Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales tend to be average.  I did not like the previous movie as it was disconnected from and not as good as the first three, so I do not have high hopes for this one.  However, it is much better than I expected.  It has everything it should have: fun, large-scale action sequences, further development of the previous storyline in the third movie – of Orlando Bloom’s character’s curse and his son.  It even adds a backstory for Jack Sparrow, showing his rise to captain.  Some finds this plot to be convoluted, but I think it’s on par with the second and third movies.

Note: As with previous movies, there is an important extra scene after the credits.  The picture is often dark so it is not ideal for 3D.

Review: The Yuppie Fantasia 3 (小男人週記3之吾家有喜)

小男人週記3之吾家有喜 (The Yuppie Fantasia 3) (Blu-ray release 2017-4-7) is a comedy with social satire and sexual jokes.  It is generally well received in Hong Kong with a relatively good box office.

The 21-year old daughter of the protagonist suddenly shows up, and tells him that his divorced wife has passed away.  The protagonist has a secret romantic relationship with his secretary, and works for a bad boss.  The daughter has a close girlfriend, and is courted by the boss’s son.

The previous movie was released in 1990, but strangely in the movie timeline, only 13 years passed.  Some analysis gives this as a political meaning, although this is not impossible I see no evidence for this interpretation.  Regardless of the social satire, at least some of the jokes work.  As a Chinese New Year movie, it is perhaps somewhat better than other movies it competes with.  However, I’m not particularly impressed by the romantic relationships in the movie.

Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (Blu-ray release 2017-5-16) is quite similar to the recent entries of the Fast and Furious franchise – both feature the same lead actor helping the government along with a team of supporting characters in some nonsense plot.  However, its achievement is not comparable.  There are too many characters here.  The climactic action sequences are comparatively ordinary, although I like the opening sequence.  Anyway, it is still a mindless action movie that is fairly entertaining.

Review: Alien 3: The Assembly Cut

Today is the 25th Anniversary of Alien 3 (1992).  Alien Anthology (Blu-ray release 2010-10-26) contains the extended version of it known as the Assembly Cut.  Most people think that the Assembly Cut is better than the theatrical version, and technically it is.  However, I still do not like it.

After Ripley rescued Newt in Aliens (1986), which is an exceptionally great movie, Alien 3 begins by telling us this adorable 10-year old girl is killed.  So all the great effort done before is wasted.  Even if the rest of Alien 3 were good, this makes it sour.  If the rest is bad, as most people thought, this makes it unforgivable.  This choice is just morally wrong.

Not long after learning Hicks died – who was a good guy, flirted with Ripley, and a survivor from the previous movie, Ripley seduces a doctor in this male-only prison planet and has sex with him.  I think this development is odd and not consistent with her personality established in the previous two movies.

Then Ripley faces dangers from the other prisoners.  A significant part of the movie is devoted to Ripley’s presence imbalancing the harmony of the prison.  In another drama movie this may have worked, but I think this is not the right content for an Alien movie.  The dangers should primarily come from the alien and the company in an Alien movie.

Most people who get killed by the alien is murderer and rapist.  So I have no reason to care about them, regardless of how much character development they are given.

While having no weapon in this movie might be a noble idea, the weaponless fight against the alien involves prisoners running in the tunnels in a really confusing manner.  This is just a dull experience.  It may help portray the bleak atmosphere, but I want an entertaining movie instead.

To summarize, the setting and the plot of the Alien 3 make many wrong choices, thereby preventing it from becoming a successful movie.

Review: Get Out

Get Out (Blu-ray release 2017-5-23) involves a man going with his girlfriend to visit her parents.  Other relatives show up, and everyone looks really weird.  Naturally most people focus on the racism aspect of this movie, but I think it’s important to evaluate it with all colors removed.  Is it still an entertaining and thrilling movie, with a good plot, suitable pace and excellent execution?  Definite yes.  That being said, the truth about the servants is not consistent with what they do in prior scenes.

Review: Alien: Covenant

I figured that since I watched each of the Alien movies a few times, plus a number of forgettable ripoffs, I must have watched this type of story for two dozen times or more.  So the most important thing for me in Alien: Covenant is whether it can execute its own formula well enough to be exciting, have something new, and whether it manages to avoid being a complete rehash of itself.  The answer is mostly yes.

The second thing is whether it expands the world of the Engineer species, and answers really important questions raised in Prometheus (2012) – why they created mankind but still wanted to kill them, what the relationship is between Engineer and aliens, if they created the aliens what their plans are, etc.  Unfortunately, no answer to be found here.  We get a really short glimpse of the world of the Engineer and then nothing more about them.  Well, at least we learn the fate of the survivors from Prometheus.  If it’s not clear by now, for anyone who wants to fully appreciate this story, watching Prometheus first is mandatory.

Review: The Great Wall (2016)

The Great Wall (Blu-ray release 2017-5-23) is a monster movie in which European mercenaries help Chinese to fight monsters at the Great Wall.  Individual CG action sequences are good enough, but the main story is dull without any surprise or depth.  Simply saying the monsters were sent by god to punish people’s greed is neither a good nor sufficient background.  There is too little attempt to make the whole thing believable, with a suicidal and ineffective means of combating the monsters showcased early, and what happened to the monsters at the end.  The movie also wastes some of the top Asian cast by having them doing almost nothing.

Review: Personal Shopper

In Personal Shopper (Blu-ray release 2017-4-18), the protagonist, proclaiming herself to be a medium, waits for a sign from his dead brother.  Her job is to do the shopping for a celebrity.  An unknown person texts her and seduces her to do the forbidden thing of wearing the clothes she acquired for her employer.

This movie gets mostly positive reviews, but I do not consider this psychological thriller to be thrilling, not one bit.  Without any explanation, I do not understand how the protagonist could see and feel irrelevant ghosts but not her own dead brother.  We see the personal shopper job being carried out for a significant amount of screen time, but much of it is not important to the main plot.  I think the texting part is dumb – it is clear soon enough that the unknown person would not be her brother and there is no reason to fall prey to it.

Review: The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us (Blu-ray release 2017-5-16) has an interesting premise: an astronaut gives birth to a son on Mars, who grows up there and spends time doing video chat with a girl on Earth.  When he has the chance to go to Earth, he escapes in order to find the girl and his father.

This movie is a box office failure, and mostly received negative reviews from critics.  I do not dislike it as much as others do, although the second half of the movie on Earth is rather ordinary.  I still like the sci-fi portion of the movie.  However, this movie has a sloppy treatment of time: the Mars-Earth communication delay is completely ignored, while faces, city, and cars appear to be the same after 16 years.  The easy manner in which the protagonists escape from authorities and steal stuff is also rather unbelievable.

Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back (西遊2: 伏妖篇)

西遊2: 伏妖篇 (Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back) (Blu-ray release 2017-5-5) is a sequel to the 西遊·降魔篇 (Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons) (2013) movie, which was at least sometimes funny.  Unfortunately, this time it is a failure.  Deviating seriously from the original literature is not necessarily a problem, but its really weak screenplay filled with fake CG does not help.  This movie manages to make all the characters unlikeable.  Watching an unlikeable character torturing another unlikeable character is not my idea of funny.  Even the filmmakers say in the movie that they already ran out of ideas.  This result is especially sad because it is a collaboration of two top filmmakers from Hong Kong.