Man this is going to be a busy month. Between my work, the Oscar Blitz, and any number of other side projects, it’ll be any wonder if I sleep at all over the next four weeks. Imagine if I had a girlfriend right now. She’d be so neglected. But hey, I love what I do, especially when that involves hating on stuff!
As the run-up to the Academy Awards kicks into high gear, we enter a grey area in the wider world, and not just because that’s the prevailing color in the sky for 95% of the country. When it comes to cinema, studios basically see February as the first true gamble of the year. Some will dump off movies that they have little to no confidence in, and in most cases, they’ll be proven right. But every once in a while, you get a gem like Black Panther or Get Out that just takes the movie-going public by storm, so occasionally the powers that be are willing to take a chance and release something that they hope can get swept up in the Awards Season maelstrom and delight audiences to the point that they’re campaigning for these flicks later in the year.
Will any of the 15 films being released this month achieve such unexpected greatness? It’s hard to say. What I can say is that there’s a healthy amount of sulfuric odors wafting in my direction that has the distinct profile of shit. In fact, six provide that odious offense to the senses to satisfy the schadenfreude of this column.
So throw out your candy and piss on those flowers, this is the February 2023 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Knock at the Cabin – February 3
There is exactly one, ONE, reason that I’m probably going to see this movie, and that’s the fact that Rupert Grint is in it. Of the three main kids from the Harry Potter series, he’s had the least glamorous career outside the franchise, and that’s always made me sad, because he’s a fine actor with excellent comic abilities. So any chance he gets to shine I feel almost obligated to financially support. I mean, even if this movie turns out to be among the year’s worst, the man deserves the chance to make something even half as bad as the Beauty and the Beast remake.
And this film has that potential. We all know that M. Night Shyamalan has his style, and even when his movies are terrible you can appreciate the effort. But it’s become a lot easier over the years to tell in advance whether his latest work will be closer to The Sixth Sense or The Happening, and this looks to be in Lady in the Water territory. The titular knock is meaningless, feeling like an outtake from Signs and coming 45 seconds into the trailer. And they break down the door anyway, so how was that supposed to matter?
Further, Dave Bautista is only good when he gets to be funny, and here any comedy is purely unintentional. Seeing his ultra muscle-bound form in a white collared dress shirt with glasses is just absurd, and that’s well before we get to the movie’s insane premise that the perfectly box-checked family has to make the decision to sacrifice one of themselves in order to “prevent the apocalypse.” Honestly, the most hilarious part of the whole trailer is the fact that Bautista can say, “If you fail to choose, the world will end” with a straight face.
But like I said, I’ll likely see it just to give Rupert Grint some well-overdue residuals.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance – February 10
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I want this title to be legally binding. It was one thing for Channing Tatum to tell his personal rags-to-riches story with spectacle and flair in the first Magic Mike movie. It wasn’t for me, but I understood the value it had. But it never, EVER, should have become a franchise, and the fact that it’s been spun off into a Vegas male revue almost entirely defeats the purpose of everything the original film had going for it.
The fact that we’re forced to have a third entry thrust uncomfortably in our faces says more about Tatum selling out than anything else, and that’s just really sad, because the whole point of the story was that there was more to him than abs and a bulge. Every second of this trailer screams that maybe there’s not, which is a real shame.
Sharper – February 10
“If you’re gonna steal, steal a lot,” says John Lithgow in the opening scene of this trailer for what looks to be a standard issue heist/con movie. So, yeah, clearly the filmmakers followed that advice.
Every shot of this plot to defraud a billionaire reads like it’s been done a dozen times before, and in much better, far less obvious and pedantic ways. Angsty son, honeypot love interest, deadbeat lowlife who somehow orchestrates the job despite being a total loser, fucking Bucky, it’s all there. Plus, any time you use Ariana Grande’s (for legal purposes) “parody” of “My Favorite Things,” I immediately dismiss any claims you have to credibility.
It’s ironic that this film is called Sharper, because it looks to be one of the dullest movies in recent memory.
Somebody I Used to Know – February 10
Okay, first off, immediate disqualification for invoking that awful Gotye song from… 12 YEARS AGO!?!?!?!?!? God I’m old.
Second, this appears to be basically a ripoff of My Best Friend’s Wedding, only the “best friend” is also the main character’s ex. Why would Dave Franco and Alison Brie brag about writing this? Third, the presence of Danny Pudi just makes me want the damn Community movie to come out already. Fourth, Alison Brie is not my wife. Fifth, I can’t take anything seriously when the trailer opens with the cliché move of an elaborate attempt for someone to hide that only draws more attention to them.
But really, the main problem is that we’re in the season of rom-coms, and this looks to be one of the lazier ones. Amazon is trying to buy the benefit of the doubt given Brie and Franco’s real life relationship and their normal high level of skill. But that’s part of the issue. At it’s core, this is just a romantic comedy, and a derivative looking one at that. Don’t pretend it’s anything more than mindless Date Night entertainment, which is why it’s being released online so you can stay in with your significant other if you don’t want to physically go to the movies and/or want to just get Valentine’s Day busy on the couch. For comparison, Your Place or Mine, coming to Netflix the same week, just barely passes the smell test, because at least that trailer lets you know that the thing is nothing more than formulaic, disposable fluff that you can watch if you feel like it. It doesn’t aspire to anything more because it knows what it is. This just has an air of false prestige about it because of who’s behind it, and that just comes off as pretentious when you see the actual clips.
Does that make sense? No? Well, I don’t care.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – February 17
You know what was always missing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe? A torturous version of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” that sounds like Auto-Tune has become sentient and consumed Elton John! This has been another edition of Things No One in Human History Has Ever Said!
Remember when Ant-Man was fun? The first movie was one of the best palate cleansers in the entire MCU because it was about a goofy guy who happened to get roped into the hero game and having a lot of fun in the process. Remember when Paul Rudd was charming, Michael Peña’s ludicrous lip sync flashback stories were hilarious, and we could even tolerate Evangeline Lilly because we could laugh at her idiotic wig? Remember the flashes of brilliance where you knew Edgar Wright was really letting his creative juices flow until Kevin Feige put the kibosh on it? Remember how we could squint during the sequel and see fits and spurts of what made the first one entertaining even as they tried in vain to add stakes to the proceedings?
Well, forget all that now, because Ant-Man is super duper wuper serious now! Also, he’s in a world that’s 100% CGI, because fuck sets, amirite?
Yup, the same guy who quipped that adding the word “quantum” to everything didn’t make it sound smarter is now in the bafflingly stupidly titled Quantumania, and it’s all about dire consequences and saving entire civilizations in the microscopic world… as well as his daughter who is conveniently aged up through “The Blip” to be hot now.
Oh, and we got Kang the Conqueror now! Kang! Kang, we got Kang here!
See, nobody cares. Nice read on “Ant… Man,” though. Also, no sign of Kodos the Destroyer. Yeah, I’m mixing references, what of it?
It’s looking more and more like Wakanda Forever was the last gasp of the MCU’s quality. This whole “Multiverse Saga,” as they’re referring to Phases Four through Six (this is the first film in Phase Five, by the way, in case you want to feel depressed) has been a complete dud from the start, with the only bright spots coming from the fan service of No Way Home and the Black Panther follow-up that had nothing to do with other dimensions.
I’d say Marvel should quit while they’re ahead, but that hasn’t been the case since Endgame, and the mere suggestion that a Disney property should stop trying to wring blood from a money stone could get me killed.
With that, it’s time to officially hit rock bottom for February with “The Worst Trailer in the World!” This month’s entry should come as no surprise, given that its very premise is filled with two of the things I hate most in all of existence. One, exploiting aging actresses for a “Horny Grandma” comedy. Two, Tom fucking Brady!
80 for Brady – February 3
A personal anecdote for the occasion. I spent eight years working at ESPN to start my career, beginning in 2006. And one of the things you learn the quickest working there is that if you don’t root for either New York or Boston teams, people look down on you as if you know nothing. The network has been accused of having an “East Coast Bias” at times, but that’s not entirely true. The bias is to New York and Boston specifically, as Bristol, CT is almost the exact geographic midway point between the two cities.
As such, when I first started working there, you would have the odd person admitting that Brady was overrated, and that his Super Bowl wins (at the time) were more down to luck and late field goals than anything he specifically did. He was a good story in the sense that he was a late round draft pick who made the most of his opportunity (he was Drew Bledsoe’s backup until Bledsoe suffered a freak injury in 2001), but that was it apart from the die-hards.
Eventually, though, the local bias won out, and it was basically unwritten company policy that no one could speak ill of the One True Quarterback. Even as multiple cheating scandals, fluky victories, and that picture of him getting romantic with a goat mounted, the company line was that he was the greatest who ever lived. Basically no dissent was allowed, especially when all of your supervisors were Patriots fans. The network that artificially inflated LeBron James for the sake of a debate with Michael Jordan as to the all-time greatest when he was still in high school chose to definitively state for all to hear that Brady was tops, and that was that.
Still, as an Eagles fan, I always had one consolation. I was editing a piece for one of the NFL shows about the idea of a “Trap Game,” where a dominant team (in this case the as-yet unbeaten Packers) could take an odd loss if they slept on one of their lesser opponents. The segment was narrated by Tedy Bruschi, a linebacker for the Pats at the height of their dynasty. I don’t remember the circumstances that led to it, but in the raw footage, he made an aside where he flat out admitted that he committed pass interference on the decisive fourth down play against Philly in Super Bowl XXXIX, and that he played it cool when it didn’t get called, knowing he had just gotten away with it. So there’s another win that Brady didn’t earn. I’ll always have that, as well as the revenge we got on Brady and Gronk in Super Bowl LII. Hopefully another title is on the horizon in two weeks.
Still, always and forever…
And as always, we end this month’s column with the “Redemption Reel,” a trailer that, while not necessarily guaranteeing a great movie, is at least nonetheless effective at selling its premise, and hints at some quality. This month, the title may be nearly literal, because I promise you that if you read my work with any regularity, you will not see this coming.
Jesus Revolution – February 24
Yes, you read that right. I am giving a quasi pre-endorsement… to a Christian movie. Do not misunderstand. I still have several issues with the overall manipulative nature of the genre, the absolutely dishonest moralizing, and of director Jon Erwin and his brother in particular as regular peddlers of this bullshit.
That being said, what this film at least purports to do is address one of the key problems that I’ve had with religious movies, and religion in general, for quite some time. Far too many use faith as a crutch and an excuse to pass judgment and persecute those who would dare to disagree with them. They want to change laws to oppress and repress differing views, civil rights, and remove the basic freedoms that they claim this country was founded upon, often in ways that outright contradict their own scripture and dogma. They want a war, one they’re certain they will win, either by blood or by fiat, that will install them as official conduits to their version of the Almighty, and giving them dominion over all human life. That’s just wrong on a number of levels.
This film, based on the life stories of pastors Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), and Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), appears to go the other direction, focusing on the “Jesus Movement” of the 1960s and 70s, which preached a more countercultural method of inclusive evangelism, bridging the gap between generations, specifically hippies and other youths disillusioned with their government and the institution of religion.
I’m not saying anything in this movie will be profound, and I’m sure it’ll conveniently ignore Chuck Smith’s doomsday predictions or his public statements blaming the existence of homosexuality for 9/11 in favor of the most sanitized, laudatory depiction imaginable. But for the first time in a long time, this at least seems, on first look, to have its heart in the right place, delivering a Christian message while emphasizing the importance of welcoming, understanding, and tolerance. It’s not much, but it could be a step in the right direction to making these movies in a way that invites people in rather than dividing and damning them. And while I probably won’t end up seeing it because of all the other stuff on my plate this month, I’d rather have a ton of movies like this than even one more Left Behind or God’s Not Dead.
It may end up being terrible, but for the moment it doesn’t appear to be outright hate speech, so I’ll take whatever improvements I can.
That does it for this month! Keep it locked here as the Oscar Blitz kicks off full throttle next week!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you planning to see any of these films? Was I too hard on any of them? Will Rupert Grint ever get to be the ginger Doctor Who we’ve all dreamed of? Let me know!
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