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.
A new Australian drama titled “The Daughter” tackles a variety of topics. Everything from a small town decimated by the closing of a lumber mill to infidelity, the nature of parent’s relationships to their kids, young love, addiction and class divides are explored but despite the busy schedule of events the film is very focussed.
Loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1884 tragedy “The Wild Duck,” the movie is set in a dying Australian logging town. Christian (Paul Schneider), son of the town’s lumber magnate (Geoffrey Rush), hasn’t been home in years. On the occasion of his father’s wedding to a much younger woman (Anna Torv) Christian brings his swirling mass of daddy issues and personal problems home for the first time since his mother committed suicide.
He reconnects with his best chum from university, Oliver (Ewen Leslie) and jovial but unemployed lumber worker, husband to Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and father to teenager Hedvig, played by Odessa Young. Over the course of the wedding weekend some dangerous truths are revealed, family secrets that threaten to blow families apart and destroy an innocent life.
To be any more specific would do a disservice to director Simon Stone’s storytelling. He skilfully brings together a small group of characters, overlapping their lives to bring them to a devastating conclusion. You won’t leave the theatre with a smile on your face but you’ll exit having seen an uncompromising but engaging look at personal dysfunction.
Naturalistic performances from a who’s who of Australian actors, Rush, Leslie, Otto and Sam Neill—who now plays old cranky grandfather parts—draw the viewer in but it is newcomer Young as Hedwig who is at the center of the action. Leslie has the showiest part but Young’s work gives us a reason to care about the personal politics.
“The Daughter” is a gem, an emotionally affecting film that transcends melodrama to cut to the core of how people react and regret in the face of fidelity and betrayal.
Opening in 1938 Germany, “The Book Thief” begins with a child’s journey.
Liesel Meminger (French-Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse) is sent to live with foster parents, the kind-hearted World War I veteran who has refused to join the Nazi Party Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and his stern wife Rosa (Emily Watson). The little girl can’t read or write, but carries with her The Gravedigger’s Handbook, a book she “borrowed” after finding it on the ground at her brother’s funeral.
The unintelligible words in that book set Liesel on her path. Hans, who calls the girl “Your Majesty,” teaches her to read, igniting a love of words and storytelling that ultimately changes the life of a young Jewish man named Max and helps Liesel make sense of life in Nazi Germany.
Closer in tone to “A Beautiful Life” than “Schindler’s List,” “The Book Thief” is a touching, if somewhat melodramatic look at Liesel’s life. Jam-packed full of big moments, with kids forced to grow up too fast and confront the harsh realities of life, it’s a tearjerker that earns most of its schmaltzy, salty drops, but not all.
Based on the international best-selling novel by Markus Zusak and directed by Brian Percival of “Downton Abbey,” the film finds its main strength in the web of relationships that intertwine around Liesel. From tow headed neighbor Rudy (Nico Liersch), who loves Liesel at first sight, to the instant connection between Hans and his new daughter, to the bond that forms between Max and the girl as she reads to him, these links (and performances) bring humanity to the story, preventing it from being overwhelmed by the film’s dramatic tendencies. I’m mean, the movie is narrated by Death (Roger Allam) and set, primarily on a street called Heaven. You just know this isn’t going to be subtle.
Some moments work very well.
Kristallnacht, set to a soundtrack of young, angelic voices singing anti-Semitic Hitler Youth songs while the soldiers attack Jewish citizens and destroy their homes and shops, is chilling.
Others feel over-the-top, no matter how deeply the camera focuses on Nélisse’s soulful blue saucer eyes. (MAJOR SPOILER!!!!!!!!) Rudy’s final moments almost play like a “Monty Python” sketch, regardless of how attached you have become to the character.
Luckily Rush is a lovely and touching presence. He’s terrific as Hans, a compassionate, light-hearted man who understands the gravity of the situation. Watson, as his wife, is a tough nut, but compassionate one, but it is Nélisse who is at the core of the film.
She hands in a delicate, natural performance that rarely succumbs to the film’s melodrama.
“The Book Thief” doesn’t always trust the story to work on its own, so it wedges in a few too many big moments—and one egregious bit of product placement—but when it relies on the performances, it works.
If you think a movie about a soon-to-be-monarch trying to overcome a debilitating speech impediment sounds dull, think again. Imagine a royal “Pygmalion” brimming with wit, pain and perseverance. It’s a moving and even occasionally exciting story that climaxes not on a battlefield or boardroom but with two men, one microphone and an historical speech.
Colin Firth plays the man who would be king, the Duke of York who later became King George VI when his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) abdicated the throne in 1936 and ran off with the twice divorced Wallis Simpson. A chronic stutterer he tried every cure going, including smoking, which was thought to “calm the nerves and relax the larynx,” and trying to speak with a mouthful of marbles. He has no success until he meets Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian voice coach with some unorthodox methods to help untie Albert’s tongue. Befriending the royal, he delved deep, looking for the cause of the vocal tics rather than simply working on the mechanics of uninterrupted speech. Slowly the stiff-upper-lipped Albert opens up, and with the support of his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) and his tutor / confessor, he confronts the psychological roots of his problem.
Since debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September there has been heavy Oscar buzz surrounding “The King’s Speech” but I think the pundits are getting it wrong. Colin Firth has been touted as a front runner in the Best Actor category, and he certainly has the film’s showiest role, but for me, the most effortless performance comes from Geoffrey Rush who brings a warm naturalism to his role.
Either way, the movie is anchored by two terrific performances and is most effective in its quiet moments—the look on Firth’s face when his daughters stop calling him father and begin calling him Your Majesty, the film’s climatic speech and Albert’s heartfelt acknowledgement that Lionel, a commoner, is his best friend. Those underplayed moments are really were the gold is.
“The King’s Speech” is, of course, about more than a speech impediment. It’s about someone who didn’t want to be king reluctantly accepting his duty, and not only finding his voice, but also giving a voice to England during the Second World War.
Patrick White’s novel “The Eye of the Storm” is the only Australian book honored with a Nobel Prize for literature, and it is perhaps the novel’s intimidating reputation—and dense prose—that has kept filmmakers away for almost forty years.
The action centers around socialite Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling), the terminally ill matriarch of the Hunter family. On her deathbed she lives life as she always has, controlling and manipulating everyone around her. That includes her nurses (one of whom is played by the director Fred Schepisi’s daughter, Alexandra), a flamboyant housekeeper and her two sycophantic kids, the lecherous stage star Sir Basil (Geoffrey Rush) and down-on-her-luck princess Dorothy (Judy Davis). Elizabeth has decided to dictate the terms of her passing, Basil has decided to try and bed younger women and Dorothy wants to et her hands on some much needed cash.
There’s a taste of “King Lear” in “The Eye of the Storm.” The similarities in the family dynamic are obvious, but beyond that, there is a theatricality to the movie which works well for the material. Normally I would find the movie’s monologues and posturing distracting, but it is a pleasure to watch Rush, Davis and Rampling clearly relishing the opportunity to immerse themselves in Patrick White’s world.
SYNOPSIS: At the behest of King George, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), a one-time pirate now turned privateer, is searching for the fabled Fountain of Youth. His job is to claim it for England before the Spanish armada gets there. Meanwhile, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is shanghaied to work on board a ship run by the evil Blackbeard (Geoffrey Rush) and Jack’s old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz). They’re after the fountain too, but first must fight off manhungry mermaids.
Richard: * 1/2
Mark: ** Richard Crouse: Mark, my main question after watching the new Pirates movie is, If this was the first one of the series would we have had a two, three and four? I don’t think so. It’s a big splashy epic, but lacks the fun and Johnny’s joie de vivre of the original. What say you, matey?
Mark Breslin: Richard, I wasn’t even a fan of the original. And no franchise should exceed a trilogy unless the words “godfather” or “cheerleaders” are in the title. An appreciation of this movie is contingent upon how you feel about Johnny Depp and how much swordplay you can handle. I adore Depp’s brilliant characterization in the series, but really, the tricks are starting to show their age. And I didn’t like swashbuckling even when Douglas Fairbanks did it in 1932. Still, I thought this edition of Pirates was the best since the original, whatever that means.
RC: I don’t think this one has the spark of the others. It’s not as funny, Depp seems like he’s gone back to the Captain Jack treasure chest one too many times and the action scenes, despite the 3-D, don’t fly off the screen the way they have in the past. I liked the mermaids and think their attack sequence is the most exciting thing in the movie, but I may be wrong simply because the movie is so dark I may have missed something.
MB: Oh, those mermaids! Who knew they spoke in a Scandinavian accent? Yes, they are the most exciting thing in the movie, although I did enjoy Ian MacShane’s villainy. But despite the fountain of youth plot device, these Pirates are getting old. And you’re right about how dark the film is: I was straining to make out which pirate was which. Quick clue: Depp is the Pirate Who’s Had A Bit Of Work Done.
RC: Ha! Perhaps playing the same character four times in eight years is too much for Depp, or perhaps the limitations of Captain Jack are becoming apparent but he’s not as entertaining as before. Not that director Rob Marshall helps him. The action sequences are as well choreographed as you might expect from the man who made Chicago and Nine, but they are also as exciting as you would expect from a man who specializes in making musicals.
MB: I see what you’re getting at. For the next instalment, make it a musical complete with a chorus line of mermaids!