Things tend to get hectic this time of year. We’re firmly into Awards Season, with the various studios all jockeying for position as they campaign to the Academy and outright bribe the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The International Feature entries start seeping into theatres, both independent and mainstream. As the holidays approach, there’s an absolute glut of family-friendly fare and a few blockbusters trying to squeeze in and make a quick billion after months of advertising.
That’s why, as I’m writing this, there are nearly 30 movies on the docket for November, a stark contrast to the 15-20 that come out per month in the front half of the year. I mentioned a little while ago that I’m going to play catch-up over the next few weeks (my current backlog stands at four films to review, which could expand to as many as six by tomorrow), and this only exacerbates the problem. If only release schedules were sane and based on the quality of films rather than sheer capitalism and prestige posturing.
It’s especially jarring because a full third of the lineup this month qualifies for this column. I see as much as I can, and I want to give honest reviews that run the gamut over the course of the year. But just being a consumer I’m going to want to watch more good movies than bad. As it is, only about 1/5 of the movies I’ve seen so far this year fall into a C-grade or lower. I’m not saying there should be more bad movies. Far from it. But everything should be spread out better so that I can honestly be surprised by what I see each week. I know this sounds like the First Worldiest of First World Problems, but it really is annoying that it feels like I have nothing to do apart from the Oscars from January to May, and then I’m spending the next seven months struggling to keep up.
But enough about my schedule. Let’s reserve the bitching for the stuff that actually deserves it. This is the November 2022 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Enola Holmes 2 – November 4
If you read my review of the first Enola Holmes movie, you know I’m not a fan. The constant fourth wall breaks for no reason were maddening. The assertion of “girl power” with absolutely nothing to back it up was patronizing to the target audience in the extreme. The fight scenes were utter nonsense edited worse than your standard MCU fight to make it look like Millie Bobby Brown could take down people twice her size. The idea that Enola, who wants to be held in the same regard as her brothers, would just abandon a mystery for the sake of a cute boy undermined everything the filmmakers tried to accomplish. The truth behind her mother’s disappearance was basically sequel bait. And of course, the biggest sin of all, Enola didn’t even solve the case. She guessed wrong and had the solution fall into her lap despite her incompetence. And yet the whole thing was presented as if she outsmarted Sherlock. Fucking fail!
Well, now Netflix is coming out with that long-promised second installment, and the trailer (divided into two “parts,” even though each one shares several shots) looks no better. Now Enola wants to start her own detective agency to set her apart from Sherlock and Mycroft… only to end up needing their help anyway.
I understand that, as a non-teenage non-girl, I am not the type of person this film is trying to appeal to. But that doesn’t excuse lazy production values, with this sequel seemingly doubling down on everything that made the first one terrible. It’s not enough to assert badassery, you have to actually prove it through words, actions, and a logical progression of events based on the character’s independence, intelligence, and initiative. This isn’t real “girl power,” this is Spice Girls “girl power,” where you just shout the phrase in people’s faces enough times until they just accept it so you’ll leave them alone. Oh, and did you know Enola is “alone” spelled backwards? They only mentioned it about 3.92 billion times last movie, so there’s no way to be sure that it got through.
Please, dear God, leave me backwards Enola.
Causeway – November 4
Similar to what I mentioned with Tár last month, I don’t necessarily think that Causeway will be a bad movie. The trailer, however, is a big bag of nothing, because it doesn’t tell us anything about the actual story. Instead, all it gives us is a bunch of shots of Brian Tyree Henry mostly looking happy, Jennifer Lawrence mostly looking detached and sad, and a brief mention of being “back in this city,” followed by a shot of the Superdome to let you know it’s New Orleans.
Who are you trying to reach with such a pitch? Is there an audience dedicated to hating Joy so much that it can only be drawn in with images of Lawrence looking like she has none? Are you targeting the people who saw Red Sparrow but only remembered the shots of her in a swimsuit instead of, you know, everything else she showed? We have almost nothing to go on here!
What the movie is really about is the lingering effects of trauma. Lawrence plays a soldier who suffered a brain injury while deployed, and she’s trying to cope with that while adjusting to life back in her hometown. That could be extremely compelling, but the trailer doesn’t get any of that across. The best we get is one brief shot in a doctor’s office where you can see images of a brain scan on the back wall. Everything else hints more at a bad breakup or a dead kid, which may still be a part of the whole, but it’s certainly not enough to get the point of the film across to a perspective audience.
Dear Zoe – November 4
This nothing burger of a film has all the cliché earmarks of your standard Young Adult romance bullshit. A teenage girl is sad, she seeks advice from her otherwise deadbeat birth father, who suddenly cares enough to take an active role in her life despite her mother’s objections, and eventually she falls in love with a model and it all works out for her.
Except this time, she has a dead sister. Oh, and that sister died in a car crash on 9/11.
William Hung is less tone deaf. This also marks two horrible movies for the Stranger Things kids so far this month, with Sadie Sink lowering herself on this one.
Paradise City – November 11
Please don’t make me watch Paradise City, cause it looks so lame and it looks so shitty. OH WON’T YOU PLEASE STOP THIS BULLSHIT, YEAH YEAH!
I mean, what can I honestly say about this that I didn’t already say about Wire Room back in September? It’s already bad enough that these studios are insulting poor Bruce Willis by continuing to release these cookie-cutter action flicks in the wake of his illness and retirement, but it’s even worse when you consider that a) you can tell in the footage of the trailers themselves that his condition was already affecting him during shooting, which makes these movies beyond exploitative, and b) they would normally have gone straight to VOD, but the studios are actually releasing them in theatres in an attempt to profit off of the tragic end of Willis’ career.
It’s sad, really sad. And dragging a couldn’t-care-less John Travolta into the proceedings only makes it sadder.
Poker Face – November 16
Not to be confused with the upcoming Peacock streaming series, which I’m sure will also suck, because, well, Peacock.
No, no, this is a film written and directed by Russell Crowe – THIS IS A SELLING POINT?!?!?!?!?!?!?! – about a billionaire high roller who invites all his “friends” to a high stakes poker game at his house, poisons some of them in order to get “answers” to some questions on his mind, and who then has to join forces with them to survive an invasion by some heavily armed commandos. Oh, and also his super hot daughter just shows up to be a hostage.
And oh no, they dragged a Hemsworth into this. And it wasn’t even Luke.
“I’m Jake Foley. I’m 57. And I’m a gambler,” says Crowe in the trailer’s opening. Well I’m Bill Hammon. I’m 40. And I don’t give a fuck. It’s like he watched the “Fightin’ Round the World” parody from South Park and thought, “Oh come on, this isn’t realistic. I’m not even playing cards!”
A Christmas Story Christmas – November 17
I have no idea why this movie exists. We already got the perfect spiritual successor to A Christmas Story last year with 8-Bit Christmas. It has the same lessons, same heart, same sense of humor, and same sense of nostalgia, but for a new generation to share with their kids. And it was put out by Warner Bros. and HBO Max. So why in God’s name are we doing a direct sequel now? And with the exact same release and marketing strategy?
This feels like the most superfluous legacy sequel yet, and even worse, watching this trailer, there doesn’t appear to be a single new thought in the entire affair. It’s just an endless string of callbacks to the original, which we can watch without subscribing to a streamer or paying money to a theatre. This feels completely and utterly pointless, not to mention an absolutely shameless attempt to cash in on nostalgia. You might as well hit us in the face with a bottle of Ovaltine.
On the mild plus side, I do like the fact that they got Peter Billingsley to come back and play an adult Ralphie. This project would be 100% blasphemy otherwise.
Disenchanted – November 18
I’ve mentioned this before, but my family used to have an annual tradition before I moved out west. Every year, after Thanksgiving, we would gather as many of us as we could – family and friends – and spend Black Friday going to the movies to see something of a G or PG rating in the hopes that we could all enjoy it as a group, and also to avoid the stampeding shoppers.
We never saw anything all that spectacular, though in 2001 we saw the first Harry Potter movie and that made me into an obsessive fan for a good number of years. But usually, we all found something nice but harmless to enjoy in this little unofficial family holiday.
The one exception for me was Enchanted back in 2007. I fucking HATED that movie. I hated the songs (literally the only good part was when Jon Stewart pretended to start singing “Happy Working Song” at the Oscars the next year), I hated the story, I hated how naïve Giselle was (mostly because she seemed to steadfastly refuse to learn anything over the course of the entire flick) even though I adore Amy Adams, and I hated how cheap the combination of animation and live-action looked, especially considering this is the same studio that made Who Framed Roger Rabbit? nearly 20 years earlier and it was WAY more convincing. My mom, my sister, and one of her friends absolutely loved it, but it was very much not for me.
Well now it’s 15 years later and… yet another legacy sequel, and yet another one that appears to just hit the exact same beats as its predecessor. Only now instead of New York they’re in a big house in the suburbs. Yay?
Giselle still seems to have learned nothing, even though she has a baby now, which means she has FUCKED! Yeah, explain that one to the kids. Explain how she could have gone through human procreation and childbirth without a single whit of real world knowledge in the meantime. The CGI on the animals looks downright shameful (a talking squirrel?). Idina Menzel returns with James Marsden as Prince Edward, who also appears to have shed none of buffoonery since the last film (and Menzel puts up with this, how exactly?). And of course, we’re going to waste Maya Rudolph in a thankless, one-dimensional villain role as a real estate agent/Karen.
Do we learn nothing, people?
The People We Hate at the Wedding – November 18
I already devoted enough space last month in “The Worst Trailer in the World” to the idea of shitty relatives fighting with each other at a wedding. This movie just seems to add more of said shitty relatives in the forms of Allison Janney, Kristen Bell, and Ben Platt.
The one thing that this film might have going for it is that it’s written by the Molyneux sisters, longtime writers on Bob’s Burgers and co-creators of The Great North, two shows I enjoy immensely. They’re also part of the writing team for Deadpool 3. Their quirky takes on the American family and razor sharp wit are the only hope for this otherwise uninspired-looking trope fest.
If you want to see something that looks promising when it comes to comically dysfunctional families, stay tuned.
Devotion – November 23
Look, I’m not made of stone. I don’t necessarily think that Devotion will be a bad film, per se, but there just doesn’t seem to be an original note in this trailer. It just looks like another war movie where a black soldier shows heroism despite being treated like crap, and yet his commitment to his country and his eventual friendship with a white soldier somehow ends racism. The only difference between this movie and the likes of Red Tails, The Tuskegee Airmen, and Flyboys is that this one is set during the Korean War.
I’m not saying this is going to suck, but the trailer just makes it look like formulaic, paint-by-numbers faux prestige. I won’t say that I won’t watch it, but the priority will be pretty low, especially in a month with 30 new entries at minimum to get through. If you’re excited for it, more power to you, but for me, it just feels like it’s all been done.
With that, we move down to “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” I have to admit, I had trouble figuring out which preview to break down and mock. At different points I was looking at Poker Face, Disenchanted, Enola Holmes 2, and The People We Hate at the Wedding for one reason or another. Even as recently as two days ago, I was planning on doing Poker Face, but honestly, it didn’t feel right. That trailer, while cringeworthy, didn’t really yield enough jokes, and as for the other three, I’ve already hated on thematically similar things in recent months, and doing so again would have felt unoriginal.
So what could I go with? Well, late Sunday night, while at the movies, inspiration hit me. It is Awards Season now, and that means we’re bound to get some movies that are just shamelessly campaigning for hardware, to the point where you honestly have to question the artistic integrity of the project itself and the people involved. So with that in mind, this month’s “winner” is a film that I ultimately believe will be fine, and it might even deserve some of the compliments it’s clearly fishing for. But that doesn’t make the preview any less filled to the brim with prestige cheese.
The Fabelmans – November 11
Seriously, Steven, stop with the lights. It’s getting out of hand. And to anyone who watched the video, sorry for my singing. I’m actually pretty good, but I intentionally went half Cartman on this one for the cringe effect. Maybe one day I’ll make a video singing for real. Please do not hold your breath.
Finally, it’s time to end on a positive note with this month’s “Redemption Reel.” I teased this a couple entries ago with The People We Hate at the Wedding, so here’s the payoff. If you want to see a really fun-looking family of assholes, here you go.
The Estate – November 4
I wish I could embed the Red Band trailer here, because I was laughing for just about every second of it. The opening image of Anna Faris and Toni Collette looking completely nonplused as a relative calls their dying aunt a cunt (bitch in the Green Band trailer posted here) caught me entirely off guard and already had me applauding. Then you add in stuff like David Duchovny trying to hit on Collette as his cousin, Rosemarie DeWitt constantly trying to one-up this motley group of moneygrubbers all faking nice to get a piece of the inheritance, and a subplot about trying to get the old woman laid one last time, including using her son-in-law played by Ron Livingston as the potential vessel, and I’m dead. I’m just completely dead.
And of course, may whatever god you believe in bless Kathleen Turner. Even in these scant two minutes, I can tell she’s going to give one of the best performances of her career, and it will be uproarious. I’m almost giddy. Every reaction and dismissal she gives in this preview blows most other comedies this year out of the water. I was applauding by the end of the friggin’ video.
I mentioned this as a criticism for the preview of Bodies Bodies Bodies, but here the idea of everyone being a piece of shit is a good thing. In a horror movie it doesn’t work, because we have no one to root for. But in a comedy, it can be absolutely perfect, because when everyone’s terrible, you can simply kick back and laugh at the sheer farce. A movie like The People We Hate at the Wedding always has at least one relatable, redeemable, or even saintly character with which to contrast the deplorable behavior of the others. But here everybody sucks, and you know that up front, so you can just enjoy the shenanigans. That’s what I think is going to happen here, and I can’t wait to see it.
That’s all for this month. Wish me luck as I do my best to get back up to speed, and if you haven’t already, make sure you get out and vote by next Tuesday. Even if you vote for someone or something I disagree with, it is the most important fundamental right we have as Americans, and there are far too many people on the ballot this year and already in power who want to take away the idea of free and fair elections. So make your voice heard while you still can!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you planning on seeing any of these films? Was I too harsh on any of them? Will someone just tell Spielberg that he’s special already? Let me know!