Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review – Rough Night (2017)

Sex!  Drugs!  Crazy women!

BQB here with a review of Rough Night.

Sigh.  I really wanted this movie to be great.  The commercials made it look like it was going to be an all female version of The Hangover but it just didn’t get there for me.

There were many parts that were mildly humorous and oddly, even amidst all the debauchery there were some touching moments but overall, when I judge a comedy I go with how many times did I laugh?  Laughter, after all, is the most honest emotional reaction.  If something is funny, you can’t help but laugh, whereas you can always feign happiness, sadness, etc.

But honestly, I didn’t laugh that many times and ironically, in a “Women can be funny too!” style movie, the most laughs the movie got out of me involve the parts where ScarJo/Jess’ fiance Peter (Paul W. Downs) goes on a mad cap, cross country trip to investigate what his bride-to-be and her gal pals are up to.

It’s not that I’m saying “Oh, blah blah blah, women aren’t funny and only men can be funny.”  I’m just saying, this movie kind of fizzled for me.  I know women can be funny.  I’ve seen Bridesmaids.  I’ve seen Spy.  Shit.  Now that I think of it, this movie probably could have benefited from a little Melissa McCarthy action.  Oh well, you live and you learn.

Oh right, the plot.  Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is getting married, so her college friends Alice (Jillian Bell of “Workaholics” fame), Frankie (Ilana Glazer of “Broad City” fame), Pippa (Kate McKinnon of SNL fame) and Blair (Zoe Kravitz of Lenny Kravitz’ daughter fame) get together and throw her a bachelorette party in Miami.

Things go south when a freak accident kills a male stripper.  Rather than come clean, the girls proceed to make a series of choices that makes things so much worse.

Overall, the plot is reminiscent Very Bad Things (1998).  As a youngster, I thought that movie was super funny and received less credit than it deserved.  Basically a group of dudes (Christian Slater, Jon Favreau, Jeremy Piven, Leland Orser, and Daniel Stern) throw a wild bachelor party in a hotel suite in Las Vegas, during which a stripper is accidentally killed.  Rather than come clean, the dudes make a series of bad choices that, you guessed it, make things worse.

I was actually thinking about starting this review by channeling David Spade (he was on SNL in the 1990s, millennials) and saying “I liked ‘Rough Night’ better when it was called ‘ Very Bad Things’ but that seemed kind of bitchy.  Plus, I have no way of knowing whether the people behind this film were trying to copy the film.  Hell, maybe I’m the only old bastard who even remembers that movie.  All I know is that the the boys did the “accidental dead stripper during a pre-wedding party” better than the girls.

Again, that’s not me being sexist.  The twist is that I know several of these women are funny.  I have laughed many times at Ilana Glazer’s antics on “Broad City.”  I have guffawed at Kate McKinnon’s SNL sketches and ultimately, I think she and Leslie Jones saved the Ghostbusters reboot from being a crap show.  I have laughed at Jillian Bell’s shenanigans on “Workaholics.”

And yet, somehow, when all these funny women were put in the same room like a comedic dream team, the movie turned out to be a swing and a miss.  Maybe I can’t even blame them.  Maybe it was just bad writing.  Maybe it’s me and I’m becoming like my Uncle Hardass and not laughing as much as I used to.  I don’t know.

I just know that I didn’t laugh that much and you know, you’re supposed to, because it’s a comedy.

I give ScarJo some credit.  This is the first time she stepped out of her comic book/summer blockbuster popcorn movie and attempted to exercise her comedy chops.  She is, for the most part, the film’s straight woman (or in comedy terms, “the straight man” or the person whose normalcy and shocked reactions to the wacky antics of everyone around her are meant to make the film funnier.  Spoiler alert – it doesn’t happen, but ScarJo tried.)

A final thought on the whole female raunchy comedy idea.  My general thought when it comes to movie ideas is this – if it works, then it was a good idea.  I’m not saying a female raunchy comedy where women act just as gross and low class as a bunch of boozed up male perverts at a bachelor party can’t be funny…I’m just saying this movie isn’t it.  Maybe someone else will try that idea and score a win someday.

Aside from film, what about women acting like a bunch of boozed up male perverts in life?  All I can say is, it’s a free country and women’s rights have come a long way, so if women want to do that, then they should.  I know women don’t want a man telling them what to do so this isn’t advice so much as it is a thought but here goes – men aren’t always right about everything.

Know how I know that?  Because I’ve yet to meet a woman who was the slightest bit shy about telling me I’m not right about everything.  When men get boozed up and do wild, crazy, piggish and perverted things at parties…they’re wrong!  Sure, it’s fun in the moment but more often than not that kind of fun can lead to an arrest, or an unbeatable addiction, an STD that can’t be cured by pennicillin or best case scenario, the breaking up of a friendship when someone does something shitty to someone else because they’re drunk.

I guess what I’m trying to say is women, you may look at men doing messed up things at bachelor parties and think that looks fun, but trust me, in the long run, it isn’t.  So if you think you want to do that, then do it because you want to, not because you think that men are great when they act that way, because when you think about it, they aren’t.

Men aren’t always right about everything, and nights fueled with perverted drunken debauchery are one of the ways men aren’t wrong.

We’re always right when it comes to driving though.  Our penises always point true north so we have no need to pull over and ask for directions.

STATUS:  Borderline shelf-worthy.  Don’t bother running out to the theater but it’s worth a rental later.

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RIP Glenne Headly (Or, Why You Should Pick Tess Trueheart over Breathless Mahoney)

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Hey 3.5 readers.

Again, I don’t really like to talk about celebrity deaths.  I try to keep it at a minimum, but this one got to me.

Glenne Headly passed away this week and if you don’t know who she is, that’s ok.  To be honest, I only vaguely knew her name.  She was one of those actresses who you saw her face in everything and recognized it right away, but she wasn’t out causing trouble in the tabloids and so on.  Alas, the press doesn’t give you extra points for good behavior.

For me, Glenne’s most memorable role was that of Tess Trueheart in 1990’s “Dick Tracy” opposite Warren Beatty.  Throughout the film, Dick faces a dilemma – will he choose the true blue, always loyal Tess or the super hot femme fatale Breathless Mahoney (Madonna)?

Breathless was, by far, the babe to end all babes, the woman who could make you look like a big shot if people saw her on your arm.  However, she was more likely to dump you for another guy or sell you out to Big Boy Caprice or one of his evil, scheming henchmen.

I don’t think I realized it at the time but looking back, that film was probably my first introduction to the concept that when it comes to love, people tend to be as loyal as their options.

Yes, we all want to be with the “ridiculously good looking person” (Zoolander reference) but stop and think about it.  Realize this is a person you have to spend the rest of your life with, or at the very least, will have to go through a lot of agony before they’re out of your life when things turn sour.

The Breathless Mahoneys of the world may be alluring but at the end of the day, it’s the Tess Truehearts that are going to be there for you when you need them.  Meanwhile, the Breathless Mahoneys will only be with you…for as long as they need you.

Forsake the Breathless Mahoneys, kids.  Pick the Tess Truehearts.

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Universal’s Dark Universe Series

Hey 3.5 readers.

Did you all hear about this?  I did not until I caught the Mummy today.  Check out my review if you haven’t already.

Apparently, Universal is trying to bring its treasure trove of monster flicks back into the modern age, kicking it off with “The Mummy” with Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bride of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, the Wolfman and so on  to come later.

One can only assume they’re trying to compete with Disney’s Marvel universe and Warner Brothers attempt to recreate the Disney/Marvel success with their Justice League films.

Do you think “Dark Universe” will be a hit for Universal?  Will other studios try to cash in on the expanded universe phenomenon?

My one caveat might be that while Marvel and DC appeal to kids, i.e., the viewers that will most likely nag their parents into buying Marvel and DC merchandise, I’m not sure there’s a huge market for a Mummy lunch box.  Then again, maybe Universal can pave the way for cinematic universe films for a more sophisticated audience.  The Mummy was actually a good, solid first installment.  It didn’t knock my socks off but it didn’t disappoint me either.  It left me curious as to what Universal has in store for us next.

Discuss, 3.5 readers.

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Movie Review – The Mummy (2017)

Women can be mummies too, people.  Come on.  It’s 2017, you misogynist bastards.

BQB here with a review of The Mummy.

It’s hard to call this a reboot of the 1990s Brendan Fraser films, partly because those films were, themselves, reboots of Universal’s much older Mummy movies and partly because, in theory, mummies belong to us all.  I have a feeling that Universal might try to slap you with a legal stick if you were to call your next book, “The Mummy” but otherwise, there’s no reason why you couldn’t pen a tale where mummies run around with reckless abandon.  It was the Egyptians who invented mummies, after all, not some Hollywood suit of the Golden Age of Film Era.

Another reason why I hate to compare this film to the Fraser films (which I really loved at the time they came out and even to this day if I catch them on TV, I’ll watch them until the end) is that they’re both very different movies.  Fraser’s were epic fantasy while this is an attempt to make a more serious, modern day monster film.

It’s also the first installment in Universal’s “Dark Universe” series, which I just learned, is a thing.  I don’t know how this one got by me, seeing as how I am a reviewer of pop cultural happenings and all, but I assume Universal is trying to compete on Disney’s success of the ongoing Marvel movies and Warner Brother’s semi-success (the verdict is still out) with the DC films.

Universal was a pioneer in bringing movie monsters to life, wowing audiences of the long bygone black and white era with films about Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, Creature of the Black Lagoon and so on.

Apparently, Universal intends to bang out a bunch of these monster flicks in the coming years.  Will the films tie in together?  Will the monsters work together or fight one another in a great, big “let’s get all the big actors for one movie” type of film?  Your guess is as good as mine.

In this version of “The Mummy,” Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a soldier/scumbag who robs historic sites in Iraq of their ancient riches only to get away with the dirty deed knowing that terrorists will attack the sites and anything looted will be blamed on them. This is a rare role for Cruise as this essentially makes him an anti-hero.  He’s not a good guy, but he does a good deed in the film, i.e. fights the Mummy.

Blah, blah, blah, Tom has a partner, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) who is mainly in the film for comic relief and a love interest, archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis).  Shenanigans ensue when a lady mummy (Sofia Boutella) is released and seeks to carry out an evil plan that she hatched thousands of years ago.

Rounding out the cast is Russell Crowe who (SPOILER ALERT) plays Dr. Henry Jekyll.  That’s right.  The Henry Jekyll as in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  I found this to be a curious role and as I watched the film, I wondered if somewhere there was a writer who couldn’t decide if this film should be a Mummy movie or a Dr. Jeykll movie and then after I googled “Dark Universe” when I got home, I realized that Universal is raiding its long shut tomb of public domain/famous literary monster adaptations and bringing them together for our viewing pleasure.

It’s an interesting gambit and one that I hope works out for Universal.  Disney/Marvel seems to be playing a game that other studios want in on.  Though I’m not sure they’ll ever be topped, this movie is a solid attempt and arguably, a better one than the turd sandwich “Batman vs. Superman” that Warner Brothers dropped on us.

I’m sorry.  I will never stop saying bad things about “Batman vs. Superman.”  How do you screw that premise up?  How?  Someone tell me.  Seriously.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Worth a trip to the theater.  Tom Cruise might be a closet mummy as he is well-preserved for his age.

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Movie Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

Amazon warrior babes!  Evil Germans!  The best female superhero ever!

BQB here with a review of Wonder Woman.

Let me just say it right off the bat, 3.5 readers.  This is a great movie – a really great movie.

It was a high stakes film for DC and Warner Brothers, a make or break film in their quest to create a Justice League franchise that would rival the success of Marvel’s Avengers.

The first attempt, last year’s Batman vs. Superman was an economy sized stink burger with extra poop cheese.  The second attempt, Suicide Squad, was not a critical success, though I liked it personally.

Luckily, WB/DC not only avoided a third strike with Wonder Woman – they knocked it out of the park.

Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) lives an idyllic, peaceful life on a secret island filled with super hot, boner-inducing Amazon warrior babes.  For years, she’s been told a tale by her mother, Queen Hippolyta and aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright) of how men were once kind and noble but alas, their minds were poisoned by Aries, the God of War, to fight one another.

The Amazons found safety on an island paradise but that is disturbed when WWI pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on their territory.  When Steve informs the super hot warrior babes that World War One (or just, the World War at that time) has broken out, Diana is convinced that this is the handiwork of Aries and teams of with Steve to save the day.

Great action, amazing special effects and plenty of humor as Diana adjusts to life in the early 1900s, a time when women were expected to be obedient to men and only speak when spoken to. (Ah, those were the days!  Wait, who said that?  Surely, not me.  Crap.  I’m going to get complaint letters now.)

Gal Gadot was the perfect choice for this role and she can wrap me up in her lasso of truth anytime.  Alas, I just wish I had more interesting stories to tell her.

The story is great, a real blend of history and fiction to come up with something unique on its own.

Frankly, I wish this film had been the start of WB/DC’s foray into Justice League territory. Marvel has been making bank for nearly a decade with a tried and true formula, namely, give each hero their own movie, then put all the heroes into one movie, then give each hero their follow up movies, then do another movie where all the heroes get together and repeat.

Admittedly, DC had a higher mountain to climb.  Batman and Superman are so well known that no one needed another movie where little Bruce Wayne sees his parents get shot or another movie where baby Kal-El crash lands in an Iowa cornfield.

Still, there could have been some standalone films where we are introduced to the latest incarnations of Batman and Superman.  True, we did get that with Man of Steel, but otherwise, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were all tossed into a big crap sandwich in the super sucky Batman vs. Superman before we ever got to learn what makes any of them tick.

And really, Wonder Woman was the only part of B vs. S that did not suck the super big one.

This is the first critical success for the Justice League franchise and what I hope will be the beginning of a winning streak.  Unfortunately, from the trailer of this November’s Justice League, I fear the winning streak won’t last long, as characters like Cyborg, Aqua Man and the Flash are all lumped together before we get movies that tell us who these characters are and what they are all about.

At least, no matter what, we can say we know what makes Wonder Woman tick, thanks to this film.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Best film of the year thus far.  Get off your butts and see it in the theater, 3.5.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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Movie Review – Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)

Hey 3.5 readers.

I’m not going to write much of a review other than to say it was funny, a good time, and kinda short, which, hey, if you’re an adult, then that works for you.

That’s it.  End of review.  Tra la la!

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Movie Review – Baywatch (2017)

Boobs!  So many boobs!  Did I mention the butts?

BQB here with a review of Baywatch.

It seems like every generation has a show that is terrible of terms of plot, yet beloved and watched anyway.  And in the next generation, that show is destined to be parodied and adults who used to love the show will love the parody.

The Brady Bunch, for example, was one of the silliest shows on TV in Uncle Hardass’ day. By the time I was a young man, the show was lampooned in a series of films where the Brady Bunch keep acting like they’re in the 1960s but in modern times.

Add Baywatch to the list of TV shows turned movie parodies.  Honestly, the premise of the original show was so silly that it’s hard to believe that it, in and of itself, was not a parody.  David Hasselhoff of Knight Rider fame used to parade his pecs around a California beach while Pamela Andersen and a bevy of other scantily clad beauties would show off their personal flotation devices.  (Psst!  I’m talking about their knockers!  Awooga!)  Somehow, the lifeguards would end up fighting desperadoes and solving beach related crimes in between rescues.

In this reimagining of the show, The Rock flexes his ridiculously awesome muscles as the new Lt. Mitch Buchannon, leader of the plucky young Baywatch crew.  Zac Efron, also packing some fab abs himself (which I noticed purely in a speculative way and not in a gay way although I’m told there’s nothing wrong with that anymore) is new recruit Brody, a once beloved Olympic swimmer who has since hit the skids after an embarrassing occurrence at the Rio games.

Mitch and Brodie but heads throughout the film.  Brody thinks he’s the best swimmer ever and has nothing else to learn.  Mitch points out that Brody has the swimming part down, but needs to work on teamwork and life saving skills.

Also, to Brody’s surprise, fighting crime.  Yes, as the group’s newcomer, he’s shocked to learn that whenever the lifeguards see crimes they don’t just, you know, call the police.  Instead, with no law enforcement training whatsoever, they take it upon themselves to follow leads, track down suspects, and bring down bad guys themselves.  The running joke of the film is that Brody is the only one who finds this odd.

Additional new recruits include Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass.)  To the film’s credit, Baywatch, whether in TV form or this version, has always been known for putting the hottest beach bodies on TV.  This time, the crew adds Ronnie the tech nerd, the only lifeguard with a flabby physique that requires him to run through the sand with his shirt still on.  Naturally, he’s the comic relief and butt of many jokes because, you know, a nerd could never be just, really awesome and a super important member of the team but hey, baby steps.  They let a chubby guy get a role in a film for beautiful people so you got to start somewhere.

Meanwhile, Alexandra is hot while Kelly Rohrbach is an epic inducer of boners in her reprisal of Pam Anderson’s CJ Parker role.  Boi-yoi-yoi-yoi-yoing!

Cameos by Pam and Hoff themselves.  Pam’s is somewhat humorous.  Hoff’s is as well, though it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In fact, little of the film does.  Much of it is slapped together simply so you can enjoy the beautiful beach scenery and all of the hot boobs and butts and wonder where you went so wrong that you didn’t hit the gym more and get your ass out to California while you could have.

Hell, if you’re still breathing maybe it’s not too late.  Start working out now and invest in hair dye.  Also, find Pam’s plastic surgeon.  Sigh.  Do you know I don’t think there was a single man in the 1990s who wasn’t tugging it to the Pamster 24/7?  Ahh, memories, like the corners of my mind…

Did I mention there are a lot of boobs and butts?  There’s also a…uh…well I’ll let you see it for yourself but suffice it to say, there is one scene that I was surprised didn’t earn the film a XXX porno rating.

STATUS:  Split decision.  If you came for humor, action, boobs and butts, it’s an A+.  If you came for something serious, you picked the wrong movie.  Personally, I find it shelf worthy due to the boobs and butts.  FYI none of them are uncovered but you know, close enough.

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review – War Machine (2017)

War!  Bureaucracy!  Red tape!

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s new film, War Machine.

Based on the book, “The Operators” by Michael Hastings, this film is a dark comedy, satirizing the sheer absurdity modern warfare, not to mention the unenviable positions of those whose efforts to win are backseat driven every step of the way.

Brad Pitt plays General Glenn McMahon, a fictionalized version of General Stanley McChrystal, whose own efforts to cut through a sea of red tape eventually culminated in a Rolling Stone article that proved to be his undoing.

In 2009, McMahon is put in charge of Afghanistan.  The dirty secret no one speaks about or is even willing to admit is that he is expected to maintain the status quo and lose gracefully.  In fact, at the start of the film, McMahon is brought into a room of DC bigwigs who urge him to do a tour of the country and provide them with an assessment of what is needed but then within the same breath, they tell him he’d better not find that he needs more troops.

In other words, the days when great warriors like Eisenhower and Patton could write a check that DC would cash are over.  The warriors aren’t really in charge now.  The whole operation is second and third guessed by bureaucratic bean counting civilians who’ve never seen a battlefield in their entire lives.

With an almost Colombo-esque style of disarming charm, McMahon attempts to cut through the red tape that is slowing him and his team down.  Along the way, he steps on many a toe, but comes across as so humble and down to earth that the bigwigs whose toes were stepped on aren’t sure it was unintentional.  McMahon tapping aimlessly on his keyboard, feigning incompetence with technology in order to avoid listening to a DC bureaucrat’s orders via Skype come to mind.

This is a big role for Brad Pitt.  Hollywood’s quintessential leading man, an actor that has spent his life maintaining a top of the line physical appearance, playing parts that make the ladies swoon, gets a douse of McMahon style humility himself.

This is the first time I’ve seen him play someone with gray hair, someone who is admittedly older and too busy to hide the fact with an army of stylists.  Pitt plays McMahon as a gruff and grizzled old soldier, a man with a hand that has been mangled, who walks as though his body is in pain from years of being pushed to the limit.

Even more surprisingly, Pitt’s character has an age appropriate wife, Jeannie (Meg Tilly). Seeing Pitt snuggle up to a gray haired woman who is light years from looking like Angelina Jolie is nothing I thought I’d ever see on film.  Yet, in doing so, Pitt pulls off some of the best acting of his career, namely, convincing us that he could love a woman his age.

This is also a big film for Netflix.  The Internet streaming service spent $60 million on this film and it shows.  The result is a movie that could have been screened in movie theaters across the country had they chosen to go that route.  Brad Pitt is, by my best estimate, the biggest star Netflix has ever recruited for one of its original productions, thus proving that this company is in the movie game to win it, and the future of film is streaming.

For me, that’s a dubious prospect as I love the experience of going to see a film in a theater, though lately I wonder if saving cinema is not a cause as lost as Afghanistan.

Overall, the film asks a lot of questions and paints modern warfare in a not so rose colored light.  Bottomline – these days it sucks to be a man in uniform.  You’re expected to win, but you’re also told by bureaucrats to lose, except they don’t use the “l” word.  They won’t come right out and tell you they want you to lose, just that you should not ask for all the things you need to win.  You should essentially rubber stamp their losing plans and act like you can’t tell their plans are going to lose.

Meanwhile on the battlefield, soldiers are torn between their inner need to, you know, shoot at people who are shooting at them in order to live another day.  Yet, DC has made it clear that screw-ups (i.e. accidentally shooting a civilian) will not be tolerated and punished severely.

Ultimately, the film lampoons the idea of counter-insurgency, or the idea that men from a foreign land with guns can somehow talk the locals into siding with them against the bad man with guns that are already there.  In one heartbreaking scene, McMahon addresses residents of a territory that US forces have taken control of that he’s there to help build roads, build jobs, to protect them and so on.  A villager informs the General that all sounds great, but he has no doubt the US will eventually cut and run and when they do, the bad guys will destroy all the infrastructure that was built and punish the villagers for cooperating with the US troops.

Between desk jockeys trying to manage something they can’t comprehend, the media turning real stories of war into trashy tabloid TV and a clash of cultures (is it really wise for America to assume that they can turn third world wastelands into smaller versions of America?), the film leaves the viewer with the sad feeling that modern wars may, in fact, may never be winnable again.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Stream it on Netflix.

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Movie Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Arr!  Avast ye scurvy 3.5 readers.  Trim the main sail and batten down the hatches, fer it’s off to Davey Jones’ locker with ye, arr arr, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum and so forth, arr!

BQB here with a review of Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Men Tell No Tales.

3.5 readers, it feels like it was just yesterday when the first Disney Pirate film came out.  The year was 2003 and I was a young man, filled with vim and vigor and a head full of crazy ideas like “life is fair” and “good things happen to good people” and “the world is a great place” and “hard work always earns a just reward and so on.”

We hadn’t yet entered into the whole “reboot” nonsense, yet sequels were still prevalent, and even then Hollywood was often lampooned for a lack of originality.  Even in those days, if one type of film scored big, then you’d soon see a hundred more films just like it.

I didn’t expect much out of that movie.  It was, after all, named after a ride at Disney World, and if video game movies always sucked then a ride based movie would surely suck.

But suck, it did not.  It was an original, creative, fun adventure that propelled Johnny Depp into super stardom with his ingenious take on pirate Jack Sparrow.  Pirates were the rock stars of their day, Depp would opine, and so with a Keith Richards impression, a blockbuster movie franchise was born.

The second and third films were fun, though for me, it was hard to recapture the first film.  It was a time in my life when I felt inspired and I was seeing a film that was inspiring.

The series carried on sans Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), the lovebirds that were inevitably being saved by or were saving Jack.  2011’s On Stranger Tides was, to me, an OK film, but somewhat forgettable.  Other than Salma Hayek was in it, I couldn’t really tell you what it was about.

This go around, the stakes are raised and Disney apparently felt a need to bring their A game to keep the profitable franchise afloat.  Disney makes mad, crazy cash off these pirates, not just with park rides but also with Disney Cruises featuring “pirate night” where pirates take over the cruise liner and Jack Sparrow saves the day.  Thus, these pirate movies will be milked for all they are worth and then some.

In this, the fifth film of the series, young Henry Turner, son of Elizabeth and Will, seeks to remove a curse from his father’s head.  To do it, he’ll need the legendary trident of Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea, but naturally, he’ll have to team of with Jack Sparrow to lead the way.

Throw in Henry’s love interest Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a plucky young lady scientist whose intelligence is often seen as a sign of witchcraft by the film’s non-stop avalanche of dullards, villains Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem as a ghostly undead pirate) and fan favorite Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and you’ve got a worthy film that’s a fun ride and will definitely keep audiences interested in as many sequels as Disney deems necessary to dish out.

Still, as I sat there watching it, I yearned for 2003, a time long gone by, a time where the world had yet to say no to just about every last hope and dream I had, and watch that original film – a new kind of adventure the likes of which had yet to be seen on screen, as seen through the eyes of a person who still believed in the general goodness of the world.

Sorry to sound like a bummer.  The good news though is that as I looked around the theater, I saw wonder in the eyes of younger viewers, the same wonder I once had.

I guess the good news is that every time a flame in someone’s heart burns out, another flame is lit in someone else’s heart somewhere else.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Worth a trip to the theater. I do miss Will and Elizabeth though as they were key to the original films’ success.  I don’t want to give it away, but the movie left me with some hope that those two might return in the inevitable sixth installment.  I hope I’m not wrong.

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Movie Review – The Great Wall (2017)

Swords!  Gunpowder!  Monsters!  Matt Damon in a ponytail!

BQB here with a review of The Great Wall.

3.5 readers – this film got a bad rap.

Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal aka Prince Oberyn of Game of Thrones fame play William and Tovar, a duo of European mercenaries/scoundrels who have come to China in search of black powder.

Alas, their hopes of making big time money off of the boom boom stuff is put on hold when they are captured by the Nameless Order, a vast Chinese Army in charge of protecting the Great Wall (and in the process, China) from an invasion of monsters who come down from a mountain and eat everyone in sight every sixty years.

Grand in scale, sweeping in scope, filled with bright colors and dazzling special effects, this film is a winner and unfortunately, it was treated as a loser due to political correctness…i.e…a lot of people felt it was highly un-work in the current year for a honky like Matt Damon to be playing the hero in a movie about the Great Wall of China.

Admittedly, even this writer poked fun at the concept…but in my defense, that was before I saw the movie.

3.5 readers, to make a film for an English speaking audience, you’ve got to do one of three things:

#1)  Make the non-English people speak English.  Basically, you’re giving the audience a wink and asking them to go along with it.  No, these people didn’t speak English but unless you want to read subtitles for two hours, stop being a stickler for authenticity.

#2)  Make a movie with subtitles.  If a film made primarily in a foreign language is good enough, I’ll watch it and read the subtitles.  The Ip Man movies based out of Hong Kong and the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series come to mind.  However, I am a film nerd and the average English speaking film audience isn’t going to want to plunk down cash to sit and read a film.  Too much work!

#3)  Throw in some English speaking Westerners to tell the English speaking audience what is going on.  The Western audience can live vicariously through them, exploring the idea of being an English speaker in a far away world.  Make most of the characters from that world speak their native language and put it in subtitles when they speak to each other, but have one character who can speak English and can act as an intermediary between the English and non-English speakers.

The Great Wall goes with Option 3, and it works well.  Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) can speak English and Chinese and introduces the newcomers (and, vicariously, the English speaking audience) to her world.

Ironically, despite the fact that it was panned for un-wokeness, one of the film’s highest ranking officers is a woman.

Further, there’s a running theme of trust or specifically, the need for people from different cultures to trust each other.  Tovar (Pascal), a Spaniard, tries to convince his British friend William (Damon) throughout the film to abandon the Nameless Order and take advantage of the chaos during the film’s numerous badass monster siege scenes to steal as much as he can carry and run away with him like a thief in the night.

Will William stay true to his past as a greedy sword for hire or will he see the chance to save the Nameless Order from becoming monster lunch as a chance to redeem himself after a lifetime of villainy?

People from different cultures, coming together, working together for the common good or, you know, something that people who are super duper politically correct claim they want.

Admittedly, there have been many occasions where Hollywood has strained the boundaries of common sense and good taste to put a honky in a role that really should have gone to a non-honky.  Emma Stone as a Hawaiian in Aloha is the most recent example that comes to mind.

That being said, I don’t think this movie fits the mold of other films that came across as stupid and insensitive due to a honky being crowbarred into a non-honky’s role.  The script is all about people from different worlds learning to trust each other.

Is America ready for a film about Ancient China with an Asian actor playing the leading man role?  Yes.  It’s long overdue. But, and here’s the rub, keep in mind that movie, in order to reach an English speaking audience, will a) require everyone to speak English, thus loosing authenticity or b) be dubbed in subtitles, which means it won’t gain exposure to wide English speaking audiences and only geeky film buffs like me will watch it.

That’s not meant as an affront to non-English speakers.  It’s just simple logic.  America is an English speaking country and it is also a country filled with die hard movie lovers.  We don’t have time to learn all the other languages of the world, so we need films to be in English or to have subtitles.  Sure, there’s also the “dub it in English” option but those rarely, if ever, sound good.

 

Somehow, I have a feeling that all the people who complained about Matt Damon playing the lead in this role would also complain if it featured an Asian man speaking English (not as an affront to Asia but just due to the reason that most American movie goers don’t know how to speak Chinese).

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Deserved more kudos than it got.

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