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

Few summer blockbusters have ever been as much fun as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The movie had thrills, humor, and charming characters. But the more movies they attempted to squeeze out of Johnny Depp’s iconic Jack Sparrow, the more the franchise began to lose its luster. Dead Man’s Chest was good, not great. At World’s End was far too long and overstuffed to truly enjoy. And… and… there was a fourth one, right? Something about Blackbeard? Anywho… this newest installment hopes to bring the Disney magic back to the eerie waters of the Pirates franchise.

Pirates_of_the_Caribbean,_Dead_Men_Tell_No_TalesThe aptly named Dead Men Tell No Tales once again finds an undead sea captain searching for the bumbling, alcoholic, but keenly clever scoundrel known as Jack Sparrow. This time, said sea captain is Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spaniard who once hunted pirates but was tricked into defeat by a young Jack. To escape Salazar, Jack must team with a female astronomer (Kaya Scodelario) and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Jack’s old ally Will (Orlando Bloom returning in a cameo role), to find a legendary trident that will grant them power over the sea.  Meanwhile, Jack’s old rival Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) seeks to save himself from Salazar and his henchmen of zombies who can’t step on land by helping in the hunt for Jack Sparrow.

Like most Pirates movies (even the good ones), the plot can get a bit caught up in itself as it lumbers on for over two hours. There are some characters, like a British Naval Captain (David Wenham), that take up too much screen time despite being both generic and unnecessary. The plot itself also carries its fair share of conveniences. But what is Pirates of the Caribbean if not an unbelievable tale hidden beneath massive set pieces and well crafted costumes?

For the most part, Dead Men Tell No Tales manages to recapture the swashbuckling fun that made the franchise so popular. Yes, the plot often seems filled with holes so big that previous films can even get sucked into them, but that doesn’t take away from the fun at all. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush effectively step back into their roles as if they never left. Newcomers Thwaites and Scodelario provide wholesome focal points as a boy fighting to reunite with his father and a woman trying to forge her own path in a world where a woman is deemed a witch if she reads a book. Javier Bardem even manages to succeed in being a wholly threatening adversary even though he’s essentially no different from the villains in the other Pirates films.

The movie is filled with some scenes so over the top or cheesy that your eyes might fall out of your head. But those moments are eclipsed by all of the genuine laughs and charm brought to the story. With stunning CGI effects and likable new characters, this entry feels much more like what audiences fell in love with. By reconnecting with the original trilogy (something the fourth film almost completely failed to do), this new Pirates manages to give us an adventure both nostalgic and compelling.



Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Full Review)

The late Tom Clancy has always had a knack for writing thrilling espionage. The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Some of All Fears (2002)… all films made from Clancy’s Jack Ryan book series. This time around, director Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing, Thor) looks to reboot the film series with Chris Pine as the lead.

ImageYou don’t need to be a fan of Jack Ryan movies or even familiar with them to take a chance on Shadow Recruit. Like James Bond films, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series, or anything with Jason Statham in it, each outing is meant to stand on its own. Shadow Recruit in many ways feels like an episode of 24. There is no point in wasting time on character development or weighty emotion filled drama because at the end of the day you’re only in it for the thrills. And Jack Ryan’s latest adventure has plenty.

The plot, which is too convoluted to describe fully, mainly involves Russians planning a terrorist attack that will topple the U.S. economy.  Chris Pine takes the helm as marine turned CIA analyst Jack Ryan (previously played by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Alec Baldwin). He isn’t nearly as magnetic as he is in the Star Trek films, but he is good enough to warrant being an action star. Director Branagh, himself, plays the villain who is as dark, deranged and one dimensional as any antagonist in a Jack Ryan movie. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner is at his stoic best as Jack’s CIA mentor and Keira Knightley portrays Jack’s whiny fiancé.

Like with most action movies, Shadow Recruit does well to know that thrills and action sequences are more important than characters or even plot. This isn’t Daniel Craig’s thought provoking Skyfall nor does it try to be. What it is, is a solid two hours of hotel room brawls, car chases, and covert missions that should keep you interested enough to warrant spending a few bucks if you’re bored at home.