Tag Archives: johnny depp

‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ a Fun Summer Adventure

Pirates_of_the_Caribbean,_Dead_Men_Tell_No_TalesThis is certainly better than the fifth film of a franchise has any right being…


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth installment of the series that began all the way back in 2003, and the first since 2011’s “On Stranger Tides” (which I doubt you remember was even a thing). Johnny Depp reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, and this time must find the Trident of Poseidon before an undead captain who Sparrow damned years ago (Javier Bardem) can get his revenge. Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally and Geoffrey Rush also star as Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg direct.


The “Pirates” films are a lot like the “Transformers” series. They make a lot of money, everyone forgets a fourth and fifth ones were even made despite no one desiring any after the initial trilogy and only the first film was an actual good movie. I love “Curse of the Black Pearl,” it holds a place in my heart and is a fun and visually impressive film even by today’s standards, but the “Pirates” series has continued to get more convoluted and overstuffed with each progressive installment. It’s been six years since the last film and since then we now live in a world where there are seemingly superhero films every other week, so people no longer clamor for the spectacle and scope that this franchise once delivered. Still, despite all odds and literally almost no one asking for it, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a very fun, visually impressive blockbuster that is honestly the best of the franchise since the original.


Johnny Depp was really only known for indie films when he was cast as Jack Sparrow but after “Black Pearl” was released it not only thrust him into stardom and nabbed him his first Oscar nomination but also created one of the most distinguishable characters in modern cinema. The character has gotten more cartoonish and less clever with each film, but Depp and the writers tone it back a bit in “Dead Men.” Sparrow doesn’t feel the need to chew scenery and say a punchline at the end of every sentence, and even if he’ll never recapture the surprising magic he found in 2003, it’s fun to see Depp under the hat and makeup of his most iconic character.


Javier Bardem is solid as the film’s antagonist, a Spanish naval captain who died at the hands of the Bermuda Triangle after falling into a trap set by a young Sparrow. Bardem chews scenery, growling and wheezing his way through each bit of dialogue, but as far as paycheck roles go it’s far from a sleepwalking performance. The character design is also cool, as Bardem and his crew take on the appearance of how they died; some of his ghost army don’t have legs or parts of their arms, and Bardem himself has flowing hair since he died underwater.


The action and set pieces here are as solid as they’ve ever been. From the colorful brick and clay buildings of the ports at St. Martin to ship battles in open oceans, it seems the directors tried to keep things as practical as possible and not feel the need to over-use CGI, something the last few films have fallen victim to.


The film’s biggest issue is the same as the previous three installments, albeit to a lesser degree, and that is its pacing and overabundance of characters. When Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) came back at the end of the second film it was a fantastic surprise and him being in the third film was fun. But he had no point of being in the fourth and has even less to do here, as is the case with a half dozen other characters. They just pad to the two-hour-plus runtime and make it feel much longer than it actually is.


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” may not be a great movie, but it’s great fun. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll absolutely enjoy it, and even if you haven’t truly liked a film since the first one then I think this recaptures some of the feel that one had. In an age where Disney puts all their efforts into Marvel and Star Wars, there’s something about their original tentpole franchise providing one final adventure that is comforting.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

‘Black Mass’ Highlighted by Depp’s Chilling Work

Black_Mass_(film)_posterWelcome back, Johnny Depp. It has been a very, very long time.

“Black Mass” stars Depp as real-life mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, and chronicles his reign as the crime boss of Boston in the 70’s and 80’s, all while an undercover informant for the FBI. Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch are just two of the dozen big names that co-star as Scott Cooper directs.

They often say truth is stranger than fiction, and that is true with the Whitey Bulger story. A career criminal who tricked the FBI to arrest his enemies all while having a brother who is a state senator; Hollywood couldn’t come up with that on their own.

Like I said, it has been a while since we have seen Johnny Depp play a character we cared about in a movie that we liked. His last Oscar nomination was in 2008 for “Sweeney Todd,” and this year’s “Mortdecai” may have been the final straw, with many calling it the worst film and performance of his career. However ever since the first image of Depp as Bulger was released many have been hoping that “Black Mass” would be the shot of energy Depp’s career desperately needed, and thankfully (for both us and Depp) he turns in a near-career best performance.

Johnny Depp loves his makeup, that is no secret, and he disappears behind the wrinkles and black eyes of Whitey Bulger. Much like Jack Nicholson in “The Departed” (whose character was based off Bulger), Depp becomes more and more depraved and sadistic as the film goes on, and when the climax comes you are not sure what he is capable or willing to do.

The violence in “Black Mass” is like that of “Goodfellas”: bloody but swift. There are several well-crafted execution scenes however the most intense sequences are ones where Depp is just starring down someone from across a table not saying a word.

Speaking of “Goodfellas,” that leads me into the film’s flaws. It tries very hard to take from other gangster films, which more often than not makes us compare the film we’re watching to classic movies, and obviously it isn’t going to hold a candle to the greats. There is even a scene that tries to embody the same feel as the “funny how?” sequence from “Goodfellas,” and while it works in the moment, once it passes you realize it doesn’t hold the same weight as that Joe Pesci scene.

The payoff of the film also leaves more to be desired. The film goes from a guy getting taken out by Bulger and his crew in one scene to everything starting to get wrapped up in the next. In fact most of the film feels as if the filmmakers assume you know the Whitey Bulger story, and so it takes little time to introduce backstories, which makes us watch characters that feel more expendable than engaging (outside Depp and Joel Edgerton’s FBI agent).

Still, narrative flaws aside, there are several brilliant scenes sprinkled throughout “Black Mass,” and one in particular that may be remembered for a while. It is fantastically refreshing to see Depp return to a serious role, and I’m sure he will get some serious consideration come Oscar season. As a film, “Black Mass” is solid, but you’re going to see for Depp’s chilling performance, and it is what you will walk out remembering most.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Transcendence’ Nothing Special or New

Transcendence2014Poster            You know those movies that leave the audience with burning questions about real life issues? Yeah, “Transcendence” isn’t one of those movies.

Directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut, the film stars Johnny Depp as an artificial intelligence researcher who is mortally wounded by a radical anti-technology group. Before he dies, however, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) uploads his consciousness to a computer. As the radical group approaches to finish what they started, Evelyn must decide if the intelligence claiming to be her deceased husband is who it says it is. Sound confusing? Yeah, you’re telling me.

This film features a rookie director, a rookie screenwriter and an ensemble cast. All three were red flags before the title card in “Transcendence” even showed up on the screen. Pfister is a fantastic cinematographer (he won an Oscar for “Inception”) but maybe he should not quit his day job anytime soon. His first time in the director’s chair, Pfister heads a film with pacing issues and a narrative that ranges from awkward to just plain non-existent. Oh, and the movie really doesn’t know what it wants to be or what messages it wants to send, either.

In the film’s opening act there is a decently thought provoking line about whether man creating artificial intelligence and “playing God” is any different than mankind “making up gods” throughout history. Then they drop that possible storyline for the whole “anti-technology” group. Then yet again the film decides that angle isn’t interesting enough so it goes into whether A.I. is capable of comparing to humans. If you haven’t figured it out yet, allow me to clarify: the film is a mess.

There are some redeeming qualities to the film. Obviously with Pfister being an award winning cinematographer, the movie is shot beautifully; even if half of the cool shots are completely irrelevant to the scene. For example the very first shot of the film shows rain on a window and car headlights blurred in the background. The movie then cuts to a completely unrelated scene and starts the actual story. Was the shot cool to look at? Sure. Was it confusing and irrelevant? You betcha.

The movie does make a couple interesting points about where we’re going and how we may be letting technology get the best of us, but these aren’t things that you haven’t read about or pondered before; go to any website and they’ll tell you to put down your phone and go play outside. You don’t need to pay $10 to have the voice of Johnny Depp tell you.

For what it was striving to accomplish, “Transcendence” fails. It went for broke and came up short, but not horrifically. There are a few interesting parts and for about five seconds you actually wonder if Johnny Depp’s A.I. is good or evil, but in the long run this is a very forgettable film. I guess you could say that “Transcendence” transcends the definition of an average film [I’ll pause so you can laugh].

Critics Rating: 5/10