As I sit here munching on my Papa Johns’, I can’t help but wonder what I just experienced. No, it’s not because the pizza is good (it isn’t, but standards for food, along with women, decline as the night goes on), but because in the past 24 hours I’ve seen five very different films in the same theater. The following reviews/desperate observations about my life took place over a two day period. Strap the eff in peeps.

Thursday, May 25th - 10 P.M.

    I’m lightly speeding to the movie theater. I’m so fresh out of work I still have my name badge on. I stayed late enough to get extra money, but left so I’d have time to make this anticipated event. One could paraphrase Vin Diesel (please don’t) and say I live my life a movie at a time. Why am I getting so jacked up that I’m lightly speeding?

    BECAUSE IT’S THE FIFTH PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN MOVIE MAN! Wow, typing that out makes me realize how fake it sounds. I thought I was a better actor than that.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

    Do you remember when these movies were refreshing? Yeah, I remember when Nickelback was hugely popular too. I’m digressing, but you get the point. Curse of the Black Pearl was an awesome adventure movie with one of the best star turns of the past 20 years. The sequels put in so much bloat I felt like I just downed a six-pack after watching them. 

    This film, the fifth in the series, is somewhere in-between. You won’t confuse it with being a classic, but there’s a lot of fun to be had here. If you like the typical Pirates formula (loud theme, drunk Johnny Depp, swashbuckling), you’ll view this like gold. If not, you most likely checked out of these movies a long time ago.

    Jack Sparrow isn’t looking so good lately, but more on Depp’s awful performance later. The pirate has failed so badly at making money his crew abandons him. He walks around town sloshed after robbing a bank, only to get thrown into jail. During all this, he meets young astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), whose belief in science gets her imprisoned. Why do I feel like that’s where America is headed?

    Okay, I’ll get back to the movie. Sparrow and Smyth are saved by Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), a young lad who needs their help in rescuing his father Will (series vet Orlando Bloom). Sparrow and Smyth know about the Trident of Poseidon, which can break all of the ocean’s curses.

    Being Pirates, there’s also about three other plots thrown in too. A villainous, zombie-like pirate named Salazar (Javier Bardem) swears revenge on Jack, making this another let’s-chase-Sparrow revenge story. He’s assisted by Jack’s frenemy Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) after destroying all of the latter’s ships. Meanwhile, the soldiers are also hunting Jack and Carina after they escape from prison. 

    The good news is that unlike previous entries (coughAtWorld’sEndcough), all these characters don’t turn things into a giant mess you can’t follow. I chalk that up to two reasons. One, the script treats Sparrow like a supporting character. Two, it’s shorter than the previous two iterations (although only barely less than the fourth). There’s still some stupid, unnecessary stuff (did I really need to see Jack getting married?), but it’s not enough to destroy the film.

    The first point is really important, mainly because Depp has become unwatchable as Sparrow. The performance has descended into self-parody, with drunk mannerisms and slap-stick that belong more in a Saturday Night Live skit than a big action movie. I alternated between thinking Depp was actually wasted on set or not. This film treats Jack like a joke, and Depp gives a corresponding I’m-only-here-for-the-paycheck sort of performance as a result.

    Despite the focus on Depp, this really is Henry’s story. He wants to rescue his father, and his mission feels touching, mainly because Thwaites gives such an earnest performance. Amidst the Sparrow idiocy, the main story keeps you compelled. 

    Sure, Jack still has a role in all of this, but he’s gone back to the role that suits him better, the Br’er Rabbit messing with everyone. It doesn’t make up for Depp’s only showing up here for the money, but it makes it tolerable enough.

    Another thing I liked? That this film was about something deeper than Jack being hunted. Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy 2, a big emphasis is placed on family here, which makes the ensuing plot much easier to stay engaged in. Funny how easy that is.

    I won’t lie, I was expecting a truly awful film. The Pirates franchise went belly-up in terms of quality ten years ago, but somehow Disney stumbled upon a good franchise ender. Now it’s up to them to not keep chasing sequels like a pirate chases gold.

    They won’t, but a failed idealist like me can dream.

Friday, May 26th - 8:30 A.M.

    No man that works a night job should be up this early. Just thought I would say that.

10 A.M.

    I went hiking in Scottsdale with my old high school friend Ethan. We do this a lot, and usually discuss politics, film, high school burn-outs and my Mark Wahlberg impression (it’s really good). Our talk turned to the fact that I’m not too enthusiastic about working a journalism job for minimum wage. Called it failed idealism, but I’d like to think a college degree at least bought me being paid 12 or 13 dollars an hour. Learning other friends get paid more than that without going to school didn’t help matters. This’ll come up later.

12:55 P.M.

    Freshly tanned from hiking, it was time to hole myself in a movie theater all day. I’d like to take the time to endorse Sour Punch Bites; they’re like if delicious had a child with amazing. The American Licorice Company can call me to do ads for their products anytime, at least until I inevitably get diabetes from them.

Alien: Covenant

    This is basically Prometheus with more action and a dumber ending. It might cut to the bone, but I almost fell asleep watching this, so I fear writing about it could put me under as well. Gotta get out your words before you croak.

    The set-up: the Covenant ship carries a colony out to reach the habitable planet Origae-6. The crew is a various bunch of scientists, highlighted by android Walter (Michael Fassbender),  the captain’s wife Daniels (Katherine Waterston), the ship’s first mate Christopher (Billy Crudup) and the pilot (Danny McBride). They’re all woken-up when the ship hits turbulence, which causes quite a few deaths, including Daniels’ husband. 

    Christopher gets promoted to captain, so he decides to fly to another planet cause it’s closer. The decision gets criticized by all the characters, but it’s done anyway. Why? Because we wouldn’t have a movie if he didn’t make the wrong decision.

    Actually, we also wouldn’t have one were it not for the numerous idiotic moves of nearly every single person in this. I understand watching an alien burst out of someone’s body can make someone hysterical, but I don’t buy that their brain suddenly decides to do things that will get everyone killed.

    But I can put a dumb plot aside if the movie is at least entertaining. Alien: Covenant kinda is. The early exploration scene recalls a similar snoozefest portion from Prometheus; I had to keep jerking my head up as a means of keeping myself awake through it. 

    But once the action starts (which is fairly early), the movie gets fun again, even if you’re just watching people you don’t care about die. Most of them come off as either too stupid or unlikeable to live, so you’re basically watching the science fiction equivalent of a slasher film.

    On the planet, the crew soon meets David from Prometheus, (also Fassbender) who gives them a tour of the land. It sounds like a nice break from getting slaughtered by aliens, but it winds up being the worst possible thing to happen.

    There were a few people I cared about. Waterston is terrific, giving an emotionally terrifying performance. McBride is surprisingly solid, and the second half of this film turns into The Michael Fassbender Show.

    This being Ridley Scott and Alien, the big questions are asked about creation, the nature of man and machine, and human history. But they aren’t really explored beyond a few speeches from David. All the other characters are too busy staying alive to talk philosophy. Scenes are also hamstrung by uncomfortable dialogue that’s uttered totally seriously (“Watch me, I’ll do the fingering”). Scott has always only been as good as the script he’s given, and the one he has here is weak.

    Want proof? The last thirty minutes of this film is garbage that won’t end. We get about three final showdowns with the alien when there should’ve been one, and after a certain point you can tell Scott is killing characters off because he needs them gone. Don’t even get me started on the ending either. It’s a nasty twist, but just like Life earlier this year, it’s there for the sake of being shocking. 

    Actually, there’s a lot in common this picture has with that blah film. Good performances in underwritten roles, bland philosophical talk, stupid characters dying stupid deaths and a ridiculous twist ending. Turns out I paid twice to see the exact same film two months apart. 

Everything, Everything

    Here we have two movies that don’t quite add up. On one hand, we have a sweet love story with disease as the main obstacle, a modern day Boy in the Plastic Bubble, except with a girl. On the other, there’s a truly messed-up, sick premise that gets hand waved in favor of a happy ending. Both parts are interesting, but don’t add up together at all.

    Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) is an 18-year-old that’s isolated from the world. No, not in the I’m-so-lonely-cause-I-only-got-five-likes-on-my-status way. She has a disorder with her immune system that forces her to stay inside the house with her mother (Anika Noni Rose) and nurse (Ana de la Reguera). Going outside could be fatal, so the young girl stays inside all day, reading books and writing reviews on them (hey!).

    She also has other habits. Building models and planting astronauts in them is one, as is watching classic films with her mother. 

    Her complacent life changes when she meets Olly (Nick Robinson), a nice guy next door. He compliments her and wants to know everything about her life. Their conversations, which take place over text, are cleverly re-fitted to be dream sequences inside the models Maddy builds at home. It’s a cute little touch, and a lot better than watching a bunch of text bubbles pop across my screen. If I wanted that, I’d just look at my phone.

    Naturally, the two want to meet each other, and with the help of the nurse, Maddy gets to be in the same room as Olly. Their scenes are awkward but sweet, an accurate portrayal of young love.

    Maddy hides this budding relationship from her mom, especially cause it makes her want to be outside the house even more. After it’s revealed, she decides to run off with Olly to Hawaii, using a credit card she got online (Where she gets the money to pay off that credit card bill, the movie doesn’t explain).

    The ensuing trip is a sweet experience to watch. Stenberg plays a difficult role with such a natural charm that it’s irresistible to see her take on the world. Robinson bounces off her well, and you really care about the couple.

    But this is when Everything, Everything begins to go off the rails. Maddy is hospitalized after fainting and returns home to her mother. Olly, his mother and sister leave his abusive dad for New York City. All alone, she confronts her mother about a statement from a Hawaii doctor that she doesn’t have the disease her mother said she did.

    What does this mean then? Well, if you guessed that Maddy’s mother made her disease up, you guessed correctly! Apparently, she did so to keep her daughter in the house, not wanting to lose another family member (the husband and son died in a car accident). 

    Read between the lines dear reader, and this is what the film is saying: a woman keep her daughter isolated from schooling, most social interaction and the outside world for 18 years cause she got possessive. Look, I know a thing or two about overly involved mothers, but that’s messed up.

    What’s worse is how the film handles it. Maddy and her mom have a brief fight, the mom leaves, then Maddy has her loving reunion with Olly. I’m sorry, but we gotta back up here. Emotionally stunting a child like that is big deal, whether it’s real life or fictional. Casting it aside so quickly for a happy ending is unforgivable. 

    I’m reminded of when I confided in my girlfriend Alyssa of my many problems, but tried to shrug them off as I was saying it. After it was done, you know what she said to me? “I don’t think you really understand how bad all the stuff that’s happened to you really is”. In other words, she just nailed the problem with Everything, Everything.

    Throwing it into a teenybopper love story is especially jarring too. So much of Everything, Everything is sugary sweet that the twist doesn’t just come out of left field; it comes from an entirely different film altogether. It’s hard to reconcile watching to young outcasts slowly bond over the backdrop over what could be considered child abuse.

    If they were gonna do a remake of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, fine, but don’t feel the need to throw in a wacko twist that throws the movie out of whack. The Space Between Us from earlier this year did a similar plot, and worked well within it. The limitations of the human body are more than enough to be a good obstacle for a romance movie. There’s no need to throw in an excessively despicable family member to boot.

6:00 PM

    That conversation with Ethan is getting to me. I’m crying over how I can’t seem to land a journalism job before I move to Tucson. A bathroom stall never seemed so quiet. Good thing my girlfriend Alyssa is patient and kind enough to deal with my persistent insecurity. Without her, I’m probably Tom Hanks in Cast Away, forced to talk to an inanimate object about my struggles. In this case, that would mean the toilet paper.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

    I’m gonna keep this one very short: I would’ve rather gone on a road trip with my actual family than watch this again.

Baywatch

    As an actor, Dwayne Johnson has cornered the market on so-bad-it’s-good cinema, so it’s fate that he takes on the best bad TV show of all time. Baywatch is the kind of big, dumb picture that requires popcorn in one hand and a soda in the other. There’s not much here other than boobs and beaches, and that’s enough for passable summer entertainment.

    Zac Efron plays Matt Brody, a former Olympic Gold Medalist forced to work as a lifeguard for probation. This naturally lands him with the Baywatch group, headed by Johnson’s Mitch Buchannon. They live a strict code of defending the beach and looking sexy while doing it. That last part does not represent my opinion of anyone’s attractiveness.

    Being the young hotshot, Brody has trouble fitting in with the self-less group as they investigate a drug-running and murder ring run by Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra). It’s fronted by a real estate business, but leave it to the hot people on the beach to know what’s really up.

    The plot here is almost irrelevant. You’ll be here for the laughs and the action. Director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) fills the screen with slow-motion jogs and jiggling breasts just like the best (worst?) of the 90s serious. David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson both show up for cameos. 

    The cast is all super game for the stupidity. Efron and Johnson are their usually over-the-top selves, but the female characters (particularly Chopra and Alexandria Daddario) give strong performances as well. 

    Gordon is not an action director, and that shows a lot here. Scenes are choppily edited and without any sort of tension. I don’t know if it would’ve helped, but he could’ve watched the source material for inspiration.

    One thing to note about Johnson: the happy-go-lucky-badass screen persona he has is starting to wear thin. Throwing swearing into his dialogue doesn’t make it any better. His Buchannon is portrayed as always being the most popular guy on the beach, everyone tells stories about him like he’s king. The problem is, this movie is about Brody learning the lesson to be less selfish, not Buchannon. So you end up with some muddled scenes that can’t really decide who the main character is.

    I feel conflicted calling this a good movie; there’s a lot of really banal humor here, some would say it’s bordering on lazy. Normally I don’t give movies with so many penis and boob jokes a thumbs up. Not to mention this movie is no where as smart as it thinks it is. The self-parody macho-ness feels a little too literal at times, like someone was telling a joke, then forgot it was one. Then again, the TV show always took itself seriously too. 

    But for me, I suppose there’s never enough space for movies that straddle the line between good and bad.

Published by Jagger Czajka