dear popular entertainment franchises

Dear Entourage, the motion picture

To be fair, I saw you and I watched every episode of the show leading up to your worthless existence. But at least that means I know what I’m talking about.

You suck, Entourage, and not just for the terribly obvious reasons, like your gross objectification of women, your fatphobia, or your adolescent narcissism. These aren’t news to anyone.

Less obvious but still damning: You are an unimpressive and dull movie about how impressive and flashy your protagonist and his milieu are. Vincent Chase is put forward as a bad-boy paragon of virility and charisma. Unfortunately for you, Entourage, to convey this would require snappy dialogue and probably an actor more inherently magnetic than Adrien Grenier. When Vince strides the red carpet in slo mo with his crew, we ought to have already firmly established how irresistible and glamorous he and they are. As it is, the scene just trades on credibility you haven’t earned: You are asking us to believe that celebrities trotting around like show ponies are worthy of our attention just because you trotted them out like show ponies, whereas the reverse ought to be true, and they ought to have earned our fascination. With the red carpet, you are using shorthand to suggest that we’re seeing sexy Hollywood, while it actually feels as though we are merely in the presence of entertainment industry also-rans.

It doesn’t help that producer and real-life Entourage inspiration Mark Wahlberg shows up, because he actually gets the high-profile acting gigs that Vincent Chase is supposed to, and he’s funnier to boot. It’s also unfortunate for you that your plot spins around the release of a movie that Vince has directed, a movie which agent Ari Gold and others insist is quite good. Entourage, if you were even a decent feature film, then I might trust that your director knows what an excellent film actually looks like. But you suck, and from what I can see, so does Vince’s movie.

Dear Jurassic World

You are pretty un-self-consciously hypocritical in not just one, but two ways.

There is the more obvious way: Jake Johnson’s dinosaur fanboy (who is totally charming, I grant you) makes a speech about how much he hates the franchising of America — taking, for example, the corporate naming of baseball stadiums. And yet, your movie is patently branded, with your references to Verizon and Samsung and various trademarks I don’t have the patience to name. The whole thing stinks of having your cake and eating it too, or maybe even shoveling it into your mouth and smearing it on your face. Be anti-branding and eschew product placement in your movie, or don’t and shut up about it, JW, but choose a side, because it’s sort of sad and weird that you don’t seem to understand how absurd this self-contradiction is. And if being flamboyantly hypocritical was part of some very clever intentional campiness, well, that was not in evidence.

Then there’s the other autocritique that you articulate, Jurassic World, without seeming to see the irony: On the one hand, you disdain designer dinosaurs cooked up in a lab for the purposes of pulling in new visitors to the park. Yet you also express, again through Johnson’s dweeb character, a faintly nostalgic anti-commercial message along the lines of, What’s wrong with regular old dinosaurs?

But it’s not just your fictional scientists that aren’t content with the “traditional” dinosaurs — it’s you the movie, too, as Keith Phipps points out. You are the one that brought this “Indominus Rex” into existence because you felt that another romp with T-Rex wouldn’t have been flashy enough. You, movie, act as though you agree that bigger and badder dinosaurs are necessary, even desirable, to bring in the gawking crowds, even as you seem to cluck your tongue at them. Do you want to pander to us or chastise us? Pick one.

Dear Game of Thrones

Why aren’t you directed by Quentin Tarantino? Now, I’m a big Tarantino fan, but that’s not the only reason I think you ought to hand yourself over to him. It’s because you’re already insanely pulpy and over-the-top, but unlike Tarantino, you don’t seem to realize it.

Your first couple of seasons, I thought you were just The Wire with dragons, which seemed like a great formula. You transposed that bleak view of society and power to a medieval kingdom, and you were unarguably compelling. Most significantly, you seemed like you wanted to remind us all how ruthless humanity can be when gentility isn’t profitable.

But now I wonder how many psychopaths you think there really are in any given population. You’ve pretty much always had one on hand — first Viserys Targaryen, then Joffrey, now Ramsey — not to mention a lot of enablers who seemed oddly comfortable with having certifiable sadists as bedfellows. But maybe we give you a pass on that, and maybe we give you a pass on a few other unlikelihoods. I can swallow some killers-for-hire, a touch of mysterious witchcraft, a couple of religious zealots. But warrior-women that could double as Victoria’s Secret models with an equal penchant for unsubtle seduction and death? In a world threatened by armies of very cold zombies? With a mysterious raven-haired zealot who’s busy being a sex pot when not nominating randos to be burned at the stake? And then we have a cult of magic face-swapping assassins? And that kid who wandered really far so he can find the tree magic?

GoT, I savor your labyrinthine plots and sweeping cast as much as the next guy — of course I do! — but that doesn’t mean I take you seriously. I get it: You can and will be crazy-ass, and you’re more than happy to do a jig on top of any sense of decency. Cool. Just don’t ask me to think you’re philosophically profound if you’re going to throw ice zombies and bloodthirsty supermodels and incest-as-true-love at me. One at a time they strain credulity; all together they are melodrama and pulp.

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