Guest Review – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales (2017)

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Directed By: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Written By: Jeff Nathanson
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 minutes

When I saw the first trailer for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I nearly sprained my eyeballs from rolling them so hard. While the first movie was enjoyable and still holds up as a fun adventure flick fourteen years later, the series has overstayed its welcome. The second and third were decent, but the fourth made it clear that these movies are pretty much just vehicles for Johnny Depp to ham it up as Jack Sparrow over and over, which I have issues with for a couple reasons. First is the domestic abuse allegations that came to light last year, which completely destroyed his likability for me-and for anyone who comments that Amber Heard is lying or it’s her fault: SAVE IT. While the allegations have changed how I feel about Depp, they’re not what this review is about, but if you insist on going there, I will fight you. Personal feelings aside, Depp’s acting hasn’t impressed me in a long time. His performances have become very one-note, not helped by playing the same character since 2003, which Disney has used as the primary marketing ploy for this movie. Because of this, I worried that they were compensating for an overall weak movie by putting most of the focus on its most popular character. With the fourth movie being so forgettable, my hopes weren’t high for this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales introduces us to Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of original trilogy hero Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Henry has been spending most of his life searching for the mythical Trident of Poseidon, which could be the key to rescuing his father from The Flying Dutchman’s curse. Hoping his father’s old friend Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) can help him, Henry teams up with the pirate, along with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a scientist trying to navigate a mysterious map her father left her with when he abandoned her at birth. Along their journey, the three are pursued by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghostly crew, who want to prevent Jack from using the Trident to escape their revenge.

This movie’s main problem is that it tries to fit too many individual backstories into two and a half hours, leading to fan-fiction levels of bad, clunky exposition. We have Jack’s history with Captain Salazar, Henry’s lifelong mission to rescue his father, Carina’s mysterious parentage and struggles as a female scientist in the mid-to-late 1700’s, and even previous Pirates villain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) gets a forced backstory shoved into the last half hour. The magical item the characters are searching for is poorly explained; it’s just supposed to “break all curses,” which is incredibly vague. If this had been the start of a new trilogy, the pacing could have been better, but because this is (supposedly) the last film, everything is crammed into one movie, and it’s a mess.

That said, the writing isn’t completely hopeless. There is a surprising amount of genuinely funny dialogue, especially among Jack’s crew. I also enjoy that the main female character’s defining characteristic is her scientific prowess and having to deal with men not taking her knowledge seriously. It’s refreshing having a leading lady who’s more than just the romantic interest; her intellectual expertise is instrumental in reaching their goal.

Regarding the acting, I have mixed feelings. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow was…fine. He plays the character the same way he always has, so while he doesn’t bring anything new to the role, at least he’s consistent. The two young leads, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario, are decent but not especially memorable, although Kaya shows a little more promise than Brenton. Geoffey Rush is always fun to watch and gives an enjoyable performance here, brief as it is. My favorite, though, is Javier Bardem, who is so good at making anything sound menacing in that deep, gravelly voice. Hearing that he was playing the villain made me a little more excited about seeing this movie, and he did not disappoint.

There are other positive aspects of this film as well. Like its predecessors, Dead Men Tell no Tales is a visually interesting movie. The action is good and the fight choreography is fun, although it gets buried in some of the larger crowd scenes. The character design and CGI for Captain Salazar and his crew is truly spooky; even his ship looks scary. The costumes, hair, and makeup are beautifully detailed. The soundtrack is as epic as ever; although Hans Zimmer isn’t the main composer for this film (his protégé Geoff Zanelli is), his famous theme is prominent throughout the movie, and I will never get tired of hearing it.

Overall, this is a decent adventure movie. The storytelling is poor and some of the acting is underwhelming, but some of the dialogue is fun, and it’s pretty to look at. Good job, Disney. You made a better Pirates movie than the last one (although that bar wasn’t set very high). Now, please, for the love of God, stop.

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Have you seen ‘Pirates 5’? Well, what did you think? 

Top 5 lackluster endings in big Hollywood movies

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A couple of months ago I named my top 5 Spectacle Endings, well now I shift my focus on 5 movie endings that I thought lacked spectacle and excitement. As I mentioned on my last article, I love big Hollywood event/tentpole films. Yes I know most of them aren’t what you called “great” cinema but hey that’s the goal of these films. They weren’t made to win Oscars or get approval from critics. They were made to entertain the masses and of course earn lots of cash. So when I pay to go see these movies that cost over $100 mil or more, I expect to be entertained and be transported to another world. I also expect to see a huge spectacle to close the feature, yet some didn’t quite accomplish that.

This list contain films I think the studio or filmmakers should’ve done a better job in giving us the big spectacle that we expect to see. Here they are in no particular order:

SPOILER ALERT!
Obviously since we’re talking about movie finales, spoilers should be expected

Clear and Present Danger

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This is probably my second favorite film of the Jack Ryan series and it was my most-anticipated film back in the summer of 1994. I’d just finished reading the book at the time and was super excited to see the film version. Despite some changes that were made from the book, I still thought it’s a solid action thriller. Unfortunately it also has one of the worst-staged action sequences ever filmed.

The film ends with what was supposed to be a big and elaborate action sequence where Ryan, Clark and Chavez (fans of the books knows that this trio shared many adventures together), rescued the soldiers who were being captive by the drug cartel. The shootout sequence was poorly-staged and boring, while I expected to see some really intense and exciting sequence. I couldn’t find the clip online but I assume most people have seen the film and know what I’m talking about. A few years later, the film’s director (Phillip Noyce) admitted that he should’ve done a better job of shooting that scene. He actually wanted it be bigger and more elaborate than the ambush scene in the middle of the film when Ryan and the FBI agents were ambushed by the drug cartel thugs.

The Man with the Golden Gun

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Of course when we talk about action films, a James Bond film must be in the conversation. Roger Moore’s second outing as 007 was considered one of the worst in the franchise, in fact after this film’s poor performance at the box office, United Artists was thinking of dropping the Bond franchise. Thankfully the next one made lots of cash and we still get see Bond on the big screen today. Anyway back to this Bond flick, it hardly have any big action scenes in it. Besides the big car chase in the middle of the film, it didn’t really have any big shootouts or spectacle you’d expect to see in a Bond film. Now I thought the concept of the story was pretty great, Bond goes up against another super assassin, so you’d think we get to see big hand-to-hand combat and shootouts. Well for the film’s climactic battle, we got this scene below:

Pretty weak right?

The Bourne Identity

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I was hesitant to include this one on my list because I thought the sequence was very well-shot but I wanted it to be bigger and see more of it. This scene where Bourne took out some henchmen ended too quick and just felt kind of rushed:

Originally the film was supposed to have a big spectacle the climactic action scene, you can read about it on this post on alternate endings.

Mission: Impossible 3

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My least favorite Mission: Impossible film and it contained probably one of the most boring hand-to-hand combat sequence I’ve ever seen. See the below clip:

The first two films closed out with some crazy action sequences and I expected to see the same for this one. Unfortunately, JJ Abrams decided to give a typical fight scene and a weak shootout. Don’t get me started on a later scene when Ethan’s wife, who’s a nurse with no weapons training whatsoever but somehow was able to take down the main villain, who’s a trained IMF agent. Lame, lame!

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

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This 4th Pirates of the Caribean movie was just boring to sit through but I decided to watch the whole film and hoping that it would least have some kind of big spectacle action scene for the ending. Sadly it did not and I wish I could have 2 and half hours of my life back. I thought the scene was unimaginative and well boring, I still couldn’t understand how the film made over a billion dollars at the box office. See the scene below.


Honorable mentions:

World War Z

Since this is a recent film, I assume many people already know about its troubled production and that the entire third act of the film had to be re-shoot. According to some reports and director Marc Forster, the top executives at Paramount felt the original ending was too brutal and didn’t have any closure, so they wanted a lighter ending and have Pitt’s character get reunited with his family. Well I called BS on that, I think the executives realized had they went with that big battle ending, the film would’ve received an R rating and of course it wouldn’t have earn as much as it did at the box office. In an interview with Forster, which you can read here, he felt the original ending was too big and that the audience can’t really relate to Pitt’s character. He prefer the more suspenseful but quiet ending.

Now he could be telling the truth or he’s just basically saying that because the film was a big hit. I mean they spent weeks and millions of dollars on that sequence and If I was the director, I’d be pissed that they didn’t want to use it or even show it to the public. I wonder what he’d say had the film was a box office dud. Personally I didn’t care for that more quiet and suspenseful ending, since the film was set up as action/adventure. I wanted to see a big spectacle battle to close out the film. Hopefully Paramount will release another cut of the film with its original ending and let us the paying audiences decides which version is better.

Django Unchained

Again this is a recent film so I assume most have seen it, so I won’t go deep into the climatic ending. I just felt it was more anti-climatic, I wish Tarantino had closed out the film with a big shootout that he showed earlier in the film. Here’s the clip:

The World Is Not Enough

Yes it’s one of the worst Bond films but there were some cool action sequences in the film, I really enjoyed the opening boat chase and the helicopters attack at the caviar factory. For the film’s finale, I thought we would see some really big and elaborate action sequence, but what we got was a lame shoot-out inside a submarine. That entire sequence was pretty brutal to sit through, I kept thinking to myself, who approved this scene when it’s written? I can only assume it sounded much more exciting in concept but somehow the execution was sloppy and not very creative. I remember I kept yawning when I saw it in theater and wish the film would end already, the scene felt like it went on forever. Sorry I couldn’t find it online but I think most people know what I’m talking about.


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So what do you think folks, do you agree with my choices? Feel free to share your picks for the lackluster ending in big movies.