PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES – Like its Disney ride namesake, this movie series comes with much lower expectations for its fifth go-round. I’m sorry to say that it lives up to them. The now formulaic, threadbare plot finds besotted buccaneer Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in pursuit of the mythical Trident Of Poseidon while being pursued by a ship of unearthly ghost pirates complete with a menagerie of zombie sharks. You know a film franchise has run aground when it begins “borrowing” ideas from “The Walking Dead” and SHARKNADO (2013). Along for the ride are an attractive intelligent astronomer (Kaya Scodelario) and a headstrong young sailor (Branton Thwaites) who are little more than recycled versions of the Orlando Bloom-Keira Knightley characters from the previous flicks. There are some rousing action sequences like a literal bank heist at the beginning that’s reminiscent of the anarchic fun from THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) and Geoff Zanelli’s musical score has a rollicking spirit within its notes. But there’s a heaping helping of goofy slapstick violence and some off-kilter attempts at bawdy humor which fall loudly flat. Jeff Nathanson’s screenplay comes off like a step-by-step recipe from the other PIRATES movies with the desperation of throwing everything but the kitchen sink in the storyline…including a really odd cameo by Paul McCartney. Depp (BLACK MASS) can almost do his character by rote and try as he might, not even Javier Bardem’s (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) ghost captain can keep this vehicle from running aground. Because of above average production, this is a movie that looks good. But it’s sunk by an unoriginal, incoherent script that won’t generate any bitcoin ransom for hackers who threatened its’ early release. CRITIC’S GRADE: C+
CLOSING CREDITS: I went to see this movie at the AMC Theater in Edinburg for the sole purpose of watching it on the IMAX screen. By the way, don’t let the Carmike Cinemas sign out front confuse you. Apparently, AMC spent so much on the IMAX auditorium that they didn’t have enough left over for new signage. For convenience, I pre-purchased my $15.39 ticket (Yow!) on movietickets.com. I’ll tell you right now that I’m a big fan of the automated kiosks located strategically throughout the lobby that give you your ticket after scanning the credit card you used to pre-buy. Not so efficient was the concession stand where only four of the seven pay stations were being used on the Saturday of the long Memorial Day weekend. But the self-serve, multi-beverage drink dispenser with the Vanilla Coke almost atoned for this. The walk from the lobby to the IMAX auditorium was a lengthy one but I left a trail of Milk Duds in case I got lost. The entrance to the IMAX auditorium has a space age feel to it that had me wondering if I should walk in or wait to be “beamed” to my seat. The auditorium itself is very expansive and would require a huge crowd to be filled to capacity. To get to my proper vantage point, I had to do some stair climbing and it had me wondering about accessibility for folks who are disabled or just find it difficult to get around. Once in my seat, I became acutely aware of IMAX’s technical innovations since in-house promotional announcements kept reminding me about them. However, once the movie started, IMAX’s “bells and whistles” left my awareness in favor of focusing on what was up on the screen. The visual element was certainly larger in scope and attention is drawn to music in the soundtrack. But the bottom line is that IMAX does nothing to make a mediocre movie better but it can definitely enhance the enjoyment of one that’s well made.