Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Hard as it might be to believe it’s been 14 years since we first became acquainted with a drunken pirate named Jack Sparrow whose exploits and blind luck made us laugh, sit on the edge of our seats and scream “Shiver me timbers!” Okay so maybe we didn’t scream that but we did find ourselves so enamored of the scalawag that three movies followed that one. Now a fourth, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES has found its way to disc and it’s as enjoyable as the rest.

As complicated as the last sequel, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, seemed to be this once is more so at times. Old and new faces combine this time around, my guess is in hopes that the franchise could carry on with the new faces while still paying tribute to the old. A short sequence after the credits makes me believe this even more.

This time around we meet Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) who was cast onto the Flying Dutchman ship to sail the seas for eternity. Henry has learned that there is a way to free his father from this eternal curse and he needs Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to help him. Before that can happen Henry is tossed into the brig on the ship he’s on just as it is attacked by a ghost ship commandeered by Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem). Salazar always leaves one survivor from his attacks to carry the word because dead men tell no tales. He sends a message with Henry, to let Jack Sparrow know death awaits him.

Henry makes his way to the last location Sparrow was seen at just as two other plot lines are taking place. Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a woman who studies science in a time when that wasn’t allowed, is about to be hung for being a witch. And Sparrow and his crew have just stolen a safe with all the money of the town he is in. Unfortunately Jack was caught and is about to be beheaded. Which is about the time Henry and Jack’s crew show to save the day.

Plots twist again as Jack ties up both Carina and Henry who soon come to realize that they are both searching for the same thing, an island that doesn’t exist where it is said the Trident of Poseidon can be found. With the Trident Jack can free his father and Carina decipher the map left her when she was a child.

Next twist. I told you there were plenty. Salazar and his ghost ship have taken to the high seas and are wreaking havoc on the fleet owned by Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack’s old nemesis/friend. Before he eliminates him and his crew, Barbossa negotiates a plan with Salazar to aid him in his search for Sparrow. Of course all of these plot threads come together like a pirate’s eyepatch before the finale.

As with all of the other films the acting here is solid from all involved. Perhaps the weakest performance comes from Depp who spends most of the story inebriated and just wandering through. While the other films had him in this condition it wasn’t to this extent and he was more involved with the tales going on. Here he just seems to be wandering about, a character there because the series was based around him. Newcomers Scodelario and Thwaites leave a better impression and Rush displays more depth to Barbossa than he has in the past. And for fans you’ll be glad to see that Bloom and Keira Knightley both make an appearance tying the films together as does Depp and Rush.

The past films have been noted and discussed since the first for the amazing special effects that were on display. You’ll find that Disney hasn’t let that slide as there are more amazing effects on display here as well, including a half rotted trio of sharks that threaten our heroes as well as fantastic ghostly effects involving Salazar and his crew. That being said at times the effects overpower everything else and the movie feels more like it depends more on them than the actors or any sets that were used. Over reliance on the effects takes away from the rest of the movie.

All things considered the movie was still a lot of fun. When released I recall the press slamming the film and headlines about how much less it earned than the others. It doesn’t matter. What does is the end result, is the film worth watching? Yes, it is. Is it worth buying? If you’re a fan of the series it’s worth picking up to have the complete set. If not, then it is still worth giving a watch and then deciding to buy or not. As for me I can see myself pulling it out from time to time to watch again. Maybe pick up some fish from Captain D’s on the way home. Some salt water taffy. Too much? Okay, just know that it’s fun then and worth the time spent watching.

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Kumail Nunjiani is a Pakistani stand-up comedian that most of you have seen in one movie or TV series somewhere at some time. Ever watch FRANKLIN & BASH? He had a sidekick role in that series. See CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE with Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart? He had a bit part in that as well. In other words he’s been in the business for a while but it took him telling his own personal story for him to get a major lead in a film. That movie is THE BIG SICK.

The movie is autobiographical and tells Nunjiani’s story as well as that of his girlfriend Emily. A stand-up comedian who works as an Uber type driver to pay his bills, Kumail shares an apartment with another comedian while perfecting his act. He faithfully shows up for Sunday dinner at his parent’s house where there is always a doorbell ringing and his mother saying “Oh I wonder who that could be?” knowing full well it is another prospect for marriage she’s arranged to stop by for him to meet. His is a world of two cultures and he’s doing his best to maintain both.

That changes one evening when he’s jokingly heckled by a young woman in the audience. He sees her at the bar afterwards, strikes up a conversation and learns her name is Emily (Zoe Kazan). The two hit it off and though they continue to tell each other this is nothing serious, they spend more and more time together. But fearing the repercussions of his family and their disowning him should he date let alone marry an American rather than a Pakistani girl, he tells them nothing. When Emily finds out, the two part ways.

Kumail misses Emily and one night gets a call from her girlfriend. Emily is in the hospital for a virus and she needs someone to be there since its finals week and she can’t go. Kumail does, finds Emily is unhappy to see him and then the doctors tell him that she needs intubated immediately. It appears she has a major infection and needs to be placed in an induced coma. With her parents on the way but not there yet, Kumail signs the forms.

Emily’s parents do arrive after she’s already in the coma. Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) thank Kumail but Beth gives him a cold shoulder. She knows what happened between him and Emily. As the days pass and they get to know Kumail they begin to soften in their attitudes toward him. They come to know him for who he is. At the same time Kumail begins to realize that perhaps he has lost the most important person in his life. The time will come when he must decide who controls his life, what he wants from this world and what he is willing to do to make that happen.

Being as how the film revolves around a stand-up comedian most would think this is a comedy. In many moments throughout the film it is that but at the core it is a love story of great emotional depth that will catch people off guard and that’s a good thing. While most romantic films are based on clich├ęs and little more this movie has that basis in reality which makes us care more about the characters. That’s because we know they aren’t just characters but real people. As the film draws closer to its final moments we wait to discover the outcome of the lives of both Kumail and Emily as well as Beth, Terry and Kumail’s family. If you know the outcome don’t ruin it for those who don’t. Let them be happy or sad on their own.

Nunjiani does a great job here playing, well, himself. That might sound easy but to do the same scene over and over again while filming and knowing you’re revealing some intimate moments from your life the truth is it wouldn’t be. Kazan does a great job as well and no, she doesn’t always appear in a coma in this film. Her interplay with Nunjiani feels natural and real, the basis for a good shared performance between performers. We will always expect a great performance from Hunter and she does indeed bring Beth to life.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of Romano. We know he’s a great stand-up in real life and can handle comedy from past experience. But here he plays a man in personal pain trying to make the best of the situation, a father who can’t tell a joke well and is having personal problems of his own at the moment.

Well written, well acted, well constructed, this is one of those movies you’ll watch and enjoy as it unfolds. My guess is it won’t get nominated for anything even if it should. It’s much better than some movies I’ve seen nominated recent years, better in some cases than those that have won. It touches your heart, it touches your soul and it makes you reflect on the people in your own life while at the same time entertaining. What more could you ask of a movie?

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When CHILDREN OF THE CORN was released I was working as a theater manager in Indianapolis. I had access to most movies coming out, was an avid fan of horror films and when I couldn’t see them that way would rent them since this was the early age of the VCR. When I heard that a new movie was coming out based on a Stephen King novel I looked forward to it, expected to be chilled to the bone. The end result was entertaining but not quite that frightening.

The story opens with a town in which all of the young people for reasons as yet unexplained kill off the adults. They do so at the behest of Isaac (John Franklin), a holy roller styled child preacher. Fast forward to several years later was young couple Burt and Vicky (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) are on their way to Burt’s new job as a doctor. Driving through the fields of corn they hit a young boy standing in the middle of the road. Burt realizes he didn’t die from the accident but from a slit throat so the couple go searching for help.

They find themselves directed to the tiny town of Gatlin with its empty streets and corn stalk filled cars and stores. Eventually they come across two small children, our movie narrators, who don’t tell them much. When the rest of the youth find them they capture Vicky and plan to offer her as a sacrifice. Will Peter be able to rescue her? Will he discover what is actually going on in this town? And will the evil that has been behind it all be revealed?

Based on a short story the plot is fairly simple and the story here is as well. It involves a lot of moving from one place to another and listening to two factions in the town struggling with one another: Isaac the long term leader who has controlled it from the beginning and the devout follower Malachi (Courtney Gains) who thinks things haven’t gone far enough. Their struggle is as menacing to watch as is the deaths they’ve perpetrated and now prepare for.

The acting here is what one would expect from two pros like Horton and Hamilton. Both were well on their way to stardom when making this film, he on TV’s THIRTYSOMETHING and she in the TERMINATOR films. What makes this movie stand out though is the performances of the young people involved. Franklin (although older than he looks) is the perfect fit for the character of Isaac. And Gaines looks like the local skateboard teen who could be trouble but in this case carrying a butcher knife and proving that he is.

For being a horror film as well as one with an R rating there is very little in the way of blood or gore here and no nudity at all which makes one wonder why the MPAA would choose to pass this off with that rating. In the extras even the producers were stunned by the rating which was given without any explanation as to how to fix it. In any event, fans of the film and of Stephen King will want to pick this one up.

That being said with a blu-ray edition out earlier why would anyone pick up this one? Two words: Arrow Video. Yes, I’m still singing their praises. The quality of the picture here is fantastic with a gorgeous transfer. The extras are very numerous and include a brand new audio commentary track with horror journalist Justin Beahm and CHILDREN OF THE CORN historian John Sullivan, an audio commentary track with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors Franklin and Gaines, HARVESTING HORROR: THE MAKING OF CHILDREN OF THE CORN a retrospective piece on the film full of interviews, AND THE CHILDREN SHALL LEAD THEM  a brand new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin, IT WAS THE EIGHTIES! an interview with Linda Hamilton, FIELD OF NIGHTMARES a brand new interview with writer George Goldsmith, RETURN TO GATLIN a brand new featurette revisiting the film’s original Iowa locations, STEPHEN KING ON A SHOESTRING an interview with producer Donald Borchers, WELCOME TO GATLIN: THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF CHILDREN OF THE CORN an interview with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias, CUT FROM THE CORNFIELD an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg on the infamous lost Blue Man scene, DISCIPLES OF THE CROW a 1983 short film adaptation of the original King story, a storyboard gallery, the original trailer and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork. With all of these extras you can see why if you’re a fan of the film you need to pick up this version for your shelf.

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