What If Lisa Had All The Power: 2019 Emmy Nominations Edition


In a few hours, the 2019 Emmy nominations will be announced!

Since I love awards and I love making lists, it’s an annual tradition that I list who and what would be nominated if I had all the power.  Keep in mind that what you’re seeing below are not necessarily my predictions of what or who will actually be nominated.  Many of the shows listed below will probably be ignored tomorrow morning.  Instead, this is a list of the nominees and winners if I was the one who was solely responsible for picking them.

Because I got off to a late start this year, I’m only listing the major categories below.  I may go back and do a full, 100-category list sometime tomorrow.  Who knows?  I do love making lists.

Anyway, here’s what would be nominated and what would win if I had all the power!  (Winners are listed in bold.)

(Want to see who and what was nominated for Emmy consideration this year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for last year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for 2012?  I know, that’s kinda random.  Anyway, click here!)

Programming

Outstanding Comedy Series

Barry

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

GLOW

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One Day At A Time

Veep

Vida

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul

Dynasty

Flack

Game of Thrones

The Magicians

My Brilliant Friend

Ozark

You

Outstanding Limited Series

Chernobyl

Fosse/Verdon

The Haunting of Hill House

I Am The Night

Maniac

Sharp Objects

True Detective

A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Television Movie

The Bad Seed

Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Brexit

Deadwood

King Lear

Native Son

No One Would Tell

O.G.

Performer

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Iain Armitage in Young Sheldon

Ted Danson in The Good Place

Bill Hader in Barry

Pete Holmes in Crashing

Glenn Howerton in A.P. Bio

Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Penn Badgley in You

Jason Bateman in Ozark

James Franco in The Deuce

John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul

Dominic West in The Affair

Outstanding Lead Actor In a Limited Series

Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal

Jared Harris in Chernobyl

Jonah Hill in Maniac

Chris Pine in I Am The Night

Sam Rockwell in Fosse/Verdon

Henry Thomas in The Haunting of Hill House

Outstanding Lead Actor In An Original Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch in Brexit

Anthony Hopkins in King Lear

Rob Lowe in The Bad Seed

Ian McShane in Deadwood

Timothy Olyphant in Deadwood

Jeffrey Wright in O.G.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

Melissa Barrera in Vida

Kristen Bell in The Good Place

Alison Brie in GLOW

Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

Zoe Perry in Young Sheldon

Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama Series

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones

Gaia Girace in My Brilliant Friend

Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Deuce

Laura Linney in Ozark

Margherita Mazzucco in My Brilliant Friend

Anna Paquin in Flack

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

India Eisley in I Am The Night

Carla Gugino in The Haunting of Hill House

Charlotte Hope in The Spanish Princess

Emma Stone in Maniac

Michelle Williams in Fosse/Verdon

Outstanding Lead Actress in an Original Movie

Shannen Doherty in No One Would Tell

Chelsea Frei in Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter

McKenna Grace in The Bad Seed

Paula Malcolmson in Deadwood

Molly Parker in Deadwood

Christina Ricci in Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Fred Armisen in Documentary Now!

Andre Braugher in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Anthony Carrigan in Barry

Tony Hale in Veep

Sam Richardson in Veep

Stephen Root in Barry

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

Giancarlo Esposito in Better Call Saul

Peter Mullan in Ozark

Luca Padovan in You

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series

Stephen Dorff in True Detective

Timothy Hutton in The Haunting of Hill House

Chris Messina in Sharp Objects

Stellan Skarsgard in Chernobyl

Justin Thereoux in Maniac

Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Supporting Actor In An Original Movie

Jim Broadbent in King Lear

Bill Camp in Native Son

Theothus Carter in O.G.

Rory Kinnear in Brexit

Gerald McRaney in Deadwood

Will Poulter in Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Comedy Series

Caroline Aaron in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Alex Borstein in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Anna Chlumsky in Veep

Sarah Goldberg in Barry

Rita Moreno in One Day At A Time

Sarah Sutherland in Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Summer Bishil in The Magicians

Elisa Del Genio in My Brilliant Friend

Julia Garner in Ozark

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones

Elizabeth Lail in You

Shay Mitchell in You

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series

Jessie Buckley in Chernobyl

Patricia Clarkson in Sharp Objects

Sally Field in Maniac

Patricia Hodge in A Very English Scandal

Connie Nielsen in I Am The Night

Emily Watson in Chernobyl

Outstanding Supporting Actress In An Original Movie

Kim Dickens in Deadwood

Florence Pugh in King Lear

Margaret Qualley in Favorite Son

Emma Thompson in King Lear

Emily Watson in King Lear

Robin Weigert in Deadwood

 

A Herman Wouk Double Feature: The Winds of War (1983, directed by Dan Curtis) and War and Remembrance (1988, directed by Dan Curtis)


When the great American novelist Herman Wouk passed away earlier this month at the age of 103, he left behind a rich and varied literary legacy.  From 1947, the year that his first novel was published to 2016, the year that he published his memoirs, Wouk wrote about religion, history, science, and even the movies.  However, Wouk will probably always be best remembered for the three novels that he wrote about World War II.

Based on his own Naval service during World War II, The Caine Mutiny was published in 1951 and was later adapted into both a successful stage play and an Oscar-nominated film.  It also won Wouk a Pulitzer Prize and established him as a major American writer.  Nearly 20 years later, Wouk would return to the history of the Second World War with two of his greatest literary works, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.  (Originally, Wouk was only planning on writing one book about the entire war but when it took him nearly a thousand pages to reach Pearl Harbor, he decided to split the story in two.)  Beginning in 1939 and proceeding all the way through to the end of the war, the two books followed two families, the Henrys and the Jastrows, as they watched the world descend into war. Along the way, the book’s fictional characters rub shoulders with historical characters like Hitler, Churchill, FDR, and even Stalin.  Carefully researched and meticulously detailed, the books were both critically acclaimed and popular with readers and, despite some soapy elements, they both hold up well today.

Given their success, it’s not a surprise that both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance were adapted for television.  Today, HBO would probably give the books the Game of Thrones treatment, with 8 seasons of war, tragedy, romance, and Emmys.  However, this was the 1980s.  This was the age of of the big-budget, all-star cast network miniseries.  Wouk’s epic history of World War II was coming to prime time.

With a total running times of 15 hours, The Winds of War originally aired over seven evenings in 1983.  Produced and directed for ABC by Dan Curtis, The Winds of War had a 962-page script, a 200-day shooting schedule, 285 speaking parts, and a then-record budget of $35,000,000.  It also had Robert Mitchum, starring as Victor “Pug” Henry, an ambitious naval officer who somehow always managed to be in the right place to witness almost all of the events leading up to America’s entry into World War II.  Jan-Michael Vincent played Pug’s son, Byron, while John Houseman took on the pivotal role Aaron Jastrow, a Jewish scholar though whose eyes the home audience would witness the rise of fascism in Europe.  Terribly miscast as Natalie, Aaron’s niece and Byron’s lover, was 44 year-old Ali MacGraw.  Among those playing historical figures were Ralph Bellamy as FDR, Howard Lang as Churchill, and Gunter Meisner as Hitler.

I recently watched The Winds of War on DVD and, despite some glaring flaws that I’ll get to later, it holds up well as both a history of World War II and a tribute to those who battled Hitler’s evil.  Like Wouk’s novels, the miniseries does a good job of breaking down not only how Hitler came to power but also why the rest of the world was often in denial about what was happening.  Watching the entire miniseries in one setting can be overwhelming.  It’s a big production and it is also unmistakably a product of a time when the major networks didn’t have to worry about competition from cable.  It takes its time but, in the end, you’re glad that it did.  All of the little details can get exhausting but they’re important to understanding just how Hitler was able to catch the world off-guard.

Jan-Michael Vincent and Ali MacGraw in The Winds of War

The miniseries does suffer due to the miscasting of some key roles.  Both Jan-Michael Vincent and Ali MacGraw were far too old for their roles.  Vincent was 38 and MacGraw was 44 when they were cast as naive and idealistic lovers trying to find themselves in Europe.  It’s perhaps less of a problem for Vincent, who had yet to lose his looks to alcoholism and who looked enough like Robert Mitchum that he could pass as Mitchum’s son.  But MacGraw is simply terrible in her role, flatly delivering her lines and looking more like Vincent’s mother than his lover.  It’s particularly jarring when she mockingly calls diplomat Leslie Sloat “Old Sloat,” because Sloat was played by David Dukes, who was six years younger than MacGraw.

67 year-old Robert Mitchum was also much too old to play an ambitious junior officer, one whose main goal in life is still to ultimately become an admiral.  When he ends up having an affair with a younger British journalist played by 30ish Victoria Tennant, the difference in their ages is even more pronounced than in Wouk’s novel.  (Pug was in his 40s in The Winds of War.)  However, Mitchum overcomes his miscasting by virtue of his natural gravitas.  With his weary presence and authoritative voice, Mitchum simply is Pug.

A ratings hit and a multiple Emmy nominee, The Winds of War was followed up five years later by War and Remembrance.  Like its predecessor, War and Remembrance set records.  The script ran 1,492 pages and featured 356 speaking parts.  The production employed 44,000 extras and filming took nearly two years, from January of 1986 to September of 1987.  With a budget of $104 million, it was the most expensive television production to date.  The final miniseries had a 30-hour running time, which was divided over 12 nights.  War and Remembrance not only made history because of its cost and length but also as the first major production to be allowed to film on location at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  For many members of the generation born after the end of World War II, War and Remembrance would serve as their first introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Director Dan Curtis returned and with him came Robert Mitchum, now in his 70s and still playing a junior naval officer.  David Dukes once again played the hapless diplomat, Leslie Sloat.  Ralph Bellamy also returned as FDR as did Victoria Tennant as Mitchum’s lover, Polly Bergen as Mitchum’s wife, and Peter Graves as Bergen’s lover.  However, they were the exception.  The majority of the original cast was replaced for the sequel, in most cases for the better.  With John Houseman too ill to reprise his role, John Gielgud took over the role of Aaron Jastrow while Hart Bochner replaced the famously troubled Jan-Michael Vincent.  Robert Hardy took over the role of Churchill while Hitler was recast with Steven Berkoff.  Best of all, Jane Seymour replaced Ali MacGraw in the role of Natalie and gave the best performance of her career.  Other characters were played by a mix of up-and-comers to tv veterans, with the cast eventually including everyone from Barry Bostwick and Sharon Stone to E.G. Marshall and Ian McShane.

Jane Seymour and John Gielgud

With a stronger cast and (ironically, considering the running length) a more focused storyline, War and Remembrance is superior to The Winds of War in every way.  That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, of course.  The scenes featuring Barry Bostwick as a submarine commander feel as if they go on forever and Robert Mitchum still seems like he should be preparing for retirement instead of angling for a promotion.  But none of that matters when the miniseries focuses on Aaron and Natalie Jastrow and their struggle to survive life in the Theresienstadt Ghetto and eventually Auschwitz.  At the time that War and Remembrance was initially broadcast, the concentration camp scenes were considered to be highly controversial and many viewers complained that they were so disturbing that they should not have been aired during prime time.  (This was four years before Schindler’s List.)  Seen today, those scenes are the most important part of the film.  Not only do they show why the war had to be fought but they also demand that the world never allow such a thing to happen again.

Though it was considered by a rating disappointment when compared to its predecessor, War and Remembrance was still a multiple-Emmy nominee.  Controversially, it defeated Lonesome Dove for Best Miniseries.  Both Winds of War and War and Remembrance have been released on DVD and, like the books that inspired them, they both hold up well.  They pay tribute to not only those who fought the Nazis but also to the humanistic vision of Herman Wouk.

Herman Wouk (1915-2019)

Horror News: Hellboy reboot Poster Released


Hellboy The Wild Hunt

The Hellboy reboot has been a tad polarizing with fans of the films pretty much wanting the film to fail because it’s not Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman doing Hellboy 3. Then there are fans of the source material who have faith that this reboot will skew more towards the horror origins that it’s creator had in mind when he created Hellboy and the BPRD.

In fact, the reboot will take ideas from two of the character’s later trip down horror lane with the story arcs from Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and Hellboy: The Storm and The Fury.

Hellboy The Storm and the Fury

While news came down that the release of the Neil Marshall-helmed Hellboy reboot has been pushed up by several months, there’s at least some very good news relating to the BPRD’s number agent.

A new poster for the film has been released courtesy of Entertainment Weekly and we see David Harbour in full Hellboy make-up with unbroken horns, flaming sword and the Right Hand of Doom very much present. This Hellboy also seem to be a bit more worn and scarred from previous fights with a much more demonic visage than the Guillermo Del Toro/Ron Perlman incarnation.

The film won’t be out in the theaters until April 12, 2019, but this cast and crew and this poster is just helping drive my interest in this reboot towards hype level.

Hellboy

John Wick: Chapter 2 Cordially Invites All to A Party In Rome


In 2015, a little film from Lionsgate came out during that time between the summer blockbuster and the awards seasons. It’s sort of the time of the cinematic year when a film is not good enough to be a blockbuster and not enough pedigree to be seen as awards-worthy.

This film was John Wick and it starred Keanu Reeves. It was also directed by two filmmakers more well-known for choreographing fights and action scenes than a full feature film.

John Wick had the last laugh as it surpassed everyone’s expectations to become one of the best action films of recent memory. It helped resurrect Keanu Reeves as a bonafide action star once again.

At this year’s New York Comic-Con the first teaser trailer for the second chapter of the John Wick story dropped to the howling delights of all attending.

We still have to wait until 2017 for John Wick: Chapter 2, but until then let’s stare in awe at John Wick doing what he does best.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Hercules”


hercules-rock-poster1

It’s been a weird week at the movies for yours truly, my friends : first off, I went to the theater three times this week, which almost never happens anymore (what do you think I am, rich?), and secondly, while I enjoyed The Purge : Anarchy about as much as I expected to (which is to say quite a bit), the other two flicks I saw both took me by surprise for different reasons : I was far less impressed with Richard Linklater’s much-celebrated Boyhood than I expected to be, and I ended up liking Brett Ratner’s new take on Hercules waaaaaayyyy more than I figured I was going to.

Though not because of anything Ratner himself did. But we’ll get to all that in a minute.

Full disclosure : I only went to see Hercules because my dad wanted to check it out. He’s a sucker for this kind of thing (he absolutely loves the old Kevin Sorbo TV series), and my mom wouldn’t touch a movie like this with a ten-foot pole, so when he mentioned he was hoping to check it out, I said I’d go with him. We’ve all gotta spend time with our parents while they’re still with us, right? But it’s fair to say, given Ratner’s involvement with this thing, that I wasn’t expecting much.

And ya know? He doesn’t deliver much — the direction here isn’t actively bad by any means, but it’s pretty straightforward stuff : the numerous “big battle” scenes are handled competently, and the actors by and large turn in decent enough performances, but there’s no real unique authorial stamp on any of the proceedings, and frankly, a  lot of the CGI is several rungs below what we’ve come to expect from these mega-budget summer popcorn flicks. All in all, technically speaking, it’s a fairly mixed bag.

Why, then, did I find myself pleasantly surprised by this latest (and third so far this year alone, by my count) take on Greek mythology’s most famous demi-god warrior? Simply put, the script offers a neat revisionist take on the hero, and is smart, intelligent, engaging, and surprising — it’s entirely unlike any iteration of the character we’ve seen before, and for my part, I really dug it.

hercules-dwayne-johnson1

Before I give all of the (or even any) credit to screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos for this film’s suceess, though, let me state for the record that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perfectly likable in the title role, and while he may be a pretty conservative casting choice, that’s okay — he’s more or less pitch-perfect and his supporting actors (including Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Ingrid Bolso Berdal as members of his mostly-merry mercenary band and John Hurt and Joseph Fiennes as the film’s principal villains) do their jobs well, too. So kudos to everyone for putting in an honest day’s labor all the way through here. But let’s get back to the novel new twist on the whole legend/premise here, shall we?

This Hercules is radically different to his predecessors not just because he can actually talk (something Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and Steve Reeves really weren’t so great at when they tackled the role), but because he a) may not actually be the son of Zeus; b) is leader of a group of freelance soldiers-for-hire; and c) was driven from his home after having name dragged through the mud for supposedly killing his own family. Told’ja this was a new set-up, didn’t I?

There are also some intriguing moral complexities woven into the story that I won’t give away here — hey, I want to keep things at least nominally “spoiler-free” when and where I can — and the interpersonal relationships between Hercules and his fellow travelers — as well as those they lend/sell their services to along the way — have considerably more depth than any reasonable human being would expect from action movie fare such as this. I was both mightily impressed by this intriguing series of twists, and frankly taken more than just a little aback by them. It wasn’t until the end credits rolled that my “aha!” moment came and I realized I shouldn’t have been shocked at all, if only I’d done a little bit of homework beforehand.

images

As it turns out, Ratner’s film is an adaptation of a comics series (well, two comics series, actually) penned by the late, great Steve Moore. I don’t know much about the publisher of these books, an outfit called Radical Comics , but I do know plenty about Steve Moore, and you should, too. Moore, who passed away from natural causes at his home earlier this year, is probably best known to comics fans as Alan Moore’s best friend (no relation despite sharing the same last name), and was a genuinely remarkable talent and, by all accounts, a genuinely remarkable human being. His comics work was sporadic, but he was at the forefront of the “British Invasion” of the early 1980s with works such as the criminally-underappreciated Laser Eraser And Pressbutton, and outside the field of comics he was a regular contributor to Fortean Times magazine as well as being a part-time musician and experienced occultist. He lived his entire life in the house he was born in and apparently carried on a decades-long erotic/romantic relationship with a moon goddess entity known as Cybele. All in all, then, a thoroughly interesting guy, as well as being an insanely talented creative force.

I wish I’d known about his Herclues comics when they came out — I don’t know if they just didn’t get very good US distribution or what (the cover of the first issue is pictured above), but I honestly don’t recall ever seeing a single copy of any of them out on the shelves at my local comic shop, and I’m there every week. A quick search on Amazon shows that two trade paperback collections of the series are available, but one is out of print and commanding rather high prices. Oh well, think I’ll probably order it up anyway.

Here’s the kicker, though — as much as I enjoyed this flick, now I feel kinda bad for  having shelled out any cash on it. Why, you ask? Because Steve Moore’s surviving family isn’t getting a dime off it. A quick Google search shows that Alan Moore has been absolutely up in arms about how his recently-deceased friend (and, in many respects, mentor) has been screwed over by the producers of the film, and he’s called for a boycott of it. I know, I know — Moore’s got a reputation for being a curmudgeon and for telling people not to buy, well, anything, but the damn thing is, more often than not, he’s absolutely right. The cinematic adaptation of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen was, in fact, every bit as horrendous as he claimed it was going to be, the Before Watchmen comics were by and large positively awful, and the V For Vendetta movie was an atrocious dumbing-down of his far superior original work. Yeah, he was none too pleased about the Watchmen film, either, but I won’t use that as an example of him being correct because by and large I kinda liked that one. Still, his criticisms are spot-on more often than not.

HERCULES

So here’s what I’m thinking knowing what I know now : Ratner’s Hercules is, in fact, a far superior effort than I felt sure it would be going in, yes — but it’s probably nowhere near as good as the comics it was based on, and the fact that Steve Moore got swindled — even (and especially) after death — from seeing so much as a penny from a big-budget adaptation of his work is positively unconscionable. Again, I haven’t read any of these comics yet, but it’s a safe bet that anything good that survived the translation from the printed page to the screen is only there because Steve Moore put it there in the first place. In short, he’s the main reason this movie is actually pretty damn good, and that makes perfect sense when you think about it because you know full well Ratner isn’t capable of delivering the goods on his own. We all remember Red Dragon, don’t we?

Okay, fair enough — I’ve tried my best to put that out of my mind, too.

So in the end I guess I’m left with something of an ethical conundrum here — I liked Herclues. I really did. But mostly for its unique and original story. And now that I know the story behind that story (whoops, I’m being repetitious here, sorry), I sorta wish I’d never seen the thing. Okay, on that note. I’m off to Amazon to order up these books.

 

Quick Review: Jack the Giant Slayer (dir. by Bryan Singer)


url-1Wow, looking at Jack the Giant Slayer, it’s easy to tell where that near $200 million went. Note that this review maybe just a little spoilerish, but not too much if you’ve already watched the trailers for the film.

I walked into Jack the Giant Slayer with a smile on my face. It started off doing something I really love in movies, playing the score for the film as the production companies were announced and going so far as to play with the Bad Hat Harry logo, replacing the Usual Suspects with a set of giants. That had me feeling good, and reminded me of Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted. Overall, it’s a Brain in your Lap kind of film. As long as you give it too much thought, you’ll be okay. I don’t see myself running back to see it, but I’d probably watch it again if it were on tv.

Everyone knows the story of Jack, who traded in his horse for a bunch of beans. They grew into a giant stalk and he climbed up it to find giants. Director Bryan Singer (X-Men 1 & 2, Superman Returns) reunites with his The Usual Suspects writer Chris McQuarrie, writer/director David Dobkin (Fred Claus & The Change Up), and Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After) to expand the tale. This version of the story tells of a time where after the beanstalk grew, giants came down from a land far above and waged war with mankind. The great king of the realm was able to stop the war by way of black magic, having a crown forged from the heart of a giant that grants the wearer control over the entire giant army. After banishing the army, he had the stalk cut down and there was peace in the land.

That strange tickle in the back of your mind, if you’re experiencing it, is you recalling the backstory to Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. It’s almost the same thing. Jack even gives a similar set of visuals to tell the tale, which was kind of nice.

So, jump to many years later, and you have Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a poor farmers boy who in trying to sell his horse is given a set of magic beans. The stalk grows, kidnapping the land’s princess in the process (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the King (Ian McShane) sends his guard up it to retrieve his daughter.

What Jack the Giant Slayer does well is that it tries to shift the story around as it moves. For me, I found that when I expected one thing to occur, the movie would twist and give an angle that I hadn’t expected. I like that it at least tried to do that. Mind you, I went to into the film completely blind, having never seen any of the trailers or commercials. If you haven’t seen anything about this film, don’t look at any of the trailers, you’ll only hurt yourself.

Casting wise, this movie is like watching a set of friends get together. Although Hoult is the hero in this story and plays him well, his screen time feels like it’s stolen from him by Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest), who in particular seems to be the go to bad guy these days as the main general of the giants. Ian McShane, who plays the King, is always worth watching, but he suffers from the same issues as Eleanor Tomlinson’s in her role as Isabel. They aren’t given a while lot to do overall. McGregor, on the other hand seems like he’s in his element here as the Captain of the Guard.

Visually, Jack the Giant Slayer is a treat. The differences in size between the giants and mortals are similar to the Ents in the Lord of the Rings films, and some of their appearances (and habits) are down right nasty. The action sequences in the film, and there aren’t many, are good but not exactly extravagant. The movie goes out of its way to try to build a world for the story, and I felt it worked out okay, especially during the 2nd half of the movie. The effects are nice. From a 3D point of view, the sense of distance is there particularly during the climbing sequences, but it’s not required that you see this in 3D, despite that there are objects moved close to the camera.

So, with all this praise, is there anything that’s wrong with Jack the Giant Slayer? Yeah, actually and what’s wrong only has just come to mind while writing this part of the review. Two problems:

1.) The trailer gives you absolutely everything you need to know. I was going to avoid mentioning what problem #2 was, but the trailers already show that at some point there’s a big battle between the giants and mortals. That being said, the rest of the trailer gives away so much to what the film was about that you really don’t need to see it. The action sequences you’re viewing there, that’s the story.

2.) This second one is just a tactical error.  The 2nd Half of the movie, while pretty on the visuals, throws logic completely out of the window, with a scenario that’s pretty one dimensional in design. The actual battle tries to be like the Battle of Helm’s Deep in the Lord of the Rings movies. Humans defending the land, giants attacking it. It worked for the Battle of Helm’s Deep because that a city in a wall. The battle could only come from one direction. However, the city in Jack the Giant Slayer isn’t like that. I was expecting giants to swim around it, or climb over the walls (especially after the damage that was made), but nope. Heck, if undead hordes can pull it off in World War Z, clambering over each other to get over a wall, I can’t imagine creatures more than 5 times the size of humans not being able to do the same. I felt it lacked a lot of imagination there and they could have come up with something just a little more dangerous in that battle sequence.

So, Jack the Giant Slayer was okay. It won’t break any kind of records or make too many waves, but cast saves it from becoming worse than what it could be.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides


This post is going to end with some spoilers, which will have warnings behind it. Just so you know.

Confession: I fell asleep during Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides. It was only for a few minutes during the jungle sequences, but nothing special was happening, so I figured I could get away with it. I can see, though why Gore Verbinski saddled up with Rango instead of this one. As Lisa Marie mentioned via Twitter, she zoned out about 10 minutes in and really only followed it for the awesomeness that is Johnny Depp. He, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane are the only real reasons to see this, but know that the film is muddled with a bit of lazy writing covered in explosions and chases. This is one Jack Sparrow story you can really wait for on DVD. It’s literally the Pirates of the Caribbean Edition of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

Every writer goes though a bad time now and then. Even though Paul Haggis won an Oscar for Crash, he was also responsible for Quantum of Solace, which could have been a tighter story than what it was. I have to remind myself that even though Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot gave us a cool character in Captain Jack Sparrow (which was made more concrete through Johnny Depp’s performance), they were also responsible for Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla some years back. It happens. Of course, they could both write me under the table while blindfolded, this I get, and they have my respect.

That said, I didn’t outright hate Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It was a fun popcorn ride in some areas, with as much flair as the Disney / Bruckheimer collaborations can offer, but it also felt like it was a production just made for the money, like The Wolfman. The only ones who seemed to really enjoy themselves here were Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, and to both their credits they carried the film for me. Johnny Depp was great as always (he has moment where he clearly shines), but I get the feeling like he’s almost tired of the character. Again, that’s just my viewpoint here.

What about the Kids?

Well, being a film under the Disney banner, the easiest rule of thumb to use here is this: If you’ve taken your kids to any of the other Pirates movies, this is pretty much more of the same. Granted, people die and there may be a nearly naked mermaid, but it’s done well.  It should be okay for teens and pre-teens, but that’s up to families to decide.

Previously on Pirates, we found Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, great as always) in the possession of the map from At World’s End, who is in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth. Jack finds that there is someone impersonating him who also happens to be looking for the same thing, and seeks out the imposter. This eventually leads him to the dreaded pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who also seeks the Fountain to block a prophecy that will lead to his death. So, it’s something of a race to see who will get there first. Even his old friend/enemy Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is part of the adventure, but doesn’t quite have the same presence here as he did the other films.

Depp on his own does justice to Sparrow and he still manages to bring some fun to the character.  That’s really not a surprise, but after 3 of these films, I had the feeling that part of his performance was just repetition of what he did before. I imagine him wishing for Verbinski or sighing after every take. Well, every take that didn’t involve Penelope Cruz, I guess.

I felt Penelope’s Angelica really matched well against Depp’s Sparrow, and it opened up a lot of doors for characterization between the two. Depp and Cruz’s scenes together really worked for me and were definitely a highlight as their chemistry is amazing. Between she and McShane – who quite frankly hasn’t had a bad role since Deadwood – really help to carry the movie. Blackbeard’s ruthlessness is clearly conveyed through McShane’s acting and  if there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s to play the villain well. There are also some notable cameos near the start of the film, which was nice to see.

One other major plus is the music. Even though Hans Zimmer uses some of the themes from the other films, he’s had some great help in guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. If you’ve never heard these two before, open up another tab on your browser and look them up online. This post will be waiting for you when you get back.

Done? Good. Didn’t I say they were cool? The duo adds a lot of flavor to the music of the movie, which really does help things (as much as they can).

Rob Marshall’s direction of the film isn’t terrible as some might say. It actually feels a lot like Gore Verbinski’s (to me, anyway), and if you weren’t told who was making the film, there’s a slight possibility you wouldn’t recognize it wasn’t Verbinski. He does capture the action scenes well and truthfully, there was something cool with the lighting in the Sparrow sword fights that occurs early on. I’m under the impression that this is due to the Bruckheimer touch on things.

The writing on this film felt lazy. Here’s what I mean, and the following might be spoilers:

*** Here lie Spoilers, Ladies and Gents, be warned! ***

*** Here lie Spoilers, Ladies and Gents, be warned! ***

*** Here lie Spoilers, Ladies and Gents, be warned! ***

There is a part in the film where Barbossa explains his stake in the chase for the Fountain of Youth. In a few lines, Geoffrey Rush nails it like an old man telling stories by a campfire. The only problem is that you’ve been told what happened in a visual medium. One of the first rules of writing is to show, and not tell. With a budget of over $400 million, I find it shocking that they couldn’t have just taken a few minutes to visually give us that explanation. It’s possible that Rossio and Elliot wanted to avoid reusing some of the same Pirates elements from the earlier films, but sometimes Pirate life does have a few struggles on the water. Why not show how he lost the Black Pearl?

Another example of the writing problem is the quasi-love story between the ship’s cleric (who’s name I can’t even recall) and the mermaid they encounter. It felt forced to me, and I’m convinced that when the Cleric finally tells the Mermaid he wants her to save his life, she pulled him down into deep waters only to feed upon him like those other poor pirate souls. And you know why? Because Marshall and the writers never bothered to show the audience a hint of what became of them. I doubt they cared about them any more than the audience could have. I even stayed after the credits, figuring that the final shot would maybe show me something of their fate, but no. Nothing of the sort.

*** Spoilers are done, you can keep reading now. ***

*** Spoilers are done, you can keep reading now. ***

*** Spoilers are done, you can keep reading now. ***

Oh, and there’s nothing to read after this, because I’m writing like Rossio and Elliot. Feel that sense of emptiness? That gap, like there should be something here? That’s what this Pirates may do to you.