Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

“The worst pirate we’ve heard of” returns in the fifth installment of the franchise.

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If The Fast and the Furious can get 8 movies, then Pirates of the Caribbean can do so as well. In its latest addition to the franchise, Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush welcome new characters portrayed by Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, and Kaya Scodelario.

Five years after On Stranger Tides, Captain Jack Sparrow is down on his luck; he lost his crew, his ship, and a sense of purpose. Imprisoned, he meets Henry Turner (Thwaites), the son of William Turner (Orlando Bloom), who asks for his assistance in retrieving the Trident of Poseidon and informs him that Captain Salazar (Bardem) and his cursed Spanish crew are coming their way to kill him. With the help of the intelligent Carina Smyth (Scodelario) and Jack’s old pirate crew, they sail away in search of the infamous artifact.

Though this is the first movie in the franchise not to feature Hans Zimmer’s music, the soundtrack is still beautiful to listen to. The main theme still has remnants of the past theme, yet it is still fresh.

Both Thwaites and Scodelario are effective as solo characters. Their own character arcs are well-motivated and relatable. Their romance sub-plot, however, feels forced and is just a bootleg version of Will Turner-Elizabeth Swann.

Captain Salazar has the motivation of almost all Pirates bad guys, but Bardem manages to make it feel personal. His Captain Ahab-level obsession to kill Sparrow has lead to his demises (yeah, plural). There were time when I had a hard time understanding him though.

Johnny Depp has portrayed the character for over 14 years (sometimes in Disneyland). Evident in the latter movies, Jack Sparrow walks in a very thin line of being a parody or caricature of himself. The Curse of the Black Pearl portrayal has always been my favorite.

The story in itself is nothing new. Change a few character names and artifact names here and there, and you soon realize you’re basically watching the same thing.

SPOILER ALERT

However, the scene between Barbossa (Rush) and Carina, who was revealed to be her long lost daughter, is completely surprising and emotional…or maybe I have a soft spot for father scenes/stories.

Also, despite appearing to be the last movie in the franchise, the post-credits scene at the end tells us otherwise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales features the same story with minute differences. Let us all hope that the next movie ends this franchise with a satisfying bang because Dead Men Tell No Tales is…

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Beauty and the Beast Film Review

Disney continues to pull the “Let’s Make It Live-Action” lever…

This time, it’s one of the films of the Disney Renaissance in the 90s.

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After Alice in WonderlandCinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book, Disney hires director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls, and …strangely… the last two Twilight movies) to helm the live-action remake of the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast. With an ensemble featuring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in starring roles and Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, and Ian McKellen in supporting roles, the 2017 version has a lot to live up to from its 1991 older brother.

The film follows 90% of the 1991 film. Honestly, I won’t tell it anymore because the story is such a classic.

One of the things I like about the film is that it added/fixed some plot questions/blunders/scenes from the original 1991 version. How come the villagers have no idea of their former rulers? Why are the pieces of furniture still friendly to Beast? LeFou’s character development is a welcome addition. Whether or not his sexuality affected his character arc/film itself is not important (at least for me). Also, the addition of his line in The Mob Song just made both LeFou and the song better.

Of course, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens gave their all. Emma Watson is truly a beauty in this film (you know… Belle), and Dan Stevens managed to give us a voice that is almost similar to the 1991 version (credits to the post-production team too). The chemistry between the two is very evident. The tandem of Lumiere and Cogsworth (Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen, respectively) feels so natural.

The songs were phenomenal as well. As I said, this remake will be heavily compared to its 1991 version, which won multiple awards (ie. songs and score). New lines were added; new songs were introduced. All of it went seamlessly, and we are lucky to listen.

I have three issues with the film though. First, there are some scenes which the green screen is VERY obvious. It takes away the magic of the moment. Second, the character of Agathe the Enchantress (Hattioe Morahan) is really unnecessary. I mean, obviously the first scene is important, but the rest of her scenes can be removed and it would not affect the plot at all. Lastly, the fight between Gaston (Luke Evans) and Beast was better in the 1991 version. The 2017 fight was too short and did not feel personal at all. In the 1991 version, you feel Gaston digesting every moment he bludgeons Beast. 2017 Gaston using a gun doesn’t work for me. When you saw 1991 Gaston stab Beast deeply, you truly feel his obsession.

Beauty and the Beast captured the essence of the 1991 original. It has great performances from all of the cast, but it is simply a live-adaptation remake of a 1991 animated film that is debatably better. So… this film is…

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Get Out Film Poster

A satirical horror film made by the great comedian Jordan Peele.

Wait… what?!

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Jordan Peele makes his directorial debut in Get Out. Anyone who is familiar with Peele’s work knows him as this funny comedian who works with his usual partner Keegan-Michael Key in Comedy Central. But then, to everyone’s surprise and confusion, Peele’s first film is that of horror.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man (or is it African-American), reluctantly agrees to his girlfriend’s wishes: to meet her completely white family for the first time. As Chris and Rose the Girlfriend (Allison Williams), arrive to the Armitage family residence, he immediately felt a certain level of uneasiness towards Rose’ parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) and the family black servants (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel). He turns out to be right as soon as he uncovers the family’s dark secret/agenda.

Daniel Kaluuya’s acting shows the slow realization of the situation his character is in. From the moment he was being hypnotized to the moment he realized he cannot leave the residence, his expressions show extreme helplessness.

Speaking of expressions, this film is a perfect example of how micro-expressions show the deeper personality of people. You can see it especially when Rose’ parents talk to Chris. You can see it when the old white people are talking to Chris.

Also, the soundtrack of this film is very effective. The chills of the scene gets added by the music created by Michael Abels.

My only complaint/not-so complaint to the film is that it is a slowburn. At only 1:40 hours, the film feels really slow at times. However, each scene is important to the plot and allows the big payoff at the end to be more satisfying.

Get Out is a film that explores racism in a horror setting. That is quite a unique experience as I have never seen a horror movie that has racism as a pivotal part of the plot. This is certainly…

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Logan Film Review

Tears fall as the X-Men film universe says goodbye to Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman.

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Director James Mangold (Knight and Day and The Wolverine) teams up with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in what could possibly be one of the highlights of the X-Men franchise. As the last X-Men film for both Jackman and Stewart, Logan should be viewed whether or not it is good.

In 2029, Logan (Jackman), whose healing factor has greatly declined, now works as a chauffeur, lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and takes care of a senile Professor X (Stewart). Soon, they meet Laura (Dafne Keen), a mysterious girl with a blatant similarity with Logan. They soon find themselves on the run and protecting Laura from a group of mercenaries known as the Reavers, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

Hugh Jackman goes all out in this film. This is definitely his best Wolverine film and his best portrayal of the character. You really feel the toll of his weakened healing factor. His walk is limp; his body is bruised and scarred; his face is definitely rugged. Logan has seen and experienced a lot… and most of it is bad.

The same goes for Charles Xavier. He really looks vulnerable.He has a hard time speaking. He regularly experiences seizures. He really looks old.

In fact, they both look old! It’s such a painful sight to see these two beloved characters in such a dilapidated state.

Meanwhile, Dafne Keen is surprisingly amazing as Laura. She expressed both innocence and ferocity in her scenes. She had more character development than a lot of characters in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The action sequences and fight scenes are brutal in its execution, and it truly deserves its R rating. For the first time after 17 years, we finally get to see what Wolverine does best: slicing and dicing.

The tone of the film is obviously different compared to the rest of the X-Men movies. It doesn’t follow your typical superhero story.

However, the film suffers from the same sickness the Marvel Cinematic Universe is having: weak antagonists. Logan’s internal conflicts are obvious… yes- his age, weakened healing factor, and his rejection of being in a group/family (again). But the people who are in his way (external conflicts) only appeared as minor grievances.

Also, given that this is the last appearance of Jackman and Stewart in an X-Men film, it bothers me greatly that there are a lot of questions the film left unanswered. Some of them are continuity questions; some of them are new ones.

Logan is a great sendoff to Jackman and Stewart in roles that they have played for almost two decades. It has great character development, brutal fight scenes, and a new character with full of potential. However, it suffers from the same problems the X-Men film franchise suffers. Because of that, this film is…

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The Great Wall Movie Review

Despite what Wikipedia says, the Chinese apparently built the Great Wall because of dragon-type monsters…

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Directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero and House of Flying Daggers), this movie stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Andy Lau, and Pedro Pascal.

Set in the Song dynasty, the movie revolves around William (Damon), a European mercenary who stumbles upon the Great Wall in search of blackpowder. In the Great Wall, he and fellow mercenary Pero Tovar (Pascal) witness a centuries-long battle between man and monsters.

One of the great things about this movie is the chemistry between Damon and Pascal. It really felt like that their characters know each other for a very long time. Pascal provided an incredible amount of humor.

As expected from the director of Hero, the action sequences were also good, especially the first half of the movie. To me, it is like watching The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies because the movie is just one big mega-fight.

Costume design is a bit of a mixed bag here. For one thing, they are visually appealing. Each troop has their own color designation, and each armor is well-crafted. On the other hand, I just can’t help thinking about how historically inaccurate the armors are. There is this one shot where they all look like Ancient Chinese Power Rangers.

And then we look at the casting choice and character development… William’s character is really just another one of those white men who can miraculously save an ethnic group. Though the director claims that it has the most number of Chinese actors in a film of such a scale, it cannot ignore the fact the the Eurpean characters have more character development, more intrigue, and conflict.

Furthermore, the story was executed very simply (or lazily…). There were no surprises because every scene that follows is exactly how you picture it. It is simply a generic monster fantasy.

Lastly, common sense seems to be thrown out! Why use gymnast women with spears when you already have cannon, gunpowder, and a revolving blade?!

The Great Wall is a generic monster movie. Despite the chemistry between its actors and some of its the action sequences, this movie is…

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La La Land Film Review

There was a time when musicals ruled Hollywood. This film reminds us of the greatness of that era.

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Director Damien Chazelle, who gave us 2014’s Whiplash, one of the greatest films of that year, now gives us another music-heavy film with a lot of comedy, drama, nostalgia, and of course a great soundtrack.

The film centers around the relationship between Mia (Emma Stone), a barista by day and struggling artist by day and night, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who dreams to own a club. Conflicts rise when they realize that to achieve a successful future means to sacrifice precious things in the present.

Holy nostalgia! I love this film! Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Donald O’Connor would be proud. The title sequence itself is a big shout-out to the musical of the 40s and 50s (or the entire genre in general). The film felt like a treasure hidden from a time capsule from an era almost forgotten… a time when the actors should really have talent! The Epilogue scene reminds of The Broadway Melody Ballet featured in Singin’ in the Rain.

SPOILER ALERT!

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have such great chemistry together. One feels the relationship build and crumble as the film progresses. We love it when they achieve the smallest success, and we empathize when they stumble on obstacles.

Of course, the third character of the film is its soundtrack/music. It’s quite rare for a modern musical to transition itself from a dialogue-scene to a singing-scene. And the fact that it manages to hook such an emotion from the viewers… Mia and Sebastian’s Theme, anyone?

And the great thing about La La Land is that it does not shy away from the harsh realities of life. There is no “Everything Will Turn Out Right” button. We choose what happens to us. We are responsible to our lives. You want to achieve your dream? There’s a price, and it’s not cheap.

La La Land hits all the notes. Just like Sebastian’s passionate speech about jazz, it is only by watching, listening, and digesting this film can one truly experience its greatness. This film is definitely…

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Sing Film Review

The director of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the production company that gave us The Secret Life of Pets combine forces for an animated musical. This is a “hit or miss” situation.

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Let’s face it. The Secret Life of Pets, another 2016 animated animal-based movie from Illumination Entertainment, was ultimately disappointing. So when Sing premiered, one might have the notion that it would be just another kids movie. Fortunately, that is not the case.

Realizing his theater is on the verge of foreclosure, optimistic  Buster Moon the Koala (Matthew McConaughey) starts a singing competition and promises $100 000 to the winner. Dozens of animals auditioned, including pigs Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and Gunter (Nick Kroll), self-centered Mike the Rat (Seth MacFarlene), rocker Ash the Porcupine (Scarlett Johansson), shy Meena the Elephant (Tori Kelly), and reluctant criminal Johnny the Gorilla (Taron Egerton). There is only one problem with the competition… there is no $100 000!

It is just so nice to hear these actors… well … sing! MacFarlene has regularly shown us his singing chops in Family Guy; Johansson, Egerton, and Witherspoon teased us in 2016’s Jungle Book, Eddie the Eagle, and 2005’s Walk the Line, respectively; and Kelly is an American Idol alumnus. Because of the expected (and surprising) singing talent, the climax of the film delivered in all levels.

Also, each character’s personal narrative was given enough screen time to let us know them. These are not just a bunch of individuals grouped together just to sing. They have separate lives, and the singing competition added (or removed) something to it.

The visuals and character designs were stunning. The squid scenes, for example, burst with colors!

The only negative thing I can think about this film is that it is a story we have seen countless times, conflicts we have seen over and over again, and resolutions that have become a cliche. But the film managed to be a feel-good one, and everything enters the Entertaining Zone once the music starts hitting.

Sing delivered what is expected from a musical. Despite having an overdone story, it has such a superb voice-acting and singing from its cast, colorful visuals, and laughs the entire family will enjoy. Because of this, this is definitely a…

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Passengers Film Review

Jennifer Lawrence as your only companion in space? SIGN ME UP!

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After the commercial and critical success of 2014’s The Imitation Game, director Morten Tyldum enters the sci-fi genre with Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.

In the deep void of space, Jim Preston (Pratt), a passenger of the space ship Avalon, prematurely wakes up from hibernation and finds himself the only man awake in the ship. Months later, he meets Aurora Lane (Lawrence), the only female passenger awake. Meanwhile, something causes the entire ship to malfunction.

The first act of the film gives us “Cast Away in Space”. Christ Pratt delivered enough emotion to convey the fear of being alone. The scene where he hugged a space suit showed how companionship is a vital element in a person’s life. This explains the need for one of the film’s biggest plot point (and one that is arguably wrong to do).

The addition of Jennifer Lawrence to the story may be due to her Hollywood appeal and the fact that she is hot right now. However, one might wonder if “50 Girls 50” is better than “Cast Away in Space”. There was so much potential for an “I am alone” space movie, but I guess filmmakers needed to gross more money, so they added J. Law. But it does not change the fact that J. Law. delivered in this film.When Pratt conveys doomed acceptance, Lawrence conveys fear of the inevitable.

The visual effects of the film served its purpose both as a visual marvel and a nonparticipating companion to Jim.

My biggest concern in Passengers is its linear plot. If one omits or rearrange certain plot points/acts, the film would have been a lot more interesting. Plot twists and big reveals would have felt more impactful. Because of its linear plot, the film felt like a passable movie. Scenes that were supposed to feel big felt less than it should have been.

Passengers has amazing visuals, good chemistry between characters (though it may be weird when one considers its narrative origins), and a potential that was sadly not utilized well due to the filmmakers decision to present it in a manner that was done a lot of times. Because of that Passengers is…

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X-Men: Apocalypse Movie Review

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence return for the third installment in the second X-Men trilogy to confront the biggest villain in its film history so far.

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Once director Bryan Singer posted a tweet about the film last December 2013, expectations were high and the excitement was on the roof. Not only will the film feature who is arguably the biggest villain of the franchise, it will also re-introduce us to characters we loved from the first trilogy.

Set in the 1980s, the film shows us that the three principal characters (Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique) parted and set their own directions. Professor X (McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) founded the X-Mansion; Magneto now has his own family in Poland; and Mystique rescues oppressed mutants. Meanwhile, Apocalypse, an ancient Egyptian mutant and the first mutant ever, is awaken and sees the world as blind and leaderless. In order to achieve world domination, he recruits four mutants, Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Magneto. The stakes are high, so the X-Men gets together to stop Apocalypse.

Each character has brought something on the table. The re-introduction of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, and Nightcrawler is a good sign that the X-Men film franchise will still be alive. Without a doubt, however, the one with the best character development in this film is Magneto. His motivation for joining Apocalypse is explained well to the viewers, and the feels are incredibly high. However, some have too little development. The three horsemen only delivered in the action department. Psylocke barely received any development at all, and Storm and Angel are lucky to have introductions.

The action sequences are incredible, too. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) steals the show the same way he did it in Days of Future Past. The fight between the X-Men and the Horsemen serves its purpose enough.

However, the film has its negatives, too. Some sub-plots, specifically the Magneto-Quicksilver one, are not resolved in a very satisfactory way; Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is a highly unnecessary character; and Apocalypse is just your generic “world dominating” bad guy (HE’S APOCALYPSE!). When your main antagonist is one of the biggest villains in Marvel, you should deliver…

X-Men Apocalypse serves its purpose in giving us a superhero film with enough action and story to engage the viewers. However, the lack of character development, wasted sub-plots, and unsatisfactory delivery of its antagonist greatly dampens the potential for this movie. The movie itself serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy in telling us that “The third one’s always the worst”. And for that, this film is definitely…

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