“POTC 5” Is A Welcome Return to Form For Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean” Franchise

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

More than 14 years ago, Disney brought to audiences what was one of the company’s biggest and best movies of its rich, decades-long history when it released Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. That nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, based on a ride at one of the company’s theme parks, proved to be its own enjoyable and successful action packed cinematic ride. In the years since its July 9, 2003 theatrical debut, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become less enjoyable with each entry. It fell so far from the glory of that first movie that when it was originally announced that Disney would make the franchise’s fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, much speculation was raised along with plenty of eyebrows. Every bit of that speculation was justified considering the problems with the franchise’s second through fourth installments. The reality of the franchise’s latest (and hopefully last) installment is that it proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the series. that is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note in examining this movie as the story itself. It will be discussed later. The work of the movie’s cast puts the finishing touch on its presentation. Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales proves itself a treasure in its own right even with its problems.

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Men Tell No Tales is a treasure of a movie, looking at the overall picture of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. That is because in comparison to the franchise’s second through fourth installments, its story brings the franchise full circle while also wrapping up the loose ends created over the course of the series’ previous entries. That includes its very first offering. This time out, Jack Sparrow has to evade yet another high seas villain who he wronged years ago all while trying to locate yet another powerful treasure. All the while, young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites — Maleficent, Oculus, Gods of Egypt) is trying to lift the curse on his dad, Will Turner, much as Will tried in previous movies to lift his dad’s curse. Henry ends up meeting his own love interest Carina (Kaya Scoldelario — Moon, The Maze Runner 1 – 2) very much in the same fashion in which Will and Elizabeth met in the franchise’s first movie). The twist that the writers put on Carina’s back story is a positive because it doesn’t just outright repeat Will and Elizabeth’s love story, but gives it new life so to speak. Henry trying since his childhood to lift his father’s curse is just one of the loose ends that this movie’s writers wrap up this time out. It is directly connected to the reunion of Will and Elizabeth, which is also addressed in this story, in turn bringing the entire franchise full circle. What is truly interesting to note in those attempts to tie the franchise together, the writers even acknowledge, albeit briefly, the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. That very brief mention of that movie is actually a good thing considering how…well…strange it was.Considering all of this, the story at the center of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales forms a relatively solid foundation for the movie’s presentation.

Relatively is emphasized because there are some issues with the story that cannot be ignored. First and foremost is the fact that in the original trilogy, it was hinted that anyone who controlled Davy Jones controlled the seas. Yet in this story, anyone who wields Poseidon’s trident also controls the seas. It’s kind of misleading to have two separate ways to control the seas. Also of note is the number of scenes that likely could have been cut without harming the movie’s overall story. There was a handful of scenes throughout the two-hour, nine-minute movie that could have been cut, not only cutting down the movie’s run time, but also keeping the movie’s pacing from slowing at those points, too. The dual presentations of Salazar’s back story not once but twice is a prime example of material that could have been cut back. It would have made more sense to tell how Jack lured Salazar into the Devil’s Triangle when he was initially introduced rather than introducing him initially and then later telling his back story. Some of the early interactions between Carina and Henry could have been trimmed back, too. Given, two hours and nine minutes is not a bad run time for this installment of the POTC series, but the material that could have been axed made the movie feel almost two and a half hours, which became the series’ standard run time. Cutting the noted material would have easily cut the movie back to about two hours flat, but considering as quickly as the story already manages to progress, it would have progressed that much faster without losing anything along the way. Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is not perfect, obviously, but it also is quite an improvement over the stories at the center of the series’ previous entries. To that end, this story forms, again, a relatively solid foundation for its presentation. It is not the movie’s only key element. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note as its story.

The stylistic approach taken in this movie is so critical to note because it takes audiences back to the very first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The action is there throughout along with the comedic timing, prat falls and more that made Pirates of the Caribbean so surprisingly enjoyable in its first outing. The over-the-top drama of the franchise’s second and third films were largely absent this time out, too, making this stylistic return to form quite welcome. Jack’s unlikely re-introduction and the early island fight sequence between Jack, his crew and the British soldiers are prime examples of what makes the movie’s return to form so welcome. The big high seas battle scenes between Salazar’s ship and crew and those of Sparrow also show how this movie stylistically returned to the franchise’s roots. There are also the liens traded between Jack and Henry as well as other dialogue that returns to form just as much. Between the lines and scenes noted here and so many others not noted directly, viewers will find that the movie’s creative forces went to great lengths to stylistically take viewers back to POTC‘s roots in a new setting and story. Those efforts paid off greatly here, strengthening even more the movie’s overall presentation. When those efforts are coupled with the work of the movie’s cast, the movie’s presentation proves even more why it is worth the watch.

Johnny Depp and company entertain audiences throughout the course of POTC 5 with their performances. That includes funny moments such as Jack and Henry’s first meeting and even Barbosa’s men as they discuss Salazar’s escape from the Devil’s Triangle with Barbosa as well as so many other moments. What audiences will note in these interactions is that even these moments are themselves another stylistic return to form for the movie. The same can be said of the more emotional moments between Henry and Carina. Audiences familiar with the series’ history will agree very similar chops were shown between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the original trilogy. Thwaites and Scodalerio are just as impressive as the pair’s characters slowly fall for each other. Rather than just go over the top, the growth is gradual, keeping audiences fully engaged. That subtlety in the pair’s acting shows experience beyond its years, and shows the promise for each actor’s future. Even Geoffrey Rush deserves his own applause as he has to keep himself from being run through by Salazar. He shows a side of Barbosa that rarely had to be seen in any of the franchise’s previous entries, and did so professionally, too. It made those moments just as interesting as any other from himself and his fellow cast mates. Those moments in question, when joined with the moments noted here, make even clearer why the cast’s work in front of the cameras just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story and its stylistic approach. Speaking of those elements, when they are joined with the cast’s work, the whole of the noted elements keeps Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales afloat much more easily than its predecessors, and makes it honestly the series’ best entry since Curse of the Black Pearl. keeping that in mind, Dead Men Tell No Tales sees Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a positive final note to an otherwise doomed franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a positive final statement for Disney’s otherwise sunken high-seas series. It takes audiences back to the glory of the franchise’s first film both in terms of the cast’s acting and the movie’s stylistic approach. While the movie’s story does have at least one plot hole — which is more powerful, controlling Davy Jones or Poseidon’s trident? — and suffers from some minor pacing issues related to unnecessary scenes, it still is a fun story that easily allows audiences to suspend their disbelief. Each item noted here plays its own part into the movie’s overall presentation. Good and bad considered side by side, this movie sees thankfully, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a much-needed positive final note to the otherwise maligned franchise. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Walt Disney Studios is available online now at:

Website: http://www.waltdisneystudios.com

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Skyfall One Of 2013’s Top Home Releases

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of the third time is the charm.  That adage has never been truer than in the case of Daniel Craig’s take on the revered Bond franchise.  When Casino Royale first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  That is because it came across more as a movie that was struggling to deal with the expectations placed on it by critics and the public.  In trying so hard, it lost its identity, and became more of a melodrama than a classic Bond flick.  Then came Quantum of Solace.  The second of Craig’s Bond films wasn’t bad.  It was just misunderstood.  Its problem was that it was more a sequel to Casino Royale than its own standalone movie.  Enter Skyfall.  This is the Bond flick that fans have wanted from the very beginning.  That’s even more the case now that this modern classic has been released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.

Skyfall is the movie that long-time Bond fans have waited for since the release of Casino Royale.  This movie is a throwback to the glory days of James Bond in every sense of the word.  Right from the beginning of the movie, audiences are taken back in time with a classic Bond style opening credit sequence complete with musical number.  This time the opening musical number is provided courtesy of pop star Adele who recently won a Golden Globe for her performance of the movie’s theme song.  And go figure, she sings in the song’s chorus, “This is the end.”  For those who haven’t seen Skyfall yet, this single line is far more prophetic than anyone could realize until the story’s surprise ending.  In between the classic opening and the surprise ending, the rest of the movie is entirely classic style Bond, complete with a wild opening chase scene, and nonstop action throughout the story’s first two acts.  The story’s final act is the only downside to the entire presentation.  The buildup to the final confrontation between Bond and Silva drags on more than it really should have.  But the story’s surprise epilogue makes that slow boil forgivable.

The meat and potatoes of Skyfall is classic James Bond in every sense of the phrase. The action is much the same as old school Bond flicks.  And fans will thrill at the inclusion of a certain classic Bond car complete with ejector seat and guns in the headlights.  Yes, that car.  And then of course there is the classic Bond attitude on the part of Daniel Craig.  Rather than being the finely trained killer/agent with emotional baggage that audiences came to know from the franchise’s previous efforts, what audiences get here is a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery and his own attitude, too complete with the occasional semi-cheesy one-liners.  Combined with the story’s non-stop action and the constant references to the Golden Days of Bond, Skyfall quickly becomes the first true definitive Bond film for this generation.  All of these factors are discussed at length in the bonus features included in the movie’s brand new Blu-ray/DVD/Vudu combo pack.  Everything from the action scenes to the new Bond girl to the gadgets and more are discussed in the combo pack’s bonus features.  Those dicussions are made even more interesting with the inclusion of not one, but two separate audio commentaries that audiences can enjoy.  Both commentaries add their own extra insight into everything that went into making the movie.  For example, audiences will be surprised to discover that Craig himself took part in the movie’s initial train scene as it went through a tunnel.  That wasn’t a stunt double.  That was really Daniel Craig.  How many stars today are so willing to do their own stunts next to one Jackie Chan.  The commentaries offer so much more that audiences will enjoy as they watch this new home release themselves.  Keeping all of this in mind, it goes without saying that just as this was one of the best movies of 2012 in theaters, it is now one of the best movies of 2013 in its home release.  It is available in stores and online now and can be ordered online direct via the Fox online store at http://www.foxconnect.com/skyfall-14987.html.

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Top 10 Major Motion Pictures Of 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012

 

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1.  The Artist:  While it originally made its debut overseas in 2011, it wasn’t until January 20th of this year that The Artist actually made its nationwide debut in theaters across the U.S.  Before then, only the lucky few at the big festivals got to see it.  That being the case, it should be considered a 2012 release.  So what makes it 2012’s best?  So much could be said.  At a time when so much of what Hollywood churns out is prequels, sequels, and remakes, this story—distributed by Sony Pictures—went the total opposite.  How simple and ingenious is it to make a silent film in a movie of major flash-bang-boom films?  Because the movie’s only sound is its music, viewers are forced to watch.  And the cast was force to really put on its best possible performance, rather than rely on everything else that most movies use to distract audiences from poor performances.  The music is quite enjoyable, too.  And of course, the general cinematography is just as impressive.  It all combines to make for a movie that any movie lover should see at least once.

Mirror Mirror BD2.  Mirror, Mirror:  Some of you might shake your heads at this pick.  But the reality is that this is really a fun and family friendly movie.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  While young Lily Collins (the daughter of superstar Phil Collins) is billed as the lead star here, it’s the dwarves who are really the story’s stars.  Their antics make for more than their share of laughs.  Though watching Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer—The Lone Ranger) put under the evil queen’s puppy love spell is pretty funny, too.  It’s obvious that this spoof of the classic fairy tale was aimed both at boys and girls.  With its mix of wit and charm, it will always be one of the best takes on the old Snow White story.

Courtesy:  Disney Studios

Courtesy: Disney Studios

3.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green:  This is another truly enjoyable family movie.  The general story is one to which any parent can relate and will enjoy because of that.  Though the concept of what happens with Timothy might be a little bit tough to discuss with younger viewers.  The beautiful backdrop adds even more warmth to the story.  And the cast’s acting makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Sure it’s sappy, emotional, and all that jazz.  But that can be forgiven as it’s such an original and heartwarming story.       

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

4.  Skyfall:  This is where things begin to get a little bit touchy.  Skyfall is by far the best Bond flick to come along in a very long time.  That’s not to say that the previous two were bad.  But this one brought back memories of the old school James Bond that everybody knows.  It’s got the gadgets and the humor and none of the melodrama that weighed down the previous two Bond flicks.  The only downside to the movie is that it tends to drag in the final act.  Other than that, it is a nice return to form for the Bond franchise and gives hope for any future Bond films….that is at least if Christopher Nolan doesn’t get his hands on the franchise.

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

5.  The Avengers:  The Avengers was a very nice way to cap off the build-up created by Marvel Studios with the recent bevy of comic book based movies.  It had great special effects.  Its story was simple and solid.  And the shooting was equally impressive.  Considering all the action going on, audiences weren’t left feeling dizzy to the point of wanting to walk out (or in the case of home release, just turn it off).  But like so many ensemble cast movies, it suffered from a common problem.  That problem was the movie’s run time.  Most of the characters in The Avengers had already been introduced through their own separate movies.  So there was no reason to re-introduce them all over again this time.  A lot of that extra time could have been spared.  Hopefully those involved have learned from that and will present viewers with a shorter movie in the second of the Avengers movies.

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

6.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I am just as much a comic book fan as anyone else out there.  So it goes without saying that I was excited to see this movie.  It did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy.  The problem is that it did too much of a good job, as David Goyer and the Nolans tried too hard to cram everything into one movie.  Word is that this latest installment of the Batman franchise left many people checking their watches when it was in theaters.  It might have been better served to have been split up into at least one more movie because of everything added into the mix.  And having what seems to be a lack of commentary on the new home release, fans can only guess what the logic was in cramming so much into one story.  Much like The Avengers, the shooting and the special effects were great.  So it has that going for it.  But the writing was the story’s big problem.  Here’s to hoping that whoever takes over the Batman franchise next (whenever it’s re-launched) won’t make the same mistake as Christopher Nolan and company.

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

7.  Prometheus:  This semi-prequel to Ridley Scott’s hit Alien franchise was met with mixed reviews.  There seemed to be no gray area here.  Audiences either loved it or hated it.  Truth be told, it worked quite well as both a prequel and as its very own stand-alone movie.  Sure the special effects are different from those used in the original movies.  But times are different.  So viewers should take that into account.  And the shooting was just as impressive.  While it may not be as memorable as Scott’s previous works, at least audiences can agree that it’s better than the movies in the AvP franchise.

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

8.  Les Miserables:  This latest reboot of Victor Hugo’s classic story of love and redemption in one of history’s darkest eras is not bad.  But it’s not great, either.  Audiences who know the stage play will thrill at how director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his staff of writers paid tribute to the stage play both in its writing and its shooting.  At the same time, Hooper tried so hard to pay tribute with his shooting style and the transitions that the whole movie felt dizzying to say the least.  The shooting and transitions felt like nothing more than a bunch of cuts from one shot to the next.  There was never a total sense of fluidity anywhere in the story.  It was almost as if despite staying true to the stage play, the script for this latest big screen adaptation was written by someone with ADHD.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway did a superior job with their performances.  But despite that, odds are that the movie will sadly be remembered more for its flawed shooting and transitions than for its award-worthy performances.  Nonetheless, it’s still a good movie for any fan of Les Miserables or for fans of musicals in general to see at least once.

Courtesy:  CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

9.  Salmon Fishing in the YemenSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is without a doubt an original story.  It’s next to impossible to find anything like it out there or present.  But it suffers greatly from an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama, a romance, or a little bit of both.  It’s nice to see the simple message of something as simple as fishing being able to bring the world’s people together peacefully.  But it really seemed to let the romance factor get too much involved.  As a result, it got bogged down in itself.  Had it not had the romance subplot, it might have been better.

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

10. Arbitrage:  It was once noted that three factors more than any other are the causes of crime.  Those factors are:  money, power, and sex.  Arbitrage has all three of these.  It’s an interesting movie.  And it definitely wastes no time noting the latter of the trio of factors, as it lets audiences know that Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having an affair with another woman.  And also, Miller’s boss has a very firm talk with him early on letting him know that he knows about the financial inaccuracies that he’s causing.  It doesn’t take long to know where this story goes.  It’s something of a tried and true story.  Add in this critic’s pet peeve of movies, the “whisper scenes” and it makes for a movie that as good as it is it could have been better.  For those wondering, the “whisper scene” is exactly as it sounds (bad pun there).  The “whisper scene” is one in which actors essentially whisper throughout the scene against overpowering music to make the scene more emotional and powerful.  But put against the sudden transition to normal volume scenes (and above normal volume scenes), it becomes rather annoying as one has to constantly change the volume on one’s TV as a result of that.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets the Golden Globe for which it was nominated.

There you have it folks.  That is my personalist of the year’s ten best major motion pictures.  You are more than welcome to share whether you agree or disagree and what your top 10 list would look like.  2013’s already shaping up to be an interesting year.  As the movies start to come out, I’ll have reviews of them, too.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Skyfall Is Bond Done Right

Courtesy: MGM/Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of the third time is the charm.  That adage has never been truer than in the case of Daniel Craig’s take on the revered Bond franchise.  When Casino Royale first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  That is because it came across more as a movie that was struggling to deal with the expectations placed on it by critics and the public.  In trying so hard, it lost its identity, and became more of a melodrama than a classic Bond flick.  Then came Quantum of Solace.  The second of Craig’s Bond films wasn’t bad.  It was just misunderstood.  Its problem was that it was more a sequel to Casino Royale than its own standalone movie.  Enter Skyfall.  This is the Bond flick that fans have wanted from the very beginning.

Skyfall is the movie that long-time Bond fans have waited for since the release of Casino Royale.  This movie is a throwback to the glory days of James Bond in every sense of the word.  Right from the beginning of the movie, audiences are taken back in time with a classic Bond style opening credit sequence complete with musical number.  This time the opening musical number is provided courtesy of pop star Adele.  And go figure, she sings in the song’s chorus, “This is the end.”  For those who haven’t seen Skyfall yet, this single line is far more prophetic than anyone could realize until the story’s surprise ending.  In between the classic opening and the surprise ending, the rest of the movie is entirely classic style Bond, complete with a wild opening chase scene, and nonstop action throughout the story’s first two acts.  The story’s final act is the only downside to the entire presentation.  The buildup to the final confrontation between Bond and Silva drags on more than it really should have.  But the story’s surprise epilogue makes that slow boil forgivable.

The meat and potatoes of Skyfall is classic James Bond in every sense of the phrase. The action is much the same as old school Bond flicks.  And fans will thrill at the inclusion of a certain classic Bond car complete with ejector seat and guns in the headlights.  Yes, that car.  And then of course there is the classic Bond attitude on the part of Daniel Craig.  Rather than being the finely trained killer/agent with emotional baggage that audiences came to know from the franchise’s previous efforts, what audiences get here is a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery and his own attitude, too complete with the occasional semi-cheesy one-liners.  Combined with the story’s non-stop action and the constant references to the Golden Days of Bond, Skyfall quickly becomes the first true definitive Bond film for this generation.  Keeping that in mind, it also has made its argument for consideration to be one of the year’s top movies.  With any luck, now that the people behind Skyfall have crafted a movie for ALL Bond fans, those same people will realize that “the end” is just the beginning for this Bond.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.