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

Captain Jack Sparrow has led a very colorful life pilfering and plundering his way through the high seas and seedy ports around the world. There was a time when the world wanted to know what this practically peculiar privateer would do next after a grand adventure but now, it is evident that that time has washed away with the tides.

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Image by Disney

In the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, titled Dead Men Tell No Tales, Captain Jack has run afoul of some very harsh misfortune. Meaning, he’s broke, he hardly has a crew anymore and he still hasn’t managed to get his beloved Black Pearl out of that bottle from the last movie. To make matters worse, Jack’s reckless actions have awakened an army of ghosts, led by a Spanish pirate-hunter named Salazar, hell-bent on casting every buccaneer, marauder and freebooter to Davy Jones’ locker-or is it Will Turner’s locker since Davy Jones is dead and Will has replaced him? Who knows!

Anyway, Captain Jack’s only hope to save himself? He must ally with Henry Turner, the adult son of Will and Elizabeth, and the beautiful and headstrong woman of science Carina Smith to find the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that will endow upon its holder total command of the seas.

When the end credits started rolling on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, someone tried to gauge my thoughts on the film and all I could tell them was: “Listen, I’m just thankful it’s over!” I want to let you know that this is not my official reflection of the film, but the franchise in general since this is supposed to be the final adventure of the series.

Officially, I found this movie drudgingly unnecessary and mildly mediocre. I will admit that it was nice seeing Captain Jack, Gibbs and Barbossa again and I was willing for this franchise to shanghai me aboard for one last adventure on the high seas but while I was watching this, it dawned on me that I just outgrew this franchise; the magic and the appeal had waned; also I found it convenient that this movie had ghost sharks because with this movie this franchise definitely jumped over them!

I thought this movie had continuity errors, had a lack of balance in the subplots between the characters, had twists that strained credulity and what’s more it had me asking why didn’t anyone come up with this “Trident” concept two movies ago? Why couldn’t they just leave the franchise with the ending from the third movie where everything was just full circle and tied everything together nicely rather than force this happy ending from this installment upon audiences? I just couldn’t comprehend why the producers of this movie couldn’t leave well enough alone?!

Johnny Depp is business as usual as Captain Jack Sparrow, Geoffrey Rush as a well-to-do Barbossa was okay, Kevin McNally, Martin Klebba, Stephen Graham were faces I didn’t mind seeing again and it was cool that they brought Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley back. As for the newcomers to the story Javier Bardem steps into the CGI-aided role of Salazar and even though he has a reputation of playing a damn good villain, I feel as though he phones it in due to poor writing courtesy of Jeff Nathanson. Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario and Golshifteh Farahani did alright as well. Even Sir Paul McCartney snuck aboard! That was a hoot for a minute.

Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s efforts to try and put wind back into the sails of this franchise were wasted. Paul Cameron’s cinematography, Roger Barton and Leigh Folsom Boyd’s editing, Geoff Zanelli’s score, Nigel Phelps’ production design, Penny Rose’s costumes, the art direction, the visual effects; everything technical is just more of what you’ve seen before.

I for one hope that Dead Men Tell No Tales is the farewell voyage of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga even though it had some post-credits scene I didn’t bother to stick around to see! The era of Captain Jack has come and gone; he has the Pearl back and I pray that Disney will leave him be from this day forward!

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

The swashbuckling Disney franchise that set sail on the high seas 14 years ago will come to a close (finally)! Captain Jack Sparrow has lived an “exhilarating” life to say the least. One could call it a true Pirates Life but his greatest adventure before him draws back to the past when Captain Salazar leads an army of the dead across the seven seas on the hellbent mission to exterminate every able bodied man or woman who sails under pirate colors. Salazar, like many, bears a grudge against Captain Jack and our heroic and plucky pirate hero’s only salvation is a mythic artifact that could turn the tides of the ocean forever. Sailing into theaters this weekend is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Directors: Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning

Writer: Jeff Nathanson

Staring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Steven Graham, Kevin McNally, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Golshifteh Farahani, Sir Paul McCartney, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley

What am I expecting to see?: I honestly love the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the kooky lead character of Captain Sparrow but this franchise needs to end in the worst way and I thank heavens that Dead Men Tell No Tales will end it! I hope this is entertaining, it brings the right amount of closure to this series and it ends on a high note. This is a great cast of actors and I don’t want to see any of their talents go to waste. I’ve been looking forward to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales for a while now and I hope it is everything that I ask for.

 

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The magical genius that is J.K. Rowling has captivated readers and audiences the world over with her enchanting tale of boy wizard who lived in a closet under the stairs who would grow to legend. The story of Harry Potter is finished, but that hasn’t stopped Rowling from introducing audiences to a new era of magic that occurred long before Harry was born.

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Image by Warner Bros.

Inspired by one of Harry’s textbooks while he was enrolled in Hogwarts, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place in 1926 New York, a time of great upheaval and struggle thanks to an infamous dark wizard before Tom Riddle took on his preferred name and rose to power. The story follows magizoologist Newt Scamander who arrives in the Big Apple to conduct his research on American magical creatures but his plans go awry when his magical briefcase is accidently switched with a briefcase belonging to Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (the American term for Muggle or non-magic folk if you prefer).

Long story short: several of Newt’s beasts escaped and are roaming free in Manhattan, causing chaos and significantly raising the threat level of exposure of the American wizarding community. It’s up to Newt, Kowalski, ex-Auror Pompetina Goldstein and her sister Queenie to dodge the community of witch-hunters, The Second Salemers, stay a step or two ahead of MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America, and bring Newt’s escaped creatures back into his magical briefcase and out of harm’s way.

As a fan of the books and the films, I must say that nothing and I repeat NOTHING will ever come close to the marvelous Harry Potter franchise but I do admit that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a very good start to a new era of magic from J.K. Rowling and director David Yates.

The most magical aspect of this picture has to be the protagonist, portrayed very comfortably by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. Newt is a character that audiences can relate to very easily because going into this film, for people who’ve read the Potter series and watched the films as I have, they enter with a considerable degree of knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter but the audiences explores this new terrain with Newt; he and audiences are exposed to the American wizarding community and its customs while taking a crash course in magical creatures like Nifflers, Thunderbirds, Occamies, Demiguises, Bowtruckles, Erumpants, Obscurials and so much more! I think that this character and how he develops in this film is an amazing testament to the genius of Rowling expanding her already extraordinary universe.

Rowling’s writing and Yates’ direction were undoubtedly exceptional and the acting by the cast was pretty solid. Redmayne was obviously the star, Dan Fogler was funny, Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol were very good, the rest of the cast including Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Jenn Murray, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Samantha Morton, Ronan Raftery, Josh Cowdery, and the surprise late addition of Johnny Deppall chip in a significant piece to this story.

James Newton Howard’s score was as magical as ever, Phillipe Rousselot’s cinematography was solid, the editing or Mark Day was precise, Stuart Craig and James Hambridge’s production design was remarkable, the art direction was astounding, the visual effects stole the show, but I may complain about the sound quality; there were times when the sound of dialogue felt a tad muddled and I would have liked to see that aspect of the film cleaned up more prior to release.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a very good start to a new era of magic in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world and I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. I encourage fans of the Harry Potter franchise to venture out and see this film because this movie opens the door to new worlds that transcend that of the Boy Who Lived and perhaps has a hand in shaping it in the films to come. We’ll see!

Movies of the Week: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Manchester by the Sea and Nocturnal Animals

That’s right! Another triple feature for this weekend and I am going to be busy with one of my most anticipated films of the year and two potential favorites for next year’s Oscars.

A wizard arrives in 1920s New York, a stranger to the American magical community and shortly after his arrival, a Pandora’s Box of magical proportions is opened, figuratively. Actually, an enchanted suitcase filled with magical creatures is pried open for a split second, and beasts are roaming around the city causing chaos. It’s up to magizoologist Newt Scamander to find and recapture his magical creatures before the wizarding world is exposed. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them headlines my weekend.

Director: David Yates

Screenwriter: J.K. Rowling

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol, Zoe Kravitz, Ron Perlman, Ezra Miller, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo and Johnny Depp

My expectations: as a big Harry Potter fan-a Slytherin and a Pukwudgie according to Pottermore-I go into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with high expectations and I want to be satisfied by this new story from the genius who gave the world Harry Potter more than a decade ago. I want to love this movie and what’s in store for after.

This will be my first film from writer and director Kenneth Lonergan but his name may be heard repeatedly in the next few months if Manchester by the Sea is as big a hit as expected. This is a tale about a man who undergoes a life-changing experience after his brother dies. Lee Chandler becomes the sole caretaker of his nephew and with this newfound and unexpected responsibility comes newfound and unexpected complications.

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Writer: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick and Tom Kemp

My expectations: From what I’ve heard, this movie features great performances, great writing, and exemplary execution and is heralded as one of the best films of the year. I’d like to see for myself if Manchester by the Sea is worth all of the praise it has earned for itself thus far.

I’ve heard Tom Ford’s name in film circles years ago when A Single Man was released. I didn’t take the opportunity to see it but now the opportunity has come for me to see Ford’s latest picture, Nocturnal Animals. When a woman named Susan receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, Tony, she perceives the story as a possible framework for exacting revenge upon her.

Director: Tom Ford

Screenwriter: Tom Ford

Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Arnie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen

My expectations: Nocturnal Animals looks like a very stylish and intricate thriller. I would like my first film from Tom Ford to leave an impression that can linger until the end of the year. Maybe I don’t know what to expect but maybe that is a good thing because I can be taken by surprise more easily. Here’s hoping!

Johnny Depp joins Fantastic Beasts Sequel

Later this month, audiences around the world will return the wizarding world when Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives in theaters. Set half a century before Harry Potter became a household name to the wizarding community, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows a magizoologist named Newt Scamander, who travels to New York for research only to clean up a mess of magical proportions when his enchanted case filled with magical creatures is briefly ajar and creatures great and small run amok, threatening the exposure of the magical community to the Muggle World.

A few weeks ago, J.K. Rowling announced that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be the first of a five film franchise and she has already completed the screenplay of a sequel. What will come of that sequel remains to be seen yet, who is attached is starting to unravel and the charms of J.K. Rowling’s writing has bewitched Johnny Depp to join the franchise in a mystery role.

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Image By Papazzi in premiere “Trasenceder” in LA California. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He’s been a pirate, a throat-slitting barber, a man who can trim hedges with his fingers, an off-his-rocker haberdasher who looks like he’s been drowning in makeup, the man who created a boy who didn’t grow up, an eccentric businessman who owns a chocolate factory, two of the most notorious gangsters in American history and now he may or may not be a man who can wave a magic wand! Depp is without doubt one of the most versatile actors in the industry who is looking to put a tumultuous 2016 behind him both professional and personal. There is even speculation that Depp may appear in the Fantastic Beasts film for a small cameo.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives in theaters on November 18, 2016. Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Carmen Ejogo, Dan Fogler, Zoe Kravitz, and Ron Perlman. David Yates, who directed the final four Harry Potter films will direct, following a screenplay courtesy of J.K. Rowling herself. The sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set to arrive in theaters in 2018.

My Oscar Nominations Analysis

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Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The Oscar nominations are in and the world is waiting to see who takes home Oscar gold on February 28th. I needed some time to take in the results and take a clear and coherent position on the state of the Oscars going into this years. With that said, here is my reaction to the nominees of the 88th Annual Academy Awards.

  • Some snubs in the Animated Features category-Let’s be frank people, Inside Out is a virtual lock to win this category! Has been since the day it was released but I was a little surprised that The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie couldn’t make it onto the ballot. I found 2015 a weak year for animated features but I felt that the Academy could have at least created the illusion of giving Inside Out some competition for the Best Animated Feature Oscar!
  • The love for Mad Max Rockatansky-I braced myself for the reality of Mad Max: Fury Road securing many Oscar nominations particularly in the technical categories such as visual effects, sound, makeup, editing, etc, but maybe I’m in the minority who believe that George Miller shouldn’t be nominated for Best Director and Mad Max: Fury Road shouldn’t be nominated for Best Picture. I found the film overrated. I couldn’t bring myself to engage with it the way I engaged with the rest of the Best Picture nominees. It’s basically this year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, another Best Picture contender I couldn’t bring myself to love, only like. The only solace I can take from this is the virtual certainty that it won’t win Best Director or Best Picture.
  • Image by Nikki Nelson/WENN

    I feel awful that a particular actor won’t be recognized-Even though I have yet to see Creed, it feels likely that Sylvester Stallone is going to get some gold for reprising his iconic role as Rocky Balboa but the Best Supporting Actor race could be anyone’s to win. A name I’m surprised to see wasn’t on the Best Supporting Actor ballot: Jacob Tremblay for Room. Tremblay was completely unforgettable as Jack in Lenny Abrahamson’s stirring drama and complimented Brie Larson perfectly. I was rooting for him to get an Oscar nomination for his performance but my hopes were dashed. Many people could say the same for Michael Keaton in Spotlight or Johnny Depp for Black Mass, who also gave a grand performance but still, I was disappointed.

  • Chris Rock’s description of the Oscars? Rock-solid!-For the second consecutive year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have demonstrated that they have a problem. Actually, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have demonstrated that Hollywood studio execs have a problem. Take a look at the nominees for all of the acting categories. Notice something? Host Chris Rock did and heck the rest of the world did as well. Once again the Academy has demonstrated an inability to recognize performers and storytellers of non-white descent. Chris Rock described this year’s Oscars as “the white BET Awards.” The sad part? He’s not wrong.
  • Image by The Weinstein Company

    WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO CAROL?!-Todd Haynes’ touching and beautiful period piece based on the highly acclaimed novel by Patricia Highsmith was the best movie of 2015 in my eyes. I was so certain that Carol would have garnered enough momentum to carry a Best Picture and Best Director nomination this year, but alas it did not and I was stunned! I was startled to see that Carol didn’t land Haynes a nomination at the Director’s Guild of America this year, but for it to be shut out of a Best Picture nomination as well as a Best Director nomination? I call that robbery! Although I glow about Carol, I don’t believe it would have won Best Director or Best Picture but it should be acknowledged all the same. SMH!

For the second year in a row, the Oscar nominations have demonstrated that the Academy can get some things right and some things totally wrong. The difference between this year and now is that I’m less angry and I’m not as shocked because I expected some of these shortcomings to happen again. Nothing I can do about it now though. I just have to wait until the end of next month to see how it all turns out.