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

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Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario

Plot: Captain Jack Sparrow finds the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost pirates led by his old nemesis, the terrifying Captain Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle, determined to kill every pirate at sea…including him. Captain Jack’s only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that bestows upon its possessor total control over the seas. (IMDB.com).

Rating: 4/10

Overall: Like most POC films post-The Curse of the Black Pearl, this fifth film in the franchise fell far short. I can’t say that my expectations were very high, but I definitely hoped to be proven wrong. Admittedly, I have not seen the fourth film, but at this point in these films, I don’t really think it’s necessary either. I think the greatest part of the film (aside from Johnny Depp’s revival of Jack Sparrow’s quirky character and humor) was Bardem’s portrayal of Captain Salazar. I think the creation of that character was beautifully done – I just wish there was something more to him in the film. I liked that they gave some of his background to allow the viewer to build some empathy for him, but at the same time, I think there were still some gaps in the plot and character development. I also found this film to be incredibly anti-climatic, which is very disappointing. Sure, there’s lot of action sequences, but essentially nothing that really gives you the punch in the gut you’re hoping for or that adds any substance to the plot. While I think the two young protagonists, Henry Turner and Carina Smyth, offer a youthful and fun-spirited, almost reincarnation of William Turner and Elizabeth Swan from the first film, they just seem like they don’t belong. Henry is trying to avenge the curse put on his father and you have the same for Captain Salazar seeking vengeance on Jack Sparrow for his curse. It just seems like two plots that don’t fit together or sort of clash and make the film fall apart.

The Girl on the Train (2016)

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Starring: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney

Plot: A divorcee spiraling through depression and alcoholism finds an infatuation with her ex-husband’s life.

Rating: 7/10

Overall: I think this film ended up being a bit different than I originally had anticipated it to be. I wasn’t disappointed, per se, but I definitely had higher expectations than I probably should have. However, with that being said and without giving any spoilers, I’d have to say that to some extent, the film had a decent “twist” to it. I think my biggest critique is the sequence of the storyline. I found it very confusing trying to keep track of everybody and the fact that the wife (Ferguson) and the nanny (Bennett) look similar in more ways than not, it was difficult to remember who was who. If the film followed a different timeline and offered a little more backstory, I think the film would’ve been much stronger. I understand trying to have that “suspense” factor, but I think there are plenty of ways to go about it, and this way just didn’t work. I think there’s too many flashbacks and snippets of Rachel’s (Blunt) blackouts that it’s difficult to comprehend and make it a cohesive story. Maybe that was the point – but again, it just didn’t work for me.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017)

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Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Kurt Russell, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker

Plot: The sequel “continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage” (IMDB.com).

Rating: 9/10

Overall: I basically gave it a 9 out of 10 simply because it wasn’t as good as the first. It was still good though! Don’t get me wrong. The cast was amazing – just like the first. I think the criticism for the plot being a little darker and not being able to have that “magical” experience watching the sequel can be taken lightly. It is slightly darker in the plot, but I definitely think it still carries the good humor and “magical” feeling throughout the entire film. I have to say (without indicating any spoilers) that Baby Groot is by far my favorite character. He’s absolutely hilarious and is, in my opinion, the glue to the film. I also don’t think I’ve seen a film where Kurt Russell plays anything but a “nice guy,” (probably just me) but this film definitely brought out a different side to him that I personally haven’t seen in his films before.

Logan (2017)

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Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant

Plot: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces (IMDB.com).

Rating: 8/10

Overall: I feel like the X-Men films have been struggling for the past few years. While I’m a huge X-Men fan, I haven’t been impressed by any of the Logan/Wolverine films that have been released. For Logan, I think this was a great step forward for the X-Men franchise. I think it delved into different terrain in the sense of other mutant experimentation/creation, a new generation of mutants, the children of mutants, the possibility of death of a mutant like Logan – whose “power” is to self-heal. I also thought it was an interesting concept to bring in the perspective of ailing mutants – mutants, like humans, can age, can die, and can fall a victim to disease. I suppose I had a few problems with the plot, specifically the relationship between Logan and the girl, as well as the role of/relationship of Caliban. His mutation wasn’t really explored, exposed or explained. I just felt it could’ve been developed a little better to create a cohesiveness to the plot. Overall, I think if X-Men can keep producing films like this and upwards, I think they’re on the mend.

Split (2017)

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Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

Plot: Three girls are kidnapped by a man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The girls must escape before the 24th personality manifests.

Rating: 5/10

Overall: So, before I start, I think I need to disclose two things. One, I like M. Night Shyamalan despite most people’s mixed opinions of him. I can’t say he’s “amazing” by any means, but I don’t hate his films. Second, I’m pursuing a master’s degree in psychology, so my review is a little biased.

I gave this film a 50/50 review because while I think it had a solid foundation, the “fantasy” aspect of it really irked me. I wouldn’t say the ending was exactly a “twist” as everyone is calling it, but it definitely leaves it open-ended (you know, in case they want to do a sequel – which I really hope they don’t!). I like the character development of the main character, Kevin (*SPOILER* I refer to him as the host since the actual character doesn’t really emerge throughout the film) – but I think the scenes that show his “development” is out of order. The snippets from his past and his therapy sessions in present all foreshadow what’s going to happen and why, but the way it’s all sequenced didn’t really pull me through. The film’s climax is revolved around this “beast” and as I’m sure a majority of other reviews are addressing the issue of the physical aspect being falsely portrayed. From a psychology standpoint, this truly irked me. I’m not a fan for science fictional aspects – especially in film – and the fact that it’s in the mental health spectrum irks me even more. I not only think it falsely portrays people with dissociative identity disorder, but mental illness as a whole. I think it reinforces the fear and negative stigma associated with those suffering from a mental illness. So, with all of that being said, I think if you’re just an “ordinary” moviegoer, you will enjoy this film. If you have any background in psychology or are an advocate of mental illness, I highly recommend NOT seeing it.

One last comment: people are raving that this film is M. Night’s “comeback” film – some even paralleling it to the success of The Sixth Sense….it’s not (in my opinion). Not even close. I think it was a great effort, but it fell very short in execution.

John Wick: Chapter Two

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Starring Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini

Plot: John Wick comes out of retirement and returns to the “criminal underworld to repay a debt,” but after a bounty has been put on his life, he’s in the fight for his life.

Rating: 6/10

Overall: I was actually really disappointed with this. While the character of John Wick is played most flawlessly by Keanu Reeves, and the action is without a doubt offers epic fight scenes, I just felt the plot lacked cohesiveness and character development. We don’t know who the main antagonist is or the history between the two. We don’t know the story between the antagonist and his “sidekick” (played by Ruby Rose). We don’t really understand the relationship between the brother and sister. Or the sister and John. There’s just so much lacking in this film. I gave it a 6 for the action and humor, but overall, I don’t think I will see the third film (oh, yeah, I hate this trend of leaving all films open-ended in case they want to “reboot” the series, which is exactly how this film ends).

 

*SPOILER* I don’t really think this is a spoiler, but thought I’d disclaim it in case someone else thought it constituted as one… Laurence Fishburne is in this film and all I could think was, “Look, it’s Morpheus and Neo – a Matrix reunion!”

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

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Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, Alexia Barlier, David Costabile, Peyman Moaadi, Matt Letscher, Toby Stephens

Plot: Following the civil war that broke out in Libya in 2011, Benghazi became one of the most violent places in the world. The U.S. pulled all of its American outposts there, except under the CIA, a group of contractors by the name “Global Response Staff (GRS),” remained stationed in Tripoli and Benghazi. Benghazi falls under attack and the forces unite in the fight of their lives all while trying to figure out the root of all the chaos.

Rating: 6/10

Overall: While I know this is based on a true story and is remarked as an “anti-Hillary” film, it was sometimes difficult to follow – which perhaps that’s what the film was trying to convey: that even the soldiers weren’t even sure what they were fighting for (besides their survival). I didn’t see it as an anti-Hillary film, despite the one line in the film (*SPOILER*) where a woman is on the phone asking for air support, and later in the film the same woman is telling a fellow soldier, “I called for air support and nobody came.” While the action was good (as all Michael Bay films never fail to impress on that level), I just felt like there was a lot missing to bring the film together. The beginning had a lot of text, which is great since I didn’t really know the backstory to it. However, that’s not something I particularly enjoy doing at the beginning of the film. I think if they started it with some background…like the beginning of the civil war and Americans being deployed there as well as some communications or “behind the scenes” stuff between the CIA contractors and the U.S. commanders/politicians (whatever they’re called) back in the actual U.S. For example, like the woman who calls, to show the other person on the other end of the line – showing their reaction to her request and the action they take (or choose not to take) after the call ends (and even if that reaction isn’t documented in real-life, it would still be a great way to envision how that person would’ve reacted).

Also, just a side note that has no importance to the actual film – I think this is by far one of John Krasinski’s best films. Not only is he extremely good looking in it, but it’s nice to see him out of a romantic or comedic role and into a more serious role.