Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

At World's End brings the original trilogy of pirates film through sort of sad closing. It first begins by eliminating any goodwill from the previous film by eliminating the Kraken off screen as though the writers couldn't come up with a decent way to defeat the monster, making Davy Jones henpecked lapdog for our "standard evil British guy" from the first even if I do like Tom Hollander in general. The problems of Dead Man's Chest are only further compounded with Depp now going full caricature as Captain Jack, with ridiculously indulgent scenes of multiples of the man seemingly just to show how deep end the character had gone by that point. The pointless complexity only continues with multiple unneeded double crosses, and a random assortment of pointless character particularly Chow Yun Fat's pirate lord. Again though the lack of a sense of fun is what really diminished probably rather well illustrated through the tone deaf opening that consists of the slow hanging of child. It is poorly conceived effort that seems to almost revel in its aimless messiness. All that the original film had to offer is just about all lost here in the film whimpering conclusion to a concept that held such potential originally.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Dead Man's Chest is the immediate follow up, and although the best of the sequels its problems are readily apparent. Now there is some good to be had in the expansion of the lore with the introduction of an effective villain in Billy Nighy's Davy Jones, and his giant kraken. That's about it though as the film struggles with its overly expansive yet never particularly compelling plot where it sets so many characters with so motivations, yet they are never earned in creating a real connection to any of their stories. This is secondary to spectacle, yet the spectacle is oddly underwhelming, or comedy which is never particularly funny this time around. Depp's whose Jack Sparrow seemed such an original and unique character here begins to become a tired parody version of his character from the first one. There is still a bit of substance here yet for the most part his mannerisms feel just like an act, and his performance feels like on autopilot of just a general weirdness most of the time. This in turn makes everything else that he made work in the first film fall flat here. There are some fun moments here though, a giant wheel, the kraken attack, yet they are not as successful in naturally serving the story as similar moments in the first film. Of course all of this is only exacerbated through excessive runtime and horrendous pacing. The film attempts complexity merely for the sake of it, and in doing so diminishes any sense of fun needed for any pirate romp.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl aka the film that started the most successful franchise based on an amusement park ride. Although technically speaking it is very much based on the swashbuckler films of old though here with a supernatural bent. Throughout filmmaking there have been films that were the noble beginning to an unpleasant end which is the case here. This is two fold one for the franchise itself and one for Johnny Depp as an actor. Depp had been known mostly for his off-beat performances in largely independent films but this thrust that off-beat style into the mainstream in a major way. In this case Depp a highly original take that energized the film that perhaps without him could have been another Cutthroat Island. His influence goes beyond just being an entertaining performance as he informs so much of the film with his presence, as so many scenes that could be standard are given a real flair whether it is making comic banter with the uptight British work, or give more of a life to his more straight forward co-stars. The film also benefits from some spirited action, an entertaining villain in Geoffrey Rush, and a particularly invigorating score from Hans Zimmer. The film isn't without flaws, its pacing is a bit off, though this is only a warm up for the sequels, and not all the effects hold up tot his day. It stands alone though as an enjoyable adventure film, though with perhaps those flaws to indicate things to come.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Stranger Things 2

Stranger Things 2 takes a year later approach in offering a sequel to the series and succeeds in its endeavor in the continuing tales of the story of these characters. This season I'll grant has a certain advantage in that I already care about the characters, love the sense of place, and just need them to continue with this. Well they do. The series also quite carefully expands the right arcs while perhaps keeping some characters at a constant yet not making them seem stale in that sense either. It also helps from a couple of nice additions in Sean Astin and Paul Reiser, a pair of iconic eighties alumni themselves. This season is less exact in its plotting yet still works in its altering currents, and perhaps less complex story line as well. This isn't a problem though as every story still works, well the teenagers and the journalist wasn't great however minimal screentime was devoted to that. This season though also benefited from the enormous success of the previous season and that is seen on screen in its more impressive set pieces throughout. This is only a good thing making for more dynamic climax in some ways. What keeps me there though are the characters and I loved what they did with almost everyone particularly Joe Keery's Steve, Gaten Matarazzo's Dustin, and of course Eleven. That even includes in her "Terence and Philip" episode, that was essential her arc despite the rabid hate it received. Again found the plot compelling but more than anything once again just loved spending time with these characters.  

Stranger Things

Stranger Things one can examine many of things even outside of the show itself, but in terms of the nature of a show such as this. I actually watched the show just as it originally came out before hype for the series had taken over granting a suppose a pure view of it as I simply just enjoyed a show I knew nothing about and in turn loved it. Now on that point what is that I love about the show. There is its 80's setting which I think holds more than nostalgic power, after all creating the atmosphere for a period and successfully creating a real sense of place and time is an achievement with any film or tv show. I will say the 80's previously had struggled to be captured often times on film. Stranger Things goes further though in granting a Quentin Tarantinoesque approach. Now this is not in terms of his overall style as a filmmaker but often the basis for his storytelling. In that Stranger Things for the 80's does what Tarantino did for the 60's and 70's in that he utilizes facets and styling of the old films for his own. Is this the most original habit, not necessarily but that really doesn't matter. Execution can often be more important than originality, for example Super 8 attempted a similair thing yet failed, whereas this series succeeds. In part there is originality in that this hasn't been done before in this exact way, and though the characters come from a known starting point they find their own life. Furthermore the combination of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Wes Crave, Steven Spielberg, John Landis, and Joe Dante among others does result in something original through that combination. As much as appreciate all of that styling what makes the show work though are those characters and the performances, which though there hiccups, there is definite greatness. The show though succeeds most in making me care about every character and becoming invested to the point I could honestly have just watched the kids play D&D for a whole episode. It is not a flawless series, the main monster for example is hindered a bit by CGI and the build up is better than the climax. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and cared in the way you only get with a great show. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader marks the third film in the Narnia series, and seems to have the passion of someone saying "eh lets do this now". The film is directed by Michael Apted who has a most unusual filmography to his name, some of it quite good, however still was not the best man to create a singular vision. In all honesty the film Apted director before this was that feels most apt to compare is his James Bond effort The World Is Not Enough. Apted uses what already came before once again. In Narnia as with Bond, he doesn't remake any wheels, he doesn't break the wheel, but he fails to stop it from rusting more than a bit. This whole film feels like half hearted effort in every respect, as there is no sense of urgency, there's no sense of wonder throughout the film whole. The film above all suggested it needed someone with a real method to bring the viewer to a whole new world, but here we just get a pretty bland sailing adventure. There's nothing of note, the only thing sort of enjoyable is the new addition from Earth Eustace turning into a Dragon to learn a lesson. That comes from the source material of course, but at least one can say that's didn't screw that up. This isn't so much about screwing up but rather by the sheer lack of any even bit of original inspiration to a single facet of this film. It is a dull affair that seems like it was only made because someone needed to make it. There's no sense of passion to any of it, and it is not surprising that it put the series on a temporary hold.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian follows very much the same vein as the first film. This changes a bit more and here and there with the the adaptation, naturally focusing more on the final battle, however still nothing overly dramatic. As with the first film everything is just fine really, though it has one major nice addition in Peter Dinklage's grumpy dwarf its falters with very underwhelming if not downright boring villains. The film trudges along well enough but never with any daring to really give the source material any extra umph to it. The dramatic beats are okay, the battles are decent, everything is okay, but nothing is great. It isn't a film that truly underwhelms yet it only ever seems like it is just enough, no more, no less to be deemed a minor success. The material itself perhaps is not as strong as the original leading quite naturally for this film to be not as strong either.