This Film is Not Yet Watchable – August 2022

It’s official. As of this month, I will join the growing ranks of old men yelling at clouds, for later this August, I will turn 40. It is, if I’m being completely honest, a day I thought I’d never see, and to a small extent, I kind of wish that were the case. I don’t want to be dead, mind you, I just don’t want to be old, even though from my normal disposition I was basically born 65. I’ve rarely truly related to young people or those of my generation, but at the same time, I never wanted to lose my youth. Does that make sense? My therapist says it makes sense.

So what present does Hollywood have for me? A towering pile of shit, that’s what! I’ve mentioned before that August is not always a good month for movies, particularly the third week of the month, which is where my birthday actually falls. Well, this year it’s even worse than normal, as it appears that the studios are using the final month of the summer as a secondary dump at the tail end of Blockbuster Season before beginning Awards Season in earnest. You might as well rename this month as January 2.0, that’s how low the prospects are. Including the August edition of “The Worst Trailer in the World,” we’re looking at an ominous THIRTEEN movies that fail to pass the cinematic smell test based on the preview. The previous record for this column was twelve, back in – you guessed it – August 2019. I feel attacked. It’s bad enough that we don’t get any holidays in August, and now this? BOO!

What is even more shocking than the raw number is the makeup of that unlucky 13. Of the group, fully EIGHT of them fall under the banner of horror and suspense. Um, you guys realize that October is supposed to be the time for scary movies, right? Unless of course, your movies aren’t even remotely scary, in which case I get it, but stop ruining my birthday, dammit!

So yeah, strap in folks, it’s gonna be a long one. You might want to check the calendar to make sure it’s not October by the time we’re done here. This is the August 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”

Prey – August 5

You know what was always missing from the Predator series? Indigenous tribes and shoehorned feminism! I mean, that has to be it, right? Because nothing else could possibly justify this prequel. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (no relation to Michelle), the concept sees the translucent human hunters attacking Colonial America, where only the headstrong Naru (Amber Midthunder) of the Comanche can save her tribe, even though no one believes in her skills.

I was kind of joking with the top line of this column and the accompanying thumbnail, but to put my “old man” hat on for a moment, is this really the place for political correctness? Did we really need a Mulan take on fucking PREDATOR?!?!?!?!?! There’s representation, and then there’s just outright pandering. This is the latter.

But on a more substantive front, how exactly can this serve as a credible prequel? It takes place 300 years ago, yet from everything we see in the trailer, the aliens are using the exact same tech as they used in previous films set in the 20th and 21st centuries, namely the camouflage and the iconic three-red-dot targeting system. Are we suggesting that hunting technology didn’t improve for over three centuries? Or are we suggesting that this species that lives for the hunt perfected their tactics for murdering us way back then, but still somehow have the drive and desire to hunt Earthlings for that long? Either explanation is bullshit in the extreme.

Finally, now that the Academy has essentially moved eligibility rules back to pre-pandemic status, requiring theatrical releases for films to be considered, the fact that this is going to be released almost exclusively on Hulu tells you all you really need to know. Yes, it’ll get the briefest of theatre runs for the sake of eligibility, and the movie was screened for MPA approval (the one point in the film’s favor is its “R” rating, which suggests it won’t shy away from the gore), but that’s little more than a formality at this point. Now that the theatre model is pretty much completely back in full swing, any distributor that opts for streaming as its primary platform outside of Awards Season is basically conceding the point and admitting that the movie isn’t worth you spending your money.

Easter Sunday – August 5

Look, I love Jo Koy. His standup is some of the best in the world, particularly his fractured take on family via his Filipino heritage. And to be honest, this movie looks like it has a decent cast, including Jimmy O. Yang, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Tia Carrere. It’s even directed by Jay Chandrasekhar from Broken Lizard, so there’s bound to be some sound comedy chops all around.

But this trailer just looks like crap. And just like the slew of horror movies being released two months too early, I have to wonder about the quality of the movie given that it’s about a family get together on Easter yet released four months after said holiday. For a second I thought maybe this was a sneaky hit that the studio might have shifted to the summer to pick up some bonus cash on a down week, but it’s going up against Bullet Train this weekend, which looks to be one of the few quality releases this month.

So I don’t know. I feel like there’s something good lurking here, because Jo Koy is too great to truly do anything that horrible, so of all the films in this month’s column, this is the one I’m most likely to see. But that doesn’t change the fact that none of the jokes in this preview land. Most of the Filipino humor only works within the context of Koy’s standup, and would be considered patently racist if anyone else did it. The subplot about a previous relationship with a cop played by Tiffany Haddish just screams that it was a tacked-on studio demand for a cheap romance. The use of the Black Eyed Peas’ worst and most grammatically insulting song (seriously, the way the title is spelled, it translates to proper English as “I Have To Feeling”) is almost an automatic disqualifier.

And then there’s the gag about Manny Pacquiao, which is just wrong on so many levels. Yes, he was one of the greatest boxers who ever lived. And the joke in the trailer from a gangster about not being able to beat Mayweather is a cheap shot, seeing as how serial domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather constantly ducked a fight against Pac-Man until the latter was well past his prime and couldn’t pose a meaningful challenge (worst $100 my roommate ever spent was on that Pay-Per-View card). This is because Mayweather is a coward. But while Mayweather repeatedly beat women, Pacquiao himself is no saint, going on record multiple times both as a boxer and as a politician to campaign against gay rights, going so far as to call members of the LGBTQ community “worse than animals” and align himself with extremists who advocate imprisonment and even execution for being gay. He is decidedly NOT someone worthy of such “comical” hero worship as to have an entire family make his birthday their ATM PIN codes. Jo Koy is hilarious 99% of the time, but this bit feels especially tone deaf, and to highlight it in the trailer seems rather foreboding to me.

Bodies Bodies Bodies – August 5

This is presented as a satire of college-set slasher films, with a bunch of friends and acquaintances having a house party at a mansion which may as well double as a sorority house. During a hurricane, they decide to play the film’s titular game, where one person is designated as a “killer,” who must discreetly hunt down the other players, only in this case, the person actually murders them.

The humor is largely drawn from clueless young people stereotypes, as highlighted in the trailer, where half the jokes are about the various scream queens complaining about “gaslighting” and “making this all about you.” I get the attempt, but none of it is funny. In fact it’s just irritating. More importantly, in slasher films you need someone to root for, either one of the potential victims that you want to survive, or a compelling killer who you want to see dish out the harshness with flair and theatricality. That’s not possible here, as every character we meet is objectionable enough that you want them dead, particularly Pete Davidson, but since the killer is meant to be secret, we can’t know who’s doing the dirty work so we can potentially get behind them. The satire can’t work if we just want everyone butchered after two minutes. There has to be someone we’re willing to spend the movie with, and this trailer gives us no viable candidates.

Worst of all, in a year with terrible “original” music added to movies (I shudder to think what the Original Song category is going to look like next year), the fact that one of the film’s selling points is a track by Charli XCX called “Hot Girl,” is especially egregious. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:

I’m a hot girl, pop girl, rich girl,
I’m a bitch girl, fast girl, catch me if you can girl,
You a swerve girl, who the fuck are you girl?
You just wanna be me.

True poetry, I’m sure. Who the fuck decided that “Bad Guy” was supposed to be a rhyme scheme template?

Secret Headquarters – August 12

Another streaming release – this time on Paramount+ – I honestly don’t know why this movie even exists. Spy Kids was crap. Sky High was crap. How many more of these super hero/spy children films do we need before we do the necessary thing and just abandon the concept? To make matters worse, Owen Wilson and Michael Peña are literally just playing guys in Iron Man suits, which is especially jarring since the latter stars in the Ant-Man movies.

The only point in this movie’s favor is the casting of Keith L. Williams, who was one of the three leads of the wonderful and hilarious Good Boys from a few years back. I’m glad to see he’s still getting work as he gets older. Hopefully he gets much better work going forward.

Day Shift – August 12

When the kindest thing I can say about a movie is, “Well, at least it’s not the dumbest vampire movie coming out this month,” you know you’re in trouble. It’s not that Blade meets Training Day can’t be a good idea, it’s just that it doesn’t look like it will be in this case.

Now, thankfully Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, and Snoop Dogg are all funny enough that they might be able to save this. And since it’s coming out on Netflix, it’s not like watching it will require any extra effort on my part. But if the trailer is any indication of the quality of either the gags or the fight choreography (they brag that they did John Wick, so maybe there’s something there), I kind of doubt it. There are certainly worse-looking entries on this list, including in the same subset of the horror genre, but I’m not grading on a curve here. This still seems like hot garbage.

Mack & Rita – August 12

Remember when I said earlier that it feels like I was born at age 65? Well, apparently someone thought that should be a movie concept, and it’s horrific, not to mention an absolutely criminal misuse of Diane Keaton.

I like the idea of giving an “old soul” a starring role for once, but this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. Rather than doing something that would lend some respect or validation to those of us who aren’t slaves to youth trends, this film instead transforms a young woman who “feels” older (Elizabeth Lail) into the old woman she feels like (Keaton), which is just dumb, especially since that metamorphosis comes from a tanning bed in a hippie tent where you explore “past lives,” which aren’t real, at least not in the context that most adherents would have you believe. I mean, how can so many people have previously been Napoleon?

To add insult to injury, instead of showing an appreciation for our elderly avatar and the wisdom she might bring, she’s made to do idiotic young things and go viral on social media. Oh yeah, we’re forcing Diane Keaton to become an influencer. How fucking dare you! She was Annie fucking Hall! She won a goddam Oscar! Put some respect on her name, assholes! Stop pigeonholing her into these “old lady tries to feel young again” movies like Pom and Book Club. It’s disgusting.

Fall – August 12

You know what’s a surefire way to make sure your thriller is bad? Give it an incredibly stupid and unsympathetic lead character. And that’s just what we have in Fall. Originally teased with a single panning shot up an extremely tall tower using some of the most shameful CGI this side of Birdemic, the full trailer for this project spells out exactly why we shouldn’t watch, in the form of our two ostensible protagonists.

Becky (Grace Caroline Currey of Shazam!, formerly credited as Grace Fulton) is an avid climber who lost her husband when he fell to his death. A year later, she’s still hesitant to climb anything due to the trauma, until her friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner from the most recent Halloween reboot) convinces her to scale a rickety old radio tower that’s over 2,000 feet tall. Guess what happens to that rusty, rickety, shoddy piece of abandoned infrastructure. EXACTLY WHAT YOU’D FUCKING EXPECT! This is why the first teaser was just the CGI trip up the tower, because after that rudimentary setup, the entire film will be about these idiots trying to get down alive.

I don’t care. I just don’t. If you watch your husband fall to his death off a cliff and then decide to STILL go out on dangerous climbs ever again, you deserve to die. I’m sorry. I have no sympathy whatsoever, I have no desire to see your foolhardiness rewarded, and I have no expectations that as a character you’re going to get the karmic comeuppance your poor decision-making skills would warrant. As such, I have to motivation to ever watch this movie.

Summering – August 12

“I wanna go backwards, not forward,” says one of the girls coming of age in Summering, and that sentiment seems to carry through the entire affair, as this film looks to be one giant step backward, specifically to 1986. Because as you can clearly see from this trailer, this is just Stand By Me with girls.

The dialogue is empty and pedantic, the plot about finding a dead body recycled from much better work, and the sentimentality is basic as all hell. Nothing to see here, almost literally. At least there’s a nice unintentional synergy of suck in the fact that two movies called Summering and Fall are released in the same week. NEXT!

Beast – August 19

Idris Elba, please listen to me. You. Are. Better. Than. THIS!

Never mind that this is yet another film that shoehorns in the father-daughter dynamic when it really isn’t needed, why are we basically remaking The Ghost and the Darkness, and more importantly, why did we consult the lady from Jersey Belle for this ripoff story?

Yeah guess what? Lions eat people. It happens. Maybe stay out of its fucking habitat. Did we really need to see this movie again? What’s added? Seriously, tell me. Because from the trailer, all I can see is the line about it killing, but not eating, which means just like the Indominus Rex, “It’s killing for sport,” and I don’t give two shits.

Now, if you gave me an entire movie about Hank McCoy, then maybe I’d be interested.

Orphan: First Kill – August 19

Prequels suck. Orphan sucked. A prequel of Orphan, especially one that uses the same actress in the lead role some 13 years after the original? I’m just going to go out on a limb here, gonna suck.

Not that I ever intended to see these movies (the original holds a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 63% audience score, so clearly more entries were warranted), but after watching this trailer, if I ever hear Isabelle Fuhrman say “mommy” again, I may stab myself with a flathead screwdriver.

Me Time – August 26

Look, I like buddy films as much as the next guy, but there comes a time when the concept is overdone. There’s a line, and I think when it comes to Mark Wahlberg, we crosse it just after Ted 2. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed that movie, and I think the original Ted is one of the few true modern classics of comedy. But that was 10 years ago, the sequel was seven years ago, and Mark Wahlberg is in his 50s now.

I know I’ve spent several moments in this column bitching about aging in general and my own in particular, but there’s a time and place for the type of antics shown in this movie, and both Wahlberg and Kevin Hart are past that point. There can be a certain novelty to the idea of arrested development and those rare occasions when a middle-aged person can let loose and momentarily recapture their youthful exuberance. That novelty started wearing off after Old School, and that was nearly 20 years ago.

So if you’re going to go back to this well, you have to give me something new and exciting. What does this trailer give us? Bad CGI mountain lions, bad CGI wingsuit hijinks, pixelated Wahlberg ass, pissing in a pool, a thumbnail of the pair carrying a reptile like they’re Rick and Morty escaping with the Truth Tortoise, about a half dozen utterances of the title, and Hart shitting in a bucket, which was uncomfortable enough when Frances McDormand did it to win another Oscar in Nomadland. In other words, nothing new or exciting.

Fear – August 26

I’m all for indie horror, but this 30-second teaser – which debuted in January for this micro-budget entry that will nonetheless be released in theatres without an MPA rating – really shows the cheapness of the production. In a scant half-minute, all we see is gratuitous gore that in spite of itself still looks like it was done with lazy CGI rather than legitimate practical splatter effects. I understand if you can’t afford to hire Tom Savini, and the film gets a mild pass for the fact that it was filmed in 17 days during the pandemic, but come on. This just looks awful. I can only be so forgiving.

***

And with that, we move on to our record-breaking 13th entry for this edition of the column, “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” Given all the other terrible looking horror films coming out in August, it’s only fitting that this month’s dubious honor goes to the worst of the worst, one that seemingly combines the lamest elements from all the other horror and horror-adjacent dump-offs happening during the rest of the window. As I note in the video, there are spiritual links to the likes of Orphan: First Kill, Fall, Beast, Prey, and Bodies Bodies Bodies, but that was just for the sake of brevity. Honestly you could easily throw in the least palatable aspects of Fear and Day Shift as well.

The Invitation – August 26

Truly, this is a movie that makes me yearn for the greats of the subgenre, like My Best Friend is a Vampire or Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

***

Finally, after this marathon of trash, we come to this month’s “Redemption Reel.” There have been several films over the past few years about desperate people drawn to crime in order to survive, particularly in late-stage capitalism. There’s even a second film this month – Breaking, starring John Boyega – that could also lay claim to this spot under the same theme. But right now, the honor goes to the lady from my home state of Delaware, Ms. Aubrey Plaza.

Emily the Criminal – August 12

As I said, stories about ordinary people being caught up in the underworld are nothing new. What makes this particular tale compelling is the way Aubrey Plaza, as Emily, seems to handle her personal arc. This isn’t a movie about a naïf getting in over her head. This is about someone seizing an opportunity and taking command of her own life. Honestly, a lot of the early scenes in this trailer look like stuff we’ve all seen before, but there’s a deftness with which Plaza appears to handle even the more trite material.

Then things take a truly intriguing turn. Rather than be intimidated or threatened by a bigger dog looking for his share of the ill-gotten gains, Emily at first appears to acquiesce to the more aggressive thug before taking matters into her own hands. She gives him a violent shock to the senses – figuratively and literally – and asserts herself, not as a new boss, but as someone who won’t put up with shit from people who don’t put in the work. That in itself is a great indictment of the capitalist model that the film is portraying as the overall antagonist. People are put into positions of power over other people’s lives, even though it doesn’t affect them and they haven’t necessarily earned that right. So not only does Emily reassert her agency by using petty crime to fight against that system, she appears to fight that same entitlement within the underworld, resolving to keep what’s hers once she’s earned it.

Whether that turns out to be the real story remains to be seen, though I’m sure someone who saw the film’s debut at Sundance can confirm or deny my interpretation (though please don’t, I want to see it for myself). But even if the final product turns out to be nothing like this preview’s presentation, the angle is still effective from a marketing standpoint. This is, from what I can tell, a new spin on a classic trope, and one that gives a criminally underrated performer a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. There’s no guarantee this movie will be great, but I’m more than intrigued enough to find out.

Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you plan on seeing any of these films? Was I too hard on any of them? Seriously, how great is Aubrey Plaza? Let me know!

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