Film Review: The Original ‘Saw’ Sequels (2005-2010)

Release Date: October 28th, 2005 (Saw II), October 27th 2006 (Saw III), October 26th, 2007 (Saw IV), October 24th, 2008 (Saw V), October 23rd, 2009 (Saw VI), October 29th, 2010 (Saw VII), 
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV), David Hackl (Saw V), Kevin Greutert (Saw VI-VII)
Written by: Leigh Whannell, Darren Lynn Bousman, James Wan, Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, Thomas Fenton
Based on: Saw by James Wan, Leigh Whannell
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Dina Meyer, Donnie Wahlberg, Lyriq Bent, Erik Knudsen, Franky G, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Mark Rolston, Julie Benz, Sean Patrick Flanery, Glenn Plummer, Beverly Mitchell, Meagan Good, 

Twisted Pictures, Lions Gate Films, 93 Minutes (Saw II), 108 Minutes (Saw III), 92 Minutes (Saw IV), 92 Minutes (Saw V), 90 Minutes (Saw VI), 90 Minutes (Saw VII) 

Review:

I wasn’t a fan of the Saw franchise after the original movie. In fact, I quit with the third film and haven’t watched any of them since that one debuted in theaters. Jigsaw died in that one and so I was fine moving on, as well.

After revisiting the first one to review, I figured I would just power through the original string of sequels since they were all on HBO Max.

Since these are all pretty dreadful, blend together in a convoluted clusterfuck and are almost indistinguishable from one another, by the time I got to the end of the fourth movie, I decided just to review them all together. So I pushed through all six of these movies over a weekend and what a miserable experience it was.

The second film is at least a new situation from the first but it also set the stage for what would generally be the formula going forward, which sees a group of people locked in a secret location, having to pass tests in an effort to survive and not be murdered by Jigsaw’s traps.

The third film sees an abducted doctor forced to keep Jigsaw alive, as long as she can. Meanwhile, her husband has to work his way through a test and others are brutalized.

Film four through seven are just rehashes of everything we’ve already seen. Sure, there are different characters with different sins that they have to atone for in Jigsaw’s game. However, we have one Jigsaw successor, then another, then his ex-wife who is also working for him and eventually we discover that the Cary Elwes doctor character from way back in the first movie, has been assisting all along too.

The first film was great because it had a stellar twist at the end. Each picture after it, though, tries to outdo it and ultimately, fails at trying to replicate the shock of the original film’s closing moments.

In fact, with each new plot twist, big reveal and eye-opening flashback, the overall story gets more and more complicated to the point that you really can’t follow any of it and I don’t think the filmmakers even cared about consistency and logic because they were pumping these things out, annually, in an effort to make hundreds of millions off of each movie, all of which cost a slight fraction of that.

Saw after the success of the first one became a soulless, heartless, pointless cash cow. It was pushed as far as it could go and it ultimately diminished what the first movie had built and the reputation it deservedly earned.

I also hate the visual style of these films. They look like a ’90s industrial music video, everything is choppily and rapidly edited and they’re overwhelmed by more violent, shrill, jarring flashbacks than my ‘Nam vet uncle on LSD.

The musical score is also overbearing a lot of the time. It’s like this series has one theme playing throughout the movie and when crazy, violent shit pops up, they simply raise the volume.

Additionally, outside of Tobin Bell, these things are terribly acted. As much as I like Bell as Jigsaw in spite of this shitty series, even his presence runs its course midway through this series. He basically just becomes this prop in each film for the writers and directors to hang their stinky ass ideas on.

People may want to point to other long-running horror franchise and call them pointless cash cows too but most of the movies in the Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, etc. franchises were at least fun and entertaining.

There is nothing fun about these movies. They’re just full of miserable people who do miserable things, trapped in a miserable situation that only extends their misery and the misery of the audience. I don’t know why people kept going to see these for seven fucking annual installments. But then again, some people really, really liked Limp Bizkit, JNCO jeans and Jerry Springer.

Saw II – Rating: 5/10
Saw III – Rating: 5.5/10
Saw IV – Rating: 4.25/10
Saw V – Rating: 4/10
Saw VI – Rating: 4/10
Saw VII – Rating: 4.25/10

 

Film Review: The Departed (2006)

Release Date: September 26th, 2006 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: William Monahan
Based on: Infernal Affairs by Alan Mak, Felix Chong
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Anderson, Kevin Corrigan, Mark Rolston, Robert Wahlberg

Media Asia Films, Vertigo Entertainment, Initial Entertainment Group, Plan B Entertainment, Warner Bros., 151 Minutes

Review:

“My theory on Feds is that they’re like mushrooms, feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark” – Dignam

I probably would’ve enjoyed this movie a lot more had I not seen the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs first. Reason being, this is an American remake of that film and frankly, it’s nowhere near as good but I’ll explain why.

To start, the acting is superb as fuck and really, that should go without saying if you look over the cast list. And really, I think that’s the one part of this film that possibly exceeds the original. DiCaprio is solid. Damon is solid. Nicholson is solid. Frankly, so is everyone else and there isn’t really a weak link in this chain of talent.

I think that for the lesser known actors and those with smaller parts, working with these other legends really helped them rise to the occasion. But some credit for that obviously has to go to Martin Scorsese’s direction. Scorsese, time and time again, always pulls the very best out of his actors from top-to-bottom in every production.

But this doesn’t discredit the acting in the Hong Kong film, which was also top notch and pretty damn close to this one even with the language barrier and having to experience it through subtitles.

One thing I’m not super keen on about this version is that it feels like the least Martin Scorsese film that the man has ever made… or, at least, that I’ve seen. It’s like Scorsese really wanted to replicate the tone and style of the original and while he did a fine job in replicating it, it sort of loses his patented touch. I would’ve rather seen him really take this story and make it his own.

Speaking of the story, I found this harder to follow than its source material. The Hong Kong film developed the characters better, especially the backstories. This movie lacked a lot of the extra context we got in the original between the Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon characters. I think that context was pretty important and maybe those scenes were filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor.

What’s strange is that this movie is a whopping fifty minutes longer… fifty! Yet it feels like it has less story and the story that is present is a bit complicated. I feel like they tried to add extra layers into this where they didn’t need to be. While I don’t remember every detail of Infernal Affairs, as it’s been four years since I’ve seen it, but it did feel more streamlined and focused in spite of all the characters it had to balance.

It may seem like I’m shitting on The Departed but I don’t mean to. It’s just that I found a lot more value in the original.

This is still a damn engaging movie with characters you like, even the bad ones. It mostly moves at a brisk pace and as I’ve already stated, it’s a movie that’s greatly enhanced by its performances.

It was kind of cool seeing guys like DiCaprio, Nicholson and Damon come together in the same picture. It truly feels like a once-in-a-lifetime team-up and these guys worked together wonderfully.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Also known as: Nana’s Boy (working title)
Release Date: January 6th, 2006
Directed by: Nicholaus Goossen
Written by: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
Music by: Waddy Wachtel
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson, Jonah Hill, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nash

Happy Madison Productions, Level 1 Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 94 Minutes

Review:

“This chick’s pussy smelled like the great depression.” – Jeff

Grandma’s Boy is a movie I slept on when it came out. I’m not a massive Adam Sandler fan and seeing a movie that was essentially an Adam Sandler movie without Adam Sandler wasn’t what I considered a top priority. However, several friends would reference it all the time, so I gave in and checked it out after a few years.

Since then, it’s become one of my favorite comedy movies of its era. It’s just solid, mindless escapism, which is something I love. Add in the fact that it’s fucking hilarious and it’s become one of those sweet guilty pleasures that I tend to watch once or twice per year.

It stars Allen Covert, who has been in just about all of Adam Sandler’s comedies. The film was co-written by him, Barry Wernick and Nick Swardson, a comedic actor that I like in just about everything… yes, even Bucky Larson. You also get another Sandler “best bud” with Peter Dante.

Beyond those guys, you’ve got Linda Cardellini, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, David Spade, Jonah Hill, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Rob Schneider and former professional wrestler Kevin Nash. Needless to say, this low budget movie that nearly everyone slept on in the theater, has a stacked cast.

The story is about some stoners that develop and test video games. There’s the underachieving loser who doesn’t realize his own potential, the lovable sidekick, lesser sidekicks, the douchebag work rival and the hot chick that’s out of everyone’s league but she’s cool, so whatever.

However, there’s also the extra added element of the loser’s grandma and her two roommates, who the loser has to live with while dealing with his hectic work life and douchebag work rival.

It’s a fairly simple story and the movie sort of just works because you like the characters, their camaraderie and their shenanigans.

This is just a lighthearted, stoner flick with lots of gags and jokes that would set off Twitter weirdos in the current year “civilization”. So if you don’t like it, you’re probably some fluorescent-haired land whale, feminist, “fuck the white patriarchy”, hater of fun, regardless of what gender you see yourself as.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comedy films starring Adam Sandler’s best buds, which are mostly films with Adam Sandler.

Documentary Review: The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006)

Release Date: July 21st, 2006 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Maysles, Albert Maysles
Cast: Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale, Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale 

Maysles Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

“[on Republicans] Who’s the party of special interest that always grinds down the little people? Who’s the party that doesn’t give a damn as long as they make millions to put in their bank? Who’s the party that scrounges around to find all the dirt they can and use it against their opponent to destroy the two party system that made America what it is today? Who’s the party that delivered a crooked president?” – Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale

I liked the original Grey Gardens documentary enough to check out this sequel, which came out roughly thirty years later.

This wasn’t a traditional sequel, as in it didn’t check back in on these women after the events of the first movie. This was, instead, a new documentary made with unused footage, which apparently, there was a lot of.

This could’ve been released years ago or added into the original film, making it a three hour affair, but it’s kind of neat seeing it resurface decades later. Why they waited that long or even did it at all is a mystery but I still enjoyed this for the most part.

However, I can also see why most of this wasn’t used in the original film. Although, the scene with the fire in the house probably should’ve been in the original, as it explains why there’s a big burnt hole in the wall of this once great coastal mansion.

I probably wouldn’t watch this over Grey Gardens, if you haven’t seen either. However, if you liked Grey Gardens, this is a good companion piece to it and it gives you more insight and context into the lives of this mother and daughter.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and the biographical drama film that is based on these women, starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.

Film Review: Silent Hill (2006)

Also known as: Centralia (fake working title), Terror en Silent Hill (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela)
Release Date: April 20th, 2006 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Written by: Roger Avery, Christophe Gans, Nicolas Boukhrief
Based on: Silent Hill by Konami
Music by: Akira Yamaoka, Jeff Danna
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland

Silent Hill DCP Inc., Davis-Films, TriStar Pictures, 125 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Special Edition Blu-ray, Canada only)

Review:

“When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world.” – Dark Alessa

When this came out, it was the film that seemed like it bucked the trend of video game movies being shit, as far as adaptations and overall quality goes.

The Resident Evil films were their own thing and before them we had the Street Fighter movie, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. I would say that the film that actually bucked the trend first, though, was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. However, Silent Hill is a much better film than that one and it works without having knowledge or appreciation of its video game series before seeing it.

In fact, I know several people that saw this film first, which then served as a gateway into the games due to the effect this movie had on them.

I used to watch this quite a bit after I bought it on DVD when it was first released that way. It’s probably been a dozen years since I’ve seen it but my fondness for it was still really strong and I wanted to revisit it. I also want to playthrough some of the earlier games too, which I might in the very near future.

Seeing this now was kind of cool because I was separated enough from it to see it with somewhat fresh eyes. I definitely see the flaws in it more than I did in 2006 but that could also be due to me not being as obsessed with the franchise as I was back then. Subpar sequels in both video games and film took the wind out of this once great property’s sails.

The film adapts elements of the stories from the first two games and sort of merges them while also doing its own thing. So it’s familiar enough for fans to immediately recognize but also takes some interesting turns that allow it to breathe and evolve in a different way.

I like the film’s story quite a lot, even if it does change some key things. Those things don’t break the film as its own body of work, though.

My biggest gripe about the film is the dialogue. It’s not terrible but there are some weird lines and some weird delivery, here and there. I’m not sure if that’s due to a language barrier due to the director, who also co-wrote the film, being French. I don’t know enough about him outside of his finished films that I’ve seen, which aren’t many.

However, the child actress delivers some lines with weird inflections on certain syllables that sound unnatural and a bit off. I don’t necessarily blame her, I blame the direction and the takes that were chosen to be used in the final film.

Overall, she did well essentially playing two different characters that were polar opposites of each other: one being good and innocent and the other being the absolute embodiment of evil. The requirements of her role aren’t easy for most adult actors and she did rather well considering her age and experience.

Moving on, some of the CGI effects look a little dated but for the most part, the film still looks great. There are just a few shots that look kind of weird.

The film as a whole looks incredible, however. Gans has a stupendous eye and from a visual standpoint, he captured the tone and aesthetic of the video game series phenomenally well. I am still really impressed by the scenes where the purgatory world dissolves into the Hell world.

Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of the ending but it fits well within the framework of what Silent Hill is. I guess there is a part of me that wanted something more optimistic but the ambiguous and strange ending leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Also, that’s not a bad thing, some of my favorite movies do that but after the literal hell that the characters went through, it felt like more of a reward was needed.

I liked the cult aspect of the story and I definitely loved their end. As violent and incredibly fucked up as the climax was, it was also satisfying as hell after learning who these people really were. This movie doesn’t simply provide you with sympathy for the Devil, it makes you root for him… or in this case, her.

The last thing I want to mention is the music. The film recycles the score and iconic songs from the video game series. That might not work in the case of most film adaptations but it really amplified the effect of the film and its brooding, disturbing atmosphere. I think that I appreciated it even more now, as I kind of forgot how good the games’ music was.

Silent Hill is, hands down, one of the best horror movies in its decade, which was unfortunately a terrible decade for horror. But I think it would’ve been just as great in earlier decades, regardless of the higher quality of the genre.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: it’s absolutely shitty sequel, I guess. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.

Documentary Review: Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)

Release Date: October 13th, 2006
Directed by: Jeff McQueen
Written by: J. Albert Bell, Rachel Belofsky, Michael Derek Bohusz, Adam Rockoff, Rudy Scalese
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Ed Green (narrator), Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Malek Akkad, Greg Nicotero, Amy Holden Jones, Stan Winston, Rob Zombie, Sean S. Cunningham, Tom Savini, Betsy Palmer, Harry Manfredini, Felissa Rose, Robert Shaye

Candy Heart Productions, thinkfilm, Starz, 88 Minutes

Review:

For being one of those film history documentaries made by Starz, it’s pretty good.

Granted, this isn’t great and there are much better documentaries on ’80s horror, slasher films and many of the specific movies this one discusses.

As can be expected, this is a series of talking head interviews edited and presented to tell a narrative. In the case of this film, it goes through the history of slasher films from the ’70s and up to more modern times. I kind of lost interest once it got midway into the ’90s but that’s when Scream came out and kind of wrecked the genre.

This does miss a lot and doesn’t even really touch on the things in film’s history that inspired and paved the way for slasher cinema.

It felt like a missed opportunity to examine Italian giallo and how that subgenre of horror (and neo-noir) laid some groundwork for what would become the American and Canadian slasher flick empire.

Still, this was entertaining and I enjoyed it even if I didn’t learn much of anything new.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on ’70s and ’80s horror.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Also known as: Heyday (fake working title), M:i:III (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: April 24th, 2006 (Rome premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, J. J. Abrams
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Eddie Marsan, Greg Grunberg, Aaron Paul

MI 3 Film, Cruise/Wagner Productions, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes, 124 Minutes (cut)

Review:

“You can look at me with those judgmental eyes all you want, but I bullshit you not, I will bleed on the American flag to make sure those stripes stay red.” – Brassel

Mission: Impossible II was such a disappointment when I saw it in the theaters, that I never saw another Mission: Impossible film after it. However, I’ve heard great things about the more recent sequels and I’ve been motivated to go back and give the franchise another shot.

Having already revisited the first two films for review purposes, I have now reached the third one, which is the first one I’ve never seen. Granted, I knew about the gist of the story as a former roommate used to talk about the movie a lot. He was also a J. J. Abrams mark until 2009’s Star Trek kicked his hard-on into the sun.

Speaking of which, this is directed by J. J. Abrams. I actually have to say that this is one of the best films he’s directed, if not the best from the ones I’ve seen.

This actually doesn’t get wrecked by relying on too many of the tropes that have made some of Abrams’ other films and television shows, predictable and tiresome. Sure, there’s the whole MacGuffin thing and the big swerve and he also borrows heavily and obviously from other films, even ones in this picture’s own franchise, but the final product was entertaining and palatable.

The film is also helped by the performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise and most of the other key players. Hoffman really stands out in this and I might even say that his talent far exceeded what was needed for this movie.

The action sequences were good, even if some of them felt familiar. The bridge battle, for instance, was very True Lies. However, at least sequences like that didn’t just outright copy their influences and tried to do something unique. Now had we had Cruise reaching for his wife to save her from her car going into the ocean, I probably would’ve called shenanigans much louder.

One thing I did like about this film is that it seemed more serious than the two before it. With that, it kind of reinvents the series and wipes away the gigantic misstep that was the second film. Because of that, this is the best film out of the first three.

In the end, this was a solid, fun movie with good action, good characters and a few performances that were much better than they had to be. Although, the twist ending about the bad guys having someone on the inside was just a rehash of the ending from the first movie and it was kind of lame. But I guess Abrams couldn’t help himself.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Also known as: X-Men 3, X-Men 3: The Last Stand (working titles), X3, X III: The Last Stand (alternative titles)
Release Date: May 22nd, 2006 (Cannes)
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Powell
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart, Ben Foster, Ellen Page, Dania Ramirez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Bill Duke, Daniel Cudmore, Eric Dane, R. Lee Ermey, Ken Leung

The Donners’ Company, Marvel Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – Magneto

From memory, this was the worst X-Men film of the lot. Well, after about a dozen movies with spinoffs and whatnot, this one still takes the cake in that regard.

This really killed the film franchise, at least for its time. It wouldn’t bounce back until First Class rolled around and gave the series a bit of a soft reboot.

Here, we see the original trilogy of films come to an end and unfortunately, that end is a very unsatisfactory one. Granted, none of these films have aged particularly well and they actually feel quite dated now.

That’s not to say that some of the performances aren’t great or iconic, a few of them are. Specifically, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. This is probably also why they tried to find ways to include these guys in the X-Men films that followed during the reboot era.

The plot for this is pretty fucking atrocious and the film spends more time killing off beloved characters than trying to tell a good story. It’s like it went for shock and cheap emotional grabs but it failed in generating any real emotion because it all felt soulless and cheap.

I think the biggest issue with the film was that Bryan Singer left to make that big bust, Superman Returns. While Brett Ratner probably wasn’t a bad choice, the final product makes me feel like he was sort of just inserted into a movie that was already well into production and found himself in over his head.

The film is also pretty short when compared to the two chapter before it. It makes me wonder if a lot was left out of the final movie. It certainly feels like it’s lacking story, context and depth.

In the end, this is okay if you want to spend a little more time with these characters and if you turn your brain off, it has some neat moments, but overall, it’s a sloppy misfire.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Also known as: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (working title), P.O.T.C. 2 (promotional abbreviation), Pirates 2 (informal short title)
Release Date: June 24th, 2006 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Geoffrey Rush (uncredited) 

Second Mate Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 151 Minutes

Review:

“There will come a time when you have a chance to do the right thing.” – Elizabeth Swan, “I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by.” – Jack Sparrow

Man, this movie was so good and I found myself asking myself, “Why the hell don’t you fire up these movies more often, dummy?!”

While the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick is the best of the lot, this one is still a damn fine adventure movie with the right balance of swashbuckling, really cool lore and fun, complex characters that have immense chemistry with one another and superhuman levels of pure, unadulterated charisma.

The only real downside of this film is that Barbosa is only in it for about 5 seconds but if I’m being honest, you really don’t notice because everything before that ending cliffhanger is great.

The film picks up where the last one left off and we see Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan have their wedding day ruined by a government douchebag that wants to have them executed for helping Captain Jack Sparrow escape at the end of the first movie. This sets Will on a mission to find Jack Sparrow and to retrieve his magic compass for the shitty bureaucrat.

Pirates films can’t be that simple though, so we see our characters chase multiple MacGuffins for multiple reasons and we get a well-layered plot where everyone wants this film’s treasures for their own reasons. Jack wants to escape the curse of Davy Jones, Will wants to save Elizabeth and his father, Elizabeth wants to save Will, Norrington wants to redeem himself and Barbosa’s former stooges just want the treasure because they’re f’n pirates.

The film also introduces Bill Nighy as the physical embodiment of Davy Jones, one of the coolest onscreen villains in motion picture history, as well as the kaiju-like beast, The Kraken.

I’ve heard some people complain that the plot is too complex and hard to follow but I disagree. Each character is well-defined and their personal motivations are made pretty clear. And even though you feel you know them and understand them, there are still some surprises, twists, turns and double-crosses that only enrich the story and the series as a whole.

The film also has incredible special effects and it’s obvious that Disney didn’t waste a penny making this movie. Just the amount of time that had to go into Davy Jones and his crew must’ve been insane and a really painstaking process. But that hard work and time paid off, as the effects are near perfect and help to make this a more fantastical picture than the previous one.

This chapter in the series also brought in Hans Zimmer to score the music. While he uses the iconic themes of the previous movie, he builds off of them and provides his own brilliant original compositions that don’t betray the work done by the previous composer and in fact, enhances it.

There are so many stellar sequences in this film but the three-way sword fight between Jack, Will and Norrington is, hands down, one of the greatest swashbuckling moments in motion picture history.

Additionally, the whole cannibal island segment of the film was cinematic perfection. While it does get pretty slapstick-y, it doesn’t feel out of place or too hokey. I’ve said elsewhere that Depp’s Sparrow is his generation’s version of Chaplin’s The Tramp and that comparison seemed even more clear to me after revisiting this chapter.

Dead Man’s Chest is a great film. While it falls short of The Curse of the Black Pearl, it does so just barely. In fact, the only thing that really works against it is that it’s the first part of a two-parter and isn’t its own self-contained story.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.

Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)

Also known as: 007: Casino Royale (alternative international title), Bond 21, Bond XXI, Bond Begins, James Bond 21 (working titles)
Release Date: November 14th, 2006 (London premiere)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Based on: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Ivana Milicevic, Jesper Christensen, Richard Branson (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Eon Productions, Casino Royale Productions, 144 Minutes

Review:

“[tied to a wooden chair as he is being tortured] I’ve got a little itch, down there. Would you mind?” – James Bond

As much as I loved this movie in 2006, I think I forgot just how damn good it was. It’s also aged exceptionally well while possibly being the greatest movie in the Daniel Craig James Bond era. I really like Skyfall a lot but this is in the same ballpark and my brain will probably debate which one is actually superior until the day I die. But I’m allowed to love them both, equally.

The film starts off with a bang and this really is a Year One type of story for the James Bond character, as it starts with him becoming a Double-O agent and then follows him on his first big mission.

The story is well crafted and one of the best in the entire franchise. This movie also sort of reboots the series and the character in a more serious tone after the Pierce Brosnan era films became cheesy, goofy, hokey and mostly terrible following his initial outing in 1995’s GoldenEye.

Speaking of which, Martin Campbell, the director of GoldenEye, returned to direct Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, as well. He also showed that he could do a much more serious and realistic Bond film in the wake of other directors ruining what he started with the first Brosnan era picture.

Getting back to the tone, this character and these films desperately needed a change, if they were going to survive for future generations. While I know that some James Bond traditionalists didn’t like the gritty realism, most people did and that’s why this was such a hit after the deplorable Die Another Day.

While I’m still not sure if Daniel Craig was the best casting choice at the time, I do like him as Bond. My only real issue with him is that he lacks that suaveness that other had before him. Sure, he’s tough, he’s badass and he looks great in a suit but he does lack a certain charm. That’s also not to say that he’s charmless, it’s just really damn hard to follow Pierce Brosnan, who was stupendous in that department and maybe the best Bond in that regard.

That being said, Craig was great for what this picture needed but I don’t know if his seriousness was best for the franchise over multiple films, as he never really seems to be too comfortable or natural in being a real charmer. Although, his chemistry with Eva Green in this film is really good but I also think that’s because both of them are damn good actors.

Not known at the time, this film’s story sets up the return of SPECTRE, the massive, worldwide terrorist organization that was front and center as the antagonists of the Sean Connery era. There had been legal issues surrounding the use of SPECTRE and I’m not sure that they were resolved when this film was made but this did lay the foundation for their return and the return of top Bond villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The only thing that hurts this film a bit is the long, drawn out poker sequences. While those probably worked for most people and they exist in the novel, they took away from more energetic storytelling. But on the flip side of that, the action sequences in this film certainly make up for the duller moments.

While there really isn’t a perfect James Bond film, this is one of the few to get pretty damn close to it. Plus, it’s one of the best looking movies in the long film series.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Bond films of the Daniel Craig era.