Discover more from Appetite for Deconstruction
What to Watch Based on Which Current Crappy Theatrical Release You Wish Was Good
End-of-summer doldrums are here. Lemme help you figure out how to stay entertained.
I'm loath to tell anyone not to go to a movie theater right now. The exhibition business is in serious trouble. Large swaths of the audience simply never came back after the pandemic, movies that would have seemed like surefire hits just a few years ago are barely dragging people in, and with the current dual strikes, a bunch of stuff is getting pushed back - not just projects going into production, but completed projects that studios won't release so long as their stars can't promote them (never mind that the studios are responsible for the strikes in the first place).
So allow me to point out that there ARE still a handful of good movies in theaters right now, like Barbie, Oppenheimer, Bottoms, the latest Mission: Impossible outing, and the twentieth anniversary restoration of Oldboy. Also, Past Lives and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse are both now available on streaming, but they're also still playing in a handful of theaters. So if any of those titles sound appealing, I would implore you to go to your local multiplex.
Having said that...
It's the end of the summer, a time when most of the new movies being released are crap. And I can confirm that, yes, most of the new movies in theaters right now are less-than-stellar. So if you’ve already seen the movies listed above, you may feel as though you are simply shit out of luck.
But you’re not! Your Uncle Matt is here, ready to recommend movies for you to watch, based on which current theatrical releases you wish were worth the price of a ticket. You’re so welcome!!!
Instead of The Equalizer 3, Watch Timebomb
The Equalizer 3 falls into the action movie sub-genre of The Secret Badass, in which the protagonist seems to be a total square and then someone tries to mess with him and, ta da!, turns out he’s the fucking Terminator (other examples include Shane, Target, and, more recently, John Wick, Nobody, The Man from Nowhere, and Taken). Timebomb falls into the action movie sub-sub-genre of The Secret Badass Who Does Not Remember That They Are a Badass, in which not even the badass knows they are a badass until they are somehow triggered (other examples include The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Bourne Identity).
Like The Equalizer, Timebomb is extremely silly; unlike The Equalizer, Timebomb was written and directed by a man whose first language is not English and stars Michael Biehn from Navy Seals, not Denzel Washington from winning multiple Academy Awards… so, in other words, it has an excuse to be silly. And whereas The Equalizer’s action scenes are all filmed in close-up and/or edited at a ridiculously fast pace (the first movie has a fight scene with 58 edits in 50 seconds… yes, I counted) because Denzel Washington is an older gentleman who can’t really throw guys half his age across the room, some thought has been put into Timebomb’s visuals, and some of its action scenes are actually kind of intense. You’re welcome.
Instead of Gran Turismo, Watch The Last Starfighter
Gran Turismo, from wunderkind-turned-wunderwurst Neil Blomkamp, is the story of a video game aficionado whose skills with virtual racing somehow landed him a gig doing actual racing. The Last Starfighter, from frequent John Carpenter collaborator Nick Castle, is the story of a video game aficionado whose skills with virtual space battles against evil aliens somehow land him a gig doing actual space battles against evil aliens. One of these movies is being sold as a true story, and one of them makes its premise seem at least semi-believable. Guess which is which? You're welcome.
Instead of Blue Beetle, Watch The Guyver
Blue Beetle, based on an American comic book, is about a young guy (Xolo Maridueña from Cobra Kai) who comes into possession of an alien device that fuses with his body and turns him into a superhero; The Guyver, based on a Japanese Manga, is about a young guy (Jack Armstrong from Guiding Light) who comes into possession of an alien device that fuses with his body and turns him into a superhero. Blue Beetle comes from the producer of How to Be Single; The Guyver comes from the producer of Re-Animator. Blue Beetle co-stars Susan Sarandon and George Lopez; The Guyver co-stars Jimmie 'JJ' Walker and Michael Berryman. The effects in The Guyver, including a scene where Mark Hamill turns into a giant bug, are all practical; the effects in Blue Beetle, which include no cast members from Star Wars turning into a giant bug, are all CGI. The Guyver was co-directed by a dude named Screaming Mad George; Blue Beetle was directed by a man whose name completely lacks verbs or adjectives. I can’t imagine anyone is even still reading this; surely, you have by now navigated to another tab to watch The Guyver. You’re welcome.
Instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Watch Shaolin Soccer
The latest reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a good-enough kids movie that will likely bore most adults. Stephen Chow’s 2001 martial arts comedy, on the other hand, is fun the whole family can enjoy. You’re welcome.
Instead of Strays, Watch Sausage Party
If what you crave is a foul-mouthed riff on kids' movies that posits a Pixar-esque secret world of things that don't normally talk talking, than you can you do no better than Sausage Party. The 2016 animated film, from co-writers and producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, This Is the End, etc.), uses anthropomorphized grocery store products to tell an allegory about the evils of religion. It also ends with all of those anthropomorphized grocery store products participating in a very graphic orgy. No, I am not making this up. You're welcome.
Instead of Meg 2: The Trench, Watch Deep Rising
I assume if you're going to see Meg 2: The Trench, it's because you want to watch a sea monster movie and don't particularly care if said sea monster movie is good or not so long as it's completely ridiculous and over-the-top (I also assume you’ve already seen Piranha 3D). If that is indeed the case, you're much better off checking out 1998's Deep Rising. Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, who went on to make the Brendan Frasier version of The Mummy, Deep Rising follows a group of mercenaries who attempt to hijack a cruise ship and encounter what's basically a giant sea lamprey. It's incredibly stupid and a lot of the special effects are lousy even by 1998 standards. But unlike Meg 2, it's rated R, which means Sommers can, and often does, go really big with the gore. It also has an excellent cast that includes the recently-deceased Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Djimon Honsou, Wes Studi (the Native American dude from every movie made in the '90s), Anthony Heald (Hannibal Lecter's "old friend for dinner"), and American goddamn treasure Kevin J. O'Connor (There Will Be Blood). As a bonus, it's a full ten minutes shorter than Meg 2. You're welcome.
Instead of Talk to Me, Watch The Innocents
People friggin’ LOVE Talk to Me. I guess I’ll have to watch it again at some point, because I thought it was… fine. It’s a competent version of a movie we’ve seen a billion times before, including a few hundred times this year. I’m not really sure why people think it’s so goddamn amazing.
On the other hand, 2021’s The Innocents (not to be confused with the 1961 classic of the same name) is fucking GREAT, and while it should appeal to the same crowd of “elevated horror” fans as Talk to Me, it never achieved that movie’s momentum. The Norwegian film from writer/director Eskil Vogt - who also co-wrote that same year’s most-excellent and not-at-all-a-horror movie The Worst Person in the World - follows some kids living in a housing complex who gradually realize that they have both telepathic and telekinetic abilities. I’d rather not say much more than that about the plot. But the execution is just, M’WAH!, perfect. Vogt does a remarkable job making the movie feel real; the kids’ powers never grow to, say, X-Men levels. But what really makes the movie sing is the young characters, who Vogt renders with all the moral complexity and ethical naiveté of real children. As a result, when one of them begins crossing the line and using his powers for ill, it is earnestly disturbing. In fact, even if you insist on seeing Talk to Me, you should still check out The Innocents, because it’s just that crazy-bonkers good. You’re welcome.
Instead of Haunted Mansion, Watch Housebound
Hankerin’ for a movie that mixes the heebie-jeebies with the ha-has? Almost ten years ago, before he made M3GAN, director Gerard Johnstone cranked out this little gem about a young woman forced to live under house arrest with her parents… and that’s NOT the scary part! Duh-duh-DUHHHHH!!! You’re welcome.
Instead of Golda, Watch Kippur
If you’re making a movie about Golda Meir, who better to cast than Dame Helen Mirren, right?
On the other hand, Kippur, Amos Gitai’s 2000 film about the Yom Kippur War of 1973, is so authentically Israeli that it will probably decimate the independence of the country’s high court. You’re welcome.
[YouTube won’t let me embed the trailer, presumably because they hate the Jews. You can watch it here.]
Instead of The Last Voyage of the Demeter, Watch Sweetheart
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is based on a chapter from Bram Stoker's Dracula (not Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula), but what it's really trying to be is Alien on a boat. Unfortunately, save for a handful of creepy moments, the movie falls pretty flat. Far superior is 2019's Sweetheart, which is basically Alien meets Castaway: A young woman (Kiersey Clemons) is shipwrecked on a seemingly-deserted island, but soon realizes there's a ravenous creature there with her. Director and co-writer J.D. Dillard appears to have a much more sophisticated understanding of what made Alien work in the first place (that being the power of suggestion) - without giving anything away, the moment the protagonist first sees the monster is chilling. You're welcome.
Instead of Sound of Freedom, Watch Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
Oh, you’re into Q-Anon, you’re worried about the harvesting of adrenochrome, and you love The Passion of the Christ, you say? Boy oh boy, have I got a movie for you!!!
Instead of Theater Camp, Watch Ben Platt Try to Defend the Dear Evan Hansen Movie
Because fuck this clown. You’re welcome.
Thanks for reading Appetite for Deconstruction! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.