Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

“Ah summer movie season, where we learn the distinction between “”good”” movies and “”entertaining”” movies. Whereas the fall is filled with the former, the summer is all about the later. We all know I’m an equal opportunity movie watcher, and I will go after both types. The “”good”” movies may make me feel like a better person for having seen them, but the “”entertaining”” movies are where the real fun is at!

Memorial Day weekend was all about the fun movies, starting with the new Pirates. I’ll admit, every mention of there being a Pirates 5 was met with an eyeroll from me, followed by a halfhearted vow to watch it anyways, because that’s what I do.

Here’s how I’ve been summing it up for anyone who asks. Obviously, this is never gonna be anywhere as good as 1. That movie is blockbuster gold and untouchable. However, it just may be the next best. I feel like 2 and 3 were trying to hard and 4 wasn’t trying at all. This one felt like pure Disney magic. Yeah, it was a very simplistic MacGuffin storyline, but the action and humor were all there. A few of the opening sequences in particular felt like they really got back into the Pirate spirit we first loved way back when.

Hey, it’s not something that’s gonna be remembered and loved for ages like the first movie, but it’s at least something that provides an enjoyable 2 hours at the theater. For a summer flick, you can’t really ask for much more.

Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Alien: Covenant

“In space, no one can hear you scream. Or blog?

I was realizing how Alien is such a true genre mashup. I generally tend to think the franchise as scifi, but you could also describe it as action or horror and be totally accurate. I still don’t know what was going on with Prometheus a few years ago (combination of confusion and simply not remembering), but I def felt like Covenant was a step in the right direction. Back to basics, just pure thrills, and no ulterior motives or hidden agenda.

Normally I’d complain about a movie with a lack of plot, and I’ll admit that it is possible to doze off for a few scenes here and there and not have missed anything necessary to continue following the movie (I will, however, plead the fifth as to how I know this is possible). But what makes us keep coming back for more is the adrenaline and the inventiveness of how scenes play out. You may know where the overall story is going to go, but you never know where any individual scene is going.

There is one trick I found _highly_ effective that was unique to this movie. Because the thin plot line revolved around this being a colonist mission, every character was coupled off. What that meant for the movie was that any time something happened to one character, you had their partner to experience it through. Someone on screen cared deeply about them and is reacting viscerally, and that in turn heightens your own response than if you were left without a starting point for your own emotional reaction. Okay, I’m sounding really technical or pretentious or something. My point is, it was a simple but effective ploy to bring you even deeper into the action, and hit you even harder at each turn.

Did it really do much to further the franchise or the genre or film in general? Maybe not. Was it a fun way to spend two hours? Absolutely!

Alien: Covenant – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Snatched

“First off, I keep forgetting to talk about this here on the blog, but the company I work for recently released a new social media app called Stardust, and it’s all about movies. You go on there and record videos of yourself talking about movies, and you can watch everyone else’s videos. I’ve been pretty good about posting right after I see something new, so you’ll get my reviews even quicker than here on the blog. User name, Expletivedleted, of course!

Moving on.

This was a rather genius marketing ploy, releasing a raunchy mother/daughter comedy in time for Mothers’ Day. It had the promise of a fun and crazy girls’ night, while still having some touching family moments. Even if it’s not the kind of movie I could ever get my Mom to go to, I appreciate the sentiment. If my hypothetical one day future children are reading this years from now, I am down with this kind of Mamas Day plan. This or Psycho #aboysbestfriendishismother

But let’s talk about how the movie actually went down. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are a daughter/mother duo who go on vacation together in Ecuador, where they get kidnapped and held for ransom. Hilarity ensues? Kinda.

It’s well established that I absolutely adore Amy Schumer, and will gladly see any film she works on. Casting her opposite Hollywood royalty like Goldie was pure genius. The chemistry the two have together, both on film and in all the promo work, was fantastic. If only they had better material to work with. It was just uneven to the point of being kinda blah. Some parts were really funny. Some of it was really dull. It all ended up being just ok. I feel like the humor could have gone farther into the crude territory Amy usually plays in. Bringing Goldie even deeper into that world would have been unreal.

The one consistent element was Ike Barinholtz as the brother left behind to try and organize a rescue. Stole and commanded every scene he was in. That’s how it often goes in a comedy. It’s hard to maintain a constant level of laughs throughout, so the bit part that isn’t overdone tends to be the show stopper.

I think my score is a little generous, given my sort of meh feeling towards it, but there were just enough small funny moments that I can’t really bring myself to knock it down.

Snatched – \m/ \m/ \m/”

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

“Expectations. That is the name of the game with this movie. There were so many reviews out there that completely trashed this movie, and there was usually a variation on a common theme: too much action or very untraditional story. My response? Um duh. See, as a big fan of Guy Ritchie, my expecations were rather different. I was very interested in seeing him put his twist on this story, giving us a much different take on Arthur than we’re used to seeing. I got what I wanted, and as a result, I loved this movie.

I’ll admit, a big part of my enjoyment of htis film had to do with recognizing Ritchie’s signature style all over the movie. The way he did exposition scenes, the slow-mo sequences in the fights, the back-alley upbringing of our hero, the dialog right on the edge of humor, the general dirt and grid. All of it is why I’m a fan of his and why I totally dug this movie. And in my defense, lest you claim bias, I saw this with someone who’d never seen any of Ritchie’s films, and they enjoyed it as well. Again, expectations. Don’t go into this expecting the same old (and way overdone) sword in the stone story we all know too damn well.

The movie also sold me on Charlie Hunnam, who I previously hadn’t much interest in. I thought he suited the part rather well, and would be interested in seeing him carry on this proposed franchise. However, if the weekend box office results are any indication, it’ll take more magic than Merlin can provide to see that come to pass.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Dinner

“I stumbled on a blurb describing this book back when it came out. It reminded me of God of Carnage, a play I had seen on Broadway that was phenomenal (that would eventually become a mediocre movie). I read it, and I remember that while I enjoyed the story, I was frustrated with the pace it took to get to finding out what the real subject of the titular dinner was, and I recall being underwhelmed. It could have gone darker, could have gone further.

That didn’t hinder my excitement for the movie, especially when the cast includes a reunion of Primal Fear‘s Richard Gere and Laura Linney, plus Steve Coogan and Rebecca Hall. The trailer looked full of intrigue and darkness, and damn good acting. Turns out, it had the same flaws as the book. Go figure.

So what is this dinner about anyways? Two brothers with a strained relationship and their wives are meeting at a very fancy dinner to discuss some horrific incident involving their sons. God of Carnage had a similar premise, which devolved into the parents acting more vicious and childish than their children, in a striking yet satirical way. The Dinner (movie and book) sort of build, but never reach a conclusion that I find particularly satisfying. Like they don’t know what they’re ultimately trying to say.

That said, fantastic showcase for this cast, in particular Linney and Coogan. Linney has been a favorite since the aforementioned Primal Fear, and she deserves any showcase like this one that she’s able to receive. At any given point that our foursome was on screen, she commanded the most attention, whether or not she was the center. Coogan, was impressive because this was a strong and dramatic turn from the typically comedic actor. I’ve always been a sucker for that, and this performance justifies that. Gere and Hall while fantastic, were less remarkable. Gere’s performance not being too much of a departure from what we’ve seen before, and Hall getting the short end of the stick as far as content.

If I were to rewatch it (unlikely), I’d either stop halfway, or skip over the non-incident (referring to the kids’ incident that drove the whole thing) flashbacks. I don’t remember if we had as many in the book, but they certainly dragged the whole movie down. But just the right clips of that cast interacting with each other would be worth seeing.

The Dinner – \m/ \m/ \n”

Buster’s Mal Heart

“Psychological thriller starring Rami Malek. That’s pretty much all I needed to know. After already putting it in my calendar (excited about the excuse to go up to Santa Monica for the afternoon), I watched the trailer, and it made no sense. That didn’t sway me. It should have.

In a story that follows multiple timelines, Malek plays a loner living in the woods, preparing for an apocalyptic event. But back in the day, he was a lowly hotel concierge, working to support his family, who encounters a mysterious guest with a message.

The whole thing had a Richard Kelly vibe. You know, the dude that did Donnie Darko and Southland Tales and The Box. Honestly, the story felt like something he could have written. And it was just as confusing. But what it was lacking was the sense of urgency and suspense. Psychological, yes. Thriller, not so much. I tried to stay with it, but I was utterly bored. By the time things started to get interesting, I’d already mentally checked out and was ready to go.

Malek’s great in this, but for now, I’ll settle for watching him on Mr Robot. I really wanted to get behind him here, but just couldn’t do it. They can’t all be winners

Buster’s Mal Heart – \m/ \m/”

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

“I don’t typically get very psyched for sequels anymore (years of heartbreak have conditioned me over time), but I was excited for Vol 2. I even gave Vol 1 a rewatch the week before (mostly because my guy hadn’t seen it yet, and I’d already gotten him to agree to see 2 with me), and yeah very hyped up to see it.

Did it live up to the hype? Yeah, mostly. I think to some extent, there was an impossible standard to achive. So it was never gonna be as fresh and revelatory as the first, but it could still be a rocking good time, and it was.

One concern I had going in was that they were gonna overdo the Baby Groot stuff, and the opening sequence perpetuated that thought. I say this as someone who loves the character (although I may love adult Groot better, I’m undecided.) Thankfully, not only did that sequence end up being something that will live on as one of the best opening sequences ever, the rest of what followed was appropriate levels of Groot and not Groot overload. Yay!

Everything else delivered as I expected it to. I particularly enjoyed the addition of Mantis to the group. While the music may not have been as recognizable this time, it all fit appropriately. And the humor was everywhere. Certainly far more laugh out loud moments than most straight up comedies manage to get from me.

Something that I really appreicated watching this movie was the idea that this team really is made up of a bunch of misfits. As someone who has often struggled to fit in (before giving up on the concept entirely), I could really appreciate and identify with how they related to their universe, and it does mean a lot to see them widely accepted in the mainstream. But the bottom line is, despite some forgivable flaws that weren’t even going into, this movie was pure joy, and remains a standout in the MCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Rock

“I saw this a couple weeks ago for the first time in a while. It actually holds up surprisingly well, mostly because it’s simply a solid action movie. Possibly among the all time best. It’s certainly director Michael Bay’s best work, before he started getting in his own way. We’ve heard me rant about him before, and I’m sure we’ll hear it again with his next Transformers, so I’ll spare that this time.

But yeah, even though I had a vague recollection of what was gonna happen, and I was only halfway paying attention since I was gaming, I still felt the palpable suspense. For a film that’s 20 years old (srsly?! WTF?!) plus those circumstances, that’s truly saying something.”

Sleight

“Wow, I am so off my blog game. Life has gotten really busy lately, and while I’m keeping up with the important new releases, I haven’t had time to consider the questionable ones. Nor have I had time to supplement with at home DVD’s. Srsly, my unwatched DVD pile is holding a pretty steady stack size.

But after a couple slow single movie weekends, I did manage to get in a second one this time, even if it took me a while to find time to post about it. (Very much looking foward to the potential three movie weekend I’ve got coming up).

I have mixed feelings about this one, mostly stemming from the fact that the film was severely miss-marketed. Granted, had it been presented more accurately, I may not have had as much interest, but if I knew what to expect, I could have appreciated it more.

Wow all the way to paragraph four for the summary. Okay then. Sleight is about a young kid, Bo, who after high school is left to take care of his little sister after their parents’ death. Despite his best efforts, his means of income are limited to performing for tips as a street magician by day and selling drugs by night. Oh, and there may be a little more to his magical abilities than meets the eye.

The marketing sells the magical aspect, basically setting it up to be another Chronicle: a small scale and low budget twist on the big blockbuster superhero genre. It wasn’t that at all. Yes, there was some of that element to it, but it was more of an afterthought. The film was really about Bo trying to escape his current situation and make a better life for him and his sister. He just happened to have telekinetic abilities (I feel powers isn’t quite the right word in context of the story.)

So watching it felt like a big bait and switch, like I was not seeing the movie I signed up for. That tarnished my attitude towards it at the time. Still, even then, I knew that I really was seeing something special, I just needed to take a step back from it to process. And it really is a unique way of approaching this story, making it something fresh instead of one we’ve seen a million times over. Who knows, we may one day look back at it as fondly as we do on Chronicle, but for different reasons.

One last thought, shout out to Dule Hill for playing against type as a very un-Charlie-eque drug dealing boss. Obvs, I say that as a West Wing fan, but I saw this with a Psych fan who also apprecited the vastly different character. That alone was worth the price of admission, and it looked good on him. As much as I absolutely adore his sweet side, I wouldn’t mind seeing him break bad more often. Really, let’s just see him more often, yeah?

Sleight – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”