It’s almost Labor Day weekend, which is not only notorious for being the unofficial end of summer, but also historically one of the weakest weekends for new movie releases. This weekend when you head to the theater you’re likely to think, “Wait, haven’t I seen this before?” Hollywood loves nothing more than pumping out reboots and sequels. Because if something works once, why not keep doing it until audiences can’t stand it? Here are seven types of films we’ve exhausted.
The Found Footage Film
The Blair Witch Project (1999); Paranormal Activity (2007); Cloverfield (2008); Sinister (2012); V/H/S (2012); As Above, So Below (2014)
Bear with me on this one. I get why found footage films are so popular. Audiences love the “it could be me factor” and studios love the return on investment. Historically, horror films tend not to bring out the cream of the crop. With few recent exceptions, most actors and directors tied to horror projects could stand to not suck as badly as they do. Unfortunately, the found footage concept may be the hardest subgenre to successfully navigate. The plot can’t be little more than the gimmick. The realistic, relatable performance is rare but more necessary here than most anywhere else. Audiences need to buy these D-list actors’ performances. They have to be the everyman…real, normal people. But even under the best circumstances, it’s a difficult concept to stay on board throughout. Think of the most self-indulgent, narcissistic, selfie-lovin’ person you know. Even she wouldn’t have carried on filming under the circumstances. But I suppose if we stopped making these movies we’d never have the pleasure of hearing the Rhodes Scholar of our friend group think aloud, “I wonder if that’s real footage.”
The Body Swap Film
Freaky Friday (1976/2003); Wish Upon a Star (1996); The Hot Chick (2002); The Change Up (2011)
Good God. I get it. Who hasn’t for a moment wanted to trade places with someone else? Of course I’ve fantasized about trading places with my husband. It would be nice to know what it’s like to be married to someone devastatingly good looking. But that’s not going to happen. And it’s a little creepy to imagine. But it’s creepier to watch.
The body swap could maybe sound funny—in theory—if you’d never actually been subjected to the revolting genre. There are a couple rules for these awkward, unfunny disasters. 1) You must either envy someone else’s life just as they envy yours or you must hate someone enough that the universe decides to torture you with their life. 2) The big swap moment has to be unbelievably stupid. The only way you can change bodies is if you pee in a fountain or wear ancient earrings. Because, of course. 3) You have to freak out and inspect your new body. Usually you are just so tired that you don’t even notice you aren’t in the right place or body until you hit your bathroom mirror. Because that’s the first thing that should tip ya off. Immediately inspect your new body. Don’t even consider the fact that you’ve just grabbed your mom’s tits…err your new tits? Your new-old tits? What is going on? 4) There’s got to be some slightly incestuous, pedophilic, or otherwise sexually inappropriate moments to contend with. It’s hilarious that your mom’s boyfriend is trying to tongue you. It’s a laugh riot that your best friend’s wife is trying to sleep with you but has no idea it’s actually you. 5) You have to royally almost screw something up, like that school project or big work meeting. You have to be enough out of your element at every turn that you ultimately confide in a third party who believes you instantaneously. 6) And, finally, you have to figure out that your life’s not that bad and you maybe, kinda wanna stop bitching about it so much and learn some fucking empathy…because you have to leave your body to empathize with someone else. The always awkward, never funny body swap films can go.
While we’re at it: Accelerated aging films can stop, too. You know, the “I went to bed 13 and woke up 30” thing? Yeah, just as bad.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Film
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961); Annie Hall (1977); Garden State (2004); Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); Almost Famous (2004); Elizabethtown (2005); 500 Days of Summer (2009)
I should start by saying I hate the Manic Pixie Dream Girl term, and I like some of the films that are offenders of this sexist trope. (So you could say this isn’t starting well.) For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nathan Rabin’s term, the MPDG is a character who, according to Rabin, “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” The term itself has stirred up controversy, but it at least opened up a greater discussion about the kinds of roles written for female actors. These films, arguably geared toward women, insult the very audience they hope to attract. Sure, I’d like to be nothing more than a quirky muse for some dejected, moping guy’s journey to self-actualization, but where can I find a guy like that, says every single girl friend of mine. But seriously, Hollywood is wicked awful about writing fully nuanced female characters and even worse at admitting women are little more than pretty props in men’s stories. Let’s retire Miss MPDG and replace her with multidimensional female characters.
The Old Dude Who’s Somehow Still a Secret Agent Film
Taken (2008); The Expendables (2010); Knight and Day (2010); Oblivion (2013); The November Man (2014)
I love Pierce Brosnan. Loved. In 1995. Brosnan was clearly the most handsome James Bond* and obviously found his comfort zone in the action film genre. Lately, though, he’s joined the gang of too-old men hanging on to action hero stardom well into their Depends years. It’s painful to watch your once-favorite action stars stuck in the same character, the same film, well into what should be the time for some of their most intriguing roles. Hollywood writes solid roles for aging men, remember? And it’s not just Brosnan. Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis—let me stop here. Go look up the cast for Expendables. I’m talking about those repeat offenders. But I can appreciate that there’s a concerted effort to keep these curmudgeons contained in the same film. I’m begging these geezers to retire themselves and save the mindless, action blockbusters for the up-and-comers. I get that that means Tom Cruise is career-less. That’s why this made the list.
*The most handsome does not mean best. I don’t want your scathing emails.
The Zombie Film
Night of the Living Dead (1968); Dawn of the Dead (1978); Day of the Dead (1985); 28 Days Later (2002); I am Legend (2007); Zombieland (2009); World War Z (2013)
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good zombie flick. I love most of the zombie movies listed above. Good zombie movies speak to our fear of collapsed civilization—a post-apocalyptic world where survival seems less appealing than the alternative. Bad zombie flicks provide guaranteed brain splattering entertainment. You kinda can’t go wrong. So why would anyone advocate for the discarding of zombie flicks? Sheer quantity. Audiences have been inundated with a barrage of zombie films for a decade. It’s time for a break. And all of those vampire movies? Enough of those, too.
The Buddy Cop Film
Beverly Hills Cop (1984); Lethal Weapon (1987); Die Hard (1989); Turner & Hooch (1989); Rush Hour (1998); The Other Guys (2010); 21 Jump Street (2012); The Heat (2013)
You pair together two people (sometimes one person and one not person) who form an unlikely duo and they go out and do their jobs and there’s tension but everything works out or it doesn’t and the dog dies. There you have it. It’s been done in every crazy, funny, non-funny way it can be done. So much so that in 1995, it became official: the buddy cop comedy reached its peak with Whoopi Goldberg and her crime bustin’ dinosaur partner, Theodore Rex, in the aptly named Theodore Rex. Sure, buddy cop comedies since have had their moments. But we’ve spent a few decades doing nothing new, instead just paying homage to the genre. Over and over and over. Time to let this one go.
The Nicholas Sparks Film
A Walk to Remember (2002); The Notebook (2004); Dear John (2010); The Last Song (2010); The Lucky One (2012); Safe Haven (2013)
Yes, the one thing Nicholas Sparks deserves is his own bullet point on this list. Nicholas Sparks has been unabashedly shitting all over the film industry since 1999. He once bragged to USA Today about how he “dominates” the love story genre (not romance; do not fucking call it romance) and that “there are no authors in [his] genre. No one is doing what [he does].” Fanfuckingtastic. This makes this plea all the more feasible. Behold. The adaptation of any Nicky Sparks novel for screenplay: Boy meets girl. There’s a problem. But they fall in love anyway. But then something crazy, unexpected happens, like a guy who joined the military leaves for the military. Everyone cries. How he’s worth $30 mil and I’m not, I’ll never know. To be clear, I’m not advocating for the elimination of romance films or romantic comedies. We just deserve to have it done better than a guy who simply recycles his own recycled material.
Honorable Mention: Anything Tyler Perry does, anything Adam Sandler does, and every superhero movie (like I was really going to open that floodgate).