26 May 2017

Let's Hit the Beach! Lifeguards n Pirates!

Welcome again, folks to another Summer Friday - and this is a special one indeed. I always consider the first Friday in March to be the Official Start to Summer, but almost any other human being considers it to be this weekend. Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and we've got a big movie weekend, as usual. Well, it could be big, and I think there will be an upset, at least to traditional thinking. There's two big flicks dropping into a wide-open field, you are only going to need $20 million or so to win the weekend, and the weather looks like shit. These films could definitely blow up - let's start with the clearly awful one:
What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss?

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) is coming about four years too late after the last sequel, which was really four years too late from the last last sequel. I'm actually a big fan of the first three PotC films, and even Verblinski's attempt to do the same damn thing Out West with The Lone Ranger (2013). Apparently, though, it takes a more precise hand than you'd think to juggle the ridiculous series of epic swashbuckling plot twists, since Rob Marshall's On Stranger Tides (2011) was a forgettable, billion dollar mess that no one cared about, and there's a surprising derth of copycat films for a genre that could be imitated so easily. That's clear again here, since Dead Men Tell No Tales looks and is fucking terrible.

There's some cool shit here, but it all feels like a chored retread than anything to get excited about. We might again cite how the Fast and the Furious series has impeccably managed to keep things fresh, despite being on #8, not #5. I think it may be as simple as our conditioning. We've been conditioned to accept that Fast movies are mere episodic installments, even if there is also some kind of overarching story. It works through its lack of epicness and finality. The first three Pirates films were an exhausting trilogy that got bigger and weirder each time, even if thematically really only the last two were coherently linked. On Stranger Tides always felt like hacking off a dick that had already blown its load in grand finale. The current Transformers series feels the same way, and the commercial results have been similar, although I'll admit to my greater interest in The Last Knight (2017) because I'm both a loyalist to giant robots and love ambitious trainwrecks.

You get this feeling with the upcoming Toy Story 4 (2019), too. We all felt so good with where we left these characters! Further installments cheapen that emotional high point and certainly in the case of On Stranger Tides' domestic returns, hurt its finances as well. To dwell on that a second - also akin to Transformers, this feels like the posterchild franchise for not giving a shit about American audiences. It will likely do just fine overseas, although last year's forced sequels reminiscent of this all stumbled. The international market is finally showing signs of fallibility, which I think will continue.

Critically, as I've said, it's already clear that this is a piece of shit with no real redeemable merit. Every thing seems forced and instead of a Johnny Depp revival, it feels more like another stake in his career. Was his last great role, like, Tusk (2014)? Can we say that? Culturally, this feels more in line with On Stranger Tides, which I honestly remember nothing about. I don't even remember what the fuck they were looking for in that stupid movie. This is all to say that, unfortunately for everyone involved, Dead Men Tell No Tales represents everything that sucks about summer movies right now, is generating no excitement or anticipation and is a total waste of time.

That's an important distinction - you kind of feel like the audience here is a bunch of people seeing this either out of obligation or ignorance. There aren't any fans any more. There's been nothing in the marketing really remarkable or engaging - and let me tell you, as a movie I don't give a shit about seeing, I have devoured every trailer available.
This has got to be gold right

On that note, let's move on to a film in the exact opposite vein - Baywatch (2017). I'm feeling big things about Baywatch. Watch the trailers side by side with Dead Men Tell No Tales and examine which film is better in tune with 2017. I was hating a few months ago, but I'm on the bandwagon now. Let's break this down:

Here is a film doing the basics so right. It's unconditionally set up to be a Summer Blockbuster. The only reason it exists is 21 Jump Street (2012)'s success as a cheeky, self-aware revival that leaned on its source material less than being its own relentlessly fun thing (we could have a whole other post about how in a weird way Johnny Depp is the cause of his own demise here). Baywatch is clearly just doing the same thing, but unlike CHiPS (2017), it actually looks fun, inclusive, and interesting.

Take the TV revival premise and just add a ton of sex. Baywatch could very well be the sexiest movie ever. Beyond The Rock, who on his own is a huge draw for this movie, we got Zac Efron, who had stumbled in non-Neighbors (2014) films but generally has a lot of good will. And girls aren't the only ones who can whack off to this movie - Alexandra Daddario and Priyanka Chopra are stunningly beautiful in addition to a real pride in slow motion running in swimsuits.

The sheer lack of shame in its source material is what elevates this film. It's also all about beach lifeguards. What more could you add to a summer blockbuster? The advertising had been everywhere and largely successful. I predict this will slaughter the weekend. My mom really wants to see it. That's got to be a good sign.

Critically, reviews haven't really come out yet, but they're largely positive. It may not be high art, but it reeks a film that does exactly what it wants to do, which is perfect. Finally, its cultural effect relies on its staying power, which is possible if it becomes either an eternal summer movie or the Best Comedy of the Year. Both are within reach and this could be great.

So I'm probably too high on Baywatch. That's okay. What are you seeing this weekend?

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