Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Movie Review

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. He finds himself on a reluctant quest to find the Trident of Poseidon. His journey is complicated by his nemesis Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) and the ghostly Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Release Date: May 26, 2017
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Director: Joachim Ranning, Espen Sandberg
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario

Full Disclosure: I have only seen the first two Pirate movies. I am unaware the events up to Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales suffers from too many plots and subplots. The movie really doesn’t take off until the plots find convergence in the second half of the film. Let’s go over the plots. First, Pirates opens on a young Henry Turner (Lewis McGowen) as he summons the cursed Flying Dutchman. This is the ship that is crewed by his cursed father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Henry dedicated his future to finding the Trident of Poseidon, believing that this Trident that controls the seas can release his father from his curse.

Then there is Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who is accused of being a witch by the local townsfolk. Carina is not a witch, but a self-taught astronomer. She was abandoned as a child by her father leaving only a journal with a star chart to the Trident of Poseidon. As an astronomer, she is a woman of science and does not believe in ghosts and curses. She is also attractive and the same age as Henry Turner.

Jump ahead nine years and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) jumps from ship to ship to find clues and a crew to take him to the Trident of Poseidon. While on a British Naval ship, the ship is overtaken by the ghostly shark-like ship helmed by the legendary Captain Salazar.

Captain Salazar was once a captain in the Spanish Navy. His goal in life was to destroy all pirates. He defeated them all, except one. That’s right–Captain Jack Sparrow. Let me just say that Disney has been using CGI to bring a youthful version of their aging stars to life—Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, Jr., Kurt Rusell, Carrie Fisher and now Johnny Depp. The technology walks that fine line of cool and creepy. Back to Salazar, his ghostly goal in life is kill pirates and kill Captain Jack.

More subplots? Yes, Captain Barbosa has a treasure to find thanks to a mystical compass. Captain Jack on the other hand really has not a subplot, Ugh, too much going on. Fortunately, all the subplots and their exposition happen in the front half of the movie. It does feel labored but it’s survivable.

Where Pirates shines is the second half. There’s a lot of action. The battle between naval, pirate and ghost ships are well animated and easy to follow. Disney also does swashbuckling action as good as any studio can. It seems that pirates are actually interesting when they do pirate things.

There is one reveal in the film, that I can’t say anything about, snuck up on me. This final subplot pulled me into the story of two characters, I thought would not connect until it happened.

The main problem that Pirates of the Caribbean suffers from is its own mythology. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had the luxury of a prolific author, who built the world and its mythology. Thought went into this mythology over the length of its run. The mythology was honed, refined and reflected human nature, so readers could relate to it.

Pirates of the Caribbean is a theme park ride. I don’t believe Walt Disney ever had the world of the pirate in mind when creating the ride. He just wanted to tell a simple story. Finally, when the first Pirate movie came out, it was the first film to be based on Disney rides. My guess is that they just wanted the first film to be successful. The studio was not thinking it would be a five (maybe six) film series, so the world of Pirates is now created on the fly as new films are needed.

Why is this important? Audiences just don’t have an emotional connection to the pirate world, like they do with The Hobbit or Harry Potter. We have no stake in the life path of Captain Jack Sparrow. This reduces the whole series into one action film after the other.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is light fare. It has amazing action sequences but suffers because there just is not enough time to develop any existing or new characters properly.

Bad Rap Documentary Follows The Asian-American Struggle Into Mainstream Popularity

Available now on VOD is Bad Rap, a documentary by Salima Koroma. Find it on iTunes, Google Play, VUDU and Amazon. Our review is here – Geek Lab review of Bad Rap.

Hip-hop culture has transcended many racial and cultural boundaries after its founding in the ’70s by African-American and Latino youth in the South Bronx. Since then, rappers have emerged as legitimate pop culture stars around the world and hip-hop’s global movement has become increasingly more diverse. Yet the face of rap in America remains primarily black, brown, and white.

BAD RAP follows the lives and careers of four Asian-American rappers trying to break into a world that often treats them as outsiders.Featuring dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews, BAD RAP will turn the most skeptical critics into believers.

From the battle rhymes of crowd-favorite Dumbfoundead to the tongue-in-cheek songs of Awkwafina; the unapologetic visuals of Rekstizzy to the conflicted values of Lyricks—BAD RAP paints a memorable portrait of artistic passion in the face of an unsung struggle.

Logan: Noir – One Night Only at the Frida Cinema

Few understand the power of the black-and-white movie. Color creates visual noise that can pull the eye in different directions. Black and white forces your eye to the centers of action.

For one night only, tonight at 9 pm, the Frida Cinema will present this year’s hit film. Logan. in beautiful black and white.

Set in a bleakly familiar near-future, the latest installment of the X-Men franchise finds a weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) at a remote outpost on the Mexican border. His plan to hide from the outside world gets upended when he meets young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) with whom he finds much commonality. When dark forces set out to capture her, Logan must overcome both physical and emotional pain to save her.

Bad Rap – Documentary Review

Bad Rap comes to Video on Demand (VOD) this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu.

Since the 70’s hip-hop has made global stars of its finest artist. Those artists are predominantly black, white and brown. Bad Rap follows four Asian-American rappers in their quest to perfect their art and as they try to break into a world that that treats them as outsiders.

Release Date: May 23, 2017
Director: Salima Koroma
Cast: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks, Jin the MC

A documentary, like Bad Rap, is hard to put together. The director, Salima Koroma, masterfully chooses the most pressing topics, present the state of Asian rap and provide insights into the melding of Asian and hip hop culture.

Bap Rap follows four Asian rappers: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks. All at various stages of their careers. It looks at their careers and the challenges they face as Asian breaking into a world that does not necessarily know what to do with them.

The movie starts with the most controversial topics when two cultures collide. The first being Asian in the world of hip hop. Are these artists trying to be an individual rap artist or are they simply Asian-version of rap. Is just enough to bring Asian references into a song or will audiences slap on the label of “Asian” and dismiss the music as second-rate.

Culture appropriate is the next controversy addressed. The idea that hip hop music is an African-inspired form of music and that Asians are trying to make money from an artform that is not there’s to take. Most fascinating is an argument between singer Rekstizzy and producer Jaeki Cho. The two battle over the appropriateness of Rekstizzy’s new music video, where he sprays ketchup and mustard on the posteriors of his Black background dancers. Is it culturally offensive or is it freedom of speech?

Bad Rap also spotlights female singer, Awkwafina, who managed to create her own style of hip-hop-influenced style and music. She created a unique laid-back style of rap and successfully broke into the mainstream. Even with her success, her contemporaries question if her success came, because it’s “easier” to book Asian females over Asian males.

Bad Rap also looks at other pertinent topics of Asians in the arts. For many of these artists, they had immigrant parents, who came to the United States and worked hard so their children would have a better life. Rap was not the life they imagined. For the artist, Lyricks, who comes into conflict with his deeply religious background. He struggles to maintain a mainstream rap career while struggling over his Christian upbringing.

Director Salima Koroma does a few things that are fascinating. She allows mainstream bookers and producers to view the work of the four artists. They give their honest and insightful opinions on the crew’s talent and potential. She also documents Dumbfoundead’s return to his roots of battle rap as he comes face-to-face with celebrity rapper, Conceited. Finally, Koroma jumps forward two years to see how each artist progressed over time.

Full Disclosure: I am not a fan of rap or hip hop, but I am an Asian-American. For me, Bad Rap excels in documenting the struggle of Asian-Americans in finding their individual voices as they blend in with the world they live and the culture they came from. It’s a story of individuals who find that hip hop is the only way they can express who they are and what they experience. It’s the story of these individuals finding meaning in a world they hope sees them as a serious artist and not a novelty.

‘The Gifted’ Trailer Brings the X-Men Universe to Fox TV

A family is forced to go on the run with a couple’s children display mutant powers. Written by Burn Notice’s Matt Nix and directed by X-Men helmer Bryan Singer, The Gifted comes this fall to Fox TV on Monday nights.

The cast includes: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Coby Bell, Emma Dumont, Blair Redford, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White

This is Your Death – Movie Review – 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival

This is Your Death is the Friday Spotlight Movie from the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival. It tells the story of reality game show host, Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel), after escaping near death, hosts a show featuring live on-air suicides.

2017 Newport Beach Film Festival
Writer:
Noah Pink
Director: Giancarlo Esposito
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Famke Janssen, Sarah Wayne Callies, Giancarlo Esposito, Caitlin FitzGerald

One thing I’ve noticed is that the more known stars you have in an independent film, the more you increase its chances of it being a bad movie. This is Your Death has a lot of stars.

This is Your Death is a television reality show, that spotlights stories of tragedy and each story ends with a live in-studio suicide by subject. The writer, Noah Pink, does a halfway decent job bringing plausibility to the show and how it might actually make it on real television. But from the beginning, This is Your Death is a showcase of over-the-top characters with no self-awareness, whatsoever and tries to mix real dramatic moments with surreal satire.

John Duhamel plays Adam Rogers, the host of a “Bachelor” type reality show. Adam is almost killed with the losing bride kills the show’s groom. Adam has a front row to the horror and almost quits the business altogether, thanks to the fake nature of his show and reality television in general. Adam is grounded to the real world by his sister, Karina (Sarah Wayne Callies), who is his only family and a recovering drug-addict.

Before Adam can quit the business, he is confronted by the head of network programming, Ilana (Famka Janssen) who wants him to host a new reality show about suicide. Adam is at first angered by the idea but finds that good can come out of the show. The first example of good is during the shows first suicide, viewers can call in and donate money to the victim’s daughter. Adam is paired up with Sylvia (Caitlin FitzGerald), who is forced to produce the show, find contestants or be in breach of her contract.

I forgot to mention, Mason (Giancarlo Esposito) the network’s janitor who is holding down three jobs to keep his family’s home out of foreclosure. Any guesses about Mason’s role in the show?

Here is the main problem with This is Your Death. The idea is just so over the top that we just can’t relate to the drama and tragedy of the subject matter. I’m sure at some point the director, Giancarlo Esposito, who also plays Mason, thought that they were making some statement about problems with reality television. But in order to make a meaningful statement, you’re story must connect with the audience. It’s the tongue-in-cheek nature of the film’s events are so surreal, it becomes more of a sad joke in the end.

The dying actors should be commended for admirably acting conflict, pain, and hopelessness, but they shoot themselves in the head and now the moment becomes comedy. The movie is full of good intentions but lacks serious execution.

The story is just a little too predictable. Soon, it denigrates into a struggle for ratings, keeping sponsors and the one person with any moral center getting fired at the end. The studio audience reactions feel forced and the demise of the show is not a lesson in the suicide debate but a quick police investigation.

Ultimately the problem with This is Your Death is the premise. We just can’t buy into it and becomes one of those movies you watch and laugh, while wondering how did this film get made in the first place.

Be the Cure for Cancer Patients – Mixed Match – Filmmaker Interview

Mixed Match is an important human story told from the perspective of mixed race blood cancer patients who are forced to reflect on their multiracial identities and complex genetics as they struggle with a nearly impossible search to find bone marrow donors, all while exploring what role race plays in medicine.

Alan Ng speaks with director Jeff Chiba Stearns and producer/subject Athena Asklipiadis about the film and this important cause. The interview took place at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

http://mixedmatchproject.com