This is the year’s second fairy tale turned into action/adventure film. I’m not sure if I’m all that excited about “Jack the Giant Slayer,” but it wouldn’t take much to be more entertaining than “Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters” and this film features star on the rise Nicholas Hoult (“Warm Bodies“) and the ever dependable Ewan McGregor (“The Impossible“) and Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Games“). More
February 16, 2013
May 10, 2012
There’s good and bad news about ‘‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” The good is that great title aside, it’s easily a more entertaining, enjoyable escapade than last year’s convoluted and slapstick-esque ‘‘Dead Man’s Chest.” [2012 Flash Forward: Oh yo ho ho, how I hated that movie, but the film made $423 million nationally to place #8 on the all-time highest grossing list in the U.S. without the benefit of 3D seriously jacking up ticket prices, so somebody must have liked it. If nothing else it proved Depp was a serious box office draw after "Curse of the Black Pearl."]
The last 45-minutes with a truly imaginative climatic battle are worth the price of admission. The bad is that the film still has that feeling of the writers tossing in idea after idea with seemingly little concern if it really adds to the story.
With its nearly three-hour running time you won’t feel like you’ve been swindled out of your money, but cutting an hour or so out would have made for a tighter movie without so many dull, repetitive scenes.
‘‘Worlds” picks off right after the conclusion of ‘‘Chest.” Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is presumed dead, stranded in Davy Jones’ locker. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is trying to free his father from Jones’ service while Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) seems torn between Will and Jack, who she left for dead.
With all paths leading to rescuing Jack, Will and Elizabeth turn to the only man who can aid them — Sparrow’s old enemy Capt. Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush.) [2012 Flash Forward: See also: The second best character in the Pirates universe.]
Director Gore Verbinski kicks the action off in a fun sequence where Barbosa, Elizabeth and Will travel to Singapore hoping to enlist the assistance of Capt. Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat, ‘‘Bulletproof Monk”) and run afoul of some British troops seeking to put an end to piracy once and for all. The swordplay and hi-jinks are so energetic and fun-spirited in just this opening segment that it seems to signal a return to form of the original.
Oddly enough, the film loses its sea legs when Sparrow finally appears on screen stuck in the middle of a desert with no sign of the sea monster that terrorized ‘‘Chest.” The spark that drove the original, Depp’s Sparrow seemed to be stuck in a creative treadmill, rehashing the zany behavior that worked so well in ‘‘Pearl.”
It’s more of an indictment on writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio than Depp, who is as game as ever, even when working with silly material (a ship with a crew of nothing more than a bunch of Jack Sparrows.)
Wacky scenarios aside, Depp is still the most engaging actor in the series, as his co-leads Bloom and Knightley frequently mistake staring intently while speaking through clenched teeth as conveying a wide range of emotions. Thankfully Rush, who seems to relish playing a pirate with an easily conveyed enthusiasm, has more than a cameo so Depp isn’t the only actor with some genuine charisma.
After rescuing Jack, the gang meets up with the rest of the pirate leaders to devise a plan to stop Jones (Bill Nighy), who has aligned himself with the Brits. [2012 Flash Forward: Jones' goofy costume was also pretty off-putting. How seriously can you take a squid?]
With loyalties and motives changing seemingly every 10 minutes, it’s hard to keep track of who wants what or why they want it even if you’re paying close attention. I got confused as to whether Will was on the ‘‘good guy side” or if he had aligned himself with the Brits for awhile.
However murkily the scene is set for the big climax, it’s definitely worth the long, often boring voyage to get there as it features the perfect blend of all-out action⁄comedy that is the franchise at its swashbuckling best ending with a battle amidst a rain-drenched whirlpool, the ideal setting for a pirate movie. The film ends in a nice open-ended manner in which it could serve as a nice conclusion to the series or kick off the next adventure.
[2012 Flash Forward: Saying this is better than "Dead Man's Chest" is a backhanded compliment like saying 'sure you've only got 10 months to live, but it's better than 1 month.' It's a far better film and while it fails in matching the unpredictable excitement of the original, this is more of what I'd want in Pirates sequels. Just a little less of it.]
2012 Flash Forward rating: 5 out of 10
March 30, 2012
I’m not one to rave about a sequel simply because it’s better than its lame predecessor, but “Wrath of the Titans” is in every conceivable manner a more entertaining and enjoyable follow-up to the 2010 “Clash of the Titans” and this time offers a fun outing actually worth seeing.
Of all the 2010 summer movies least deserving of a sequel I would have easily picked “Clash of the Titans.” With lousy special effects, wooden acting and the absolute most pathetic 3D this side of “The Last Airbender,” there was little to like but the performances of Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, who deserved far better. And amazingly, they (and audiences) get that with this sequel that fixes all of the problems of a film that really didn’t merit a follow-up to craft a titanic big-screen adventure even worth seeing in 3D.
It’s been a decade since Perseus (Sam Worthington, “Man on a Ledge”) defeated the Kraken and he’s gotten married, become a father, a widower and living as a fisherman with his son, Helius (John Bell).
Perseus has been tormented as of late by premonitions of a great menace, which is soon confirmed by his father, Zeus (Neeson, “The Grey“) who seeks the aid of his half-god/half-human son to stop Zeus’ father, Kronos, from destroying the world. Zeus needs Perseus since humans are praying less to the gods and their powers are fleeting.
Screenwriters Dan Mazeau and David Johnson set up an easy to follow plot, but they struggle giving characters any depth. None suffer more than Perseus, who after being told that the entire world is jeopardy if he doesn’t help Zeus, says Helius is his priority. Some hero. Good thing Helius isn’t part of the world … oh, right.
Director Jonathan Liebesman (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”) doesn’t have a lot to work character-wise so he puts his all into giving the film an epic look with sprawling sets and perspectives to make good use of the 3D technology so the action scenes are the best parts of the film.
Zeus turns to his brothers, Poseidon (Danny Huston) and Hades (Fiennes) but oddly, none of the other gods are present save another of Zeus’ sons, Ares (Edgar Ramirez, “Domino”). Ares and Hades quickly betray their alliance and kidnap Zeus in hopes to gain Kronos’ favor so he will allow them to retain their godhood after he unleashes his evil minions on the world.
The special effects team crafts impressive CGI characters that naturally blend into the movie universe including Cyclopses, an ash-covered centaur-like creature with two torsos and a minotaur.
Perseus eventually realizes he does need to join the fight and partners with Queen Andromeda (“Doom’s” Rosamund Pike who replaces Alexa Davalos) and his cousin, Agenor (“RocknRolla’s” Toby Kebbell who easily steals all of his scenes as he’s given the majority of the funny lines). They’re joined by random fodder characters and Bill Nighy’s Hephaestus, a fun character who needed more screen time.
Not all is well in the realm however.
I like Worthington and still think he has the makings of a real box-office star, but he comes off as such a generic, uninspired hero and having him play a straight-laced protagonist doesn’t play to his strengths. He seems more of the roguish-Han Solo type lead and Perseus is a very plain, dull character. Still, Worthington is just an ill-fit for the role and doesn’t drag the movie down with his performance. That “honor” easily goes to Bell, who is “I wonder how he’s related to the director” bad and his mouth agape expressions go from simply odd to straight out unintentionally comedic. Amazingly, Peter Jackson has Bell appearing in his upcoming “The Hobbit” films. I can only hope they’re very, very small roles. Pun intended.
Warner Bros. deserves a lot of credit for making an investment into delivering a better sequel. Since the original made $493 million worldwide, it would have been easier for them to just do what worked before — even if few people actually liked the finished product — but instead they opted to make a quality film and one that should be rewarded so go check it out.
Rating: 7 out of 10