Thursday, May 25, 2017

Movie Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007)

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Movie"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
Director: Gore Verbinski
Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 49 minutes

Now that Lord Beckett has the heart of Davy Jones, he is using it to rid the world of all pirates. Meanwhile, the one-time crew of the Black Pearl goes on a mission to Davy Jones's locker to retrieve Jack so he can attend the meeting of the Pirate Lords to figure out how to defeat both Beckett and Jones. 

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" is the third installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. As with all of its predecessors, it is once again directed by Gore Verbinski. The entire ensemble cast is back for a third time, including Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley. Returning in a larger capacity is Geoffrey Rush, who only had a small cameo in the second film. Both of the villains from "Dead Man's Chest" return, but it is now Lord Beckett, played by Tom Hollander, who wields supreme power with the heart of Davy Jones, again played by Bill Nighy. The most notable new edition to the cast is Chow Yun-Fat, who plays one of the nine Pirate Lords Captain Sao Feng. This time around, the former crew of the Black Pearl needs a map from Sao Feng so they can find Jack Sparrow in Davy Jones's locker to return him to the world of the living. They need him to attend the council of the Pirate Lords to discuss a plan on how to defeat Beckett and his attack octopus Jones.

When we wrote about the previous installment in this series, we found it difficult to differentiate it from the original film because it pretty much only takes the best elements from that movie and repeats them on a grander scale. This installment into the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, however, wanders down a much darker path with a drastically different tonal shift, venturing into uncharted territory. It opens with pirates and pirate sympathizers being rounded up by the East India Trading Co. and being hung, even children. This is something we couldn't have imagined seeing in the earlier, more lighthearted installments, and certainly didn't expect to see this from a movie based on a Disney ride. Not to worry, there is still plenty of fun and humor, but this opener sets the tone for darker things to come. Johnny Depp, as one may expect, is one of the more comedic elements yet again. Jack Sparrow being stuck in Davy Jones's locker is almost an entire exercise in surreal comedy and borders on something you might see in a film by Terry Gilliam.

The story, though a bit bizarre, feels more focused. "Dead Man's Chest" was clearly setting up all the dominoes, and "At World's End" gets to knock them down and answer any lingering questions we may have had about the end of this trilogy. Upon first seeing these films, we tend to remember having a more favorable response to "Dead Man's Chest," maybe because its familiarity with "The Curse of the Black Pearl." Now upon revisiting them all again many years later, we feel that "At World's End" is the stronger of the two entries, though neither could really exist without the other. One thing we will say about this series (and this installment in particular) is that each movie is an opulent display of excess. This flick came with the highest price tag of any movie ever when it was released in 2007, which leads to both some stunning visuals and epic battle scenes that are quite spectacular, but also makes a lot of overused and not great looking computer effects. Overall, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World' End" is a mostly enjoyable ride, but really should have been the end of the franchise.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Movie Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006)

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Movie"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Director: Gore Verbinski
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 31 minutes

Jack Sparrow owes a debt to Davy Jones, but in order to avoid paying up, he looks for a treasure chest containing the heart of Jones. Meanwhile, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann have their wedding ruined by the East India Trading Co., who have arrested them both for helping Jack escape. Will makes a deal that will bring them Jack and his compass so that Elizabeth can be set free.

 "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is the second film in the "Pirates" Disney franchise. Gore Verbinski returns to the directors chair once again to helm this installment. The majority of the cast returns to reprise their roles, including Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann, Jack Davenport as now former Commandant Norrington, Kevin McNally as Gibbs, and Jonathan Pryce as Gov. Swann. New to the franchise are Stellan Skarsgård as Bootstrap Bill Turner, Tom Hollander as Cutler Beckett, one of the two antagonists of this movie, and Bill Nighy, who plays Davy Jones, the other baddie to whom Jack Sparrow owes a debt. Jack Sparrow is searching for the heart of Davy Jones so he can avoid paying his debt, and Beckett wants Jack's magic compass so he can get the heart of Jones in order to allow the East India Trading Company to rule the seas and eradicate all pirates.

There are a lot of characters in this installment, which is fitting because there are a lot of things going on here, an overabundance of stuff, really. "Dead Man's Chest" uses the typical sequel formula, which takes whatever worked in the first film and doubles down on the spectacle. Audiences liked the rum jokes? Oh, we can definitely add more rum jokes. Fancy yourself a sword fights? We've got those too, and with more stunts on a grander scale. You like immortal demon pirates? Well check out these immortal demon fish people! You want jerky guys in powder wigs? Our new bad guy Beckett is twice the asshole Norrington was! Plus, now there is a Kraken, and you can't get bigger than a Kraken.

That being said, there is still a lot of fun to be had with this sequel. Bill Nighy provides a fantastic villain and is wonderfully animated. The CGI on his character is impeccably done, though unfortunately, we can't say that for everything or every single character in this picture. Speaking of characters, as we expected, they are still likable, and Jack Sparrow still gets his dopey digs in when he can, and it seems the role had not yet gone to his head. Not everything is perfect about "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." There is one scene towards the end during a sword fight where Elizabeth becomes extremely annoying, which is pattern that progresses for the rest of the series. In fact, the whole scene is a bit too much, but that's the nature of this second beast they've made. This was filmed in conjunction with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," and as with many movies shot in such a manner, it winds up feeling like only half of a film. It does have a big battle sequence as the movie's climax, but has a bit of a epilogue that ends on a cliffhanger (though this has become more and more common in modern film making). It sounds like we are bagging on this film a lot, but overall, we still find it enjoyable despite its flaws.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 54%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Movie Review: "Snatched" (2017)

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Director: Jonathan Levine
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Emily is stuck with a pair of non-refundable tickets to Ecuador. With no other options, she decides to take her homebody of a mother with her instead. Once there, Emily is seduced by a man who leads the two women into being kidnapped and are held hostage. With no money and the fear of being killed looming overhead, the two must escape their captors and find their way home through South America.

"Snatched" is directed by Jonathan Levine, who is known for films like "The Night Before," "50/50," and "The Wackness." It is written by Katie Dippold, who has written screenplays for "The Heat" and "Ghostbusters (2016)." It stars current Hollywood comedy darling Amy Schumer, who plays Emily Middleton, a character that is exactly like every other character Schumer has ever played. In this respect, she's akin to Adam Sandler. Joining her is Goldie Hawn, who takes her first live action acting role in 15 years plays Emily's overly cautious homebody mother Linda. Also in the film are Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Tom Bateman, Christopher Meloni, and Oscar Jaenada. When Emily gets dumped by her rocker boyfriend, she winds up having to go on vacation with her mom because she can't find anyone else to go with her. Once there, one thing leads to another, Emily meets an exotic hunk who dupes her and Linda into being kidnapped. They have to escape and find their way home, and hilarity ensues...well, not really.

Amy Schumer has never been one to shy away from the crass and the crude. In "Trainwreck," which we enjoyed, it was the same way, but it actually made us laugh, much to our dismay. Schumer has made a career out of making jokes about sex and the fact that women have unflattering bodily functions just like men, like farting and that her vagina possibly smells like soup, you know, the usual! If this is your type of humor, "Snatched" may be right up your alley because both of those jokes are actually in the movie. Yes, one of the gags is the character of Emily farts in bed next to her mom and blames it on a hotel's handcrafted towel swan.

Like most red-blooded Americans, there are times when we can enjoy the occasional fart joke as long as it's well timed and within the right context. Unfortunately, most of "Snatched" involves the opposite of a funny joke. It's full of toilet humor and embarrassing cringe comedy that falls completely flat for us the majority of the time. Most of the dialogue and quips we see coming and aren't clever in the slightest. There are a few times we snickered, and there's maybe one genuine laugh out loud guffaw, but the rest of the time, BigJ and I sat in silence in a completely empty theater silent embarrassed for not only Schumer, but especially for Goldie Hawn. Hawn and Schumer work fine in together as clingy mother and desperate daughter, but they are clearly only in it for the paycheck. We know they both have talent and have liked some of their past works, but it's a damn shame the material they are working with here isn't well made, isn't fun, and isn't a laugh riot. It's just a string of clicks, pops, and "69 my mom" jokes until the credits roll. Skip this one.

My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: 3.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 36%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Movie Review: "Everything, Everything" (2017)

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Director: Stella Meghie
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Maddy is a young woman with an autoimmune disease known as SCID. Her body can't fight off infection, so she is forced to spend her whole life in a sterile house with very few comers and goers. She dreams of the outside world, and when she falls for Olly, the new boy next door, she is willing to do whatever it takes to be with him, including risking her life by doing the unthinkable: going outside.

"Everything, Everything," which could be alternately titled "Bubble Girl," is directed by Stella Meghie with a screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe, based on a novel by Nicola Yoon. It stars Amandla Stenberg as Maddy Whittier, who has just turned 18 and has never been outside. She has spent her entire existence inside her specially built house due to her severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID. She has had a weak immune system ever since she was a little child, and going outside may very well mean her death. Maddy's only human contact is with her just-so-happens-to-be-a-doctor mother Pauline, played by Anika Noni Rose, her lifelong nurse Carla, played by Ana de la Reguera, and Carla's daughter Rosa, played by Danube Hermosillo. Maddy dreams of going outside, but knows she can't, and hasn't ever been willing to risk it. All of this changes when she meets Olly, played by Nick Robinson, who has just moved in next door with his family from the east coast.

A movie about a person with a severe immune deficiency who falls in love with their neighbor?!?! We've never seen that before!!!!....well, as long as you don't count "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" and/or "Bubble Boy." Okay, so maybe "Everything, Everything" isn't very original, but the protagonist is a young woman, so we guess that makes it fresh and new!!

This movie is exactly what you might expect it to be: a schmaltzy teen romance with a far-too-good-to-feel-true love interest. Olly is the first person of a similar age and the opposite sex who has ever paid attention to Maddy. For all we know, from what we are told, he's the first boy her age on their block. Luckily, he's perfect in every conceivable way! Chivalrous, smart, introspective, completely understanding of Maddy's condition, and oooooohhhh, his hair, even though he needs a haircut! The plot plays out straight down the romantic dramedy formula. There are no real surprises in the story, especially if you have seen either of the aforementioned movies about similar subjects.

In terms of performances, we can't say there's anything special about them. We liked Stenberg as Rue in "The Hunger Games," and here, gives a hot and cold performance. Sometimes, she's as stiff and emotionless as a board, and other times, she's crazy over-dramatic. We loved Robinson in "The Kings of Summer," and he's serviceable as the always dressed in black, borderline emo kid Olly. The dialogue they are tasked to deliver is often very, very cheesy and simplistic. Most of the time, the little exchanges they have as a couple make us roll our eyes and want to vomit, and we're happily married and in love. C'mon, no one talks like they do, but what do we know? We're just jaded adults and this won't matter for teenagers and hopeless romantics in the crowd.

We fully acknowledge that we are nowhere near the target demographic for "Everything, Everything." Hell, we're closer to 40 than we are to 18. This is one of those movies where there's nothing so atrociously bad that it's worth ranting about, but offers nothing the least bit memorable in terms of characters or subject matter and technically, has some questionable behind the scenes choices. Sure, it'll offer a googly-eyed, saccharine-filled viewing experience for the tween crowd, but it doesn't break the mold in any way, shape, or form, when it desperately could and should have. You won't be the least bit mad after watching this movie, but be prepared to forget it exists after a short amount of time.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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Movie Review: "Alien: Covenant" (2017)

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Director: Ridley Scott
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

After having trouble with their ship, the Covenant, which houses a group of planetary settlers, goes off course to scout a seemingly hospitable planet. What they find is not what they expected and may very well mean their doom.

"Alien: Covenant" is a sequel to the 2012 film "Prometheus" and is a prequel of sorts to the the 1979 film "Alien." It is once again directed by Ridley Scott, who directed the two aforementioned entries into this franchise. It stars an ensemble cast, which includes Michael Fassbender as the androids David and Walter, as well as Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Carmen Ejogo, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Callie Hernandez, Jussie Smollet, and Amy Seimetz, who make up some of the crew of the Covenant. The mission of this particular voyage is to set up a human settlement on the distant planet of Origae-6, which means the crew is made up of couples and they carry a cargo of over 2000 people in cryo-sleep, as well as numerous human embryos. After some unforeseen complications, the crew is awoken from sleep early to find many of the pods have malfunctioned and that some of the crew and passengers have passed away in the accident. Over seven years from their destination, the ship's sensors pick up a planet with an Earth-like atmosphere, one that was initially missed in their scans. Not too keen to get back into their pods, the crew decides to explore this unknown planet for their settlement instead, which we all know will be a terrible idea as they quickly find they are not alone on this strange place. 

There were a lot of questions as to what exactly "Alien: Covenant" would be in the grand scheme of the "Alien" universe. Now that we have seen it, we can say it is absolutely more of a sequel to "Prometheus" than anything else. It takes place 10 years after the events of that movie, which is referred to several times in "Covenant." We wondered if this film would start to bridge a gap between "Prometheus" (the prequel) and "Alien" (the franchise as we've known it for decades) and beginning to converge the two very distant story lines, but it really doesn't do that, apart from giving an introduction to the full-fledged xenomorph we've known as a hallmark of the series, the ones rabid internet fans clamored for post-"Prometheus." Unfortunately, it introduces them in an uninspired way.

If anything, this installment seems to be moving away from the opening of "Alien" toward some blob of pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo about mortality, birth, death, and life that happens to have Aliens in it. As Ridley Scott gets older in age and is questioning his own lived self, he presents these questions and themes to us in an all or nothing manner. He sets the film up like it's going to eventually link up these new highbrow thoughts and ideas to where the crew of the Nostromo finds the face hugger-eggs on the ship of a chest burst Engineer, but never does. As such, tonally, the film feels off as this installment clearly mirrors the horror elements of the "Alien" franchise, just with 99% more obsession with the ideas about creation and faith that hovered around "Prometheus." Also, a lot of its tone mirrors that of its predecessor, making it uneven.

There are many elements to like about "Alien: Covenant," like its striking visuals and its use of practically built sets, Michael Fassbender's brilliant performance, and the surprise discovery of Danny McBride being good in something where he's not a super obnoxious loudmouth. But for us, all of these likable parts don't come together to make a fully enjoyable experience because of a few glaring instances of sub-par CGI, so many unanswered questions, so many head-scratching moments, so many dumb decisions, and way too much pretension. We left the movie underwhelmed, disappointed, and not really looking forward to where this series goes in the future.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~73%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Movie Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003)

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Movie"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"
Director: Gore Verbinski
Year: 2003
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 23 minutes

Elizabeth Swann, daughter of the governor of Port Royal, is taken captive by a crew of cursed pirates who have mistaken her for the child of a former crew mate. Now, Will Turner, the young blacksmith who is in love with Elizabeth, sets out to rescue her with the help of an unscrupulous pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" is directed by Gore Verbinski and is inspired by the very popular Disney theme park ride called Pirates of the Caribbean. It stars Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, a drunkard pirate who lost his ship, The Black Pearl, to a mutanist crew. Joining him are Orlando Bloom, who plays Will Tuner, a blacksmith and son of a former crew member of Sparrow's, and Keira Knightley, the love interest of Will Turner and the daughter of Weatherby Swann, governor of Port Royal, played by Jonathan Pryce. It is when Elizabeth is abducted by Barbossa, played by Geoffrey Rush, the current captain of The Black Pearl, that Will and Jack reluctantly team up to rescue her, though Jack's reasons are less than noble.

When this movie first came out 14 years ago, we thought, "there's no way Disney can make a good movie based on a theme park ride." It sounded absolutely bonkers! Luckily, Disney and director Gore Verbinski certainly proved us and many, many people wrong by making a fun, exciting, borderline thrilling action adventure ghost story that blends nostalgic elements from the ride with an engaging, swashbuckling story. Johnny Depp puts on a good performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, and was even nominated for an Oscar for his efforts. Over the years, however, the line between Depp himself and Sparrow has become increasingly blurry to the point where they are basically one in the same. The rest of the cast is decent enough, though they are all greatly overshadowed by Depp and have more dramatic moments to rely on, whereas Sparrow is all about adding comedy to an adventure with lots of drama. Another notable standout includes Geoffrey Rush as the boil-infested Barbossa, who boasts a truly stellar makeup job on his person and a nasty disposition in his character.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" is by no means a perfect movie. It's very long in the tooth in terms of its pacing and run time. A lot of the dialogue is rather cheesy. Johnny Depp's accent is grating after about 20 minutes. There are some plot holes and other contrived moments, but not so many that they get in the way of the fun to be had. This is a surprising visual treat with numerous fantastic action sequences that look amazing (and still hold up for being nearly 15 years old) and are endlessly entertaining. The characters are mostly likable, even the villains, and it's got some marvelous camera shots and set pieces to make up for Jack Sparrow's overabundance of booze, eyeliner, dopey phrases, and bangles. We have seen this movie numerous and still find it a highly enjoyable blockbuster.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Movie Review: "Prometheus" (2012)

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Director: Ridley Scott
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

A pair of scientists discover numerous ancient artifacts with a very specific set of markings. These markings lead them to a lone moon in a remote system, one they believe holds the answer to the existence of man.

"Prometheus" is an indirect prequel to the film "Alien." It is directed by Ridley Scott, who helmed the first "Alien" movie back in 1979. It stars Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green as Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, a pair of scientists who have been uncovering clues that will reveal conclusively where man came from. This leads them to a remote moon called LV-223. Joining them on their mission to LV-223 are Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Katie Dickie, Emun Elliot, and Benedict Wong, who make up the members of the crew and science team aboard the ship Prometheus. When they finally reach their destination and find their creators, they run into more questions than answers, and their makers aren't exactly what they expected.

When "Prometheus" was first announced, there was a lot of confusion as to whether or not it would be an "Alien" prequel. Once the film actually came out, that answer wound up being "well, sort of." "Prometheus" introduces the 'Engineers,' a race of giant aliens who bio-engineer life on hospitable planets. It is on an Engineer ship that the crew of the Nostromo find the face-hugger eggs seen in the 1979 movie. So, this giant, previously unnamed Alien winds up being a rather crucial puzzle piece to the "Alien" universe. That being said, "Prometheus" doesn't totally feel like an "Alien" film. It has a far more sci-fi drama tone due to its dealing with existential questions about creation and our own mortality. It does share a few horror elements, but lacks the tension that existed in the first two "Alien" films. It has a lot to say and certainly does so...over...and over...and over again. The tension isn't there because the peril isn't always there. By exploring these bigger questions, delving deeper into the mythos and lore of this universe, and forgoing the "baddies" that have made this franchise what it is today, expect a much more dramatic feel in this film.

As with any Ridley Scott joint, the visuals are impressive on a massive scale, and the movie overall is well shot. It is insane to see the amount of work and effort he and his crew put a into this project. Many portions look like they are CGI, but are not at all. From breathtaking planet landscapes to intricate ship designs to the look at feel of the bizarre looking Engineers themselves, there is no lack of a visual smorgasbord here.

Overall, we enjoy "Prometheus" and where it tries to go in creating a broader "Alien" universe. Critics and moviegoers alike have taken to nitpicking this film to death and we don't really understand why. Sure, the characters are a bit underdeveloped, and granted, they make questionable decisions at times, but at the end of the day, we like "Prometheus" despite having hardly any hallmarks of the franchise it is meant to introduce. Fear not, there are clearly bigger ideas on director Ridley Scott's mind, ones that may be answered in "Alien Covenant."

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 72%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?