Apologies for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks. Things have been incredibly hectic since I hit the big 4-0. I finished up one gig, prepared for the next one only to see it fall through, panicked about my finances, and then went home for a few days that were heavy to say the least (lowlights include a death in the extended family and my mother’s dementia progressing to the point that she basically no longer recognizes me). There were some good points, like making a new video (we’ll get to that in due time) and regaining that lost gig after a five-day rigmarole, but really, it’s been rough for a little bit.
I couldn’t even bask in my cinematic joys thanks to the news that the terrible Nicole Kidman AMC ad is getting a “sequel.” That last bit might not seem all that important, and really it isn’t, but it still stings to know there are enough people who actively cheer for this continual delay in a movie’s start time (accompanied by its insulting slogan that its presence makes movies better) to warrant a follow-up.
This leads nicely into this month’s column. We’ve been subjected to this disgusting ad for nearly a year now, and somehow, the knowledge that we’ll get another edition of the worst final trailer ever fuels my righteous anger and reinvigorates my desire to shit on stuff. Maybe Taylor Swift was right. Well, no, scratch that, she’s never right, but she may have unintentionally hinted at something profound, something well beyond her self-centered comprehension. It’s not just that “haters” like me are “gonna hate,” it’s that I kind of need that hate to sustain myself. And just like Taylor or Kidman’s ad, I sort of need the world to continue churning out objectively terrible things to elicit that hate. Oh sure, the world could just learn basic critical thinking skills and stop doing the same shit over and over, but then what would I do? Live a happy, fulfilled life? Not likely. Instead, I’d probably direct my ire inward, as there are few things in this world I hate more than myself, and that would just be self-destructive.
So thank you, Taylor. Thank you, Nicole. Thank you, AMC. And thank you to all of the creatively bankrupt influences responsible for the films being featured this month. I truly couldn’t do it all without you.
Also, fuck you.
The output for the studios is about to get ramped up severely over the next month or so, as Awards Season kicks off. As of this writing, 10 countries have already announced their submissions for International Feature. We’re still a full month away from the cutoff date for screening in the home countries, and yet about 11% of the field is decided. Similarly, Netflix has cranked up their machine, as they make their seemingly annual transition from microwave popcorn fare to prestige entries in anticipation of their Oscar campaigns. The studios have also followed a similar pattern.
As such, there were nearly 30 different trailers to sort through for this month’s edition. Thankfully, the competing films are on the whole much better than they were last month, when we broke the record for movies in this column, while only about four passed the initial smell test. This month, there’s still a hefty amount of landfill candidates to choose from, with nine features dis-qualifying for mention in this space, but the number of films that avoided this dubious honor is more than three times what it was in August. That’s a much healthier balance. There’s way more good than bad, while still leaving enough grotesque nonsense for me to lambast so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. After the last few weeks, I can certainly use it.
This is the September 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Gigi & Nate – September 2
As Paul McCartney famously said, “Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey.” Well, them and the makers of this film, because they are definitely not trying to hide anything resembling quality or a coherent thought. Based on the real-life story of a teenager who gets a capuchin monkey as a service animal, the trailer suggests a creepily bestial “us against the world” mentality that, because it’s being produced post-2015, naturally has to include the phrase, “You’re trending.” God forbid we have any modern plot without filtering it through the lens of social media.
As for our titular primate companion, the mix of absolutely shameful CGI with a handful of shots of an actual animal actor works to create a protagonist that is only a slightly less compelling shit-hurler than the Great Mighty Poo. The various scenes where she actually has animated human expressions are instantly the stuff of nightmares, outdone only by the bafflingly shoehorned romance subplot and the inspirational music bed.
Pray for Mojo.
Wire Room – September 2
Earlier this year, the Razzie Awards did something oddly touching. After using their annual platform to poke gentle fun at Bruce Willis for his slew of straight-to-video action movies (he did EIGHT of them!) in 2021, they ended up going back on the joke. When Willis announced he was retiring from acting due to his aphasia diagnosis, the “committee” rescinded the special prize mocking his shlocky output, considering it to be in bad taste given the new revelations. It was the right thing to do, and a rare example of empathy in this industry.
So you can imagine just how much worse it is that Lionsgate is releasing Wire Room, knowing what we know now. This completely disposable bit of action nonsense sees Willis as a special agent in charge of surveilling a crime boss that the government is using as an informant. One day, after his underling (played by Kevin Dillon) decides to intervene to protect the asset during an attempted assassination, Willis is left to clean up the mess and shoot all the baddies.
Even in the trailer, this just looks sad and ill-advised. You can hear the aphasia already affecting Willis’ ability to speak, as his words at times feel more forced and slurred than your average Sylvester Stallone character. It’s almost as heartbreaking as seeing Val Kilmer in Top Gun: Maverick, only there it was done as an intentional tribute and sendoff, giving the celebrated actor the farewell he deserves. Here it just feels exploitative, trying to wring one more cheap payday out of Bruce Willis without a care for his diminishing health. It’s depressing to watch, even more so given that I’ve watched my mother deteriorate for the last two and half years and counting.
Did Lionsgate really need to put this out? Even if they didn’t see what was becoming of Willis during production, they do know what his condition is now, and they had to know this would only make them look bad. And since it’s going to be a mostly VOD release, it’s not like they were poised to make a ton of money from the project. At some point, for the sake of basic decency and humanity, you have to know when to just take the financial hit and do what’s right.
After Ever Happy – September 7
You know what’s even worse than all the movies based on (or imitating) Nicholas Sparks romance novels? A movie essentially ABOUT NICHOLAS SPARKS!
Okay, so it’s not about Sparks, but it might as well be given the plot elements. Picking up after the horrendous After, After We Collided, and After We Fell (which I featured in this column one year ago), this flabbergasting fourth entry (the previous three films have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 10.3% thanks to the 0% that the last film got) sees our, let’s say “hero” (only because he’s played by Hero Fiennes Tiffin) writing books based on his relationship with Josephine Langford, with the pair of them growing more romantically because of it.
So yeah, it’s meta Nicholas Sparks. You can’t convince me otherwise. And honestly, it’s the closest thing this series will ever get to something interesting. How in God’s name do these movies get funded?
Barbarian – September 9
I’m a bit torn on this one. There’s some early buzz around it, from no less than the likes of Edgar Wright, who praised it up and down on Twitter just a couple days ago. But I can’t shake the feeling that something’s lurking beneath the surface here, and that something is shit.
I’ll admit this may just be my old man bias, but I am immediately skeptical of anything that uses apps and social media as a framing device. There are exceptions, of course, some of which turn out to be fucking masterpieces (Searching and Language Lessons instantly spring to mind). But on the whole, I simply don’t trust anything that has to be set up via something digital, especially when that conceit supersedes basic logic. Here, a woman (Georgina Campbell) shows up at an AirBNB (or whatever legally safe name they apply to not license the app itself) only to find it double-booked by Bill Skarsgård. Rather than just drive off and find a motel, she instead accepts his invitation to stay, leading to the discovery of what appear to be several death traps and/or victims before she must make her own escape.
Just on that bare bones premise, I can’t get behind it. You shouldn’t be using these home rental apps anyway, as there’s no surefire way to verify the safety of the property. Just book a hotel room. Believe me, there are cheap, shitty hotels (I just stayed in one for the last week), but at least with a business name attached, there’s an entity to hold them accountable if something goes wrong. A stranger’s house offers no such security. So already my sympathy for this poor woman is fleeting, and then once she finds another person there, she ends up staying “despite her better judgment” (actual quote from 20th Century Studios’ press release), so why should I give even a fraction of a fuck what happens to her? All of this is avoidable, and you choose not to avoid it. It’d be like feeling sorry for a cow that gleefully somersaults into an abattoir.
On a more meta level though, the marketing for the film is utterly confusing. The trailer tries to sell the film as being from “A producer of It” and “An executive producer of The Grudge and The Ring.” Okay, two things here. One, no one cares about the producers. When it comes to film credits, most producers are not creatives, but rather money men. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a statement of fact that the quality of a film is not their primary concern, only its potential profitability. This leads to the second point, which is that the three examples have multiple versions and/or sequels that aren’t specified. Which It are we talking about? I’m guessing that we’re referring to the theatrical films rather than the TV miniseries from the 90s, but even then that’s not enough. The first one was great, but the second part was god-awful. Similarly, which Grudge? Which Ring? Original Japanese, first American release, sequel, remake, WHAT? Without knowing which exact films we’re addressing here, we can’t know if these nebulous producers were responsible for good movies or bad. It’d be like me trying to sell a McG production by saying, “From a producer of the Terminator series” as if I’m talking about James Cameron. The ambiguity is intentionally dishonest, and therefore a huge warning sign to stay away.
Further, this trailer debuted back in June in front of The Black Phone, which I understand, as it’s a horror movie advertising ahead of a horror movie. But looking at this trailer, it’s clear that this film and The Black Phone have similar themes, namely the escape of a house where others have been tortured and/or killed. At best then, your sales pitch would boil down to, “If you like the movie you’re about to watch, you might like this similar one as well.” But more likely, what you end up doing is pointing a 12-guage shotgun directly at your foot and pulling the trigger, unintentionally telling the audience, “We can’t possibly live up to whatever is about to happen here, but please give us money anyway. Hopefully your short term memory is so bad that you’ll forget that you’ll end up paying for the same movie twice.”
Of all the films on this month’s list, this is the one I’m most likely to check out, because I can’t ignore an endorsement from one of the modern masters of genre. But that doesn’t mean I’m not letting my concerns be known well in advance.
Hocus Pocus 2 – September 30
Here’s an unpopular opinion that’s nonetheless absolutely true. Hocus Pocus is, was, and always will be a terrible movie. The entire affair is nothing but sophomoric humor only partially redeemed by its camp value and a few choice moments from Bette Midler. But those fleeting seconds of entertainment in no way makes up for the cringe that comprises the remaining 95% of the film. It’s one of those movies that people only like because it hit them at just the right moment of their adolescence to attach an emotional link that an outside observer would never find today.
And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of movies that have that effect on people. For me as a 90s kid, it was Mortal Kombat and Last Action Hero. I know objectively that these movies are bad, but they still have a special place in my heart for the cheesiness that eventually turned into nostalgia. Hocus Pocus is in that same sphere, and if you derive that certain pleasure from it, more power to you.
But you know what we never needed? A fucking legacy sequel for it! You all know my feelings on this leitmotif, with Top Gun basically being the exception that proves the rule. Cashing in on nostalgia will always feel cheap, even in the rare instance where the product passes muster. This looks no different. I’m sure Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Seabiscuit, er, I mean Sarah Jessica Parker had fun going back to the well, and seeing as how I’m practically salivating for Clerks III later this month I probably have no room to talk, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to call bullshit on the whole affair.
At least with Clerks, you know that Kevin Smith is a bona fide auteur (though I’m sure director Anne Fletcher bucked every convention with *checks notes* Step Up and 27 Dresses), that he actually had a responsibility to write a decent enough script to get his actors – particularly Jeff Anderson – to sign on again, and that unlike Disney, he’s not in this to make a buttload of money, as he’s never been about making blockbusters. He’s doing it because he feels he has something to say. What in God’s name could a Hocus Pocus sequel ever say?
If you’re into this, good. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Just don’t be surprised if I scream at you when you try to get me to watch it with you.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever – September 30
We gave Peter Farrelly the benefit of the doubt four years ago with Green Book, an entertaining film that has not aged well thanks to the backlash it got after its Oscar run. Even those who defend it as a quality movie (thanks in large part to Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen’s performances) still struggle to get past how it whitewashed race relations and ran afoul of Don Shirley’s family, and most agree that it certainly should not have won Best Picture.
With that in mind, I am instantly wary of The Greatest Beer Run Ever, the trailer for which seems to show Farrelly backstepping to that same sanitized version of history for the sake of light humor that bogged down his last film. Based on real events that took place during the Vietnam War, the film sees Zac Efron as a New York slacker (though for most of the trailer he and Bill Murray appear to be using Boston accents; “I’M BRINGIN’ A BEE-UH!” shouts Efron) who nonetheless supports the troops and decides to smuggle beer into Vietnam so that he can give them to his neighborhood buddies fighting the good fight.
Except, that’s not what Vietnam was, at all. I know it’s hard to believe since the U.S. has engaged in many dubious (if not outright criminal) military operations in the decades since, but Vietnam is the standard by which all armed quagmires are judged. We never should have went in, we stayed way longer than any reasonable person would have, tens of thousands of our soldiers were killed for nothing, and hundreds of thousands of innocents were slaughtered in the process.
Should our servicemen have been spit on upon their return? No, especially since a good number were conscripted and didn’t have a choice. And just about every other aspect of that war requires a delicate, nuanced approach if you’re going to have anything resembling an honest discussion. From what we see here, however, it’s just standard issue flag-humping by Efron and Murray’s characters until the former actually gets in country and sees that – gasp – war is in fact hell.
We live in an age where oppressive, authoritarian influences are on the rise, including in our own country, where two of the last four administrations have literally taken a public stance that they are not to be questioned (guess which two), lest you be labeled as unpatriotic or worse. So for Peter Farrelly to lionize someone who made a similar posturing 55 years ago just because he did something patently stupid and foolhardy (that admittedly might seem funny in a vacuum) comes off as supremely tone deaf. I’m not saying this will be a bad film, because even the worst products from Farrelly (or his brother) still have some quality. But my God does this ever scream, “READ THE ROOM!”
Smile – September 30
Wow, there are a lot of bad looking movies coming out at the end of the month, huh? And we’re still not done! We have some crap at the beginning, and a lot of crap at the end, but at least the big middle chunk of September raises no red flags.
Anyway, here’s Smile, which looks to be about as stupid as you can get with modern horror. Psychiatric patients see creepy smiling imagery, it drives them insane, and eventually they all die in horrific ways, usually within a week. So, it’s a ripoff of The Ring then? Anyhoo, now a therapist treating one of the victims is also seeing the scary grins, and must figure out how she can save herself.
Yeah, I don’t care. Supernatural horror rarely holds any interest for me, and a lot of the scenes shown in the trailer look like they’re just there for shock value. Whether it’s the truly cringeworthy performance of the guy who just screams, “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” over and over again, or the lady who walks up to the car only for her head to detach, this all feels like it’s going to be little more than a parade of jump scares with no substance. It’s not even funny enough to want to see it ironically.
Also, how many times can you flip the shot over as an obvious metaphor that things are topsy-turvy? They even did it to the freaking Paramount logo, for fuck’s sake! You just have no confidence in your audience, do you?
The Good House – September 30
You know what was missing from The Bridges of Madison County? If you answered “New England accents,” “wine,” “fourth wall breaks,” or “rich white people,” have I got a movie for you! And if you answered “quality” or “material that doesn’t waste the talents of a-list actors,” then I have some very bad news.
Look, I love Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline as much as the next person. They’re tremendous actors, and they deserve better than this. I mean, am I honestly supposed to feel excited for a low-key version of Karen Walker having an autumn years affair while she’s trying to sell houses for way more than they’re worth? I’m trying not to remind myself how old I’m getting, and you want me to get it up for a menopausal lush surrounded by Mass-holes? Really? In what universe?
And with that, we move on to “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” For this latest breakdown – one that focuses on Disney’s worst modern habit – I decided that I needed some help from Disney’s core audience. So, in one of the few bright spots of my recent trip home, I got to make this month’s video with my three-year-old nephew, who I can already say is smart enough to not be taken in by the House of Mouse’s bullshit.
Pinocchio – September 8
One day this stream of remakes will stop. I fear I will be long dead before it happens, though, as we still have remakes planned for Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Hercules, Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Bambi, The Aristocats, and Lilo & Stitch, to say nothing of the dozen or so sequels to the existing remakes also in development. But at least I can take some small comfort in knowing that Guillermo del Toro’s version will blow this movie out of the water, to the point that Disney has essentially already conceded the contest, relegating this piece of garbage to a streaming-only release.
Finally, as always, we end on this month’s edition of the “Redemption Reel,” a trailer that actually piques my interest. There were quite a few options this month, from Queen Latifah and Ludacris getting caught in the crossfire between drug lords and crooked cops, to a twisted take on exorcism starring Elsie Fisher, to the first time in living memory that Lena Dunham has made me laugh. Truly, miracles happen every day.
But come on, you all know what I’m going to put here. I mean, how could I not?
Blonde – September 16
I mean, even if the plot of the film weren’t compelling as fuck, with Ana de Armas quickly becoming one of the best actresses of her generation playing arguably the most iconic actress of all time, I would still be intrigued by this film. If nothing else, I have to wonder what is in this movie that garnered an NC-17 rating, not to mention what led Netflix to accept it. I mean, I assume there will be some nudity and sex. It’s a movie about Marilyn Monroe after all. Hell, the made-for-TV biopic Norma Jean & Marilyn (which was my first exposure to both Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino) was filled to the brim with it, and that was just for HBO in the 90s. But what else is there that pushed the envelope and got the MPA to give it the harshest possible rating, one that studios and productions bend over backwards to avoid?
Director Andrew Dominik has already established himself as something of an expert at telling the so-called “untold” stories of famous figures, most notably with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, one of the best films (and certainly one of the best titles) of this century so far, so I’m beyond curious as to what he’s going to do with Monroe. The trailer only builds on the mystique she cultivated in life, with shifting aspect ratios and switches between color and black-and-white sure to tantalize casual viewers and hard-nosed critics alike.
Who knows if the film will turn out to be any good, but all the ingredients are there for something special, from the cast to the concept to the hints we get at the presentation. And there is a certain novelty about being the first streaming film to get an NC-17, particularly as it appears Netflix is outright embracing it and leaning in rather than eschewing it. From my standpoint, even if this ends up being a disaster, it at least feels like it’ll be an especially ambitious one, and that’s enough for me to mark my calendar for the release.
That’s all I’ve got for now. More reviews will be coming out in the next few weeks as I get back into my groove. And if you haven’t heard already, this Saturday, September 3rd, is being marketed as National Cinema Day, with theatre chains across the country dropping prices to $3 for most features. If you haven’t been to the movies in a while, this is the perfect time to do so. Just, you know, don’t watch anything I’ve put on here. Even at a discount, they don’t deserve your money!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you plan on seeing any of these films? Was I too harsh on any of them? Seriously Disney, how many more times are you going to put my childhood through a woodchipper? Let me know!