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Pirates Of The Caribbean:

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Wonder Woman

June 1, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (**)   
  
The biggest complaint I’ve heard in regard to the fifth outing of the interminable Pirates of the Caribbean series of films is that it suffers from franchise fatigue. While that gripe does carry some merit and is a point that would be hard to argue it shouldn’t be a new sentiment. No, this is a series that suffered from franchise fatigue beginning with the second installment and moving forward. This is nothing new but there are certainly enough other reasons as to why the new Pirates pic fails without trotting out the most obvious one.    

The first film, mind you, was no great shakes to begin and this shouldn’t be forgotten when taking these films into consideration. It was tolerable at best and scored best with adults in an extremely positive frame of mind. Impressionable kids made the first one such a hit and now the series seems to be coasting on the nostalgia factor alone, with studio execs hoping that those who have fond memories of the earlier films in the franchise will line up for a new entry seven years after the last one. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell Now Tales, like most of its predecessors, is a big, loud, sometimes soulless and mostly joyless affair but it derives enough energy from the performances of series stars Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, along with Paul McCartney in an amusing cameo and series newcomer Javier Bardem as the villain, to coast along when stormy waters-pun intended-crop up from time to time.  It is absolutely no worse, nor better, than any of the preceding three chapters of this story.    

The plot this time out, credited to writers Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning (from a story partially concocted by original Pirates’ scribe Terry Rossio), attempts to bridge the gaps between the first film and the latest one.

Javier Bardem in ‘Dead Men’

Here, Henry (Brenton Thwaties), the son of the characters played by Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in the original film, enlists the help of Jack Sparrow (Depp) to help save his cursed father. Sparrow has troubles of his own as he’s being pursued by a band of ghostly pirates headed by a certain Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). The answer to all of his problems lies in the fate of locating the Trident of Poseidon. To do so Sparrow must enlist the aid of a young astronomer (Kaya Scodelario), which proves to be convenient when a love interest is needed for young Henry during the proceedings in the latter half of the film.   

In case you are wondering and for those interested I’ll mention that this Pirates does have a post credits sequence that points to possible future installments. Whether or not they eventually appear will depend on the box office returns from this Pirates trip.  Franchise fatigue be damned, I can almost guarantee we haven’t seen the last of Jack Sparrow.    

This film is rated PG-13

Wonder Woman (** ½)

PG-13

Ever since I was kid I’ve always thought the character of Wonder Woman was one of the dullest in the entire lot of DC comics. I mean, when you think about it what is it that makes her so special? You’d be hard pressed to name something that brings her even close to the level of such iconic characters as Batman and Superman. Yes, she has bracelets and armor that can deflect bullets and a lasso that forces you to tell the truth. And, of course, there’s her powerful athletic prowess but other than that there’s honestly not a lot going on there. In the comics she sometimes flies in an invisible airplane. Even that isn’t on display in the new Wonder Woman film, the latest attempt to launch the DC Comics brand name into a viable movie franchise along the lines of the Marvel Comics film adaptations.

And that’s where Wonder Woman, the film, surprised me. For a character that I’ve always cared so little about and honestly found to be so boring for so many years, this is a film that somehow has turned out to be the best of the crop of DC comic films we’ve seen in the last several years.

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman

It isn’t perfect and has a few problems but it’s a step in the right direction after such ill-advised misfires as Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman Versus Superman. The filmmakers seem to actually care about making a decent film that viewers may want to return to and that’s definitely a good thing.

The film opens with a scene from the previously mentioned Batman Versus Superman, where this incarnation of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) first appeared. In flashback we see Diana (as she’s referred to on her home turf) and her idyllic life on a hidden island paradise during the WW I era. We also learn how she was sculpted from clay by her mother and brought to life by the Greek God Zeus. When US soldier/spy Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crashes during the dark days of WW I, Diana quickly saves his life. It isn’t long before she leaves her utopian homeland and, after a thirty-minute section detailing her attempts to mold with modern society, gets involved in plans to defeat the Germans.

Like too many of these comic book adaptations, Wonder Woman is too long by about a half hour and contains enough slow motion action sequences that a drinking game could be established each time a character goes slowly by flying through the air. And for a film with a budget as big as this one reportedly had, the special effects look awfully cheesy, more often than not resembling a video game or a well animated cartoon. On the plus side the film has a great sense of humor and Gadot is a good choice for the title character. This may be the best of the DC adaptations but let’s not forget how low the bar was set. Those with an open mind and low expectations may find themselves giving in to Wonder Woman’s charms. Others beware.

Both movies are playing in Hickory at the AMC theater and all around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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