David Ayer’s Bright is a hilariously bad movie. I’m not trying to tell you it’s not: It begins with self-consciously gloomy shots of computer-generated graffiti blasted onto notable Los Angeles landmarks like the U.S. Bank building and the L.A. River basin, conveying the struggle of the orcs, the negroes of the magical world, apparently. This is soundtracked by a Logic song. “Be YORCself,” one scrawl reads, over an image of a dozen orcs, fists raised in solidarity. “CURSE the police,” says another. To really drive home the magical caste discrimination, there’s the Beverly Hills sign, in Elvish. Within five or so minutes, we’ve heard the words “Fairy lives don’t matter today,” and not even Will Smith can make that line of dialogue sound less ridiculous.
But here’s the thing: I sort of enjoyed Bright. I realize I may be the only one. And not because of the larger unity and tolerance stuff I suspect it wanted to be about, but because at one point, during a shoot-out at a strip club, to a very clueless Joel Edgerton with a very restrictive prosthesis, Smith says, with exhaustion: “Fine! Well, let’s just die right here, then. We’re gonna titty-bar-gunfight die.”
Bright would have been way better were it like, 30 percent less serious, and I wouldn’t be so soft on it had I paid actual U.S. currency to see it in a theater. What I mean is, Bright belongs to a certain film genre that jumps a few marks out of 10 when holidays are affecting store hours, or when there’s laundry to be folded, or when everyone in the living room is in a receptive post-food haze. My family watched Bright full of breakfast casserole on Christmas Day 2017—when someone needed to get up to go to the kitchen, no one felt compelled to pause the movie. It would slot perfectly into a Spike marathon, or on FX in the mid-evening between Focus and i, Robot. Bright was released in theaters during the Christmas season, which kind of clicks with Chris Ryan’s “Christmas is for character dramas and historical epics” framework, as it pertains to the Dumpuary movie, which Bright absolutely is in spirit. I saw Den of Thieves with Chris, for the record; I still wish I would’ve waited until I could watch it with my Sling TV subscription. With Dumpuary—the barren movie stretch in the early months of the year—upon us again, I’ll second that “bad movies are sometimes the best movies,” but then, it’s the tail end of the holidays, and financially, there’s a greater than zero chance that you’re limping into the New Year.
So based purely off trailers, I’m going to help you figure out what you should and shouldn’t hit the multiplex for this coming month. Think of this as a time- and money-management guide.
Bad Boys for Life (January 17)
Directors: Bilall Fallah, Adil El Arbi
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence
I’ve already written about this but: Michael Bay, accomplished author of such shots as “Russian gangsters knocking over an innocent man in a wheelchair,” and “cadavers bursting under the tires of a Cadillac STS,” will not be returning for Bad Boys for Life. El Arbi and Fallah will be picking up directorial duties, and it remains to be seen whether Smith, who’s much less believable as Mike Lowrey at 51 years old, and Lawrence, who’s painfully believable as an over-the-hill detective, can carry the vision—deliver “that Bad Boys stuff,” as Lawrence called it in a March interview.
In any case, seeing this in a theater isn’t a matter of taste for me, and probably not for most other people that have an attachment to the first two movies. It’s a pilgrimage.
Dolittle (January 17)
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen in live-action roles; Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, and Marion Cotillard in voice roles
First of all, it’s DOCTOR Dolittle. Second of all, where are Eddie Murphy, Raven-Symoné, Kyla Pratt, and Lil’ Zane for that matter?
All that aside, Downey and Holland seem perfectly affable and primed to give a speech about friends being the family you choose, and the colorful, exoctic locales and talking CGI polar bears might reward viewing this movie on the biggest screen possible. It’s just going to be a no from me, personally.
Downhill (February 14)
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell
Like my hero Bong Joon-ho, I’m going to suggest that instead of watching this breakup dramedy, you overcome the 1-inch barrier of subtitles and just watch Force Majeure.
Like a Boss (January 10)
Director: Miguel Arteta
Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek
At the risk of being reductive, I feel as though Haddish might be going the Kevin Hart route in the movie department—she’s been in so many, some successful, but none that you’ve really felt the urge to see twice. Like a Boss—a forthcoming buddy comedy with Byrne in which the two fend off Hayek, a makeup mogul with a penchant for predatory lending practices—will be fine. It’ll be just as fine, or even better, when it lands on demand next month.
Underwater (January 10)
Director: William Eubank
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller
I am just itching to figure out why Cassell is in Underwater, which looks like a deep-space horror flick that just so happens to take place 7 miles under the sea. We’ve got Stewart stepping directly off the set of the doomed Charlie’s Angels reboot and into … research … fatigues? We’ve also got Miller, for some reason. Crucially, though, we’ve got no idea what the actual monsters are, and, to be honest, I would break a $20 just to find out.