Review: Yellowbeard

Rating: ★★★★☆
When the bulk of the Monty Python cast teams up with Cheech and Chong to create a pirate movie – and then tosses in a David Bowie cameo just for good measure – the results are sure to be anything but dull. As to whether it’s actually good, well, that’s another question. Yellowbeard straddles that difficult line between genius and awkward, and I can’t quite determine which side of that line it spends most of its time. But while I don’t know that Yellowbeard is actually a good movie, I do know that I enjoyed it, which is all the really matters.

The film follows the exploits of Yellowbeard the pirate, escaping prison after 20 years of incarceration. He is essentially the human embodiment of the Muppets’ character Animal, as he glares out from a face that’s all teeth and wild hair, and spends his time killing, raping (to which the women only seem to marginally object), and – if there’s still time – seeking his long lost treasure. To do so he begrudgingly enlists the aid of his son, who he’d conceived the night before his arrest 20 years prior, as well as the additional aid of Dr. Gilpen and Lord Percy Lambourn (played by Peter Cook, who portrays the clueless drunk with astounding genius.) They’re pursued by the British Navy and government agents (particularly a Blind Pew, a sightless spy with preternatural hearing.) Continue reading

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End

Rating: ★★★★☆
It’s a gross over-generalization, but sometimes it seems there are only two opinions regarding the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you’re a critic, you hate it. If you’re a movie goer, you love it. And that’s that.

As in all things, the truth lies somewhere in between. I won’t rehash my thoughts on the second flick, Dead Man’s Chest. Suffice to say I enjoyed it – more or less. But it wasn’t remotely in the same league as Curse of the Black Pearl, and was burdened with many flaws that could have been easily avoided.

So on to At World’s End. No surprise, it picks up shortly after Dead Man’s Chest left off – Jack’s lost to the world, Norrington is an Admiral for the East India Company, and Turner, Swann, and friends are on a trek to rescue Jack from Davy Jones’ Locker. The opening scene, featuring Lord Beckett’s efforts to purge the caribbean of pirates via mass executions, is troubling and haunting. And it’s also surprisingly brutal, which brings up a point I’d like to address: Kids will see this flick. I know it’s PG-13, and I know that all the commercials highlight this fact and suggest it may not be suitable for the youngins. But in this way Disney is being completely disingenious. They can tout that this isn’t a kid’s flick all they want, but when they turn around and sell Jack Sparrow action figures, Jack Sparrow pajamas, Jack Sparrow bubble bath (I’m not kidding) and so on – don’t try and tell me they don’t intend for kids to see this movie. Continue reading

Review: Pirates of Treasure Island

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆
I really don’t know what to make of this one.

Some bad movies are just that – bad. They should be ignored, dismissed, or burned. They have no value and are a waste of your existence to even consider viewing. Other bad movies are an ironic piece of brilliance, enjoyable on levels that no “good” movie could ever hope to achieve. These movies are meant for a group of rowdy friends sharing rum. But this movie? It lies firmly within one of these categories, and I strongly suspect it’s the former.

Basically “Treasure Island”, but with gratuitous man-eating bugs. I say gratuitous because they’re barely used – this movie would be essentially unchanged if you removed them. But there they are, nonetheless – towering over Long John, and bellowing their maneating howls as they shudder in harmless CGI malevolence. Continue reading

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest

Rating: ★★★☆☆
I feel bad writing this review. It’s not that Deadman’s Chest was a bad movie – far from it. Much of it, in fact, was quite good. But it did have some dreadful flaws, and wasn’t remotely the masterpiece of Curse of the Black Pearl. Whereas Black Pearl seemed nearly perfect – the dialogue, timing, settings, and storyline all seemed spot-on. Deadman’s Chest showed many signs of being a not-quite final draft of a film.

The story begins shortly after the first movie ended. Will and Elizabeth’s wedding is cut short by the arrival of the East India Tea Company, and adventure ensues. Both find themselvse seperately pursuing the same goal – that being the meeting up with Jack Sparrow, and the retreival of his compass. But I don’t need to rehash the plot – you’ve already seen it. And if not, go see it. It’s worth it. Continue reading

Review: Pirates of Tortuga

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Just because a movie is old doesn’t make it a classic. I don’t know what deranged minds decided this snooze-fest was worth digging out of the vaults for re-release, but their time could have been better spent elsewhere. The story is tired, the action lame, the acting uninspired – I genuinely can’t think of a single level on which I could recommend this. It’s bad – not funny bad, not salvageable bad, not ironically bad – just bad. From the lead actor (Ken Scott) that actually pauses during lines as though remembering what to say next to the atrocious story and choreography (choreography shouldn’t be noticed – if you can tell an actor is posing for the camera, something’s wrong) this movie is just one mis-step after another.

Most likely this lame effort at a pirate movie was originally created to cash in on the more worthy films of the time, and this re-release is probably a similar effort to cash in on today’s success of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Don’t bother.

Review: Treasure Island – 1999 (starring Jack Palance)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
What the hell was this?

Not quite bad enough to be a complete mockery, but not terribly good, and the filmmakers made some very strange choices in the creation of this film. Most noteworthy is their departure from any faithfulness to the book by having the officers of the Hispaniola betray Jim, thus forcing him to join the pirates. Now, I’m all for trying new things, but it just felt awfully contrived. The Captain’s character especially may as well have been written by a twelve-year-old, right down to when he grabs Long John’s crutch and throws it out of reach like a playground bully. And rewriting the beginning to attribute Long John’s wooden leg, Pew’s blindness, and Black Dog’s scars all to a single fateful day may have looked good in script, but struck me as dopey. Continue reading

Review: Treasure Island – 1990 (starring Charlton Heston)

Rating: ★★★★½
It’s a shame this is so hard to find because it’s clearly the most accurate, and I believe the best, version of Treasure Island out there. The script is very loyal to the book and the actors do an incredible job. This holds particularly true for Christian Bale, who plays Jim Hawkins. As anyone who’s seen a movie where kids outwit adults knows, it’s a terribly awkward thing to portray with any amount of believability. But Christian pulls it off with great finesse – Watching him it’s easy to picture this boy growing up to be an admiral some day. Charlton Heston as Long John Silver, however, was somewhat disappointing. He just seemed wooden to me. But then again, I can’t really picture Heston ever being anything but.

Heston’s lackluster performance aside, it’s a fantastic movie, and definitely my favorite interpretation of a fantastic book.

Review: Treasure Island – 1950 (starring Robert Newton)

Rating: ★★★☆☆
I must confess that I never saw this movie as a kid. Or if I did, I don’t remember it. As such I’ve no sense of nostalgia or childhood fondness attached to it. If you do, that’s fine – we love what we love, and we don’t need to justify it. But having seen it for the first time as an adult, I just don’t think it was all that great. Jim Hawkins was much too young to believably outsmart everyone, and his pudgy baby-face only made it all the more silly to watch. Long John was a giant, one-legged grease ball, more goofy than anything else. And the pirates, with their peculiar jaunt and super curly hairstyles, were just plain silly. I suppose the story was more-or-less loyal to the book, but it all had that dated and muted feel that is so common amongst older Disney movies.

In a word, “eh.”

Review: Cutthroat Island

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Ummm. Yeah. Where to begin? Well – er – what went wrong here? They actually built pirate ships to make this movie (which is bragable), and Geena Davis isn’t entirely un-cute. But, well… and Mathew Modine manages to crack out a funny line or two. Yeah.

For crying out loud! Even the monkey is bad! He’s ugly and he can’t even look cute when saluting! The plot was tired, the action was dull, and only Mathew Modine and Frank Langella put up even passable performances! Disagree? Watch it again and then try to defend the line “Bad Dawg” to me – AWFUL!!!

The only reason I’ll watch this movie again (and I will, God help me) is in that sick hope that somehow it will be better next time around. It won’t be though – and I’ll curse Geena Davis for it.

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl

Rating: ★★★★★
So I’ve been asked when I would get around to reviewing Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. To be honest, I haven’t bothered because I really don’t think I can contribute much to what’s already been said. Most reviews have been glowing, and I agree with them. Those that have found nits to pick, I think, are just trying to be contrary. If you haven’t seen it then do so. Now.

OK, fine. While I’m here I suppose I should say a little about this movie that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Much that’s been said elsewhere is worth repeating – Jack Sparrow is fantastic. Elizabeth Swann is a wonderful actress and sooo very hot. Will Turner, well, I’m not all swoony about Orlando Bloom, but the character he’s meant to portray is a hotheaded blacksmith, and he portrays him quite well. But the one under-rated character in all this is Commodore Norrington. By all rights, this character should have been the butt of the movie. He’s a pompous authority figure who dresses like a dandy and manages to lose his captive (twice,) lose his ship, and lose the girl – yet through it all he remains honorable and comes across as the noblest man of the whole lot. I think this is an incredible achievement by both the writers and the actor. And it’s details like this that make this a remarkably splendid film.