Has anyone noticed something odd about the main characters in the 2007 movie, “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END”? Most or all of them either ended up with a less than happy ending or with their fates up in the air.

If one must be brutally honest, the franchise’s main characters had committed some kind of questionable act or one dangerous to others. Jack Sparrow was a pirate, who had no qualms about using others for his own personal gain. And that included bartering the former blacksmith apprentice Will Turner to Davy Jones in 2006’s “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST” in order to avoid paying his debt to Jones . . . and lying to Will’s fiancee, Elizabeth Swann, about it. Captain Hector Barbossa, as well all know, was a murderous pirate who led a mutiny against Jack, threatened the lives of many and also double-crossed sorceress Tia Dalma by tossing her into the Black Pearl’s brig in “AT WORLD’S END”. And then there is the straight arrow Will, who turned out to be not so straight in terms of morality. He had left Jack to the mercies of Barbossa and the latter’s crew in 2003’s “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL” and double-crossed the Pearl’s crew to pirate Captain Sao Feng and the East India Trading Company in order to get his hands on the ship in the 2007 movie. Will’s beloved and future Pirate King – Elizabeth committed one of the worst acts by leaving Jack shackled to the Black Pearl in order for the latter to be killed by Davy Jones’ pet, the Kracken, near the end of “DEAD MAN’S CHEST”. And in that same movie, former Royal Navy commodore James Norrington betrayed his new crew members from the Black Pearl, by stealing Davy Jones’ heart and handing it over to the villainous Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company in order to regain his military position in society.

Not exactly a sweet bunch, are they? Many societies, religious and what-have-you, seemed to believe in the old adage of what goes around, comes around. Or paying the consequences of one’s actions. My favorite happens to be – “Payback’s a bitch”. And judging from the fates of the major characters in the franchise, all of them – in one form or the other – seemed to have paid the consequences of their actions.

For Norrington, payback came in the form of death at the hands of Will’s poor deluded pirate father “Bootstrap” Bill Turner, when he helped Elizabeth and Sao Feng’s crew escape from the Flying Dutchman’s brig. After marrying Will during a battle against Jones and his crew, Elizabeth found herself nearly a widow and facing ten years of marriage . . . without her husband. And where was Will? During that battle, Jones stabbed him with the sword he had made for Norrington. And when Jack helped him stab Jones’ heart before he could die, Will became the new captain of the Flying Dutchman, ferrying souls lost at sea to “the other side” . . . and apart from Elizabeth for ten years. Barbossa seemed to have had it made in the end. He managed to get back the Black Pearl from Jack. Unfortunately, he found himself facing a possible mutiny due to Jack’s theft of Sao Feng’s chart that could lead them all to a new treasure. Later, he lost both the Black Pearl and his leg to the even more notorious pirate, Blackbeard in the 2011 film, “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES”, and went through a great deal of trouble to get revenge. And what about dear old Jack? Well . . . he found himself left behind at Tortuga, after Barbossa took the Black Pearl from him again. It took him quite a while to get the Black Pearl back, but not without being hunted by British justice and shanghaied by Blackbeard, who needed Jack to find the Fountain of Youth

Mind you some of the characters like Norrington and Will suffered a more severe consequence than the other characters. But not one of them had the glowingly “happily ever after” that was seen in the conclusion of “AT WORLD’S END”. Even though Will and Elizabeth were finally reunited in the film’s post-credits scene, I wonder if there were some problems in their reunion. After all, Will and Elizabeth had to adjust being married. And Will had to learn to be a father . . . something of which Elizabeth already had ten years of experience.

“Defense of the Realm” [PG-13] – 7/14



Cole stared at his selection of ties in an effort to decide which one to wear. After five minutes of contemplation, he realized that not only was he unable to make a choice, he simply did not care. Not a proper attitude to harbor for an upcoming date, but he could not control his feelings.

He had planned to take Phoebe to the theater, followed by dinner at one of her old stomping grounds – Quake. Unfortunately, he could not drum up any enthusiasm. Not with Olivia still on his mind. And there was the new houseguest that Marbus planned to dump on him. Cole sighed. Life had been so much easier, over a month ago. Now once again, it has gone to hell.

Realizing that he was better off without a tie, Cole returned the garments to his dresser drawer. He grabbed his jacket and headed for the living room. At that moment, two figures materialized – Marbus and a handsome, dark-haired woman, whom Cole assumed to be the fugitive whitelighter.

“Belthazor,” Marbus announced, “I would like you to meet Natalia Stepanova. Natalia, this is my nephew . . .”

The whitelighter held out her hand. “Yes, I have heard of Belthazor,” she said in a Russian accent. “A great deal.”

“And I’ve heard a few things about you,” Cole said, shaking her offered hand. As with all whitelighters, Natalia left a white film on his hand after contact. “You were the one who had warned Marbus about the Elders’ plans to kill me. I wish I had paid closer attention.”

Natalia continued, “Actually, it was Mathilda who was after you, not the Council. And Barbara and I had no idea that she and Leo would use Miss McNeill to kill you.”

Cole nodded. “I understand. Anyway, I hope that you will enjoy your stay, here. You can use the guest bedroom on the left. I usually have breakfast around seven in the morning and dinner around eight. If I’m not around, feel free to fix your own meals.” He hesitated. “Uh, that is if you know how . . .”

“I happen to be an excellent cook, Belthazor.”


One of Natalia’s brows formed an arch. “Pardon?”

“You can call me Cole. If you like.”

Natalia smiled. “Of course.”

“Okay.” Cole glanced at the clock on the fireplace mantle and heaved a sigh. “Uh, I have a date tonight . . .”

Natalia frowned. “A what?”

Cole patiently explained, “I will be taking a young lady to the theater this evening. And later, we’ll be dining at a restaurant.”

“Oh.” Natalia responded with an understanding smile. “How charming. Who is the lucky young lady?”

Before Cole could answer, Marbus said, “He’s taking his former wife. Frances.”

Cole shot a quick glare at his uncle. “Her name is Phoebe. Why is it that after nearly two months, you still can’t get her name right?”

“Sorry lad, but Phoebe is not a name I find easy to remember.”

Natalia added, “Oh! One of the Charmed Ones! The seer! Your former wife.” A frown creased her forehead. “What happened to Miss McNeill?”

A silent pause filled the room. Cole smiled patiently at the whitelighter. “We’re just friends.”

“Oh. So, you’re dating one of Leo’s sisters-in-law.” Natalia paused. “And the third sister is Samuel Wilder’s daughter. Right?” Then she added, “Do you plan to . . .?”

“Tell Phoebe about you?” Cole finished. “Do you want me to?”

The whitelighter quickly shook her head. “Please . . . no. It is not that I do not trust her . . . I am simply afraid of how Leo would react if he knew of my whereabouts.”

Cole nodded. “I understand. Besides, Phoebe was never great at keeping secrets.” Then he sighed. “Okay, the place is yours for the evening. I’ll see . . .” He hesitated at the sound of Marbus’ cough. “What?”

“Do I have to remind you, lad?” Marbus replied. “Natalia has already been tracked to the Gimle dimension and here on earth. I think you should provide some kind of protection, just in case the Elders have managed to track her here.”

Cole sighed. He seemed to be doing that a lot, lately. “Right.” As he began to prepare a protection spell to shield the penthouse from the Elders’ radar, he wondered if he had made a mistake in offering refuge to the fugitive whitelighter. He could image how Phoebe would react if she ever found out.


Paige appeared in the doorway of Phoebe’s bedroom. “Cole’s here,” she announced.

Phoebe let out a squeak and continued to finish getting ready. A quick glance at her watch told her that she was running slightly behind schedule. As she checked her appearance in the long, oval mirror, she asked, “How’s Cole doing? Is he alone?”

“Aside from Piper giving him the cold shoulder,” Paige murmured, “yeah. Leo hasn’t returned from the store, yet.”

“Oh God.” Phoebe turned away from the mirror. “How do I look?”

Paige shrugged. “Nice.”

“That’s it?”

Heaving an impatient sigh, Paige added, “Phoebe, you look great! Okay?”

“Okay.” Phoebe grabbed her purse. “I’m ready.”

Paige blocked Phoebe’s path in the doorway. “Two more things, Miss Halliwell. One, you got a phone call.”

“So, didn’t you take a message?” Phoebe tried to bypass her younger sister.

After a brief hesitation, Paige answered, “Yeah. I did. I told Jason that you would call him back. He left a number.”

“Oh.” Shit! “Yeah. Okay, I’ll get back to him.” Again, she tried to bypass Paige.


The older woman gave the younger one an exasperated stare. “What?”

“You mean to say that you haven’t broke up with Jason, yet?”

Oh God! Phoebe wished that Paige would mind her own business. “I’ll get around to it. Soon.”

“Uh huh.” Shaking her head, Paige continued, “Also, I think a jacket goes with that outfit. Doesn’t it?”

“Oh yeah. Thanks.” Grateful to dismiss Jason from her thoughts, Phoebe snatched up her jacket, ducked under Paige’s outstretched arm and raced down the hall. Paige followed closely behind. They found Cole sitting on the sofa, looking very tense. Fortunately, neither Piper nor Leo was in sight. This did not look good. Phoebe pasted a too-bright smile on her face and warmly greeted her ex-husband. “Hey sweetie!” She leaned down and gave him a swift peck on the cheek. “Everything’s okay?”

To Phoebe’s surprise, Cole blinked. “Huh?”

“Cole, are you okay? Ready to leave?”

Before the half-demon could answer, blue lights appeared and Chris materialized before the others. Ignoring Cole, he turned to the two sisters. “Where’s Piper?” he asked.

Piper burst into the living room, with Leo at her heels. “I’m right here,” she said. “What’s wrong?”

“I need your help,” Chris replied. “In fact, the Elders’ Council is seeking the help of all witches.”

Paige added sarcastically, “Are they asking? Or ordering us?”

Chris sighed. “The Elders need your help in tracking down a fugitive. A whitelighter named Natalia Stepanova. They believe that she is somewhere here on Earth. Which is why they want our charges to help find her.”

“This Stepanova person,” Paige continued, “is she behind the deaths of those Elders?”

Chris nodded. “The Elders found out that . . .” He hesitated, as his eyes rested upon Cole. “Oh. Uh . . . Aren’t you . . .?”

Phoebe quickly made the introductions. “Uh, Chris – this is Cole Turner, my ex-husband.”

Piper added, “The demon formally known as Belthazor.”

Cole shot the eldest Charmed One a dark look, while Chris stared at him. Like a scientist examining a specimen. “Oh, um . . . nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot . . . about you.”

“You’ve heard?” Cole frowned.

Smiling nervously, Phoebe interrupted. “Cole honey, this is Chris Perry, our new whitelighter.”

Cole offered his hand to the young whitelighter. Chris briefly hesitated, before shaking the offered hand. “So, you’re the new whitelighter. I only hope that you do a better job than your predecessor.”

“Hey!” Piper protested.

Chris laughed nervously. “I just hope that I can do a good job.”

One of Cole’s brows formed an arch. “Good. So uh, why are the Elders after this whitelighter, again?”

“I . . . um . . .”

Leo sharply interrupted, “Sorry Cole, but this is a private matter. In other words, it’s none of your business.”

A cold smile curved Cole’s lips as he faced Leo. Anxiety flared within Phoebe’s breast. “Then I guess you shouldn’t be here, as well.”

“Just because you and Phoebe are now dating, doesn’t mean you have every right to know what’s going on in this house!”

Piper placed a hand on Leo’s arm. “Honey . . . don’t. He’s just trying to bait you.”

Cole continued, “You know, this Stepanova whitelighter sounds familiar. Didn’t a witch named Keith McNeill used to be one of her charges?”

Another outburst left Leo’s mouth. “Why are you still here? Why don’t you just leave?”

“Well, you’ve already tried to get rid of me, Leo. When you and Margolin had set up Olivia to kill me.” Cole’s smile grew even more deadly. “But, as usual, you failed to achieve your goal.”

“That’s it! I’ve had enough . . .”

Cole took a threatening step forward. “And what exactly are you going to do? Bore me to death with more threats?” His face became a cold mask – an expression that Phoebe had always found frightening. “Or find another witch to do your dirty work for you? You better pray, for your sake that he or she doesn’t get caught.”

Piper stepped between the two former brothers-in-law. “Okay! That’s it!” She glared at the half-demon. “Cole, we want you out of here! Now! We have family matters to discuss.”

His eyes now cold with rage, Cole sprung to his feet. “Don’t worry Piper. I’m more than happy to oblige.” And he beamed out of the living room, much to Phoebe’s distress.

She turned on her eldest sister in a fit of anger. “Piper! How could you?”

“Hey! He started it with his threats to Leo!” Piper shot back.

“Actually, it was Leo who started it!” Then Phoebe glared at her brother-in-law. “You just had to open your mouth, didn’t you, Leo? You had to say something to Cole!”

Looking stunned by Phoebe’s accusation, Leo protested, “Phoebe, I’m sorry, but had no right being here! You girls have a matter to attend to. As witches.”

“Matters that we’re supposed to discuss with our whitelighter . . . who happens to be Chris! As I recall, you’re no longer our whitelighter! Are you?”

Piper sprang to her husband’s defense. “Uh, wait a minute Pheobe! There’s no need to jump down Leo’s throat! He’s only trying to help!”

“And I’m trying to get out of here, so I can go on a date!” Phoebe raised her head and called out her ex-husband’s name. “Cole? Cole!”

Chris spoke up. “Look, we have a whitelighter to find. One who might be a killer.”

Regarding the young whitelighter with suspicious eyes, Paige demanded, “And why are ‘we’ searching for Whatshername, anyway? Why don’t the Elders simply clip her wings or snatch her?”

A shrug lifted Chris’ shoulders. “I don’t know. I guess she’s managed to elude them, after she was detected on Earth. The Elders had also briefly detected her in some demonic dimension. She’s got to be hiding, somewhere.”

Paige’s dark eyes continued to bore into the young whitelighter’s. “And you don’t know where she is?”

“How would I know?”

Rolling her eyes, Paige continued, “Because you’re the one from the future.”

A pause followed before Chris finally answered, “Well . . . yeah. But I’m just a lowly whitelighter. I don’t have knowledge of everything that happened in this time period. Besides, I only knew about the Titans destroying the Elders. The whitelighters were disorganized after that.”

Paige shot back, “Yet, surely your memories of the future have changed, after the Elders had dealt with the Titans. Right? So, you must know about Natalia Stepanova. Where she’s hiding and if she’s guilty.”

“I tell you, I don’t know every . . .”

Phoebe held up her hand. “Look, we understand. It’s okay. But I really don’t understand how the Elders expect us to track down a missing whitelighter. And since other witches might be looking for her, there’s a little matter about my date, tonight. Your missing whitelighter will have to wait. Cole!”

Frowning, Chris protested, “Phoebe, this isn’t the time . . .”

“What lead do you have on this Natalia Whatshername?” Paige demanded. “Why come to us? Why not the McNeills, who have some past connections to her? And what makes the Elders think she’s the right culprit?”

“Hey! I don’t know!” Chris protested angrily. “I’m just the messenger!”

Phoebe added, “Well until you do know, I’m going on my . . .”

Cole reappeared, looking slightly abashed. “I just remembered,” he mumbled. “Reservations at Quake are hard to get by, lately. I went through a lot of trouble, tonight, and I left my car outside.” He glanced at Phoebe. “Still interested for tonight?”

Phoebe eagerly linked her arm with her ex-husband’s. “More than interested.” She ignored Piper’s look of disgust, as she and Cole walked toward the front door.


Despite the ten months he had spent as a whitelighter and Elder, Kevin James missed the mortal world. Which surprised him very much, considering his previously unhappy life. When he had eagerly agreed to replace one of the retiring Elders, Kevin had no idea that he would spend the rest of his existence in such . . . surroundings.

To deal with his bouts of boredom, Kevin made occasional visits to the mortal realm to indulge in his favorite pastimes. He would either visit the Halliwells – whom he had first met before becoming an Elder – or head for the place that usually appealed to his adolescent nature. Namely the various Disney theme parks throughout the world, the shopping mall, the beach and the movies. Tonight, Kevin had decided to settle upon the latter.

He had overheard two whitelighters discussing a movie called “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL”. And since the topic combined two of his favorite things – movies and Disney amusement parks, he decided to check out this new movie at a theater in Sausalito.

Three hours later, Kevin emerged from the theater, a very happy whitelighter. The movie had more than lived up to his expectations. Quite simply, he loved it and planned to see it as much as possible before it disappeared from the theaters altogether. Humming the movie’s jaunty score under his breath, Kevin made his way to a nearby alley, where he could orb out of sight. Upon reaching his destination, he glanced around to make sure that he was alone. And at that moment, he felt a sharp pain between his shoulder blades.

Kevin gasped aloud and reached behind to investigate the source of his pain. When he felt a shaft protruding from his back, he realized that he had been struck by a darklighter’s arrow. Kevin fell into a state of panic, as he tried to remove the arrow.

A figure appeared before. A dark-haired woman dressed in black. Kevin immediately recognized her as Belinda Lucas, one of the Realm’s whitelighters. “Yo . . . you . . .” the young Elder stammered.

“That’s right, Junior,” Belinda replied with a cold smile. She held a bow in her hands. “I shot you.”

“Wha . . . what did . . .” Kevin gasped, as more pain shot through every nerve in his body. “What did . . . she promised . . . you. Na . . .”

Belinda sneered. “If you’re speaking of Natalia Stepanova, you guessed wrong. She’s innocent. Besides, why should you care? You’ll be dead within a minute or so.”

Kevin fell upon his knees. “Wha . . . how can you kill . . . a fellow whitelight . . .?”

Shifting the bow into one hand, Belinda reached from inside her blouse and pulled out what looked like a medallion hanging from a leather strap. “Who said that I was a whitelighter?” She let the medallion hang down, loaded the bow with another arrow, and aimed the weapon at the young Elder. “I bet you now wish that you had never accepted that offer from the Council. Don’t you?”

Kevin blinked, as the darklighter arrow spun straight toward his heart.


“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: On Stranger Tides” (2011) Review



When the Disney Studios and producer Jerry Bruckheimer had first released news of their intention to make sequels to their 2003 hit movie, “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Curse of the Black Pearl”, I reacted to the news with a greatdeal of wariness. In fact, I was against the idea. But after seeing 2006’s “Dead Man’s Chest” and 2007’s “At World’s End”, my opinion had changed. I ended up enjoying the two movies just as much as I had enjoyed “Curse of the Black Pearl” . . . especially the second film. 

About two years after “At World’s End” hit the theaters, the Disney people and Bruckheimer had released news of their intention to make a fourth film. Again, I expressed wariness at the idea. I thought the three movies released between 2003and 2007 made a neat little trilogy. There was no need for a fourth movie. But Disney and Bruckheimer went ahead with their plans and a fourth movie was recently released. But unlike “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End”, I found it difficult to enjoy “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: On Stranger Tides”.

I cannot say that I disliked the film. There were aspects of it that I genuinely enjoyed. Both Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush were in top form as Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hector Barbossa. But I noticed something odd about their characters in this movie. For once, Jack did not have a particular goal to attain in this film. In “Curse of the Black Pearl”, he was after the Black Pearl. He was after the chest that contained Davy Jones’ heart in “Dead Man’s Chest” to be used to avoid a debt that he owned. And in “At World’s End”, he was still after Jones’ heart in order to gain the opportunity to become master of the Flying Dutchman and immortality. In this fourth movie, Jack seemed to have become swept up in Blackbeard and the British Crown’s agendas. And Barbossa seemed out of place as a privateer for His Majesty King George II and the Royal Navy. There was a scene that featured him eating slices of fruit arranged on a plate. He seemed to be doing his best to project the image of an officer and a gentleman . . . only he looked rather odd. However, both actors gave top notch performances and I could find nothing to complain about.

I could also say the same about the performances of Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and Stephen Graham as Angelica, Edward “Blackbeard” Teach and a sailor named Scrum, respectively. All three were perfectly cast in their respective roles. Cruz did an excellent job in portraying the complex Angelica, who happened to be the daughter of Blackbeard. Although it is obvious that she is attracted to Jack – a former lover, she seemed to have this . . . need for her father’s love that made her into some kind of twisted Daddy’s girl wannabe. Unfortunately, McShane’s Blackbeard seemed like poor father material. There were times when he conveyed the image of a concerned and loving father. And yet, he proved to be nothing more than an emotional vampire who would easily kill his daughter if she got in the way of his goal – the Fountain of Youth. And I must admit that not only did McShane made a witty and terrifying Blackbeard, he handled his character’s twisted relationship with Angelica beautifully. Graham’s Scrum almost struck me as a younger version of Jack’s old friend, Joshamee Gibbs. And considering that the latter’s appearance in this film seemed somewhat limited, it seemed just as well that Graham received more screen time.

There were other aspects of “On Stranger Tides” that I enjoyed. Or should I say, scenes? The mermaids’ attacks upon Blackbeard’s men and upon the H.M.S. Providence were among the most terrifying scenes I have seen in the franchise since the Kracken’s attacks in “Dead Man’s Chest”. I also enjoyed the scene that featured Jack’s mutinous meeting with members of Blackbeard’s crew. Personally, I found it very funny and it brought back memories of former characters such as Pintel, Ragetti, Marty and Cotton. Jack’s meeting with King George II proved to be somewhat entertaining. And it led to an equally entertaining chase sequence through the streets of mid-18th century London. But my favorite scene featured Jack marooning Angelica on a deserted island, following the death of Blackbeard. The humor not only permeated strongly in their verbal exchange, but also in director Rob Marshall’s visual style. And I must admit that I also enjoyed the photography featured in the London scenes and the “island” where the Fountain of Youth was located. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski did justice to the lush Hawaii jungle that served as one of the movie’s settings.

So, if I had so much to enjoy about “On Stranger Tides”, why did it fail to resonate within me in the end? What went wrong? At least for me? My main problem with the movie is that I felt it tried to repeat many aspects of the first film,“Curse of the Black Pearl”. This is odd, considering that “On Stranger Tides” was allegedly inspired by Tim Powers’ 1987 novel, “On Stranger Tides”. The fourth film did not come off as a remake or anything of such. But there were too many aspects of the first film that seemed to be repeated in “On Stranger Tides”. One, Jack’s reunion with Angelica in a London tavern almost seemed like a remake of his first meeting with Will Turner in “Curse of the Black Pearl”. Scrum almost seemed like a remake of Joshamee Gibbs. This is not surprising, since he had more scenes with Jack that Gibbs and the latter (along with actor Kevin McNally) seemed wasted in the movie. Two of Blackbeard’s crew turned out to be zombies (if you can call them that). And they seemed like remakes (physical and otherwise) of Barbossa’s first mate from the first film, Bo’sun. More importantly, the romance between missionary Philip Swift and the mermaid Syrena almost seemed like a remake of the Will Turner/Elizabeth Swann romance . . . but without the character developments. If I must be honest, Philip and Syrena’s romance nearly put me to sleep on several occasions. I feel sorry for actors Sam Claflin and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey. They seemed like two decent actors forced to work with a pair of boring and undeveloped characters.

There were other problems I had with “On Stranger Tides”. The movie saw the return of Royal Navy officers Theodore Groves (from the first and third film) and Gillette (from the first film). What on earth did Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot did to their roles? Both characters almost seemed lobotomized. Well, Gillette did. Groves seemed to have lost his sense of humor. I recalled that he was a big fan boy of Jack in the first and third films. Yet, when he finally met Jack . . . nothing happened. He was too busy being a rather boring and stiff character. What happened to Jack and Barbossa’s own quests for the Fountain of Youth, which was first introduced in “At World’s End”? After a few years of failure, the audience is led to believe that Jack simply lost interest. And Barbossa’s earlier encounter with Blackbeard and the latter’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, led to the loss of one leg and the Black Pearl. And how did Barbossa managed to survive the loss of his leg. Apparently, Barbossa had to cut off his leg to free from Blackbeard’s enchanted ship lines. So, how did he manage to keep himself from bleeding to death in the ocean? How did he manage to swim to safety with one leg?

And then we come to the mermaids. How did the mermaids manage to destroy Barbossa’s ship, the H.M.S. Providence? It was one thing to lure men from small boats or smash said boats. It was another to do the same to a large frigate. I have never heard of such a thing in the mermaid mythology. One last major problem I had with the movie dealt with the presence of the Spanish. Like the British, they were after the Fountain of Youth. Only their leader, known as the Spaniard (portrayed by Óscar Jaenada), called himself destroying the Fountain in the name of his king and the Catholic Church, as some kind of stance against paganism. Worse, he possessed the very chalices that needed to be used to drink the Fountain’s water. Yet, he did not bother to smash them, until he was at the Fountain’s location. Why? And what in the hell were Elliot and Rossio thinking? Why include such a storyline that proved to be irrelevant, epsecially since Jack was able to use the Fountain’s water after its so-called destruction?

I hear that Disney Studios and Bruckheimer are planning a fifth movie. I can understand this decision, considering that“On Stranger Tides” raked up a great deal of profit at the box office. Frankly, I wish they would change their minds. I honestly do not care how much money the movie had made. After watching it, I realized that a fourth movie should not have been made . . . at least from an artistic point of view. It featured too much sloppy writing and characterizations for me to truly enjoy. “On Stranger Tides” might prove to be the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie that I cannot consider as a favorite.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: At World’s End” (2007) Review

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: At World’s End” (2007) Review

When I first saw the trailer for the third installment of the ”PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN”, I thought I was in for an overblown and possibly unentertaining movie. Quite frankly, the trailer did not impress me very much. And then word came out once the movie was released around May 24-25 that the movie was either confusing or not as good as the first two. I had approached ”AT WORLD’S END” with very low expectations. Thankfully, my expectations proved to be wrong. 

Was ”POTC 3” overblown? Yep. In fact, I can say the same about the first two movies. But at least the three movies were overblown in a manner that I found very enjoyable. And this third movie almost seemed to have an operatic quality about it. That operatic quality seemed to be focused around the movie’s two love stories – Will Turner/Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) and Davy Jones/Tia Dalma aka Calypso (Bill Nighy and Naomie Harris). One would think that the saga’s main character – Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his main nemesis Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) would be overlooked. But these two characters provided both plenty of humor and surprisingly, angst to the movie.

”AWE” does not really have a complicated plot. Thanks to James Norrington’s (Jack Davenport) treachery in ”DEAD MAN’S CHEST”, the world of piracy finds itself in danger due to Lord Cutler Beckett’s (Tom Hollander) possession of Davy Jones’s heart. With Jones and the Flying Dutchman under his control, Beckett has the power to rid the seas of pirates and ensure that the British Crown, the East India Trading Company and himself will have control of the world’s seas. The recently resurrected Barbossa seemed to feel that the only way to stop Beckett is to summon the nine pirate lords of the Brethren Court. Both he and the recently deceased Jack Sparrow happened to be part of the Brethren Court. Because Jack had failed to name a successor, Barbossa needs Jack alive to take part in the meeting of the pirate lords. Will, who had witnessed a kiss between Elizabeth and Jack in ”DMC”, wants Jack alive for two reasons – he believes that Elizabeth is in love with Jack and he needs the Black Pearl to catch up with the Flying Dutchman. Elizabeth wants to bring Jack back to alleviate her guilt for luring the eccentric pirate to his death in the last film. Tia Dalma, the Vodoun priestess who had resurrected Barbossa needs both the latter and Jack for the “pieces of nine” that represent their positions as pirate lords. Those same pieces of nine could free Dalma from her bodily prison, enabling to become her true identity, the goddess Calypso.

Due to the needs and desires of the main characters, a great deal of double-crossing and back stabbing ensues – especially by Jack, Will and Barbossa. Another pirate lord, Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), gets into the act because he wants revenge against Jack for sleeping with his concubines . . . and to ensure his survival against Beckett’s purge.

I thought I would have trouble keeping up with so much treachery being committed. Oddly enough, I never did – aside from a few points. If Barbossa, Will and Elizabeth needed a ship so badly to reach the World’s End (Davy Jones’ Locker), how on earth did they reach Singapore in the first place? At first, I wanted to criticize the writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot for their vague explanation of the curse that had bound both Davy Jones and later, Will to command of the Flying Dutchman. Many fans – including myself – were forced to use the Internet to find out the details of the curse. As it turned out, Elliot and Rossio did include a scene in which Tia Dalma/Calypso had explained the curse in detail to Will. But for some reason, the film’s editors decided to cut it decrease the movie’s running time. Idiot editors. All they did was end up confusing a lot of fans, considering Elliot and Rossio confirmed that the Flying Dutchman curse was broken in the post-end credits scene when Will returned to Elizabeth for good. Other than that, I truly enjoy the movie’s story and have to commend the writers for doing a better job than I had anticipated.

The cast was exceptional as always. What can one say about Johnny Depp? His performance in this movie seemed even better than in the second film. I especially enjoyed three moments by Depp – his multifaceted performance of the many aspects of Jack’s personality in the Locker; the serious moment between Jack and Barbossa as the latter pointed out the folly of Jack’s tendency to run from trouble; and his look of horror when Jones managed to fatally stab Will. I had no idea that dear old Jack truly cared about Will.

And Geoffrey Rush came pretty close to stealing the picture from Depp. This time, his Barbossa turned out to be a much more complex and ambiguous than he was in ”CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL”. Sure, we saw more of Barbossa’s villainy and double-crossing. But this is the same guy who also had no problems with marrying Will and Elizabeth . . . even in the middle of a sea battle. I swear that was one of the craziest wedding ceremonies I have ever seen on the movie screen. And when he double-crossed Jack for the last time, at least he was kind enough not to put Jack’s life in jeopardy.

Both Naomie Harris (who seemed a bit scary at times) and Bill Nighy provided great pathos as the romantically doomed Tia Dalma (Calypso) and Davy Jones. I especially enjoyed their scene in which each confronted the other with their past betrayals. Tom Hollander seemed to take great pleasure in his portrayal of the villainous Lord Beckett. Quite frankly, I can say the same about Chow Yun Fat, who seemed to enjoy delving into Sao Feng’s villainy. I had feared he would end up chewing the scenery, so to speak. Instead, he managed to come off as intimidating as Rush, Hollander and Nighy (and Harris, I may add). My only real complaint has to be Jack Davenport’s presence in the movie. Davenport has allowed his James Norrington to become a sad figure haunted by his ever-continuing love for Elizabeth and his betrayal in the last film. And I thought that he did a marvelous job in conveying Norrington’s regrets over his DMD actions. Unfortunately, there was not enough of Norrington in the film. Hell, the guy who portrayed Beckett’s right hand man – Mercer – had received more screen time. And there is something wrong with that.

But I feel that the movie truly belonged to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley as the young lovers – Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. The pair’s characters and performances really struck a chord with me. Instead of the naïve and sweet lovers they had portrayed in the first film, the pair had become more ambiguous and complex. It seemed interesting to watch these two deal with each other’s insecurities, mistaken beliefs and constant sniping. They actually seemed like a real couple, instead of an idealized one. Most of the movie critics have praised Knightley for her performance. Granted, it was a major improvement over her acting in ”DMC” in which she had seemed a bit over-the-top at times, I do believe that Bloom deserved some of that praise, as well. But because he is a major teen idol, the critics have seemed fit to either ignore him or make insulting comments about his acting. I can only assume that their noses were so far up their asses that they failed to notice Bloom’s obvious talent for pathos . . . or the fact that he can be rather funny – especially in a scene in which he had volunteered to take command of the Black Pearl in the middle of one of Jack and Barbossa’s many shipboard quarrels. I hope that one day, Bloom will finally be appreciated as a good and dependable actor.

The movie has its flaws – especially the vague handling of the Flying Dutchman curse and James Norrington’s character – but I must admit that I was surprised that I managed to enjoy it a lot more than I had assumed I would. I have also heard rumors that Bruckheimer and Verbinski plan to make a fourth ”PIRATES” movie. I honestly have no idea on how to react to that. They are lucky in which they have managed to create three exceptional films. I cannot help but wonder if they are in danger of pushing their luck with a fourth one. Oh well. Only time will tell.

“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.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003) Review



”PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003) Review

Over six years ago, ”PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Curse of the Black Pearl” had burst upon the movie screens and to the surprise of many, became a major hit. Even more surprising, the movie ended up spawning a wildly successful movie trilogy within another four years and also a new cinematic icon for the 21st century – Captain Jack Sparrow.

Judging from the forums and blogs on the Internet, it seems to me that ”Curse of the Black Pearl” is the most popular film in the ”PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” franchise. In a way, I can understand. It lacked the darker aspects of the two sequels that followed. Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, ”Curse of the Black” is based upon the attraction at the Disney parks. In it, the pirates of the ship known as the Black Pearl, led by the vile Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), need to restore the missing piece of the ancient Aztec gold treasure of Cortes and sacrifice the blood of “Bootstrap” Bill Turner to save themselves from eternal punishment owing to a curse that fell upon them when they stole the gold. The buccaneers attack Port Royal and kidnap Miss Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) who has the missing piece of gold. In order to rescue Miss Elizabeth Swann, William Turner (Orlando Bloom) enlists the help of the fabled Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who devises an ingenious plan to retrieve the Black Pearl from his mutinous former first mate, Captain Barbossa, and help William Turner save the love of his life

Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio created a frolicking tale filled with swashbuckler action, an interesting supernatural story that involved cursed treasure and undead pirates, and sharp humor that almost bordered on the cock-eyed. Most of this humor came from the leading man himself, the excruciatingly talented Johnny Depp. His portrayal of the morally ambiguous and androgynous Captain Jack Sparrow took a great deal of moviegoers and critics by surprise. He certainly took me by surprise. No other actor in Hollywood or anywhere else has ever portrayed a pirate in this manner. Not surprisingly, Depp won an Academy Award nomination and a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance.

It seemed a shame that Geoffrey Rush had failed to earn any acting nominations for his performance as the menacing Captain Barbossa. Come to think of it, his performance was more than menacing. Like Depp, he gave a performance filled with a great deal of off-the-wall humor and sharp dialogue. I also enjoyed Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s performances as the star-crossed young lovers, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Ironically, both actors seemed to have better chemistry with either Depp, Rush or both than with each other. Until the final battle. And I found that odd, considering that their screen chemistry seemed a lot more convincing in the final action scene inside the large cavern on Isla de Muerta and in the two following sequels. I wonder if this had anything to do with the fact that Will and Elizabeth spent most of the movie suppressing their feelings for one another.

As for the rest of the cast that made up the movie, they were superb. Jack Davenport gave a commanding, yet sardonic performance as Will’s romantic rival – Commodore James Norrington of the Royal Navy. Mind you, Davenport really grew into the role in ”Dead Man’s Chest”, but he did a good job in this film. And what would a ”PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” be without Kevin R. Nally as Josiah Gibbs, Lee Arnberg as Pintel and MacKenzie Crook as Rigetti? I could list all of the supporting characters that made this movie memorable, but it would take forever. I will simply state that Verbinski was very lucky to find himself with an excellent cast.

I had noted earlier ”Curse of the Black Pearl” is not as dark as its two successors. I wonder if this is the reason why many fans prefer it over the other two. If I have to be honest, I do not share the same sentiments. Do not get me wrong. I love this movie. But it is not my favorite ”PIRATES” movie. That honor goes to the second film – ”Dead Man’s Chest”. As much as I love ”Curse of the Black Pearl”, there were times I wish it had been a little more ambiguous. With the exception of the Jack Sparrow character, the other characters are clearly either the good guys or the bad guys. There seemed to be little room for moral ambiguity.

There was another aspect of ”Curse of the Black Pearl” that I had noticed – even when I first saw the film. For a movie set in the Caribbean, I really did not see much of it. Yes, there were scenes set aboard ships. But aside from a sequence featuring Jack Sparrow’s arrival at Port Royal and his first meeting of Elizabeth and Norrington, the movie never really captured the aura of the Caribbean – at least for me. And I had noticed something else. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski used a lot of close ups in his shots. I remembered that those close ups made me feel slightly dizzy and claustrophic when I first saw the movie.

Despite certain elements of the film that did not appeal to me – Wolski’s photography and the less ambiguous tone of most of the characters – I still love ”Curse of the Black Pearl”. I love the story, Klaus Badelt’s score, Gore Verbinski’s direction, and the characters. Especially Johnny Depp’s performance. Hopefully, this movie and the two that followed will one day be viewed as film classics. They are already classics in my eyes.