Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.
SLEEPLESS stars Jamie Foxx as undercover Las Vegas police officer Vincent Downs, who is caught in a high stakes web of corrupt cops and the mob-controlled casino underground. When a heist goes wrong, a crew of homicidal gangsters kidnaps Downs’ teenage son. In one sleepless night he will have to rescue his son, evade an internal affairs investigation and bring the kidnappers to justice.
Pity the poor remake. So many people think that the remake is never as good as the original. But in this case the very first original was ‘The Seven Samurai’, then remade as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ in 1960. And now comes along a new take on the old Western story, with new a new cast and a fresh look.
As the Civil War has ended, a little town in Northern California is overrun by a mean-spirited land baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The people of Rose Creek sit between him and a lot gold in the local hills. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), whose husband was shot in cold blood by Bogue, finds and hires a protector.
She meets up with Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter. He knows of Bogue and has had his own troubles with him. Chisolm finds a small group of hired guns to help him fight the wicked army of thugs that Bogue will bring to town.
These include Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler; Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) who is a sharpshooter and his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), an expert with knives. Also in the group is Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a bear of a mountain man and a tracker: Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw, and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche Indian.
Once these seven men come into town, they meet up with local sheriff and a group of Bogue’s men. There are over twenty thugs to take on the much smaller group. After a tense stand-off, there is major gunfight in the town streets. The Chisolm group survives and comes out on top.
But there will be a much bigger battle that is yet to come. The Seven all fortify the town and train the local townsfolk to take up arms and fight the good fight. Bogue has much bigger plans in mind, with a huge group of ornery thugs and much more sophisticated weapons at hand.
The group of Seven and the people of the town are ready for the fight of their lives. And for some of them, it will be the last day of their lives. But all of them, led by Chisolm are ready to stick it out and not surrender…
With a large ensemble cast, it can be tough to get a very precise idea of every character. But Denzel Washington has such a calm and soothing presence, he can make you believe that anything is possible. Chris Pratt does his comic relief best, being a funny character with a very good aim and a love of the bottle. Ethan Hawke does a terrific job with a Civil War Confederate rifleman who has seen one too many battles.
Everyone else is also very good in the roles they play, with each having a key scene or two that give their character a better depth. Some of the have a lack of times, this limits how well the audience gets to know them.
A few of the choices are a tiny bit off the mark, such as the voice used by Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne. It is high-pitched and squeaky for such a big bear of a man. Also, the costuming for Haley Bennett seems a little too much Victoria’s Secret for a plain wife of a rancher.
But these are tiny little issues compared to the beauty of the background scenery, the wonderfully stirring score (the final work by James Horner), and the fantastic action sequences in the gunfight scenes and the final battle in the town.
This might not be your father’s ‘Magnificent Seven’, but you can depend on these guys for a rollicking good time…
When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Director: Denis Villeneuve
The ‘Disaster Movie’ from the ’80s is back, but in a more professionally produced package. There are no airplanes falling from the sky, but there is an Inferno, and it does tower. There is no sinking cruise ship, but a floating oil rig in the Gulf is in deep(water) trouble. The actual events of 2010 are recalled and given the up-close-and-personal treatment. “Deepwater Horizon” makes a statement about the strength of ordinary men and woman in a very extraordinary situation.
Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is an oil rig engineer ready to take on another three week shift on the Deepwater Horizon rig. His wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) wishes for his safe return, as usual. He meets “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Kurt Russell) who is the supervisor on the rig. Mr. Jimmy is a no-nonsense leader who believes in safety first. Andrea (Gina Rodriguez) is a worker in the control room who helps keep the rig on target.
TransOcean is the company who owns the rig, and it is being leased by BP (British Petroleum). A few BP executives are on board, including Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). They are worried that rig’s drilling has not been completed and tested in time, and now they are weeks overdue and millions are being lost. So there are reductions made in testing and not every normal regulation has been followed completely. The oil needs to be drilled already, dammit!
While running some functional testing, the results are unclear. The BP bosses, like Donald, want a quick retest done. But “Mr. Jimmy” and Mike and many other oil rig workers want every option completely tested. This includes Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) a guy on the main drill line floor. He notices that after the aborted test, there is some violent shuddering in the drill line. He starts to see the mud and oil oozing up from the drill. This is not a normal result.
Within minutes, the rig explodes with highly pressured oil and gas that had been trapped in the faulty drill line. Methane seeps into the air ducts, ready to ignite – and there is no place to hide. There are 11 people who do not make it out alive. But the remaining one hundred plus workers, engineers, pilots, cooks and everyone assigned to work on the Horizon are in trouble. There are many injured and people are in shock. The story of how the rest of them got out and helped each other makes for the second half of the movie.
Movies that are based on true life situations are interesting. There is a build up to an oncoming oil rig disaster or a double bird strike on a jet out of JFK. You basically know the story. But there so many details of the actual situation that the movie portrays, that you are still amazed to see the whole thing unfold.
Mark Wahlberg plays the smart yet humble oil rig expert, and he shows how average guy can become a hero in the right circumstances. Kurt Russell it a force to be reckoned with, and his character is devoted to by-the-book safety measures. “Mr. Jimmy” will not let the sneaky executives pull any fast ones, but when they get him out of the room…
Kate Hudson does her best to act like the loving wife, and she is nervous when she hears the news. Dylan O’Brien plays a typical oil rig grunt, the guys who are there pulling the pipe and manning the drill at all hours. The money-grubbing monster had to be played by someone, so John Malkovich was the only logical choice.
The acting plays second fiddle to the visual chaos of the Horizon under assault by flaming jets of gas and oil. The action scenes are so realistic that you also feel under assault. Everyone is covered in oil and blood, and the horror takes a human toll. The means to escape are few, and pathways to survive are slim. Special effects, computer enhanced imagery, sound design and mixing are all on display.
Peter Berg has taken a eerie chapter from America’s recent past with this event leading to the worst oil spill in history. But rather than focus on the long-term affects to the ecology of the Gulf, he instead narrows it down to the workers on the rig. We feel the confusion and despair of the men and women who made up that team. And at the very end, there is a fitting tribute to the 11 souls who perished on the disaster. With additional review (from this movie), perhaps there is some hope for changes and continued vigilance on the deepwater oil rigs.
“Masterminds” is a comedy based on the true story of one of the largest bank heists in America… and one of the most simplistic minds there is. Galifianakis plays David Ghantt who would do anything for the woman of his dreams. Galifianakis would do anything for a role, going as far as “sharting” in a pool for this one. Okay! I couldn’t help myself. I laughed at that. Sometimes the really stupid funny makes me giggle and this is about as stupid as they come.
Based in North Carolina, Hess uses every southern stereotype he could find from wood paneling on all the walls to a high-rise double-wide trailer to the hicks in them but the worst is the extra nauseatingly thick accent Galifianakis uses. It gets old very fast but there’s something about his comedy in this movie that you can’t help but find amusing and enjoy. I’d guess it’s his chemistry with director Jared Hess of “Nacho Libre” and “Napoleon Dynamite” that works to create a blissfully ignorant hayseed who is somehow still smart enough to pull of a 17 million dollar heist for the woman he loves, Kelly (Wiig), who is not his fiancé, might I add. His fiancé is Jandice and portrayed by McKinnon who does white trash brilliantly and the only way to describe her character is “weird”. McKinnon is always good at weird but this Jandice character goes way beyond the norm. Wiig, executes the love interest in the film and is, for the most part, playing straight for a change. There are a few laughs from her but it seems oddly fitting that she is the balance to all of the crazy going on; you expect insane from her in a film like this but when she delivers compassion and caring for someone getting taken advantage of, the story seems more real.
Kelly gets David to help her and her pals steal the money and behind his back they have planned on David to also be the fall guy. Steve Chambers (Wilson) is running the show and after David steals the money from Loomis, Fargo & Co., which becomes the second largest cash robbery in U.S. history, even appearing on shows like “America’s Most Wanted” because of it, he sends David to Mexico with a small allowance until things cool down and they “meet up with him later.” While they are living the good life, he’s in Mexico waiting for his girl. So, perhaps the David in the film isn’t so far removed from reality. However, feeling the pain of being the patsy, perhaps an exaggerated film of bringing them all to justice was his best revenge.
The sight gags in “Masterminds” are great. The characters are grotesquely over-the-top and you’ll laugh but to dig deeper into what you’re seeing, the structure isn’t there and doesn’t hold up. It feels as if you’re clicking on Youtube, looking for the funny clips and all the while not as entertained in-between the clicks. However, the costume changes and bizarre you get from Galifianakis and then the relationship that develops between him and the man sent to kill him, Mike McKinney (Sudeikis), makes this absurd film one to take a peek at. It has that “Napoleon Dynamite” feel to it and I wouldn’t be surprised if it picks up momentum with people watching this more than once to take it all in again and to perhaps take another look at the characters to figure out who may have taken the still missing two million dollars. Now you’re interested. By the way, stay at the end for some extra fun stuff.
Former Marines, Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Tiegen, were unable to quiet their minds and bodies on September 11, 2012. They were in Benghazi, Libya, when what they were trained and ready to do, not what they were actually there for, kicked in; and luckily for anyone who survived because many wouldn’t have, had these men not been willing, ready and able to be, not in their words, heroes. Read more
Interview with “Unsullied” director Simeon Rice
Directed by: Simeon Rice
Starring: Murray Gray, Rusty Joiner, James Gaudioso, Erin Boyes, Cindy Karr and Nicole Paris Williams
By Shari K. Green
“Unsullied” is a film made by Simeon Rice, who directed and helped write the film after film school. He graduated film school after he retired from pro-football in 2009. He played for the Arizona Cardinals and also earned a Super Bowl ring in 2003 when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He was a very good football player but I’m not so sure that he’s going to be as successful behind the lens unless he learns more about what he’s doing. We do need to keep in mind that this is his directorial debut, but he should take on smaller films and lighter topics first, “pay his dues” so to speak, because as it turns out, the film is sloppy and chaotic… muddled, and the problems with it were exactly what you’d expect from a new director who needs a bit more experience.
When learning that there were several writers on the project, you can see why so much commotion made it to the screen. I won’t lie to you… if you like the type of action/horror movies that come from indie or student filmmakers, this is what “Unsullied” has in store for you and you’ll like the film. It isn’t special and it isn’t new. What doesn’t work? It’s in conflict with itself and its overall message is unclear. What works? Well, Rice has surrounded himself with some good people, chiefly, his cinematographer, Scott Winig. The movie looks good so, Rice has some experts in his corner and if he wants to continue making movies, his love of film and eye for talent behind the camera could begin to work for him.
As he declares in my interview with him, he’s very passionate about filmmaking and is humble enough to ask for assistance when he needs it. It’s my belief that as he learns more about the game, as he did in football, there’s little doubt he’ll improve and even become good at this. That said, “Unsullied”, a story about Reagan (Gray), a track star who is kidnapped by a pair of sociopaths for a game of cat and mouse, is an extremely formulaic “B” movie, made more for Rice to get a feature under his belt than for an audience to love and then tout for their new favorite director.
I hope he absorbs the criticism about his film and what is said about him. He should make improvements based on his mistakes and focus on creating a story that isn’t rife with commonality and concentrate more on entertaining his audience than proving something to himself and his friends.
SG: Everyone dreams of a second career and I know you’ve been asked this question a lot, but I must ask you… why film?
Rice: I have a passion of storytelling. I have a passion of… of creating concepts and being able to express yourself on a theatrical standpoint so… film, to me, is one of the ultimate levels of expression and freedom. To be able to do that and tell your own stories in your own way from facts to fiction is just one of those things that resonated with me… and improved itself over time.
SG: You had made a short film, a comedy, and then you tackle an entire feature next. Why such a tough project right away and what is the ultimate message you’d like to convey?
Rice: That I’m a filmmaker. That I’m telling a story and I can create details. I want to go so far left of what people would expect from me and to show that I’m a serious filmmaker; as a storyteller and as of a responsible storyteller. I have a film going into theatres nationwide and it comes from a very organic place. Those tales I create are going to stay in the pulse of people. I watched the film “No Country with Old Men” and as I sat and watched that film, I was so enthralled and into this movie, that I said, ‘I want to make a film similar to this’… one that’s going to lead you to the edge of your seat… that’s going to be an adrenalin rush of a film, that’s going to take you to epic heights and the lowest of lows, and things of that nature… so, I wrote “Unsullied” and “Unsullied” to me… it typifies the tipping point of what an action/thriller/suspense could be.
SG: You achieved all of that. It’s crazy, this movie. Murray Gray was the perfect choice for it. She was tough mixed with innocence. Were you involved in casting her?
Rice: Yes. I cast her. She was brought to me by a casting agent slash one of our producers, Michelle Gracie and… yeah… I watched a lot of girls. I sat in that process and ultimately picked the one who suited this role the best. Her and her ability to translate emotion really spoke to me and she really went after this role and took on a full commitment and the responsibility of what a lead actress would do and I’m overjoyed with her performance.
SG: Now the cinematic side. You had to have spent many days in the woods, not a Hollywood set, and shot day for night and such in those woods. I have to commend you for picking the right director of photography, as well, Scott Winig, who started his career shooting music videos and won many awards there. He got some really beautiful shots that had to have been equally as difficult to capture. How many days did you spend in those woods?
Rice: We were there just about twenty days. The shoot was twenty-three days and we were in the woods about seventeen or eighteen of those days.
SG: Wow. That’s a LOT of work! What was the biggest challenge for you there?!
Rice: I dealt with a lot of challenges but I think the biggest challenge was just… ummm… the anxiety of it. Dealing with my own anxieties before shooting and having confidence in my own ability as a director. But once I got on set, I think the biggest anxiety was the unknown; the fear of the unknown when you’re going into production. But once I got on set, it all made sense… it all felt natural and I felt that I shouldn’t have been anywhere else but right there in the director’s chair creating this film.
SG: Well, congratulations.
Rice: Thank you.
SG: I must know your opinion here. Which do you find harder, a three-week film shoot or a seventeen-week football season?
Rice: They both have their inherent strengths. You have to endure so much as a player. You have to endure so much as a filmmaker slash writer slash producer and executive producer. They are both very respected in their own different ways. Obviously playing football has a toll on me physically and creating films, you deal with great highs and lows… they both are different but both have their levels of complications. I respect both professions.
SG: Who came up with the title, “Unsullied”? Are you a “Game of Thrones” fan?!
Rice: I’m a “Game of Thrones” fan but it was more related to what she went through. It begs the question, “Unsullied”, does she or does she not, you know? It was just one of those things… the fact that the guys were so sullied… so tainted, you know? She goes through this and we want to know, does she lose her way?
SG: Right. Does she stay clean?
Rice: It’s also an open-ended question.
SG: Exactly. So, what was your favorite part of directing?
Rice: My favorite part of directing? I don’t really deal in favorites because that’s an absolute. I kind of enjoyed every aspect of it but really connecting with the actors is my biggest joy in terms of directing. To connect with the actors in terms of the role, in terms of expression, in terms of casting them and communicating an idea and then working through some of the complications that come with it… that’s a joy.
SG: Is there anyone out there you’d like to work with in particular?
Rice: I’m so humble. I’m so fortunate if anyone would work with me. There are so many great actors out there in the platform of theatre and production that if I’m connected with anybody out there that wants to tell a great story, I’d be overjoyed.
SG: What’s your advice for anyone who wants to go into filmmaking?
Rice: Come in the game very prepared if you want to see your story through. Tell your story. Tell your tale. Be dedicated. Make sure, whatever you do in terms of storytelling, that you have an outlet for the big game. Be honest in your creativity. Be honest in your storytelling… but be a responsible storyteller and make sure that the message you’re trying to convey is parallel with the message you want to get out there.