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Movie Review Monday: Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides



Mike Finkelstein was drinking in a bar one night, when he passed out and woke up on a pirate ship.  There, he met a strange, feminine fellow named Jack, and they walked a lot.  Here is his review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.

PLOT: After being kidnapped by a former love (Penelope Cruz), Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is forced to lead the evil pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) to the Fountain of Youth.  Hot on their tail is Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now a worker for the English monarchy, who has his own debt to settle with Blackbeard.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: The last time we saw Captain Jack Sparrow, he was floating away on a little dingy boat toward the Fountain of Youth.  Sounds like it could be a hell of an adventure for us, no?  Well when you have your main character fight the undead and the most evil pirate known to man, then die at the hands (or mouth) of the Kraken, only to come back to life after his friends travel to the end of the world to get him…how do you expect to top it?

You really can’t.  But despite all this and the fact that Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly didn’t want to do another PIRATES movie, Captain Jack Sparrow is a name Disney wasn’t ready to let go of.  (Something about too many cash registers going off?)  The execs decided they could do another trilogy of adventures with Jacky Poo…just tone down the storyline and focus on developing some new characters for us to invest our souls in.  Simple enough, right?

In comes Director Rob Marshall to replace Gore Verbinski, and I have to say, for someone who has directed musicals and smaller scale movies in the past, he did a pretty good job of taking on Verbinski’s universe, giving us a great feel and beautiful cinematography.  Story wise, however, what we get is something that seems almost too basic.

Yes, it’s a swashbuckling pirates adventure, and for anyone who wants their fill of that, this is the movie to see.  A PIRATES OF THE Caribbean movie, this is not.  The action sequences are few and far between, replaced by a load of walking to get to the fountain of youth.  At 147 minutes, it almost felt like I was waiting for the pages of a book to turn.  And besides a few moments here and there where he’s allowed to take the lead (mutiny!), Captain Jack actually takes a back seat most of the time.

On that note, I go back to my earlier point: When you get killed, come back from the dead and defeat Davy Jones, you can’t expect to top it.  I had conflicting feelings: on one end, I was waiting for Jack to do something, and nothing ever happened.  All the big moments went to other characters, including the final fight (Barbossa?!).  On the other end, anything that ever did happen with Jack almost seemed too rehearsed, or like we’ve seen it before (kind of like DEAD MAN’S CHEST, which was filled with Jack-isms just for the sake of having them sound funny).

Speaking of which, it also didn’t help that there were parts in this film that mirrored the first three films…kind of like when you smell cologne that makes you think of your dad or grandpa or that uncle you don’t really like.  You could almost trace the lineage of the trilogy here.  The first mano-a-mano sword fight reeked of the first fight between Will and Jack.  When one of Blackbeard’s zombies walked into the moonlight, there was a flash of bone, like he was going to be a ghost from Barbossa’s cursed ship.  And on that long walk that lasts about 75% of the movie, they go from a cave (BLACK PEARL) to a forest of green (DEAD MAN’S CHEST) to the beach (AT WORLD’S END).  Familiar much?

But with all this familiarity, we did get a group of new, pretty fun characters.  Ian McShane was just plain cool as Blackbeard (“I’m a bad man…”), and I could see why he was considered one of the most evil pirates alive.  I didn’t see him anywhere near Davy Jones, and I kept thinking that if Jack was able to take on Jones so easily, what the hell is so scary about Blackbeard?  But overall, as a villain, he stole the show.  Penelope Cruz added some much needed sex appeal (for the guys at least) as Angelica.  Besides looking absolutely gorgeous (damn…), it was fun to watch her play off Depp, and the two of them had some great back and forth jabs. (If it weren’t for her, Depp would probably barely be in the movie…)  Both were great additions to the PIRATES universe.  Even Barbossa was a sight for sore eyes, as you see him at odds, going between his old pirates ways and the rules of being a “king’s man”.

The only new characters that had no purpose were Sam Claffin’s Philip and Astrid Berges-Frisbey’s mermaid (Syrena).  Maybe the writers were trying to mirror Will and Elizabeth, but the storyline went nowhere and ended on the strangest note.  The whole thing could have easily been completely removed from the film and no one would have known the difference.

Overall, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES was a good movie for anyone who wants a swashbuckling pirate adventure, but as a PIRATES movie, it is forgettable.  The pace was slower, the risk wasn’t there, and Jack Sparrow took a back seat in a movie that was supposed to focus on him.  There will obviously be a second and third chapter in this new trilogy (cha ching!), and to be honest, I welcome them.  It’d be sad to see the characters go out on such a low note, and I challenge the writers to regroup and make something a little more memorable next time around.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) BLACKBEARD: Ian McShane was just fun in this movie.  He fit into the Pirates universe without a problem.  I wouldn’t say he’s as bad as Davy Jones, but he made a worthy villain.

2) PENELOPE CRUZ: This movie was in dire need of some sexy appeal (for guys at least…I know you girls got Depp…), and Cruz took the cake.  Too many lines to choose from, but she was sure fun to look at…

3) “A WHOLE FLEET”: Great little line right there that made me pump my fist.  And with that…

4) SCENE AFTER THE CREDITS: Obviously, you have to stay after the credits, and this one didn’t disappoint.  Hopefully, with this and number three, we’ll get an epic fifth and sixth movies.


1) PHILIP/MERMAID SUBPLOT: This entire subplot could have disappeared from the film, and no one would have known the difference.  You think maybe it’s because they needed a romance story to replace Will and Elizabeth, but if so, then why not use it at all in any advertisements? Pointless

2) CAPTAIN JACK SITTING BACK: This is supposed to be Jack Sparrow’s movie.  And yet, it feels like he’s along for the ride with us more times than actually leading it.  Take control, Captain Jack.

3) BY THE BOOKS: It almost seemed like this movie was playing it safe after DEAD MAN’S CHEST and AT WORLD’S END.  You need to do something original after three movies…not have your heroes walking for hours.


1) This film is loosely based on the 1988 pirate novel ‘On Stranger Tides’, by Tim Powers.

2) Penélope Cruz was pregnant throughout production. As the baby bump grew, it caused difficulties in wardrobe, so the producers had Cruz’s younger sister, Mónica, double for her in any long-distance scenes.


REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod



“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.






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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?



What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.


For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.



world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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