It’s almost March, the time of year when things really start to turn around. The Oscars are handed out, the NCAA Tournament begins, snow starts melting, work tends to pick up in my little sector of the entertainment industry, and Hollywood studios start putting out some really good movies.
Okay, everything but that last part.
Yes, while spring blossoms around the country, for the movie industry, we are still in the dregs of winter. And unlike January and February where studios can balance out their crap with prestige films getting wide releases and/or the occasional dark horse gem, in March it’s just a deluge of shit worthy of the elephant from Babylon. Oh sure, there will be the first truly good films of the year as well, but they’re almost certain to be buried by the plethora of hot garbage alongside it. It’s an unfortunate part of the Hollywood business model, because they already spent the money to make these horrible entries, and they’re contractually obligated to release them or face some kind of financial loss, so they largely do it now to clear the calendar for the Summer Blockbuster Season.
As such, while there were 11 entries over the last two months, in March alone we have 14! Yeah, it’s that bad. The old adage is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Well this year it comes in like shit and leaves like a different type of shit, with nearly entire weekends being wasted on what looks to be some of the worst output the studios could have possibly made.
Pour yourself a stiff one. We’re gonna be here for a while.
This is the March 2023 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
A Little White Lie – March 3
Kate Hudson has never been among my favorite actresses. She did far too many rom-coms, she coasted on her parents’ success for far too long, and her voice is annoying. She made me forget all that for a little bit with her absolutely brilliant performance in Glass Onion, where she played – among other things – a parody of herself. Well now she’s reminding us all why we barely tolerate her with A Little White Lie, which has the oh so compelling premise of… trying to book a reclusive, washed up author for a literary festival. Oh, and the guy she gets (Michael Shannon), may not even be the real writer, as Zach Braff is there to assert that he’s the real genius who, as the trailer says, “wrote one brilliant novel,” because God forbid our main character have any actual output that could settle his identity straight away.
I’m sorry, in what universe is this supposed to be entertaining? Half the scenes are tired j0kes about writers either being alcoholics and/or hanging out at Starbucks, and the other half are Hudson acting desperate for a situation that doesn’t nearly have the stakes. It’s not even that the underlying idea is bad. It’s just that it was been done so much better in the 2006 film The Hoax, and there’s just no way this is going to hold up. That film was about the true story of a guy who faked a memoir about Howard Hughes while he was still alive, and this one is about Shannon playing what looks like a warmed-over David Foster Wallace, who is dead and can’t sue for defamation. This is what you call wasting a great cast (plus Kate Hudson) on a story that has no legs whatsoever. It’s meaningless and pretentious at the same time.
Children of the Corn – March 3
Let’s see… Pet Sematary, Firestarter, Carrie, and Salem’s Lot. How much more evidence do we need to never, ever, EVER REMAKE MOVIES BASED ON STEPHEN KING!? They never stop, and they never stop sucking. This one looks no different, and its own release history is proof enough that it’s going to be terrible. This movie was made back in 2020 and debuted in October of that year, in the middle of the pandemic. And yet it still took nearly two and a half more years to get it into a general release, which it will have for 18 days before it moves to Shudder. How are we still allowing this to happen?
That said, I will give this teaser one bit of credit. I’ve railed for years against the “trailerizing” of popular songs to make them sound dour and morose for the sake of “drama” in film previews. It’s one of Hollywood’s lamest habits. I’ve even joked several times that they should just used public domain children’s songs for a gag.
Well, this film actually did it, commissioning a faux-dirge cover of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” The movie’s gonna suck, but bravo for the one truly self-aware bit of cheek.
65 – March 10
What do you get when you mix Jurassic Park, Planet of the Apes, Aliens, and the video game, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter? You get an unwieldy piece of sci-fi garbage that not even Adam Driver can save. Literally everything in this trailer reminds me of that Geico ad where they’re filming a space movie but the “alien” is just a production assistant in a rubber suit with motion capture balls. Only here, the finished product looks even cheaper.
And just because my brain is fucked up and doesn’t work properly, the trailer’s repeated use of a computer saying “Location Unknown” just makes me think of that weird “Destination Unknown” song that was released by Missing Persons *checks notes* two weeks after I was born! God, I’m old. I’m gonna go fill out some advance directives and buy some hair restoration products for a minute, excuse me.
Champions – March 10
This movie has the perfect message for America. If you can succeed with the mentally handicapped, you can work your way up to black people!
Oh wait, that’s not the message? Then these guys need to work on their editing, because that’s all I’m seeing. Disgraced coach gets fired from the NBA, gets arrested, is forced to do community service with a team of players with Down Syndrome, and is encouraged with the idea that if he wins the Special Olympics, he might be “ready” to be back in the NBA. Oh, and you can bang your player’s hot sister.
Also, a note to Hollywood, particularly the idiots who license music, “Tubthumping” is not a sports anthem. It’s a song about disingenuous politicians who pander to the general public as if they’re one of them while bilking them for all they’re worth. Actually, now that I think of it, it may be the perfect song for this movie.
Also also, I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret. ESPN anchors fucking HATE doing these cameos in movies. Every once in a while they’re fine with it, because for the most part it’s just an extra 10 minutes of reading off the teleprompter after they’re done filming SportsCenter for the night, but I worked in Bristol for close to a decade. A lot of them find the scripts cloying and stupid, and I’ve personally witnessed them griping that what they’re asked to “perform” is antithetical to the normal stuff they do on the network or in their shows. To wit, Scott Van Pelt would never devote multiple minutes to whether or not Woody Harrelson’s character got back to the NBA, and the producers of SportsCenter wouldn’t give a shit that he was coaching a Special Olympics team as his redemption story. They might give it two minutes after he succeeds, but that’s it.
The reason they don’t like doing this is because the talent at the “Worldwide Leader” have their own personal brands, and they don’t want to do anything that might negatively affect it, like, say, appear in a bad movie saying something foolish. Sometimes it’s a safe bet, like a Rocky/Creed movie (Stephen A. Smith is in the new trailer for Creed III, but he’s the exception to this rule because he’s always been a vainglorious blowhard asshole), but even then, it’s best when kept to a very narrow context within the given sport, like having Max Kellerman do a scene at a boxing match because that’s always been his go-to sport. It’s one thing if they’re doing a parody (see: BASEketball), but apart from that, these guys are tired after a long day, and the last thing they want is to “pretend” to do their job to artificially inflate a subpar sports movie and risk their credibility in the process. No one’s going to think the “Iowa Stallions” are any more legit just because SVP’s on camera, so just stop.
Chang Can Dunk – March 10
Okay, so where on the coaching ladder are we here? Where in between “Special Olympics” and “The NBA” is “Nerdy Asian Stereotype?” I just want to know how offended I should be, and who I should be trying to offend when I crack on this nonsense.
Setting that aside, how patronizing and lame can you get with this story? Just look at all the cliché elements squeezed into two goddamn minutes! Bullying white guy, overabundance of social media/going “viral,” Verizon product placement, Pokémon? Are you serious right now?
Also, what did I just say about using sports anchors? At least the fact that this is a Disney movie provides a degree of plausible deniability, as they can just say their corporate overlords forced them to do it, but jeez this is awful! I’d also complain about them following this “story” based on the clicks and views, but if you’ve watched SportsCenter, or really any ESPN show in the last decade, you know how dispiritingly accurate that part is. Trending = News for a sad majority of the programming.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods – March 17
Remember when Shazam! was fun? I sure do. This does not look fun.
First of all, think about how poorly constructed this opening gag about him being in a pediatrician’s office is. It’s a joke that only works because of the cutaway reveal, but it makes no sense. Billy/Shazam still had to go to this doctor’s office, go inside, be let in by the pediatrician, and lie down on his couch without anyone ever calling out the obvious mistake or the medical professionals ever questioning why a grown man in spandex and a cape just sauntered into their practice unaccompanied. And of course, this so-called pediatrician’s office is decorated like a therapist or psychiatrist office rather than the normal clinical space a children’s doctor might use. “I feel like a fraud,” says Billy. No, it’s just the setup for the underwhelming and illogical punchline, I assure you.
Going further, the rest of the trailer is an exercise in redundancy. Djimon Hounsou is back despite his character dying in the last film, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren are absolutely slumming it in cheesy villain costumes, and Billy himself notes that he’s a superfluous hero given the rest of the Justice League. And this is before we get to the cringe-inducing reference to the Fast and Furious franchise, which is enough to disqualify this movie’s chances by itself, to say nothing of the fact that Zach Levi quips about not being “super old” as a means to insult Mirren despite the fact that it looks like he’s aged 15 years in the four since the last film.
Finally, in what may be the most insulting part of the whole thing (not counting the bastardization of an Eminem track), the emotional climax of the trailer is Hounsou saying, “Everyone can be worthy, if given a chance.” The first time I heard that, my jaw dropped. YOU WERE THE ONE THAT WOULDN’T GIVE ANYONE A CHANCE BEFORE, THUS CREATING SIVANA AS THE VILLAIN OF THE LAST MOVIE! YOU ONLY GAVE BILLY THE POWERS BECAUSE YOU WERE DYING AND TIME WAS RUNNING OUT! YOU COLOSSAL, HYPOCRITICAL ASSHOLE!
I know studios rely on the audience being incapable of critical thought to make money, but Jesus What-Is-The-H-For Christ is that fucking tone deaf!
Boston Strangler – March 17
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s some murder porn set in Boston!
Say, did you know why it took forever to catch the Boston Strangler? Because a newspaper editor was sexist!
Yup, that’s the message of this movie that is being sent straight to Hulu rather than being released theatrically. I’m sure it comes as a shock to everyone. Yes, it wasn’t that the killer was effective in his crimes, or that there was insufficient evidence to track him down. It’s because Chris Cooper told that skirt Keira Knightley to stick to “chick stories” at her paper and not insert her vagina where it doesn’t belong! Oh, and get back in the kitchen while she’s at it!
This is ludicrous on its face, and of course we’re meant to take it as perfectly natural despite it being more forced than an encounter with Harvey Weinstein. Never mind the fact that there still isn’t concrete proof that the Strangler was ever caught. The closest we have is Albert DeSalvo, a rapist who confessed to being the Strangler in prison, but who was only definitively linked to the last of the 14 victims by DNA long after his own death. I’m sure Knightley’s stalwart bravery and crusade for workplace equality were what led him to confess after being caught for a completely different crime. Because that’s how investigative journalism works, right? You wait for the solution to be handed to you on a wholly unrelated matter, and then take credit for it, right?
Jesus, how did you start with Spotlight and turn it into Enola Holmes?
Supercell – March 17
It… it’s Twister. I know the title says Supercell, but it’s fucking Twister. It’s about the child of a storm chaser who’s obsessed with tornadoes, who then takes it upon themselves to chase in order to put some piece of new technology inside it to aid in scientific research, and in that quest they come dangerously close to violent death several times due to them being in proximity to weather they can’t predict despite their so-called expertise.
Literally the only differences are that Alec Baldwin as the dad is alive, and we’re replacing an adult Helen Hunt with a teenage Daniel Diemer. What in the actual retail fuck?
A Good Person – March 24
After all these years and all his films, you can tell when Morgan Freeman is just there to cash a check. This is one such case. Everything about this movie screams “Hallmark Channel,” and yet because Zach Braff was able to get a cast of A-listers, it’s being released theatrically. Mind you, it’s being released as the only competition for John Wick Chapter 4, which tells you all you need to know about MGM’s confidence in the project.
I really enjoy a lot of these actors. Freeman is a legend, Molly Shannon is effortlessly funny, and Florence Pugh might be my dream woman. But after watching her pull a Felicity Season 2 as if that counts as character development, I find myself wishing she hadn’t woken up from the Victory Project. Every single person involved is better than this maudlin schlock.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – March 31
Oh my god this is painful. Oh my god it hurst so much. I have nerve damage in my feet due to diabetes that makes it feel like I’m walking on rocks inside heavy sacks that shove 5,000 volts through my toenail cuticles every five minutes, and it’s not as agonizing as this.
Every second of this trailer is pure torture, which you can’t even appreciate ironically because it’s presented as if the people involved really think this is going to be a good movie. The dialogue is awful, the narration is stupid, the CGI is some of the cheapest, laziest, fakest bullshit this side of M.O.D.O.K., the use of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” is blasphemous (they’re notoriously stingy about when they’ll license music, but given that the band members are fantasy nerds, I can understand them agreeing before seeing any of the footage), and the cast (Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, and Hugh Grant because he can’t go more than a few years without reminding us that he’ll always be the poor man’s Jeremy Irons) has absolutely no chemistry.
But worst of all, as someone who used to play D&D a lot, you can tell just by looking at this that the film will suffer from the same core problem as every other adaptation of the game: the filmmakers have no idea how it actually works. I mean, what campaign has only thieves in the party? That’s just a recipe for disaster, and that’s the opening statement of the fucking trailer! The closest thing to anything resembling fan service is the inclusion of classic monsters like the Mimic, but the CGI and animation is so fake that no one will be able to get into it. This movie apparently went through years of Development Hell due to a rights disagreement between the major studios and Hasbro, resulting in THIS being the final negotiated product instead of a work by the likes of Joe Manganiello or Dwayne Johnson, who are noted enthusiasts.
I’m putting it out there right now. After the awful 2000 movie and the somehow even worse TV shows, I’m proposing a full moratorium on any further media adaptations until we can get assurances that it’ll be handled by people who actually have respect for the game.
Murder Mystery 2 – March 31
God, where do I begin? I could talk about how the last movie sucked and this looks no better. I could talk about how setting a murder mystery comedy on a private island so soon after Glass Onion makes it feel like a cheap ripoff, which it would even if the timing wasn’t a coincidence. I could talk about the fact that I didn’t laugh once at anything Adam Sandler does in the trailer. I could talk about the inclusion of one of the worst “songs” ever written as the trailer’s soundtrack, one that isn’t even being used properly because that track is literally about sex and has nothing to do with the “bang” of a gun.
But really, you all know this is going to be a trainwreck. So I’ll just let Jennifer Aniston herself have the (next to) last word.
“We’re not gonna be invited anywhere again.”
One can only hope.
Space Oddity – March 31
From 2012 to 2019, Mars One existed as a scam operation, promising to fund the first fully-manned colonization of Mars. Advertised as a one-way trip, the scheme involved thousands of people applying for the chance to live – and die – on the Red Planet, before courts put a stop to it. It had almost no basis in science or technology, was lambasted as a suicide mission, and seemed to be attempting to set up a reality show in space.
But you know what would have really made this boondoggle compelling? A tacky love story!
Yup, that’s what this movie is about. Written and directed by Kyra Sedgwick, the movie stars Kyle Allen as the son of a farmer (Sedgwick’s real-life husband Kevin Bacon) who is committed to the project, and has even cleared the first round of the lengthy interview process. When applying for a life insurance policy, he meets Alexandra Shipp, and everyone wants them to fall in kissy-face love as quickly as possible in order to convince the young man not to sacrifice his life to space and realize that there are so many better things right here on Earth.
This movie, by its own existence, does not seem to make a compelling case for that idea. Kyra Sedgwick is a great actress and creator, and a couple years ago she and Bacon made a wonderful short film, Until, an allegory about coping with loss during the COVID pandemic. It was beautiful, poignant, and had an unexpected degree of romantic verisimilitude due to their real-life marriage.
This? This is a Valentine’s Day card that the pharmacy throws away after no one buys it.
Also, automatic disqualification for using the title Space Oddity and making a movie that has nothing to do with David Bowie.
Assassin – March 31
This is the third entry in this month’s column for Saban Films, which would almost be impressive if it wasn’t so disgusting and exploitative. Because guess what? It’s yet another latter-day action film starring Bruce Willis, released well after his retirement from acting due to his declining health. And this is even worse, because not only was this film produced and scheduled for release after the aphasia diagnosis, Saban decided to press forward after Willis’ family revealed he has dementia. At this point, you need to cut your losses, take whatever contractual hit you need to, and just have respect for the man. The actors have already been paid, and it’s not like this was meant to be some grand blockbuster that would have netted them a lifetime of royalties and residuals. Show some class, for the love of all things holy, and just let the man have his dignity in his final years, rather than having his legacy continually tarred by these cookie-cutter piece of shit movies.
Oh this one is set in the near-future with shitty CGI nanobot drones that control people’s bodies? I don’t care. No one cares. The execs at Saban probably don’t even care. But if there’s a chance that money can be made at the expense of a dying legend, they and everyone else will take it.
With that, we move on to “The Worst Trailer in the World… This Month!” Yes, after all that, there’s still one more entry for March that feels like even more of a waste of time and money. What happens when you have moderate success with a legacy sequel released in January, when everything else is even worse? Well, you crank out another entry as fast as you can, rip off another franchise in the process, and do so without your series lead, because even she’s over it at this point!
Seriously, how do the people making these green-light decisions make exponentially more than you or me?
Okay, we need a palate cleanser after all that bile. With that in mind, and because we once again have a case where there are two intriguing films that share a theme, here’s a double dose of the “Redemption Reel!”
Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game – March 17
Tetris – March 31
There appears to be a trend developing in Hollywood for films about the genesis of certain aspects of popular culture that we now take for granted. Next month will see the release of Air, directed by Ben Affleck and starring Matt Damon, about the creation of Air Jordan shoes. Even here in March we have Spinning Gold, about Casablanca Records and the careers of Gladys Knight and KISS. I’m not including it here because it passes the smell test but didn’t blow me away.
And in addition, we have two films about gaming origins. The first, Pinball, is a sensationalized version of the story of Roger Sharpe, a writer for GQ magazine who helped overturn New York’s 30-year ban on pinball machines, as they were classified as a form of gambling. The trailer looks interesting, as it’s done in the sort of fourth wall-breaking mockumentary style of films like The Big Short. Also, it stars Mike Faist as Sharpe, and I’ve been excited to see what was next for him as a movie actor, because he was by far the best part of the West Side Story remake. He made that thing worth watching, so he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.
On the flipside we have Tetris, starring the always reliable Taron Egerton as Henk Rogers, who famously secured the distribution rights of the Russian computer puzzle game for home consoles, where (as the film teases) it became a launch title for the Nintendo Game Boy, which revolutionized portable gaming. There are a lot of fun creative touches in the trailer, from the actually clever use of “The Final Countdown” to represent the nascent Digital Age, to some kooky visual effects that render the characters as pixelated objects. And for what it’s worth, my roommates and I have gotten into playing modern forms of Tetris on the PlayStation in the last few weeks, so this is right up our alley at the moment.
Both films look like they’ll have a good balance of fact and fantasy, blending reality and sensationalism in a way that is effectively funny and entertaining. Plus, given how horrid Dungeons & Dragons looks, us gamers really need something to cling to for the next month.
That’s all for this month. I apologize for the length, but good Lord was there a lot of shit to sift through. Thankfully, there’s still a good deal of the Oscar Blitz left to attend to, so that means I can shift my focus back to quality starting tomorrow!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you planning on seeing any of these films? Was I too hard on any of them? Does seeing a real-world TV personality playing themselves in a movie enhance the experience or take you out of it entirely? Let me know
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