Johnny Depp set sail again last week as Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the fourth entry in the series.  After viewing the movie, I can honestly say that it’s not the best in the franchise, but certainly not the worst either.  While nothing can really top the first one in my mind, this one gets back to the spirit of the original. 

Captain Jack runs into an old love interest, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who convinces him to join her on a quest for the Fountain of Youth.  Sparrow unwittingly climbs aboard the vessel of Angelica’s father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and the three embark upon the dangerous journey to find the mythical landmark.  Meanwhile, the Spanish learn of the fountain’s existence and so does Jack’s old nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), so it becomes a race to see who will arrive first to take advantage of the healing waters.

Thankfully this “Pirates of the Caribbean,” has a much shorter running time of 137 minutes, which makes it more engaging and easier to sit through.  Without the Will/Elizabeth love story in the picture, the director Rob Marshall gets to concentrate on Captain Jack’s daring escapes and quit witted skills in battle, things that made the first film so much fun. 

One of the areas the movie falters though, is that it wastes too much time in the beginning setting the tone and does not focus enough on the mythology behind the Fountain of Youth.  Devoting a lot of screen time to setting the stage with the characters, feels unnecessary, given that the previous films should have established them already, especially since the back story for the Fountain is weak at best. Sadly, even though Depp has nailed down the character of Jack Sparrow, his lack of chemistry further detracts from the movie as a whole.  My Grade: B-

Memorial Day weekend has three major films debuting: the much-anticipated Todd Philips comedy “The Hangover Part II,” the computer animated family film “Kung Fu Panda 2,” and the weighty Terrence Malick drama “The Tree of Life.”   


The wolf pack returns for another adventure as Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha) head to Thailand for Stu’s wedding.  Sure enough, Stu’s desire to have a quiet pre-wedding brunch, goes horribly awry, and the gang finds themselves searching the city Bangkok for his future brother-in-law, who has gone missing. 

Todd Philips, the man behind the 2009 hit comedy “The Hangover,” returns to helm this sequel.  Philips co-writes the screenplay with a previous collaborator, Scot Armstrong, and a new one, Craig Mazin.  Armstrong established a proven track record writing for Philips on both “Old School” and “Road Trip.”    

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:  Todd Philips fans that dig his brand of raunchy bro-centric comedies should definitely see this film.  If you could not get enough of the outrageous humor in “The Hangover,” then you should absolutely catch “The Hangover Part II.”      


Po (voice of Jack Black) and the Furious Five travel to China in order to battle a villain and to learn the secrets of Po’s secretive origins.   

Artist and animator Jennifer Yuh, directs this computer animated family comedy.  Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, co-writers of the previous film, return to pen this sequel featuring the voice talent of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, and Lucy Liu. 

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:  Parents looking for a family friendly story should go with their children to see this movie.  If you loved the humor of the first “Kung Fu Panda” film, and you’re craving more of it, then you should watch “Kung Fu Panda 2.”        



This tale follows Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) from his upbringing in the Midwest during the 1950s through his complex relationship with his father (Brad Pitt), to present day, as he tries to find answers to the origins and meaning of life. 

Veteran filmmaker Terrence Malick, writes and directs this weighty drama.  Malick has not released a movie since 2005’s “The New World,” six years ago. 

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Audiences that enjoy films, which jump through various time periods, should see this drama.  If you loved Malick’s last collaboration with Sean Penn, “The Thin Red Line,” then you should check out “The Tree of Life.”