s brother from Entourage?
Okay, to be fair, I have no proof that this is literally a reboot of Phone Booth, but watching the trailer, that was honestly all I could think. And to make matters worse, it’s by the same producers who put out a shit-ton of direct-to-video action shoot ’em up movies that completely lack any substance.
This looks to be no different. Phone Booth was a psychotic game about making a bad man confess his sins lest he be killed. In this film, the ex-hacker being held at bomb-point, Kevin Dillon, is just being used to break through firewalls so the killer can rob banks. Yup, all this tech and explosives know-how is just going to be used for a cheap heist story.
Where’s a sniper when you need one?
The Gray Man – July 15
I think we kind of just have to admit a truth we’ve all been avoiding for a while. The Russo Brothers might be overrated. Yes, they co-directed four of the most popular movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame), but was that really all that hard of a task? The MCU was already well into Phase Two before they got started, and all four of these sequels had enough goodwill established that all they really had to do was avoid making another Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 3 to stick the landing. All told, it wasn’t that difficult, especially when the built-in audience was predisposed to love the product.
That doesn’t mean these movies aren’t good, or even great (I’m less enthusiastic about Winter Soldier than some others, because Bucky sucks, but I get the appeal nonetheless), but the Russo Brothers were certainly playing with house money by this point. And look at what they’ve done since then. Chiefly, they produced 21 Bridges, which was the worst movie in Chadwick Boseman’s short life, as well as the utterly inane action film, Extraction (which Joe also wrote), which had one good chase scene and nothing else of value, though sadly a sequel has been greenlit. The only film they’ve truly helmed was Cherry, which got a whopping 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. They do share producer credits on Everything Everywhere All At Once, but it’s hard to discern what level of input they had, as the Daniels’ style is all over that film, as well it should be. I’m guessing they just signed on to get the film financed.
Now, through Netflix, they offer The Gray Man, a spy thriller adapted from a book series that they want to turn into a franchise. And instantly, this film has the same red flags as those other subpar post-Marvel outings, namely that in using Chris Evans, they’re just trying to make bank by casting MCU actors and hoping their associated affection is enough to get asses in seats, or in this case, algorithms to auto-play. Nothing in this trailer, where the rare non-MCU star Ryan Gosling is our title protagonist, suggests anything but a lazy bit of action, and even though Evans is the bad guy, it’s just another case where the brothers seem to be coasting on the relationships they built in much better films where – again, if we’re being honest – they likely had zero creative control. Boseman, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, and now Evans are only there to hopefully trigger some recency bias and make you associate them with the previous work, and by extension, assign quality that an objective view would suggest simply isn’t there.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, I deserve to have to watch commercials on Netflix.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank – July 15
For the first half of this trailer, I was utterly convinced that this was going to be a film adaptation of the 70s cartoon show, Hong Kong Phooey, and I was both intrigued and horrified. One, how deep down the well do you have to go to dig up that awesome show? Two, how could you fuck it up this bad? I mean, every second of this slapstick cliché fest, one that would totally be considered racist if it wasn’t a cartoon, just smacks of cringe.
Then we learn that the character is named Hank, and is not Hanna-Barbera’s “#1 Super Guy,” (though a cinematic adaptation was begun in 2009 and seemingly abandoned in 2012; Eddie Murphy was slated to star) and the disappointment gives way to abject rage. As it turns out, it’s not only NOT a movie version of that cult classic cartoon, but instead it’s a ripoff of Blazing Saddles! Yes, you read that right! The original title of the film was Blazing Samurai, and the studio even dragged Mel Brooks (Happy 96th birthday, by the way, you mashugana genius!) in to lazily voice one of the characters.
It’s a travesty! It’s a sham! It’s a mockery! It’s a traveshamockery (10 points if you get the reference; the points have no value)! Blazing Saddles is literally my second favorite film of all time, and this is how you treat it? An entry level kiddie flick where Samuel L. Jackson says “Mother Father” (you know, for the kids!), George Takei breaks out an “Oh My” for a quick payday, and Ricky Gervais sends carrier pigeons and calls them “tweets?” We don’t even have to get to the scene of everyone lighting their farts before I’m both nauseated and insulted. Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Richard Pryor, Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Alex Karras are all spinning in their graves simultaneously.
Persuasion – July 15
You know you’re in trouble when you release a trailer, it gets near-universal backlash, and the director feels compelled to speak out about how mean we all are. I understand that after the success of Emma. there might have been demand for another Jane Austen adaptation, but this is just doomed from Page One. First off, the trailer tries to inject way more humor – anachronistic humor at that – into one of Austen’s more serious stories. Second, you cast Dakota Johnson, who has a LONG way to go before she is ever seen as anything but an unfortunate willing party to the Fifty Shades series and its everlasting inanity. Appearing in The Peanut Butter Falcon was a start, but she’s far from a credible lead at this stage. Third, the film is seemingly presented as a straight up ripoff of Fleabag, which, just, no.
Now, I didn’t care all that much for that show myself, but that’s just my personal taste. I can still recognize the quality of the writing and performances in a vacuum. And until you can display even a tenth of the cleverness in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s pinky toe, you have no business cribbing her work.
Anything’s Possible – July 22
Yes, anything’s possible… except for this movie being a good idea. I understand that trans representation is important, and good for Billy Porter for making the most of his time in the spotlight to bring attention to underserved communities and stories. Getting to introduce new talent to mainstream audiences for his directorial debut is a unique opportunity, and I don’t begrudge that.
But come on, not like this. If you want to break new ground with a story about love between a straight boy and a trans girl, I am here for it, but do something actually original, rather than a cheesy teen rom-com filled to the brim with social media bullshit and a literal idol worship shot where the idol is Porter himself! Seriously, that wall mural will haunt my dreams.
This is the same core problem I had with Crazy Rich Asians. I’m all for more representation, but do it with good movies and new stories rather than tired clichés. And yes, I recognize that I may be holding these films to something of a double standard, like when Elizabeth Banks decided to sarcastically celebrate her horrible Charlie’s Angels remake by saying that women are allowed to make bad movies, too. I get it, I truly do. But that doesn’t change the fact that this movie looks bad, likely IS bad, and there was plenty of opportunity to make it good by going in different directions. Bringing new demographics into the zeitgeist is a rare chance indeed, and it shouldn’t be squandered on the same crap we’ve seen over and over again. Don’t waste the moment and then act like we should celebrate said moment for existing in the first place. It’s beyond hollow, and I’m sorry, but employing the same tired studio formulas with a more diverse cast isn’t progress. It’s dragging new audiences down into mediocrity that they – and we – don’t deserve.
DC League of Super-Pets – July 29
There are any number of reasons why this movie feels like it’s going to be awful, but I’ll key in on one that really sticks out to me – Kevin Hart. Now don’t misunderstand. I fucking LOVE Kevin Hart. He’s one of the funniest comics of all time. He is a unique talent. I’m STILL pissed that the Academy took the Oscar hosting gig away from him due to an offhand joke from more than a decade prior.
But here’s the deal with this movie. I cannot take Kevin Hart seriously as a superhero pet. You know why? Because Secret Life of Pets 2 exists, where he already plays a pet who PRETENDS to be a superhero! Just because he was a bunny then and a dog now changes NOTHING. We’ve been down this road. It already sucked once. I don’t need to go down it again.
Sorry, Kevin. I love you, man. I really do. But no! Bad dog!
Not Okay – July 29
I mean, it’s right there in the title. They’re telling you the film’s quality before we even get started.
Actually, even worse, before the trailer gets started, we get a self-righteous attempt at self-deprecating humor that’s really just a cynical ploy to preemptively diffuse any criticism by alerting us to an “unlikeable female protagonist.” It’s a cheap trick to try to dismiss the negative reaction to all that is to follow by essentially calling us sexist if we point out that none of this is funny.
The film, such as it is, concerns an aspiring social media influencer who lies about surviving a terrorist attack for attention. I mean, there are so many things wrong with that sentence that merely typing it out makes my blood boil. There’s satire. There’s the anti-hero. And then there’s this bullshit.
I mean, what exactly are we supposed to latch onto here? We’re already told upfront that we’ll likely hate the character, whether that warning is meant to be ironic or not. We see tons of examples of why we should hate her. And everything else is a cheap social media joke or a cheap “white people” joke. There is literally nothing here of any interest or suggestion of quality. So what’s the point? Is this just some epic troll job where the filmmakers wanted to create the most despised movie of the year? If so, kudos, I guess. But why’d you have to drag Zoey Deutch into this? She is a goddam treasure and I will NOT have you sullying her good name
With that, we move down to the bottom of the barrel for “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” For July, I have a special(?) treat for you. The following film – one that has enough of an established audience that it didn’t even need a preview, just a release date announcement – somehow felt the need to put out not one, not two, but THREE trailers in the leadup to its release, and ALL of them are terrible. So, to show my appreciation – and disgust – I decided to break down all three at once.
Minions: The Rise of Gru – July 1
In the wake of my rage, there is surprisingly uplifting news. I posted this video about 48 hours ago, and as of this publish, it’s at 576 views! That’s insane, especially when you consider that the total viewership of my YouTube channel in the YEAR since its launch is only 427 views, and even that number is skewed by the fact that this surge has massively increased engagement with my other videos. The original “Worst Trailer in the World” video for example, of the Nicole Kidman AMC ad (which is still being forced on us six months later) has jumped from 30-some views to nearly 100.
I’m floored, because it honestly appears that this upswing is legitimate. When I published the video two nights ago, it got two views and one like (from my brother-in-law), before I personally gave it a third to make sure it played properly (I couldn’t test it immediately upon publish, as I had to rush out the door to go see Elvis, review coming soon). The next morning it was up to 28 views. That’s about what my videos average in a month. Then it jumped to 56, then 72, then 121 by the end of the first day. Now it’s nearly 600! My first thought was that some click farm decided to run up the numbers on one of my videos in an attempt to secure my business, essentially showing me what they’re capable of. I based this theory on the fact that on one video, the only comment is a mention of one such company. I would never use those outfits, as they’re essentially illegal if I ever want to monetize this, and YouTube itself filters out suspected fraudulent stats.
And that’s where things get interesting. Furthering my initial theory was the fact that, despite the high numbers, the average time watching the actual video was just under a minute, even though it’s nearly 14 minutes long. My guess was that a spammer or two was just refreshing the page a bunch of times to drive the number up. But the thing is, YouTube accounts for that as part of its algorithm, and of those first 120 views, 30 were unique. And looking at more detailed analytics, 95% of the views come from YouTube’s own recommendations, meaning somehow, somewhere, my video is showing up as a suggestion on people’s feeds. And with the number still growing, the video has gotten an additional like and no dislikes, which definitely happens on my other videos. This means that, at worst, people are clicking on the video, watching it, and going somewhere else without finishing, but they don’t actively hate it enough to leave nasty comments or downvote the video out of YT’s algorithm. I even got a new subscriber today.
If any of you have helped popularize this video, or any of my others, I sincerely thank you. And if this is somehow just a troll job by a click farm, I’m not going to buy your so-called “services,” but thanks all the same for making me feel big for a couple of days.
And now, as always, to end on an even more positive note, with this month’s “Redemption Reel.” I really don’t have too much to say about this trailer, only that it’s really nice to be surprised once in a while.
The Princess – July 1
I have to admit, the first 25 seconds of this trailer made me think that this was going to make the main body of the column. The CGI of the castle looks shitty, the story seemed to be yet another clichéd bit of fairy tale nonsense, and Joey King, who was sublime in The Act opposite Patricia Arquette, looked like she was going back to the Kissing Booth crap that made her famous, but not the least bit credible (and the least said about Slender Man, the better).
And then she smacked a guy in the face with her chains and started going literally medieval on some motherfuckers.
Yes, it’s still a bit of a lazy trope to use “Bad Reputation” in fight scenes, but I was laughing too much to care. I do get a kick out of modern fractured fairy tales, like the original Shrek or even the completely pointless and intentionally stupid Your Highness, because there’s no pretention that they’re anything more than a romp meant to make you laugh at the subversion. This one seems to throw in some pretty kickass fight choreography to boot, and sure, the idea of saying “Joey KING is the PRINCESS” is a bit of fun.
Do I expect this to be one of the best films of the year? Of course not. Hell, it’s being released on Hulu. If it had any real chance of being great it would go to theatres as originally planned. But that doesn’t mean this can’t be a load of fun and a satisfying waste of 90 minutes on your couch. When so many other films this month are pretending to be way more than what they are, this feels like a goofy respite, and I can always appreciate that.
Join the conversation in the comments below! Am I being too hard on any of these films? Do you still plan to see any of them? Did you contribute to my sudden minor YouTube popularity? Let me know!