Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – #review

This series of films have been getting steadily worse. Since 2003 we have been following the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow despite how ridiculous and abysmal the stories became. Now, we have the fifth, and possibly last, film in the franchise. Does this reignite the excitement from the first film or do we send it down to Davey Jones locker with the other films in this franchise? Let’s dive in and take a look at “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” in this box office review…

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The magic of this franchise is officially gone. There’s a level of charm that still exists but the magic is no more. As a fan of the characters I was let down. The movie begins with the most ridiculous bank robbery and only continues to thread pieces of a story together that never really work. It felt like there was so much more written for this film than what was put on screen. Or there was an idea for more that they couldn’t figure out how to convey so they didn’t. And as such, we are left with a story that was as pieced together as some of the dead shipmates hunting pirates.

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This film didn’t really venture into uncharted waters either. It followed similar plot points from the previous movies. For example, the East India Trading Company was trying to control the sea by owning the heart of Davey Jones in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead’s Man Chest.” We have this same story but with the English government. However, this whole subplot is pointless. Its characters and story should have been left out. When Captain Jack escapes the guillotine on the island, that’s where those characters should’ve been left. Also, the cameo by Paul McCartney was so oddly placed it didn’t even make sense. It was one more thing that could’ve been left out and we would’ve been all the better.

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The entire movie isn’t even really about Captain Jack Sparrow. Up to this point, the franchise is about his misadventures and the folks who are, for one reason or another, forced to go along with him. The writers decided to tie up all the loose ends and give us a finale for the main characters. Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner finally get to be together. Their son, as an adult, finds true love and unites his family. Captain Barbosa finally gets to die with honor and prove he’s more than just a pirate, which has always been his struggle. Captain Jack finally gets the Black Pearl and to be Captain. The entire movie is a resolution for the previous 4 films. The stories are so paint by numbers it felt lazy. Barbosa had the one inspired story but that was not enough to save this film.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is in theaters now! Skip this movie on the big screen. As the title suggests, there’s no tale to be told in this movie. If you’re a fan of the franchise, like me, you’ll most likely be disappointed by how little care was put into this movie. It’s not the worst of the franchise but it certainly isn’t as good as the first two films. There’s plenty of other good films in theaters right now that I’ve reviewed. Go back and read those reviews and then decide which one you’ll see instead of this.

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Alien: Covenant – #review

We have the sixth solo installment in a science fiction franchise that blends both horror and space travel. While the last film in this series (released 2012) was met with split opinions, this movie dares to challenge the naysayers and hopefully flip their opinions into positive fandom. So, was the goal met? Will this be the success story that sways the opinions into positive critiques? Let’s dive in and take a look at “Alien: Covenant” in this box office review…

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Ridley Scott returns as director for this film. While many did not like “Prometheus” I found it enjoyable. I was happy to see his return as this marks his 3rd directors title for the franchise he launched back in 1979. To his credit, I’ve enjoyed all 3 of his “Alien” films. He balances character backstory and personality with tension and drama well in this franchise. We get enough information about who the characters are so when they start being hunted and killed by the aliens it is impacting, emotionally speaking. Is every character important? Of course not. However, I didn’t really feel like any character was an ancillary character. It felt like each character served a purpose, even if that purpose was short lived. Their purpose might be as simple as inhaling alien dust to move the plot forward. It worked and therein lies their value.

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After watching this movie I’m convinced that Michael Fassbender could play any sociopath or serial killer in any film, ever, going forward. There’s an entire scene where he plays two robots and they’re discussing purpose and what their directives are as A.I. for the humans. The two robots names are “David” and “Walter.” David, if you saw Prometheus, is the original A.I. created to be more human-like than robotic. Walter, the most recent model, was created to be the ideal support for human space exploration, etc. While I didn’t feel like I got much from Walter, I got everything from David. He is calculating and methodical. His demeanor is so calm it is chilling in this movie. I can’t celebrate this performance enough or the talent that Fassbender gives us in this role.

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The overall film is tonally dark. It took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the film because the world this takes place in does not have much sun light and frequently has rain storms. The xenomorphs are also jet black in this movie which was awesome when paired against the dark world this story inhabits. It looked like shadows running around killing and being killed more than aliens. It was this mysterious shadow killer look that really won me over. This wasn’t a film that was dark for the sake of being dark. It all plays together to create a dangerous and mysterious planet that is set on destroying/consuming all life.

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Alien: Covenant” is in theaters now! I definitely recommend people see this on the big screen if they’re into science fiction meets horror. If you’re a fan of this franchise I also recommend you see this. It’s not a perfect film but it’s definitely entertaining. Plus if you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll appreciate the nods to previous movies. I loved when the camera gave us the aliens point of view. The first time that happened was in David Finchers “Alien 3” circa 1992. There’s little moments like that in this film that we as fans get to enjoy. If you don’t like science fiction meets horror stay away from this film. If you do, finish reading this and then get over to the theater. It’s worth your money!

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The Circle #review

There are a few times of the year when a movie is released that leave me wondering if it will be a hit or a bust. January through March, August and September are the months that can either surprise me or provide a subpar movie experience I’ve come to expect. These are the months that make movie reviewing feel like actual work. So, did “The Circle” fall into the category of surprise or disappointment? Let’s dive in and take a look in this review…

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The director, James Ponsoldt, doesn’t have a resume that is impressive enough to make me comfortable with a cast of this caliber. This is actually the second film of his I’ve reviewed. The first review being “The End of the Tour” back in 2015. This review is for a film considerably different in that this is a fictional story based on the idea of an information company akin to “Google” slowly growing in power and influence. The other is about a writer and his life. It’s clear that the stories are different however they are similar in that both films are character based stories. Neither film is action oriented. Perhaps it was the size of the cast that was the stumbling block for James to get real emotions conveyed on screen in this movie. Clearly, we cannot blame the actors because they are talented. Some are established, some up and coming, but all of them are talented. So I place the flat, almost two dimensional, delivery of each character squarely on Ponsoldt’s shoulders. We as the audience should have enjoyed intense, stressful, thought provoking characters and dialogue. Instead, we are left staring at the big screen in wonder at how so much talent can act with such mediocrity.

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The overall movie was not well constructed either. The screenplay was adapted from a book and often much is left out in transition from page to screen. I think everyone who has read a book and then watched the movie thought to themselves, or perhaps said to a neighbor or friend, “The book is better and has so much more to the story.” This movie felt like they took only the important chapters and then shot the film. The story didn’t really flow and it felt choppy. We meet characters but then certain ones change without real explanation (Karen Gillan), or they don’t have much to do in the film but are integral to the overall plot (John Boyega). It’s very disjointed and that’s unfortunate. I’m sure the book is great. I haven’t read it but they decided to make a movie from it so something has to be in the pages that made this story worthwhile. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t capture whatever the magic of the book is at all. In fact, the ending is so abrupt the only character to mirror the emotion of the film at any actual point is “Stenton” played by Patton Oswalt. He has one last line in the film right at the end, then walks off screen. That about sums up this film. Just one thing after another happening with no rhythm or flow.

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The Circle” in theaters now! I don’t recommend people see this film on the big screen. If you wish to watch it in the comfort of your own home, go for it. I was disappointed in this film because the talent was there to make this something truly worthwhile and it didn’t deliver. It was probably my most disappointing film to watch in 2017 so far. I’m even bummed out while writing this review. I really wanted to enjoy this film and instead I was bored and let down. No bueno folks. No bueno at all.

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Hacksaw Ridge – Box Office Review

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Mel Gibson knows how to direct films. Say what you want about the man’s personal life or celebrity freak out sessions, he makes good movies. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on “Hacksaw Ridge” in this box office review…

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I was not prepared for what I got from this film. I walked into the theater thinking I was about to see a war movie. I wasn’t completely wrong but I was enough to the point the film surprised me. The character study piece of this film was superb. I couldn’t believe how in depth we look at a few characters while the supporting cast brilliantly plays off and emphasizes the challenges and struggles being presented to the main character, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). Hugo Weaving was powerful on screen as Desmond’s father. The anger, suffering and love he portrayed were all top notch. Teresa Palmer playing Dorothy Schutte, Dawson’s love interest and future wife, was a pure delight. Their onscreen chemistry was believable and charming. The budding love story they gave us was touching and dare I say, endearing. It’s a treat to see two actors on screen who can create that chemistry. Vince Vaughn, always a personal favorite, played a more hardened version of himself and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Sure, it’s Vince Vaugh, but I felt he was stretching his talent this film to be more and to give more and I appreciated that.

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Mel Gibson is officially known for violent films. Are they great films? Absolutely. However, his films are brutal in depiction. This film starts off with mild violence that two young brothers, close in age, will share as they fight each other. From there we see medium levels of violence as Dawson is beat in military basic training by his squad because they presume him a coward. Third act of the film is the war and the chaos of trying to conquer Hacksaw Ridge from the Japanese. The devastation present in this film is powerful but not as powerful as the struggle for Dawson to maintain his personal conviction and still be a contributor who eventually saves more soldiers than was initially expected. This in turn made him a celebrated hero who earned the Medal of Honor after he returned home from the war.

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Hacksaw Ridge” is in theaters now! If you like movies based on true stories or period pieces based in World War 2, this is definitely a movie for you. If you enjoy character study films this is also for you. If you want to see a film that will make you feel good about staying true to your principles in the face of adversity, go see this movie. It’s a great film on the big screen but if you prefer to wait for it to arrive on VOD or Redbox that’s ok too. I strongly believe this will be a contender for best picture this year at the Oscars. I thought it was that good.

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Birth of a Nation – Box Office Review

Slavery in American history is not an easy topic to tackle when making a movie. The tone, the mood, the characters, the story and dialogue all amount to what could be considered a herculean task to undertake. So what does Nate Parker decide to do for his directorial debut? He made “Birth of a Nation” and we’re now gonna dive in a take a look at my thoughts about this film…

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First, I’m always honest in my reviews so I’ll continue to be honest, I was not aware this was based on a true story going into the theater. I consider myself a bit of a history fan and that reveal was surprising which caught me off guard. So I was glad I wasn’t just watching a story about history but a story about actual history. That elevated my enjoyment of the film up a few notches.

The story revolves around “Nat Turner” (played by Nate Parker) who is a slave that was taught how to read the Bible and slowly becomes a preacher on the plantation he was sold to. Over time, word spreads to other plantations that the slaves on his particular plantation are more well behaved and his master is propositioned to take Nat on a plantation tour to help other slaves become more obedient and docile by his use of the scriptures in the Bible. Over time, and a very personal abuse, he realizes that subservient behavior is not the path he was destined for and he leads a resistance that ends in bloodshed and gun smoke.

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I loved this movie. Nate Parker captured so much emotion and, also as the director, got so much emotion out of the cast I was mesmerized. This film took me on an emotional journey that was not expected. Being unfamiliar with the actual story I wasn’t disappointed in certain creative liberties he and the writers took with this movie. I was completely entranced by every performance. I hated certain characters, was repulsed by others, saddened for some and felt incredible pride for a few. I was sickened. I was delighted. I was offended. I was inspired. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and I couldn’t help but let all the feelings rush through me.

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Now that I’ve gushed about all the wonderfulness this movie had, this is not a movie for the faint of heart. This movie is brutal and vicious in its portrayal of slave treatment. Nate Parker pulls zero punches when it comes the mistreatment of slaves and it will force you to examine your understanding of early, Pre to During Civil War America. One scene in particular, we see a slave who refuses to eat while chained up in a small wooden shed and the insane method of force feeding that takes place. You see it all. The audience is not spared the visual disturbances because Parker made the decision to give you realism that was necessary, in my opinion. My stomach turned and I’m sure yours will as well.

Birth of a Nation” is in theaters now! If you enjoy movies about America during the civil war times, or historical movies, this is a movie for you. If you want an oscar worthy film, this is also the film for you. I walked out of the theater talking about this film with the older black couple I sat next to in theater. We couldn’t help but continue discussing this film because it’s that good and that powerful. Be prepared to feel all the emotions and don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking with strangers walking out of the theater about your thoughts and feelings about this incredible film.

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Sully – Box Office Review

Clint Eastwood has made some great films in his career, both as an actor and director. In this particular case, we are taken on a journey through the life of a man who saved the lives of those on his plane while also endangering them? That’s right. This film looks at the story of flight 1549 and how a plane can be forced to land on the Hudson River, putting everyone at risk if a single miscalculation occurs. So let’s dive in and take a look at “Sully” in this box office review…

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This film doesn’t simply look at flight 1549 taking off and landing almost immediately after in the Hudson. This story is about a tenured pilots instinct, his abilities and his insight into safely, but curiously, landing in water instead of the nearest airport. The investigation, the personal stress, the friendships, the press coverage, the interviews, the late nights all play into this incredible look at a man who did what he knew best and overcame all the odds. By the end of the movie we realize that Sully was more prepared for the incident with the plane than he was the investigation that followed and all the media coverage. He’s taken out of his comfort zone but still maintains his cool in public and is determined to prove his actions were correct and the best option for the survival of his passengers.

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The dialogue in this film examines the human side of the event. We see real life consequences that would last beyond the survival of that landing. We see how one miscalculation could end Sully’s career and cost him everything he’s worked for, including his home. The stress it puts on his marriage, his friendship with his co-pilot and his reputation which could jeopardize his ability to start his own company are all part of this movie. Tom Hanks does a fantastic job, as we’d expect, playing the man who is a hero but made to feel like a failure, briefly.sully_clip_onthehudson

Sully” is in theaters now. If you enjoy biopics this is the film for you. It’s heavy in dialogue and personal consequence. If you like court dramas this might also be a film for you because it plays out similar to a court drama as the investigation and hearings are held to see if Sully did in fact do the right thing. If you are a Tom Hanks fan you’ll also like this movie. If you enjoy these types of films I’d recommend a Redbox viewing or VOD. It’s a good movie and worth watching, however, I’m not sure a full ticket price of $12+ is worth it. Maybe matinee it for $5 but definitely check it out at some point.

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Morgan – Box Office Review

The box office is filled with sequels or reboots and I hear often how people want new concepts or stories on screen. Well, when these movies come out it’s exciting because we’ll be treated to something that we can’t precisely figure out from the trailers. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts of “Morgan” in this box office review…

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I was excited about this film from the time I saw the first trailer. I sat in the theater after the trailer ended and could only look forward to something that felt original, terrifying and well acted. The cast in this film was an immediate selling point and I’d recommend following the link to the IMDB page at the end of this review to see all the talented actors. Unfortunately, this film failed to live up to my expectations and according to Rotten Tomatoes I’m not alone in my feelings. This film has a audience score of 35% and the Tomatometer is Rotten 40%. This film was a disappointment.

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The short-comings weren’t actor based and they weren’t special effects based. The actors I enjoyed and the look of the film and the special effects all were entertaining and drew me in. The story fell short, as well as fell apart, in the 3rd act. There’s a scene early on where Morgan is in the forest and sees a deer that is dying because it was impaled by a tree branch. She kills the deer. This is only important because near the end of the movie the character that is chasing her, trying to kill her, also becomes impaled on a tree branch.  Unlike the deer however Morgan doesn’t kill the lady chasing her. So I guess that deer scene wasn’t important because if it was, the tension building towards that ladies death would’ve been completed with her death by Morgans hands. Follow the story telling logic, deer is impaled Morgan kills dear. Lady chasing Morgan trying to kill her is impaled, we as the audience just saw Morgan kill the deer so our tension builds because Morgan should be killing the lady and a surprise character will be responsible for killing Morgan or letting her escape. Either way, the lady chasing Morgan should die because that’s what the deer scene was foreshadowing!

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There’s more to the ending that I won’t spoil because while I hated the third act of this film I’m sure some people might enjoy it and I don’t want to take away the shock value that the film tried to create at the very end. The very end, by the way, also frustrated me. There is almost zero acknowledgement in this film that the ending would be possible. After the final scene I did say out loud in the theater, “Oh come on!” because it was so ridiculous. I get surprise endings where we as the audience are shocked or stunned but there’s usually some ground work laid in the film prior to that “WHOA!” moment at the end which makes that scene more impactful and believable. The only build up I recall is one scene where Morgan is looking at the top of her hands and then the palms of her hands but that’s not enough to build an ending off of. If you look down for popcorn or yawn (which is possible in the third act) you’ll miss it and then the ending makes even less sense.

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Morgan” is in theaters now. If you like science fiction horror than the first two acts you’ll enjoy and whether or not the third act is enjoyable will entirely be up to you. If you enjoyed the film comment below and please explain why. I’d love to read why someone enjoyed this movie as a complete film. Maybe you’ll change my mind and I’ll go back and revisit it. Maybe you won’t. Either way let me know.

Bad Moms – Box Office Review

When the trailer begins playing there are times we instantly know what we’re getting from a film and there are times we do not. In this particular case, I knew exactly what I was getting from the trailer and I was glad to walk into the theater, turn my brain off for a bit and just be able to laugh. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts of “Bad Moms” in this box office review…

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The first surprise, almost immediate, was that the main character Amy played by Mila Kunis was not a single mother. She was married to a good for nothing man who offered little to the relationship or the family. From the previews I assumed she was a single mother and in fact she may as well have been because the husband offered zero support and only heightened her stress/frustrations. He’s caught jerking off to porn but it turns out that it’s not porn it’s actually a video chat with a girl across the country. And so, the story begins.

The overall story was, I felt, relatable because the characters express many frustrations, concerns, insecurities and emotions I have heard in real life from mothers. Now, being that I am clearly not a woman I can’t speak on the level of relatability but I feel that at least one of the women in this film will speak to mothers on a personal level, if even briefly. The stress for work, self, the home, the kids, the family and more is all discussed and made humorous as well as touching. You don’t dig much further than the surface for these characters but as I stated previously in this review, we knew that from the trailers.

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The story wastes no time which was nice. In fact, I believe the story goes from a crawl to a sprint within the first act. The two mothers who are more reserved and professional turn into party-time, booze infused, dirty talking, morally questionable women in no time. It’s a race to claim freedom and become something from a personal disaster or a sheltered existence. These characters wasted no time and go so far as to have a humorous adventure at the grocery story while shopping for their family, or at least that’s the reason they went to that store to begin with. While this film deals with a few characters it’s “Amy” who drives the narrative and the coming of age tale is fulfilled. What starts off as a comedic look at the life of a woman who is trying to do it all evolves into the story of a woman who does what she can but in that she does all she can for her kids, her work and her personal life.

“Bad Moms” is in theaters now. If you want a fun comedic film that won’t tax your brain, go see this film. It’s funny, at times emotional, and possibly relatable for some women who are single mothers or mothers in a relationship that’s more of a relationshit. If you don’t like crude humor I’d stay away from this film but if your sense of humor knows little boundaries you’ll probably appreciate the comedy and you’ll probably never look at a hoodie the same way ever again. It’s almost hoodie season too which is a shame for those of us who enjoyed and laughed way too had during that scene.

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