Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Joachim Rønning
If I was reviewing movies when the first Maleficient came out, it probably would have been in my top ten of that year; THAT’S how much I genuinely loved that movie, and I don’t think I’m in TOO big of a minority on this one! It didn’t get the BEST reviews, but I think it still managed to connect with a lot of people and certainly made quite a bit of money even with its enormous budget. Doing a sequel though, eh… that doesn’t sound like THE GREATEST IDEA EVER, but I’m willing to throw myself into it and hope for the best considering how good the first one was and Jolie’s continued involvement with the series since she was the best thing about that movie. Do they find an interesting way to continue the story after its revisionist Happily Ever After, or should they have left well enough alone after managing to catch lightening in a bottle already? Let’s find out!!
Queen Aurora (Elle Fanning) has been running the magic forest known as The Moors since her adoptive mother killed her biological father in the first movie. It’s cool though; the dude was a HUGE jerk and was played by Sharlto Copley, so he pretty much HAD to die! Someone who DIDN’T die though was Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) who’s been dating Aurora for some time now (ACTUALLY dating; not rescuing her from a castle and getting a bride as a reward), but now is the time for him to pop the question and join their kingdoms under one big happy family. This is cause for celebration for just about everyone in The Moors… except for one woman who finds this arrangement utterly dreadful. Actually two women, but we’ll get to that soon enough; we’re of course talking about Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) at the moment who has obvious reservations because of the whole Sharlto Copley thing, but agrees meet Phillips parents for dinner which will SURELY go off without a hitch, right!? Well… that OTHER woman who’s not too please about all this is Phillip’s mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) who has a clear bias against all things magical and is not about to let those ghastly creatures crash on her kingdom’s metaphorical couch, and so she sets into motion her diabolical scheme to ruin the forest and turn Maleficent into a fearsome monster once again. At first it seems to succeed as Maleficent is more or less banished from the kingdom after being a particularly unpleasant dinner guest, but things take an unexpected turn when she learns that there are OTHER creatures just like her that call themselves Dark Feys and have lived in hiding all this time, but Queen Ingrith’s plans may just put an end to all that. Will Maleficent unmask Queen Ingrith’s evil plans and restore her place as a good guy once more, or will she embrace her outsider status and become the worst nightmare that Ingrith and the rest of the humans could ever face? What will the Dark Fey do to protect themselves, and will it be in the best interest of everyone else in this conflict; even Maleficent herself? Can we maybe get a movie where Queen Ingrith meets Queen Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman? I’m pretty sure that the combined efforts of Jolie and Thor wouldn’t be able to overcome THAT level of concentrated ham-tastic villainy.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Here’s the thing about the Pirates movies. Other than MAYBE the DCCU, it’s probably the most frustratingly simple conceit imaginable that they keep managing to screw up over and over again, so while some people may have a seething hatred for them (I wouldn’t blame you if you did), I find myself disappointed more than anything. Now credit to where it’s due. The first movie is still good, I like a lot of what they were doing with the second film, and I even think the fourth film was a marked improvement over the nadir that was At World’s End. In fact, the fourth film is the closest since the first film of what this franchise SHOULD be which is the cinematic equivalent of pulp adventure books like the Conan stories or John Carter of Mars; a universe comprised of interesting and diverse characters but with stories that can be enjoyed individually. Where Pirates started to screw up (and then self-imploded with the third one) was in trying to focus too much on continuity, MacGuffins, and character motivations that spanned MULTIPLE films; all of which made it almost impossible to enjoy the second and third ones on their own and why the fourth one felt like an okay start to a new direction for this franchise. Will they continue that trend with this new one? Well… probably not considering that Will and Elizabeth are returning to the series which presumably means a whole lot baggage is coming along with them, but let’s find out!!
The movie picks up several years after the events of On Stranger Tides, though more importantly for the purposes of this story, after the events of At World’s End as we have the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner (Orland Bloom and Keira Knightley) named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) trying desperately to break the curse on his father that has imprisoned him as the Captain of the Flying Dutchman. While working for the British Navy, the ship he’s training on crashes face first into THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE (wouldn’t you want to AVOID something named that?) and he’s left as the sole survivor of an attack by the ghostly crew of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem). Now Henry has been looking for Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) for some time to see if he has some insight into saving his father and Captain Salazar manages to suss this out, so on top of leaving him as the sole survivor in order to spread his legend, he ALSO want him to give Jack a lesson when he finds him; mainly that he plans on killing that guy the first chance he gets. Now after that prologue, we jump to the Island of Massive Coincidences where Jack just so happens to be wasting his days away drinking rum and there also JUST SO HAPPENS to be a woman named Cariana Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who may have the answer to finding the GREATEST TREASURE OF THEM ALL and exactly what Henry needs to break his father’s curse. Oh, and Henry JUST SO HAPPENS to be sent to this island after he’s found by the British Navy because why not. I won’t spoil much more at this point (mostly to keep this mercifully short) but by the start of the second act, Jack, Henry, Carina, and a few salty sea dogs (including Joshamee Gibbs played by Kevin McNally who’s been a staple of this series since the beginning), are sailing towards this mysterious treasure known as The Trident of Poseidon which can possibly break Will’s curse. They aren’t the only ones headed in that direction however as Captain Salazar is after Jack, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is KIND OF after Jack, and some dude from the British Navy (David Wenham) is after all of them so he can throw them in jail. Will Jack Sparrow manage to find this treasure and also avoid the wrath of Salazar who just so happens to have a grudge against him? What exactly did Jack do to Salazar in order to gain his ire, and how far will he go for revenge? Do these movies REALLY need to be this complicated every single freaking time!?