Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Review

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The song of Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in order to save his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman and bring him back to life. To do this, they must find the famous Trident of Poseidon before the evil Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), whom has a grudge against Jack, does. Along for the ride is Carina (Kaya Scodelario) as a young woman who also wants to find the trident based on a map left behind by her father, and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

The latest entry in the Pirates franchise brings us on another adventure with Jack Sparrow, along with some newcomers. Like the last film, this one isn’t particularly necessary, but in a sense it does have more purpose than the last film. What this does is actually bring the series full circle with how our new characters connect to others. But there is a twist towards the end that feels completely out of nowhere and feel like an inconsistency in the series. In all honesty, the twist doesn’t really work, though I can understand its purpose. That aside, this entry does have everything you would expect from a Pirates film. Great set design, solid visuals and cinematography, fun action sequences, and of course some good laughs from ol’ Jack himself. But along with that we have an overstuffed script with too much going on and more characters than we actually need. And while we get some good humor from Jack Sparrow as per usual, it feels like he’s lost the spirit and adventurous side we’ve seen of him. Instead he’s just a regular perverted drunk, which he is, but that’s all he is in this one more or less. Depp still turns in a fine performance regardless as Sparrow, and the same goes for Rush as Barbossa. Although we are given a bit more depth into Barbossa’s character and Rush does a great job of showing this side of his character we haven’t seen before. Bardem is fine as Salazar, even if the character himself isn’t particularly as memorable or engaging as Barbossa in the first film or Davy Jones in 2 and 3. As far as the newcomers, the pair are a welcoming addition and do well with their respective roles. Their chemistry is decent, but the relationship aspect feels a bit too forced and rushed. Finally we have the return of our two other characters from the original trilogy. Orlando Bloom returns as Will Turner in a smaller role and is serves his minimal time well. Keira Knightley on the other hand, while nice to see, returns in a scene that feels so much like an after thought. She’s in the movie a whole 3 minutes and doesn’t receive any dialogue. This is merely a cameo, whereas Bloom is more of a “special appearance.”

The latest entry in the Pirates franchise definitely isn’t necessary, but nonetheless it’s a much better and more worthy entry than the last film. This one essentially brings the franchise full circle and works as a reboot. It still has the fun entertainment and laughs with its action, and the newcomers serve as worthy additions. Despite the bloated script, and some questionable choices in the script, as well as a forgettable villain, it’s still a ship worth sailing.

3.5/5

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Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) Review

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Two young elementary school misfits, George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are notorious for causing mayhem at their school and pulling pranks. Their mean principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) devises a plan to separate the two friends in different classes (this means the end of the world to the two friends). In an attempt to thwart his plans, George hypnotizes Mr. Krupp with a special ring. They decide to have some fun and make him think he’s Captain Underpants (the superhero in the comics they write). Unfortunately, Krupp takes this too seriously and begins to seek out crime.

Based on the children’s book series (which I read back in elementary school and loved), a film adaptation has finally been made. And all I have to say is that my elementary school self would have been 100% pleased. As an adult I was pleased as well with how well they handled and translated the books. But also as an adult, I realized this movie is not for me or other adults. Unlike Disney/Pixar/Fox/Dreamworks, etc. family films that are made for family and have humor even adults can enjoy, this is primarily for children with child’s humor. There are so many child jokes here. The villain in this film is Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), and that in itself is enough to have children rolling with laughter each time it’s said, and is a representation of the humor of this film. Again, all of this does capture the humor and silliness of the books, but this is for children. Sure I chuckled at a couple of moments, but there just isn’t much here for adults to engage in. The humor aside, there is a lot of heart here in how it depicts George and Harold’s relationship and what it means to be a child and enjoy the silliness of things at that age while you can. The voice talents in the cast are very well-done and capture the characters perfectly, and the animation in it is great to look at. With all of these DC/Marvel films being released that may be too intense or adult for younger viewers, here we have a superhero film that is perfect for those too young for the the blockbuster ones. It has the humor, the story, fun characters, and more.

Captain Underpants may not be a movie for adults (this would have been nice), but it is the perfect movie for children, really captures the source material, and brings a lot of heart to its story. Essentially it succeeds in what it is trying to do 100%.

3.5/5

The Mummy (2017) Review

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An ancient evil is unleashed after her tomb is recovered from its burial site. As she slowly regains her human form after feeding on men, her mission is to find suitable man to sacrifice and make him not only her mate but a powerful god. In order to achieve this she will stop at nothing and destroy anything and anyone in her way.

The first entry into the planned Dark Universe series stars Tom Cruise in probably his worst performance to date. It also stands as one of his worst films. With the 1999 version of The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser, we got an action-packed and fun adventure story with some creepy horror moments (how can you forget those bugs that crawl under your skin and into your brain??). With this film we get a dumbed down Marvel version of that. The plot is decent and acts as a newer take on the mummy story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the general direction of connecting these monsters in this universe. At the epicenter of that would be Russell Crowe’s character playing Dr. Henry Jekyl with his alter ego Mr. Hyde. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the film itself ends up really dumbed down. First of all we are given an extremely incompetent “hero” in Tom Cruise’s character Nick. Of course Tom Cruise gets a few action moments here there, but mostly it consists of him running. But more often than not he’s a bumbling idiot. His love interest Jenny (Annabelle Wallis giving a pretty decent performance) is shown as a better and stronger hero and character. Multiple times she saves his character and uses her knowledge to get them out of situations. For love interests,  their relationship is poorly written and the two-actors have zero chemistry. In all honesty, I don’t like Tom Cruise and don’t think he’s the best actor to begin with. But his performance his is unbearable, he’s a good action performer, but he doesn’t get to give us that. The little action sequences we get are well done, but super short. The plane crash sequence in the film you basically see in the whole trailer. It’s ultimately the scene where Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) wreaks havoc on London to seek out Nick (also shown quite a bit in the trailer) is more engaging action scene. But really, most of the action in the film is spoiled in the trailer. They’re still well-done however and are engaging enough. The horror is very minimal and forgettable. The humor in this film completely ruins the tone of the movie. All of it is so slapstick and often unnecessary. For example, a scene where Ahmanet has Nick pinned down, feeling him up and ready to stab him to completely her ritual, he begins to giggle and tell her to stop because it’s tickling (WTF??). But any braindead humor you see in Marvel is present here. It’s actually really depressing how much the people behind this copied a lot of Marvel tropes. I will say that the only decent humor we get is from Jake Johnson, but that’s because he was the comic relief character (and this was short-lived). Along with this, we don’t even get enough of the titular character. We have brief scenes of her regaining her human form and then her going Enchantress from Suicide Squad in the climax. Nothing about her is particularly scary or threatening unlike the mummy in the 1999 film, and her presence feels almost forgotten much of the time. As a result of this it just makes it comes off as a Tom Cruise vehicle and not enough about the mummy/Ahmanet. Finally, they couldn’t have picked a more cliched ending for the movie. I was so hoping for the dark ending it seemed to go for. Unfortunately it didn’t. If any strengths exist in this film they’re the scenes with Russell Crowe (easily the best performance in the movie) setting up the Dark Universe and the “world of gods and monsters”, the few action sequences we have, the comical Jake Johnson, and the pretty solid performance by Sofia Boutella (but it’s unfortunate she doesn’t get a whole lot to do or time to shine).

There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be certain fans of the movie. But if you’re going in expecting a similar movie to the 1999 film with some good Tom Cruise action and some creepy horror moments, you won’t find that here. Instead you get a film that copies Marvel films in many aspects in order to try attract audiences to this new world. Had they not chosen to go this route and given us more horror, action, more of the mummy, and further exploring this universe with Crowe’s character, this could have been much better.

2/5

It Comes At Night (2017) Review

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A man tries to keep his family safe from the horrors that now plague the world they live in. He keeps a strict set of rules to abide by in order to achieve this, but one night someone breaks into their house begging for help. This encounter brings forth a series of events that shows the dark side of humanity.

First and foremost, I must warn you that this is not the movie A24 is marketing as. There’s no monster or villain lurking in the woods that they’re trying to keep out, or anything you may suspect it of being. Instead this movie is a “human horror” film. We don’t have a big evil villain. Instead it shows the villainy of humanity. When we first meet Paul (Joel Edgerton), along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), they’ve just lost a love one to the deadly virus that is corrupting the world. They live in a boarded up house and trust no one who may come around. When the stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott) arrives he begs them to take in him, his wife Kim (Riley Keough), and young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) and they oblige. As the two families reside together, things seem civil and fine, but paranoia and fear soon sets in unleashing the monster that lives inside ourselves. This movie is so extremely well-written to make these characters come off as real, and it succeeds at it, the actors add to this as well. Being a virus film, the virus is merely a plot device, and while it’s not a pleasant sight, it refrains from being unnecessarily gory and becoming a body horror film. In true form we have these set of characters that are so extremely likable and relatable and you care for them all. Granted I didn’t much care for the teenage son because he was a little too weird, but that’s just me. But these characters are genuinely good people, and when fear and paranoia sets in, these darker sides of themselves come out. And the way Trey Edward Shults captures this so brilliantly. His previous film Krisha (which I will now put at the top of my watchlist), is said to also brilliantly capture and portray real people. If those are characters are anything like the ones in this film, I’m sure it’s great. But as mentioned, this is a human horror film, humans are the monsters of this movie, and the true villain of this film are fear and paranoia that creates them. I will say that I wish the paranoia and fear was a bit more intensified prior to the film’s climax, but it’s not a huge deal breaker. As for the climax, it goes into really dark and bleak territory. And it’s so hard to hate these characters for their actions because of the fact that you understand them and their motives. In turn it really makes you question humanity and what can set you over. All of this mentioned is where the real horror is at. There are sequences (and by sequences I mean an abundance of nightmares that the teen son has) that are used mostly for jump scares but that’s about it in terms of “gotcha” horror. This is purely psychological horror at its finest.  As mentioned, the cast is great. Joel Edgerton can’t ever seem to do wrong. He plays Paul so well in how much he cares for his family, but also how much the fear and paranoia affects him, and how he’s balancing this line of what’s right and wrong and how that affects him. Christopher Abbott also turns in a strong performance as the father of the other family. Like Edgerton we see how protective and how much he cares about his family and will do anything to protect them. I wish Carmen Ejogo had a bit more to do than she had. She still does a fun job though. Riley Keough would have fallen the same fate if it wasn’t for one scene in the climax where she just sells her character in that moment. While there is much to love with this movie, it’s not without its issues. There are some plot holes/inconsistencies that are present, but they’re not gaping. We do get a decent feel of the development between the two families, but they could have done more, and while the fear and paranoia is present, these two presences could have been amped and built up more, especially right before the climax.

It Comes At Night won’t win over modern audiences who love in your face horror (though sadly they are treated to that with the dream sequences), or open-ended horror. But for those who REALLY appreciate horror, you will appreciate or love what Shults did with this movie and the statement he was trying to make, as well as the kind of horror he is bringing us that we don’t see a whole lot of. Add on the solid performances by the cast and you do have one of the best horror movies you’ll see this year.

4/5

Rough Night (2017) Review

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A group of woman reunite for Jess’ (Scarlett Johansson) bachelorette party. The night starts out fun and wild but quickly take a turn for the worst. After ordering a stripper, the girls accidentally kill him after a lap dance goes wrong. Now they must try and cover up this disaster, but it only seems to get worse.

Following the footsteps of Bridesmaids, the raunchy female comedy gives another entry in the sub genre. Fortunately, it’s a pretty welcoming entry. The plot may essentially be taken from the dark comedy Very Bad Things, but this one is much more light-hearted and not as mean-spirited. The film features many laughs, although often times the jokes become a bit too repetitive, but they still essentially work for the most part. Towards the end there becomes a conflict between the girls. Especially between Jess and her old best friend Alice (played by Jillian Bell). It’s a little sappy, but the conflict at hand is extremely relatable when it comes to friendships post-college and entering adulthood. The laughs are effective, even if the decisions of the characters (some of the characters portrayed as actually intelligent women) make some of the dumbest decisions. But I suppose making smart decisions wouldn’t give us much of a movie. The women play off each other really well and have great chemistry. Apart from Johansson, Bell, and Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer don’t really get much focus as characters. We get snippets of their personal stories, but we never come back to them. Each actress does a fine job with their roles. Bell and McKinnon of course playing the comedy like pros. McKinnon’s character as the crazy Australian friend of Jess, and Bell as the sex-deprived party animal (who is also an elementary school teacher). It is also really refreshing to see Scarlett Johansson do something really laid back and fun for the first time in a while. And you can really tell she’s enjoying it. Though there is one moment where you really can’t help but see her Black Widow character poking through. She plays a workaholic politician focusing on her upcoming election. She does share some decent chemistry with her fiancee Peter (a fairly comedic but kinda bland role from Paul W. Downs). Peter has his own subplot that quite frankly I feel could have been cut. But it was an interesting gender-swap situation where Jess is out partying and Peter is the one having a wine-tasting bachelor party session with his very poise and classy male friends. In small cameo roles that I feel they should have made one final appearance at the end to be really justified are Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as the super horny couple next door. They take a fancy into Zoe Kravitz character mostly, but they spend much of the movie trying to seduce the girls. They’re random additions to the story, and weren’t particularly necessary, but it provided one particularly comical moment. Moore and Burrell, could possibly be having fun with their roles, but part of me can’t help but feel this was a paycheck film. Especially for Moore. However, the biggest flaw for me is that it goes on much longer than it needs to be. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes, and it easily could have been an 80-90 minute film. This could have saved it from many repetitive jokes, unnecessary plot lines, and being only in one location for the most part, it just doesn’t need to be 100 minutes long.

Rough Night isn’t a perfect film, there are plenty of flaws, but it’s a good choice comedy to go out and have fun with. The comedy works well, the cast does a great job and have solid chemistry, and in the end it has some good heart-felt moments to it.

3.5/5

47 Meters Down (2017) Review

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After being dumped by her boyfriend claiming she’s too “boring”, Lisa (Mandy Moore) invites her sister Kate (Claire Holt) along with her, hoping to prove to him that she can be fun. The two are then invited to go cage diving with some very large sharks. Upon descent, their cage drops to the ocean floor. Eventually the sisters find they’re not safe inside the cage as their oxygen runs low, and they aren’t safe outside because of the sharks. It’s a race against time as the sisters fight to survive.

After the success of The Shallows, 47 Meters Down was pulled from it’s straight to DVD and digital release (it was very close to its release date), and the new plan was to release it in theaters. I’m really happy about this move, because this is one shark movie that deserves to be seen in a theatrical setting. At the same time however, while the sharks are a huge threat, even more so, the ocean itself is a threat. The film is so well-done and suspenseful with how it’s directed and filmed. It also uses the setting to its advantage. The film succeeds at making us feel trapped with these characters in this small space, and we feel our breaths growing as short as theirs because of how much we’re holding it. This occurs as the intensity builds. The intensity in question all starts and can be felt right when we see the girls climbing into the cage. Most of the film is completely underwater and it brilliantly makes us feel like we are there. The way cinematography captures the surroundings and as well as what could be hiding in the dark waters is nerve-wracking and really makes you hold your breath. This is only worse when the shark scenes come about. The sharks are used the perfect amount without using the same tropes and tricks over and over. This only further causes you to be on edge, and it contains some extremely well-done jump scares. In terms of characters, they feel pretty genuine, smart, and relatable. Lisa is the more reserved character and the first to really panic, but she also has a solid character arc watching her having to get over her fears and panic in order to survive. Kate is the more adventurous and brave one trying to be there for her sister. But what’s interesting is how at certain points, their roles seem to flip and they equally need to help each other. Some of the actions they commit may not be the smartest from an outer perspective, but situation-wise, these decisions come off as necessary because of the dire circumstances. Mandy Moore does really well with her performance and really sells her character’s fear and gradual changes, but there are times it appears a little strained. Of the two though Claire Holt turns in the strongest as we see her balancing bravery and fear along with her strength and concern for Moore’s character. The pair however are very believable as sisters and have strong chemistry to really help you care for and root for them.

47 Meters Down is a hard-core heart-pounding thriller that really does have you gasping for breath. This is more than a shark film, it is a hardcore survival film where the stakes are off the charts. Thanks to brilliant direction and cinematography, you are trapped with these two characters and really feel the terror and tension rising.

4/5

A Cure For Wellness (2017) Review

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A young man is sent to a wellness institution in the Swiss Alps in order to retrieve a colleague. When he gets there he discovers that those who are admitted into the institution don’t want to leave. It isn’t long before he finds himself admitted and discovering the dark secrets of the building.

A Cure For Wellness is a movie that keeps your attention from beginning to end. And this is a huge deal because the movie is nearly two and a half hours long, so I was really worried I would get bored. Throughout the movie, some secrets are gradually revealed until it all leads to the final reveal. The story is really engaging but at the same time one of its biggest flaws is that it feels very bloated with so much going into it. It all fits, but the problem is they could have made it much more simple instead of trying to add all of these different ideas in the plot. The fact that it felt the need to add so many plot points and devices is what causes it to have such a long running time. And while even though I didn’t find it boring, it was a very unnecessary length. So much of it could have been taken out. A good chunk of the movie is our lead wandering around the facility and playing detective. This is an example of what could have been taken out, along with the fact that they could have simplified much of the backstory. I respect it for trying to play it smart and make all of the plot devices fit into the story, but in the end, a much more simple and straightforward story would have sufficed better. While the twist is fairly interesting, it is way too over-thought in how to make it work. It got to the point where I almost thought the deer that caused the accident for the lead to be admitted into the facility was part of the whole thing. I don’t want to trash it too much though because it does try to be different than, for example, Shutter Island. And at some point it seems like it’s going be exactly like that one. But to its credit it does what it can to be really different from movies of its type. It’s really weird, makes you think about what’s going on, what will happen next, and just what the hell you just watched. But plain and simple, it just tries to play it TOO smart for its own good. But for me personally, what I liked most was the amazing atmosphere and cinematography. It’s so beautifully filmed with amazing scenery, and just a gloomy and often chilling atmosphere. It’s by the same director of The Ring (Gore Verbinski), so it really captures the same gloom and dread feeling of that movie. The facility itself is also a great character in itself and the production design of it is as beautiful and haunting as the cinematography. In terms of acting, I really haven’t cared for Dane DeHaan, and he’s not any better here. He’s very bland and has this very unlikable demeanor about him, the character isn’t very likable either, and I feel that can go either way whether it’s DeHaan’s fault or the character. Jason Isaacs however turns in an excellent performance as the film’s villain. For a majority of the film he has the calm exterior, but you know inside there’s a monster waiting to show itself. So when that happens at the end, Isaacs lets it all out. Mia Goth stars as the mysterious character named Hannah whom is considered a “special case” by Isaacs’ character. Goth captures the mysterious Hannah in a way that leave us wanting to know who she is, while even being unsure of herself. Not only does she portray Hannah’s mysteriousness well, but she also captures how damaged Hannah is and how trapped she feels within the confines of the facility.

A Cure For Wellness is a beautifully filmed and directed movie with a fresh story, some good acting, but the script overdoes itself just for the sake of not trying to be simple, which would have worked better. It gets props for being thoroughly engaging for its lengthy (but unnecessary) runtime, but it definitely could have trimmed much of its content.

3.5/5