‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Review

Directors: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Writer: Jeff Nathanson

Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Paul McCartney

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the Trident of Poseidon.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been an interesting one for me. I really enjoyed the first film, the second film was okay for what it was and the third film felt like it was an hour too long – I don’t even acknowledge the last film. So, when Dead Men Tell No Tales was announced I was a little hesitant about watching it. But, then they released the first teaser and I loved it. It gave me some faith for the new film. Now after watching it, I was kind of right. Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t a return to form, but it does make some of the right steps to bring it back.

The film starts off with a young Henry Turner, the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who goes out every night to find his father and tell him he’s going to find a way to break his father’s curse. The only way to do that is to find the Trident of Poseidon, which is said to give the bearer total control of the seas. We skip forward in time and find out someone else besides Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is trying to find the Trident in Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an accused witch – who’s really an astronomer. However, their search for the Trident gets them mixed up with the undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) who has been broken free of his confinement and Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), who is once again a pirate trotting the seas with his new crew collecting treasure. Of course, all of them have one person in common: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

Dead Men Tell No Tales feels like the first film. There’s a blooming romance between Henry and Carina, although it doesn’t help that Thwaites isn’t a great lead actor. Also, the film makes sure that Johnny Depp isn’t the main character – sure he’s the big name of the film and Jack Sparrow has become a pop culture figure, but Jack wasn’t the real lead in the Pirates films, it was who he was following – another reason why Stranger Tides didn’t work. Speaking of Depp’s Jack Sparrow, he’s essentially become a parody of what the character was from the first film which is a shame because his character doesn’t really add anything to the franchise anymore and comes off as a bit annoying. Although, the name of Captain Jack Sparrow is essentially what it’s become in the movie – a revered pirate is nothing more than a drunk, selfish lowlife that is a shell of his former self.

The rest of the cast is fine with Javier Bardem playing a fine villain, who is dead because of Jack before he became the infamous pirate we saw in Curse of the Black Pearl. Geoffrey Rush is always having fun playing Barbosa, but he gets to add some of his more dramatic chops and is also involved in a shoehorned in storyline that could have been more effective if it was touched on earlier than it was. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley do appear in glorified cameos that don’t really add anything to the story, other than Bloom’s scene with a young Henry.

All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is much better than the last film as it follows other characters that aren’t just Jack Sparrow. The film does lack some awesome sword fights and ship battles that made the first two films so great, but Dead Men Tell No Tales is a promising return to form if Disney decides to do more.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

3 out of 5

May Movie Releases

Hello Boys and Girls!

It’s the beginning of the Summer Movie Season!

What better way to start off this run of movies than a great month of films. We got a lot of films to get to, so let’s get to it!

 

5th

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Sci-Fi Action – Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Guardians (Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite character from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand. The returning cast includes Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion (playing a different character), Sean Gunn, and Glenn Close. The film’s new cast includes Kurt Russell (Quinn’s father, Ego), Sylvester Stallone, Chris Sullivan, Pom Klementieff, and Tommy Flanagan.

 

 

12th

Limited Release: The Wall

Directed by Doug Liman, an American sharpshooter is trapped in a standoff with an Iraqi sniper. The film was suppose to come out in March, but got pushed back to May, but either way it looks great. The Wall looks like a tension-filled drama I can’t wait to see. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Laith Nakli and John Cena.

 

 

Lowriders (Drama – Universal Pictures/BH Tilt/High Top Releasing/Imagine Entertainment)

A young street artist in East Los Angeles is caught between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression. The film stars Theo Rossi, Tony Revolori, Eva Longoria, Melissa Benoist, and Demian Bichir.

 

 

Snatched (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Cherin Entertainment/Feigo Entertainment)

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Emily (Amy Schumer) decides to take a spontaneous trip with her mother (Goldie Hawn) to Ecuador, where they find themselves kidnapped, escaping and having to go on the run. The film stars Christopher Meloni, Oscar Jaenada, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman, and Wanda Sykes.

 

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Fantasy Adventure – Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Wilgram Productions/Safehouse Pictures/Weed Road Pictures)

Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film takes the very Ritchie tone to bringing a new take to the classical character Arthur played by Charlie Hunnam. The film sees Arthur, a street-smart brawler who finds himself drawn into a battle when he takes possession of the sword Excalibur. The film stars Jude Law, Annabelle Wallis, Katie McGrath, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Hermione Corfield, Aidan Gillen and Eric Bana.

 

 

19th

Diary of Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Family Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Color Force)

Continuing the series based off the books by Jeff Kinney, Greg (Jason Drucker) convinces his family to take a road trip to attend his great grandmother’s 90th birthday as a cover for what he really wants: to attend a nearby gamer convention. Unsurprisingly, things do not go according to plan and the Heffley family antics ensue. The film also stars Charlie Wright, Tom Everett Scott, Owen Asztalos, Carlos Guerrero, and Alicia Silverstone.

 

 

Everything, Everything (Romance Drama – MGM, Alloy Entertainment, Itaca Films)

Based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, a teenager who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door. The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, and Anika Noni Rose.

 

 

Alien: Covenant (Sci-Fi Thriller – 20th Century Fox/Scott Free Productions/TSG Entertainment/Brandywine Productions)

The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. The film looks like it’s finally an Alien prequel, and bloody. Very, very bloody. The cast includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Carmen Ejogo, Demian Bichir, Danny McBride, Callie Hernandez, Noomi Rapace, James Franco, and Guy Pearce.

 

 

25th

Baywatch (Action Comedy – Paramount Pictures/Seven Bucks Productions/The Montecito Picture Company/Cold Spring Pictures/Contrafilm)

Two unlikely prospective lifeguards vie for jobs alongside the buff bodies who patrol a beach in California. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Hannibal Buress, Pamela Anderson, and David Hasselhoff.

 

 

26th

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Action Adventure – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Moving Picture Company)

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) searches for the trident of Poseidon when an old enemy from his past comes to haunt him. The film also stars the returning Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Martin Klebba, Stephen Graham, David Wenham, and Paul McCartney.

 

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Maleficent’ Review

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Dir: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, and Lesley Manville

Synopsis: A vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It is a common thing in Hollywood now to retell classic stories from our childhood and give them a new take. Whether it be a gritty or realistic one, or even a total retelling of the story. In the case of Maleficent, it is not just a retelling but also a look at the point of view from the “villain.” The reason why I say “villain” is because Maleficent makes the title character, Maleficent (Jolie), a sympathetic character.

 

The start of the movie plays as an origin story for Maleficent. We see her at a young age, as the narrator – even telling us this is a story we never knew – tells us the magical world is not on the best terms with the human one. Nevertheless, Maleficent befriends and eventually falls in love with a human, Stefan (Copley). We see them as they grow and were told eventually Stefan stopped coming and worked his way into working in the castle for the king. With the king falling ill, and taking a beating from Maleficent and the other magical creatures, Stefan finds a way to become the king but the catch is he has to kill the woman he was once in love with. Finding not able to do it he takes something else from her, her wings.

 

The rest of the story you can probably guess; Stefan becomes king, Maleficent becomes evil, curses the baby Aurora, etc.  Where the story twists is when Maleficent begins to feel sympathy for Aurora, and becomes her unlikely protector since her official fairy guardians Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple) are incompetent.

 

Now I will admit, I was a bit hesitant about Maleficent because it looked like it might suffer from Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome. The movie is great looking for the most part. Although it should not be too much of a surprise since the director is not only a first time director but an Oscar winner for Special Effects, Richard Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland, Avatar). Stromberg knows how to make a scene look bright and vibrant but also dark and moody. Needless to say, he knows how to make a scene look cool but going back to Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome, sometimes all the scene is, is just a pretty looking scene or cool wallpaper.

 

Now that’s not a knock on the special effects, like I said, a lot of is great to look at. But, even with a movie that has ton of special effects, it can not just rely on that, we need the story and even though the concept of Maleficent seems like a good, the movie sometimes falls flat on that end. Next to some of the effects, the best thing about the movie is Jolie’s Maleficent.

 

Jolie gives a great performance as usual. She displays the right amount of emotion ranging from pain, envy to sadness, but in reality, this is a redemption story for Maleficent. Having her heart broken and then cursing Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Fanning) to then feeling sorry for Aurora. Maleficent might be the best character in the movie, although that isn’t really saying much, when all the other characters seem either one-dimensional or are just not that interesting. The other best character is probably her minion Diaval played by Sam Riley, who gives a solid performance.

 

Elle Fanning’s Aurora doesn’t really have much to do. Really all her performance is smiling a lot. She does have some moments to do other than smile but it’s kind of a waste of Fanning’s ability.

 

Sharlto Copley’s Stefan will probably divide fans but needless to say, he’s not the King Stefan we knew in Sleeping Beauty. Also, the dark tone moments come from him and his interactions either with himself or with Maleficent. Copley is a great actor but just like Fanning, his ability is only limited to what the script and director wants.

 

The comedy here is mostly left to the fairies Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple). Although there is some humor with magical creatures, Maleficent and Diaval having their moments too.

 

All in all, Maleficent is a great concept but doesn’t really pack the punch you want it to. Even the twists to the story aren’t great considering you might see some coming or just don’t pack the emotional punch I think the creative team thought they would. There are some pretty things to look at but Jolie and Riley make, or at least try, to make the movie mean something more.

 

Maleficent

3.5 out of 5

‘Oculus’ Review

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Dir: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan and Katee Sackhoff

Synopsis: A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Oculus is a feature length adaptation based off director Mike Flanagan’s short film. The movie blends elements of a psychological thriller with horror tropes lightly thrown in. It follows adult siblings Kaylie (Gillan) and Tim Russell (Thwaites) whose lives were shattered when their parents were brutally murdered ten years prior.

 

After spending his adolescence in a mental facility, Tim has come to grips with what he feels was a tragically dysfunctional family. He is – at least to some degree – at peace with his parents’ violent deaths, as he believes that it was their bad choices that caused them. Kaylie, however, has spent those years plotting her revenge against what she believes is the true responsible party: a supernatural and malevolent force that resides within an antique mirror known as The Lasser Glass.

 

Determined to prove that her family is innocent, Kaylie secures the mirror and brings it back to their childhood home, where everything happened. After setting up an elaborate recording system to “catch” the entity and prove its existence, Kaylie convinces her brother to join her attempt to fulfill their childhood promise to one another: destroying it.

 

The cast of Gillan and Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane as Tim and Kaylie’s parents, and Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan as their younger Kaylie and Tim do a great job in their roles. Arguably, it is the younger actors in Basso and Ryan that give the performances that carry the movie, especially Basso as the younger Kaylie. They elevate the movie with that performance that intensifies the emotional weight of this story and makes you afraid for them in the present. The mirror is a character init to itself, where it even has a menacing look. Although it not an actual person it is a major threat to our characters that it can control everything around it.

 

Although the promotion material is marketing Oculus as a straight up horror film, it is a lot more than that. Director Mike Flanagan adds great layers to the story, in where you don’t feel like you’re watching a horror movie at all sometimes. The way he crafts the movie is something that I can’t really remember seeing. He leaves the events, especially the ending, to our own imagination. Oculus is more creepy thriller than horror movie, but the movie does have some great horror movie moments that are effective.

 

The movie cuts between the past and the present in clever ways, that it makes it seem like everything is actually happening all over again, which makes the mirror even more terrifying. As the movie progresses, the cuts in between time becomes more blurry and dangerous. But, with that said, the movie is also about people dealing with traumatic events and finding ways to cope. Kaylie is obsessed with revealing the truth but Tim tries desperately to convince her, their family wasn’t perfect.

 

All in all, Oculus has strong moments and takes the risk of challenging the audience to questions that don’t necessarily have answers or chooses not to answer. While most movies that follow this formula, tend to fail or get murky, Oculus strives on it and it’s this element that makes the movie work. I know people are talking about the ending (which I obviously won’t spoil) but I think once people really soak the movie in and see everything, the ending will make more sense.

 

Oculus

4 out of 5