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

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl movie posterSynopsis
Ten years ago, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) left his captain, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), stranded on an island and discovered a cursed treasure with the crew of the Black Pearl. In order to lift the curse, all the gold pieces must be returned. They have all been returned, all except one, which is in the possession of Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) in Port Royal. When the pirates attack Port Royal and kidnap Elizabeth, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) enlists the help of Jack Sparrow to pursue Barbossa and rescue Elizabeth.

Review
Disney took a big risk creating a movie based off one of their most successful amusement rides. In a typical Disney fashion, the studio was able to pull it off. Pirates of the Caribbean: TheCurse of the Black Pearl has a perfect mix of action, romance, fantasy, and drama. There is a little bit for every movie lover, regardless of tastes.

Easily one of the best things about this film is the cast. I think Johnny Depp has the standout performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. You can tell there is something not quite there with Jack but maybe he is smarter than he lets on. Depp balances all facets of the character perfectly. My second favorite performance would have to be Geoffrey rush as Captain Barbossa. He definitely pulls of the pirate captain attitude. Orlando Bloom as William Turner and Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth Swann are pretty good as well.

Another strong aspect about The Curse of the Black Pearl is that it harmoniously balances all of its elements. It never spends too much time focusing on one thing. Some time is spent on the action, then it moves to building Will’s and Elizabeth’s relationship, then some stuff with Jack, then more action and so on and so forth. There is no dawdling on each scene but at the same time, each moment is given the necessary time to flourish. Despite the somewhat wide cast, all the characters have their moments and are well developed.

I really like the supernatural element of the plot. This movie incorporates the sailors’ stories of ghost ships on the high seas. It could have misused this element and easily become a corny horror flick. But it doesn’t. It maintains its composure and weaves an excellent character-driven story that moves around the supernatural and uses it to further build the characters.

In any traditional Disney film, there are comedic relief characters. In this case there are two comedy duos, one on the pirates side and one one the British side. They both have their laugh out loud moments, but I think the pirate duo was the funnier of the two. Being skeletons gives them better variety of visual gags. That and their lines were simply funnier.

The score, composed by Klaus Badelt, is one of my favorite movie scores. He’s a Pirate is instantaneously recognizable. I don’t know much about Badelt, but if his other movie scores are half as good as this, he’s OK in my book.

Based on an amusement ride, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl on paper probably should not have done as well as it did (let alone spawn a whole series). Against the odds, it somehow manages to take a fantastic character-driven story and mixe it with mythical elements from old sailor stories, creating a blockbuster that is one of Disney’s best live-action films.

Rating
5/5

Also check out my reviews for Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, and On Stranger Tides.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gore Verbinski – Director
Ted Elliot – Story / Screenplay
Terry Rossio – Story / Screenplay
Stuart Beattie – Story
Jay Wolpert – story
Klaus Badelt – Composer

Johnny Depp – Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush – Barbossa
Orlando Bloom – Will Turner
Keira Knightley – Elizabeth Swann
Jack Davenport – James Norrington
Jonathan Pryce – Governor Weatherby Swann
Kevin McNally – Joshamee Gibbs
Lee Arenbergt – Pintel
Mackenzie Crook – Ragetti
Damian O’Hare – Lt. Gillette
Giles New – Murtogg
Angus Barnett – Mullroy
David Bailie – Cotton
Treva Etienne – Koehler
Zoe Saldana – Anamaria

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit movie posterSynopsis
Based on characters created by Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is an US Marine veteran who is recruited by CIA agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) to be a financial analyst after he was seriously injured when his chopper was shot down. When Ryan discovers a Russian scheme to collapse the US economy, he travels to Moscow where he goes from an analyst to an active field agent. Ryan must quickly unravel the plot before Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) can bring his plan to fruition, while at the same time keep his relationship with his girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightly).

Review
I do not have much experience with anything Tom Clancy related, whether it’s his books, previous Jack Ryan movies, or the video games. So when I went into the theater to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, I had no expectations about the characters. I went to see it simply because it is a spy thriller and the trailer looked pretty cool. For me, this movie’s trailer maybe made me expect a little to much from the film and in the end, I felt let down.

The cast was fairly strong. Chris Pine has been the lead before in movies like Star Trek and does a decent job carrying the movie , but I think he does better when he has a larger supporting cast behind him. Kevin Costner does great as Ryan’s handler and it was nice to see Keira Knightly in something other than a period piece. But the strongest performance was from Kenneth Branagh. He brings a chilling class to his character.

Unlike most action/spy movies, this film does a good job not becoming too over-the-top. You won’t experience anything you haven’t seen in almost any other spy thriller, and frankly I wasn’t too engrossed in the ‘break America by breaking their economy’ plot, but it is a melting pot of the elements that make other spy films enjoyable. The only thing I was a little ‘eh’ on was when Ryan figured out the location of a sleeper agent. The way he jumps around and finally reaches the conclusion felt out of place with the rest of the movie.

Shaky cam really gets on my nerves. I don’t like it at all. Any time the action picks up in Jack Ryan, the camera immediately starts shaking violently and you can’t see anything, especially when several scenes take place at night. I miss the days when the cameras in action movies stayed in place and you could see the characters duking it out.

This is a bit spoilerish but it was something that bothered me about the trailer after watching the movie. The trailer makes Jack Ryan look like there is someone in the CIA out to get Ryan, which is a bit misleading. There is no element of “who can you trust?” at all. Everyone is on the same side and no double crossing. Normally I wouldn’t care, but it was such a dominate part of the trailer that I felt it needed mentioning.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit doesn’t bring anything new to the spy-genre table, but it does maintain the components that make them fun and enjoyable. Pine does well carrying the movie, but he seems to do better when he has a larger supporting cast to work with. It never becomes too over the top, mostly staying within the realm of reality. Jack Ryan isn’t a terrible movie, but it doesn’t do anything to stand out either.

Rating
3/5

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Trailer

Synopsis (from IMDB): Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

Unlike the other Jack Ryan movies, Shadow Recruit is not based on any specific Tom Clancy novel. Instead, it is an original story based on Clancy’s characters and is intended as a reboot of the franchise.  Given Chris Pine’s recent roles in action movies (Star Trek, This Means War), this role should be pretty natural for him.  It seems like producers have learned that naming movies after the book’s protagonist isn’t interesting (ie Jack Reacher, Parker, Alex Cross).  I’m most interested to see how Pine and Kiera Knightly play off each other.  If the scene in the hotel room with them and Kevin Costner is any indication, it looks like they should do well.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, directed by Kenneth Branagh (Director of Thor, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) who also plays the antagonist of the film, will be in theaters December 25, 2013.

[EDIT 10/24/2013] The release date has been pushed back to January 17, 2014.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Review

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World movie posterSynopsis
When a 70-mile-wide asteroid is on a collision course for Earth, Dodge (Steve Carell) sets off to find his lost high school sweetheart. Penny (Keira Knightly) wants to get to her England home to see her family one last time. When their journeys bring them together, they become unlikely companions in an adventure that changes them in unexpected ways.

Review
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World caught my attention because of the interesting concept: look at an apocalyptic event from the citizen’s point-of-view, instead of the hero’s. Then on top of that, add two actors I like to watch on screen and the outcome was sure to be something enjoyable. The result is a dark twist on a familiar plot that is entertaining and thought-provoking.

Steve Carell is such a versatile actor, which is why he is one of my favorites. Not only does he have great comedic timing, but he brings a more subtle humor to his serious roles as well. Although his character work this time around is not as strong, it doesn’t disappoint either. His humor is much more nuanced than some of his other films, but it doesn’t lose any of its charm. As for Keira Knightly, I have only really seen her in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and it was fun to see her in another role. Her outgoing and zany personality was a good contrast to Carell’s more introverted character.

Since Seeking a Friend is a road trip movie, Carell and Knightly are the only actors that get any focuse. This format enables a revolving door of guest appearances, if you will, from many actors. Rob Corddry, Paton Oswalt, Gillian Jacobs, Martin Sheen, and several others make small appearances throughout the film. Having these other random actors show up for a scene or two made for some interesting moments.

I was a little caught off guard by the dark tone of the movie. I think that seeing Carell in the film, I thought it would be much more lighthearted than it was. But with it being an “end of the world” movie and all, I should have expected otherwise. It does, however, have a good blend of the lightheartedness that Carell brings to the role and the darkness of the apocalypse.

The script, written by Lorene Scafaria, was fantastic. It was funny and moving. But at the same time, it was predictable. Although the journey was entertaining, it was apparent early on where the character development would end up.

Despite a predictable plot, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an enjoyable movie. Though not Carell’s or Knightly’s best performance, they contrasted and played well off each other. Scafaria makes a great directorial debut with this fun and thoughtful film.

Rating
3.5/5