Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), a sailor, and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer, go on a quest to find the Trident of Poseidon. Henry is the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). They seek the Trident because it can magically reverse the curse that has sent ghost sailors, led by Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), on the path toward killing all the pirates. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) joins Salazar to try to hunt down and kill Jack.
The latest film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series has a few thrilling action sequences, but it's often loud, dumb, exhausting and, most unfortunately, lacks the wit, excitement and fun that made the first Pirates of the Caribbean so entertaining on a visceral level. Sure, the CGI looks great, so at least there's that if you're looking to keep your eyes busy. How many times do directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson have to cut to a shot of the adorable Capuchin monkey as an attempt to generate comic relief? By the 3rd time they cut to the monkey, it's cheap and no longer even remotely amusing.
To top it all off, it's hard to decipher the words that come out of Salazar's mouth amidst all of the action. Perhaps that's a blessing in disguise because the dialogue is quite shallow, forgettable and bland. If the running time weren't a bloated 2 hours and 9 minutes, the film wouldn't have felt so tedious and overstayed its welcome. Much like the recent King Arthur, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales it's more of a headache-inducing experience than an exhilarating one. Be sure to stay through the end credits for a post-credits scene.
The Women's Balcony
Zion (Igal Naor) and his wife, Ettie (Evelin Hagoel), belong to an Orthodox community in Jerusalem. When they attend the Bar Mitzvah of their grandson at the synagogue, the balcony where the women pray at collapses all-of-a-sudden, injuring the rabbi's wife and leaving the rabbi so depressed that he's unable to continue working. Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi David (Avraham Aviv Alush) steps up to the plate as the new rabbi and creates a rift in the community after requiring women to observe modesty rules, i.e. covering their hair. He also gets rid of the women's balcony when the synagogue re-opens. The women refuse to obey Rabbi David, and raise money to build a new balcony, but that task becomes easier said than done when he stands in their way of reaching their goal.
The Women's Balcony effectively establishes its gently comedic tone from first few scenes as Ettie and Zion arrive at their grandson's Bar Mitzvah. Etti realizes that she forgot to bring candy that's supposed to be thrown from the balcony as part of the tradition. The tragic collapse of the balcony and the conflicts that arise in the aftermath are balanced by the many humorous, witty scenes found throughout the film. Screenwriter Shlomit Nehama clearly understands that comedy is derived from tragedy as she blends both with a light touch. Each of the characters feels like complex human beings instead of one-dimensional caricatures. Ettie and her friends, Margalit (Einat Saruf) and Ora (Sharon Elimelech), have different personalities that make them distinguishable, unique, and true-to-life.
Even though the plot takes mostly predictable turns, so what? It still offers some satisfying surprises along the way. For instance, Etti's delicious fruit salad, which you might consider to be insignificant at first, becomes something much more meaningful in the third act. As Ebert once wisely observed, what a film's plot is about is not as important as how the film goes about its plot. Fortunately, Nehama grasps the importance of grounding The Women's Balcony in humanism from start to finish. She wisely avoids preachiness, schmaltz and lethargy. The fact that the screenplay never becomes tonally uneven is yet another testament to its many strengths. The ending is uplifting, but it earns its uplift.
A large part of the film's warmth and charm comes from the well-chosen actresses who portray the women who bravely battle against the new rabbi's fundamentalism. Evelin Hagoel shines the brightest, but the other actresses also get their own chance to radiate warmth and charisma. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 36 minutes, which feels more like 1 hour, The Women's Balcony is a crowd-pleasing, charming delight brimming with genuine warmth, wit, humor, and tenderness. If only more films were to have such rich and lively roles for older women! It's a cause for celebration!