We're almost a full three months into the year and, correct me if I'm wrong, but we haven't had a single exceptional film so far. There have been some good ones and bad ones and a million forgettable ones, but nothing great. Isn't there usually at least one great movie by this point in the year?
I went to Regal this week and caught three films back to back to back and, while all had their moments, I'm not sure I'll remember any of them in April...let alone by the end of the year.
First I watched "Scream VI," the fifth sequel in a franchise that still hasn't come close to reaching the heights of the original, three decades ago. Don't get me wrong, "Scream VI" is never dull, with the filmmaking collective Radio Silence constantly trying to escalate the carnage and expand the series in ways we haven't seen in the series so far, but that doesn't really matter if the "who" part of the "whodunnit" isn't satisfying.
The "Scream" franchise lives and dies on its twists and the third-act reveal of which character is behind the Ghostface mask and stabbing everyone. I just personally didn't find the reveal very satisfying because the movie up to that point took quite a few chances and the ending felt very safe to me. If you're a fan of the series, "Scream VI" is a solid entry and seems to set up what might be an interesting "Scream VII," but it's time for the franchise to expand past its referential origins and go somewhere truly scary and unpredictable.
Next was "65," a movie about a space Uber driver played by Adam Driver who crash lands on prehistoric Earth, 65 million years ago. Only one of his passengers survives, a young girl who doesn't speak space English, so the two of them have to travel up a mountain to find an escape pod in order to flee Earth before the dinosaurs eat them. On paper, that sounds like an exciting movie and Adam Driver is an exceptional actor who should be able to sell something like that, but the film has no energy or momentum.
"65" should have been a grueling survival film about trying to make it off a planet where everything is trying to kill you. Imagine how intense "The Revenant" would have been with realistic and terrifying dinosaurs. That would make for one hell of a movie, but instead, "65" is content to coast on the very basic idea of shooting laser guns at T-Rexes while running around a generic look-ing forest. It's a video game starring an Oscar nominee. We deserve better.
Finally, I saw "Cocaine Bear," which somehow actually managed to be the best movie of the three. Everyone knows the premise at this point, which is just that a bear eats a bunch of cocaine and goes on a killing spree in a forest. Unlike "65," the makers of "Cocaine Bear" understand its premise and are determined to have fun with it, logic and reason be damned. Not only is the bear high on cocaine, but is actively searching for more shneef because she really likes it.
So, we have a drug-addicted bear attacking a bunch of great character actors including Margo Martindale, Keri Russell, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Ray Liotta (in his final performance) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, while they spout ridiculous dialogue and look like they're having the time of their lives.
I think the reason "Cocaine Bear" works so well is because director Elizabeth Banks started her career acting in "Wet Hot American Summer," one of the funniest, most absurd comedies of all time. She carries that goofball tone over to "Cocaine Bear," making it a riotously entertaining and violent comedy that still doesn't elevate itself over what you imagine the movie is, based on the description... not that it needed to be anything other than a movie about a killer bear high on blow.
There are still a lot of movies I'm looking forward to in 2023, like Ari Aster's "Beau is Afraid," Wes Anderson's "Asteroid City" and Greta Gerwig's "Barbie," but those are still months away, so here's hoping there are some genuine cinematic surprises this year, so the great ones aren't so few and far between. I mean, how many times can we watch "Everything Everywhere All At Once" while we're waiting for the next modern classic? Well, maybe just one more time.