All posts by natewatchescoolmovies

24 years old from Vancouver, Canada. Loved movies since I can remember. I do reviews on Instagram and Facebook as well, and after being harped at by my friends to start a blog as well... Here I am. I try to give obscure, overlooked films a day in court, ones I feel are hidden gems, that deserve to get some love.

Gore Verbinski’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is so good it almost gives the first one a run for it’s money in terms of visual effects, imagination, swash and buckle. It does have it’s issues with letting some of the action set pieces run on literally forever (that rolling windmill sword fight tho) until you seriously start to question the limits of cardio in those involved, but director Gore Verbinski has always been an advocate for cheeky excess, so who can complain. In preparing a sequel to Black Pearl, they no doubt had a daunting task in equaling, and if possible outdoing the sheer bliss that came before, and they kind of succeeded and then some. Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and a whole circus sideshow of others are propelled on a dazzling adventure that spans past the isle of Tortuga, beyond the waters of Port Royal and to the far ends of the Caribbean, not to mention amping up the supernatural aspects of the first to dizzying heights. In Captain Barbossa’s absence (well, almost;), they also had to find a villain to match his adorable theatrics, and Bill Nighy’s moody Davy Jones, a hentai tentacled tyrant cursed by the ocean’s magic, doomed to sail the baroque galleon The Flying Dutchman forever, fits the bill. His crew are a gnarly, barnacled bunch of miscreants adorned in enough wicked cool marine biology and detailed special effects to get an Oscar nomination, which they did. Other new character additions include mopey Stellan Skarsgard’s bedraggled Bootstrap Bill, Naomie Harris’s spooky voodoo babe Tia Dalma, as well as familiar faces like Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), who gets a lot more to do here than twiddle the stick up his ass as he does in the first one, Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce), Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally, deadpan as ever) and the whole motley crew. Depp takes what made Sparrow so charismatic and weird in Black Pearl and soars over the rainbow with it, he really and truly carries these films with his presence and it may just be the best characters created by him. A worthy sequel, kickass adventure and one for the books.

-Nate Hill

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Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise has been a long and wild rollercoaster ride so far, with each new addition mining for fresh oceanic mythology to throw at Jack Sparrow & Co., as well as tossing in as much commotion, cameos and FX wizardry that Hollywood will cash out to a lucrative legacy like this. So the anthology arrives at it’s fifth excursion, titled Dead Men Tell No Tales, and it’s nice to know these films still have some wind in their sails, because this is actually a fairly fun and engaging entry, if a little more grey and somber than some of the livelier chapters. The characters have been through enough at this point it’s a wonder they still have their sanity and good looks, although a few have disappeared or fallen on hard times (Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner finds himself in a weird, prophetic predicament here). Jack Sparrow seems to soldier on undaunted though, perma-sloshed on The Caribbean’s finest rum, which is always in shortage, and as much a trouble magnet as ever, chased here by ghosts from his past, and I mean that quite literally. Jack himself is stuck in a bit of a drudge when we reconnect with him, cooling his heels in jail after a spectacularly botched bank robbery with his old crew (ever hilarious Gibbs present and accounted for). He’s shanghaied into another series of hijinks by a mysterious young lad (Brenton Thwaites) who’s searching for something, while the ghostly crew of a marooned Spaniard ship is searching for Jack. It’s captain, a spooky spectre called Salazar (Javier Bardem) has a personal bone to pick with out hero, dating back to the rascal’s teenage years. Played with sallow devilish glee by Bardem, Salazar is actually probably the scariest villain in the series so far, which isn’t saying much but it’s nice to get a little spine tingle from the combo of his work and the eerie special effects. Geoffrey Rush’s seemingly immortal Captain Barbossa returns again too, and sort of gets more and more garishly ridiculous with each incarnation, but Rush somehow manages to sell it, the champ. There’s a female heroine too (Kaya Scodelario) whose origins are also shrouded, the shrewd military prick that always shows up, played here by Lord Of The Ring’s David Wenham, and a sly cameo from Paul McCartney as another far flung relative of Jack’s. While nothing will ever top Curse Of The Black Pearl, this one both tones down the bloat of Dead Man’s Chest and reigns in the mania the nearly derailed At World’s End, as well as giving some life where blandness crept into On Stranger Tides. It’s not the best of the series, or even silver medal, but does the trick nicely and tries a few neat variations on the formula.

-Nate Hill

William Friedkin’s Sorcerer

William Friedkin’s Sorcerer is less of a film than it is a visceral, ‘fly on the wall’ glimpse into the breathless plight of a rugged troupe of villains from various parts of the world, thrown into an impossible situation together, a lean, mean, anti-cinematic survival picture that has one of the most suspenseful set pieces ever filmed, now a legend and showcase in Friedkin’s rough n’ tumble career. The story focuses on a quarter of thoroughly rotten human beings who are an inspired choice to light as protagonists: a disgraced New Jersey hitman (Roy Schneider), a corrupt French banker (Bruno Cremer), a dangerous gangster (Francisco Rabal) and an Arabic terrorist (Amidou). They’re a heinous bunch, each on the run in their own way, but each’s situation is their own fault, which is the setup for the purgatorial horrors that befall them in the remote South American jungle. Each cast out into the primal ether of that region, their collective hope for a modicum of redemption, not to mention financial stability, comes in the form of a nightmarishly dangerous task: transport several giant tanker trucks across the region, each loaded with enough volatile nitroglycerin to blow a crater in the jungle. It’s low concept that pays off for high thrills, especially when monsoon season conveniently shows up right when our quartet are trying to navigate the trucks over a horrifically rickety set of of wooden suspension bridges, a sequence so unbelievably white knuckle, so deeply frightening it’s a wonder and a half it was allowed to be filmed. There’s a twisted catharsis in seeing these unsavoury fellows put through such fresh hell, but they’re so violently resourceful and charismatic that by the end of it we’re rooting for them, by both default and earned respect simply for the desperation of their situation. A simple, brawny piece of cinema that uses it’s straightforward story to tap into something more earthy and primeval, as well as a long standing, finely aged example of action/survival cinema and probably Friedkin’s best film to date.

-Nate Hill

Taika Waititi’s Thor Ragnarok

Taika Waititi’s Thor Ragnarok has got to be the most fun I’ve ever had watching a Marvel film. Trust Hollywood to make a sterling decision once in a blue moon, and hiring a deftly comic, renegade underdog subversive improv genius like Waititi to take the wheel is a smart, bold move. Now before I sing it’s praises to Valhalla, they don’t quite let him (he’s the Kiwi wunderkind behind the newly minted classics Hunt For The Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows) go completely bonkers, which he clearly wants to do, and although he’s kind of bogged down by a generic villain and a recycled point of conflict in plot, a lot of the time he’s allowed to stage a zany, uncharacteristically weird (for the MCU, anyways) pseudo space opera that is a blast and a half. Thor finds himself, after a brief encounter with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange, carted off to a giant garbage planet surrounded by space portals (one of which is referred to with a straight face as ‘The Devil’s Anus’, which sent me into a fit) and lorded over by a certifiably loony Jeff Goldblum as the Grand Master, a demented despot who holds intergalactic gladiator matches for his own entertainment. There Thor is forced to fight his old buddy the Hulk, and somehow find a way to escape Goldblum’s nefarious yet hilarious clutches. He’s got just south of reliable allies in his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an exiled Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) with an attitude problem, as well as rock-armoured warrior Korg, voiced hilariously by Waititi himself as the film’s most engaging character. Meanwhile back in Asgard, trouble brews when the equally dangerous and sexy Hela (Cate Blanchett, with enough authoritative, husky smoulder to make me weak at the knees) tries to steal Odin’s throne for herself, with the help of defector Skurge (Karl Urban, who gets a mic drop of an action set piece later on). Here’s the thing about Hela: Blanchett is in top form, a commanding, dark presence… but the role is as blandly written as a number of other MCU villains, and one wonders how they’ve managed to flunk out at creating engaging antagonists a few times over now. She’s stuck in a subplot that we’ve all seen before, one that’s stale and at odds with the fresh, humorous and wonderful storyline between Thor and Banner. Their side of things is like buddy comedy crossed with screwball fare and works charming wonders, especially when they’re blundering about in Goldblum’s cluttered trash metropolis, it’s just inspired stuff. Throw in a great 80’s inspired electro pop score and a cool VHS retro vibe (I’m all about the old school) and you’ve got one of the best MCU movies to date, and most importantly one that *tries something new*, which the genre needs more of, even if it doesn’t ultimately fully commit, this is still a gem we have on our hands.

-Nate Hill

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer was the first film in the revival of Matthew McConaughey’s career after a lengthy slump stretching back to the early 2000’s, and what a banger of a pseudo courtroom drama it turned out to be. Based on the series of novels by Michael Connelly which focus on slick, morally untethered defence attorney Mick Haller (played to perfection by Matt), director Brad Furman whips up an enjoyable, razor sharp yet laid back LA crime saga that’s smart, re-watchable and competently staged, not to mention stuffed to the roof with great actors. Haller is something of a renegade lawyer who operates smoothly from the leather interior of his Lincoln town car, driven by trusty chauffeur Earl (the always awesome Lawrence Mason). Mick is ice cool and seldom bothered by the legal atrocities he commits, until one case follows him home and digs up a tormented conscience he never knew he had. Hired to defend a rich brat (Ryan Phillipe) accused of murdering a call girl, events take a turn for the unpredictable as older crimes are dug up, double crosses are laid bare and everyone’s life starts to unravel. It’s a deliciously constructed story with twists and payoffs galore, as well as one hell of an arc for McConaughey to flesh out in the kind of desperate, lone wolf role that mirrors the dark side of his idealistic lawyer in Joel Schumacher’s A Time To Kill. Let’s talk supporting cast: Marisa Tomei is sexy and easygoing as Mick’s ex wife and rival, Bryan Cranston simmers on low burn as a nasty detective, William H. Macy does a lively turn as his PI buddy, plus excellent work from Frances Fisher, Shea Wigham, John Leguizamo, Bob Gunton, Bob Gunton, Pell James, Katherine Moennig and the great Michael Paré as a resentful cop who proves to be quite useful later on. There’s a dark side to the story too that I appreciated, in the fact that not every wrong is righted, or at least fully, a sad fact that can be seen in an unfortunate character played by Michael Pena, but indicative of life’s brutal realities, something Hollywood sometimes tries to smother. One of the great courtroom films out there, a gem in McConaughey’s career and just a damn fine time at the movies.

-Nate Hill

Danny Cannon’s Phoenix

Phoenix is a half forgotten, neat little Arizona neo-noir noir that isn’t about much altogether, but contains a hell of a lot of heated drama, character study and hard boiled charisma anyways, which in the land of the crime genre, often is an acceptable substitute for a strong plot. Plus, a cast like this could hang around the water cooler for two hours and the results would still be engaging. Ray Liotta is terrific here in a mid-career lead role as an a police detective with a nasty temper, huge gambling problem and just an all round penchant for trouble. He’s joined by his three partners in both crime and crime fighting, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and Anthony Lapaglia. There’s no central conflict, no over arching murder subplot and no orchestrated twist or payoff, it’s simply these four sleazy cops just existing out their in the desert on their best, and it’s a lot of sunbaked, emotionally turbulent fun. Liotta vies for the attentions of a weary older woman (Anjelica Huston, excellent) while he’s pursued by her slutty wayward teen daughter (Brittany Murphy) at the same time. He’s also hounded by eccentric loan shark Chicago (Tom Noonan with a ray ally funny lisp) and trying to close countless open cases in his book. Piven and hothead Lapaglia fight over Piven’s foxy wife (Kari Wuhrur) too, and so the subplots go. The supporting cast is a petting zoo of distinctive character acting talent including Glenn Moreshower, Royce D. Applegate, Giovanni Ribisi, Xander Berkeley, Al Sapienza, Giancarlo Esposito and more. I like this constant and obnoxious energy the film has though, like there’s something in that Arizona sun that just drives peoples tempers off the map and causes wanton hostility, a great setting for any flick to belt out its story. Good fun.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: LA, I Hate You

There’s this odd trend in art films these days to make a haphazard anthology thing with various actors in a string-along parade of vignette cameos, title them with the name of a city followed by the sub header ‘I Love You’, or ‘I hate You’. Examples include ‘Paris, Je T’ame’, ‘New York, I Love You’, and you get the idea.. it’s as weird trend, most of the entries I haven’t seen, but the copycat effect trickled down into direct to video town, and I did catch one called ‘L.A. I Hate You’, a strange and cheaply made noir knockoff that doesn’t have much to offer except a few decent actors in sly parody roles. It’s made in three segments, all set in Hollywood and revolving around the film industry, all three chunks of the story ultimately going nowhere. There’s a down on his luck dude with a paraplegic wife who gets sucked into a violent scheme involving his estranged, dangerous uncle (William Forsythe doing his ultra-sleazy tough guy shtick) and the wife’s morally bankrupt father (Gregory Itzin). A struggling wannabe actor (Paul Sloan) is coaxed into stardom at a high cost by a devilish movie producer (Malcolm McDowell, also in scumbag mode), and attempts are made to make these three seemingly separate narratives intertwine here and there, but neither that script, editing or acting is good enough to make us either believe or care. Oh, there’s also a really unnecessary UFO subplot too, just in case it wasn’t cluttered up with enough nonsense. A cheaply made, half assed turkey.

-Nate Hill