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Apple TV + movies sizzle reel shows a network at less than peak performance


Apple kicked off Tuesday’s Peek Performance event with a look at the upcoming Apple TV + slate of movies – and it’s not a very pretty picture.

You can look forward to the kind of forgettable, star-studded stuff that Netflix has become so adept at providing a rapacious public, most of whom seem just as eager to forget these types of movies exist. While promising Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon remains free of both a release date and a trailer, the Apple TV + sizzle real showcased several upcoming movies that don’t inspire confidence.

Apple TV + movie slate at Peek Performance

The Peek Performance event was mostly given over to discussions of new technology (which my colleagues have summarized for you elsewhere on this site) but it opened with a highlight reel as a way to get everyone excited about Apple TV + ‘s chances at the Academy Awards.

Apple TV + Oscar nominees

On that front, the Apple TV + execs are right to be excited. I’m kind of getting the feeling that Sundance hit CODA, about a teen living with her deaf family, is about to win big. But then again, I’m not an Oscar prognosticator, so don’t take my word for it. (Frankly, take no one’s word for it. I don’t think I’m being uncharitable when I say that Oscar bloggers are the lowest form of life on this planet. Their predictions should be met with more skepticism than those of a Renaissance Faire fortune teller.)

Having said that, CODA is a film that I can see Oscar voters feeling good about rewarding – especially Troy Kotsur’s stirring supporting performance. Everyone likes making history, and this is a win-win, whatever my feelings about the film. Denzel Washington’s performance in The Tragedy of Macbeth gives him as fair a shot as anybody for lead actor, so who knows how that’s gonna shake out.

New movies coming to Apple TV +

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Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor promise to enliven Raymond and Ray.

Spirited

As for the new films of which we saw clips, very few seem worth getting riled up about. There’s Spiriteda movie that looks discomfitingly close to Netflix’s Ryan Murphy-produced The Prom. It’s a musical retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, two men who have been on comedy autopilot for about six years.

It’s directed by Sean Anders and John Morris, the writers / directors of such fondly remembered movies as Sex Drive, Horrible Bosses 2, Daddy’s Home and Daddy’s Home 2. The stills released late last year weren’t terribly exciting. And the few seconds of footage shown Tuesday didn’t do much to build anything but dreadful anticipation for this film.

Luck

Next was Luck, which looks like a charmingly animated film (with quite a cast! Jane Fonda plays a dragon!). Except of course it’s the brainchild of John Lassiter, who left Pixar under a cloud after a raft of sexual misconduct allegations were thrown his way, so there isn’t a lot to be excited about there.

Cha Cha Real Smooth

Writer / director / actor Cooper Raiff’s new movie Cha Cha Real Smooth also knots my stomach a little. His last film, Sh! Thouse, found his character stalking a young woman played by Dylan Gelula, whose character eventually relents and rewards him for his effort. Raiff has once again cast himself opposite a gorgeous actress (Dakota Johnson), and his character charms her through persistence. Pass, thank you. Or anyway I would but it’s now my job to watch it.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Oscar winner Peter Farrelly is back with The Greatest Beer Run Everdescribed on the Apple TV + PR site as “a new dramedy starring Zac Efron and Russell Crowe based on the true story of John‘ Chickie ’Donohue, who in 1968 left New York to track down and share a few beers with his childhood buddies now in the Army – fighting in Vietnam. ”

That sounds like a winning premise, and no one loves Russell Crowe more than me, but anyone who saw Farrelly’s 2018 film Green Book will know why I’m approaching this with the same trepidation I would a pit viper in my yard.

Tetris and Argylle

Matthew Vaughn, the enormously dull director of truly baffling Kingsman movie series, teamed up with Apple TV + to produce Tetris, which stars Taron Egerton, Vaughn’s Kingsman star.

Vaughn is also responsible for Argylle, which looks like a Chanel commercial. Man of Steel star Henry Cavill plays some kind of spy in this one. (I think if you strapped Vaughn to a chair and told him to make a movie without spies and guns or he’d be tortured, he’d say, “Bring on the thumbscrews.”) Dua Lipa plays Cavill’s love interest. Big shrug on this one.

Raymond and Ray

I’m a little more optimistic about Colombian director Rodrigo García’s Raymond and Ray, about half-brothers played by Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke. Garcia isn’t the world’s most pulse-pounding stylist or anything, but those actors working off of each other ought to be good.

Upcoming Apple TV + documentaries

The documentaries promise a little more fun. There’s the fairly self-explanatory Black & Blues: The Colorful Ballad of Louis Armstrong, James Bond music doc The Sound of 007 and Number One on the Call Sheet, about black actors and actresses in Hollywood.

Further in the future on Apple TV +

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Further down the road are Adam McKay’s Elizabeth Holmes biopic, starring Jennifer Lawrence. (We just got a Hulu mini-series on this topic starring Amanda Seyfried. But as we’re about to see with upcoming Apple TV + limited series WeCrashedHollywood simply cannot stop making content about con artists.)

Also in the works: Some kind of romance with Ana De Armas and Chris Evans reuniting after Knives Out and The Beanie Bubble, about Beanie Babies starring Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Snook (could be good?).

Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon

All of these projects cannot help but pale in comparison to Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Mooncurrently in post-production, and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, currently shooting. These are two gargantuan products from real artists that promise exacting production design, flooring art direction, good performances, etc., etc., etc.

Old-school filmmaking, in other words.

Lily Gladstone, one of the most interesting actresses alive, stars in Flower Moon. That’s a real choice, not just a paean to market research.

So much of what gets bought and feted these days has a depressing contemporary appeal that all but pinions a film to the second in which it’s released. I want more films that have nothing to do with right now, movies that look to the past and the future. Movies you’d consider rewatching.

Apple TV + has done an OK job selecting films up until now, but the execs haven’t exactly picked up a handful of nothing but classics. There needs to be more trust placed in artists who don’t want to make movies riding whatever wave is at its peak, because inevitably it’s about to crash.

I shouldn’t look at a year’s worth of incoming product and start locking my door and closing the blinds. I should be excited. I wish I was.

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.





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Naveen Kumar

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