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

The one thing I will give this film is that unlike the previous one, and most of the ones before that, at least there is a followable story here or a sequence of events and scenes that make sense and connect to the previous scenes. The mystery for this movie series for me still remains, why are these movies so popular? Is it only because people believe that Johnny Depp is so good at playing a drunken Pirate? This part of Captain Jack Sparrow has given Depp by far the most money of his career but for me, the whole drunken Pirate bit got boring after the second installment in this franchise.

The story for this newest Pirates movie is about the same as the other ones. There are evil ghost Pirates trying to find and kill Sparrow. There are other criminal Pirates who are fighting each other on the ocean, there is always some kind of treasure everyone is looking for and in this movie, the treasure is something that will remove all curses in the world. This movie actually has dead ghost sharks that try and attack Sparrow and others. All of this involves some good special effects but for me nothing that is entertaining enough to recommend. This movie, like all of the others, will once again make a great deal of money and once again, I will find it a mystery that so many people like these movies.

This movie also stars Javier Bardem and Geoffrey Rush who are both very effective in their roles.

I recommend this movie only for fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but for everybody else, this film can be easily missed.

Movie Review: Baywatch

Just about everybody who has seen the trailers or even the TV show Baywatch from the 80’s would expect to see a bad or stupid movie even before it starts. For these people, you would not be disappointed. Aspiring screen writers like myself will probably have a different viewpoint of a movie this ridiculous and wonder how an idea and screenplay this bad could ever have been greenlighted in the first place, most especially considering the long odds of any screenplay being made into a movie. While watching this stupid film I was thinking about a conference room in Hollywood somewhere, probably two or more years ago when the final meeting for funding and planning this film happened. I think it probably went something like this:

Producer: We have selected you, based on similar previous work to direct Baywatch for us.
Director: Baywatch? You mean that bad TV show from the 80’s?
Producer: It was both stupid and bad, but also the most popular TV show of all time.
Director: It was?
Producer: Yes, it was.
Director: Your kidding.
Producer Number one money maker.
Director: Wow, I had no idea.
Producer: Name recognition. People remember this stupid show and all the women on the beach. Hasselhoff embarrassing himself every week. They will flock to this.
Director: Really?
Producer: Of course. There are plans for a Chips movie too, same reasons.
Director: Another bad TV show.
Producer: It doesn’t matter, its all about making money and name recognition. People remember that idiotic show and those 2 guys on bikes.
Director: If you say so. But for Baywatch, how can you make a two-hour movie about lifeguards running on a beach and saving some people who might drown?
Producer: Easy, you make them solve crimes!
Director: What?
Producer: Yes, they solve crimes, break up a drug ring, that will make it interesting and kill two hours!
Director: But they are not police officers. They are not allowed to solve crimes.
Producer: It doesn’t matter, it’s a stupid movie. Nobody cares about anything making sense and we have to kill two hours. We have about 45 minutes of material for the beach. That gets too boring very fast. We need a hook! And that is solving crimes and chasing after crooks with lifeguards!
Director: This whole idea is just too stupid.
Producer: It’s about money, not quality.
Director: No kidding.
Producer: Interested?
Director: Of course not, the entire idea is too stupid and ridiculous. Lifeguards
solving crimes? I have a reputation.
Producer: We will pay you double what we paid you last time.
Director: I’m in.
Producer: That was fast. See, its all about the money.
Director: One question.
Producer: What?
Director: Are you planning any cameos from the TV show?
Producer: Of course, Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff have already signed.
Director: Sounds like a hit.
Producer: Name recognition is what makes money. Just ask the Kardashians.
Director: One last question?
Producer: What?
Director: Do I have to use my real name on the credits?

Meetings like this are how bad and stupid movies are made. Most recently the movie Chips was released about a very bad TV show from the 70s and the movie was worse than the TV show. Chips grossed only 18 million so hopefully after this movie also bombs we will not see any new bad TV shows made into bad movies anytime in the near future. The reviews for Baywatch (Rottentomatoes 18%) and the box office are very bad so far, so we can all only hope that this is the last of the bad TV shows becoming bad movies, at least for a while.

This movie stars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron and one has to wonder of Efron will ever make a good movie in his entire career or suffer a career nosedive at any point after making so many bad films.

This film is very bad for many reasons. First of all, the TV show was ridiculous and the idea of creating a story about lifeguards solving crimes involving dirty politics and drug trafficking is absurd. What were they all thinking? If your going to make Baywatch into a movie the least any audience should expect is a little common sense. The actress Priyanka Chopra also stars in this movie as an evil drug crime boss. The entire storyline involving her character is also ridiculous. There is a scene in this movie where the lifeguards not only act as police officers in a morgue but also as forensic scientists, leading to a disgusting moment where 3 of them are hiding in the sliding containers for dead bodies and then some horrible liquid drops onto Efron’s face. Did the producers of this mess decide that something like this is funny or just disgusting or both?

It is very hard to understand or even justify the thinking at any point in this entire film because the decision making is so unbelievably stupid. All attempts at comedy also failed and nobody laughed in the theater I was in.

Run from this embarrassing mess of a movie and hope that the people involved never make a sequel.

Movie Review: Norman

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

The new movie Norman, starring Richard Gere reminded me of this quote from Henry David Thoreau almost as soon as the film started. Norman Oppenheimer, played by Gere, is what is called a fixer who lives in New York City. A fixer is a deal maker who collects friends and business relationships by asking, “What do you need”, “What can I do for you”. Richard Gere does a great job playing this character who is a dauntless, relentless and annoying person always trying to make a deal with someone. Norman tells lies to people he meets and is lied to in return. He is given phone numbers by the people he harasses on the street and these people almost never answer his call or return the messages he leaves. His entire life and career are in the hands of the people he thinks are his friends or who he has done business with in the past, but they are clearly not his friends. During this entire film, Oppenheimer learns over and over again what he already knows, that all of these people will only show him respect if he makes money for them, otherwise they could care less about Norman Oppenheimer.

This film is complicated by Norman’s relationship with of all people the prime minister of Isreal and Norman’s attempts to save a Jewish temple by trying to orchestrate a deal to have a benefactor donate 7 million dollars. All of this leads to a very involved conclusion that I found to be very well done but perhaps unnecessarily complex. The actor Hank Azaria plays another fixer in New York City who runs into Norman Oppenheimer and there was very well done scene where Norman sees his annoying self in this other lower level fixer. I also found it interesting to know that there are fixers like this in the world, living right at the edge of survival in quiet desperation.

I thought the story of this movie was very well told and the acting well done and I do recommend Norman.

Movie Review: The Lovers

The new movie “The Lovers” has all the messages of a relationship story that involves infidelity, complacency, the search for something better in the hopes of more excitement and the hope that the grass will be greener with someone else. Ultimately the message of most movies like this is “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.”

The wife in this story about a married couple who are both having affairs is played by Debra Winger, who has been making a comeback into movies lately. Her husband is played by the actor Tracy Letts who was outstanding in last years “Indignation”. There is nothing wrong with the acting in this movie, unfortunately, the problem with this film is that it is way too drawn out, too long and boring to make you interested enough in the relatable messages of the story.

The reviews for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes are very good and also claim that this film is mostly a comedy. There are some comedic overtones in this film but I found this story to be mostly a drama and not a comedy. I did relate to the boring jobs and the cubicles the married couple in this story had to endure day after day that contributed to their declining boring marriage and search for something more exciting. Far too many of us are trapped in lives that involve a small cubicle and constricted environment, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

For me, this film wasn’t compelling enough and the entire story was just too long and boring to recommend.

Movie Review: Alien Covenant

One could argue that the best space/alien movie franchise in movie history is clearly the Alien franchise. In my opinion, the best of all of these movies is 1986 Aliens, that was both written and directed by James Cameron, mainly because the level of tension almost never wanes during the entire 2 hours. This is one of my all-time favorite scenes from this great movie that shows the great level of intensity:

The first movie Alien that was released in 1979 introduced for the first time the concept of a lizard-like creature that is created by injecting an egg by a horrendous crab-like creature into the victim’s mouth and a short time later the Alien breaks through the victim’s chest. A short time after the alien emerges it is fully grown and capable of killing humans very easily. On top of this, the creature has acid for blood and a disjointed mandible that not only drools profusely but the alien can use as a projectile to kill its victims. All of these ideas for just about the scariest creature in movie history are great ones and the interest in this alien has not waned in 40 years since the first one jumped out of John Hurt’s chest.

I was impressed with this latest installment of the Alien franchise Alien Covenant because it introduced not only new species of these alien creatures but also showed new ways that the creature can be injected into the human host and this included in one scene, a nasal injection using some sort of an alien mist. The special effects for this film I thought were as good as they were for Prometheus that was the first Alien prequel, released in 2012. Michael Fassbender starred in Prometheus as an android and in this movie, he appears as the character Walter and also as David that he played in Prometheus in an unusual duel role. There is a trick ending involving these 2 characters that I will of course, not give away, but I saw it coming a mile away so I thought that this part of the story could have been done better. There are some other flaws in the movie including leaving only one astronaut on a spaceship with an open door and everybody else is out exploring a cave. This is not something that would ever happen in real life or make any sense.

This film is once again directed by Ridley Scott, who directed the Alien prequel Prometheus and has taken over this franchise for all future Alien movies. Scott also directed the very first Alien movie in 1979 and his vision and ideas for this science fiction story from the beginning have always been great. The lead actress for this movie was played very well by Katherine Waterston and like past Alien movies, especially Aliens, she plays a very strong woman who fights the Aliens, accepting the possibility of certain death in several scenes.

I thought that this latest Alien movie was very well done, with excellent special effects, on a par with Prometheus and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: The Wall

The new movie ““The Wall” is an extremely unusual war film. There is no real build up, no real battle or depiction of combat, it is just about a wall and an American on one side and a soldier from Afghanistan on the other side. One of the other soldiers is the wrestler-actor, John Cena and after getting shot early in the movie, spends almost the entire movie on his back with no lines. The other actor and man character in this movie is
Aaron Taylor-Johnson who also spends the entire movie on his back behind the protection of a wall that is almost falling down and having an ongoing conversation with an Afghani soldier whom we hear but never see named Juba. I thought that this depiction of a small battle within a large war was definitely something worth exploring as a war movie, but the problem with an unusual attempt like this is that the great majority of this entire movie is extremely boring and seems to drag on long past its almost 2-hour length. It is simply not interesting to hear two enemies talking and threatening each other in a battle that never happens and in mostly failed attempts to get a good clean shot at the other. I remember looking at my watch far too many times and hoping that this very boring movie would be over soon.

For these reasons, I cannot recommend this boring war movie for its accurate depiction of a minor war battle, because the big downside of boredom overshadows most of the things that are good about this film.

Movie Review: Snatched

All of the previews I have seen for the new Amy Schumer movie “Snatched” had me expecting a very funny movie. Unfortunately, it turns out that the funniest moments in the entire film were only those in that are shown in the previews. My acid test for reviewing a comedy movie worked again for this film. Nobody laughed in the theater I was in and I didn’t laugh once. The opportunity lost here is that Schumer is a very good stand-up comedian and perhaps the first female standup to follow that up with a very good movie which was Train Wreck, that came out in 2015. The problem is that you cannot follow a very good movie with a bad one because you might ruin your entire film career before it even gets started. The IMDB and Rotten Tomato ratings for this movie are extremely low, 2.5 and 38% respectively. I did not think that movie should have received ratings this low, especially the 2.5 from IMDB. This is at best a below average movie mainly because it is supposed to be a comedy and it mostly fails in just about all the attempts it makes to be funny. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn do make a good mother-daughter combination in this story, so it is even more of a shame that the movie was just not nearly funny enough.

The movie starts out pretty well, with Amy’s character losing her job and then getting rejected by her boyfriend. She then turns to her mother for support and then talks her into going with her vacation in of all places Equador. I thought that the idea of vacationing in Equador was a little funny at the start, because why would anyone want to vacation in Equador? Following this setup, just about everything about this movie fails from that point on. The problem is that it is very hard to make kidnapping, some of the depressing location shots, gunplay and murder funny. The situations these two women were in most of the time during their kidnapping and attempts to escape were never funny. The appearance of Wanda Sykes and a mute Joan Cusack were not funny. Supposedly, the writer and director thought that Joan Cusack’s character cutting out her own tongue to be a better security agent would be something that people would think was a funny idea. There is nothing funny about the idea of cutting out your own tongue and her inability to talk during this entire movie removed any opportunity for her to say something funny. There were a few somewhat funny sight gags in this movie, but for the most part, this film was very disappointing.

If you are looking for a very funny and very well done Amy Schumer movie, get the DVD for Trainwreck and miss this mostly bad movie.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A question I have written on this blog several times in the past is that is it possible to rescue a bad or average script with special effects? For many people, the answer to this question is probably yes, but for me, it has always been no. For me a great story is the most important thing, a story that makes sense and that has a good message. After a great story, very good special effects are a must, especially for a science fiction movie that takes place in space. I was surprised that this movie did not has much effective humor as the first film but it did have all the unusual aspects of the first film, which included the 60-80’s music and the use of a Sony Walkman, that I thought showed great imagination for the first film. There are references to 70’s and 80’s TV shows like Cheers and Nightrider and several references and even an appearance of the actor David Hasselhoff, that makes you wonder if this is out of respect for Hasselhoff or an attempt to make fun of him.

The problem with this film are not the special effects which are the equal of the previous film, but the convoluted story and plot, that I thought at times were even boring and is the kiss of death for a film like this one. The start of this story is the meeting between Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt and his long lost father named of all things Ego, played by Kurt Russell. After this introduction, there is a story that goes all over the place, to different planets and involves Quill’s adoptive father and even an appearance by Sylvester Stallone. I thought that the special effects at times provided overkill rather than action that enhanced the story. At times you barely knew what was going on in some of the later action scenes. There is some humorous banter in this movie like the last one and the addition of some new characters, including a sister to Zoe Saldana’s character Gamora that will most likely be appearing in the sequels to this movie and there will probably be at least two more of those. I was rather surprised at the quality of the screenplay for this movie, considering that its been 3 years since the last one was released. Clearly, I was expecting something better for this new version of one of the big hits from 3 years ago.

Mainly for the special effects and some moments of humor I give this film a very mild recommendation.

Movie Review: The Dinner

There are thousands of ways to tell a story. In my opinion, for movies, the most straightforward way of creating a timeline and telling a story is always the best. When there is an overt attempt to be different, very often the strange and unusual storytelling becomes greater than the purpose of the film because following what is going on, becomes too much of a strange experience.

I admit that I have never seen a story told the way it is told in the new film, “The Dinner”. Two brothers and their two wives meet at a very expensive restaurant, a restaurant so expensive that each course and every item on the menu requires a long explanation from the waiter. At the top of each new course of the dinner, there is a new part of the story that is revealed through the use of flashbacks.

The main characters in this story are Stan Lowman, who is a politician running for Governor, played by Richard Gere, his mentally disturbed brother played by Steve Coogan and their wives played by Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall. The flashbacks are mostly about Lowman’s brother and the various reasons for his mental illnesses and how it relates to his job as a high school history teacher and of all things, Gettysburg and the Civil War.

The story telling at times during the many different flashbacks was I thought too scattered and seemed to be trying too hard to be different almost to the point of throwing the entire story under a bus. The main message of this movie had to do with a horrendous act of cruelty done by each couple’s teenage sons and then discussing what was the best way to handle the situation, especially considering that Lowman is running for Governor. What followed was an extremely strange and abrupt ending to this film that seemed almost as if the director ran out of film.

For these reasons, despite the good acting in this film, I cannot recommend the Dinner.

Movie Review: The Lost City of Z

The odds are very high that nobody has ever heard of the explorer Percy Fawcett. This is the main reason why I like historical movies because you learn about events in history that you would have never known about otherwise. The greatest example of this in recent movie history is the great film Hidden Figures, where we all learned about who were the true heroes of NASA during the early years of space exploration.

The movie The Lost City of Z is about an explorer and army officer named Percy Fawcett from England in 1906 who became obsessed with finding an ancient city in the Jungles of the Amazon. What is most amazing about this story is how anyone can be obsessed with finding anything in just about the worst place on earth. The heat, bugs, wild animals, natives trying to kill you, the long trip there and back and the very high risk of death would for most people mean that looking for an ancient city so far away would be something you would only try once in a lifetime. However, Percy Fawcett tried to find this lost city 3 times during his life, the last time was after he survived being a soldier in World War 1. The rule for all risk takers is the same. The more you tempt fate the higher the odds that the math will just catch up to you one day. One thing you learn about Percy Fawcett during this movie is that he was extremely lucky to have lived as long as he did when you consider that he was in World War 1 and he had this obsession with finding a lost city in the Amazon.

This movie stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett, Sienna Miller as Fawcett’s wife Nina and an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson as Fawcett’s best friend. I thought the story about the incredible hardships and risks in trying to survey and explore a part of the world as dangerous as the Amazon jungle was very well done as was the acting. I recommend The Lost City of Z.