Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The Reject Report

Some aliens are stupid. Other aliens are crazy. Some aliens are just in love, but we usually don’t see these aliens between May and August. No one wants to see alien love in their Summer blockbusters. They want explosions and people shooting those aliens with well-placed bullets. Which brings us to this weekend, where two films about aliens getting blasted by pesky humans find release. Of course, one is having a much larger opening than the other, and neither of them feature Smurfs. That’s right. I said Smurfs. We’ll talk about them here, too. Enjoy this week’s Reject Report, and if you want loving aliens, come back in November.

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The Reject Report

In darkened theaters… In brightest lobbies… Yeah, I’m not finishing that. Instead I’m looking forward at what’s in those darkened theaters this weekend. We have Green Lantern. We have Mr. Popper’s Penguins. We also have the returning Super 8 looking to hold onto that nostalgia for one more weekend. One of these is sure to come out on top of the heap. The other two will be submerged into a vat of self-pity. Unless the winner is the penguin movie. Then all three films as well as American audiences should really take a hard look in the mirror and gauge their worth. But I’m not judging. It’s the Reject Report, and no evil shall escape our site. Lame.

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The Reject Report

Oh, yeah. It’s a verb now. It’s not easy for anyone to open a period piece with no A-list names and the only brand loyalty coming in the form of its director and producer. It’s even difficult for J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, which would indicate why Super 8 underperformed in its opening weekend. Don’t get me wrong. $37m is a great opening. When you consider the sci-fi/family drama/coming of age story reportedly cost $50m, that $37m seems even more impressive. Analysts, myself included, were estimating in the $45-55m range, and much of that stemmed from Spielberg and Abrams, who is directing his first film that isn’t part of a large franchise with this one. We obviously overshot the estimate, but maybe some of us just wanted the film to perform better.

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The Reject Report

Imagine Brad Pitt standing on a desolate road holding a gun on director J.J. Abrams. Sitting in front of Abrams is the mystery box, that figurative enclosure in which Abrams stores the secrets of his latest project. Brad Pitt screams a phrase we haven’t heard him scream since 1995, and as Abrams reaches into the box to reveal what’s inside (hint: it’s not Gwyneth Paltrow’s head), a shot rings out. Abrams drops dead, but it isn’t Pitt’s gun that fired. It’s Judy Moody who is standing behind Pitt and who, as of now, is NOT having a bummer summer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a lame story with a stupid ending. You try writing these intros out every week. Let’s get to the number, okay?

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The Reject Report

Could have been a B-. Maybe even a C+. The point being X-Men: First Class rose to a somewhat acceptable occasion, about what was expected. Especially by analysts who realized the film wasn’t being backed by Hugh Jackman, the first time in the franchise, and was comprised of an entirely new cast. Add into that mix the idea that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were both such colossal disappointments, and it seems X-Men: First Class did rather well despite all it has going against it. It still opened larger than 2000’s original X-Men, but the film still came in fourth among the franchise’s debuts.

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The Reject Report

And I hope they’re teaching math. But this class is probably more about learning skills like flinging energy beams from your eyes or learning how to hone you telekinetic abilities. I kind of wish I had some of those right now. That way I’d know exactly how many audience members will be attending X-Men: First Class this weekend, and my numbers will be a bit more accurate than they were this time last week. Thanks a lot, Kung Fu Panda 2. Regardless, it seems pretty evident First Class will come in #1 this weekend, as it opens unopposed. That is, if you consider the gargantuan second weekend Hangover Part II is likely to have. Still, I’m sticking with my guns. First Class all the way, but its debut might not be as astonishing as some would hope. Let’s look into that more right now.

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as TheManFromWaco andTeenWlf2 in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the pair questions what separates the wheat from the shit when it comes to reboots, prequels and movies capitalizing on name recognition in order to get ahead in the marketing game. What makes a prequel great? How can a reboot really succeed?

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Two-weeks or so after the release of the near-terrible Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, there’s already a list of directors that Disney is keen on to helm the fifth entry in the quality diving franchise. The list of filmmakers Disney is favoring is a bit surprising. There’s their top pick of Tim Burton, the always busy Sam Raimi, critical darling Alfonso Cuarón, Twilight 2 guy Chris Weitz, and the online venom drawer, Shawn Levy. Apparently an offer went out to Rob Marshall to return months ago, although he may be too busy with his Thin Man remake (*eye roll*)… Burton was rumored for the fourth film as well, but after Alice in Wonderland and Planet of the Apes, I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in seeing a big Burton action sequence ever again. And considering he’s currently working on Dark Shadows then Frankenweenie, he may be not have the time. Side note, when will see an original Burton film again?

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Culture Warrior

Movies have a strange relationship with history, that’s for certain. On the one hand, they have the ability to bring to life, in spectacular detail, the intricate recreation of historical events. On the other hand, films can have a misleading and even potentially dangerous relationship with history, and can change the past for the benefit of storytelling or for political ends. And there’s always the option of using films to challenge traditional notions of history. Finally, many movies play with history through the benefit of cinema’s artifice. Arguably, it’s this last function that you see history function most often in relationship to mainstream Hollywood cinema. In playing with history, Hollywood rarely possesses a calculated political motive or a desire to recreate period detail. In seeking solely to entertain, Hollywood portrays the historical, but rarely history itself. Tom Shone of Slate has written an insightful piece about a unique presence of that historical mode all over the movies seeking to be this summer’s blockbusters. Citing X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Cowboys & Aliens as examples, Shone argues that this is an unusual movie summer in terms of the prominence of movies set in the past. However, while such a dense cropping of past-set films is unusual for this season, these movies don’t seem to be all that concerned with “the past” at all – at least, not in the way that we think.

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Coming off the heels of box office news that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides made more money in its standard showings than in its 3D showings, and a weekend in which the big 3D family release Kung-Fu Panda 2 opened softer than analysts were predicting, comes comments from Tim Burton regarding his upcoming films, and whether they will use 3D. As you might remember, Burton’s last film, Alice in Wonderland, used the oft derided 3D post conversion method and became one of the poster children for film’s that didn’t present well crafted 3D effects at all, but still charged the extra money for the ticket. When asked about 3D plans for his upcoming big screen adaptation of the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows, Burton said, “I have no plans for that.”

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Boiling Point

Pointing out the flaws in Hollywood is easy – there are hundreds of them. Unfortunately for the entertainment system, I’m a fan of taking the low road and always pointing those flaws out. After all, it’s not easy to be mad every week without taking a few cheap shots. A child of the 80s, I’m a big fan of action. Guns, knives, swords, bullets, punches, jump kicks, Van Damme, you name it, I dig it. Hell, I’ll watch the shitty UFC/WWE vehicle movies that go straight to DVD just to see somewhere get punched in the eye socket. You’d think action movies would be easy to make and send to theaters. Toss in some fireballs, some blood, some roundhouse kicks – easy, right? Apparently not. I mean, sure, we get good action films every now and then, maybe even once a month – but how many more just fall flat? What’s wrong with Hollywood and action movies when one of the best, if not the best, action movies so far is the animated Kung Fu Panda 2?

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The Reject Report

Another Summer weekend, another slate of motion pictures fighting for your hard-earned dollar and precious minutes. But what could possibly pull it out and end up at the top of the heap this Memorial Day weekend? Could it be the one with the monkey, all cute and cuddly and human-like? Or could it possibly be the one with the monkey? Or even better yet, and this one is an outside shot, it could be the one that’s already been in release, the one with the monkey. Zombie monkey. One of these movies – it’s gonna be the one with the monkey – is going to come out on top. Let’s look a little closer at them and sort out which one it’s going to be. Monkey.

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The Reject Report

They set sail. They walked the plank. They scuttled some…things you might scuttle. And in the end, whether it lived up to expectations of analysts or the openings for the previous two films, Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger Tides ripped into theaters with an impressive debut. Unlike Dead Man’s Chest or At World’s End, this fourth entry in the Disney franchise didn’t smash any records, but it ranked fairly well on charts such as biggest May opening and biggest opening day gross. Where On Stranger Tides goes from here is curious. The film ended up costing a reported $250 million despite Disney’s claims they were “cutting back” on the visual grandeur and overall budget. Regardless, the film has already punched out $346.4 million in worldwide ticket sales, so the future seems to be in order for Captain Jack Sparrow to return for Pirates 5.

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Disney’s latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise arrived in theaters nationwide yesterday, and in keeping with all things peg-leggy and swashbuckly, I present selections from the On Stranger Tides press conference. Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Rob Marshall, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush were front and center for the press event, with moderator Pete Hammond at the helm. Here’s what they had to say.

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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movies, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. This week features one major release which showcases Johnny Depp doing his best imitation of himself making a disturbing amount of money. With only one release, it gives us the opportunity to see what other pirate-based movies might make for a better weekend in front of a screen.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets shanghaied by a group of drunken, smelly people he met in a pub. If only, if only these were really pirates taking him aboard a haunted ship. Alas, they weren’t. Let’s just say that there might be a few trips to the pharmacy in store for him. After surviving his if-only-it-were-real-pirates experience, Kevin took a shot at seeing Jodie Foster’s Beaver. Unfortunately, no one told him this was a title to an actual film, so he spent another few days in jail, missing any opportunity to see that new Mel Gibson film at all.

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The Reject Report

What the hell does that even mean? Of course, you’ll have plenty of time to contemplate that phrase for all it’s worth, as the Reject Report this week is going to be a little lean this week. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides hits theaters far and wide, and that’s it, folks. No one dared step up to the May 20th date for counter-programming, because, really, how do you counter-program Johnny Depp? You don’t. That’s how. Even the limited releases this week don’t have anything noteworthy to brush upon. So shiver those timbers, and when you find out what that means, let me know.

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After the nadir that was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, it was clear that the most lucrative movie franchise of the new millennium needed some freshening up. So, out (reportedly by their own choosing) went director Gore Verbinski and co-stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. In their stead, new helmer Rob Marshall is relied upon for his eye for grandiose theatrical imagery and staging, while Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane are meant to add spice and character to the proceedings. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is, well, Captain Jack. Yet On Stranger Tides, the fourth Pirates flick, proves an age-old maxim: the more things change, the more they stay the same. However much the franchise has cosmetically shifted, the new picture is rooted in the familiar: Supernatural-tinged storytelling, murkily-shot battles fought against pristine backdrops, colonial-era costumes and the admittedly unforgettable protagonist, who has become an icon thanks to Depp’s epicene, offbeat take. It is by now a tired formula, rendered in such a way that emotional investment is muted and the more adventuresome aspects are diluted by their adherence to this static aesthetic. Character and atmosphere are sacrificed to spectacle, and the spectacle — sprightly chases, dull sword fights and sweeping, zooming shots of the lush Caribbean sea/countryside — has worn down.

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The fourth step in a franchise can often be the sticking point, especially when that franchise has taken a break of sorts after the third installment – just ask fans of Die Hard, Indiana Jones, Alien and Scream. The issues are generally two-fold, as the filmmakers are charged with somehow making a high-numbered sequel that retains the spirit of the original, at the same time as offering something new and compelling enough to entice new fans. Add to that the fact that that gap generally means that the fourth installment has to make enough money to turn heads, and certainly a lot more than would traditionally accepted of a third sequel, and you have a minefield of potential pitfalls. But surely Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides would be okay? Regardless of the critical reaction, the film will make an obscene amount of money, so that won’t be an issue, but the pre-release noises coming from the Mouse House, and director Rob Marshall actually seemed to suggest that this particular number 4 was going to address the problems of the preceding two sequels, which for fans and filmmakers alike set some exciting bells ringing. So swelled by that excitement, I donned a pair of the Palais’ frankly ridiculous 3D glasses and settled in to watch a rum and gunpowder caper.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It too slays vampires and zombies. Not in a top hat, mind you, but it slays them nonetheless. It also believes strongly that it will be assassinated (by /Film’s Page 2) while attending a revival of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. “There’s something in the American psyche, we want our presidents to be warriors. We’re giving that to Abraham Lincoln, sort of posthumously in this case.” That’s what Seth Grahame-Smith had to say A in an interview with The New York Times. It’s part of NYT giving the world its first look at Benjamin Walker as Abe Lincoln, the ax-wielding, vampire slaying 16th President of the United States. It’s a neat article that gives away a lot of details about the project, but nothing that you wouldn’t get having read the book.

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