“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006) Review

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006) Review

Recently, I had watched the second movie in the “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” franchise for the umpteenth time, namely “Dead Man’s Chest”. First of all, I would like to say that originally, I had not been that keen on the idea of a sequel or two to “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Curse of the Black Pearl”. I simply did not think that the 2003 movie needed a sequel. It had ended just fine, as far as I was concerned. And I suspect that many “POTC” fans still feel this way. In end, I am glad that Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski had went ahead and forged a trilogy out of the franchise. To my surprise, “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Man’s Chest” has become my favorite of the three movies.

That said, here are my thoughts on this film:

*At first I had thought that the first movie was better. Which is not surprising to me. Sequels are rarely better than the first movie – with the STAR WARS, X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN franchises being the exceptions. But upon second viewing, I will add that DMC also became amongst the exceptions. I do not believe that it was better or worse than the CotBP. I feel that it is just as good, only darker . . . with a cliffhanger at the end. I must congratulate the two screenwriters, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, along with director Gore Verbinski for taking the story in a new direction, instead of rehashing the success of the first movie.

*At first, I did not care for the sequences featuring the cannabalistic Pelegostos. I did not like the idea of Jack Sparrow being some kind of god to them, or even the idea of them being cannibals. It seemed to smack of old Hollywood cliches regarding whites’ encounters with “non-white savages”. Yet, upon repeated viewings, one could see that Verbinski, Elliot and Russio took this cliche and turned it on its heels with the portrayal of the Pelegostos being more than just savages. The director and two screenwriters showed that despite their status as cannibals, the Pelegostos were just as human as anyone else, thanks to the comic acting of the cast members portraying the group. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Black Pearl crew’s escape from the Pelegostos. It was filled with excitement, great humor and good acting. In fact, it is one of my favorite sequences in the entire trilogy.

*I also have to congratulate Elliot and Russio for allowing the characters to develop even more since the first movie – especially Will Turner (portrayed by the very underappreciated Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly), and James Norrington (Jack Davenport). Even dear old Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp in all his glory) had managed to develop somewhat by the end of the film. And all of the major actors – including Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs; and Lee Arnberg and MacKenzie Crook as Pintel and Rigetti – were excellent. Not much of a surprise, really.

*“DMC” also introduced four new characters to the franchise – the perceptive and charming Vodoun priestess, Tia Dalma (Naomi Harris); the vindictive and deadly Captain Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) who commanded the ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman; Will’s gloomy father, Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgård); and the ruthless and manipulative representative of the East India Trading Company, Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander). Skarsgård gave a solid performance, and the other three actors – Harris, Nighy and Hollander – were fabulous.

*Many have expressed dislike of Elizabeth Swann for what she had done to Jack. What many had forgotten was that Will had more or less done the same thing to Jack – leave him for dead – in the first film. Mind you, Will had a better excuse. He feared that he would become a victim of Jack’s manipulations.

Despite my low expectations of the movie, I am surprised that I grew to love it so much. Even more surprising was the fact that it became my favorite in the “POTC” franchise. However, the movie’s final scene featuring the resurrection of Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) was BRILLIANT. It had one of the best endings I have ever seen on film, let alone cliffhangers. On the whole, I would give “POTC: Dead Man’s Chest” an “A-“. I am taking points off for the Pelegostos sequence. I may be more tolerant of it, but I do not love it. Quite frankly, I would rather see “DEAD MAN’S CHEST” over again, than watch the likes of “SUPERMAN RETURNS” (which was released around the same period) again.

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“STARDUST” (2007) Review

“STARDUST” (2007)  Review”

When I had first saw the poster, I could not drum any interest in seeing “STARDUST”, directed by Matthew Vaughn. In fact, my interest remained dormant after viewing the trailer. Just today, someone had suggested that we see it, considering there was no other movie in the theaters we were interested in seeing. I said “no thanks”. It did not end there. This “someone” literally had to coerce me into seeing the film. And you know what? I am glad that he did. 

Based upon Neil Gaiman’s novella, “STARDUST” tells the story of a young 19th century Englishman named Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox), who becomes in involved in a series of adventures in magical kingdom located beyond the wall of his hometown of . . . Wall. His adventures resulted from his love of a young neighbor named Victoria (Sienna Miller) and his desire to find and retrieve a fallen star named Yvaine (Claire Danes) in order to prove his worthiness as a future husband. Tristan has no idea that his mother (Kate Magowan) is not only a citizen of this magical kingdom, but is also a royal princess who is enslaved by a witch named Ditchwater Sal (Melanie Hill). He does not realize that his two surviving uncles – Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) and Prince Primus (Jason Flemyng) – are in search of a ruby that will give either of them the throne to the kingdom. A ruby that had caused Yvaine to fall from the sky and is now worn by her. And Tristan is also unaware of a witch named Lamia who seek Yvaine. With the latter’s heart carved out, Lamia and her two sisters will be able to regain their youth and power.

I do not think I will go any further into the story, because it is simply too damn complicated. It is not confusing. Trust me, it is not. But I do feel that in order to know the entire story, one would simply have to see the film. I have never read Gaiman’s novella, so I have no idea how faithful Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn’s script was to the story. But I do feel that Goldman and Vaughn’s adaptation resulted in an exciting, yet humorous tale filled with surprisingly complex characters and situations.

The acting, on the other hand, was first-class. It could have been easy for Charlie Cox and Claire Danes to fall into the usual trap of portraying the leads, Tristan and Yvaine, as a pair of simpering and and over emotional young lovers – a cliche usually found in many romantic fantasies over the years. Instead, Cox and Danes seemed to be having a good time in portraying not only the ideal personality traits of the two lovers, but their not-so-pleasant sides through their constant bickering and mistakes. Vaughn filled the cast with some of his regulars like the always competent and dependable Dexter Fletcher and Jason Flemyng, along with Sienna Miller, who did a surprisingly good job of portraying Tristan’s bitchy object of desire, Victoria. Mark Strong was excellent as the ruthless and sardonic Prince Septimus. Robert DeNiro did a surprising turn as Captain Shakespeare, a flaming drag queen who pretends to be a ruthless and very macho captain of a pirate ship in order to maintain his reputation. DeNiro was very funny. But by the movie’s last half hour, the joke surrounding his deception threatened to become slightly tiresome. But the movie’s true scene stealer turned out to be Michelle Pfieffer as the evil and treacherous Lamia, the oldest and most clever of the three sister witches. At times seductive, funny, malevolent and creepy, Pfieffer managed to combine all of these traits in her performance, allowing her to literally dominate the movie and provide one of the most creepiest screen villains to hit the movie screens in the past decade. Margaret Hamilton, look out!

As much as I had enjoyed “STARDUST”, I had a few problems with the movie. I have already pointed out how the joke surrounding Captain Shakespeare’s sexual orientation threatened to become overbearing. I also found the movie’s running time to be a bit too long. This problem could be traced to an ending so prolonged that it almost rivaled the notoriously long finale of“LORD OF THE RING: RETURN OF THE KING”. And the fact that the movie’s style seemed to be similar to the 1987 movie, “THE PRINCESS BRIDE”, did not help. Another problem I found with the movie was its “happily ever after” ending that left me feeling slightly disgusted with its sickeningly sweet tone. But what really irritated me about “STARDUST” was Jon Harris’s editing. It seemed so choppy that it almost gave the movie an uneven pacing.

But despite the movie’s disappointing finale and Harris’ editing, “STARDUST” proved to be a very entertaining movie. Using a first-class cast and an excellent script, director Matthew Vaughn managed to pay a proper homage to Neil Gaiman’s novella. He also proved that his debut as a director (“LAYER CAKE”) was more than just a fluke.