Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Review

I hadn’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie until last week, the day before I saw Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Please note, this review was written before seeing the fifth film, due to other reviews I already had scheduled, this is being released afterwards.

To preface, I’ve only really liked the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl. The other two were good from a production value point of view, but story line wise they go off in all sorts of directions and the overacting became a staple of the franchise. That being said, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides also features the overacting. When I think about it though, what I really want from a blockbuster pirate movie, is actors acting like pirates. I want the ‘argh me-hearty’s’, swash-buckling, stereotype of pirates that I’ve grown up with. That is what I’ve come to expect when I hear Hans Zimmer’s epic theme, and that’s what I buy a ticket for.

On Stranger Tides, seemed to have a more streamlined story, while there are three ‘teams’ all racing to one goal, as well as a shopping list for ‘the ritual’. The important thing is that the protagonists and antagonists are all heading following a simple story and not all heading off on convoluted journeys for complicated reasons.

As usual, the film looks pretty good, pretty blockbuster-y but again, that’s the point right? The scenes on the water, at night especially, look like they’re shot on a sound stage but some of the location shots were pretty so you forgive it. While there wasn’t much in the line of CGI on characters, mostly enchanted ropes, water and backgrounds, there is a CGI frog that I wasn’t a huge fan of, a far cry from Davy Jones. On the plus side though, the mermaid effects weren’t too bad. I’m just about to get to the acting in this film, but I’m going to mention this now, there’s a clergyman and a mermaid who fall in love or what ever, it was a story tread to get the mermaid to cry because a mermaid’s tear was needed for the ritual – other than that, reasonably unnecessary.

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns along with the first trilogy’s Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) in a one-shot of sorts having very little (if nothing) to do with the films that came before. Barbossa and Gibbs’ style of pirate-y-ness is what I was talking about earlier on. It’s nothing too amazing, but in this film, its fun, it fits the theme. It reminds me of what I liked about The Curse of the Black Pearl. Straight up pirates followin’ maps and findin’ treasure. Depp’s Jack Sparrow felt a little toned down in this film. Not to say he wasn’t overtly Sparrow, but it didnt feel as overdone as it did in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End.

Penelope Cruz plays Angelica, a former flame of Jack’s whose motives and intentions are all over the place. I get the feeling that Cruz was performing each line at a time, because her character tells a lot of ‘lies’ that are actually ‘truths’, ‘truths’ that are ‘lies’, and ‘lies’ that are actually ‘lies’. In a blockbuster like this, a film for the masses, surely there should be a small tell or a subtlety or something that gets you thinking about what she is saying, questioning it’s validity. Either that or she would be killer at ‘two truths and a lie’.

Now we get to Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. While McNally and Rush play your typical pirates who’s allegiances can change with the wind, Ian McShane plays straight up bad pirate with Blackbeard. He’s on a mission to live forever but despite coming up against the film’s ticking clock, a foretelling of his death, he seems to have all the time in the world to kill crew members, threaten Sparrow and even play Russian roulette with his daughter’s life. That minor motive issue aside, the character was great and I would say is the reason I continued to have interest in the movie til the end.

Speaking of the end, its time to wrap this up. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun popcorn flick. It isn’t bogged down by the narrative of Will Turner like the first three films were, which gives it a lighter tone. It’s a modern version of the classic pirate films, stereotypes and over-acting a plenty. Still though – enjoyable.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Average

Advertisements

History of Superheroes in Movies

superman

While there were superhero movies in the 1940s, 50s and 60s it wasn’t until the 1978 film Superman opened the door for comic books and their characters to be taken as serious movie ideas, but that faded over ten years until 1989’s Batman put them back on the map again. Unfortunately, with the exception of Batman Returns (1992) the popularity of superhero films declined again until 2000 when X-Men got it right.

xmen

Since X-Men superhero movies have been on the up and up. Production companies started taking the concepts seriously again rather than trying to make it comical and camp (I’m looking at you Joel Schumacher). 2002 saw Spider-Man swing on to the silver screen and both the X-Men and Spider-Man films spawned major film franchises for Fox and Sony respectively. But we’ll get to the major production companies later. Fox continued it’s push with Daredevil (2003), X2 (2003), Elektra (2005) and Fantastic Four (2005) while Sony (Colombia) released Hellboy and Spider-Man 2 in 2004. Following the success of
these franchises DC and Warner Bros. took a different angle and rebooted the popular Batman franchise with Batman Begins (2005) which had a much darker tone to it than the Marvel films that were being released at the time. Superhero films cashed in on the success of the early 2000 hits for a few more years X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns in 2006 and Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 (which might I add were all franchise killers) but come 2008 something clicked in the minds of Marvel, DC, production companies and audiences… Superhero Movies could be better than exciting. They could be exhilarating the perfect escape for people young and old just like the comic books they were based on were for people years ago.

darkknight

2008 was a big year for Superheroes, with Marvel’s start of their Cinematic Universe (Actually owning the rights to these characters this time) Iron Man blasted on to the screen, reviving the dwindling superhero audiences and Robert Downey Jr.’s career at the same time. On top of that the reboot of the Hulk franchise with The Incredible Hulk re-established another character for something in the future. Iron Man would have been the walk-away hit of superhero films that year had the follow-up to Batman Begins not been released. The Dark Knight wowed audiences and box officenumbers proved that superhero movies were not just a sub-class of action films. They were their own genre. Mixing comedy and drama with action, visual effects and the characters people of all ages could enjoy. The superheroes were here.

avengers

The late 2000s brought us a prequel to X-Men in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a surprise cult classic with Watchmen. The start of the new decade brought in more of the independent heroes in to the spotlight, Kick-Ass and Super depict average joes standing up and answering the call against villainy and Iron Man 2 delved deeper in to the mystery behind S.H.I.E.L.D and why they were showing up in all these Marvel movies. 2011 was another big year for Marvel with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger setting up for the biggest superhero team up in film history. Fox released a re-invigoration of X-Men going back to the early days of Professor X in X-Men: First Class and DC unfortunately missed the mark with Green Lantern. Last year blew me away though with The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises three of the four big superhero movie powerhouses put everything they had in to these films and they were incredible.

The superhero film genre has risen over the last twenty or so years to become films that provide drama, comedy, explosions and an all round entertaining visit to the cinemas.

The Adventures of Tin Tin – Review

Tin Tin was a journalist who first appeared in a comic book in 1929. Since then he, his dog Snowy, bumbling policemen Thomson and Thompson and the seafaring Captain Haddock have appeared in cartoons stop-motion features, live-action, and now, performance capture animation, and boy, does it look good! The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn is directed by Steven Spielberg, Produced by Peter Jackson and written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish… Truly an ultimate team, and it works. the film looks incredible and the story is funny and exciting. I haven’t seen a film like this in years!

The Secret of the Unicorn stems from three of the Adventures of Tin Tin comics, The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. The story centres on hidden clues found inside three models of an old Man ‘o’ War ship, the Unicorn. The clues lead to a secret cargo that the unicorn was believed to have been carrying. Tin Tin stumbles in to the race to find the treasure when he buys one of the models. He begins to investigate which lands him in all sorts of trouble. After a series of captivating scenes, he meets Captain Haddock, a decedent of the Unicorn’s captain, and the last person alive to know the secret of the Unicorn… If only he could remember.

Jamie Bell (a grown up Billy Elliot) voices Tin Tin, Andy Serkis (Gollum in LOTR and this year’s Hobbit) brilliantly voices Captain Haddock, Daniel Craig is the Villainous Ivan Ivanovich, while Simon Pegg and Nick Frost voice Thomson and Thompson. The cast did brilliantly and in my opinion, the voices were spot on! The Animation (brought to you by WETA) should also get a nod for being amazing!

I thoroughly recommend this film. It’s a perfect one for the whole family. It seems the team will continue this film in a trilogy, with Jackson directing the second and a Spielberg/Jackson team up for the finale. With any luck these films will be in the same class as this one.

The Adventures of Tin Tin: Above Average

In Time – Review

Who wants to live forever? What if living forever came at a cost? Like, someone else’s life?

Thats the issue facing Justin Timberlake’s Will Salace in New Zealand born writer-director, Andrew Niccol’s In Time.

In time starts out like many sci-fi films, an almost blatant set up of the world the film is set in. In this dystopian future, time is litterally money, spend it wisely or watch as it runs out before your eyes. On top of that, in what i’m assuming is a ploy to have a cast of young, attractive actors, you stop aging at 25. Thats when your 1 year clock starts.

Justin Timberlake is Will, a 28 year old who lives in the ghetto with his yummy mummy played by Olivia Wilde. He and his best friend, Borel, Johnny Galeki (Leonard from the Big Bang Theory), work every day in order to get enough time to make it to the next… With a little on the side for the bar in Borel’s case. The major threat in the Ghetto is not the police (known here as Timekeepers), it is the mobsters known as Minutemen (yes, they really worked hard on names), led by Fortis, played by a ridiculously old looking Alex Pettyfer. Amanda Seyfried plays Sylvia Weis, daughter of one of the big wigs in New Greenwich (again, these names must have been so hard to come up with), Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser). The only other character worth talking about is the head Timekeeper who is investigating a suicide that is thought to be a murder, committed by Will… Cillian (I can’t believe he doesn’t have a bag on his head) Murphy, who plays the highlight of the film as Timekeeper Raymond Leon.

Niccol is obviously a big fan of the dystopian, having written and directed Gattaca and S1m0ne, and in In Time he looks at the classic Metropolistion* concept of those down below serving those up above. The film also looks at themes of greed and selflessness and how they can become the exact opposite of what was intended. JT’s character realises that he can give all the time in the world but the higher-ups can never truly lose. His take on the value of time is an interesting one and it got me hooked when I first heard about the concept. The acting was average with as I said before, Cillian Murphy being the stand out for me. I question Sylvia’s character motives as she quickly shifts from the rich and well off to the Bonnie to Will’s Clyde. And yes, there is a resonating Bonnie and Clyde reference throughout the whole movie and Amanda Seyfried looks sexy with a gun.

With some funny one-liners and some nice sort of action In Time is a good fun movie… don’t go to see it if you want a super meaningful movie but if your up for a bit of ‘on the run fun’… in a similar vein as The Island, this is definitely a movie worth going to see.

In Time: Average

*Metropolistion – Reminiscent of the German Expressionism great, Metropolis… A New Word.

Steve Jobs Dies, Aged 56

Former CEO and founding member of Apple died today at the age of 56. Steve Jobs was not only a technology expert, he was the CEO of Pixar Animation Studios and a member of the Board of Directors of Disney. He was also an executive producer on 1995’s Toy Story.

Apple released the following statement… Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

Walt Disney Company president Bob Iger said… Steve Jobs was a great friend as well as a trusted advisor. His legacy will extend far beyond the products he created or the businesses he built. It will be the millions of people he inspired, the lives he changed, and the culture he defined. Steve was such an “original,” with a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that defined an era. Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started. With his passing the world has lost a rare original, Disney has lost a member of our family, and I have lost a great friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Laurene and his children during this difficult time.

Finally, visionary filmmaker Steven Speilberg stated the following about the founder of Apple… Steve Jobs was the greatest inventor since Thomas Edison. He put the world at our fingertips.

The world has lost a true visionary and a very talented man in Steve Jobs. His entrepreneurial skills allowed him to drastically change the world of technology and animation. Macs make the world go round.

Steve Jobs

1955-2011

Cowboys and Aliens – Review

Cowboys.  Aliens.  Cowboys fighting aliens.  James Bond and Indiana Jones vs. otherworldly Martian scum.  A horrible conglomeration or a whole lot of awesomeness?

Cowboys and Aliens, directed by Iron Man’s Jon Favreau, centres on Daniel Craig’s character Jake Lonergan.  Your quintessential tough guy from the west, Lonergan wakes up in the middle of the desert, with no recollection of who he is, or what the funky contraption locked around his wrist might be.  After discovering he is able to deliver damn good ass-kickings, he swaggers into the little-old town of Absolution.  Lonergan wastes no time in giving the local shit-stirrer Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano) what for.  Cue some ominously familiar shaped lights in the sky and tendrils viciously yanking the townspeople away.  It’s here we find out Lonergan’s bracelet is a whole lot more than a pretty fashion accessory.  Now it’s up to the rag-tag bunch of gun-toting men (and woman) to get their people back.

If you go into it expecting an intellectually stimulating storyline with soul searching characters and emotions galore, don’t.  Go see, I dunno, The Smurfs or something.  This is a no holds barred shoot-em-up Western crossed with heavy SFX and CGI aliens.  It’s exactly what the title says it’s going to be, and, it’s actually pretty decent.  Daniel Craig plays Lonergan straight and narrow.  Silent and somewhat stereotypical, but it works with the clichéd dynamic of the film.  Olivia Wilde plays the mysterious Ella, whose relationship with Lonergan is a bit disjointed and unusual.  I suppose they had to put a pretty lady in there somewhere though, didn’t they.  But its Harrison Ford’s Woodrow Dolarhyde that I was most anticipating, and his menacing exterior coupled with moments of genuine but subtle tenderness do not disappoint.

This is an enjoyable piece of mindless, explosion ridden gun slinging entertainment.  Have fun, go along for the ride.  The battle scenes are effective (the sound effects were actually a standout), there’s a little comedy, a little romance, a little bit of everything that makes a blockbuster.  It’s a film that’s not ashamed of what it is.  The alien’s themselves are quite unique, in that their motive is exactly that of the humans of the set time period.  And I’ll say no more.  They have absolutely no empathetic qualities.  And that’s ok.  (And boy, they look disGUSTING.)

In short, a fun mindless action-western romp that’s extremely likeable, clichéd and unashamed.

Cowboys and Aliens: Below Average

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

“Get your paws off me you dirty ape!”  “You finally made a monkey out of me.”  These, to whom it may concern, are two lines dreadfully sung by Troy McClure featured in The Simpsons episode ‘A Fish Called Selma.’  It also represents the breadth of my knowledge about The Planet of the Apes before my voyage to its prequel.  To the uninitiated, fear not.  You don’t need to have seen the original to understand the storyline.

James Franco plays Will, a determined scientist developing a substance that potentially serves as a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.  Sticking to the good-old-fashion laboratory formula, the team continually test the serum on assorted apes throughout its development, one of which begins to show a marked improvement in mental capacity.  Jumping the gun, Franco and his stereotypically greedy boss (I swear you can almost see the oversized dollar signs in his pupils), present said primate to investors, however things go disastrously and the project is left in ruins.  Out of the chaos, Franco stumbles upon a baby chimp whose green flecked eyes (a side effect of the serum) indicate that this ape’s got potential.  Therefore Franco decides to play daddy and names him Caesar.

Overall, meh.  Performance wise, Franco strikes me hot and cold.  Yes, we feel him connect with the animal that he’s raised essentially as a human (teaching him sign language, clothing him), yet the first time they’re torn apart, it just didn’t feel like it HURTS Will enough.  They built it up as a father son relationship.  Care a little more dammit!  Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto plays Will’s love interest, who serves little more purpose than to run, offer the occasional titbit of opinion and stare in a concerned manner.  Forgettable.   John Lithgow solidly plays Will’s Alzheimer’s riddled father, a role in which he is allowed two opposite elements of mental stability.  You can tell he enjoyed the challenge.

However this is Caesar’s movie.  The visual effects crew at WETA Digital have again shown the fruits of motion capture done right.  Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without the extraordinary talent of Andy Serkis, king of the funny dots on your face.  It’s the eyes that have it in this film.  At one point I felt quite apprehensive at the impending presence of the monkeys, even though they aren’t even real!  A testament to the successful collaboration of the physical and digital.  One of the most fascinating elements of the film is the progression of Caesar’s character, from innocent baby to a somewhat malicious leader of a revolution.  Special mention: when Caesar speaks English.  Perfectly timed and quite affecting.

However a lot of the film feels like a giant cliché.  Sometimes it feels like the writers got stuck trying to represent CHIMP DOMINATION, resorting to the ridiculous.  The majority of the characters seem a bit one dimensional, the stereotypical villains in particular, so you don’t really give a rats when the inevitable happens.

Overall, predictable, but has its moments.  Go for the chimps, not the people.

P.S. This movie is a giant spoiler for Planet of the Apes.  Just sayin’.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Average

This review was by Danielle Muir.

X-Men: First Class – Review

X-Men returns in this prequel that could be the best film in the franchise… Directed by Brit, Matthew Vaughn (known for directing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Kick-Ass) and starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon, this movie takes a look at the early days of Professor X and Magneto… It’s another X-Men Origins story but this one shits all over Wolverine!

First Class opens in 1944 with Erik Lehnsherr, a young boy whose parents were taken away and killed during the Holocaust. His powers were enhanced by Schmidt when he killed Erik’s mother in front of his eyes. Also during 1944 in New York, a young Charles Xavier meets Raven a ten year old shapeshifter, the young Mystique. Years later, Erik has honed his powers and is going around seeking vengeance against former soldiers of the Nazi Party. Meanwhile Charles, a graduate at Oxford University, and Raven, a waitress live together while Xavier finishes his thesis on Mutation and becomes a proper Professor. In the US, a man by the name of Sebastian Shaw, who hasn’t aged since he was a soldier during the Second World War… named Schmidt… is gearing up to start World War Three by positioning nuclear missiles in Turkey and Cuba, aimed at the Soviets and the US respectively. With the help of the CIA, Charles along with Erik and Raven seek and recruit fellow mutants to try to stop Shaw in his plot to rid the world of humans and advance the Mutant Race.

The film has received very positive reviews despite the disappointing box office results. Matthew Vaughn, has done very well making this movie and he has put himself in a position as a great Superhero Filmmaker. Good points of X-Men: First Class include the montages, first when Charles and Erik are recruiting (including a brilliant cameo from Hugh Jackman, Wolverine) and secondly when Charles trains his First Class at his old mansion, the site for Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, these two montages were beautifully done the latter featuring very effective split screen techniques. Down sides include as with almost all superhero movies is the part where they come up with their superhero names (seriously, look at almost every movie, that part is always shit) other than that I can’t fault the first instalment in what Fox foresee as a possible trilogy. It was humorous at points and it’s good humour, not crappy american humour… because it’s directed by a Brit. Intellectual and Action-Packed, X-Men: First Class is and will be the Best Superhero movie of the year!

X-Men: First Class: Above Average

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One – Review

The second last film in the eight-part epic (spanning over 10 years of filming) that is Harry Potter. I watched this today and I couldn’t help but realise that if people hadn’t read the books or done a bit of research in to the storyline, they would have no idea what is going on. The amount of assumed knowledge is pretty big. The sixth film (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) goes in to a little about the Horcruxes but nowhere near enough to fill a casual viewer in on what is going on. Nevertheless Harry Potter is a huge book series as well as it’s film adaptations… and those who are serious about watching these films, most of them have already read the books.

This movie is unfortunately not as good as it’s predecessors. As much as I love the Harry Potter series this one falls a little short. Hopefully it will redeem it’s self in its conclusion when it hits our screens on the 14th of July (mark it in your calendars). Most of the other movies could work as a stand alone adventurea, which I believe adds to the appeal of the films and although the later books relate more to each other the films still work as individual stories. Deathly Hallows does not.

All that grumpiness out of the way and all criticisms said, this movie is fantastic for a fan (unless you’re so devoted to the books that you feel the movies let the whole series down) it starts to tie up loose ends (or at least puts them in a bundle for the next movie to tie it off) and the acting, I feel, is brilliant. One of my favourite stars, Emma Watson, improves with age (she’s so dreamy). The story line has enough action and comedy to just satisfy the viewer… just. I might be wrong in saying but it feels to me like this movie is another Order of the Phoenix (the fifth film), good but just not great.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One: Average

Sucker Punch – Review

It’s incredibly hard to describe this film. I saw it on Thursday and I’ve had to give it this long too sink in. This movie improves with age. It starts out with a five minute dialogue-less scene where where the story is set, A woman dies and has left everything she owns to her two young daughters, the girl’s jealous step father decides to take what he wants and he attacks the girls. In the process the younger sister is killed and in an act of self defence the older sister, “Baby Doll” (Emily Browning) points a gun at her evil step father. Baby Doll is framed for the murder of her sister and is sent to an asylum for the insane.

There, Baby Doll meets Rocket, Sweet Pea, Blondie and Amber and thats where things start getting interesting. Baby Doll’s imagination turns the asylum into a club where the inmates are the dancers. Baby Doll’s dancing mesmerises people and allows her and the other girls to experience awesome new worlds and crazy scenarios.

This film provides a look inside the mind of a crazy person. But is the crazy person Baby Doll or Zack Snyder? Let your imagination run wild and you might get this movie straight away. The soundtrack and visual effects are amazing and Zack’s use of his favourite special effect, slow motion shots make this movie a dream come true… Literally, this movie is more dream like than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Zack Snyder is a talented director and here, he has made a good music video.

Sucker Punch: Below Average