05 June 2015

The Road to a Blockbuster: Spies and Douchebags

We have another Summer Friday upon us, folks, and once again there are three excellent films counter-programming each other. Also once more I most likely won't be seeing any of them, but my opinion doesn't matter. What's important is you, the people. Oh, people, what do you want this weekend? Diminishing returns horror? Female-centric comedy? ...Male-centric comedy? Your options are endless. Let's talk about each movie in order of what I just did.
For the first time ever, a young girl is scared in a horror film.

First we have Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), which by all accounts so far seems...not that bad. The Insidious franchise is pretty notable for being amongst the best of contemporary horror films, even if the first one slightly eclipsed the second, and this third one doesn't return many of the original actors. As if that ever matters in a horror franchise. These flicks are also actually known for raking in a ridiculous amount of change, mostly during Summer, which is kind of goofy.

There's no reason why Insidious: Chapter 3 shouldn't do pretty well financially, but then again, that's also because it doesn't have to make $200 million to do so. It's all about perspective, people. It also seems to be getting some fine reviews so far, which again, with perspective is all about "It's kind of not that sucky," which is truly, a great accomplishment for any summer or horror film that's not The Conjuring (2013) or the original Insidious (2011). I mean, it really is easy to throw together some demon possession shit and scare the hell out of somebody, but to do it with nuance and depth is another thing entirely. This is horror writer mainstay Leigh Wannell's first directiorial effort after birthing the SAW franchise all those years ago. The director of the first two Insidious films, James Wan, also cut his teeth on SAW (2004), but I think he's doing alright now.

As for our long-term cultural memory the best we can hope for is probably something like "wait, was that demon sequence in the second or third one?" It's all aggregate. It adds to a cultural experience, and for most film buffs who aren't really horror buffs (like me), it's more like "Insidious, oh yeah, that was that paranoid demon haunting movie exactly like all the others but actually good, right?" That's kind of where Insidious: Chapter 3 will fall, and again, with lowered expectations across the board for this one, that's perfectly fine.
More spies need Archer-level undercover moustaches.

Moving on, we have the latest Paul Feig gender stereotype busting movie (which is getting to be decently odd that he's just making a career out of this. And it's working really well, likely due to his talent), SPY (2015). I really wish SPY had a better title, because it's totally bland and hard to reference and know exactly what it means. It's also really shitty to Google. Specificity, people!

When I watched the trailer for this, my first reaction was a loud, resounding "meh." The jokes landed fine, but nothing was totally compelling or gut-busting enough to make me need to see it. I tend to always cringe at Melissa McCarthy's forced schtick, even though when I actually sit through it it's always awesome. Bridesmaids (2011) was spectacular, and then I kind of rolled my eyes at The Heat (2013), but then watched it and was blown away. Commercially she also tends to kick ass, even if last summer's Tammy (2014) landed with a thud. That was more because no one had any fucking idea what that movie was supposed to be about, though. SPY is far more clear and focused.

Early reviews consider it a spectacular send-up of espionage films, probably the best since Austin Powers (1997), and dish out praise to McCarthy in particular, who apparently demonstrates some ample range beyond what she's accomplished so far. It could be a pivotal film in her career that expands on her normal "be outrageous and swear a lot" routine, which is a good thing for everyone. I'm also keen on Jason Statham playing the kind of role he always plays but focused around a comedy. It weirdly reminds me of Ryan Reynolds in Adventureland (2009), which placed the kind of character Ryan Reynolds plays in a more realistic movie that just shows how creepy that is. Statham playing Statham in a non-Statham flick is brilliant.

So I still probably won't see this this weekend. But I'll see it eventually, and it looks like it is possible it has staying potential, and will almost certainly win the weekend this week, if it can hold off San Andreas (2015). Of course, there is one more film on the opposite spectrum.

Does anyone out there actually still care about Entourage? Yes, actually, the douchebags who loved Entourage are all talking about how pumped they are for the movie Entourage (2015). I have never actually seen the show and really just have a scarce passing knowledge of what it's about. It's Mark Wahlberg's life if he got to play Aquaman, right? And then there's this (4:25 in). Yep. That's the summation of my knowledge of Entourage.
Actually I can't tell if this is a still or a promotional pic.

I'm not sure Entourage really has a place in a liberal society any more for dozens of reasons. I mean, the Internet was outraged about barely substandard issues with Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), for goodness sake. What will they think when this flick that trades in misogyny and broisms drops? I wouldn't actually be too surprised if it slides by, because it's just not on the radar of many authors out there. There just isn't really anyone who cares, and the people who are watching this movie don't care. Not to say it won't be terrible, because it will be, but our standards based on media salience are all screwed up.

This gets to its culturally potential a little bit, but along with its commercial potential, this just isn't dropping at the right time. Entourage's peak popularity wasn't even during the end of its run, which was like four years ago. I'm also always still tickled by the critical irony of Entourage, that in a show about a bunch of dudes trying to get famous, none of the actual actors got really famous. It wasn't the big break for any of them that it should have been. Dems the breaks, bra.

So, what do you think folks? I'd probably lean towards SPY if anything, but I think it's a good weekend to save your money for Dinosaurs next week. Or better yet, Dope (2015). But that's for next week. What will you catch this weekend?

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