A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the Dwayne Johnson reboot of one of the most popular TV shows of all time, “Baywatch,” the continuation of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and the travelogue “Paris Can Wait” starring Diane Lane.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Dwayne Johnson reboot of one of the most popular TV shows of all time, “Baywatch,” the continuation of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and the travelogue “Paris Can Wait” starring Diane Lane.
Much has changed in the six years since the Black Pearl’s last voyage. Of late Johnny Depp, the previously beloved star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks, has been tabloid fodder, his personal life a treasure trove of scandal. Will Deep’s martial and financial peccadillos harm the new movie’s bottom line, sinking the once mighty franchise in a one-way trip to Davy Jones’s Locker? Or will Captain Jack Sparrow once again frolic down the plank to titanic grosses? Those are the questions hanging heavy over “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
“The dead have taken command of the sea. They’re searching for Sparrow!”
The new adventure sees a new villain, undead pirate hunter Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), unleash an army of ghost sailors from a mysterious nautical underworld called the Devil’s Triangle. His plan is to hunt down and kill every sea going pirate with one name at the top of his list, Captain Jack Sparrow. Seems Sparrow not only doomed Salazar to watery purgatory decades ago but also has a compass that can break the ghost sailor’s hex curse.
“Find Jack Sparrow for me and relay a message from Captain Salazar. Tell him, death will come straight for him. Will you say that to him, please?”
Sparrow (Depp), meanwhile, has lost his mojo. After a wild bank robbery that tore up half of the island of Saint Martin but yielded little in the way of doubloons, Jack loses his luck and his crew. Reduced to helming the Dying Gull, a small and barely seaworthy ship, he must now fight for his life. To survive he has to locate the Trident of Poseidon, a divine artefact that can break any curse at sea. Helping on his mission are Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer with a diary filled with cryptic Trident clues and directions and Royal Navy sailor Henry (Brenton Thwaites).
Also mixed up in the action are returning characters, blacksmith-turned-Captain of the Flying Dutchman Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Turner’s wife and Henry’s mother, one-legged pirate Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Captain Jack’s First Mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally).
New comers include witch Haifaa Meni (Golshifteh Farahani) and Paul McCartney as a jokey pirate behind bars, eagerly awaiting a beating.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is more of a linear adventure than the series’ last few instalments. It’s a tale of mysticism and slapstick, a story that freshens up the franchise, although it cannot be denied that the originality and ingenuity of the first movie has turned into a fine mist that colours this movie but has no where near the impact of the original.
Once again Depp slurs and sashays through the movie, getting the biggest laughs. Sparrow is still an interesting character, a debauched scallywag (apparently based on Keith Richards) who appeals to children and adults alike. The embattled actor hams it up, giving audiences what they expect from Sparrow but whether moviegoers still want to see him in his best-known role is hard to say.
Tonally Depp hits the right notes but the movie is all over the place. Kid friendly slapstick is abundant but there is also a fair amount of PG+ swashbuckling, action and swordplay. And don’t get me started on the nightmare inducing zombie sharks.
Parents of small children will want to keep that in mind, and the two-hour plus running time. Like so many tent pole movies “Dead Men Tell No Tales” suffers from more-is-more syndrome. The action is easier to follow than in the Gore Verbinski films but watery climax is too long and a coda, reuniting the characters for one last hurrah, is unnecessary and adds little to the film except for a few extra minutes.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a crowd pleaser and by far the best of the bunch since the first one. It contains all the elements you expect from the “Pirates” franchise and even a few you don’t but takes on water in its final half hour.
When most people think of Helen Hunt they think of Jaime Buchman, the urbane New Yorker she played for 162 episodes on “Mad About You.” In her new film Ride, which she also wrote and directed, she plays an urbane, if somewhat more uptight riff on Jaime. She’s a hotshot New York City book editor who gives up everything to be near her son in California and to enjoy the California sun.
A-type Jackie (Hunt) is a stickler for details. A high-powered book editor, she is the kind of person who corrects your grammar and shoots you a withering glance while doing so. Her son Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) is an aspiring writer who is slowly being crushed by the pressure of being related to one of the city’s top literary figures. To escape, he quits school and heads to Los Angeles to stay with his hippy-dippy dad (Robert Knepper). Jackie follows him to the coast, and in an unlikely twist, throws herself into surf culture in an attempt to connect with her son. With the help of her chauffeur (David Zayas) and surf instructor Ian (Luke Wilson) the trappings of her old life begin to melt away as it dawns on her that she has given her life to work and not her family.
“Hang Ten” Hunt’s second surfing film—the first, “Soul Surfer” was released in 2011—finds her with sturdy sea legs as a director, less so as a writer.
“Ride” has some interesting elements— Thwaites is suitably brooding as a son trying to make his own way in the world and the surfing scenes are shot with aplomb—but the three characters who occupy the bulk of screen time, Jackie, Ian and driver Ramon, are straight out of Central Casting. The performances are fine, but the character work is more suited to a sit com than the big screen. Of the three Ramon gets off the easiest, mostly staying in the background, existing primarily to act as a tour guide to Jackie’s fish-out-of-water routine. Jackie and Ian, however, are put through their paces front and center in a series of sit com style clichés meant to move the story forward. She laughs uncontrollably after smoking a joint, he suggests an unlikely (untrue and frankly, unsanitary) cure for a surfing injury.
It’s all perfectly amiable but also feels like we’ve seen it before. Comedy and drama butt heads in awkward transition to one another as Jackie flip flops from ridiculous behaviour to introspective resolve, often in the same scene. It’s meant, I guess, to add depth to the characters and situations but instead feels convenient and easy. For example, no one as career minded as Jackie is going to laugh uproariously after getting fired, even if they have just smoked a joint. Or, in this case, taken a cursory toke or two. It’s a bizarre way of presenting a major change in her life and doesn’t seem in character at all.
“Ride” isn’t a complete wipe-out, but it feels more VOD than big screen.
These days many speculative fiction films are set in dystopian cities, places ravaged by war, famine or man’s stupidity. “The Giver” goes a different way, setting the action in a utopian society where everyone is equal and no one, except for a young man named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), questions anything.
Based on Lois Lowry’s young adult novel of the same name, “The Giver” is set in an ascetic world divided into climate-controlled communities. Climate isn’t the only thing that is tightly controlled, however. A strict set of simple rules—like “Use precise language” and “never tell a lie”—keep people in line but to make sure the citizens conform, they’re given a morning injection—the Prozac of the nation.
The docile population lives a colorless existence, where their every move is monitored and all choice has been removed because, as the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) says, “When people have the right to choose they choose wrong every single time.”
When Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory, the recipient and keeper of all mankind’s darkest secrets and memories, he begins to realize that the world was not always monochrome, that it was once a colourful place where love—“ a word so antiquated it no longer has meaning”—and pain existed side by side with war, peace and all the other messy stuff that make humans human.
“The Giver” is George Orwell Lite, willy-nilly lifting from not only “1984,” but Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and a host of young adult novels. It’s an unholy combination of dystopian themes and tropes, banged together to create a convincing, if somewhat dull world.
Shot in austere black and white, the highly controlled community is like 1950s America on film, structured, monotone in race and idealized. The conformity on display is chilling, at least the idea of it is. The film is too restrained to show us the detrimental effects of the grinding monotony of living in a place where sameness is valued above all. We’re told that the memories of the past are agonizing, “Sometimes the pain of the memories is too much,” says The Giver (Jeff Bridges)—but the flashbacks to the wild, untamed life that came before the enforced conformity aren’t as revealing as they’re meant to be. Colorful stock footage shots of people dancing, animal cruelty and other slices of life are meant to shine a light on the human condition but are, for the most part, no more provocative than anything we see on the nightly news.
They are jarring, like a screaming barker commercial for Monster Trucks interrupting an episode of “Masterpiece Theatre,” but only because they’re such a break in tone from the rest of the film. These visions may rock Jonas’s world, but they don’t make much of an impression on ours.
Also not making much of an impression is Meryl Streep in a generic villainess role. The cast’s other Oscar winner, Jeff Bridges is in full-on old codger mode, reviving his gruff voice for “True Grit” and bringing some humanity to a movie that should be teeming with it, but isn’t.
The remaining cast, even the leads, Thwaites as the young man who longs for something more in life and Odeya Rush, his love interest who has a harder time imagining a world without bland orthodoxy, aren’t given enough to do to make us root for them. Ditto supporting actors Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes.
“The Giver” is a small movie with big ideas about individual freedoms, memory, traditions and customs. Important themes one and all, but they’re wrapped in a movie that does not do them justice.