Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, directed by Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg, is the 5th installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series and stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, with Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario in new roles. Thrust into an all-new adventure, a down-on-his-luck Capt. Jack Sparrow feels the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it, he must forge an uneasy alliance with a brilliant and beautiful astronomer and a headstrong young man in the British navy.
Okay, regarding the Pirates franchise. I find myself being more lenient towards it than other reviewers, what with some critics saying that it sucks and it’s terrible and whatnot. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t really seen the previous 4 movies in years now, so whatever call of similarities or the movie drudging the same path is lost on me.
With that said, I’ll still defend the movies. When I go into a Pirates movie, I expect to see some cinematic swashbuckling adventure, and nothing much more, and for the most part I think the series does that pretty well. The series has always been cinematic by design, what with all those wide shots and all, and there’s just enough there to keep me concentrated throughout the movie.
I haven’t been soiled by the repetition of the other movies and had a good time in the theater is what I’m trying to say.
Cast-wise, it’s all good as always. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow is what you’d expect, but there was a bit more of depth and exploration of his character that I did not expect and found actually interesting. From what I heard it contradicts past movies though, so…I guess I shouldn’t give it too much credit.
I also like that they tried to separate the two new photogenic leads from just being “Will and Elizabeth Lite”. I believe they succeed to some extent, doing their darndest to make these characters unique in their own way, but somewhere at the end of the 2nd act there’s a…plot discovery that just drives it down.
Javier Bardem as the new villain I actually find interesting as well, until once more in the third act when the movie has to wrap things up. I don’t know if it’s because of Javier himself or genuinely good character writing, but I was drawn in to his story.
The flaws of the movie are strewn about in small bits and moments, with some quick appearances of new characters that we don’t ultimately learn much or care about, some tedious jokes, and some strange callbacks, basically anything that might’ve been fixed with a script rewrite. Except perhaps again, the rush of a climax. The speed of the movie was somewhat quick already, but at the ending it really seemed to shift from 5th to 6th gear, just quickly trying to settle everything.
If this really is the supposed last installment of the series-I’ll believe it when I don’t see it-I suppose it could’ve ended on a worse note.
In conclusion, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a Pirates movie. That along should deem whether you want to see it or not. Personally I had fun with it; it’s a good weekend watch. Soft recommendation.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, directed by David Yates, is the first film in a new series that plans to bring the people back into the wizarding world of Harry Potter. It is 1926, and one Newt Scamander comes to New York for a stopover. He has just finished finding and documenting exotic creatures of the wizarding world, and everything would’ve gone smoothly, had a normal Muggle, a.k.a. No-Maj, not accidentally took his briefcase which just so happened to contain his beasts, and whose discovery may spell trouble for both the wizarding and Muggle world.
As usual, I shall start with where I stand in terms of source material familiarity.
I guess I am in the category of the “Harry Potter fan”. I’ve read all the books and watched all the movies, and while I am not as crazy as some hardcore fans, I know my Harry Potter. Like, I knew who Newt Scamander was before the movie was announced.
But since it’s been 5 years since Deathly Hallows Part 2 ended the series, I like to believe that I entered this relatively bias-less, and uh…the end product…leaves something to be desired.
Oh, and one last thing, I’ll be going into spoiler territory for this one, so reader beware.
With that said, let’s start.
This movie…has problems. Lots of them. Very protruding ones. But before I delve into negativity, let’s talk about the good things first. Get them out of the way.
It felt great to go back into the world of Harry Potter again, even though Voldemort and the Boy Who Lived was still a generation away. I loved hearing the iconic theme in the beginning, and I loved seeing the spells coming out of wands again, the magic and all that. And as a fan of the Roaring 20’s myself, the few times Mr. Yates really basks in that era, with the nightclubs and the clothing and the general atmosphere, I too thoroughly allowed myself to indulge.
Also, Dan Fogler as the Muggle-yes I’m calling them Muggles not No-Majs’ that’s what I grew up with-Jacob Kowalski whom unwillingly is hurled into the wizarding world was easily the best character of the movie. By far. He serves as the audience’s proxy, his face a constant one of shock and awe, and I loved every minute of him. He was funny, he was likable, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t tear up at the end of his story-arc. I don’t know if he’s returning for the sequels, but I sincerely hope he does.
And also, I actually really bought the villain. No, not Colin Farrell, and not the other guy, but Samantha Morton as Mary Lou, basically the wizard’s version of the KKK/Nazis. I dug her because, if a wizarding world actually existed, there probably would be some people who would be like that. It was refreshing to see a very much human villain after the whole magic-ness of You Know Who.
And lastly, the titular beasts are great when they’re on screen. I absolutely loved the designs, and I really want to see more of them after the movie was over.
Shame they’re only in like half the movie.
Now we come to the problems. Where to start…
…okay, since I ended with my appreciation for a character in the last paragraph, I’ll start with my “eh” of another character here. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander is fine. The problem here is not the actor nor the character. It’s the character’s story. He does not go through any arc, remains pretty much the same throughout, and in the end feels very much to be desired. His reason for coming to New York is glazed over, and in fact, almost every introduction to our new characters feel half-assed. It’s just like “boom, there they are”. No explanation or anything before they start their adventure. Granted, they explain it later on, but by then you’re already more “oh” than “ooooh”, and the magic is gone.
And speaking of lame character introductions…hello Johnny Depp. Okay, it’s not the twist that Graves was Grindelwald in disguise that made me go “what”, it’s the fact that they built up the twist so badly. Literally, the only time Grindelwald is talked about is in the beginning of some newspapers flying past, and literally one or two lines. That is it. And those happen rather early on in the movie, so by the time the twist occurs, you’ve long forgotten about him. Now I had the privilege of knowing who Grindelwald was before watching, but I can only imagine the sheer confusion of seeing Colin Farrell turn to Johnny Depp in the ending fight, not helped by the fact that Farrell had actually built quite a presence, while Depp had no presence what-so-ever. Maybe he’ll actually be awesome in the coming movies, but here, he’s lame.
Oh, and Katherine Waterson is some witch who was fired from the U.S.’s version of the Ministry of Magic. I don’t have much to say about her, because neither does the movie. She’s just there, helping Newt and Jacob. Oh, and her sister’s telepathic.
Now that was the main complaint, so from here on out things might seem nit-picky, but just stick with me. There’s no weight to the plot, the location and settings, for the most part, dull and unimaginative, and by god, some of the CGI is just lazy. There’s one scene especially, near the end, when a deus-ex-machina solves everything, Newt pats a huge bird creature on the neck. It is so blatantly CGI is amazing. His hand doesn’t cast a shadow on the bird! Fucking werewolf Lupin from Prisoner of Azkaban felt more real, and that was over a decade ago!
…but I digress. I can ignore that kind of CGI, as long as the monsters themselves were cool, and they were, but man…that one shot…you’ll know it when you see it.
Okay, in conclusion, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is mediocre, and I hate saying that because I love the world of Harry Potter, and I want to be amazed by it again. But no, there was only a little bit of it here, and that’s probably nostalgia talking. A resounding “eh” from me.
Do you guys have those kinds of films? You know, the kind that you can watch over and over again without once feeling sick of it? The ones that you hold close to your heart and try to spread it to people who might not have seen it. I have several of those films, and I will try to tell you why in this new series I call ‘My Favorite Things’, in which I tell you-or at least try to-explain why I love the film so much and why you should watch it. The writing here will be more free-flowing and possibly more nonsensical, and I will update this series lesser than I write reviews, as I don’t want to use up my well of favorite movies just yet.
So, what’s this film about, you may ask? Two words: illegal substances. Meth, ether, rum, tequila, cocaine, anything that should be used for medicinal purposes that the club people have consumed in excess. This, of course, wasn’t more rampant than 1960’s USA. The Vietnam War was going on, peace protests were everywhere, and Jefferson Airplane had a pretty cool song on the charts. And when does this movie take place? You guessed it, 1970‘s USA!
Threw you for a loop, eh?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on the book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, whose life-style is a bombastic one, and whom Raoul Duke is based on. So the story goes like this. Mescaline. Raoul Duke and his attorney Gonzo have been sent by a magazine company to Vegas to write about the upcoming Mint 400 motorbike race. Sunshine Acid. At the day of the race, Raoul fires his photographer Lacerda and goes back to his hotel for more drugs. Ether. The next day, Gonzo goes missing and Raoul tries to flee Las Vegas. Adrenochrome. A whole ton of weird shit happens and Raoul finishes his report.
You guys wanna get high but don’t want to actually get high? Then this film is for you. Terry Gilliam’s directing is trippy, dizzying, and most of all, engaging. The poster for the film should’ve given that away. He gives us a very distinct style and presentation of this film in all the ways possible. The camera, our window into this wacky world, jerks and sways about consistently, as though you, the viewer, are taking the ride with our main characters. Impromptu close-ups, zooms, and pans. Weird as all heck lighting tailor made to enhance. Characters that have nothing desirable about them whatsoever, yet for some reason you grow a likening, and I even dare say, an attachment to them. All this and more accumulate into a wonderful ball of quirk and nonsense.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk characters. Johnny Depp is Raoul Duke, a journalist whose mind has a ten year delay. He’s an artifact of the 1960’s drug explosion, a man who never moved on from what he feels were the best years of his life. He also serves as an occasional narrator, lamenting about times gone by. Watching this movie and interviews of Thompson, I have to say that Depp is Hunter. This was pre-Jack Sparrow, so you know he was going to give a good performance, but oh man…this was on another level. Depp gets his mannerisms and don’t-give-a-fuck attitude to a tee. In fact, his acting here may have influenced his later role as the pirate. Think about it, they almost exactly alike, both being high on booze and stuff.
Benicio Del Toro is the other half of our drunken and drugged duo, and he plays his Samoan attorney/best friend, Gonzo. Hunter based Gonzo on his real life friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, who was also Samoan and an attorney. Sadly. he disappeared in 1974, so little is known about him and his personality, but I doubt someone who hung around with a man like Thompson was a white knight. Dr. Gonzo is like a wilder and calmer version of Hunter, if you can imagine such a feat being achievable. Usually, one would be revolted by these characters, but here, with the excellent acting and writing, Fear and Loathing turns those tables around and shines a bright light on specks of black. And that’s where the genius of Terry Gilliam comes in again. He made us love to hate them.
From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest complaints about this movie I’ve heard is that it has no cohesive narrative. To those people I say…you’re right. This movie indeed does not have a linear plot line. It’s as linear as Duke’s walking pattern. And I completely understand if that bugs you. However, I personally think that it’s lack of a standard three-act structure not only is excusable, it is beneficial to the film’s style. Think about it, the film is basically two blazed people wandering into Las Vegas, do some random stuff, and then leave Las Vegas, all the while under the influence of substances that are made to make your mind fuzzy and unable to think straight. The absence of a standard beginning, middle and end enhances the immersion of the audience into the movie as it makes you, the audience dazed and confused on what the heck’s going on. And what else makes you dazed and confused on what the heck’s going on? You guessed it, low blood pressure! Oh, and also drugs.
I have been giving words upon words upon words of praise for Fear and Loathing. I mean, why else would I call it ‘My Favorite Things’? And so, to counteract that amount, I have thought long and hard about what I might have even slightly disliked about this film. And after vigorous thinking, I have come to conclusion that there is nothing I hate about this film. It’s just right. It makes no sense and complete sense at the same time for it to have no pinpoint negative about it. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is just perfect in every possible way.
Looking back, this thousand word essay took me literal weeks to write and polish. And now, I’ve finally finished it. My not-so magnum opus. I feel like Raoul Duke in the movie’s penultimate scene, without his grammatical expertise, of course, in where he monologues to himself about older days. I can feel him crouched over typing, finger hitting key after key, putting his thoughts into words and to share to anyone who has the time to read it. And honestly, is it worth it? Right now, it’s 1:02 am. Any second now, my mother will wake up and see me still typing, which in turn will cause her to force me to go to sleep. All because of what most people refer to as ‘just a film’.
And so, in ending my longest writing yet, I answer my own question. Is it worth it to write about something that may have a personal connection to you, but may only seem as just a movie, or worse, a bad movie, to everyone else? I mean, you don’t gain anything from it, if not a bit of recognition, and even that’s a very big if. You’ll just be another writer in the writer kingdom. In months time, this will just be another page in your blog, or another entry in your website. Sure, the feeling of achieving a personal feat may last, but they are just feelings. What else do you get? Is it truly worthwhile to write just because you want to?
And my answer to that is yes. Yes it is.