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: Blackbeard’s Ghost

Rating: ★★★★½
Everyone knows Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, and everyone knows (whether they know it or not) Robert Newton’s Long John Silver. But somewhere between these two signature pirates Disney gave us a third, lesser known, scalliwagg who nontheless deserves a place amongst the notable breathren, that being Peter Ustinov’s Captain Blackbeard.

In the 1968 film Blackbeard’s Ghost, we’re introduced to a somewhat softer, more rotund variant of the dread captain than we’re given to expect, but one that’s still as rumswilling and swaggerly as any before or since. The plot, in essence, is the ghost of Blackbeard discovers that he can be seen by only one person, that being the new track coach of the local college. Together, they get on each others’ nerves while trying to find a way to save Blackbeard’s descendents (a troupe of little old ladies who’ve turned his ship into a touristy bed&breakfast) from a bank forclosure. All told, it’s really pretty typical 60’s Disney fair Continue reading

Review: The Adventures of Long John Silver

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Robert Newton has his fans, and it’s no wonder. His portrayal of Long John Silver in Disney’s Treasure Island did more to define the role of a “pirate” than any character before or since. True, Jack Sparrow has made a tremendous impact, and may be seen to surpass Long John as the true pirate stereotype in the years to come. But for now, Robert Newton is still the king.

With this in mind, one might expect the television series “The Adventures of Long John Silver” – all six episodes starring Robert Newton in his signature role – to be a true classic gem. And for Newton’s fans, it may well be. Each episode prominently features Newton retackling his interpretation of Silver with every bit of gusto he can muster – and this makes these shows worth watching. But each episode also features dreadfully predictable writing, cliche plot points (Long John saves the orphan’s Christmas??? Crikey!), and many scenes that are downright painful (The not-so-attractive Miss Purity flirting heavily with an even less attractive one-eared pirate is difficult to bear, to say the least.) Continue reading

Review: Swashbuckling Sea Songs

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Various Artists

Genre: Traditional and original pirate sea songs
Rating: G
Target Audience: Children

I don’t understand Disney. There are plenty of exceptional pirate bands out there, yet Disney seems oblivious. When Micky Mouse and gang decide to make a children’s album that feeds off the Pirates of the Caribbean success, rather than search for the experts in the matter, they go it alone. Sure, I know they do it so they can keep all the loot for themselves, and that would be fine if they made an album that in some way contributed to the genre. But they didn’t. Instead they made a half-hearted album of sissy pirate-esque songs that will be purchased by droves of impressionable children, who will then quickly decide that pirate music isn’t all that exciting, and never feel inspired to seek out those truly worthwhile pirate albums that don’t enjoy the sponsorship of Disney, or feature Jack Sparrow’s smiling mug on the cover. 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: Treasure Planet

Rating: ★★★☆☆
A surprisingly fun (and even touching) version of Treasure Island that, if not loyal in the strictest sense, manages to stay true to the original spirit of the book. The imagery is very good. At times it’s amazing. John Hawkins, the Doctor, and the Captain are all nicely portrayed. And Long John, you ask? You may hate me for saying this, but in its own weird way I think this is the best version of Long John Silver I’ve ever seen. He’s both endearing yet sinister, believable as a pirate and yet he still manages to show paternal affection for Hawkins. Making him into a cyborg was a very clever, and highly appropriate, touch. Sadly, any genius that went into creating Long John was offset by the dopey lameness of the Ben Gunn android, but such is life.

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: 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.

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean PC Game

Rating: ★★★★☆

I admit being perturbed at the name change. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. But I also loved that Seadogs was made by a small company I’d never heard of. I loved that they were making a sequel. But I didn’t love that Disney came along and bought that sequel and slapped their logo on it. Continue reading