Oh yeah? I thought. This has to be a dodgy throwback to that amazing Karate Kid movie of the 80's. Wrong. This is a new kind of classic, well written plus having the added bonus of a mature Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) and his arch opponent Johnny Lawrence (William Zabca). It's a "feel good" show, but it's a show with many layers, that lead you the unspecting viewer into layers of revelations and growth within the characters. Lessons include letting go of the past, growing, reconciliation, mercy, understanding the responsibility when one gets power or not letting power corrupt you, etc. No one is perfect but everyone can find their way out of their problems. The plot? Thirty years after their final confrontation at the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny Lawrence is at rock-bottom as an unemployed handyman, who feels hgis life is going nowhere. However, when Johnny rescues a bullied kid, Miguel, he feels inspired to restart the notorious Cobra Kai dojo. It's not all plain sailing, with Cobra Kai Johnny restarts a simering rivalry with Daniel LaRousso, a successful car dealer who may be happily married, but is missing tjhat spark of life since the death of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. Miguel and his mates are gradually poisoned by Cobra Kai's brutish ideas. Meanwhile, while Daniel's daughter, Samantha, finds herself in the middle of this conflict, Johnny's estranged son, Robby, finds himself inadvertently coming under Daniel's wing and grows in ways worthy of Mr. Miyagi Its got a comic twist, it's different and worth a look, if you hark back to the nostalgic days of "Karate Kid" and "The Outsiders."
When a film is named “Shazam!”, you can sort of guess what you are going to see. It’s one of those words from the days of Vaudeille and tacky magicians, utter that famout term when they are about to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.
I hadn’t heard of Shazam from the DC comics series, his origin story has turned out to be one the best DC film in years. And all in all they are a very good series.
“Shazam!” also knows its superheroes encyclopedia and all the usual tricks that come along with it. But with it being set in Philadelphia, the usual big city crime isn’t an issue and this superhero has a lot of time on his hands in between missing high school classes. So until Sivana comes into the picture, we get to see Billy testing out his Shazam’s powers, which is where the sparks fly, literally, as he gets paid by people on the street for shooting electricity from his fingers.
Zachary Levi is the star of the show as he manages to portray an almost fifteen-year-old in the body of an adult with effortless endearment. He’s hilarious, he’s silly, and most importantly – he’s completely believable as a superhero. Jack Dylan Grazer has an interesting part to play as he interacts with the teenage Billy and the adult Shazam and he manages to hold his own against both. However, it’s the foster family, including the kids – Darla (Faithe Herman), Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ian Chen), and Pedro (Jovan Armand) – who are surprisingly brilliant in their roles and make a strong impression. When it comes to the villain, Mark Strong manages to be foreboding and scary all on his own.What Could’ve Been Better:
There are some CGI monsters in the film that aren’t particularly good, especially in the last big fight, but they’re easily overlooked as something much more awesome happens in it that makes the many monsters a more worthy opponent.
“Shazam!” is the kind of superhero film that makes you want to have superpowers. In fact you think that they might be just around the corner!
This might seem like an obvious thing for all superhero films to do, but with so many world-ending catastrophes, the sheer size of powers sometimes gets lost. With Shazam!, you get the classics of the genre – a endearing superhero vs. an intense villain – along with many unexpected surprises.
Based on the experiences of comic and lead actor Osamah Sami, an Iraqi refugee who arrived in Australia as a boy after several years in Iran, it begins with the title card: “A true story. Unfortunately.” This really doesn’t prepare you for what follows.
A warm, sentimental comedy, cast almost entirely with Muslim Australians (1 Vietnamese guy and 1 Australian guy) this is a purely myopic look at one section of Australian society, where the rest of us don’t exist. And this is a good thing, because it provides a lovely look into misunderstood section of our population, whilst at the same time serving up a big chuck of middle class Australian values.
Ali is the son of a Muslim cleric (Don Hany), he hopes to become a doctor but after failing to get into medical school, he lies massively to his family and friends that he got a 94.4% pass and acceptance into Melbourne Uni.
He starts attending classes anyway, the lie grows and grows. Ali is trapped. But worse is to come. At Uni, he pursues a young woman from the mosque, but wait, this is not the same woman he’s been pressured into engaging. And as the sayi9ng goes “It all goes pear shaped.”
This is an ideal world and that makes it so entertaining. I loved the scenes in the3 Mosque with musicals performed by overenthusiastic worshipers. Women behind mirrored glass windows and complete with eccentric but loveable locals.
In reality many Australian comedies about migrants have been riddled with the tension between the migrant and Aussie culture. In Ali’s Wedding, Australia is a relatively simnple adopted country. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe it’s a sign of our culture maturing but in Ali’s world, things seem OK here.
n fact, the film suggests that whatever trials and tribulations await recently arrived communities, none are as bad as back home, and many troubles are self-inflicted.
Australian racism? It barely registers. Where there is cultural tension, it’s within Ali’s community. Two religious leaders polls apart. His progressive father, who offers free counseling services from the back room of his modest brick and tile house and directs an annual satirical play about Saddam Hussein, faces a humourless rival. Ali, meanwhile, is at loggerheads with his mother,(a lively Frances Duca,) who disapproves of the girl he loves because she’s from the wrong part of the Middle East and, worse still, born in Australia.
This is a sign of loose morals, she says, and in one of the film’s more successful moments, Ali’s younger sister calls out her reverse snobbery with the bitter observation that she too was “born here”.
Where there is cultural tension, it’s within Ali’s community
This is a feel good view of Muslim society in Australia. Everything fits, good music, tight editing and strong acting from a group of relatively unknown support actors. It’s good movie. Go see it.
Summary:A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 22nd February 2018
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Screenwriter: Mark Perez
Cast: Jason Batman (Max), Kylie Bunbury (Michelle), Kyle Chandler (Brooks), Camille Chen (Dr. Chin), Michael Cyril Creighton (Bill), John Francis Daley (Carter), R.F. Daley (Tats), Abigail Ford (Mrs. Anderton), Jonathan Goldstein (Dan), Michael C. Hall (The Bulgarian), Natasha Hall (Madison), Sharon Horgan (Sarah), Malcolm X. Hughes (Not Denzel), Danny Huston (Donald Anderton), Candy Ibarra (Rachel Burns), Jessica Lee (Debbie), Daniel Lucente (Dan Steele), Curtis Lyons (Logan), Billy Magnussen (Ryan), Rachel McAdams (Annie), Joshua Mikel (Colin), Lamorne Morris (Kevin), Tony Ohara (Kramer), Olivia (Bastian), Chelsea Peretti (Glenda), Jesse Plemons (Gary), Brooke Jaye Taylor (Linda), Michael Twombley (Michael Bates), Zerrick Williams (Val)
Runtime: 100 mins
OUR GAME NIGHT REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Dave Griffiths Review:
To listen to some film journalists talk the state of the comedy genre is in tatters. Apparently unfunny comedy after unfunny comedy floods our cinemas screens. The notion is ridiculous though. It seems that films like Horrible Bosses and We’re The Millers have been completely forgotten about… hell even the local comedy Swinging Safari was a lot funnier that most journos gave it credit for. Now comes Game Night a film that certainly shows that comedy is back – not only does the film’s twists and turns keep the audience guessing but it’s sassy comedy and modern edge make a film worthy of more than one viewing.
The plot of Game Night is unique in itself. Max (Jason Bateman – Arrested Development, Juno) and Annie (Rachel McAdams – The Notebook, Mean Girls) are a regular couple with a big difference – they are driven by a competitive spirit that makes their frequent games’ nights a must attend for their friends.
However their games nights are changed forever when the couple realise that their inability to conceive a child is caused by Max’s competitive streak with his rich and popular brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler – Argo, Manchester By The Sea). With Brooks coming to town and deciding to host the latest games night… a night that he says nobody will forget… Max and Annie are already on edge. To make things worse they are trying to hide the night from their creepy, ex-friend and Police Officer Gary (Jesse Plemons – Battleship, Black Mass) so he doesn’t turn up, but that all pails into insignificance when Brooks’ real life makes the night potentially deadly.
Universally panned for their work on Vacation directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein bounce back here largely thanks to a witty script written by Mark Perez (Accepted, Herbie: Fully Loaded). While the premise of the film seems basic Perez’s screenplay makes this film stand-out. Game Night has everything that a good comedy should have – witty one-liners plus memorable characters like the dry and dull Gary and the extremely dumb himbo Ryan (Billy Magnussen – Into The Woods, The Big Short).
But Game Night also has more than that. The suspense of the plot is only enhances with a serious of twists and turns that soon has the audience realising that they can’t predict what is going to happen in the next minute let alone for the rest of the film. The fact that Perez is smart enough to have Max almost narrate what some would call film flaws with lines like ‘great two guys show up that haven’t been revealed in the plot earlier’ makes the decision to include such risky choices in the film pay off with laughter. The screenplay also gives a nod to other films, again with a smirk to the audience as Rachel McAdams declares ‘like Liam Neeson in Taken 3.’
In fact it is the chances that Game Night makes that ends up letting the film work. The decision to tone the adult humour down when compared to a film like Horrible Bosses means that this becomes the perfect date movie for both men and women while the interesting choice of cast all works. Batman and McAdams gel well as an on-screen couple while Jesse Plemons steals just about every scene he is in with some brilliant deadpan character acting. The other big surprise here is Kyle Chandler. Known more for his gritty dramatic roles in productions like Friday Night Lights Chandler here shows the world his comedic skills as he makes sure Brooks is one of those characters that the audience will love one moment and hate the next.
Game Night is one comedy that is well worth a look. Its great screenplay allows for a little more storyline and suspense then what we expect from most comedy films while Jason Bateman once again shows why he is the current king of comedy. As you sit down to watch Game Night be prepared for a wild ride with more than enough laughs to keep the comedy fans happy as well.
Greg King’s Review:
This enjoyable mix of action and comedy from the team behind films like Horrible Bosses is like David Fincher’s The Game crossed with Date Night.
A group of friends regularly meet every Saturday night for some old-fashioned fun, playing old school board games and charades. The games are held at the home of Max (Jason Bateman) and his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams), both very competitive gamers who met a trivia night. The players include bickering high school sweethearts Kevin (Lomorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and dim-witted ladies’ man Ryan (Billy Magnussen, from tv series Get Shorty, etc), who brings along a different shallow empty-headed date each night.
But this time, Max’s supposedly much more successful and wealthy older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler, Emmy winner from Saturday Night Lights, etc) arrives for a surprise visit and decides to up the ante when he hosts his own game night. He has chosen an interactive “mystery” theme around the concept of a kidnapping. But things quickly go pear shaped when real life crooks invade the house, beat up Brooks, duct tape and drag him from the house. Max and the gang initially think it was all part of the game.
But when they realise that it was real, Max and his friends embark on a cross town chase to try and rescue Brooks. Their competitive spirit though means that they try to race each other to find Brooks and their efforts are driven by their natural one-upmanship. They soon discover that neither the game nor Brooks are what they seem. The chase also sees them having to find a Faberge egg, which is something of a McGuffin.
For the most part Game Night is an energetic and light-hearted action comedy with thriller elements as it mixes some car chases, fight scenes and the odd angry shot. But the plot is also very convoluted and there are a couple of last minute twists that defy credibility. The script comes from Mark Perez (the more family friendly Disney film Herbie Fully Loaded, etc). The film has been directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who are best known for writing comedies like Horrible Bosses, etc. They made their feature film directorial debut with 2015’s disappointing Vacation reboot, and here they bring their own comic sensibilities to Perez’s screenplay and make the most of the thin premise.
The film is slickly paced, and cinematographer Barry Peterson suffuses the material with a noir like palette. There are some nice visual gags as well, including establishing shots of various neighbourhoods that initially resemble a board game community.
Bateman often has a nice everyman quality that shapes his performances. Here he seems far more comfortable than in some of the crass comedies like Office Christmas Party that he has appeared in. He and McAdams develop a wonderful chemistry that lifts the film, and they play off each other well. It seems that she has allowed Bateman to lift his game. McAdams also shows a nice flair for comedy. The cast also features Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, etc), and Danny Huston and Dexter star Michael C Hall in small roles as shady underworld figures.
Everyone in the cast is given their own moment to shine. But the stand out of the ensemble is Jesse Plemons (American Made, etc) who plays Gary, Max and Annie’s somewhat creepy and obsessive neighbour. Gary used to be a regular part of their game night crowd until he and his wife Debbie divorced, and he became too moody and depressed for their liking.
Game Night is uneven, but with a brisk running time of 100 minutes it never quite outstays its welcome. And it is a lot more fun than many other recent Hollywood comedies.
Nick Gardener’s Review:
The amiable if at times flat Game Night is a little like David Fincher’s The Game done in the style of contemporary comedies like Horrible Bosses. It also falls into that cinematic sub-genre the Jason Bateman movie in which Bateman plays the put-upon, every-man, nice guy schlub forced into a dangerous situation that inevitably provides some necessary jolt to his staid suburban life.
Here Bateman plays Max who, despite a comfortable life and marriage to the gorgeous Annie (Rachel McAdams), is perpetually stressed, a condition that seems to be impeding his ability to conceive a child. The source of his anxiety seems to be his arrogant Wall Street trader brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) who has always taken sadistic delight in trouncing Max at games and competitions throughout their lives. When the obnoxious Brooks invites Max and Annie and their friends to a murder mystery party the night unexpectedly turns into a battle against kidnappers and sleaze-ball gangsters.
The film attempts to weld a typical Bateman middle class suburban rom-com to a crime thriller but the results are at best middling. Bateman’s easy charm and comic timing work about as well as they do in other films where he’s played essentially the same character and McAdams’ cheery, live-wire performance is typically fun and endearing. Add an amusingly creepy performance from Jesse Plemons as a weird, angry cop neighbour who’s determined to inveigle himself into Max and Annie’s life and at least in its early stages, this is an enjoyably perky comedy.
As the film attempts to entangle Max and Annie in a twist-laden action/crime/ caper/ story, though, it begins to lose its appeal. The film lacks the necessary thrills, intensity and drama for this part of the movie to work. Add to this a few dud gags, predictable story threads, sub-plots about characters misfiring relationships that don’t really go anywhere and some completely unbelievable scenarios including a ludicrous sequence at a gangster’s mansion and Game Night becomes a little laboured.
Thankfully, Game Night eschews much some of the grubbiness and nastiness of contemporary raunch comedies but it doesn’t replace this with enough genuine wit, energy or clever story-telling.
Average Buzz Rating (out of 5):
Summary: Just as Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) sell their home and plan on moving to the suburbs they suddenly find themselves under attack again as a sorority led by party girl Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) move in next door. The arrival of former frat boy Teddy (Zac Efron) has everybody asking which side he will decide to join.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 5th May 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriter: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Cast: Ike Barinholtz (Jimmy), Spencer Boldman (Derek), Hannibal Buress (Officer Watkins), Rose Byrne (Kelly Radner), Jerrod Carmichael (Garf), Kiersey Clemons (Beth), Zac Efron (Teddy Sanders), Beanie Feldstein (Nora), Dave Franco (Pete), Carla Gallo (Paula), Selena Gomez (Madison), Kelsey Grammer (Shelby’s Father), Lisa Kudrow (Dean Carol Gladstone), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Scoonie), Chloe Grace Moretz (Shelby), Seth Rogen (Mac Radner), Elise Vargas (Stella), Zoey Vargas (Stella)
Runtime: 92 mins
OUR BAD NEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING REVIEWS & RATINGS:
The last few things have shown us that comedy sequels often do not live up to original film in the franchise… especially, so it seems, if that original film was an absolute comedy gem. Comedy fans have watched as franchise after franchise have taken this ill-fated path as – Zoolander 2, Horrible Bosses 2, Hangover 2 + 3 and Anchorman 2 have all fallen well short of the brilliance that their predecessor had brought. The result was scorn from film critics and comedy lovers right around the world.
Now we find ourselves sitting down to watch Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising a film born into existence after the shock success of the 2014 adult rated comedy. With much of the key cast and crew returning for a second trip you could be excused for thinking that this film would be just as good… sadly that wasn’t the case.
This time around we find young parents Mac (Seth Rogen – This Is The End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne – Insidious) expecting their second child and in the middle of selling their home as they decide to move their expanding family out to the suburbs. With the house sold the couple just have to hope that nothing goes wrong during the thirty day cooling off period.
Enter Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz – Kick-Ass) who feels that the sororities are getting the raw end of the deal when she discovers that they can’t party the same way as fraternities. Desperate to proves that girls can do it just as well as boys she moves her sorority into the house next to Mac and Kelly’s causing the couple to realise that their nightmare is coming true. Worse still is the fact that after being thrown out by his best friend, Pete (Dave Franco – Now You See Me), former fraternity leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron – The Lucky One) is only too happy to teach them everything he knows.
Sadly though Bad Neighbours 2 is another sequel that struggles to get anywhere near the quirkiness and humor that the first film managed to produce. The sad thing about this film is that it should have been painfully clear for anyone watching the first cuts of the film to see what had gone wrong – yes the problems here at basic but enough to sink the film.
The main thing that drags down this film is some very lazy and poor screenwriting. At times it feels like the writers here forgot key points from the first film, things such as the fact that at the end of the film Mac and Teddy met up and seemingly settled their difference, yet at the beginning of this film it feels like they haven’t seen each other since the frat moved out and Teddy still has a score to settle. Likewise much of the ‘wrong’ comedy that made the first film work so well are missing here. At the screening I was at the audience burst into laughter the 2-3 times the writers were game enough to attempt a politically incorrect joke but for the rest of time barely raised a chuckle as attempted jokes just played out on the screen in front of them.
The other big issue with Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is the members of the sorority themselves. It seems like the writers were hamstrung with what they should do with most of the female characters this time around. On one hand they set up Shelby, Nora (Beanie Feldstein – Fan Girl) and Beth (Kiersy Clemons – Dope) as bad girls who want to live up life at college. Yet when it comes to the crust of things we see anything but and the girls end up becoming walking clichés whose actions seem to become very ‘unimportant’ to the writers. In one scene a big deal is made about the fact that Shelby is a virgin yet her ‘Shelby Lost Her Virginity’ is shown in a quick ten second montage. As if that isn’t made enough the writers seem to have borrowed the characteristics of the girls from Pitch Perfect – perhaps they didn’t think we would notice that the alternative girl, the larger girl and the strange-speaking Asian character act had all been done before.
Sadly it seems the sorority was ruined by writers who seemed to want to make the characters too politically correct and as a result they lost their hard edge. Remember back to the original film when Teddy, Pete and Scoonie (Chrisopher Mintz-Plasse – How To Train Your Dragon) were politically incorrect yet also had memorable characterisation? Well all of that is missing here from the girls of the sorority and boy does it show. Perhaps the writers needed to revisit films like Valentine and Sorority Row to see how ‘bad’ sorority girls should be written.
The other unfortunate losers when it comes to the writing are the cast. Rogen and Byrne are certainly held back from delivering the good comedic performances they did in the first film and while supporting cast members like Ike Barinholtz (Sisters) and Carla Gallo (We Bought A Zoo) do get the odd laugh here and there it just isn’t enough to save the film. And as for poor Chloe Grace Moretz, well this normally good actress is reduced to a ‘nothing’ role that is best to be left off her resume.
In reigning in Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising and making it more politically correct than the original film in the franchise the powers-that-be behind the film have made this a largely unfunny film that rehashes old jokes and doesn’t even deserve to live in the shadow of its much more impressive brother. Fans of the original film beware, you will not get as many laughs this time around.
You can hear Adam Ross’s full Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #175.
You can hear Greg King’s full Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #175.
Movie sequels can be very hit and miss for any number of reasons, for every Terminator 2 there’s a Terminator 3. Comedy sequels are much more miss than hit, this usually has to do with the set up for the original film not really being suited for a franchise. Some movies like 22 Jump Street or Robocop 2 feature self aware humor about this. As if the writers are nodding to the audience saying “yeah we know its silly, just go with it”. Not every comedy movie needs to break the fourth wall like this but it sometimes helps to know the filmmakers understood how ridiculous it was to make a sequel to something that was better suited as a one off. When they don’t then often the movie can come off as a shameless cash in.
Bad Neighbors 2 is the sequel to the hugely successful 2014 comedy. When we last left our protagonists new parents Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) they had successfully defeated the troublesome fraternity and its leader Teddy (Zac Efron) who had moved in next door to their new home. They were content and ready to continue their lives without fear of loud late night parties next door or stray condoms in their front yard. Flash forward 2 years and Mac and Kelly are expecting a second child, despite all their money going into their new home in the first film it is apparently time to upgrade to another house in a different neighborhood. They’ve bought their new home, sold their “old” house to new home owners and are now waiting for the 30 day cool off period to end before they can officially move on. Much to their dismay at this point a sorority led by pot smoking partying Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her forgettable friends moves in to the old frat house next door and Mac and Kelly and the audience find history repeating itself.
Personally I really enjoyed the original Bad Neighbors. The characters were as believable as they needed to be, the improvisation (line-o-rama) scenes didn’t feel out of place and the humor was on par with what I expected. It was a somewhat average frat-house comedy but I enjoyed it. This movie didn’t quite match that. To be honest I didn’t have high expectations yet still I felt disappointed. Generally it feels like a lazy rehash of the original movie without any of the minimal characterization or even minimal originality which made it decent. The story largely playing out the same way we saw it 2 years ago but without the focus on the characters that was needed it streamed from one joke to the next without me ever seeing why I should care about anyone in the movie. The “this is sexist” angle is played out in such an over the top hamfisted but unfunny way im not sure why they bothered in the first place.
Bad Neighbors 2 is a movie which probably shouldn’t have been made. While not being quite as bad its very much on the Hangover 2 side of comedy sequels. I’m much more a fan of “follow ups” than sequels in this case where the same crew and principal actors make another movie in the same vein as the original rather than a straight sequel. I’d much rather Hot Fuzz than Shaun of The Dead 2. If only something similar had been done here.
You can hear Nick Gardener’s full Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #175.
Summary: As Mother’s Day rapidly approaches various people find themselves going through different stages of life. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) finds that her ex-husband’s suprise is nothing like she expected, Miranda (Julia Roberts) decides to keep impressing her fans and ignore the fact the day is near, Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) find themselves having to hide their lives from their parents, Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) prepares to help his daughters through their first Mother’s Day after the death of their mother while Kristin (Britt Robertson) finds it impossible to accept Zack’s (Jack Whitehall) marriage proposal as she heads into her first Mother’s Day.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 28th April 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: Garry Marshall
Screenwriter: Tom Hines, Lily Hollander, Anya Kochoff, Matthew Walker
Cast: Jennifer Aniston (Sandy), Ella Anderson (Vicky), Brittany Belt (Beth Anne), Ayden Bivek (Tanner), Charly Briggs (Baby Katie Zim), Remy Briggs (Baby Katie Zim), Caleb Brown (Mikey), Joseph Leo Bwarie (Principal Bobby Lee), Jesse Case (Rachel), Sarah Chalke (Gabi), Hector Elizondo (Lance Wallace), Cameron Esposito (Max), Adam Freeman (HSN Host Adam Freeman), Gary Friedkin (Shorty), Jennifer Garner (2nd Lt. Dana Barton), Lisa Roberts Gillian (Assistant Betty), Adreana Gonzalez (Publicist Inez), Suzanne Haring (Bella the Balloon Lady), Tom Hines (Brady), Kate Hudson (Jesse), Mia Jackson (herself), Genevieve Joy (herself), Beth Kennedy (Gwenda), Siena LaGambina (Paige), Kate Linder (Dog Walker Gigi), Loni Love (Kimberly), Jon Lovitz (Wally Burn), Natalie Machado (Soccer Referee Lisa), Aasif Mandvi (Russell), Penny Marshall (Narrator), Sam Marshall (Sam), Margo Martindale (Flo), Drew Matthews (Beanzie), Shay Mitchell (Tina), Ariana Neal (Evette), Anoush NeVart (Sonia), Timothy Olyphant (Henry), Robert Pine (Earl), Julia Roberts (Miranda), Britt Robertson (Kristin), Graydon Russell (Tommy), Gianna Simone (Val), Brandon Spink (Peter), Jason Sudeikis (Bradley), Sandra Taylor (Lexy), Owen Vaccaro (Charlie), Paul Vogt (Tiny), Matthew Walker (Randy The Clown), Lucy Walsh (Jody), David Wedil (Dog Walker Leah), Jack Whitehall (Zack)
Runtime: 118 mins
OUR MOTHER’S DAY REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Over the past few years Garry Marshall’s movies haven’t always been easy to watch. The man who once brought as classic television shows like Happy Days and The Odd Couple has turned to a lazy style of filmmaking which has seen him use the quantity of stars to get people into the cinema rather than the quality of the film. The result has been films like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day which while have had star power but haven’t exactly been the most captivating films to watch.
It was because of that style of filmmaking that has meant that Mother’s Day has virtually been released in Australia with very little fanfare at all, a surprise when you realise that it stars three regular box office winners – Jennifer Aniston (We’re The Millers), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) and Kate Hudson (Almost Famous). If you are one of those people that have been a little bit worried about going to see Mother’s Day you can relax because this is one of Marshall’s better modern day films.
The film centres around a number of characters as Mother’s Day rapidly approaches. There is Jesse (Kate Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke – Scrubs) who haven’t seen their parents in years because of their secret lives they know that their parents would not approve them. There is also Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) who is left reeling after she discovers that her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant – Hitman) has just re-married the much younger Tina (Shay Mitchell – Pretty Little Liars) which means her children know have a second mother. Then there is Bradley (Jason Sudeikis – Horrible Bosses) who has been left trying to bring up his daughters after the death of his mother while Zack (Jack Whitehall – Fresh Meat) struggles to comprehend why the mother of his daughter, Kristin (Britt Robertson – The Longest Ride) refuses to marry him. Last but not least there is Miranda (Julia Roberts), the television show host that brings the ensemble all together.
After watching Mother’s Day i found myself sitting down and going over the film like a crime scene. Why did Mother’s Day work so well when Marshall’s previous films have been such lame ducks. The first thing I realised was the fact that Mother’s Day seems to flow a lot smoother than the previously mentioned films. Some of the links between characters in the other films have been pretty lame where as in Mother’s Day the relationships are not only believable but help the film’s storyline to move along rather than get in the way of it.
There also seems to be a lot more heart and humor in the film this time around which in the end makes the whole film seem a whole lot more realistic. While the story revolving around Bradley might not be as well presented as the similar story in Steve Carrell’s Dan In Real Life Sudeikis does manage to mix comedy with some truly emotional scenes. Likewise Sarah Chalke and Kate Hudson brilliantly portray two sisters sadly forced to live secret lives despite the fact they live in modern times. Like Sudeikis the two manage to amazingly combine comedy with some scenes that are powerful enough to really upset anybody who has had similar things happen in their lives.
Perhaps the biggest breath of fresh air in Mother’s Day are the acting performances of Britt Robertson and Jack Whitehall. Whitehall largely comes from a comedy background and while he plays a stand-up comedian in Mother’s Day he shows a new side to his talents by also expertly portraying a lot of the more emotional scenes that he shares with Britt Robertson who is almost unrecognisable compared to the roles that she has recently played in Tomorrowland and The Longest Ride.
Marshall really does find the right mix of comedy and drama and manages to make Mother’s Day a credible film that is a joy to watch. This is a film that you can easily become emotionally involved with and with great acting performances from the likes of Aniston, Hudson and Sarah Chalke this is actually a film that you won’t groan at if someone in your family decides that want to watch it every Mother’s Day. Garry Marshall take a bow you have finally learnt how to make a good ensemble film.
Summary: Divorced real estate agent Frank Mollard’s (Anthony LaPaglia) is struggling to deal with divorce and his place in the world when he is suddenly surprised from a phone call by Sarah (Julia Blake) an elderly woman who reminds Frank of his own mother who is now deceased.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 28th April 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Matthew Saville
Screenwriter: Matthew Saville
Cast: Wayne Anthony (Noel Lang), Julia Blake (Sarah), John Clarke (Phillip Lang), Justine Clarke (Wendy), Terence Crawford (Staurt), Indiana Crowther (Frank Jnr.), Mikaela Davies (Olivia), Donal Forde (Damian), Patrick Graham (Ian Treggoning), Anthony LaPaglia (Frank Mollard)
Runtime: 110 mins
OUR A MONTH OF SUNDAYS REVIEWS & RATINGS:
A film is supposed to make you feel a range of different emotions when you watch it, but very often it’s how you feel as you leave the cinema that is the most important. Will you leave feeling entertained? Informed? The one thing you probably shouldn’t be feeling when you leave the cinema is empty… but sadly that is the way I found myself feeling as I left the cinema after a screening of A Month of Sundays… something that I should add that the friends with me were feeling as well.
To be honest that completely surprised me because in the past I have adored the films made by Australian director Matthew Saville. His debut feature Noise was a fresh alternative Police drama that had me really raving about the brilliance of the film, while his last film Felony again visited the boys in the blue and kept its audience guessing from start to finish.
That is the first thing that hits you about A Month Of Sundays it is very different to anything that Saville has done before. Instead of going down the crime path this film centres around Frank Mollard (Anthony LaPaglia – Without A Trace) a real estate agent who has found himself in a deep funk as he struggles to see any importance in his work and is also dealing with the fact that his now famous wife, Wendy (Justine Clarke – Look Both Ways), has left him and he has no idea how to connect with his son, Frank Jnr. (Indiana Crowther – newcomer).
Then along comes something that sparks a little bit of interest in Frank’s life. He receives an accidental phone call from Sarah (Julia Blake – Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark), a retired librarian who reminds him of his mother. While Frank’s uncaring boss, Phillip Lang (John Clarke – The Man Who Sued God) warns him against it Frank finds himself drawing closer to Sarah.
A quick read through of the summary of the film and you see that it could have been possible for A Month Of Sundays to have been a very thought provoking film. To its credit the film does explore topics such as how an older male deals with the break-up of a marriage, the loss of his mother and also trying to relate to his teenage son, but the film just does not go deep enough into any of those topics to make it worthy film. The film also doesn’t allow its audience to feel sorry for Frank enough, we simply see him as a morose (and kind of boring) individual and as a result you just never really develop a connection to him. Worse still is the fact that the filmmakers obviously think that the audience with side with Frank and not support Sarah’s son in his belief that Sarah and Frank’s friendship is a little strange. Truthfully it is easier to see the son’s point of view than it is to see Frank’s.
One of the biggest problems with the film though is that it just seems to cruise along at a steady pace with very little highs. The major high throughout the film is the comedic style of John Clarke, which most Australians would have come to know and love with his political satire on A Current Affair. Clarke’s style steals nearly every scene that he is in and it is often his one liners that are the stand out. He even manages to deliver some good emotional scenes as we see his character battle with dealing with the fact that his elderly father has lost his mind.
As usual Anthony LaPaglia is good but really doesn’t get a lot to work with. He breezes through his scenes while wearing the same emotion on his face in nearly every scene. He is well supported by Justine Clarke and newcomer, Indiana Crowther. The clear standout here though is Julia Blake who commands the screen in every scene she appears in and once again she has managed to deliver another great performance.
A Month Of Sundays is a little bit of a letdown for all the Matthew Saville fans out there. Slow and unremarkable this is a film that I doubt that I will revisit.
A Month Of Sundays is the third film from writer/director Matt Saville (a veteran of television with credits ranging from the telemovie The King to sitcom Please Like Me), and is something of a change of pace for a filmmaker widely considered as one of our best. His first two films were the multi-award winning Noise and Felony, both character-driven police dramas that explored themes of guilt, responsibility, family and secrets. A Month Of Sundays is a more introspective drama about a man undergoing a midlife crisis who gets a new lease on life after he meets an elderly woman. It deals with universal themes of family, loss, grief, mortality, dysfunctional relationships, the dream of owning your own home, regeret and redemption, and a variety of complex mother/son relationships.
The central character here is Frank Mollard (played by Anthony LaPaglia, from tv series Without A Trace, the recent Holding The Man, and AFI award winning dramas Balibo, Lantana, etc), a real estate agent who has fallen into a pit of despair and is sleepwalking through his life at the moment. He is having trouble selling houses, even in the midst of a real estate boom. His mother has recently died, he is still dealing with the breakdown of his marriage to Wendy (Justine Clarke), who is finding fame as the star of a new television medical drama, and is having difficulty relating to his teenaged son (newcomer Indiana Crowther). His job is selling houses that belong to the soon to be deceased, which further adds to his emotional turmoil and sense of grief.
Then he receives phone call from the elderly Sarah (Julia Blake), who accidentally rang his number when trying to call her own son. Intrigued by their brief conversation and the sense of comfort it briefly provided, Frank arranges to meet Sarah and through her he explores his own grief and emotional confusion. His presence soon proves an irritant to her real son Damien (Donal Forde), who works as an IT expert. But eventually Sarah becomes something of a surrogate mother figure and her wisdom and life experiences eventually help snap Frank out of his ennui and he begins to reconect with the world around him.
But unfortunately this earnest and well meaning but contrived melodrama is the lesser of Saville’s three films. It is uneven in both tone and pacing. There are problems with the script and the characterisation as we don’t really identify with some of the characters here or even care that much about them.
Veteran cinematographer Mark Wareham (Felony, BoyTown, etc) makes good use of the leafy tree lined suburban streets of Adelaide and gives the film a strong sense of location and a strong visual surface.
LaPaglia is good at conveying the fragility and vulnerability of the male psyche and he does a good job here bringing some unexpected layers to his nuanced portrayal of Frank. A nice touch sees Frank describe every location he enters in terse real estate terms: “Meticulously renovated family home; untouched period charm; late Victorian style; scope to further improve…” Although 79, Blake is still a formidable screen presence and she brings gravitas to her role as Sarah. But the best moments of the film centre around Frank’s shifty boss Philip (a scene stealing performance by comic John Clarke), a shifty hustler with a heart of stone. Clarke brings his usual dry, deadpan wit to the role and I wanted more of his character and less of the melodramatic stuff about dysfunctional families and midlife crises that we have seen in numerous other similarly themed films.
But overall A Month Of Sundays is a rather trite and pedestrian affair that will struggle to resonate with a wider mainstream audience.
Anthony LaPaglia plays sour faced estate agent, Frank Mollard, who could be a human stand in for Droopy the Dog should he ever fail to turn up for work. Frank is still wrestling with unaired feelings about his mother’s death the previous year, his ex-wife is carving a successful career as an actress and his distant son appears to be following suit. He’s also become disenfranchised with his job; watching potential first time home owners lose out to middle-aged hipster property tycoons. When he receives a call from a sweet old lady called Sarah (Julia Blake) who has misdialled, Frank spies an opportunity to claw back some of the happiness he once had.
There’s something about A Month of Sundays, the latest film from director Matthew Saville, that doesn’t quite stick. For all intents and purposes the goods it puts on display are tempting; great cast, sunny locale and a touching underdog story that often resonates with Australian audiences. And yet it all feels a bit too light, particularly when stacked up against Saville’s previous work, such as Felony and Noise.
The trailer suggests that this will be a bittersweet drama about two people forming a cross-generational friendship in which they’ll laugh, cry, and possibly even learn something at the end of the day. However, Sarah, played wonderfully by Julia Blake, is merely one of several characters who walk in and out of scene to validate Frank’s demeanour. We learn an awful lot about the bitter agent, but very little about the dear OAP who likes to use the Dewey decimal system to keep her books in order at home. Affectations do not a personality make.
When a turning point in the film sees Sarah receive some tragic news, it makes the same misstep as Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, by denying her agency and instead focussing on how poor Frank will cope. LaPaliga is brilliant, but this film should really be more of a two-hander than it is. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as Jack Clarke steals a number of scenes as Frank’s boss Peter Langdon. Even then though his acidic one-liners are hampered by scenes involving his mentally ill father that feel like they were taken from another film.
As feel good movies go, this is pretty much by the numbers stuff and it’s such a shame that a talented person like Saville would make such a misstep. However, in the right mood, A Month of Sundays is perhaps a non-taxing classic Sunday arvo film waiting to happen.
Summary: Falling in love is easy, getting out of it is hard. Our hero, Josh ﬁnds himself ‘LoveStuck’ between his best friend, his ex-girlfriend and the new girl he is about to move in with. As a lowly clerk working with the public service in Canberra, Josh is used to procrastination, but his fear of con*ict and knack for stretching the truth gets him into trouble with the women that he loves.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 24th August 2017
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Murray Fahey
Cast: Rik Brown (Josh), Fenella Edwards (Horatio), Murray Fahey (Polonius), Cathy Hagarty (Cath), Malcolm Irvin (Rosencraztz), Ali Little (Barnardo), Jenny Lovell (Gertude), Heady Manders (Voltemand), Gabby Millgate (Bag Lady Ophelia), Glen Morrison (Laertes), Robert Morrison (Guilderstein), Rama Nicolas (Kate), Emma Reid (Hecuba), Patti Stiles (Trish), Geoff Wallace (Claudius)
Runtime: 73 mins
OUR LOVESTUCK REVIEWS & RATINGS:
The Australian film industry has been throwing up some extremely experimental films over the past few years – from one-shot action films through to filmed theatre productions. Well now comes Lovestuck – a completely improvised film from director Murray Fahey (Cubbyhouse, Dags). Not only does the film toss up a story that keeps you guessing but also gives you a look behind the scenes of what goes into making an improvised film at the same time.
The film centres around Josh (Rik Brown – Utopia, Dinner For Three) a man who is struggling with his feelings with three woman – his ex Kate (Rama Nicolas – Little Solider, The Mutant Way), his current girlfriend Cath (Cathy Hagarty – newcomer) and his best friend Trish (Patti Stiles – Neighbours, Stingers). On one disastrous day he meets with Kate to hand back some of her things – which then sets him on a journey to find a pen that she once gave him – while meanwhile Cath and Tess meet for the first time. The result is him having to make a decision about the three woman if he has any chance of moving on at all.
The danger of doing an experimental film like Lovestuck is that sometimes the experiment itself can get in the way of the story or can distract the audience from getting immersed in the film. Strangely, given that the film also shows the audience what is happening behind the scenes at times, neither happens here. The actors at hand – especially Rik Brown – are so good at the improvisation that you forget that you are watching a film that never technically had a script. The scenes flow together well and while there are some scenes that perhaps didn’t need to be there, most of the scenes featuring the main four characters tie in together well and do raise the suspense of who Josh will choose at the end… something that director Murray Fahey let Rik Brown decide as part of the improvisation.
The improvisation of the film does allow for the tone of the film to switch at times which gives Lovestuck a really unique feel. From comedic moments when Josh runs into Cath outside a massage parlour and tries to explain that he didn’t get one of ‘those’ massages right through to more dramatic scenes like Cath and Trish meeting for the first time this is a film that at one moment feels like an episode of Seinfeld one moment and the latest romance drama the next. Even the Hamlet Hip-Hop scene which had the potential of feeling out of place in the film works well because as an audience member you find yourself sitting there thinking ‘do they have the pen or not?’
The key to this film working though was the cast and to Fahey and his casting assistant’s credit they get this 100% right. Rik Brown carries the film throughout and with the tone changes that is no easy feat. From moments of complete awkwardness right through to almost slapstick comedy he delivers each time while Nicolas, Hagarty and Stiles also amazing throughout the film. Not once does there seem to be a moment where they hesitate when they think of what to say next and to be able to deliver improv lines so naturally means they deserve high credit… it is no easy feat.
Lovestuck just shows what you can create when you get together a creative team of people. While an improvised movie sounds like it shouldn’t work this one does to the point where you really do care which decision Josh makes. Worth checking out if you like your cinema a little left of centre.
Director: James Gunn
Screenwriter: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn and Kurt Russell.
Runtime: 136 mins
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Comic-Book, Comedy
Review by Lloyd Marken
A great script is a key necessity to making a great film but good characters go a long way in engaging an audience and instant chemistry is as hard to create as capturing lightning in a bottle. In 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy arrived with some of the most lovable characters in the universe. Some recognised the promise of the film early on, others came around that summer but either way expectations are high for James Gunn’s sequel. The follow-up expands on things set up in the first film like Peter Quill’s parentage but has less the sense of fun and brisk energy that its predecessor boasted. Fans will dig it and the uninitiated should be charmed enough by the actor’s comic timing and the visual spectacle. Few will disagree that director James Gunn aims for an emotional response and earns one, possibly making the sequel a more rewarding experience, but the plot does hang on a wire thin framework.
Set sometime after the first movie, the Guardians remain guns for hire in a cosmic universe of colourful horizons and grotesque monsters. The opening set to Electric Light Orchestra features the walking talking tree Groot (Vin Diesel) sauntering around like a toddler while his fellow Guardians do battle with said grotesque monster using anything from simple swords to hi-tech rocket packs. The group’s chemistry is alive and well as they bicker about weapons, setting up of amps and sensitive nipples. They defeat the monster for the alien race known as the Sovereign; beings genetically engineered to perfection with skin so golden that you may not recognise Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki stepping up to the big leagues as their leader Ayesha. Our anti-heroes are rewarded for their actions with the prisoner Nebula (Karen Gillan), sister to Guardian Gamora (Zoe Saldana) of whom both are the daughters of Thanos (next year’s Avengers: Infinity Wars big baddie). Being anti-heroes, one of them can’t help but steal from the species they just worked for and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper with body movement by Sean Gunn) as a result incurs Ayesha’s wrath. If the Sovereign were too lazy to deal with a creature chomping on their power source, they seem quite happy to throw everything they have at the Guardians for this personal betrayal. In the resulting desperate escape the Guardians come across a powerful being known as Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father.
As the writer of the film too, James Gunn makes a bold choice to split our heroes apart but it does lead to some interesting pair-ups. We come to understand more the relationship between Nebula and Gamora, that Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Rocket have more in common than either is willing to admit and Drax (Dave Bautista) lacking in human decorum takes on the role of advising Ego’s servant the innocent Mantis (Pom Klementieff) how to interact with others with equally funny and poignant results. That leaves Quill to get to know his old man and Russell seems to be having the time of his life playing the charming Ego who alternately can’t deal with Quill’s simple question “Why did you leave us?”. Pratt too has truly come of age as a movie star able to project effortless cool but draw you in with heartfelt emotion.
Without giving away spoilers, great emotional resonance in the finale comes from the relationship between two characters who have shared very little screen time together across both films. Yet all involved makes small choices that create that resonance, a petulant sister’s face over the other’s shoulder during a hug she really does want, Rocket’s attempts to win approval or evade judgement from his team members and the way that Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) acts around Drax. This gang of outsiders found each other in the first film but the cast and crew go deeper here with the theme of making your own family. People tend to do that when their own home was broken and the sequel deals with that while proudly wearing its heart on its sleeve.
Every single actor on screen brings their A game creating fully realized characters we believe, in particular Sean Gunn does a lot with very little as Ravager Kraglin. When we see Yondu (Michael Rooker) again for the first time he is looking out a window on a drinking hole planet completely devoid of joy and utterly lost. Gunn gifts the character a great arc in this story and Rooker makes the most of it articulating the characters pain but also joy in his moments of victory. You’ll be humming Stand A Little Bit Closer To Me by Jay and the Americans for the next week. The soundtrack is every bit as good as the lauded first one, with carefully chosen hits that are right on theme with what is occurring on screen with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain getting two significant plays.
Other trademarks of the franchise are the spectacular visual effects which are used effectively here to create a cosmic adventure of unlimited scale, a full spectrum of colours and a range of possibilities. It would be nicer perhaps to have more practical sets and effects but the action has weight and there is true concern for the characters in the action scenes. The wit of the original remains which is just as well because the film does occasionally show some darkness when dealing with space criminals even if Rocket is happy to mock their names to his last breath.
Sometimes Marvel Studio films are criticized for all having the same look, with their director’s visions compromised to fit within the shared cinematic universe but Gunn’s Guardians films remain unique and true to his sensibilities. They’re funny, occasionally gross and as Cat Steven’s Father and Son plays in a gloriously lit up galaxy far, far away they are moving – oh so moving. This is one of the year’s best.
“How the mighty have fallen,” is a re-occurring thought while watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
There’s Orlando Bloom (once Legolas) hanging as a poster on a million fan girl’s walls, now trading on old hits with a minor cameo. There’s Javier Barden who played the great boogeyman Anton Chigurh ten years ago now playing yet another villain for Hollywood but one that is far less compelling than the assassin with the weird haircut. There’s producer Jerry Bruckheimer handing us another blockbuster for this American summer but hasn’t he heard superheroes are all the rage? Finally there is Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, painfully meta as his character seems to be a little sadder and down on his luck than usual.
One of the most fascinating and rebellious stars of his day, by the turn of this century Depp’s popularity had waned as his respectability grew in art house and independent hits. The original Pirates in 2003, based off a theme park ride of all things, played as a perfect blend of the his eccentric tendencies and commercial demands. Quite simply put, Depp’s truly original Jack Sparrow swanned off a sinking mast onto a pier and into our hearts. The first sequel while not as critically acclaimed was rewarded with one of the highest box office grosses of the previous decade. Yet the franchise has been one of diminishing returns creatively and in this entry we reach a new low.
Every sequel has played a variation of the original’s plot so it may not surprise that in this film there are two new young characters that the story is centred around much like Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) were once the focal point. Speaking of Will Turner, he has a son named Henry Turner played by Brenton Thwaites and he’s a chip off the old block. Young and earnest like his father once was, good in a fight and even more boring than his old man who at least got some good lines. Thwaites is joined by Kaya Scodelario playing Carina Smyth, an astronomer branded a witch for being a woman and knowing things in a time and place that doesn’t like that one bit. There’s poignancy shown, thankfully not told, about how Henry has been searching his whole life to free his father from his cursed life as a ghost amongst the sea. Kaya Scodelario too is a talented actress but neither Henry nor Carina engage like Elizabeth and Will did previously. For that matter everybody is a poor copy of someone from earlier films, David Wenham as an arrogant British naval commander is just a jerk with little personality beyond this fact. Compare that to Jack Davenport as Commodore Norrington trying to hold onto his career and girl in the earlier stories. Golshifteh Farahani as Shansa, a sea witch looks cool but never makes an impact like Naomie Harris as priestess Tia Dalma did. Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones was a far more nuanced villain with a tragic love story than Javier Bardem’s rage fuelled Captain Armando Salazar.
Still at least Bardem seems to be enjoying himself spitting out dialogue like venom even if the most recognisable parts of his character are the neat way his hair moves in open air like he’s underwater and his cool Spanish accent. Depp actually seems to be going through the motions in this film which you could never accuse the star of previously whatever the qualities of the sequels. Whether this was due to stresses outside the production would be difficult to determine but Johnny Depp remains a talent even if little of what made Jack Sparrow fresh in 2003 remains here in this performance. As Jack sits around betraying his beloved compass and searching for another rum bottle to drink he cuts a pathetic figure in a way that his shenanigans never did previously.
Story wise this could have opened up interesting avenues for the character but the best arc of the film instead is gifted to his old comrade/nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Rush brings gravitas to his now aged salty dog when he says lines like “I’m a pirate.” knowing such conviction could be his death sentence. It would have been interesting to see the developments of Barbossa happen with Sparrow instead but for obvious reasons they were not.
There is a moment at the beginning of the third act when the film becomes more engaging, Barbossa and Sparrow spar verbally well off one another, some jokes land during a group debate and a key reveal brings some depth to a couple of relationships. Sadly what follows in terms of action scenes are tremendously disappointing. There are no real sword fights in this swashbuckler; the finale is dimly lit and hard to make out while poor sound editing undermines key attempts at pathos.
Budgeted at $230 million dollars this is an unforgivable sin committed either by the cinema chain running this screening or more worryingly Disney studios themselves pushing this into release where people will pay good money for tickets. Too much CGI and clear cut aways to stuntmen rob the film of any spectacle or excitement with poorly framed shots and editing compounding the problem. More is the pity when some really good shots show how inventively designed and menacing Captain Salazar and his crew are.
In 2003 at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, as Johnny Depp swam away to the Black Pearl (making a grand return here) I hoped for inevitable sequels. Now I choose to remember him as he was in that moment, triumphant and on his way to new possibilities. For Johnny Depp, even if not necessarily for Captain Jack Sparrow, I still believe that is so.
Directors: Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg
Screenwriter: Jeff Nathanson
Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scoldelario, Kevin McNally and Geoffrey Rush.
Runtime: 129 mins
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Swashbuckler
Review by Lloyd Marken
** 2/4 Stars