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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Image result for pirates of the caribbean dead men tell no tales movie poster free useBeen a long time. Here’s to the return of WisTim.

Great cinema is precious, as sovereign as an angel and at times, a true blessing to behold. Such grandeur is not created unilaterally but by a team of stars both before and behind the lens. Such performance requires a certain deftness and composure. Superb film making mandates a chimerical touch, both a fascination and a mind willing to push forward both conceptually and contextually. It takes both aplomb and humility with a few pinches of stoicism.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the pole opposite of these accolades. Dark and desolate, overused and washed up, a stain on the record of a talent beyond his years. That is what POC 5 has to offer. It presents the marketing of a new chapter to one of the better franchises of the 21st century and promptly violates the pureness of it. It is what could have happened to The Force Awakens if the people who became a part of the project decided a tonal shift or crude humor was a missing part of the single most important franchise in film history. Instead, one of the better franchises of our times has been soiled like a sacrificial lamb, though the term sacrificial suggests this was something that needed to happen and it certainly did not. Literally no one was asking for this. No one was asking for a Seth Rogen-esque script writer, one fully reliant on his audience’s enjoyment of ill-mannered bacchanals.

There is one asteroid-sized problem with this scope: a small minority of Pirates of the Caribbean fans walked into a theater, not once, twice or thrice but four times and thought, “I hope this one is like Billy Madison but pirates and Depp.” It seems fair to make this claim because Pirates of the Caribbean had made billions from its loyal fan base that, presumably, enjoyed the content as it was. I do not recall reading a protest online from viewers decrying any Pirates film, vehemently berating the producers for not including more raunchy retorts and less substance in both character and narrative. Who asked for this?

If you haven’t caught the drift yet, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a shipwreck of what was a quite glamorous creative vessel that now, hopefully, has seen its final days. Like many great athletes that can’t bear to leave the game even if it is clearly time, POC5 is a reminder that the end of something beautiful is usually quite ugly.

Johnny Depp’s most critically acclaimed role, at least in these critic’s eyes, is blinding in this installment, a nearly severed connection to the lively, clever swordsman we have come to love. The quick-witted Captain Jack Sparrow is nowhere to be found. Instead, a drunk who’s lost his edge enters from behind the curtain. The envious Sparrow never failed to be one step ahead of us or to keep us enthralled in his parlor tricks. He was a tactician with a smirk of metal as much as he was a coach with near flawless decision-making, traits quite rare among seafarers. He was a king of the dramatic and a prince of the perverse.

That beloved character is physically present but mentally unavailable. The bedrock of this persona isn’t here, nor does it ever feel like Sparrow shows up. Johnny Depp is on the screen dressed as him but the character glorified over four films is not.

It’s especially painful to watch because I can’t emphasize enough how natural this role seemed to come to Depp. It allowed him to show his polished, witty delivery and there’s no doubt Captain Jack Sparrow is the most articulate pirate I’ve ever seen. Look at this. This scene is so Jack Sparrow it’s silly. I could watch this all day.

It does nothing in terms of plot, aside from get Captain Jack to a new location, but it’s premier Johnny Depp, utilized by a scriptwriter who clearly understands the heart of the man and his character.

You’ll be hard strung to find a scene even remotely as good as that here.

I have not been beguiled. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is not arcane, some great mystery that critics and viewers alike can’t solve. It’s simply a generation that didn’t inherit the praised talent of its ancestors and can’t help but leave a taste of disappointment in all who hoped for more.

It’s hard not to be churlish here. With another captain at the helm of the project and writer at his side, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales falls into the pit of off-color humor, which is so tonally off the mark. Pirates of the Caribbean was flamboyant, excessively melodramatic, making a show out of life. That presentation and exuberance doesn’t arrive and neither does the type of cinematic treasure we’ve come to expect.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Power RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: 46.

Prosaic rather than poetic, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales seems to miss the heart of what made Pirates of the Caribbean intriguing: that both Sparrow and the script could always add something extra that we didn’t see coming, like the scene above to surprise us. It’s a film that has betrayed its identity, and concurrently, its audience.

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Movie Review: The Gunman

It’s been far too long.

I’m not going to lie, 2015 wasn’t a good year for me in a lot of ways, but here’s to 2016 and a fresh start. To get things going, since I’ve been gone for forever, I’m running a blogathon. I’ll be posting every day for at least the next week and will have a Movies in 2015 post up by the end of the month. That’s something else I want to talk about real quick. I saw a lot of films this year and I didn’t write reviews on them. I’m sorry about that and I intend to end that habit here and now. More reviews and more fun for us all. Here’s to 2016. Cheers and enjoy today’s post.

When the trailer for this came out early in 2015, I knew to avoid it, but when I’m scrolling through Netflix and see an opportunity to see a film from the current year, I usually take it, even if I know it’s not going to be an enjoyable one.

The Gunman is that opportunity and while, like me, you may be inclined to hit the play button on this one, I would strongly encourage you not to.

Plopping down the street like a haphazard drunkard, The Gunman bumps into nearly every obstacle possible on its way down the alley of degradation. It’s not hurting anyone so much as it’s being a nuisance to society and you just want to throw it in a cell for a few days until it gets itself back together. However, like the story of Humpty Dumpty, The Gunman never comes back together again. After shattering itself on the pavement in the opening stanzas, there’s no tug or general want to see where this story takes us, especially when “8 years later” appears on the screen before the film’s reached 15 minutes.

A general note: Any time jump of more than a year is a bad sign and any competent director should avoid such time jumps. Unless your story is a jump from childhood to adulthood a la J.J Abram’s Star Trek or due to a prison sentence a la Double Jeopardy, there’s rarely a need to do this. For the purpose of flow, I would advise all stories to avoid doing this. Most times I see the phrase “years later” impress itself upon the screen, I can feel my whole body sink a little and my brain begin to cringe inside my skull. More often than not, prepare yourself for some shoddy storytelling because it’s all downhill from here. Surprise, surprise: The Gunman‘s no different.

Director Pierre Morel, whose name you might recognize as the director of the hostage hit, Taken, doesn’t know what he’s doing here and his expertise as a cinematographer is never utilized here. You would think a film directed by someone who found his place in the industry through visuals would demonstrate said talent when he was at the top of the totem pole, but evidently not. The Gunman is an insipid piece and one of the more calmer action films you’ll see from 2015. Our star character, Jim Terrier (Penn), might be the most boring assassin a camera has ever followed. With no moral qualms to highlight and no reason to fear him or view him with awe, Terrier holds no cards in his hand of any value. Penn’s tenacity is an afterthought to a script that’s glancing up at the clock anxiously waiting for it to all be over. The plot wasn’t thought out well, the villain’s motive is illogical and the points the plot decides to emphasize don’t resonate at all.  There’s no grit or ear-splitting tension in the script’s action sets and no cold, collected dialogue that grips. With a clunky plot and a supporting cast that’s more of a nuisance than it is a help, poking holes in The Gunman isn’t all that difficult.

The Gunman is that Christmas present that you don’t want to open and you do your very best to slowly push it into a corner and hide it under a blanket or anything within reach. You know what it is, you don’t want that and you want it to go away. Problem is, the present is obnoxiously large and so out of place that there’s no way to hide it and so you’re called out on it, are forced to open it and do so begrudgingly with a look of disgust and frustration on your face as you unmask this abomination.

Out and open to see at this white elephant party, everyone looks at it with the same sense of distaste as you, only confirming the inherently-flawed product left before you.

It’s when you look at films with good writing and even great writing that you look at The Gunman and realize how truly awful this film is. Before 2015 was out, I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, and they’re all galaxies ahead of this. I watched Insurgent recently and again, it’s so far ahead of this. The Gunman is just bad. It has plot holes, the action it does offer is segmented and Penn is left on an island trying to make his case as to why his character is relevant. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Time to move on to the next film.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (CreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe MartianBlack Mass)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwisted)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (EverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitz)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Ridiculous 6, The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErased)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Gunman: 29.

It’s a short one to get this blogathon started but to summarize, The Gunman is one of the worst of 2015 and with failings in every department, it’ll probably make my worst of 2015.

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Movie Review: Skyfall

My family has harassed me for a year and a half to watch this thing and when I heard that they hadn’t seen The Green Mile, we agreed if I watched Skyfall, they’d watch The Green Mile.

I had no interest in seeing this movie because the only Bond film I watched, Casino Royale, was a great movie and then the ending pissed me off so I figured I was done with Bond.

Skyfall gifts us with the presence of Daniel Craig and he’s a talented actor. Bond is a secret agent that doesn’t say much and doesn’t feel all that much either so you need someone who is good at expressing their characters physically through body language and casual glances and Craig has experience with that.

However, this cast has someone who is not so good with facial expressions and body language. Sorry Judi Dench, but you’re simply not cutting it. She has the same face the whole movie and she’s too good at the apathetic, cold and calculating scheme to pull off any empathy whatsoever.

Then we have Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva and the character is just really sketchy. It’s obvious he’s disturbed and demented but there are some other traits the film subtly alludes to that are off-putting. They enforce the point that this guy is loony but it’s kind of awkward. I don’t know, maybe it was just me, but it felt like the men behind the camera were trying to make a bad guy that had every psychopathic tendency in the book and instead of making the ultimate villain they made a disorganized bad guy that doesn’t engrave his character into our memories. Bardem does a thorough job of being as creepy and malignant as possible and there was some originality to Silva, but not enough that I’ll remember him.

There’s also nothing in this film that I haven’t seen before. Bond kills a couple of people, makes love to a few ladies, talks with that scruffy British demeanor and then shoots some stuff that explodes. It’s not a cookie cutter copy, but it’s not brimming with youthful imagination either. I acknowledge that it’s hard to make an unexampled spy story line. I know I’m asking for something that’s not easy to accomplish but we’re talking about James Bond here, 007, the MI6 agent who is seemingly impervious to death. I expect better and I’m not even a Bond fan. Imagine what Bond fans expect.

Skyfall isn’t an impulsive story either. It’s not predetermined material that you can see a mile away but it also has no twists or action slapping you in the face from the side. Nothing in this movie is going to make you jump and tap your friend on the shoulder and say, “That was cool” or “Woh, never saw that coming!” For an action movie, it has a very calm and relaxed pace that didn’t ever come close to convincing me that time was of the essence. Tranquil paces are good for some movies but I felt this movie’s pacing would have been more appropriate for a whole movie of Bond on the beach drinking Heineken then the film they gave us.

Where is the zap? Where are the stylistic touches? All of the things I’ve pointed out are things you can see if you just watch the movie and think about it for a little afterward. It doesn’t take an accomplished director or playwright to notice this stuff. I feel like I’m mentioning this constantly, but where’s the editing? Did they watch this film when they were finished before they released it? Didn’t they recognize some things that could have been better?

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.

 90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Godzilla, SecretariatPrisonersMr. & Mrs. SmithCaptain America: The Winter Soldier)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2Spider-Man 3Divergent)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs300FlyboysDawn of the DeadCaptain America: The First Avenger)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (SpeedGodzilla(1998)The Incredible HulkDisaster MovieDodgeball: A True Underdog Story)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Starving GamesYou’re NextThorFull Metal JacketAlien Resurrection)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (A Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and AliensSerendipityAlien)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (StonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice, The Contract)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (X-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Open GraveAlien 3Dark FuryMidnight Cowboy)

My score for Skyfall: 74.

Compared to Casino Royale, Skyfall is a far and distant second weighed down by a carefree pace. I sat through nearly an hour and a half of commercials to see all of Casino Royale because it was engaging and suspenseful. If I had never seen Skyfall and it was on TV, I’m not so sure I would have made the same sacrifice.

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