Film Review: Man of Steel (2013)

Also known as: Superman: Man of Steel (working title), Autumn Frost (fake working title)
Release Date: June 10th, 2013 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe, Carla Gugino (voice)

Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes

Review:

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” – Jor-El

I was pretty disappointed with this film when it came out and honestly, I’m still pretty disappointed in it, watching it seven years later.

My biggest takeaway from the movie is how good Henry Cavill is as Superman. It just kind of sucks that this is the script and the film that he was given to play that role.

Sadly, the movies with him in them didn’t get any better and this whole DCEU is like a wet fart when compared to Marvel’s MCU, which this was designed to compete with.

Zack Snyder seems like a nice enough guy but his films just never really seem to speak to me. He has his fans, he has his critics and while I want to like the guy’s movies, I can’t give them a free pass because he’s a great guy that does come into his projects with actual passion for the material.

The big issue with this film more than anything is the writing. It’s just a drab yet exhausting story where it feels like a lot happens but nothing happens. It also features so much over-the-top mass destruction that it breaks the movie from top-to-bottom.

General Zod, a human-sized alien dictator comes to Earth and causes more destruction to a major city than all of the Godzilla movies combined yet Superman won’t kill him until Zod’s just about to laser eye a few people to death?

One, this guy already killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

Two, why the fuck didn’t these people run while Superman had Zod mostly subdued in a read choke?

Three, couldn’t Superman have just poked Zod’s eyes out Three Stooges style?

Whatever.

When you think about it, this is a really dumb movie.

Hell, you don’t need to think about it. I watched this the first time in the theater baffled by half of it and annoyed by the other half. And man, I really wanted to like it because I loved Cavill, as well as Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon. I also liked seeing Laurence Fishburne play Perry White. Although, Amy Adams was just another actress that didn’t feel like Lois Lane.

Ultimately, this wasn’t the worst DCEU movie but like most of them, it was still a wet fart.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Zack Snyder DCEU films.

 

Film Review: The Punisher: Dirty Laundry (2012)

Release Date: July 15th, 2012
Directed by: Phil Joanou
Written by: Chad St. John
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight soundtrack)
Cast: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Shannon Collis, Jack Goldenberg, Sammi Rotibi, Brandee Steger, Karlin Walker

1984 Private Defense Contractors, RAW Studios, 10 Minutes

Review:

“Couple of years back, that was me standing right where you are now, looking out that door. The difference was, a little girl back there.” – Big Mike

For just a ten minute movie, this delivers the tension, suspense and incredibly badass payoff that is usually reserved for a regular feature length film. Dirty Laundry packs a solid f’n punch and it is hands down, one of the best fan films ever made.

No, it doesn’t feature great amateur special effects or costumes like some of the other impressive comic book fan movies out there, it just features a solid actor that loves his role, a second solid actor that turned it up to eleven and a filmmaking crew that understood the source material and authentically tries to both build off of it and compliment it.

The Punisher: Dirty Laundry didn’t just succeed in what it set out to do, it exceeded it.

Tom Jane, once again, proved that he was the perfect Frank Castle. And if this film does anything, it proves that point pretty definitively. In fact, this made me want a proper sequel more than I ever thought I did.

There has been talks about another one of these fan films in the future but it’s been quite some time since this one came out. Still, it’s something I’d love to see and I hope that the right people can get involved and just give us a full-length film with Jane, front and center, bringing justice to more scumbags.

This was competently shot, fantastically written, perfectly acted and even if the gunshot effects weren’t perfect, it didn’t wreck the satisfying feeling you get in your gut seeing The Punisher turn vigilante, once again.

I’ve linked to the entire short film below.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the 2004 Punisher movie with Thomas Jane, as well as other Punisher movies and the Netflix television show.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Also known as: P.O.T.C. 3 (promotional abbreviation), Pirates 3 (informal short title), Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (working title)
Release Date: May 19th, 2007 (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, Geoffrey Rush, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun-fat, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Keith Richards

Second Mate Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 169 Minutes, 128 Minutes (censored Chinese version)

Review:

“You will listen to me! Listen! The other ships will still be looking to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead, and what will they see? Frightened bilgerats aboard a derelict ship? No, no they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see, they will see the flash of our cannons, and they will hear the ringing of our swords, and they will know what we can do! By the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs and the courage in our hearts! Gentlemen, hoist the colors!” – Elizabeth Swan

One of the three films had to be the worst one of the original trilogy and well, this is it. Regardless of that fact, it’s still one hell of an adventure movie that hits the right notes and sends these characters off with a well-deserved bang.

Had this been the actual end, people would’ve had a much brighter and appreciative view of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. However, Disney’s gotta be Disney and they couldn’t leave well enough alone and stop while they were ahead.

Regardless of the films that followed, this was a close to prefect ending to the original three pictures and it brings everything full circle in a great way and finished the job of developing the main characters stupendously, making them some of the greatest characters in motion picture history, especially in regards to blockbuster cinema.

Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is just as good as ever but the real treat of this movie is seeing the story of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan come to a close. Sure, they have a cameo years later, but this really ends their story, as I’m assuming the cameo won’t lead to anything now that Disney wants to do a female reboot of the franchise. *cough* Good luck with that, Disney.

I liked seeing how the characters of Will and Elizabeth evolved from children in the beginning of the first movie, to a solid, badass couple that essentially saved the oceanic world by the end of this picture. It’s especially great seeing how perfect Elizabeth evolved, as she leaves this chapter as an incredibly strong, independent woman that an entire armada saw as a real leader.

The original Pirates trilogy should be a primer on how to make a great female character that isn’t a cookie cutter Mary Sue. Maybe J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson should’ve watched these films before farting out the Disney Star Wars trilogy.

Anyway, this is the most over-the-top, insane Pirates movie of the lot but it all leads to an incredible final battle that sees the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman go to all out war while being sucked down into Calypso’s maelstrom a.k.a. a massive whirlpool. 

I also really liked how they explored Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones even more, getting into his personal turmoil that shaped him into a monster and set him off on an extremely dark path. His story is handled with such great care, though, that it’s hard not to relate to him and his pain. But it’s also fantastic finally seeing him meet his end.

Additionally, I loved how this movie built up the already established mythos and expanded the Pirates universe pretty immensely. I didn’t necessarily dig every new thing they tried to do but it worked for this story and how it ended.

The thing that hits me the hardest in these films, however, is the story of James Norrington. What a fantastic and spectacular character arc! The guy goes through so much over the course of the three films, trying to do what he thinks is right, only to sacrifice himself, quite selflessly and courageously, for the woman he loves but knows he can never have. I fucking love that guy and he doesn’t get enough respect due to how he’s never really the biggest thing onscreen.

In the end, this is one solid movie (and trilogy) that is probably much better than it should have been. I have to tip my hat to Gore Verbinski’s superb direction, as well as just how great the actors were. I wish we could have more Pirates movies as good as the first three but that ship has most assuredly sailed.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original 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: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Also known as: Arkham, Gotham, Batman 3 (working titles), Magnus Rex (fake working title), TDKR (informal short title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2012 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Juno Temple, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Nestor Carbonell, Desmond Harrington, Thomas Lennon

DC Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 164 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” – Selina Kyle

Where I’ve seen the first two films in this trilogy at least a dozen times each, I’ve only seen this one once: in the theater. If I’m being honest, I didn’t have much urge to see it again after my initial experience. But I’ll explain why as I roll on and review it.

I was pretty excited for this film but I also knew that it would be damn hard to top The Dark Knight or to try and replicate its greatness. Well, I wasn’t wrong. And while this isn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly the weakest of the trilogy and just falls flat when compared to the other two pictures.

To start, I was a bit perplexed when I first heard that Bane was going to be the big bad of the movie. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Bane but after following The Joker and Two-Face, I felt like the third film should’ve featured more of the old school villains, as opposed to bringing in a more modern one that is kind of boring by comparison. I mean, a Christopher Nolan movie featuring The Riddler, The Penguin or hell, even The Mad Hatter, could’ve been really intriguing.

What we got instead was pretty much a rehash of the threat and the plot of the first movie: Batman Begins. In fact, in this film, Bane is even tied to the same villainous organization of that film. We also get a curveball where we find out he really isn’t the big bad but that just kind of makes the overall story even more redundant.

I guess I understand why Nolan chose Bane, as he wanted to try and keep his Batman films grounded in reality as much as one can with a comic book property but seeing a secret Illuminati-type group descend upon Gotham City with the hopes of using a superweapon to destroy it is derivative of the director’s own work.

Now we do get Catwoman in the film but she is written to be the most sterile and boring version of the character I’ve ever seen. Sure, Anne Hathaway is stunning but for whatever reason, Catwoman just doesn’t feel sexy or believable as someone that can ensnare Bruce Wayne/Batman. She just isn’t interesting and it’s hard to imagine her as someone that could pull Bruce’s heart out of the pain it still feels, eight years after the death of Rachel.

Hell, Bruce’s little romantic moments with Miranda/Talia seem more genuine and their relationship isn’t supposed to be the one the audience is pulling for even before the big plot twist reveals itself.

The film’s overall story is trying to be as good of a thriller as the previous two. It just isn’t and that’s the real issue with it. While I do want to see the heroes beat the baddies and win out in the end, the film just comes off as repetitive and dull. It feels like a weak copy of the first two pictures with a much slower pace and a broken back side quest that slows the movie to a halt. I just can’t get as into it as I did the other movies.

Now I get that “breaking the Bat” and dropping him into a hole was about building him back up to make him stronger and that we needed to get him out of Gotham so that Bane could grow his power but it’s a half-assed recreation of the Knightfall plot. This story also only seems to borrow from it because it was Bane’s most iconic moment and biggest temporary victory in the comics. And with Batman overcoming his incredible injury and then climbing out of a hole deemed “impossible” to escape, it all kind of wrecks Nolan’s strive for realism. You can’t simply punch a popped disc back into someone’s spine.

I also hated the film’s ending but I think I’m done harping on the negatives, as I probably sound like I dislike this quite a bit, when I actually don’t.

The film is well-acted and that’s what really makes this work where it does.

I really dug Tom Hardy as Bane, even if his voice has become a social meme. I also just loved seeing the regular cast get back together for one more adventure. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are all so great in these roles and I loved the final act of the film where we get to see Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon get very involved. My only complaint about Caine’s Alfred is I didn’t like how Bruce pushed him away and left him without much to do in the second half of the film.

Additionally, I really enjoyed Marion Cotillard as the character who would reveal herself as Talia al Ghul. I only wish that we would have gotten to see her be more of a badass but her big reveal comes at the end of the movie and she’s not around much longer after that. Not having a Talia versus Selina fight was a missed opportunity.

The film also boasts great cinematography but why would anyone expect any less from Nolan at this point? I liked the brighter look of the town, especially in the third act, and how a lot of the film happens in daylight.

The final act, which sees Batman and the GCPD bring the fight to the League of Shadows in the streets was superb and chilling. Watching Batman and the cops take it to the villainous terrorists head-on was incredible and the best moment in the film. Watching Batman and Bane fight in a sea of people was also damn spectacular.

All in all, this is still one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It just happens to be the worst of its trilogy and if I’m being honest, it felt like Christopher Nolan and the writers were just tired and wanted to move on to the next phase of their lives.

However, even if someone else would have to step in and do it, I’d rather see this film series continue, as opposed to seeing Warner Bros. keep trying to reboot Batman. Just let Nolan produce and pick the best creative team to help build off of his vision. I mean, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nightwing movie in this cinematic universe would certainly get my money.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

Also known as: Batman Begins 2 (working title), Rory’s First Kiss, Winter Green (fake working titles)
Release Date: July 14th, 2008 (Buenos Aires & New York City premieres)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Ritchie Coster, Michael Jai White, Colin McFarlane, Tom “Tiny” Lister, William Fichtner, David Dastmalchian

DC Comics, Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker

I was a bit apprehensive about revisiting this for the first time in a long time. The reason being, is that I remembered it as being perfect and it was the movie I saw in the theater more times than any other. But with so much time passing, I had worried that my take on it now could have soured a bit.

I’m glad to say that it didn’t, as this is still a masterpiece of crime fiction and social commentary.

As far as superhero films go, I still think that this is the greatest one ever made. I think a lot of that has to do with the realistic approach of the film and just how real and plausible it comes across even though it features a man in a bat costume and a criminal in clown makeup. Not to mention a guy with half his face burnt off and some wonky sci-fi gadgets like the incredibly high-tech sonar surveillance computer.

This is a film where just about everything went right. It was a perfect storm of great writing, great direction, great acting, stellar cinematography and an incredible musical score.

It was well balanced between action and drama and even with its somewhat lengthy running time, there isn’t a wasted moment in the film. Every scene has meaning and every scene does exactly what it needs to without dilly dallying and slowing the pacing down. At the same time, the timing is impeccable and this film perfectly creates tension when it needs to. The whole film is about escalation and the final product is a perfectly curated example of that.

It’s sad and tragic that Heath Ledger died before this was released. It would’ve been cool for him to have seen the final product and to have enjoyed the fanfare and praise his performance as The Joker got. It’s hands down one of the best performances of that decade and even though his death gave the role an added level of mystique and importance, it stands on its own as one of the greatest villain portrayals in motion picture history.

Additionally, I also really liked Ledger’s version of The Joker, as he kind of did his own thing with the character and it forced Nolan to kind of portray the character differently than what was originally intended. And while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the comic book Joker, which no film has done thus far, it kind of exists as its own, great thing and it added so much to this already stellar trilogy.

My only real complaint about the film was how growl-y Bale’s Batman voice was. I much preferred his voice in Batman Begins and I think most people did, as well. I’m not the only person to point this out and in fact, it sort of became a social meme after the movie’s release.

That being said, the Batman voice doesn’t wreck the film and I still think it’s a damn near perfect movie that transcended the superhero genre, forever changed it and hasn’t yet been eclipsed regardless of some of the superb comic book movies that have been released since.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Also known as: Batman 5 (working title), Batman: Intimidation (script title), The Intimidation Game (fake working title)
Release Date: May 31st, 2005 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Gleeson

DC Comics, Syncopy, Warner Bros., 140 Minutes

Review:

“But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just… poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you would be spared your pain.” – Henri Ducard

When this first came out on DVD, I watched it almost weekly for a few years. I loved this film and to me, at least at the time, it was the greatest Batman film ever made. Hell, before the DVD release, I think I saw this at least three times in the theater.

I would end up liking The Dark Knight even more but the Nolan trilogy started with this film and it was a great introduction to his more serious and realistic Batman film series.

In retrospect now, I like the 1989 Batman slightly better but it’s magic was undone by the later films that followed and even though it took eight years, Batman Begins was the cinematic reboot that we needed after the Schumacher Batman pictures.

This film is so good, as are the ones that follow, that I’ve kind of accepted that no one will ever make a Batman film series as great. Frankly, these are the best films that Christopher Nolan has made and while the first film in a trilogy can often times feel like a practice run, this one is fairly close to perfect.

My only real gripe about it is that the pacing feels a bit disjointed at times. But there is also a lot of story and a lot of characters to balance here. I think that Nolan got much better with that in the next film. These aren’t things that break the film in any way but if I can’t give this a perfect score, I feel that I should explain why.

This is still energetic and every scene feels necessary. But it also feels like so much was wedged into it that it could’ve actually benefited from an extra 20-30 minutes. And that’s not something I’m usually a fan of, as I love 90 minute running times and this picture is already well over two hours. But when a film is this good, I never seem to mind that it requires more of my time.

Nolan got the best possible performances out of all of the actors involved and everyone in this is absolutely perfect. This was well cast and even Katie Holmes, who was replaced in the sequel, pulled off the best performance of her career. Normally, I wouldn’t put her at the same level as everyone else in this movie but she held her own and I was disappointed that she was recast in The Dark Knight.

In closing, this is a stellar motion picture where everything just works in the right way from the direction, cinematography, acting, the musical score by Hans Zimmer and the great character development.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Also known as: Pirates 4 (informal alternative title), P.O.T.C. 4 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: May 7th, 2011 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Sam Claflin, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths, Greg Ellis, Keith Richards (cameo)

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney, 137 Minutes

Review:

“[comes out of his quarters and glares at Sparrow] Gentlemen. I be placed in a bewilderment. There I were, resting. And upon a sudden, I hear an ungodly row on deck. Sailors abandoning their posts, without orders, without leave. Men before the mast, taking the ship for themselves. What be that, First Mate?” – Blackbeard

I haven’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie since the theater and frankly, back then, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s not that this is a bad movie, it’s just a pretty boring one that feels smaller than its predecessors and seems to spend more time dilly dallying than getting down and dirty.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of action sequences, there are. But with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan not appearing in this film, it just feels like it’s missing depth and narrative richness.

I guess the trade off is that you get to spend a lot more time with Jack Sparrow, as he has to fill in the blanks and carry this picture without his familiar co-stars.

But, at least, Geoffrey Rush returned as Barbosa and honestly, he’s my favorite character in the franchise.

Apart from that, we get Penelope Cruz, whose role is pretty forgettable. Especially, since she didn’t return for the fifth film.

The villain is played by Ian McShane and while I love him in just about everything he does, he doesn’t seem to do much in this movie until the end. He sort of avoids action until the final fight and just spends most of his time giving speeches and orders to a slew of one-off, disposable characters.

I like that this tapped into the Fountain of Youth story but it gets a lot of that legend wrong. I guess the plot is based off of an ’80s swashbuckling novel but I’ve never read it and I’m not sure how close this film’s story is to it. But I was anticipating seeing the characters romping around Florida, as opposed to Caribbean caves with magic gravity-defying water.

Anyway, this is an okay adventure film to kill a few hours but it pales in comparison to the trilogy of films that came before it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Film Review: Black Rain (1989)

Release Date: September 22nd, 1989
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Craig Bolotin, Warren Lewis
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw, Luis Guzman, Stephen Root, Richard Riehle, Vondie Curtis-Hall

Paramount Pictures, Jaffe-Lansing, Pegasus Film Partners, 125 Minutes

Review:

“I usually get kissed before I get fucked.” – Nick Conklin

Ridley Scott has done some great films. While Black Rain isn’t often times in the discussion of Scott’s best works, it is one of his best looking motion pictures.

Being that this is pretty much neo-noir, it shares a lot of the same visual style as Blade Runner. However, instead of seeing a futuristic Los Angeles on the screen, we are given modern day Osaka. Or what was modern day in 1989.

Sure, this doesn’t have Replicants and flying cars but it does show us how late ’80s metropolitan Japan wasn’t too far off from Scott’s vision of the future.

The story follows two cops played by Michael Douglas, in maybe his coolest role, and Andy Garcia. They witness a Yakuza hit in New York City, capture the criminal and then have to escort him to Japan, where he escapes and they then have to work with the Osaka police in an effort to catch him and bring him back in.

What the cops soon find out, once their stay in Japan is extended, is that the Yakuza guy they caught is in a massive gang war. Now these two find themselves in the middle of it all while the local Osaka police are slow to act due to their hands being tied by their strict laws.

This is also like two buddy cop films in one, as Douglas’ Nick Conklin works with his New York partner for the first half and then has to work with his assigned Japanese partner for the remainder of the film. But unlike your typical buddy cop formula, we’ve got two guys from very different cultures, clashing but ultimately finding respect for one another. It’s kind of like what we would get with the Rush Hour movies nine years later and with less comedy and more testosterone.

The thing that I really like about this flick is not only the clash of cultural styles but the mixing of genres. You’ve basically got a neo-noir Yakuza biker movie. It also has a pretty hard edge to it and is unapologetic about its violence and what modern critics would deem “toxic masculinity”.

Black Rain is a cool fucking movie, hands down. While it is sort of a Yakuza movie seen through Western eyes and made for that audience, it really isn’t too dissimilar from the best films that genre has to offer. Ridley Scott doesn’t specifically try to replicate Japanese gangster cinema, so much as he just tries to make a film within his own style that just happens to take place primarily in Osaka. And frankly, it all seems to fit pretty well together.

Unfortunately, Scott had issues filming in Japan due to the budget. He actually had to shoot the big finale back in California. I really would have loved to have seen a sequel but I’m assuming that Nick Conklin only got one outing because of the financial strain of going back to Japan for another movie.

Then again, Scott didn’t really have much interest in sequels to his films until more recently. So maybe we can get Black Rain 2? Assuming Michael Douglas can still go at 75 years-old. But hey, Sylvester Stallone is bringing Marion Cobretti back, so why not?

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Blade Runner, Someone to Watch Over Me, Rising Sun and ’80s neo-noir.

Film Review: Dark Phoenix (2019)

Also known as: X-Men: Dark Phoenix (alternative title)
Release Date: June 4th, 2019 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Jessica Chastain, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Halston Sage

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, 114 Minutes

Review:

“You’re always sorry, Charles. And there’s always a speech. But nobody cares!” – Magneto

Well, I guess there’s a new rule. That rule is that if an X-Men film tries to tell a Phoenix story, it’s going to be the worst movie in the series.

I honestly didn’t think that the regular X-Men films of the rebooted/prequel era could get worse than Apocalypse but this one takes the cake.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy parts of it, I did. However, for the most part, this movie is a fucking mess and ignores previous continuity more than any other X-film from either era and this comes after they tried to course-correct five years ago with Days of Future Past.

The big narrative problem for me is that it was established that the Phoenix Force in the film universe was dormant in Jean Grey all along. When Days of Future Past corrected the wonky timelines of the film, that shouldn’t have been a reboot of every aspect of the film series. Otherwise, that’s just some J. J. Abrams Kelvin Timeline bullshit.

In this film, Jean Grey gets infected with the Phoenix Force during a space mission. It’s more in line with how it happened in the comics but it doesn’t make sense with what was already established. Also, in just the previous movie, she sort of taps into the Phoenix Force when she’s battling Apocalypse. So it was in her but then it wasn’t? Fuck, these movies are a goddamned clusterfuck of epically biblical proportions!

Anyway, like the three films before this one, this takes place in a new decade: the ’90s. Somehow though, no one fucking ages in these movies even though First Class was thirty years earlier than this chapter. Cyclops and Quicksilver were in their late teens in the ’70s in Days of Future Past. Here they look like they’re maybe in their early twenties. But whatever, it’s not like the filmmakers cared, as Dazzler is wearing her disco outfit in 1992 and everyone else is dressed like its 2019.

Another thing that irked me somewhat, is that I love Michael Fassbender’s Magneto but it took an hour for him to show up. Also, three movies into the subplot with Quicksilver and Magneto still doesn’t know he’s the kid’s father and it’s actually just dropped in this movie and not mentioned.

It seemed pretty apparent that the regulars didn’t want to do this movie. Other than McAvoy’s Professor X, the rest of the main cast were only in half the movie, got killed off or got beat up and put on the shelf. That being said, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique was insufferable in this installment and I’m glad she got impaled.

The main characters that did actually appear for the entirety of the film were completely misused, however. Professor X was a careless prick and didn’t act like himself, Beast was super emo and almost became Dark Beast and Magneto switched his allegiances on a dime because he conveniently didn’t have all the information.

The threat in the film other than the Phoenix Force was a bunch of shapeshifting aliens that were obviously written to be the Skrulls but probably got changed late in production because Disney bought Fox and they couldn’t have Skrulls in an X-Men movie just after they introduced them in Captain Marvel.

Everything in this film feels scaled down as well. Every big battle is in a small area. There’s the fight at Jean’s daddy’s house, the confrontation on a small island, the big second act battle in front of a modest sized New York City building and its generic lobby and then the big finale which takes place on a train. They definitely didn’t do anything epic in scale, which seems like a missed opportunity considering that this is a movie that features the Phoenix Force trying to cleanse the Earth with fire.

Sophie Turner is also the focal point of the movie and I’m still not sure if she can act or not. This movie doesn’t help her case, as she was monotone in every scene, barely conveyed emotion and just acted like she was completely disinterested in the whole project.

While it sounds like I’m bashing the film and honestly, I probably am, I did like a few things.

For one, the Hans Zimmer score was damn incredible. It’s rare that I even notice music in movies anymore but I noticed it here and it actually made some scenes better and more emotional when some of the actors couldn’t even do that themselves.

I also liked the opening sequence, even if these teens going into space, untested, at the request of the United States President seemed strange.

Some of the new mutants in Magneto’s camp were also pretty cool additions in the New York and train battles but they were just kind of there and then discarded. The dude with the killer dreads was pretty badass; think Omega Red… but with dreads instead of hand tentacles.

I was really happy to see Dazzler show up too but she’s completely wasted in a cheap cameo. She sort of just hangs out in the background and doesn’t do anything else. Fans that have wanted Dazzler since 2000’s X-Men will probably feel cheated, especially since she was played by Halston Sage, who is dynamite on The Orville.

Additionally, I can’t say enough about how good Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are in these films. Their bond transcends the screen, it truly does. It just sucks that the material they had to work with here was so fucking lackluster.

On a side note, I really liked Nicholas Hoult too. He’s a solid Beast, even if I wasn’t initially keen on the casting. But like the other two great actors in this, he also had shit to work with in this picture.

To be fair, a lot of this film’s issues might not be the fault of the actual filmmakers. Simon Kinberg can do some solid stuff and he’s mostly handled this franchise well. However, Disney bought Fox just before this movie was slated to come out. It’s pretty well known now that they meddled with it in post-production because they thought it was too similar to Captain Marvel, which they were banking the entire future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on.

In the end, though, we got a really mediocre movie made by people that don’t seem like they care anymore. I guess it’s fitting that this incarnation of the cinematic X-Men franchise is now dead.

So I guess we’ll have to wait a few more years (or longer) to see what Disney does with the X-Men once they are rebooted into the MCU.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: all the other Fox X-Men films and spinoffs.