Tag Archives: johnny depp

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: Black Mass

A while ago, there was a handsome actor named Johnny Depp. Known for his unusual quips and odd role selections, no one knew what to think of Depp until a legendary pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow made his first appearance in 2003. A part that should have garnered Depp far more critical applause than it received, it may have derailed Depp’s career. While Depp has found some appreciation with films like Public Enemies, numerous animated endeavors and further Pirates of the Caribbean installments, there’s also no denying the flops that he’s left behind such as The Tourist and the three continuous deadpans that Depp has held a title role in, including The Lone Ranger, Transcendence and Mortdecai, which barely grossed half of its $60 million budget.

Depp has a mind like few in Hollywood, a creative enterprise very much like Tim Burton, one that is not easily discernible and may perhaps never be completely understood. However, with his latest exploits considered, I have wondered if Depp has been typecast as Captain Jack Sparrow for the remainder of his career. Every acting pursuit Depp has accepted since Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has ended in indifference if not hatred towards Depp and his contribution to yet another film travesty.

And so Black Mass, directed by Out of the Furnace’s Scott Cooper, was shouldered with proving Depp’s relevance in film.

A gangster biopic surrounding Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger, the head of an underworld syndicate known as the Winter Hill gang, was just what Depp needed.

One of the film’s brightest sunspots is Depp’s commanding screen presence. Depp’s intensity and pristine features produce a dynamic contrast to any previous Depp undertaking, many of which heralded stale comedy as their centerpiece. At no point are we subjected to Depp’s comedic timing. Instead, we fear him. Depp’s Bulger is unpredictable, a controlled fiend waiting for the right tick to let him loose like a dog chasing a wounded bird.

Black Mass offers Depp a pedestal, allowing him to express the width of his talents and to many critics and to myself, impressively so. With a dictator’s hand and no remorse or compromise, Bulger’s sane form of insanity is eye-catching and disturbing all rolled together. A man obsessed with his personal appearance knows how each one of the cogs of the crime machine works and while the inner character of the murdering loon is never dissected, there’s never any doubt that something is going on in his head.

Cooper’s atmospheric tinge, which was paraded in the Pittsburgh-filmed Out of the Furnace, is furthered here. While Cooper’s ability to scar and mutilate is nowhere near the legendary status created by Martin Scorsese, it is still one to garner acceptance. The standard for grit is set and raised on a steady slope during the film’s progression. It is blunt and straightforward both in character and plot, making the characters distinguishable but the plot simple.

The dialogue has its moments of impact but are not as hard-wired as gangster film loyalists will expect. Organized crime is built on delivering a message, whether through one’s words or one’s actions. This is the most basic component of any crime novel, but Cooper’s writers invoke only so much of the theme and harshness film critics expect. The brotherhood, belonging and unquestioning loyalty that one would expect is coaxed to the surface but any further travel into the muck of the unknown is left for another film, something I shouldn’t have to wait for.

This is where I feel like Black Mass lost some of its identity. I longed for the unfiltered brutality and to feel the hairs on the back of my neck creep up, but I cannot help but point out that Black Mass feels contrived. Depp as Bulger is an intimidating face to put on Black Mass and yet for a R-rating, Black Mass’ chaos is caged for most of the run time. Dare I say, Depp’s star may have been dimmed by the writers’ inability to manifest the detestable. The quick turnarounds in tonal shifts that many infamous gangster films utilize are not a central revolution of Cooper’s work. Depp’s character is unpredictable, but the screenplay dismisses some of Bulger’s character by its staunch disagreement to let the story flow naturally. Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch feel like wasted entities, leaving Depp to shoulder a film yet again and we as the audience are left with our fingers crossed hoping the result is different. What did Einstein say again?

Thankfully, and contrary to past experience, Depp manages the task but I can’t stop believing Black Mass was meant to be a mound of cancerous carnage that horrified rather than a film that made us smile and confirm that Depp is alive and possibly over his ailment of Can’t-make-a-film-itis. I would have smiled had the film been grotesque, as it should have been, rather than the polished and clearly altered story we’re given here. Instead, I was left shrugging. Cooper’s artwork does not feature crisp dialogue nor does it do justice to its supporting cast but Depp’s main role grants the film some forgiveness.

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. (Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the Enemy)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

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. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

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 Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

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.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Black Mass: 70.

Black Mass is not Depp’s greatest exploit nor is it a star in the hall of film noir, but it does serve as a defibrillator to an actor who desperately needed one.

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