‘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

December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films, huh? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule.  So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

2nd

Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)

Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.

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Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.

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Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

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9th

Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals

Expanded Release: La La Land

Expanded Release: Jackie

 

 

Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)

When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.

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16th

Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)

An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)

Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.

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21st

Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz,  and Jennifer Saunders.

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Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)

Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.

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Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.

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Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)

Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

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23rd

Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.

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Limited Release: Silence (Drama)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.

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Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.

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25th

Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.

 

Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy) 

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.

 

Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)

Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.

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Limited Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

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Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)

Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

‘Everest’ Review

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Director: Baltasar Kormakur

Writer(s): William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy

Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, Elizabeth Debicki, Naoko Mori, Martin Henderson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson, Thomas M. Wright, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, and Jake Gyllenhaal

Synopsis: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review (despite it being based on a true story)*

 

 

Based on a real life event in the late 90s and several books, including one by someone that has climbed Mt. Everest and was at the event that the film is depicting, Everest is not your typical disaster movie. In fact, this is more a freak of nature film. I don’t remember the event happening when it did – I was young at the time and didn’t pay too much attention to the news anyway – but I found out about it later on. It really is one of those stories that is primed for a big screen treatment.

 

Everest follows famed Mt. Everest climber and now guide, Rob Hall (Clarke) as he and his company Adventure Consultants is ready to take another group of climbers up to the peak of Everest. The group consists of John Krakauer (Kelly), a journalist writing a feature about the expedition, Beck Weathers (Brolin), a Texan pathologist who is eager to climb Everest, Yasuko Namba (Mori), an experience climber who has already reached six of the seven highest peaks in the world, and Doug Hansen (Hawkes) a mail man who has failed to make the summit a year before and is eager to finally reach his goal and make the peak. The thing is, at the same time, there are other groups including Mountain Madness, which is lead by a free-spirited Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).

 

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Hall and Fischer eventually agree to have their groups climb the mountain together despite their clash of cultures. Once they climb the mountain Hall’s base camp leader Helen Wilton (Watson), a doctor, Caroline Mackenzie (Debicki), and another expert climber and Hall’s friend Guy Cotter (Worthington) notice a storm brewing that is moving in quickly and will hit them hard.

 

I’m not going to lie, Everest is hard to watch. Not in the sense that it’s a bad film, but in the sense that it’s a heavy film to take in and experience. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a freak of nature kind of film in where anything that could go wrong, seemed to go wrong or at least be in the way of going wrong. And then the storm hits. The storm looks terrifying and the way that director Baltasar Kormakur films the storm and the mountain, it does look a bit like you’re with the climbers as they go higher and higher and as they try to make their way down the mountain.

 

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While it feels like Kormakur is trying to make the mountain feel like its own character, since the mountain is so massive and everything is pretty much covered in the storm, the geography is hard to figure out. Characters will name off parts of the mountain and while we may have seen those parts previously, everything almost feels like the same location.

 

As for the real cast, they fare better for the most part. Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall is equal parts control freak and motivator, which is the exact man you want leading and putting your trust in him to the highest and most dangerous peak on the planet. Josh Brolin handles himself as Beck as he appears to be the least experienced climber of the group, while John Hawkes’ Doug, or Dougie, is there to prove himself to everyone including himself as his drive is what makes his character one of the most sympathetic characters of the film. Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but it looks like he’s having fun playing the role.

 

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Emily Watson and Keira Knightley are the only real actress, of the four in the film, that get to do anything substantial. Although most of their moments come from talking on the phone or walkie-talkies, but the scenes are powerful enough to overlook that issue. This goes into another problem in that when everyone has their masks on, you can’t really tell who anyone really is, until they start to talk, and even then it is still pretty hard to tell with the high wind and snow blowing around everywhere.

 

All in all, Everest has its problems, but at the end of the day the cast, performances and gut-wrenching scenes make the film worthwhile.

 

Everest

4 out of 5

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‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ Review

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Dir:  Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*

 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a franchise reboot of famous Tom Clancy character. Although this is not based on one of Clancy’s original stories the movie serves as an origin story. It shows how the young analyst came to work for the CIA. A college student on 9/11, Ryan (Pine) joins the Marines, survives combat in Afghanistan, and is later recruited to work for the Agency as an analyst by his mentor William Harper (Costner).  Ten years later, Jack and the CIA discover a Russian plot – created by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed) — to ruin the world economy.

Unlike many spy genre movies, Jack Ryan isn’t a super agent that knows martial arts and is an expert with guns. Ryan’s skill is that he’s super smart, hence being an analyst, but when push comes to shove he’ll go into the action. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good action sequences. Ryan’s bathroom brawl with someone trying to kill him shows Ryan won’t go down without a fight.

However, the movie isn’t a full action movie. The movie is a thriller and a race against time with Ryan trying to figure out what Branagh’s Cherevin is trying to do, even if that means having dinner with the man and trying to hack into his work system, and dealing with his girlfriend played by Knightley.

Pine does just fine playing Jack Ryan. Of course he is following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (who played Ryan twice), and Ben Affleck.  The movie ultimately falls on Pine’s shoulders and he carries it just fine. Pine has a charismatic, intelligent presence on screen and gives off a everyman quality.

Kevin Costner, who plays Ryan’s mentor Thomas Harper, does the best he can with his role. He brings a world-weariness and shadowy edge that leaves you wondering if maybe he was like Ryan when he was younger but there also a hint of mystery behind him at times. Branagh plays his Russian villain (which an interesting Russian accent) with some depth so it doesn’t lead to a generic Russian bad guy.

Arguably, the less effective scenes are between Jack and his doctor-girlfriend Cathy (Knightley), who inevitably ends up a damsel in distress at one point. And as much as I know it might be hard for actors to put on a different accent Knightley looks like she struggles a lot with her American accent. Yes, it’s nitpicky but I think it would have been better to make her British and not worry about that.

All in all, there is much fun to be had in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Although it doesn’t really add anything new to the spy genre, it doesn’t mean it can’t be good.

 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

4 out of 5