Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Well if you were one of those people who had been encouraged by early word that this edition of the Pirates franchise was measurably better than the last one, be prepared to be disappointed. It is just as limp and unmemorable as “On Stranger Tides” but it does have the advantage of having a better title. Being honest with you all, I liked the movie well enough as I was watching it, but it is a nothing burger in the long run. You will not care about or be moved by the characters here in any lasting way. For a couple of hours they will do things in front of you, some of which are amusing but none of which has any bearing on the world.

Johnny Depp was a star before this series started but he became a “superstar” once Captain Jack became his signature role. His return to the role feels very passive. Whereas he was the protagonist in the original film, he has become more and more a secondary character in the subsequent movies. Jack is a passenger as we are on these elaborate voyages. The character does not really initiate any action but rather participates in the elaborate Rube Goldberg sequences of action and comedy. The most memorable visual gag I can recall from seeing the movie this morning concerns the blade of a guillotine, rising and falling towards Jack as the device itself tumbles through space after an explosion. It requires almost no engagement on Depp’s part, with the exception of some facial mugging during the sequence.

The story actually concerns two other characters, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, and a women who is accused of witchcraft but claims simply to be a scientist. The connection between these characters is accidental at first but as plot threads revel themselves there is little chance that this is all going to tun out to be a coincidence. That is one of the major issues I have in feeling connected to the films after that first endeavor, the characters seem to randomly connect and then bond, betray and reconnect as the script demands rather than what the characters do. Geoffrey Rush’s character Captain Barbossa has evolved so much from the antagonist of the first film, to hero of later movies that it makes my head swim. Maybe this is where the precedent for those “Fast and Furious” allegiance shifts came from. This movie is stuffed with secondary characters who are attached to the plot but do nothing to move it forward, and then they are in with the core group and out in the next scene. I just feel like waiting to the end to see what point of view I am supposed to have for anyone.

A second major issue for me are the plot points concerning the sea curses and legends. They always seem to come out of nowhere and are explained quickly without much rhyme or reason. That’s because there is another one coming at any minute. The logic of the compass makes no sense at all. It is unimportant until it suddenly is. There is a map that comes out of thin air, requires the magic of a blood moon to be able to see, but that can;t be read until it can be, with the help of a crystal that somehow allows a star map to function. What?, you might ask. Don’t bother, in a second, dead pirate hunters will not be able to exist on soil, then they can possess a body but never come back to their own corpse, until they can. It is all completely arbitrary.pirates_of_the_caribbean_dead_men_tell_no_tales_ver3

Depp has some funny lines but he frequently is so into the alcohol soaked line delivery that has been selected for him that you don’t get their full impact. The elaborate and complicated battle that has Javier Bardem’s character chasing Jack from ship to ship using the canons as platforms to jump from and land on, is so darkly lit that you miss some of the fun of the sequence. None of the swordplay has the energy or sense of swashbuckling verve that made pirate movies fun in the first place. Heck, I liked the zombie sharks as much as anyone but here needs to be some byplay and conflict between the characters. Mostly we just get Bardem slathering after Sparrow without much of a plan. It’s frustrating when you can see possibilities for a great character driven action movie but the next visual set piece is going to stop it short. If you are a regular reader here, you know I don’t give stars or number ratings, I just try to give my feelings after the experience. I did not have any strong feeling about this one way or another. So that will probably tell you that the three above the title stars are a lot more stars than I would give.

Double O Countdown: Skyfall

We made it to the end. I don’t know how my fellow bloggers who post on a daily basis manage to find time to do so. It has been an exhausting four weeks. Everyday I have been scanning the films, compiling a list, capturing shots, finding images to share and it was always so much because I wanted to look at everything. It has all been worth it. This post is going up the morning of the day I will be seeing the new Bond film “SPECTRE”.  I hope it has helped wet your appitiete as much as it has mine.

“Skyfall” is just about perfect in my mind. I have seen haters out there who have had the audacity to say it is a bad film, they have no idea what they are talking about. This movie is packed with things that action film lovers will want to treasure, that Bond fanatics like me will geek out over, and it has qualities that film professionals have honored in numerous ways. Here are the Double O Seven ways it did it for me.

001  Adele gives Shirley Bassey a run for her money.

The title song is lush, mysterious and romantic. It kicks in with a chorus that is dramatic and brings the intensity level up very effectively. That it is played over some spectacular title images adds to it’s luster.

002  Judy Dench Classes up the film like you can’t believe

This was the biggest role for Dench in the series, she plays it tough and has just the right amount of vulnerability in the key scenes. She gets to participate in the climactic battle at Bond’s ancestral home and she is completely believable. In the opening, she is unsentimental in risking Bond’s life in pursuit of the Macguffin.

When the HQ of MI 6 is attacked and a half dozen are killed, she is a isolated figure with the world against her.

She has to defend herself at a public hearing where she will be humiliated for political reasons, still she does not give an inch.

As she and Bond flee London to draw their nemesis into a fight away from others, she is not alone, but still feels the weight of the world and the isolation with 007 at her side.

003  Let’s Hear it for the Movie Magician Roger Deakins

He makes beatiful images even more beautiful, see the reds pop in this image.

The lighting and shadows in some scenes recall the glory days of post war film noir.

Shadows that tell the story as well as the pictures and words do.

Backlighting for effect and hiding the face of the character in the bright red light from a fire, awesome stuff.

Composition is another of the arrows in his quiver.

I know “The Life of Pi” was beautiful, but Roger Deakins was robbed at the Academy Awards this year.

004  Once again, the villain makes the movie.

Javier Bardem as the betrayed and bitter ex-agent Silva, is all quirky body movement and lilting articulation when he speaks.

The story he tells of his Grandmothers Island and the rats is creepy, but watch the way he tries to get to James by delicately manhandling him.

Of course Jame’s response was classic bravado with a twist of humor.

Even when he is captured, Hannibal Lecter-like, we know that he is a snake that is too dangerous to let live. A terrific character matched by a terrific performance.

005  Fan Service from Aston Martin

I’m only slightly kidding when I say I may have peed myself when the lights go on in the garage. “Goldfinger” is my favorite Bond film, but this one proves there is always a chance it could be replaced. At least as long as a car with Machine Guns and an Ejector seat is in the mix.

006  The New M

Ralph Fiennes is well cast as a younger but mature new head of the Secret Service. He also know how to handle himself as he shows in the attack on the public hearings.

He starts off in the film as an uptight prig but turns into the wise and knowing heir to the Evil Queen of Numbers.

As he and Bond meet in the very last scene, and Bond addresses him as “M”, my heart soared and I anticipated the new film every day for the last three years.

007 The Perfect Summary of 007

He kicks ass, chases the bad guys around town on every kind of vehicle you can imagine, shoots a bucket load of bullets, and still cares about how his clothes drape properly.

If you don’t jones on this shot, why are you reading any of this?

James Bond Will Return in “SPECTRE”