The movie year 2020 started off with something that was advertised as beginning at 11AM. And the traditional “pre-show” kicked off in its new order.
We used to get the Cinemark “enjoy the show” ad JUST before the feature started. Now we get it first. And the popcorn tumbles down... and then the out-and-out LIE of actual ice cubes clinking into a GLASS (with appropriate sound effects) happens... then the GLASS fills with Coke... then somebody sticks a straw into it and sucks it all down with one drag before letting out a soft, feminine “aaahhhhh...” noise instead of the raucous belch or the spew from the nose such an action would more likely provoke.
But instead of settling down to enjoy the show as invited, NOW you have to watch the previews. And they insert car and soft drink ads IN BETWEEN some of them (they used to run through the commercials before the trailers started).
And then you realize that what used to be a fifteen-minute “preshow” has now been extended to an agonizing TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES. And then at the very end you’re pressured once again to join the Cinemark Movie Club! Now that might be great for some folks who frequently bring the family and buy a lot of snacks, but for someone like me (I take my wife to movies she particularly wants to see, but my personal habit is to catch at least one matinee a week solo)? My matinee ticket STILL costs less than the monthly Cinemark fee, which only gives you ONE ticket a month even if they DO roll over. And I don’t spend a lot on solo snacks. And I don’t want another app on my phone. But I still have to endure “Are you a member of the Cinemark Movie Club?” EVERY FREAKING TIME.
After all that, if you’re still hanging in there, a movie begins. And judging from what I saw today, here’s 2020 in review in advance.
A QUIET PLACE: PART II doesn’t look half bad for an obligatory sequel.
ANTEBELLUM, though? That looks fairly original and intrigues me without giving the whole deal away.
THE MIDDLE GROUND:
Having been there for the original pilot broadcast of FANTASY ISLAND, I remember darn well that it had a sinister side that was largely watered down as the series proper progressed. I, for one, am not put off by the prospect of a horror version. The question remains: will they really go to town with the premise or are they going to toss it off as yet another Blumhouse “beat the curse” movie? The presence of Lucy Hale from TRUTH OR DARE makes me worry, but then again, the shortcomings of that film certainly weren’t her fault. This could go either way.
THE INVISIBLE MAN doesn’t appear to feature a lot of H.G. Wells, but it looks like a perfectly serviceable formula thriller.
As for BLOODSHOT? You’re going to get Vin Diesel and lots of action and cool special effects, but it sure looks like UNIVERSAL SOLDIER meets MEMENTO (super soldier programmed to wipe out convenient targets believing that he’s avenging the murder of his wife over and over) on paper.
Ah, yes. What happened when the relentless advertising machine finally, reluctantly, excreted the promised entertainment of the morning? It was called THE GRUDGE. But you should know that despite the title, it is NOT a “remake” per se. It has its own characters and its own time-hopping narrative, peppered with the same tropes you remember from all other films invoking that title (well, most of them... you get the “hair” ghost and you get the “aaaakkkkkkkkkkkkk” noise, but you don’t get the screeching cat boy this time).
What you DO get is a multi-tiered “grief porn” wallow. In one time or another? The police officer and her little boy are mourning the man of the house (he died of cancer prematurely, the son was there to see it happen and they’re trying to rebuild their lives). But the first thing she does is step inside the murder house (a woman turned her family into hamburger after trying to flee something nasty in Japan at the very beginning and that’s all we get of Japan). Oops. Maybe the detective who investigated the case to begin with can give her some information. Well, that’ll extend the narrative, but that’s not going to actually do anybody any good. Oops. Then there’s the realtor couple coming to terms with the fact that their unborn baby is likely to be born with an awful medical disorder. But... they sold the murder house and the husband went inside. Oops. And then there’s the elderly couple one week shy of their golden anniversary... he seeks counseling regarding humane euthanasia for his wife so she doesn’t have to deal with her terminal diagnosis. But they LIVE in the murder house and the counselor decides to stay with them for a while to see how things go. Oops.
What do they tell you at the very beginning of these things (and I mean in ON-SCREEN TEXT)? There’s NO escape from the curse. Once you step inside, you’re doomed to kill your family or at least get killed by the ookie-ookie yourself. You spend the entire weary thing waiting for these doomed characters to do the most awful things to each other while the writer/director re-stages every ‘boo’ scare he’s seen other people do while exhibiting absolutely no imagination of his own. Not one of the scares works. Not ONE. You’re expected to feel sympathy for these characters and then gasp in horror at their fates, but there’s nothing you can’t see coming... pretty much from the moment you meet them. Oh, and if you truly can’t figure it out for yourself, the time jumps occasionally SPELL out what’s going to happen... and characters deliver foreshadowing with such awkward lines as “Yes. I’m going to murder us. With deliciousness.” (Yes. That’s an actual line in the film.) Then there’s the bit in the hospital where elderly, self-mutilated dementia patients are apparently allowed to wander around on their own (not ignored, but even ACKNOWLEDGED with a “Good morning!”) so they can find a stairwell down which to throw themselves... this must be the same hospital from COUNTDOWN. And then we FINALLY get the attempt to bring the story to an end with one of the most bone-brained ideas since... well... how about THE BYE-BYE MAN? (You’re afraid you’re going to hurt your kid but you bring him WITH YOU???)
Maybe I should give 2019’s BLACK CHRISTMAS another chance--at least that was so bad it was funny. The new GRUDGE is one of the most revoltingly stupid, worthless and audience-insulting films I’ve seen in a long time, so it’s already the worst film of the year and I may be done with these yearly recaps after SO many years of doing them. We’ll see.
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