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In the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, a bunch of pirates run around and act like dicks while being pursued by ghosts, all while trying not to sink.

Actually … that’s basically the plot of all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Therefore, it’s depressingly no surprise that the new one, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, rehashes the same plot with Johnny “The Whore” Depp doing his whole drunken Keith Richards pirate routine again as Jack Sparrow.

Actually, his Keith Richards routine has devolved into something more akin to Dudley Moore’s routine in Arthur 2: On the Rocks: The original was somewhat funny, but the gag got tired really quickly.

So it goes with Depp’s meandering, mumbling, tipsy performance as Jack Sparrow, the feared pirate with whom everybody seems to have some sort of problem. Depp’s laboring with a joke that stopped being funny four movies ago.

This time out, a new legion of undead sailors is after Jack, because he has a compass that can lead them back to the land of the living, or some bullshit like that. The band of dead sailors is led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), some dude who was trying to rid the world of pirates when he was alive, but wound up a cursed ghost under the sea due to a young Sparrow’s clever trick.

Young Sparrow is depicted in a flashback that has Depp becoming the latest star to be de-aged by CGI. This movie trick is leading to some genuinely creepy-looking stuff. I liked it when they did it to Kurt Russell in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, but this time out, it just looks weird.

Bardem’s Salazar looks kind of cool in this film. He’s sort of half-blown up, and he always looks like his hair is flowing in water, even when he’s above ground. There, I said something relatively positive about this crap.

As for the plot, there’s also some nonsense involving Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) trying to un-curse his dead father, Will (Orlando Bloom), yet another undead pirate. He must do something with the compass that Sparrow possesses to bring Will back. If he succeeds, that means Orlando Bloom will be back in full swing for more Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which had me rooting for the compass to be burned in a “Please, No More Orlando Bloom Movies!” bonfire.

If that plot doesn’t give you enough déjà vu, Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa, the monkey-toting dude who was dead in the first movie, but is now resurrected. Like that of Depp, Rush’s pirate routine got tired after the first movie.

The best part of the film belongs to Paul McCartney, who makes a cameo as Uncle Jack, Jack Sparrow’s imprisoned relative. McCartney delivers a few good lines with the sort of deft comic timing he displayed more than 50 years ago in A Hard Days Night and Help! It’s too bad this wasn’t his movie, because he’s far more interesting than Depp’s played-out, gimmicky bits. Also, kudos to him for singing The Beatles’ “Maggie Mae” in his jail cell. Nice touch. There, I’ve said two good things about this piece of crap.

If you must, stay for the credits, because there’s an after-credits scene that sets up further adventures—even though Disney keeps saying each Pirates film is the last one. My recommendation: Don’t stay for the credits, and instead get your ass out of the theater as soon as possible. Actually, just stay home and don’t watch this insulting cash machine at all.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is playing in a variety of formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

And with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the Hobbit movies mercifully come to an end.

No more stretching a one-hour story into three overly long films. No more Orlando Bloom making love to his stupid face with his own voice.

The third, much-unneeded chapter in Peter Jackson’s ill-begotten treatment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s wonderful novel is less an event than it is a final cash grab. If you must see it, don’t waste your money on high-frame-rate or IMAX options, because the result is a visual disaster. I stand by my guns: HFF technology is fine for the home theater, but it sucks balls on the big screen.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is reduced to a supporting role (in a film named after his character!) after the dragon Smaug is slain. Five armies—including dwarves, orcs, elves and … uh, who gives a shit—start battling over the riches Smaug gathered, with a glowing stone being the final prize. Thorin (Richard Armitage), a dwarf leader, gets “dragon sickness,” and things get dumber from there.

It all amounts to a big nothing, with the charms that were present in Jackson’s masterful Lord of the Rings trilogy lost in a sea of special effects and terrible, terrible acting.

A few years back, I was championing Jackson’s efforts to get this made. When Guillermo del Toro bowed out as director, I saw it as a blessing, because Jackson would inevitably take over.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

I had the misfortune of watching the High Frame Rate 3-D version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Man, do I hate technology sometimes.

Only a small percentage of movie theaters had the technology for 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but that has changed—so many of us now have the opportunity to see just how bad this technology looks when hobbits are involved. (In fact, four Coachella Valley theaters are showing the film in HFR 3-D.)

I am sure there will be films in the future that will be a proper fit for the High Frame Rate presentation—films that are primarily set outside, boast a leisurely pace, and don’t have too much makeup.

As for Peter Jackson’s decision to shoot The Desolation of Smaug in HFR 3-D, it’s a disaster: Like its predecessor, the film is a task to watch. The look of the movie simply doesn’t jibe with the technology, and the result is a visual nightmare, even after one’s eyes adjust to the stunt.

Smaug is guilty of the same flaws that marred the first film. It’s overstuffed; the dwarves are severely uninteresting; and the action scenes lack urgency. It’s just a big, boring stunt film with people looking silly in their getups.

The film starts with a flashback in which Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has his first meeting with moody dwarf Thorin (Richard Armitage). (Actually, it really starts with a very obvious cameo by Jackson, who makes no Hitchcockian effort to blend in.) We then pop ahead to the end of the first movie—and the continuation of Bilbo Baggins’ long, extremely tedious journey.

As Bilbo, Martin Freeman labors to make things interesting during action scenes that feel redundant. (Hey, it’s another giant icky spider attack!) However, he stands out among the cast of otherwise bland actors playing bland dwarves. Oh, Gimli, how you are missed!

Jackson finds a way to bring back Orlando Bloom as Legolas; these scenes could easily be cut from the film’s 161-minute running time. Jackson has also created a new character in Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elf warrior and the apple of Legolas’ eye. Legolas and Tauriel were not present in the original Tolkien novel—and movie viewers would be better off if such were the case in this film.

Too many scenes feel padded and bloated. With each passing minute, Jackson is doing further damage to his legacy. His original Lord of the Rings trilogy was a major triumph, while these Hobbit films feel and look like parody.

From the moment the Warner Bros. logo comes up, the film looks weird. Movies aren’t supposed to be this crisp. The shots of mountain ranges are breathtaking—but every close-up of an actor’s made-up face destroys the illusion.

When Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) finally shows up, he easily becomes the best thing in the Hobbit films thus far. He should’ve arrived in the second half of the first film—and the whole damn thing should’ve been completed in three hours: One movie would’ve been sufficient to cover this story. These Hobbit movies are an overblown, messed-up slog.

The movie ends abruptly, with a big cliffhanger. Normally, that sort of thing would have me all huffy and disappointed. Not this time: I was simply happy to see the movie finally over.

I loved the Lord of the Rings films. They consistently made my year’s-best lists. Conversely, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is one of 2013’s worst.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews