Bro-Reviews: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead men tell better tales.

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is an indication of just how powerful of an influence Disney has on our society. Disney turned one of the worst rides at Disneyland into arguably the biggest movie franchise of all time. Pirates of the Caribbean’s first three entries shattered box office records, although most would argue the series started experiencing diminished returns during that time. All would agree the fourth entry, On Stranger Tides, was unnecessary save for seeing Penelope Cruz in a pirate outfit, and that the ending left no reason for there to be a fifth entry. Six years later, however, captain Jack Sparrow and the pirates have returned for another adventure on the Caribbean.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales introduces Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), attempting to break the curse that bounds his father to remain the captain of the Flying Dutchman. His only hope is to obtain the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that not only breaks all of the curses of the seas, but allows one to rule them as well. To obtain the trident, he enlists the help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and a feisty female astronomer accused of witch-craft Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to accompany him on his quest. However, trouble awaits them on the deadly waters of the sea, as Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who has sworn to rid the seas of pirates, seeks revenge against the man who killed him, Jack Sparrow.

If we’re being honest, the character arch-types of Dead Man Tell No Tales mirror the ones of The Curse of the Black Pearl. Yes, he is the son of Will Turner after all, but the humble beginnings of Henry nearly match the ones of Will. As a woman of science, Carina is just as doubtful of the myths of the seas just like Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the young actors Thwaites and Scodelario are improvements over the barely resonating younger cast in On Stranger Tides. While the romantic subplot between the two is cliche’, there’s no doubt the two have sizzling chemistry on screen.

And of course, Jack Sparrow is the same carefree swashbuckling drunkard who first graced the screen nearly 14 years ago. We go see these movies for Depp’s portrayal of the legendary pirate. When he isn’t mumbling his way through scenes, we’re reminded of just how great of a character Sparrow is and why the Academy nominated Depp for his portrayal of Sparrow back in the 2004 Academy Awards. The rest of Jack’s rag-tag crew also reappears, and it’s Kevin McNally’s Joshamee Gibbs who remains as grounded and honest as ever, a welcome aspect of these films. Veteran Actor Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Hector Barbossa as well, and given the material he’s given, he comes across as a more heartfelt character than we’ve seen him be in the previous films.

Unfortunately, it’s Bardem’s Salazar who keeps the curse of lackluster villains alive for the series. His whole goal in life to rid the seas of pirates is fascinating, but the explanation of why he is doing so is merely glossed over instead of deeply explored, robbing the audience of any sort of connection to the character other than “oh hey it’s the dead bad guy.” It’s a shame, because then the audience might have actually been conflicted over who to root for had that dynamic been examined further.

The one aspect of the series that appears to grow larger in scale with each entry is the action. For starters, dead sharks as dangerous weapons should have been introduced to the series a long time ago, as they provide for one of the most thrilling action sequences the series has seen. Pirates robbing banks is always a hardy good time to experience as well, after all they are pirates, it’s what they do. And the final sequence, as implausible as it is, is something to behold, even though it almost ruins the entire movie. If you want the full scale of the action, see the movie in IMAX 3-D as I did, you won’t regret it.

Lastly, we get more closure than we did in At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While it shouldn’t be characterized as leaving the series on a high note should they choose to do so (*apparently this film is supposed to be the first of a new trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean films*), it should be characterized as less of a low one than the ones we got from At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While there are still many flaws present that have consistently plagued the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales sails on better tides than most of the previous sequels. However, Jack Sparrow and company should sail on this tide into retirement, as it’s evident there are no more tales to tell after the dead have told the most competent tale since Dead Man’s Chest.

Rating: 2.5/4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.

Advertisements

Bro-Reviews: Alien: Covenant

And you thought Prometheus made no sense.

Let’s face it, as it pertains to the Alien franchise, the first two films are the holy grail. Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien popularized the sci-fi genre and still holds up as one of the most horrifying films of all time. The sequel, James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens, was a prime example of how to do a sequel correctly and is one of the best sci-fi horror/ action films ever made. Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, however, are the epitome of studio blockbusters made to cash in and failed. The less said of Alien Vs. Predator/ AVP the better, and AVP: Requiem never happened, okay? After over 30 years and six Alien films, one might have thought the franchise was dead. Director Ridley Scott, however, decided he wanted more money and made the 2012 prequel to Alien, Prometheus. Five years later, we have yet another prequel to Alien but also a sequel to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant.

In Covenant, a crew made up of couples carrying embryos sets off for an adventure into space on a ship called the covenant in an effort to colonize the remote planet Origae-6 in the year 2104. Along the way, they discover a radio transmission from an unknown planet, which they discover to be even more habitable than Origae-6. Against the wishes of terraforming expert Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterson), acting captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) orders the crew to go explore the planet, only to find that terror awaits them.

While many have their complaints about Prometheus, one thing you cannot deny the film for was the film’s character development. The characters in Alien: Covenant are about as dimensional as a plank of wood and commit even dumber acts than the scientists in Prometheus. Considering the capable cast assembled, including Danny McBride, Academy-Award nominee Demián Bichir, and Carmen Ejogo, it’s odd that you couldn’t care less about these characters. We briefly learn that Billy Crudup’s Oram is a man of faith, but that isn’t explored any further. Also, Katherine Waterson appears to be in the film only because she resembles Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but that’s it. It’s not that the cast isn’t doing a good job, it’s just that they’re given nothing to do. The only vaguely interesting character in the entire movie is the always stellar Michael Fassbender’s Walter, a synthetic android created much in the vain as Fassbender’s David 8 in Prometheus but without the humanoid free-will David 8 possessed.

The best quality of Alien: Covenant is the production value. Ridley Scott has made a career off of making grandiose blockbusters, and Covenant is his latest achievement. The sets are nothing short of stunning, outer space looks epic but terrifying at the same time, and the planet the crew explores feels real, not like a green screen. Of course, the once practical Alien costume is tossed out for CGI incarnations of the beasts, but they do look frightening and even more impossible to kill than the ones that came before them. This makes for some impressive and epic action, including some homages to the first two Alien films. The other aspect of the film that must be mentioned is the question of our lives: who created us? The film connects to and seems to answer that question in order to continue the story-line started by Prometheus, but drops the ball by not exploring this question much further than that.

However, the fatal flaw of Alien: Covenant and all of these prequels is the fact that it’s supposed to connect to Alien eventually. The ending of the film leaves you asking how? How in the world is this supposed to connect to Alien? The answer is nobody knows how. 20th Century Fox is just winging it in hopes that you’ll spend your cash and two hours of your life to see another prequel to a classic. If you must, the visual spectacle of the film is enough to warrant a trip to the theater, but you’re better off watching Alien or Aliens instead.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. High Rental.

Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The beats from the east are about to be unleashed.

The Eastern Conference finals are set, and the top two teams are set to clash with the one seed Boston Celtics facing the two seed Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Celtics and Cavaliers faced each other four times during the regular season, with the Cavaliers winning three out of the four games. The most recent meeting between the two occurred on April 5th, when the Cavaliers came into Boston and obliterated the Celtics 114-94.

If there’s one thing to admire about the Celtics, its their tenacity and ability to respond to adversity. This team was down 2-0 to the Chicago Bulls and came back to win the series in six games. They just escaped a no-holds-barred seven game series against an up-and-coming Washington Wizards team that features one of the most dangerous backcourts in the NBA. Their leading scorer and MVP candidate PG Isaiah Thomas has been resoundingly resilient throughout the postseason. First, he dealt with the tragic death of his 22-year-old sister while averaging 23 PPG in the first round. Then in the semi-finals, he underwent dental surgery after his teeth were knocked out and averaged 27.4 PPG, including a 53 point masterpiece in game 2. The Celtics have exceeded expectations this year. They finished the season as the number one seed in the east and have a bright future ahead of themselves due to their impeccable ability to steal draft picks from bumbling NBA franchises (*cough* Brooklyn Nets *cough*).

But to be blunt, the Celtics are done. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a class of their own in the eastern conference. They’ve swept the competition they’ve faced in the eastern conference so far, toying with Indiana Pacers in the first round and straight-up clowning the Toronto Raptors in the semi-finals to the point the Raptors should be re-named the Barney the Dinosaurs. LeBron James is on a mission to achieve what Hall of Fame PF Moses Malone predicted for the 82-83 76ers, fo, fo, fo. Translation? Four, four, four. The 82-83 76ers went 4-0, 4-1. 4-0 en route to an NBA title, so LeBron and the Cavaliers have the opportunity to achieve what Moses and the 76ers couldn’t. LeBron is averaging 34.4 PPG, 9 RPG, 7.1 APG, and shooting 48.8% from behind the three point line this postseason. Even Michael Jordan at his peak would envy what LeBron has done in just eight postseason games so far.

Simply put, the Cavaliers have LeBron James. The Celtics do not.

Prediction: Cavs in 5

Western Conference Finals Warriors Spurs Game 1: Kawhi Injured by Zaza Pachulia

The Warriors stole game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Spurs, but controversy arose after Spurs forward Kawhi Leornard left the game after landing on Warriors center Zaza Pachulia’s foot.

 

NBA Western Conference Finals Prediction

The wild, wild west gets a wild, wild conference final.

The Western Conference finals have arrived, and we have a dream match-up on our hands with the 1st seeded Golden State Warriors facing the 2nd seeded San Antonio Spurs. The team that has risen so quickly to the top of the NBA faces the quiet dynasty, but will the match-up live up to the hype?

Although the Spurs took two out of three games during the regular season against the Warriors, including an opening night beat-down and star-lacking prime time showdown, the Warriors won the most important of these games back on March 29th. The Warriors, without F Kevin Durant, went into San Antonio and fell behind by as many as 22 points in the first quarter, but stormed back to win by 12 in a 110 to 98 victory. The Spurs were at full strength that game, something they won’t be in this series, as PG Tony Parker is out for the remainder of the post-season after tearing his quad in game 2 of the western conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. To make matters worse, Spurs F and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard is also fighting knee and ankle issues.

Obviously, the Warriors are the better team. Their average margin of victory thus far in the post-season is 16.5 points per game, and they are a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Spurs struggled against an offensively challenged Memphis Grizzlies team in the first round and showed signs of weakness against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semi-finals. However, Spurs PF LaMarcus Aldridge may have finally woken up, PG Patty Mills has filled-in well for Tony Parker, and F Jonathan Simmons has emerged as a defensive stopper for the Spurs.

The one aspect of this series that could swing in the Spurs’ favor the most, however, is coaching. Mike Brown has done an admirable job filling in for Steve Kerr for the Warriors thus far this postseason. But when you have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson (*who has struggled this postseason*), Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant, anyone will look like a coaching genius. Gregg Popovich has been a coaching genius since the end of the 1990s, and showcased his coaching prowess in Game 6 of the semi-finals by beating the Houston Rockets by 39 in Houston without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. And let us not forget Gregg Popovich’s Spurs sweeping the Mike Brown coached Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals. Popovich can coach circles around Mike Brown, and eventually you have to believe the absence of Steve Kerr will hinder the Warriors.

That’s not enough, however, for anyone to believe the Spurs will defeat the Warriors.

Prediction: Warriors in 6

Bro-Commentary: Draymond Green on the Cavaliers’ Competition, Kelly Olynyk

Draymond Green, the motor and the mouth of the Golden State Warriors, made controversial comments regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff competition and on whether or not Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk is a dirty player. Does Draymond have a point? Or should Draymond focus on his team?

 

Bro-Commentary: The Ray Allen Celtics Beef

The 2008 NBA champion Celtics had a reunion the other night on Kevin Garnett’s Area 21 on Inside the NBA on TNT. Notably absent was Ray Allen, a member of that team, whom many of the Celtic players still have an issue with. Whose side am I on? Ray Allen’s? Or Kevin Garnett and the gang’s?