29 June 2018

Sicario 2 and Uncle Drew

Riiiiight.

What?

To be honest, I'm not totally sure why either of these movies exist. But let's talk about them. In the wake of some monster weekends from The Incredibles 2 (2018) and Jurassic Kingdom: Fallen World (2018) we have a pair of really niche weirdo films getting some primo late June release dates. This certainly has all to do with a summer actually filled with studios spreading out their releases, or at least afraid of competing with some of the biggest potential movies of all time. As we usually do, though, let's preview the cultural, commercial, and critical prospects of each of these flicks. How about we start with the less weird one:

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) is the follow-up to the moderately successful Sicario (2015), a contemplative look at the US-Mexican Border cartel war that focused more on a female perspective finding her way in a violent male world. It is a classic Denis Villeneuve film filled with muted cinematography, raw emotion, striking violence, and personal tragedy. It made $46 million stateside and $84 million worldwide. Apparently that's enough for a sequel?

The biggest elements of Sicario are Emily Blunt's anchor and Villeneuve's subtle direction, but looking back that's not exactly what folks remember, and apparently that's what Soldado rolls with, focusing instead on Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin's shady morally nebulous characters. That's all more appealing on the surface and can form a more standard thriller, but a ultimately more typical thriller than Villeneuve's bold entry.

This is undoubtedly selling the really great performances of del Toro and Brolin short, and despite having a lengthy unbelievable career, this role does seem to fit del Toro like a glove. I've never seen anyone fire a gun like that. And somehow this is the Summer of Brolin, with Infinity War (2018), Deadpool 2 (2018), and now Soldado. I'm not sure what they were thinking with that mixed language title - wouldn't Dia del Soldado or something be more appropriate? Whatever.

I'm curious about the political implications of this film. In 2015 we definitely had cartel border issues, but in 2018 the issue has exploded. Will Soldado take a careful look at the intricacies of border protection? Will it stereotype Mexicans as the drug users, murders, and rapists that Trump and his supporters want them to be? Are its implications inherently right or left leaning - because suddenly that's incredibly significant. I'm curious if it can appeal to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans by focusing on their troubled exploits or if it becomes an indulgent, exploitative ICE fantasy. There's a lot at stake here.

Villeneuve is out and Stefano Sollima is in. He's directed...uhh...well, nothing notable, really. He's Italian. Made a few crime dramas, perhaps most notably a movie I know nothing about except the title - ACAB - All Cops Are Bastards (2012). So maybe that would answer some questions as to Soldado's ICE sympathies.

In the end this looks pretty intense, and considering the rarity of quality thriller-dramas with political implications like this, could end up having some cultural impact. It also feels radically different than Sicario already, clearly, which could elevate it away from that film's shadow. We'll see if it can follow a coherent story enough that it gets some critical love, although I don't get a total sense that it will be as highly renowned as its predecessor. Lastly, I can see it making some bank, there's enough hype around it as an adult summer anti-dote and cool violent ride at the cineplex that it could do well. Also, frankly just by making it a franchise tends to legitimize the series, people want to feel like they're part of this, witnessing the next chapter and on-going Sicario Saga. Probably.

Uncle Drew (2018). So, first just watch the trailer and then contemplate how this film exists:



On some level I'm actually kind of pumped up. This reminds me of a weird 90s children's sports movie or something. I kind of love wacky NBA players goofing around and making movies. For some reason other sports stars don't seem to get into that. It helps when Shaq's on board, who has made more terrible movies than he has NBA Finals appearances.

Rounding out the cast of NBA stars past and present is Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, and Nate Robinson. Not to be outdone, Lisa Leslie joins in the action, too. Again, this is 90s dream. The eponymous star is of course Kyrie Irving, whose commercial character seems to have inspired this whole affair. I wish I was there for the pitch meeting when Kyrie convinced some studio head to make a whole movie with this shit. Apparently this movie was literally just written by Pepsi. Could we be in store for product placement not seen since the glorious days of Josie and the Pussycats (2001)?

And if only Kyrie wasn't injured for the playoffs, maybe the Boston Celtics would have had a great run, maybe even a Championship run (tall order against the Warriors, but damn that would have been good advertising for this movie) and given Kyrie the best summer out of all of us. Just keep drinking Pepsi, Kyrie! It'll help you heal.

There's also some legitimate rising comedic talent peppered in around these old NBA stars. Nick Kroll, Lil Rey Howry, and Tiff Haddish all look like they're on point, along with pop-ins by J.B. Smoove and Mike Epps. I mean, who cares if this movie is good at all, it's definitely just shooting for fun and silly and that's probably enough. I see no world where this is a monster smash, its commercial intentions are just too apparent and making it a narrative film instead of a weird fun prank loses a little of the concept's edge. Still, a basketball version of Bad Grandpa (2013) isn't the worst idea ever. At the very least, this should be a notable cultural film for how weird it must be.

What are you checking out this weekend? Sticking with Dinosaurs? Or families that wear tights together? Mexican drug wars? Old basketball players? Dish it below!

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