Geostorm – Review

I have been looking forward to this movie ever since I first heard about it in 2014. The premise was simple but it was already two separate films, A satellite engineer tries to save the world from a storm of epic proportions caused by malfunctioning climate-controlling satellites while his brother attempts to thwart a plan to assassinate the President. I mean how could any one say no to a movie like that? A few months ago, a teaser trailer for the film came out and it was exactly what I’d hoped for all these years. So did the film hold up?

Yes and No. I was excited for this film because right from the start I knew it was going to be a play by the numbers disaster movie coupled with a play by the numbers save the president movie, and it was. Tick. I knew that there would be some very clichéd moments and lines that would make you cringe. Tick. I also knew that no to expect anything wildly out there from a first-time director and that he was probably just going to go through the standard checklist for any film in this genre. Tick. Tick. Tick. But he missed something…

There were not enough storms in Geostorm. There were a lot of VFX shots of the space station that the main character was on but I would have loved to see more storms. Is it really a global disaster movie with only two tidal waves and one of those is then instantly frozen? In that respect the film falls a little short of expectations for me. While the B-story involving the President was silly and gave a lot of fun moments, it would have been good to see an actual Geostorm. The film went in to production in late 2014 and then went under re-shoots after poor test screenings in late 2015. So they had a long time in post-production and it shows. The film looks pretty good for the most part the odd weather effect was a little fake looking but you come to expect that from a movie like this. The re-shoots though didn’t impact on the film as it didn’t feel disjointed as productions like this can sometimes lead to.

Gerard Butler plays an American version of himself in this film, which is pretty standard for him these days and that’s fine, because we know what to expect. (This film did have me thinking what if they got Nicolas Cage to be the lead, it would have made the movie worse but in a great and entertaining way). The supporting cast including Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish and Alexandra Maria Lara all do play the role they needed to but not much more. The acting on whole is mediocre with no one really standing out, everyone does their job and within the world of Geostorm everyone seems to fit, even the “goddam President of the United States” (yes, that’s a line from the movie). Which brings me to the writing.

I usually describe these sorts of films a box-tickers or checklist movies, it does the job they need it to by using every trope people have come to expect from the genre. They might add one extra detail that might change it up a bit, but that is another feature of the checklist – Make it different. Someone I saw the film with said that in the conference room where they were developing the story, they must have had a no idea is a bad idea policy, because this film tries to be everything. The dialogue is clichéd, the characters don’t progress that much and they use the movie title far too much (although it is one of my favourite things when a movie does that).

I don’t want to criticise this movie that much because I think it know what it is and it knows what it wanted to achieve and for the most part, it did that. It is an example of a film that you can switch off to and have fun. (I feel I’ve said that about a lot of films this year, this movie is more fun than The Mummy and WAY better than Transformers: The Last Knight.) It’s not worth a $20 movie ticket, but if you can get a cheap ticket to see Geostorm take it! It is not a cinematic masterpiece, not in any way but it is an enjoyable adventure through the disaster movie tropes.

Geostorm (in my opinion, the current holder of Popcorn Movie of the Year), hits cinemas today! Don’t forget to leave a comment on what you thought of the movie!

3/5

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Okja – Review

A heart-warming commentary on the food industry and one girl’s fight to save her best friend, Okja is step forward in digital release films.

Okja is a Netflix production by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. The film revolves around Okja, a Super Pig born from the first genetically modified Super Pig and raised by a farmer and his grand-daughter, Mija, in the South Korean mountains as part of an experiment/competition. After ten years, the Mirando Corporation – the owners of the Super Pig program come to take Okja, who has become the best Super Pig, and turn her in to food.

Mija follows the company to a holding facility to free her friend, she meets and is aided by the A.L.F. (Animal Liberation Front) who are trying to expose Mirando for the injustices and crimes they have committed against the Super Pigs.

Ahn Seo-hyun delivers a fantastic performance as Mija, a strong and brave character, and portrays the love and the connection between her and Okja beautifully.

Paul Dano plays Jay, the leader of the A.L.F and brings some nice complexities to his character. There is something about Jay and the A.L.F (including Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Daniel Henshall and Devon Bostick) that felt very Wes Anderson-esque, the characters all had their little quirks yet were all committed to the cause. The animal rights group at some points felt like they were in a different movie, something slightly hyper-realistic.

Tilda Swinton plays Mirando Corporation CEO, Lucy Mirando a slightly bizarre character who is driven to make this Super Pig scheme of hers succeed. Swinton has an amazing diversity in the many characters she plays, Lucy Mirando is no exception. She was a character that felt like she was never quite real and that’s the point. She has a facade of a caring and exciting CEO but behind closed doors wants only to differentiate herself from her father and her sister and will lie and bumble her way to that goal.

Now lets get to one of the standouts of Okja, Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. Johnny Wilcox. At the inception of the Super Pig Program, Johnny Wilcox, a TV star zoologist was attached to work with the farmers and eventually judge who would be crowned the best Super Pig. Now, ten years later, he has fallen out of the spotlight and is now a washed up pawn for the Mirando Corporation who has had to make some moral compromises in the time he has worked for the company. Towards the end of the film, the reality really sets in on Wilcox bringing out a perfect example of why Gyllenhaal should play the Joker in the DCEU instead of Jared Leto.

The visual effects used to make Okja were fantastic, It was believable for majority of the film. She’s a cute Super Pig, so are her friends, the Super Pigs are sweet and passive creatures, which makes the Mirando Corporation’s practices all the more heartbreaking.

Okja is a unique film that wants you to think about where your food comes from and see through the spin that multi-national corporations try to sell you. With out revealing too much about the plot of the film, it’s also an example that while these companies may hit road blocks, the corporate machine can still carry on.

This film was produced by Netflix and has faced some criticism from traditional cinemas and critics before the film had even been seen.

Okja had its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2017. The film was met with boos, mixed with applause, during its premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, once the Netflix logo appeared on screen and again during a technical glitch (which got the movie projected in an incorrect aspect ratio for its first seven minutes). The festival later issued an apology to the filmmakers. However, despite the studio’s negative response, the film itself received a four-minute standing ovation.

Wikipedia

This is a step in the right direction for digital releases, there are many more notable directors and studios getting behind this sort of release and we can expect to see more high-quality original films coming out on Netflix.

Okja is a nice film with a talented cast and a big heart. It has a message but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Purely and simply, its a bout a young girl who will stop at nothing to save her best friend.

4/5

Okja is available to stream on Netflix now.

The Fundamentals of Caring – Review

The Fundamentals of Caring is an indie comedy-drama that was distributed on Netflix. It’s one of those feel-good, feel-bad, feel-good-again movies, nice to just sit down and watch some time.

The film follows Ben (played by Paul Rudd), a retired writer who completes a course to become a caregiver. He gets a job looking after Trevor (Craig Roberts), and eighteen-year-old who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ben and Trevor go on a road-trip to see the worlds deepest pit. During the road-trip they meet many people and learn about each other, you know the usual.

Rob Burnett, the writer and director of this film adapted his script from a novel by Jonathan Evison titled ‘The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving’ and he did a good job too. It’s a fun film, the dialogue is tight and everything plot point is tied up either in an emotional or humourous way.

Joining Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts in the film is Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle and Megan Ferguson. All of these actors do a decent job. Megan Feguson plays a slightly weird pregnant woman who has some funny lines but it’s Rudd and Roberts that breath the most life in to the film.

This film isn’t anything amazing but it short sweet and enjoyable. Its something you can chill out and watch on Netflix when ever, but it is worth a watch.

3 Stars

Transformers: The Last Knight – Review

I saw this film last night and since then I’ve been trying to work out what to say about it. I’ve been searching for some remote ounce of quality, some substance, something I liked about it, there isn’t anything. This movie is a terrible mess.

Transformers: The Last Knight picks up after 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime has left Earth to look for Cybertron and the Humans have decided to hunt down and kill or imprison all of the Transformers. Mark Wahlberg’s character, Cade Yeager lives with the remaining Autobots in a Junkyard. Organisations and individuals on Earth via satellites or just gut instinct know that the end of the world is coming.

From other films, we know that Transformers have been here since no doubt the beginning of time. This story primarily revolves around an ancient staff that was given to Merlin in the middle ages. This staff can destroy Earth and in turn, rebuild Cybertron. That’s the basis of the film and almost everything else that litters this two-and-a-half hour film is unnecessary.

I don’t know where to begin with this to be honest. The script should have been shredded as soon as it was printed. The dialogue is very bad, the Transformers constantly bicker with each other about senseless garbage, the humans are so often yelling at each other, again, about nothing. When the film quietens down, it’s either blatant exposition or garbage. At one point Cade (Mark Whalberg), tunes out some of Anthony Hopkins’ character’s dialogue. Almost every line delivered felt like the actors were reading directly off a script, with no emotion or emotion. Regardless of all this nothingness, the characters keep talking.

There are many story beats and elements in the film that did not need to be there. Let’s begin with Optimus Prime, you’ve probably seen the trailers and know that Optimus Prime has been brainwashed and goes bad – a main feature of the trailer. This was almost completely unnecessary to the film. Optimus Prime, despite being on every poster and featuring in every trailer, isn’t in the film much at all. More elements that were completely irrelevant to the plot include;

  • The young girl, Izabella (played by Isabela Moner, original character name – right?).
  • Almost all of the Autobots (that’s right, this Transformers movie is not about Transformers).
  • A weird flashback to WWII that lasts for all of maybe 2 minutes.
  • A Suicide Squad-esque scene where a few Decepticons are introduced with freeze-frames and title cards as Megatron lists his team.
  • Callbacks to previous Transformers films, a space ship on the Moon, the giant hole in one of the Pyramids of Giza and an awful way to bring Sam Witwicky and the Witwicky (previously known as Witwiccan) family going all the way back to Merlin (Get it? Wizard – Wiccan?).
  • Every ham-fisted attempt at comedy, sex jokes that fall flat, the annoyingly chatty little transformers that interject with a pointless quip and the amount the Transformers are needlessly crass or profane – as if the only thing the writers know about kids is that they find a robot saying ‘shit’ a lot funny.
  • and so many more…

The visual effects were good and pretty standard for a Transformers film. The only issue that the effects suffer is during fight scenes it can sometimes be difficult to determine which Transformer is fighting. But good visual effects can not save a movie with literally nothing else going for it. There was one thing that stuck out to me more than anything (though it did help distract me some times from what ever trash was going on), the aspect ratio. This movie was filmed in about three different aspect ratios, and these different aspect ratios change not between scenes, but between shots. The change in aspect ratios will change the amount of picture you see and the size of the letter-boxing or the black lines you see at the top and the bottom. One person will be filmed talking in IMAX and the reverse shot will be in standard ratio… and this happens in every scene – action scenes, dialogue scenes – EVERY SCENE. I don’t know how some film professional, weather they’re a producer or editor or something and think, “maybe they wont notice”.

Usually I cover other things in reviews like acting and direction or sound but there is everything in those areas are average and are very common to Transformers films. There’s standard Michael Bay direction, some military shots that weren’t too bad, but that’s what Bay does somewhat well and just like the visual effects, does not save this film. The sound brings the usual warp-y, chks and wubs you come to expect and a wide range of garbled ‘dialogue’ (which I would prefer to call noise) from the Transformers. The acting is forgettable and not worth talking about.

We will no doubt see more of these pieces of absolute garbage as there is a standalone Bumblebee movie coming out next year and an as yet untitled ‘Transformers 6’ in 2019. They shoe-horned in extra Bumblebee and a painfully blatant scene setting up the villain for the sixth film, so yeah they’re serious. Adding to the fact, this film will make a lot of money, all Transformers movies make crazy amounts at the Box Office because people everywhere go see it. I can’t even switch off in a movie like this, like I can with some others.

I very much want to give this a ‘ugh’ out of 5. There was nothing that could get this movie out of the dumpster it found itself in. From the first stupid line delivered by a drunken Merlin (yes, there is so much I haven’t mentioned) to the set ups for the next few films in the main story line to the shifting of the aspect ratios, this film was a sporadic mess.

0 Stars

The Mummy (2017) – Review

The first chapter in the rebooted Universal Monsters’ Dark Universe delivers a lot of set up and a bit of fun, but no real bang. The Mummy features Tom Cruise as Tom Cruise in a Tom Cruise movie that really wasn’t very Tom Cruise-y.

The Mummy is not a great film, but its fun. There’s enough action coupled with a little bit of mild horror and well-blow-average comedic levity to make it an OK popcorn flick to sit down and switch off. There’s not much to it.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a reconnaissance soldier that uses his job to pilfer and sell antiquities he finds in the Middle-East. During a mission he embarks on to find treasure he accidentally stumbles on an Ancient Egyptian tomb. Upon further investigation Annabelle Wallis’s character Jenny Halsey finds that the tomb was actually a prison holding a princess that seemed to have been scrubbed from history – Princess Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella).

Opening the prison has allowed her to return to power and escape. Ahmanet made a pact with Set, the God of Death, to bring him in to the physical world. In the past, she failed but now that she’s been released and now she wants to complete the ritual.

Cruise delivered an average performance, playing almost a caricature of himself. He pulled off some decent action sequences but nothing really stuck. Annabelle Wallis, brought nothing to the role of Jenny Halsey which had nothing in the script anyway, she was there to be a beautiful woman and barely a love interest for Nick. What she did provide was a link to the wider ‘Dark Universe’ through her job with Prodigium, enter Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Crowe brought probably one of the more outstanding performances of the lacklustre cast. He portrayed your pretty standard version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (yes, Hyde also makes an appearance), with just a sprinkling of an organisation leader, a la Nick Fury from S.H.I.E.L.D in the MCU. His is a role I’d like to see developed further in the future of the Dark Universe. Now that I’ve mentioned the word developed, I should mention that there is no character development in this film, it seemed to all fall by the way-side while they set-up the franchise.

Sofia Boutella has brought fantastic physicality in her roles in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, her performance in The Mummy is no different. While she seems to never be a character with too much dialogue, what she does get to say isn’t bad. I’m not fluent in Ancient Egyptian but it sounded right (she also delivers about one line in English). She was a decent Mummy and provided a good looming threat.

The visual effects were pretty good, lots of sand and big sand storms, a bit of mummification and zombification and some Mercury which moved with a little too much life of its own in my opinion, but other than that I had no issues with it. Sound was good too but nothing stood out to me really.

The story flowed reasonably well providing a lot of exposition into not only the origins of The Mummy herself but really trying to push down your throat that this is the beginning of a new cinematic universe (just in case you haven’t worked that out yet). There was one plot point that seemed to break the in-universe rules they set up, but when you need something to happen and when you’re talking about a ‘world of Gods and Monsters’ you’re going to have to let some of these things slide.

The Mummy is a film its best to just switch off to and let it take you for a ride. The action in the film was enjoyable and the pacing was pretty good. One thing I want to praise the movie for is that it was only 107 minutes long! Though you could probably have thrown in an extra few lines of dialogue or a scene or two to either set up characters or show some development, I thought that the movie didn’t overstay it’s welcome. The mythology this film presented has piqued my interest in the Dark Universe (but that’s because I’m a sucker for Cannon), however the rest of the film was average, with nothing overly standing out.

2.5 Stars

The Mummy is in cinemas now.

Wonder Woman – Review

An action-adventure film that is worthy of the praise it’s getting, Wonder Woman is a excellent example of what we could hope to see from more DC films.

Wonder Woman tells the story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, an island paradise secluded from the rest of the world, who yearns to see the world of man. One day, Steve Trevor, an spy for the Allies crash lands just off the island and the world of man comes to Themyscira along with news of the ‘War to end all Wars’. Diana travels to Europe with Steve in an attempt to find the god Ares, who she believes is behind this War.

In a way, unfortunately some what foreign to the previous DC Films, Wonder Woman features a coherent story line that follows the hero’s journey’s three act structure. Which worked so well for this film. A lot exposition was required to set up this world, and it was mostly worked in to dialogue between characters which is never something I’m a huge fan of. For example, Amazons saying to each other, “We have not had to fight in a war for 2000 years.”, they already know this, stuff like that wouldn’t naturally come up in conversation. Some of the exposition was delivered as a story told to Diana as a child – this, I enjoyed.

More unnecessary dialogue was worked in between Diana and Steve in attempt to set up their relationship, it wasn’t bad but it slowed down the pacing of the film a little.

Parts of Wonder Woman felt like your ‘swords and sandals’ movie, while others give off a good War movie vibe. The contrast between Themyscira and World War I was noticeable and featured similar dull tones and muted colour palate that the ‘world of man’ has had in previous DC films. It makes me think that the image of Mera from Aquaman that is full of vibrant colours, will be in Atlantis making these two magical locations the most interesting parts of the DC universe.
Gal Gadot really brings it as Diana. The former soldier, turned model now actress might not have the strongest acting ability but her physicality makes up for any minor short falls there were, though I think her delivery of dialogue and facial expressions were good. Chris Pine was great as the almost-sidekick to Diana and key to her transition to the world of man. The supporting characters worked well and I don’t think anyone necessarily phoned it in.

Patty Jenkins directed this film very well. It’s so focused and it sticks to the narrative. There’s great action scenes that were also paired with some good dialogue and character driven scenes she also added a little slow-mo, unassumingly to fit in to the DC mould.

With out going into too much detail in to the film, in order to avoid spoilers, I’ll say that the film was a good action-adventure film that served as a ‘coming of age’ for Diana, its a way to show how she became the fierce warrior we see at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Her character progression and development is such an important part of this film and its one of the key elements of this film.

Wonder Woman is an excellent example of what we could hope to see from more DC films. It is a near-perfect story of Diana’s first steps in to the world of man, and a nice origin story in a day and age where ‘origin stories are over-rated’. Wonder Woman is a character I want to see more of in the coming DC universe films. She is, so far anyway, the best character they currently have and I hope Justice League will continue to show her in the light that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman has.

Wonder Woman is in Cinemas now.

3.5 Stars

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Zack Snyder’s attempt at the movie we’ve wanted to see for decades fell short of expectations.

In anticipation to Wonder Woman, I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice again, so here’s the review. PLEASE BE WARNED! While I will try not to go into specifics, there could be some spoiled plot points. While this is a review, it will include some analysis and ‘ways I would do it better’.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice never had the excitement around it that the idea of a Superman/Batman film had. That came from the divisiveness of 2013’s Man of Steel, which I enjoyed for the most part.

The main problem Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is the Dawn of Justice part. This is two movies. The first involves Batman and Superman both being manipulated in to hating each other, they both had their reasons but they were played upon and had their perspective skewed. The story would involve the main characters investigating what seem to be separate leads that all end up being part of the one plan. That plan, was to have Superman kill Batman and that this scenario would have one of two outcomes:

1. To show the world either that Superman would kill someone – God can’t be all good. Or,

2. To show the world that Batman killed Superman – God can’t be all powerful.

Now to me, that sounds like a good story. A little bit of action sprinkled in at certain points, some mystery and intrigue, all culminating in a finale that pits the two DC Comics greats in a battle of Brains (and money) vs. Brawn. Naturally, of course before killing one another they realise they are actually on the same side and they go after the real threat that has been influencing them from the start. We put that threat in jail, while he is in there he plots something bigger, upon his eventual escape, which will be the story of the next film. 2 hours and 10 minutes, simple story, easy to follow, everybody forgets their so-so reaction to Man of Steel, bring on the next film, ‘Dawn of Justice’.

Except that didn’t happen. Instead, that story more or less ends around the 2 hour mark and the remaining 30 minutes of its run time resulted in a ridiculous mess that features an overpowered enemy that came out of nowhere, with very little set up or reason for being there, a character that while awesome (spoilers: it’s Wonder Woman), probably shouldn’t have been in a movie called ‘Batman v Superman’ and particular plot point that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of a projector til ‘Man of Steel 3’. Some shots from the last 30 minutes looked good, but a lot of them were just so cluttered by lighting bolts and laser beams that it lost all meaning. Some of the shots were harder to determine what was going on than being able to determine who’s fighting who in a Transformers movie.

There are more issues with the film, including pacing, writing and editing etc. But I don’t want to be so negative on this film, because there is something there. There’s a movie in here, I have ever since I saw this film believed that. All I need to do it sit down in front of my computer one day and maybe make a cut of my own to prove it. (I don’t want to alarm you but the writers and editor from BvS:DoJ are doing the same jobs on Justice League.)

I very much enjoyed Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. He gave the older, gruffer character that the story asked for and we were looking for. That said, I like most of the acting in this film. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams have a shallow dynamic, dialogue-wise but their body language and the look in their eyes said more than the script could. Gal Gadot did a pretty decent job as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and delivered in my favourite shot of the entire film – a small smile during the big fight at the end, a little thing that said so much about the character, it said: “This is fun.”, “I’ve missed this” and “So you want a fight, huh?” all at the same time.

Jeremy Irons brought a new side to Alfred Pennyworth that we hadn’t seen before and I didn’t mind Holly Hunter’s role as a senator leading an enquiry in to Superman. Lawrence Fishburne brought nothing to the role as Perry White and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor left a lot to be desired… there were moments of proper evil to his character but sadly it was overshadowed by his ‘no one comprehends my genius’ shtick mixed with a fair amount of overacting.

The first 2 hours of the movie weren’t bad, it probably could have been done with being an hour and 40, but the story was enjoyable and could be followed somewhat. That being said, this is a comic book movie, and yes, the characters are from comic books, I know. I mean this movie paces like a comic book, it could even do with the odd “Meanwhile” tags in the top left corner in a few scenes, if this film was adapted in to a comic book – it would work. I think that is what sets the current DC films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe apart, Marvel makes movies based on its characters, they have adapted story lines, DC, or at least Zack Snyder seems to adapt the panels. Which is why 300 and Watchmen worked for the fans of those movies, its what they were expecting. It’s not what fans were expecting after Marvel had completed its ‘Phase One’. I think the culture had changed.

After all this though, I like parts of this movie, so it doesn’t fail completely in my opinion. I see this movie for it’s merits and what it tried to do. Don’t get me wrong, I have ideas about how you can fix this and effectively write this movie off – which in the DC Universe at least can be done very easily.

2 Stars

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Review

I hadn’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie until last week, the day before I saw Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Please note, this review was written before seeing the fifth film, due to other reviews I already had scheduled, this is being released afterwards.

To preface, I’ve only really liked the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl. The other two were good from a production value point of view, but story line wise they go off in all sorts of directions and the overacting became a staple of the franchise. That being said, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides also features the overacting. When I think about it though, what I really want from a blockbuster pirate movie, is actors acting like pirates. I want the ‘argh me-hearty’s’, swash-buckling, stereotype of pirates that I’ve grown up with. That is what I’ve come to expect when I hear Hans Zimmer’s epic theme, and that’s what I buy a ticket for.

On Stranger Tides, seemed to have a more streamlined story, while there are three ‘teams’ all racing to one goal, as well as a shopping list for ‘the ritual’. The important thing is that the protagonists and antagonists are all heading following a simple story and not all heading off on convoluted journeys for complicated reasons.

As usual, the film looks pretty good, pretty blockbuster-y but again, that’s the point right? The scenes on the water, at night especially, look like they’re shot on a sound stage but some of the location shots were pretty so you forgive it. While there wasn’t much in the line of CGI on characters, mostly enchanted ropes, water and backgrounds, there is a CGI frog that I wasn’t a huge fan of, a far cry from Davy Jones. On the plus side though, the mermaid effects weren’t too bad. I’m just about to get to the acting in this film, but I’m going to mention this now, there’s a clergyman and a mermaid who fall in love or what ever, it was a story tread to get the mermaid to cry because a mermaid’s tear was needed for the ritual – other than that, reasonably unnecessary.

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns along with the first trilogy’s Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) in a one-shot of sorts having very little (if nothing) to do with the films that came before. Barbossa and Gibbs’ style of pirate-y-ness is what I was talking about earlier on. It’s nothing too amazing, but in this film, its fun, it fits the theme. It reminds me of what I liked about The Curse of the Black Pearl. Straight up pirates followin’ maps and findin’ treasure. Depp’s Jack Sparrow felt a little toned down in this film. Not to say he wasn’t overtly Sparrow, but it didnt feel as overdone as it did in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End.

Penelope Cruz plays Angelica, a former flame of Jack’s whose motives and intentions are all over the place. I get the feeling that Cruz was performing each line at a time, because her character tells a lot of ‘lies’ that are actually ‘truths’, ‘truths’ that are ‘lies’, and ‘lies’ that are actually ‘lies’. In a blockbuster like this, a film for the masses, surely there should be a small tell or a subtlety or something that gets you thinking about what she is saying, questioning it’s validity. Either that or she would be killer at ‘two truths and a lie’.

Now we get to Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. While McNally and Rush play your typical pirates who’s allegiances can change with the wind, Ian McShane plays straight up bad pirate with Blackbeard. He’s on a mission to live forever but despite coming up against the film’s ticking clock, a foretelling of his death, he seems to have all the time in the world to kill crew members, threaten Sparrow and even play Russian roulette with his daughter’s life. That minor motive issue aside, the character was great and I would say is the reason I continued to have interest in the movie til the end.

Speaking of the end, its time to wrap this up. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun popcorn flick. It isn’t bogged down by the narrative of Will Turner like the first three films were, which gives it a lighter tone. It’s a modern version of the classic pirate films, stereotypes and over-acting a plenty. Still though – enjoyable.

3 Stars

The Man from U.N.C.L.E – Review

A film that was greatly under appreciated during its release.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a re-telling of the 1960s television show that puts American and Russian spies, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin together to stop evil organisations.

The film version is directed by Guy Ritchie and as with many other Ritchie films, features his distinctive style. Particularly the use of split screen and revealing plot details by showing you footage you’ve already seen in a different context.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are played by Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (the Superman and Batman that could have been). This team is rounded out by East German Gabby Teller (played by Alicia Vikander) the estranged daughter of a former Nazi scientist who is being co-opted by Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani and Elizabeth Debicki), a wealthy Nazi sympathising couple into developing a nuclear weapon for them.

What proceeds is a series of espionage between our protagonists and antagonists as well as the odd double crossing within the protagonists team itself. There’s some light hearted quips and some fun visual comedy sprinkled through the film.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E is such a fun film that it needs to be seen. While the film leaves the door open for a sequel it’s not all that likely, given that the box office results were not quite what Warner Bros. we’re hoping for and that Henry will most likely be tied up with his role as Superman (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice spoiler there). This film is an absolute gem.

4 Stars

Man from.U.N.C.L.E can be streamed now on Netflix.

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

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise returns to the story of the Turners’ in an epic, yet average film.

I look around the Internet and I see how many people actually enjoyed this film, more so than some of the other sequels. I did not think this film was better than On Stranger Tides (a film I watched for the first time just the other day and actually enjoyed, a review is written and will be coming out next week).

This film returns to the main story line of the franchise, that being the saga of the Turners and Davy Jones, almost 20 years after At World’s End (and yet some how no one looks 20 years older). Our new main character is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the 19-year-old son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Henry’s life long mission is to break his father’s curse and free him from the Flying Dutchman, he has studied every curse and fable of the Sea and he knows that there is one last legend that can free his father… The Trident of Poseidon.

Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is the ‘I can’t believe its not Elizabeth Swann’ character, visually, she simply fits that mould, but her character is so much more. Shes an Astronomer, a Horologist and always the smartest person in the room/on deck. She isn’t as interested in the Trident as she is in reading ‘the Map that no man can read’ that leads to it.

Jack Sparrow (over-acted again by Johnny Depp) is also looking for the Trident to save his own life. Basically, he drunkenly made a mistake which released his greatest nemesis, cursed ghost, pirate killer, “El Matador Del Mar” Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Visually, the film is great, the visual effects of the ghost crew are fantastic. The costumes as always are spot on and the sets look well put together. I didn’t enjoy the music as much as in the fourth film, but the soundtrack still worked well for a the action scenes. Watching a ship obliterate another ship with cannon fire is awesome already, add a crescendo in an orchestral piece of music and its amazing. Say what you want about the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but they always look and sound good.

Kaya Scodelario is fantastic in this film playing the intelligent Carina, often mistaken for a witch, she is a woman of science. Naturally, her beliefs are challenged coming up against the ghost sailors, curses, myths and legends that frequent the franchise. Kaya probably had the most to go on with this script, and she made it work. She was definitely the standout in this film.

Brenton Thwaites performed well, but he is unfortunately limited by his character. He’s a great talent but frequently in the movies he appears in this tends to be a problem. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was, again the awful comic relief, similar to Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Unfortunately, Jack Sparrow was not the most over-acted character in this film – there is an awful cameo. Things just tend to conveniently fall in to place for Jack and the opening set piece in this film is a perfect example. I’m just not a fan of his character any more.

I’ll tell you who I did like though, Javier Bardem. The ghostly and murderous Captain Salazar was a great character. Even through the heavy CGI on his character, you can see Bardem was having a ball playing the pirate hunter. His energy made Salazar a villain worth watching.

Rounding out the main cast, two of my favourites from all the Pirates movies, Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally as Hector Barbossa and Joshamee Gibbs. These guys are textbook Pirates, Johnny Depp should learn from these two. A little bit of over-acting and some gusto in the ‘Arghs’ is what a pirate should be. They always turn up in these films and Dead Men Tell No Tales is no exception.

The script was average at best, constantly bringing up new rules and exceptions to those rules within legends that were established in the previous film and even contradicting plot points within the film itself. Directing wise, the action was great, better than the other films, and the actors that probably needed some guidance, Thwaites and Scodelario benefited from Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg work.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an average film, visually great, but the story is where it falls and that’s unfortunate. I wanted to like this film after actually enjoying On Stranger Tides but it slots in at around 3rd or 4th spot on the Pirates franchise ranking – I havn’t decided yet. This film could have worked without Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.

2.5 Stars

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Men Tell No Tales is in cinemas now.