Top Gun: Maverick (2022): Tom Cruise Pilots His Way Through a High Flying Sequel

“Top Gun: Maverick” is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) and stars Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible, Risky Business), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk), Miles Teller (Whiplash, Fantastic Four), Jon Hamm (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Baby Driver), Glen Powell (Scream Queens, Hidden Figures), Lewis Pullman (The Strangers: Prey at Night, Bad Times at the El Royale), Ed Harris (Dumb and Dumber, Apollo 13), and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). This film is a sequel over three and a half decades in the making, and follows Pete Mitchell once again as he finds himself in a situation where he teaches younger fighter pilots at Top Gun, including the son of someone he previously flew alongside, making matters personal.

“Top Gun” is a weird movie. I imagine that some people consider it to either be their favorite Tom Cruise movie or maybe even their favorite movie in general. To me, it’s neither. It’s a solid film, but in terms of Cruise’s filmography, it ranks down the middle for me. For all I know, part of why people like it so much could be for nostalgic reasons. I did not grow up in the 1980s, and if you want me to be real, looking back at “Top Gun,” despite the film’s evident advancements in capturing cinematic dogfighting, it feels like a product of its time. It has some cheesy dialogue here and there, the songs feel very much out of the 1980s time period, and the stakes for me did not feel as high as other movies. Then again, it is hard to have stakes when you have fighter pilots that are not actually going up against other fighter pilots, for the most part. But I will also give “Top Gun” credit because for a film where there is almost no threat to begin with, the film still has plenty of intrigue and gives us enough reasons to care for the characters, and not just because they are spiking volleyballs without shirts on.

The best thing about this sequel is that it successfully builds off of a key point of the original. Despite what I said about the stakes being low, there is a moment in the original movie where the main character of Pete Mitchell has to face an event with potentially dire consequences. Thankfully for him, the consequences are not as bad as they could have been. That is, until the events of “Top Gun: Maverick,” where they come back to haunt him, in addition to haunting one of his students.

I am glad that this movie has as good of a story as it does, because without those things, the movie would still be watchable for what it is, but I am satisfied to say that “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a movie that mainly relies on big, loud spectacle, and instead, blends such a thing perfectly into the material written for its respective pages.

On that note, however, my biggest positive for “Top Gun: Maverick” is the spectacle. Through my six years on Scene Before, I have always forwarded a singular thought. Movies are ALWAYS better in the theater. Even a movie as terrible as 2019’s “Cats” is better in a theater because of the weird spectacle. That said, if there is any movie that I recommend you go see in a theater right now, I not only recommend “Top Gun: Maverick,” but this movie commands your attention and it is one you need to see on the biggest screen you can. I had the privilege of going to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at a true IMAX cinema ten minutes from where I live. It was their first weekend open since the beginning of the pandemic, and walking out of the theater, I could barely even move because of how boisterous this movie was. And this movie was not boisterous because it looked like yet another cranked out Hollywood production with tons of digitzed effects, but because a lot of it was actually done for real.

Many of the film’s actors ended up using and flying real planes throughout the film. In an age where more and more movies are relying on green screen, or more recently, StageCraft, it is thrilling to see a film that pushes the boundaries of human limitations while also putting a pinch of reality in our fantasies. Tom Cruise, unsurprisingly, pilots a plane in this film. There are restrictions to his piloting, but knowing and seeing that only enhances the final product. I have had conversations with people where they said Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perhaps the manliest person alive. Sure, he’s got the LOOKS of a man with his big strong arms and attractive bald head. But let me know when he pilots a real military jet for audiences around the world to witness, as they bite their nails thinking, “this is the part where he crashes, isn’t it?”. No, seriously. I have watched a lot of movies. Between the previous “Mission: Impossible” and this movie, Tom Cruise is on a trend where he continues to captivate me harder into a scene than most actors, including ones that are perhaps more likely to be nominated for Oscars. And it is not because of how he goes through a scene delivering his dialogue, managing his physicality, and keeping his fellow actors in check. It is because of how much of a daredevil he has become over the years. Even in movies that were not well received like “The Mummy,” you could still look at Tom Cruise’s stuntwork and recognize the effort put into it. I am not saying “Top Gun: Maverick” is my favorite movie of the year. But it is a contender for the movie I will thinking about this year the most in terms of how it has projected me into an environment where I may has well been so close to falling to my death. For that reason alone, you should see “Top Gun: Maverick” on the biggest screen you can find.

However, “Top Gun: Maverick” also faces a problem depending on how you look at things. The movie, even though I believe modern audiences will enjoy it, gets too caught up in the good old days. The opening scene, while an amazing welcoming back to the “Top Gun” universe, only works because of how much it rips off the original movie. The midpoint of the film features an incredible scene between two characters. I will not say much more, but let’s just say that I, an aspiring writer, could not have written a better, more engaging scene between these two characters. You will know it when you see it.

However, there is another moment where everyone starts singing a particular song that did not feel authentic. It felt like nostalgia bait for the sake of nostalgia bait. There are movies that tend to rely on fan service and nostalgia that do such things well. I think “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did it well when that movie came out. “Top Gun: Maverick” on the other hand, was a little on the nose and it did not land as well as it could have. Some might enjoy it, some might not. Although I thought it was great to hear “Danger Zone” once again. But that also goes to show how one can be emotionally attached to something and therefore perceive something as good. I liked the original “Top Gun,” but I never thought it was my favorite movie. The original “Star Wars” trilogy was something I watched incessantly as a kid, enjoyed immensely, and therefore it is part of why I felt a spark of joy when certain things happened in “The Force Awakens.”

That’s a minor nitpick, but I want to point out a couple things in regard to this film’s depth. First off, I think at times, the relationship between the characters of Pete Mitchell and Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) felt a tad forced at times. They had chemistry, but it was overall very off and on. I personally think Cruise had better chemistry with Kelly McGillis’s character of Charlie back in the 1986 predecessor. In my review for the original “Top Gun,” I said that I learned of Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, the actors, not getting along on set. Having searched more information on that as of recently, I would not know if that is actually true because the only source I have telling me that as of recently is the “Top Gun” IMDb page, which may not be the most reliable place to base one’s information. I will note that McGillis spoke out regarding this love interest shift not long ago, saying she is happy for Jennifer Connelly, so I am glad to see there are no hard feelings.

Speaking of depth, let’s talk about the enemy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” There are multiple references to “the enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” We do not know who they are. Apparently this is also the case in the original movie where the Top Gun pilots have to go into actual combat against another force. In today’s age, I kind of get why they never specifically identify an “enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” The film business is about money, and if Paramount makes a “Top Gun” movie where they identify Germany as the enemy, then chances are they are never going to release the film in Germany as it would tick some people off. If the movie identifies Japan as the enemy, then they can kiss a Japanese release goodbye as some viewers would probably dislike seeing their country as the antagonist. Maybe this is to suggest that the pilots could go up against multiple enemies at the same time, but nevertheless. At a certain point of the movie, there is one specific enemy force that comes into play, but again, we do not know who they are. This movie is fiction, it is not based on actual war. It is not like we are watching “Dunkirk” or “The Patriot” where the sides are specific of an actual time and place, even if they involve fictional characters to further the story along. That said, even though I prefer the story of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the original, it is not free from nitpicks. Even so, you should see this movie. I give it a thumbs up, and I think it is a film that almost anyone can have a good time watching.

In the end, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a blockbuster you should see this summer on the biggest screen possible. I do recommend watching the original first as it does help you appreciate the story of this sequel more, there are many ways to watch “Top Gun” from home, but I do not recommend skipping out on “Top Gun: Maverick” during its theatrical run. Do not wait for Paramount+, do not wait for VOD, do not wait for the Blu-ray. If you are going to watch this movie, find the biggest screen with the loudest sound you can. Buy some popcorn, grab a soda, have a good time. Take your friends, take your family, this is certainly a crowd-pleasing movie that delivers the thrills. As of writing this review, I have tickets to go see this movie a second time with someone close to me. I am going to give “Top Gun: Maverick,” despite my nitpicks, a really high 7/10.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including large formats like IMAX and Dolby. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for “Top Gun: Maverick” and want to see more of my thoughts on the franchise, check out my review that I did in 2020 for the original “Top Gun” as part of my special Tom Cruise Month! Fun fact, I did this special partially because “Top Gun: Maverick” was not able to come out in 2020! Also coming up on Scene Before, I have two reviews on deck. Pretty soon you will see my thoughts on the new Netflix film “Hustle,” starring Adam Sandler as a basketball scout. My next review after that will be for one my most anticipated movies of the year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I waited forever to see this film, I finally got to watch it with my dad last night, and I promise you I have plenty to say about it. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun: Maverick?” What did you think about it? Or, which is the better movie? “Top Gun” or “Top Gun: Maverick?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): Jack Sparrow’s Least Memorable Quest Yet

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the fifth and final installment in the ongoing review series “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” So far, each film I have talked about has impressed me in one way or another. I cannot say any of them were totally perfect, but I do recommend them for various reasons. If you want to find out more about why I recommend these movies, read my reviews for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and “On Stranger Tides.” Now with that out of the way, it is time to talk about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, two directors known for their work on 2012’s “Kon Tiki.” This film stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, No Country For Old Men) Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo) Brenton Thwaites (The Giver, Gods of Egypt), Kaya Scodelario (Skins, The Maze Runner), and Kevin McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy). “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth installment to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow as he is pursued by a notable, ongoing threat, Captain Salazar, who was killed some time ago by Sparrow but now he returns to end Jack Sparrow’s life.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So far, the “Pirates” films have all been at the very least… “competent.” Even “Dead Man’s Chest,” which I ended up giving a 6/10, still had its moments of joy and fun. I think Gore Verbinski did a wonderful job at finding a fascinating balance between goofiness and seriousness with the first three films, even though as the trilogy progressed, the darkness kept creeping up. Although given my personal tastes, I would not call that a huge negative. As mentioned in my review for “On Stranger Tides,” Rob Marshall took on directing duties for that particular installment, which ended up providing mixed results. I enjoyed the movie. It’s a serviceable “Pirates” adventure, but I feel like Marshall, the writers, and Disney spent more time trying to think about how the film could look good in 3D as opposed to crafting a story, which is kind of unfortunate because I was rather interested in the Fountain of Youth concept.

On that note, I will address that my first positive regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” despite it ultimately being released in 3D, the directors of the film did a better job at not going over the top in terms of making the film feel more like a gimmick. At the same time though I will jump to my first negative, this film is arguably my least favorite film in the “Pirates” franchise in terms of story.

On paper, I feel like this fifth film was made more or less to get people paid rather than provide an entertaining experience. I mean, come on! Was everyone so desperate for a fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? But as I have learned with “The LEGO Movie,” any movie can work if you execute it properly. Did they properly execute “Dead Men Tell No Tales?”

Well, kinda. Like all the other “Pirates” films, this is an enjoyable watch. But it may also arguably be the one of the bunch that has the least potential in terms of replay value. Or at least replay value mixed with excitement. I do like how they go down the Turner lineage in this film. In the original movies we obviously see Orlando Bloom play Will Turner, a character who I have grown to admire throughout the franchise. Unfortunately, he did not have a presence in the fourth movie. In this fifth installment, we mainly focus on his son, Henry Turner. We see him early on, he’s ordered by Captain Salazar to deliver a message to Sparrow. Then we eventually see him alongside Sparrow throughout the film. I think Thwaites is one of those actors who definitely has the physique, or lack thereof in this case mixed in with some hints of charisma, to play the type of character a script like this one needs. I did not like “Gods of Egypt.” I think it is one of the worst films to have come out in 2016. But the main problem was not Brenton Thwaites as a performer. I think of the direction given to him and some of the other cast members is a hindrance on the film itself, but Thwaites is not the problem. In the same way, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is probably my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. But there are also things to like about it, Brenton Thwaites’s performance is in fact one of those things. Although when it comes to Turners, Henry is no Will. I feel like Orlando Bloom was born to play Will Turner. As much of a match Thwaites is as his son, Will’s just a slightly more likable character. I bought Orlando Bloom as a brave apprentice in “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and ever since he has grown on me. If they make a “Pirates 6,” which seems less likely by the day given what’s going on with Johnny Depp, who does a good job in the movie, I would be curious to see Henry Turner again, I just don’t know if he’ll maintain the charisma that his father had.

If you want to get a simple perspective of my thoughts on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” I will just sum it up like this. Even though “Dead Man’s Chest” earned a lower grade than the other four films I reviewed before this one, I at least remember a good portion of that film. I am increasingly forgetting “Dead Men Tell No Tales” by the second. It’s not that I want to forget it. It’s just not as great of a film as maybe I would have hoped to have gotten. In fact one of my complaints regarding “Dead Man’s Chest” that is also one of my complaints regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is that Jack Sparrow goes through this event where he almost arguably should die. Now, it’s probably not as absurd as the one in “Dead Man’s Chest,” where we see Jack falling from such an enormous height and being completely okay. But if I put myself in another mindset, it also kind of is more absurd. It’s hard to compare these two unrealistic events in terms of which one ticks me off more. I’m not gonna say exactly what happens, but if you’ve seen “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” you probably know what I am referring to as soon as I say the word “guillotine.”

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I think if there’s one thing that I like about “Dead Men Tell No Tales” it’s that there is a sense of maintained consistency between this film and all the other ones that have been done so far. A lot of the familiar music returns in this installment. Some characters like Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Gibbs return as their charismatic selves. Per usual, the movie does make me want to immerse myself in a high-seas adventure. Although I feel like the fun that I had in this film is a far cry from the fun I had with say “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” The supporting characters in this film, and I will also admit that the first movie had this problem to a degree, were not as fascinating as the script was trying to make them out to be. Although I do think Kaya Scodelario and once again, Brenton Thwaites, gave competent performances.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, I have already forgotten a good portion of “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and I did not want to say that. This is easily my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. I do want to watch it again at some point. Maybe it’s better the second time, but based on the collective consensus, I think most people would agree with my statement. The film looks good, sounds good, is performed decently, but they just couldn’t stick the landing. It seems as if the directors did everything they could to recapture the magic of the original movie, but as they tried to do it, they just ended up making something that would make me tune out every now and then. The vibe is okay, I just wish that it were in a better movie. Do I want to see a “Pirates 6?” I wouldn’t say no. But if we do get one, I just hope it’s better than this. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” a 5/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. You can also subscribe to Disney+ and watch the movie there at your convenience.

Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks for tuning in to my “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews! Speaking of Disney theme park rides, be sure to stay tuned for my eventual review of “Jungle Cruise.” It won’t be my next post, I still have to review “Snake Eyes.” But it is coming!

Also, stay tuned for August because I will be diving into a cult classic series that I often look back on, “Revenge of the Nerds.” That’s right! On August 9th, we will be doing a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” This means on Monday, August 9th, I will be talking about the first “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, which has become one of my more rewatched comedies in recent years. On August 16th, I’ll be discussing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” AND YES, I’ll even discuss the TV films. Look forward to my reviews of “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” on August 23rd and “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” on August 30th. I’m doing this review series, in addition to a bunch of others in honor Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. I have always wanted to do a “Revenge of the Nerds” themed month, so I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this long-awaited series. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales?” What did you think about it? Or, give me your ranking of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films from best to worst. Which swashbuckling adventure is following its compass into the right direction? Which high-seas escape sinks into the ocean? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011): A Time of Battle, Piracy, and Three Dimensions

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today we continue sailing the high seas and venturing forth on our quest to complete the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Just want to remind you, if you have not already, check out my reviews for the “Pirates” films I have covered so far including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” and “At World’s End.” Just a reminder for the “At World’s End” review, it does contain spoilers. This week, we will be discussing “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment in the franchise and the first one without Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, or Gore Verbinski, otherwise known as the director of the past three films. Can director Rob Marshall craft a fine “Pirates” adventure? Find out in my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland), Penélope Cruz (Volver, Vanilla Sky), Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Deadwood), Kevin R. McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy), and Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo). This film is the fourth installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow and Barbossa as they go on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Meanwhile, franchise newcomers Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penélope Cruz) are after the fountain too. The film was also interestingly enough inspired by the book, “On Stranger Tides.”

After watching three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films that are not only done by one man with a singular vision, but crafted almost as if there was a whole story that could have arguably been told in three movies of buildup. Now as we get into this fourth film, it feels like we are in a clean slate. We’re starting fresh with a new director and a ton of money. No, seriously. This film is the most expensive ever made at a grand total of $379 million (before gross). Part of it has to do with Johnny Depp, but still, if you watch the film, you’ll know that it ain’t cheap. In fact, this is also the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film released in 3D in addition to IMAX 3D. We’ll get into that aspect of the film for sure.

One of the reasons why I was somewhat nervous going into “On Stranger Tides” is that Gore Verbinski’s name was not attached. After all, his touch was complete, at least from what I would expect. However, the writers of the original films, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio returned to do this project. To know that these two returned pleased me to say the least. In a world of unneeded sequels, was “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” worth watching?

I’d say it was.

While I won’t say this film is as rewatchable as “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End,” the film is nevertheless a fun addition to a franchise that has become perhaps the definition of a modern pirate movie. Seriously, what else comes to mind nowadays? It was fun to see the franchise utilize one of the most famous pirates in history, Blackbeard, played wonderfully by Ian McShane. One of the things that I often note that “Pirates” does spectacularly is a balance between seriousness and goofiness. There are multiple scenes where we see Sparrow and Blackbeard together and I often note that Sparrow has the goofier traits at hand and Blackbeard is more grounded. I like that this franchise is keeping the balance together and not letting this see-saw collapse.

The best parts of this movie are not necessarily the story or anything of extended concept. The reality is that this film’s best parts come from concepts that resemble obstacles. There’s a scene where we some pirates on a boat facing a ton of mermaids, which was spooky and somewhat action-packed. There was a clip of the film where Jack and Barbossa are on a boat and they could barely move a muscle and the boat would nearly fall in such a dramatic fashion. The film also started off with a really entertaining sequence in Britain. We see Jack trying to rescue Joshamee Gibbs, he’s interacting with King George II while still maintaining his goofy stride. There’s a chaotic yet decently choreographed action sequence towards the end, it’s a fun welcoming back to the “Pirates” franchise. Meanwhile, not long afterwards, we are introduced Penélope Cruz as Angelica. I think she brought the same swift, swashbuckling swagger that say Orlando Bloom did in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. This also brings me to my next compliment. I am pleased to know that this film manages to craft an interesting story despite not having Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, who play two of my favorite characters in the franchise. Do I prefer those two over Penélope Cruz? Absolutely. They are incredible actors who play characters who I have grown to appreciate. But to know that this film, not to mention franchise, can work without them, goes to show that maybe even the most unnecessary movies can work. Did we need a fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? Not really. Then again, what movie is necessary to begin with? But the point is, this movie managed to entertain me without relying on everything that made “Pirates” great to begin with. It goes to show that the franchise is capable of evolving.

Once again, I cannot go on without noting Johnny Depp, that expensive son of a gun. For the record, Depp was paid $55 million. Was his performance truly worth $55 million? As far as big fantasy style movies go, it is arguable. I am not going to address anything regarding the current controversy regarding him and Amber Heard, but I will address that Depp has practically aced his Jack Sparrow character every single time. While I think his performance in “At World’s End” may honestly be my favorite from him, his dive into the character “On Stranger Tides” does not disappoint. I’d also say that this may be, and it feels weird to say this, the most relatable that Jack Sparrow has been in the franchise. Yes, he continues revealing unusual quirks that only he could possess, but still.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” Blackbeard (Ian McShane) Photo: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Although I do want to address something. I missed this movie in the theater, and part of me regrets not going. Because this film came out during a time where 3D basically dominated the big screen. Every other movie that came out at this point in time was either shot in 3D like “Avatar” or converted to 3D like “Clash of the Titans.” In the case of “Pirates 4,” this film was shot with the Fusion Camera System, so it was filmed in 3D off the bat and did not need any conversion in post-production. First off, I wish in a world where 3D still has slight relevancy that we get more films that are actually shot for the 3D experience instead of being post-converted. Second, I feel like the 3D in “On Stranger Tides,” while somewhat pleasing to the eye, occasionally felt forced. There are a few scenes in the film where there’s swords pointing at the lens and it’s basically an invitation for viewers to take their hand out and touch it. Once again, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is the most expensive film of all time. If they spent all this money on making the film 3D for nothing more than a cheap gimmick, then what’s the point? I want to watch the film in 3D at some point. I do have the 3D Blu-ray disc, but I do not have a 3D TV. Part of me is curious as to how much the 3D could enhance the movie for me. However, the gimmick does not take much away from the fun I had watching the movie, and believe when I say that the film itself is a lot of fun. The action’s great, it’s clever, Johnny Depp is really good in it, and the cinematography is eye-popping. In fact, Dariusz Wolski, who did the cinematography for all the other “Pirates” films returned to do this one, so to say that this film looks nice is not a surprise.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is a fun, expensive thrill ride. Some of the original cast has returned and gave it their best. Penélope Cruz is a welcome addition to the franchise. Rob Marshall did an okay job helming the film between balancing the light and dark vibes together, crafting magnificent sequences, and delivering another great performance out of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. Is it as memorable as some of the other films? I would not say so, but in its own way, it is a fun time, and I personally think it is better than “Dead Man’s Chest.” Was the 3D necessary? I don’t think so. But it did not take away from the enjoyment I had watching this film. I will also add, unsurprisingly, Hans Zimmer delivered a great score and I love his theme for Blackbeard. I think it is one of the best tunes in this entire franchise. I am going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray. The film is also available on Disney+ and as of writing this, it is also available on Starz.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes week 4 of 5 in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. Next Thursday, July 29th, I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the most recent installment in the franchise. This is the last “Pirates” movie I will be discussing in preparation for another film inspired by a Disney theme park ride, “Jungle Cruise,” which will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30th. Expect a review for that movie soon. I might plan on seeing it opening Thursday depending on how my schedule unfolds. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you thought was made better by seeing it in 3D? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007): Gore Verbinski’s Swashbuckling Trilogy Comes to a Crazy End *SPOILERS*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the third installment of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that if you want to read my reviews for the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, you can click the highlighted links to read my thoughts on “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and “Dead Man’s Chest.” Also speaking of my reviews, click the following highlighted link to check out my review for “Black Widow.” But enough about the past. Let’s focus on the present! Well, by going back to 2007. It is time to talk about Gore Verbinski’s third, and depending on what his future career choices may be, final “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, “At World’s End!”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, King Arthur), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Chow Yun-fat (The Killer, Hard Boiled), Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo), Jack Davenport (This Life, Coupling) Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, Conspiracy), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film is the third installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann as they search for Jack Sparrow. After a long, hard search, Sparrow and others must unite and form alliances to save piracy in one last battle.

If you read my reviews for the previous two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, you’d know that I enjoyed both of them. I think the first is far better than the second, but it does not take away from some of the fun that the second does provide, especially in the second half with the kraken. One of the best parts of the second movie is the way it ended, because it left us on a cliffhanger that teased the third movie and managed to do so in an exciting way. Evidently, this was supposed to be the end of a planned trilogy given how Gore Verbinski helmed the first two films and came back to do this one. You may notice that he has not directed “On Stranger Tides” or “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” but we’ll probably talk about that more once we get to those films depending on whether or not it is truly worth addressing.

As for this third movie, a lot is riding on this between a couple films of build up, a popular IP, and a $300 million budget. Just for context, that budget is higher than all three “Lord of the Rings” films combined. This budget is higher than every “Star Wars” movie ever made. At the time this film came out, it was the most expensive movie ever made. The only movies that have ever had a higher budget are the three most recent “Avengers” movies and weirdly enough, this film’s sequel, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Granted, this big gamble paid off, partially because it became the highest-grossing film of 2007 with a worldwide total of $960.9 million at the box office. But also because unlike another $300 million film, “Justice League,” which at times looked rather fabricated and artificial, this film maximizes the use of its bloated budget into crafting an insane finale and one dazzling sequence after another.

Of the few films that we have seen so far in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, this perhaps has my favorite opening of all of them. This is because we get a sense of the dark times ahead and a reminder that in the case of this film’s story, there is a solid chance that no pirate is safe. The film did a really good job at establishing a potential threat and made me curious to see where things could potentially go from scene one.

Although one thing that has been consistent in all three films so far is that even though there are varying dark themes and moments, they have all been balanced in this weird, but also delightful vibe where the movie is nearly unashamedly goofy. I said this has worked in the first film, it’s worked less in the second film, but in this third film, Gore Verbinski and crew did a good job at making me believe that what I was seeing could actually happen in this universe. While Jack Sparrow as a character has obviously changed from one film to the next, there are glimmers of his personality that feel permanent and signature to his character. The film has this thing where we see multiple Jacks, where in reality this is an effect of Sparrow being consumed by Davy Jones, and it is almost the most “Jack Sparrow” thing to happen in this franchise yet.

Speaking of which, I may be beating a dead horse, but when it comes to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow, there is no denying his abilities to encapsulate a character like this. Despite being a live-action movie, Depp’s performances in this franchise have always had some feel of hyperactive animation within them. This is not a bad thing, nor is it too surprising considering how this comes from the Disney brand, where goofiness and lightheartedness has been known as one of their strengths, but I find it fascinating how we have this dark, intense, PG-13 film and one of the first things that comes to mind is a character as goofy as Jack Sparrow, and I mean that as a positive. If “The Princess Bride” were made today and turned into a trilogy, Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies would be quite the comparative.

But oh my gawd. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE CLIMAX. HOLY F*CKEROO ON A S*ITFACE CRACKER IS IT EVER EXCITING! As mentioned before, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” has a production budget of $300 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made, and it freaking delivered! The final hour of this movie, while not part of one of the best movies I have ever seen, has to be one of the most exciting things I can remember seeing in cinema. This is a big budget battle for the ages. So much is happening at once between people swinging in the air, Sparrow and Jones duking it out on a ledge with swords, character arcs coming full circle in satisfying ways, Calypso going crazy and intensifying things even further, and perhaps the craziest marriage proposal I have seen EVER.

SPOILER ALERT, although this movie is over a decade old, so who cares? Will Turner proposes to Elizabeth Swann. The two have been love interests since the first movie and there is a point where these two are fighting for their lives and could potentially die any second. Will Turner just pops the question and it is followed by Elizabeth Swann reasonably asking, “Do you think now is the best time?!” Guess what, in just a split second, Barbossa is right in front of them OFFICIATING A WEDDING! It may just be the most wonderfully insane, romantic, and flat out fantastical thing I have seen in cinematic history. I know some weddings can be crazy. Tell me the last time two people were wed like this! For the record, swords are flying in these two people’s faces, another ship is attacking the ship they’re on, and if that’s not enough, they’re in a freaking whirlpool! BEST. WEDDING. EVER.

If there is ever a film that I think my mind will positively dart to as wonderfully expensive, and not just going balls to the wall with the budget just because it can, this would probably be the one. Well, maybe this and “Avengers: Endgame.” Granted, it is not perfect. Like the other two films, it is long, but I also will say that the pacing for this film is arguably the best in the franchise given how little boredom I’ve had in a near 3 hour runtime. This film is everything a movie like this should be on the surface. Dark, silly, and fun! And by the end of it, the whole thing becomes a rollercoaster. Both literally and emotionally.

I also want to note this scene, which may just be this franchise’s greatest exchange yet.

This is accurate! This is spectacular!

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is an extended but thrilling conclusion to Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. If anything, the big question on my mind is which film am I more likely to watch again? “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End?” Because I really like both movies for different reasons. I feel like as a story I will go back to watch “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” It is finely tuned from start to finish with great characters. “At World’s End” has an okay story too, but by the end of it, it is more focused on spectacle than anything else, which is not a bad thing because the spectacle is bloody fantastic. I mean seriously! The budget for “At World’s End” is more than double what it cost to make “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and somehow it does not feel like a gimmick. Granted, I’m sure the actors like Johnny Depp had something to do with it, but still. The movie earns its budget, and by the end, it therefore earns my respect. Technically speaking, this film is wonderful from the effects to the framing to Hans Zimmer’s score, it is all worth my three hours. For that, I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray and you can also watch it on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Now that we’ve finished talking about Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, it is time to move onto a new director, Rob Marshall, as he takes on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which stands today as the most expensive film ever produced. Is it truly worth the money? Find out in my fourth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews,” coming Thursday, July 22nd.

Also, I want to remind everyone that next week I will have a review up for “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” starring LeBron James, the long-awaited sequel to the 1996 original starring Michael Jordan. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End?” What did you think about it? Or, of the three Gore Verbinski “Pirates” films, which is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006): Jack Sparrow Goes Bigger, and the Rules Get Dumber

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second entry of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” Today, we will be diving into the second film in the franchise, “Dead Man’s Chest.” If you read my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” you’d know that I had a lot of fun with that film. It’s a solid mix of old fashioned Disney vibes mixed in with some darker and more mature elements to create something special. Can this sequel capture the same feeling that I got from the original? Here’s my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. This sequel once again stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood) as Jack Sparrow alongside Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, King Arthur), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Jack Davenport (This Life, Coupling), Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, Conspiracy), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film once again follows Jack Sparrow as he embarks on a quest to find the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving himself to his service. Meanwhile, others are after the heart as well, but for their own reasons.

I really enjoyed the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. It’s pretty to look at, it’s fun to watch, it is overall simply crafted with a sense of sheer magnificence. Gore Verbinski did a good job at not just making a great film that I will likely watch again in the future, but also finding a fine line between genius and stupid. In my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” I pointed out that if anything, the film is essentially a modern day version of “The Princess Bride” because it is a great watch for both kids and adults, it’s got terrific sword fights, and both films seem to place themselves in a position where they can be goofy while also realizing it can be smart. When it comes to Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, I will stand by him being perfectly cast, and his presence in this sequel certainly proves my point. Jack Sparrow feels like a role that only someone like Johnny Depp can play. I cannot imagine anyone else taking on this role after watching these two films.

Unfortunately, this sequel is not as good as the original, as the old saying goes. However, it is not a bad movie. The second half is what kept my attention. This is not to say that the first half was bad, but compared to the second, it is kind of forgettable. On top of that, the one specific part that I remember most from the first half is perhaps the film’s biggest deterrent. In the current post-modern era, there is a tendency from studios, distributors, and producers to constantly create content that lacks originality. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. In case of these first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, I’d say it’s a good thing, but it does not mean it is perfect.

As you may or may not know, this property started out as a theme park ride. A lot of movies these days tend to have a theme park-like experience. The Marvel movies are varying visual feasts for the eyes and ears. The “Fast & Furious” movies are ridiculous in concept and crazy in execution because of their messing with physics and what could be done with supercharged cars. In fact, “F9” honestly took that theme park-esque experience a little too far for me to continually suspend my disbelief. Honestly, I do not know where the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies are going to go, but part of me worries that they’re going to go down the same path that “Fast & Furious” followed since the fourth movie. Now to be clear, I am not saying that every “Fast & Furious” has sucked since the fourth one. The only installment I hated since the fourth one is “F9.” But the reason why I hated “F9” is because each film manages to surpass the last in some degree of absurdity that it is too much for my brain to handle. There’s one or two scenes in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” where Jack Sparrow arguably should have been seriously injured or dead, but he isn’t! He walks off every other incident as if nothing happened! I am keeping an open mind at this point given how this is a fantasy film, but this is nevertheless something that does irk me internally. The first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, even though it was a bit ridiculous, it still felt like there were rules. In “Dead Man’s Chest,” there is less verisimilitude and a greater sense of absurdity.

This complaint does not take anything away from the fun that I had.

Throughout, the film has a lot of the strengths that the first one has. Some great lead characters. No seriously, I love Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom when they’re put together. I think they would make a great pair for a buddy cop movie one day. The visuals are breathtaking and hold up fifteen years later. In fact, I am not totally surprised considering how this film happened to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar for the year it came out. The entire encounter with the kraken is worth the watch alone. Keira Knightley is back as Elizabeth Swann and I really liked seeing her here too. There’s this funny scene towards the end of the film where Sparrow is supposedly flirting with her and her reactions to this are one of the better parts of the movie.

As for new characters, this movie adds Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, and I think she was a perfect addition to this movie. She has this fantastical presence to her that could only work in a movie like this. I’m not gonna lie, by the end of the movie, I almost had a crush on the character. Naomie Harris shines as this mysterious being who used to be a sea goddess, Calypso specifically, and her voice is perfect for someone who helps someone else who happens to be trying to fulfill their destiny. I like this character and of the many supporting characters this franchise has introduced so far, this one was perfectly cast.

Without spoiling anything, I also really like the way they end the film. It is exciting, thrilling, and gets me stoked to see the third movie the more I think about it. I feel like Gore Verbinski is really passionate about everything that he has put to screen in these first two films and he has a serious idea on the direction to take the third film. They got a couple of the writers who worked on the first film to come back as well. Something tells me they all work very well together and love what they do. I am very excited to see where they go from here.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is worth a watch, but compared to “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” it is not exactly as Shakespearean. “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” despite being in the fantasy genre like “Dead Man’s Chest,” seemed to acknowledge that there were some rules that had to be followed. Maybe if I were a young kid watching this I’d let the absurdity of the film fly over my head, but at this point, it didn’t, and it is a reason why the movie lost some points. Nevertheless this is a serviceable sequel with a kick-ass second half. I cannot wait for the third movie, part of me thinks that it will be better than this one. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” a 6/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray, and you can also watch the film on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week we dive into the deep waters of world’s end! My review for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” will be available on Thursday, July 15th! Stay tuned!

This weekend I have a couple new posts coming your way including a brand new installment to the CINEOLOGY podcast, where I am once again joined by my good friend Millie as we talk movies. Also, I will have a review up for one of the biggest movies of the summer, “Black Widow!” The film drops in theaters and on Disney+ this weekend, I’ve already got my tickets, and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this movie that we REALLY should have gotten three or four years ago! I cannot wait to see this! I love Marvel! I love Scarlett Johansson! I love the fact that we are getting big movies again! The experience will hopefully be worth the wait! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before follow either with an email or WordPress account or check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Johnny Depp film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): Jack Drees Reviews Jack Sparrow

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for a brand new review series that will extend all the way to the end of July, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CHEST OF REVIEWS! Today we will be focusing on the first movie in the franchise, “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Unlike the previous series of old movie reviews done on Scene Before, otherwise known as the 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS series, I have much less familiarity with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. So for a few of these movies, I will be getting a fresh take. Without further ado, let’s dive into my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is directed by Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, The Ring) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood), Geoffrey Rush (The Devil’s Rejects, Double Impact), Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film is based on a Disney theme park ride and follows Jack Sparrow, an eccentric captain who joins forces with blacksmith Will Turner to save Elizabeth Turner, otherwise known as the governor’s daughter, and fend off some undead pirate allies.

My first time watching “The Curse of the Black Pearl” occurred when I was eight years old. I just came back from a trip to Disney World, and one of the more fun memories I had on that trip was getting to experience the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Naturally, it would only make sense that days later I would make the trip to my local Blockbuster and rent “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on DVD. I watched it once, and of course, since I had no concept of what a good or bad movie really was, I just took it as it went. Prior to this review, I have not watched “The Curse of the Black Pearl” since that Blockbuster rental period. Not even for fun. I have pretty much avoided the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise altogether. I had nothing against it. But it was just something I never dedicated my time towards. To me it is like “Game of Thrones.” I have not seen one episode, but I am trying to find a single time I can get myself in the mood to watch it. But, having owned the Blu-ray for a number of years, I figured now would be a good opportunity to utilize it. After all, I figured this would be one of the few review series I would tackle in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. So was my dive into Caribbean piracy worth it?

I’d say it was. I can see why people love this movie. It is fun, it’s nearly campy even though it does have a sense where it kind of takes itself seriously, and the actors are great in it from Johnny Depp to Orlando Bloom to Keira Knightley. This is also the first Disney feature to be rated PG-13, and I’d say that this was a solid introduction to slight maturity. The action in the film is pristine, seeing the chemistry between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner was a treat, and having seen this film in the 2020s, I do want to point out that looking back, I can see why Johnny Depp seemed like a good Willy Wonka on paper. Say what you want about the end result of that role. But Jack Sparrow was written with great balance of goofiness and seriousness that combine for a recipe of greatness.

To me, Jack Sparrow sort of reminded me of the very objective that Disney seems to pull off with its younger viewers. You know how kids often pretend to be their favorite characters or they’ll buy merch related to them or costumes overtime to play as them? You’ll see young girls as Cinderella or young boys playing with their Buzz Lightyear action figure? I felt like, even though we get that slice of seriousness within Jack Sparrow’s character, he’s almost like a young kid who really wants to be a pirate, but he does not understand the full gig so he just improvises in almost every other step. If anything, I think this is a good way to get younger viewers attached while balancing that PG-13 rating for the more mature viewers.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is between Depp and Bloom as they’re engaging in a duel. I’m watching this scene and it sort of takes me back to why I love “Star Wars” so much because it is a film that manages to find that fine line where almost anyone could end up watching it and enjoying it. This duel from the first half hour or so is a perfect combination of establishing your characters, what they want, what they need, and showing off their personalities. Jack Sparrow has this weirdly suave outlook to him because in actuality, he’s a flawed character, but he does the best he can to hide said flaws. It kind of reminds me of that show on HBO, “Avenue 5,” where we see main character, Ryan Clark, who is the captain of a ship, but he gets by as the captain more because of his personality rather than actually knowing any of the technical details that go into running a ship. Sparrow, from what I can suggest, is smarter than Ryan Clark on “Avenue 5,” but they share a tendency to establish themselves with their personality before anything else.

One more thing I want to point out, and I cannot go on without mentioning this, because I think anyone who has ever heard of “Pirates of the Caribbean” will get one thought in their head aside from Jack Sparrow and swashbuckling adventures, the theme music.

The music in “Pirates of the Caribbean” is too good for words. It is one of the best movie themes ever created. It is up there with “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” and “Inception” in terms of how epic and iconic the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme truly is. I can imagine myself driving my car into the ocean and listening to this until I inevitably realize that I am a terrible driver and need to reconsider whatever the heck it is that I’m doing. Klaus Badelt, you’re a mastermind.

If I had any major flaws with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” it would probably be that some of the supporting characters are somewhat forgettable. It’s like in “The Hobbit” where you have so many of them that it is difficult to keep track of them all. Plus Sparrow outshines them all significantly. Granted, he’s the lead, but it is still something to bring up. Other than that, this movie is a great first attempt for Disney making a PG-13 feature. If anything, I’d say that “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is a modern day “The Princess Bride.” Say what you want about the film’s timelessness, that is up for debate. But the film is great for both kids and adults, it’s got hypnotizing sword fights, and it does not always take itself seriously, which is not a bad thing. “Pirates” is a bit more serious than “Bride,” but it is worth noting that there is almost a tonal consistency from one film to the other despite being set in different universes.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is in a word… Fun. It’s good ol’ fashioned Disney fun for a slightly more mature audience. I often make fun of Disney because nowadays it almost feels as if they don’t have a single original idea in their tank. In fact, this whole review series is being done because Disney is coming out with “Jungle Cruise” in just a few weeks, which like this movie, is based on a theme park ride. But as much as I make fun of Disney for never going after original ideas with the exception of maybe Pixar, I will give them credit for movies like this where they take a concept that already exists and end up going balls to the wall with it. In short, I really enjoyed “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” I think Johnny Depp was perfectly cast as Jack Sparrow, and I am looking forward to talking about the sequels, even though I hear that they are not as good as this movie. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” an 8/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray, and you can also watch it on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” That review will be up on Thursday, July 8th, and stay tuned for more in the ongoing Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews series! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite PG-13 film from Disney? Yes, I’ll even count Lucasfilm, Marvel, or even any of the Fox stuff they own now. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Gun (1986): Jack Feels the Need. The Need For Scene!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! The 1980s has brought us some of the most culturally important films of all time. “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” “Back to the Future,” “The Terminator,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Princess Bride,” “Predator,” “The Breakfast Club,” and much more! The 1980s is also the decade where Tom Cruise’s film career began. Some of his credits from the time include “Endless Love,” “The Outsiders,” and “Risky Business.” However, I’d be willing to make the argument that when it comes to all the films Tom Cruise did in the 1980s, the one that still reigns as the highest in terms of cultural importance is “Top Gun,” which was supposed to have a sequel come out this week, only to be delayed due to COVID-19. Whether or not that sequel will be worth the wait is a question we’ll have to answer in due time. However, let’s not completely focus on the future, because when it comes to 2020, anything can happen and some things may be better left unmentioned. Instead, let’s go back to a time where the biggest worry for some may have been getting a ticket to see the latest movie where men fly planes and play volleyball. Ladies and gentlemen, strap yourselves in. This is entry #4. Feel the need. The need for scene! This is…

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Top Gun” is directed by Tony Scott (Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Kelly McGillis (Witness, Made in Heaven), Val Kilmer (The Doors, Batman Forever), Anthony Edwards (Revenge of the Nerds, It Takes Two), and Tom Skerritt (Alien, The Turning Point). The film is about a young Lieutenant who gets a chance to train alongside a fellow Radar Intercept Officer at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School in San Diego.

Prior to this review, I have only seen “Top Gun” one time. I bought a used Blu-ray Metalpak for the movie, mainly for the sake of having something cool on the collector’s shelf, but at the same time, I was intrigued enough to watch the movie a few weeks later when I had the time to waste. What I remember of that first experience is that I really enjoyed the soundtrack, the characters are well-performed by their respective actors, and there are a couple lines that stuck with me. I finally found out the meaning of “Talk to me Goose,” which I have heard in the past in a YouTube video, and the way it was delivered on screen felt satisfying. It also made the reference in 2018’s “Deadpool 2,” which I would end up watching and reviewing a year later, feel kinda classy.

On my second watch of the movie, the screen had my attention during just about every scene, likely suggesting that I was very intrigued by everything that was going on. All the characters are charming and likable, I think the main romance plot on the side was fun to watch as the two characters not only have great chemistry with each other, but where they stand outside of their connection plays a bit into the plot as well. Both Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis make for a great couple in this movie and I have come to appreciate them a little more the second time around. Although oddly enough, it does come as a bit of a shock as I have read on IMDb that the two seemingly did not get along during filming.

While this is not one of the movies well-known for Tom Cruise “doing his own stunts,” I was a bit impressed with some of the scenes in this movie that have a bit of wide open space, if that phrase even makes any sense. It’s a little more complicated way of saying that I enjoyed just about any scene that involved jet-flying. Funny enough, even though we know that Tom Cruise is practically the Buster Keaton of today, during his filming of “Top Gun,” the only actor who apparently did not vomit inside a plane was Anthony Edwards, who by the way does an excellent job playing Goose. Sticking with the topic of solid chemistry, Maverick and Goose make for a pretty fun pair. I rooted for both characters for each second they were on screen, and it is no wonder how this exchange became a noteworthy reference in popular culture.

MAVERICK: I feel the need…

MAVERICKGOOSE: …the need for speed!

Now, I want to dive into something that is kind of a problem, but also a blessing in disguise for this film in particular. There is no threat. Now, with any other movie I’d probably be wondering wherever the heck the stakes could be. But here, it somehow works, at least for the most part. You may be wondering why I am bringing this up. Because when it comes to the characters and how they deal with every situation at hand, it more or less just makes for pure fun more than anything else. I mean, this is a movie that starts off with a pilot flipping the bird at somebody else while his plane is rotated upside down! It’s fun! It’s a movie with a glamorous volleyball scene that makes you wanna go to the beach, and I say that as someone who is not even a beach person! It’s freaking fun! It’s a movie about bros doing… well, doing what bros do! IT’S F*CKING FUN! At times, this movie feels as if it does not necessarily need to take itself all that too seriously. And that’s fine, I’ve seen a few movies where this sort of thing works. Granted, if you know me, I much prefer a serious vibe of a film as opposed to one that goes over the top and exaggerates itself to the tenth degree. However, when it comes to “Top Gun,” it’s a movie that tells its audience that it is here to just have a fun couple of hours. Things are about to get nuts, strap yourselves in, have a lovely flight. Pun may absolutely be intended.

However, the climax of this film, is where the tone almost seemingly gets in the… DANGER ZONE! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! Aren’t I an evil genius?! I am the king of the world! C’mon, guys! It’s comedy!

I will say, I had no real problem with the film’s climax itself. It makes sense in terms of how the story builds itself up. In terms of how it is presented, how it is handled, it is structurally sound and of course, fun. But… is it really fun? Because it almost, I say ALMOST, comes out of nowhere. But at the same time it makes sense because in these characters’ lives, it is a moment that has practically been building up for them, but for a viewer like myself, it sort of almost gets to the point of feeling tacked on just for the sake of inserting some sort of stakes. Now, stakes are fine, but I will say, as a viewer it surely felt weird to see something which could potentially equal some sort of deep impact happen in a movie where almost everything else felt like “another Tuesday,” as some would probably call it. I will say, I did enjoy the climax, and it was in a word, “exciting.” But at the same time, it feels weird having it in the movie where everything prior to said climax felt kind of fun. But that’s really the charm of “Top Gun” when it comes down to it. After over thirty years of being in our spheres, it is still a “fun” movie that is watched by lots of people. There’s been rereleases, drive-in screenings, the flying sequences, despite being from the 1980s, hold up very well today. In fact they just came out with a 4K Blu-ray for the film! Maybe I’ll have to pick it up sometime soon! There’s a lot to love about “Top Gun,” even though technically speaking, it is not a masterpiece. It really is at its core, just fun. It’s nice to look at, and when it comes to characterization, it does its job fairly well.

Does this movie deserve a sequel that is coming out today? Well, it is the highest-grossing film of 1986, and as I mentioned, it is FUN! Why not? Although based on trailers that I am seeing for said sequel, I am wondering if they are going to take it in a slightly grittier direction. And if they do, I’m fine with that. Plus, Tom Cruise is probably one of the most admirable actors working today, so if I get to see him “do his own stunts” for sometime, it will give me something to witness for sure.

In the end, “Top Gun” holds up very well after over thirty years of its release. Technically speaking, it looks somewhat good for its time, maybe a bit ahead of its time as well. It is terrifically cast, even if everybody apparently did not get along. When it comes to the Scott brothers, I think Ridley Scott is overall the better filmmaker from what I have seen, but I really dig Tony Scott’s vision with this film. Granted, what he does with this film is almost a little Michael Bay-ish, and I think Michael Bay is a little too much of a style over substance type of director, but it works here because of how charming the film manages to come off. Don’t get me wrong, this film is not entirely Shakespeare, but I had fun with it. There’s that word again! I’m going to give “Top Gun” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! By the way, I have one more review coming up in this epic extravaganza I like to call Tom Cruise Month. It’s a movie from the early 2000s, and it is Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report.” Aside from “Oblivion,” it is the only film in this themed series that I have yet to watch. However, I am rather excited to watch what could potentially be a very enjoyable sci-fi story. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to be notified about this review when it is published, or check out my Facebook page and give it a like if you want to get such notifications through your Facebook account! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite dogfight in a movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Days of Thunder (1990): Tom Cruise? More Like Tom Rush!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is officially entry 3 to Tom Cruise Month! So far we have talked about a pretty good movie, along with a not so good movie. Today, we are going to talk about “Days of Thunder,” a film I have seen once in 2017 when it was available on Amazon Prime for free. Since then, I bought a Triple Feature Blu-ray set of Tom Cruise films which contains “The Firm,” which I have reviewed on this blog almost three years ago, “Collateral,” and “Days of Thunder,” which of course I watched once more to talk about today.

So without any further dilly-dallying, it is time for entry three! This is…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Days of Thunder” is directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather), Randy Quaid (Caddyshack II, National Lampoon’s Vacation), Nicole Kidman (Batman Forever, Moulin Rouge!), and Cary Elwes (Glory, The Princess Bride). The film is about a man who becomes a NASCAR driver, but even though he may talk a good game, Tom Cruise’s character of Cole Trickle is not exactly accustomed to being in a stock car. The story goes over his journey as a racer, as a part of a new team, while also allowing a certain rival to get in the way.

When it comes to my official ranking of Tom Cruise movies, I probably would have told you a few years back that “Days of Thunder” is somewhere in the middle of what I’ve seen. It’s not great, but it has one or two entertaining moments. I also kind of liked the music and I thought I heard some of the score somewhere else before watching this film (upon my watch for this review, that is not the case). It’s a little formulaic, but it doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had. Tom Cruise, per usual, is solid and gives a likable performance as a decent character.

Now, it is 2020, and it has been a week since I have officially last watched “Days of Thunder.” It’s still an alright hour and a half of material. However, upon my second watch, I felt that the first half of the movie, where all the buildup is happening, is definitely better than the second half. And I am not knocking on the second half, because it is still entertaining, but seeing Cole Trickle have to adapt to his team and the mechanics of NASCAR makes for delightful content. In fact, I also briefly mentioned his rivalry in the film, there’s a scene where the two rivals have to head to a dinner together, and in doing so they rent a couple cars and wreck the s*it out of them. I was amused with what was happening on screen in those moments. It was just plain fun. I think the chemistry between Tom Cruise’s Cole Trickle, alongside racing rival Rowdy Burns, played with excellence by Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, JFK) makes for some of the better scenes in the movie. Aside from all the action that goes on behind the wheels for these two, there’s another scene where the two happen to be in wheelchairs and they are racing around the hospital. Not only did it do a solid job on getting into the lack of fondness towards the duo, but it did so while keeping me interested in everything that was going on.

I mentioned earlier that I really liked the music in this film, and having watched this film a second time, this really should come as no surprise. Because not only was it something that I was kind of looking forward to hearing, but I was paying attention to the opening credits, and I saw a name that I was particularly delighted to see pop up on my screen.

HANS. F*CKING. ZIMMER.

If you all had to ask me who I think the greatest film composer of all time is, I’d give you three names. John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer. Maybe Alan Silvestri would be an honorable mention. For those of you who don’t know me or are new around here, Zimmer composed my favorite film score of all time, which was appropriately presented in one of my favorite films of all time, “Interstellar.” His relationship during his recent points in his career with Christopher Nolan allowed him to do that movie, “Inception,” “Dunkirk,” and the “Dark Knight” films. He’s also collaborated with composer Benjamin Wallfisch to work on “Blade Runner 2049,” he’s done a number of DreamWorks animations, “The Lion King,” “The Last Samuai,” and even though I have a couple problems with his score for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” its high moments make up for its faults. “Days of Thunder” is one of Zimmer’s earliest scores that I have heard, and it does match up with the skill and talent that I’ve seen from him today.

Keeping with the theme of Tom Cruise Month, I want to reference the previous film I reviewed, specifically “All the Right Moves.” In my review for that film, I mentioned that one of the main reasons I disliked that film was because even though it focuses on the main character’s struggles and downfalls, I felt as if there was little reason to actually root for him. He’s kind of a dick, he just feels like a horny jock who wants nothing more than to get into Lea Thompson’s pants, and when it comes to the film’s conclusion and what it has to do with the main character, it almost feels as if, without spoilers, there is no reason for me to root for him and say that he earned his fate. Despite the effort put into his portrayal from Tom Cruise himself, the character just didn’t stick the landing for me. Cole Trickle on the other hand, aside from having a somewhat likable name, kind of like Luke Skywalker or Johnny Utah or Taserface or Turd Ferguson (it’s a funny name, ha ha), has this swagger to him that makes him feel like someone only Cruise could portray and make as likable as he is. And when it comes to, once again, struggles and downfalls, Cole Trickle doesn’t come off as a big enough dick to make me not care about him whenever he screws up. Plus, when it comes to how this movie concludes, the ending feels earned and deserved, it does more than simply exist to take up screen time. It is a fate that feels satisfying and worthy of a thumbs up. Not one where I want to throw my popcorn at my 4K TV.

Aside from the first half of “Days of Thunder” being better than the second half, my other complaints with the film are that there are one or two scenes that maybe were a little unnecessary (even if they did entertain), and that there are some predictable moments. Other than that, “Days of Thunder” is a solid film. I do recommend it.

Before I go any further, I also want to point out that I also really liked Robert Duvall’s performance. I liked the stern portrayal of his character, which added some grit to the film overall, and it just goes to show that you can really get an impact from a mentor-type figure on screen.

In the end, “Days of Thunder” once again comes into the middle rankings of my Tom Cruise library of films that I have seen with him as part of the cast. Would I watch it again? Honestly, not anytime soon. I’d rather watch “The Last Samurai,” I’d rather watch “Oblivion,” I’d rather watch “Edge of Tomorrow.” But that’s just me. Even so, this film has its moments. The racing scenes are fun, and some of the non-racing stuff can make for some pure entertainment too. But I don’t think it will give the movie all that much replay value in the future. I’m going to give “Days of Thunder” a 7/10. Before I watched this movie for my review, I had given it a 6, but in reality, the problems it has are not particularly world-ending or overwhelming, they’re just faults that maybe need to be pointed out to separate what’s good from bad. At the same time though, Cruise has done better in his career compared to this film. This may be on the lower spectrum of a 7, but as of this review, it stands where it is.

Thanks for reading this review! Up next in Tom Cruise Month is going to be my review for “Top Gun,” another Tony Scott film, which if you ask me, is the main reason why I am doing this series to begin with. After all, we were supposed to get the sequel, AKA “Top Gun: Maverick,” on June 24th. But unfortunately, it has been delayed to December, which sucks because personally if it were coming out this summer, it would have been in my top 5, maybe even 3, most anticipated films of the season. But I will be looking forward to the film, should I get to see it this winter. As a substitution, expect a review for the original sometime this week. If you want to see this review and other great content, make sure you follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account! If you want another place to get access to my content, go like my Facebook page, which provides links to the posts I create once they’re published, and some side banter you don’t really get to see here on Flicknerd.com. It’s a good time! I want to know, did you see “Days of Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite racing movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!