Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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In the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old rival, Captain Salazar, who along with his crew of ghost pirates has escaped from the Devil’s Triangle, and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. Jack seeks the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.

Disney has benefited with billions of dollars from this popular franchise based on the famous Disneyland ride, so it’s no surprise that they’ve gone and made a fifth one. Dead Men Tell No Tales is not the worst of the series but it’s not the return to form that many fans were hoping for. I did not walk in with high expectations so I can’t say I was disappointed, but I was not impressed either. Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow, one of the most popular live action heroes of our time, and he’s still entertaining in the role, but his character barely serves a point in the plot this time around. He has lots of screen time and makes lots of jokes throughout but he’s never developed at all or given a reason to be there other than the fact that the villain wants revenge on him. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario play two new protagonists to the series, and they both deliver solid performances, but their character arcs aren’t interesting enough to carry the film along. Javier Bardem stars as a frightening villain who starts out interesting but the dialogue and CGI make his character feel more comedic then threatening. Geoffrey Rush is also back as Hector Barbossa and is made a big part of the plot but his character’s writing failed to interest me.

I was never a huge fan of the series, but even those who loved the first few films won’t get much that they’re hoping for besides entertainment. The plot that drives the characters and the film forward are nothing near as compelling as the first film offered. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley didn’t reprise their roles in the last film, and here, they don’t appear much, either. The new young protagonists and the story that revolves around them just couldn’t fill that void or push the story forward well enough. There are some entertaining action scenes, such as a scene in which a bank is being robbed (not just the money, but the entire building is being dragged away), as well as one in which an execution is thwarted. There are moments that managed to entertain me and make me laugh, and shots that are done well, but the writers couldn’t come up with a story and character arcs that the audience could also enjoy. There are many magical concepts and backstories that were introduced but none of them made much sense or excited me at all. The movie doesn’t conclude terribly, but the post-credits scene sets up the potential sequel that I won’t be looking forward to.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t the sequel many were hoping for, and although it will manage to entertain viewers, especially younger audiences and fans of the previous films, but the uninspired and boring storyline and character arcs make this film far from the saga’s best use of its potential. You may like it for its action, but there are films in theaters right now that you’ll probably like much better, like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien: Covenant, and the new DC film Wonder Woman, which hits theaters this Friday.

Official epic artwork poster

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Alien: Covenant

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After Ridley Scott tried to revive his franchise with a prequel series that started in 2012 with Prometheus, which was a huge disappointment, Scott redeems his franchise with this follow-up to Prometheus. The plot is similar to the other Alien films, with a crew of a spaceship traveling to an uncharted planet and then getting attacked by extraterrestrial life forms. However, this time, the characters are all developed well and Scott actaully gets you to care about them. I didn’t really care much about the characters in Prometheus, but here you actually are interested in them, and things like love and loss in these characters’ lives are handled well. Michael Fassbender reprises his role from the previous installment as David, and he also plays a new character named Walter, both of which are androids. Fassbender has never failed to impress me, and here he delivers such an impressive performance and he lives up to the responsibility of having to take on two roles. Katherine Waterson is also a great protagonist, and her emotion actually helps carry the film well. The ensemble supporting cast is also great, especially Danny McBride as the wise-cracking pilot of the Covenant.

The first act of this film builds up the conflict very well, from the opening scene which begins the story in an unexpected manner. When the intensity begins, I found myself thrilled during the very gruesome and bloody scenes of aliens breaking through bodies and chasing the human protagonists. The sequences are shot very well, and the CGI effects used to create aliens, planets, and spaceships are beautiful. The movie carries on some of the questions raised in Prometheus about life and existence, but this time the script actually makes you think about what the characters are talking about, and this helps the character arcs of David and Walter be even more compelling. There are also some twists that surprised me and made the film much more exciting. Scott inserts some of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the original 1979 Alien which started it all, and tries to keep the feel of a ’70s science ficiton horror film in there, but it’s easy to notice that this film still follows the formula that Alien and Aliens established, and it’s easy to eventually get tired of seeing the same things so many times. However, the intense final act leading to a dark and unexpected ending promises that the next film will step away from that formula, and hopefully be just as great as this one.

Alien: Covenant is far from the franchise’s best but it uses what has made the saga great before to put it and Scott’s career back on a great track. The cast and writers try hard here, and their work definitely pays off and this disturbing and horrifying yet tense and exciting sci-fi horror film that will definitely amuse fans, as well as plot twists that will surprise many viewers. If you’re a teen or older, I’d suggest you help this film at the box office and give it a watch.

A black-and-white poster of a mass of people being surrounded/tortured by the aliens, not unlike the Renaissance depictions of Hell, with one alien at the center highlighted by a shaft of light from the upper-left.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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It’s been three years since Guardians of the Galaxy was released and became a huge hit for Marvel, and finally the Guardians have returned to the big screen in Vol. 2. This time, the Guardians travel throughout the cosmos as they help Peter Quill learn more about his true parentage. Thankfully, James Gunn knows how to make a standout superhero film for the second time. Vol. 2 doesn’t lose the charm, heart, and humor that made the first one so great. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel are all still so brilliant and hilarious as the dysfunctional family who must save the galaxy for the second time. There’s something so refreshing about their characters that brings a smile to my face. Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, and Karen Gillan also return from the first film, and their characters are explored much more interestingly this time. I was also impressed by newcomer Pom Klementieff as Mantis, a charming new member of the Guardians.

With a great visual style, script, and action sequences, James Gunn shows he can make a Marvel film that’s special and heartfelt. Guardians Vol. 2 feels somewhat distinct from the classic MCU formula, and isn’t too caught up with setting up a universe, but with bringing the best out of its characters and visuals. If you loved Awesome Mix Vol. 1, prepare for another great soundtrack in Awesome Mix Vol. 2, which includes some great songs that are used very well in the film. It’s been a while since the first film came out, and the first one felt so fresh and new when it was released, but by now the visuals and humorous style don’t feel as new and special as they did back then, but I can’t really blame the film for that. There are a few characters that are useless and I wish did more, and there’s a twist thrown in that was foreshadowed a little too much, but it feels different than what Marvel has done before. However, Gunn’s creative style makes this movie as entertaining and awesome as it should be. He knows how to make a great soundtrack and shoot action sequences very well, and he even pays homage to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest in a certain scene. Also, stay during the credits for not one, but five post-credit scenes after the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another great Marvel feature with a terrific cast, an excellent soundtrack, great action and visuals, and a script that doesn’t feel as well-realized and fresh as the first film, but this movie still demonstrates James Gunn’s great talent when it comes to making huge blockbusters, and leaves you excited for Vol. 3.

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