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Movie Musings: Worrying About 'Pirates' and a Weak December

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Dec 17, 2010 | 4:28am EST

Movie Musings

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides1. It's Time to Get Concerned about Pirates 4

Many people began to sour on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise after the sequel. Not me. I really enjoyed all three Gore Verbinski efforts, even the blustery macabre of the third film. These were true "event" movies, and you tuned in to see what nonsense Captain Jack would get up to next.

Then Verbinski bailed, replaced by Rob Marshall. Main characters played by Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom were written off, with Penelope Cruz stepping in. The overall effect seems to be way more based on sight gags this time around. The whole trailer is comprised of moments that the original trilogy placed few and far between, the dreaded "wait for it" style punchline. A franchise this big can't die an instant death, but the signs all point to a gradual receding of the brand. Bloom and Knightley were cohesive units, and Verbinski understood that small doses of Jack Sparrow made him all the more potent. I don't get the sense that director Rob Marshall has the tone of Pirates dialed in, and if you were feeling less than charitable you could argue it has been eight years since he made a movie that connected with audiences (Chicago). Plus, zombies? Really?

So yeah, it's time to get worried, and that’s if you weren't already fatigued from the prior versions.

2. Talking Tree of Life

Terrence Malick is one of the stranger working directors out there, and this newly released trailer for Tree of Life is no exception. You might remember Malick from The Thin Red Line or Days of Heaven, and where he differs from almost everyone else in the business is the method in which he constructs his narratives. Essentially, and this is crucial, he doesn't. Malick uses film as an almost purely visual medium, and he evokes mood better than 99 percent of his colleagues, because that seems to be all he's trying to pull off. When a Malick movie ends it can be tough to quantify what you just watched, but it is very easy to identify exactly how you feel. And that's why, even if he only makes two films a decade, he'll remain relevant.

Here's the trailer, see for yourself:

Yogi Bear3. Is This Year Abnormally Bad for December Releases?

Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing Best Picture candidates being released right now, Black Swan, The Fighter, and True Grit all come to mind, but this December seems to lack a box office contender that’s built on quality . Consider the reign of futility that's happening right now:

The Tourist: 20 percent (RottenTomatoes Score)

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 49 percent

Tron Legacy: 48 percent

Yogi Bear: 13 percent

Next weekend Gulliver's Travels isn't even being screened for critics and Little Fockers looks abysmal. That’s six films under 50 percent, and at least three of them will win a box office weekend in December. Contrast that to 2009 where we had Avatar and The Blind Side. In 2008 Quantum of Solace was still going strong and Slumdog Millionaire was about to make a move. In 2007 I Am Legend provided some sizzle and Enchanted spent four straight weekends in the top five.

This year? The choice seems to come down to great films that not many people are seeing. Or mediocre movies that are capable of winning a single weekend before fading into oblivion. Still, make sure you see Academy Awards fodder, because the scope of a film such as The Fighter will remind you of major titles from Decembers gone by. Yogi Bear? Er, we can all probably miss films like those in good conscience.

It is in the spirit of counteracting all that awfulness that I present to you one of the most impressive viral videos of the year. This is a Yogi Bear / Assassination of Jesse James mash-up, brutally hilarious, yet somehow subversively sad too. Well played.

On that note, I'm off to watch The Fighter and True Grit again.

Check out last week's Movie Musings here.

Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.
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