Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Review

Review #106

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides movie posterSynopsis
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his first mate, Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally), go in search of the fountain of youth. They cross paths with the nefarious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Jacks old flame, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Jack convinces Angelica he has been to the fountain of youth, so she makes him lead the expedition so she can find the fountain to save her father.

The Pirates of the Caribbean series in an interesting one. It started out amazing with The Curse of the Black Pearl then slowly went downhill when trying to embrace its fantasy side, which was my favorite draw towards the series. Although On Stranger Tides still has fantastical elements, its clean story slate gives it room to do its own thing and not be bogged down like At World’s End.

Since At World’s End capped of the trilogy, the only characters to return were Jack Sparrow, his first mate Gibbs and rival Barbossa. This gives the franchise room to bring in new characters. Blackbeard is one of the best additions to the series. It is clear from the beginning that he is someone even other pirates think isn’t to be trifled with. He has some great lines throughout the film, especially when he is first revealed. McShane delivers the lines with precision and humor that makes it hard not to enjoy the character.

Penelope Cruz as Angelica is another great addition. She is the first female character since Elizabeth Swann that can go toe-to-toe with Jack and really get inside his head. Many of the other new characters, though, are fairly forgettable. There aren’t any that really stand-out and are memorable and exists to fill in mainly as Blackbeard’s or Barbossa’s crew.

Like I said before, I like how the Pirates series brings to life sailor myths and legends. At the center of the story is Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth and the aforementioned Blackbeard. But my favorite would be the mermaids. They only appeared briefly, except for Syrena, but their time on screen was exciting. They were mysterious and beautiful, then all of a sudden they became terrifying and dangerous.

One of the running jokes from the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies was whether or not Jack plans his crazy antics or just made it up as he goes along. Unfortunately, this movie spoils that and I feel it takes away some of the mystery of Jack and his charm.

Another thing that bugged me was it doesn’t clearly explain Blackbeard’s powers. It is made clear his sword controls the ropes and rigging, but not necessarily how. Or how it can affect other ships such as the Black Pearl. Or how he zombifies his captains. I know these are small things but I like it when they are explained, even if it is short and simple.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides reels back on some of the elements that hindered previous movies in the series and brings in a mostly new cast. Although many of these characters are mostly forgettable, On Stranger Tides manages to capture the essence what made The Curse of the Black Pearl so enjoyable.


Also check out my reviews for The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End.

Favorite Quote
Jack Sparrow: Have I mentioned, sir, what a lovely daughter you have?
Blackbeard: A fitting last sight for a doomed soul.
Angelica: Remember, father, we need him.
Blackbeard: If I don’t kill a man every now and then, they forget who I am.
Philip: Coward! They do not forget. The crew sees you for the miscreant you are. A coward, no matter how many you slay.
Blackbeard: Twice in one day, I find myself in a bewilderment.


Cast & Crew
Rob Marshall – Director
Ted Elliot – Writer
Terry Rossio – Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Johnny Depp – Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush – Barbossa
Penelope Cruz – Angelica
Ian McShane – Blackbeard
Kevin McNally – Gibbs
Sam Claflin – Philip
Astrid Berges-Frisbey – Syrena
Stephen Graham – Scrum
Keith Richards – Captain Teague
Richard Griffiths – King George
Greg Ellis – Groves
Damian O’Hare – Gillette
Oscar Jaenada – The Spaniard

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest movie posterSynopsis
Thirteen years ago, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) made a deal with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) to raise the Black Pearl from the depths of the sea. Now Jones is looking to collect his debt. Jack, along with Gibbs (Kevin McNally) and the rest of his crew, goes in search of the mysterious Dead Man’s Chest to escape Jones’ wrath. All the while being pursued by Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and the East India Trading Company.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a difficult film to follow up. Dead Man’s Chest does a decent job but it doesn’t quite reach the height its predecessor does. That’s not to say it’s not good, it just wasn’t as entertaining. I’ve already raved about the core cast members returning from the last film so I won’t talk about them again, but they are marvelous here as well. The most exciting addition to the Pirates universe is the caretaker of dead sailors, Davy Jones.  Bill Nighy did an excellent job with the character’s body language, giving him a creepy walk and jerky body movements.

One of my favorite aspects about The Curse of the Black Pearl was how it drew inspiration from sailor myth as the backdrop for the story. Dead Man’s Chest incorporated more lore into the story, such as Davy Jones’ Locker, Davy Jones himself, and the monstrous sea beast, the Kraken. I don’t know why I like this so much but I think it is great that old maritime legends are such a huge part of these films.

Speaking of Davy Jones, the special effects on him and his crew look phenomenal. The character design of them, how they have become bits and pieces of different sea creatures is unique and very realistic looking. Pirates in films tend to have a very generic look, and so can undead beings, but no two members of Davy Jones’ crew look alike whatsoever. Having all kinds of sea creatures assimilate into the various crew members also offer several comedic opportunities, such as one who loses his head, which happens to be a hermit crab, so he has to coach his body back to him.

Hans Zimmer takes over composing duties from Klaus Badelt and, no surprise, it is amazing. Much of the organ stuff (very technical, I know) is so much fun to listen to and perfectly captures the essence of Davy Jones. He does integrate Badelt’s iconic He’s A Pirate (the main theme from the first Pirates film) but mostly goes in his own direction, creating a fantastic blend of the two styles.

My favorite fight scene was a three way duel between Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Edward Norrington. It occurs over a variety of terrains, including the beach, forest, inside an abandoned building, and a water wheel. Dead Man’s Chest was chock full of action pieces like this, making sure it never get too dull.

Dead Man’s Chest does well to expand on the Pirates of the Caribbean universe, bringing in such legends as Davy Jones’ Locker and the Kraken. It’s not quite as entertaining as The Curse of the Black Pearl but it does what every good sequel should do and ups the stakes for the characters, and adding some memorable characters along the way.


Also check out my reviews for The Curse of the Black PearlAt World’s End, and On Stranger Tides.


Cast & Crew
Gore Verbinski – Director
Ted Elliot – Writer
Terry Rossio – Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Johnny Depp – Jack Sparrow
Orlando Bloom – Will Turner
Keira Knightly – Elizabeth Swann
Kevin McNally – Joshamee Gibbs
Jack Davenport – Edward Norrington
Bill Nighy – Davy Jones
Jonathan Pryce – Governor Weatherby Swann
Tom Hollander – Cutler Beckett
Lee Arenberg – Pintel
Mackenzie Crook – Ragetti
Stellen Skarsgard – Bootstrap Bill
David Bailie – Cotton
Naomie Harris – Tia Dalma
Martin Klebba – Marty
David Schofield – Mercer
Alex Norton – Captain Bellamy

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.

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.


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


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

Valkyrie Review

This review was originally posted for MovieRob‘s war-themed genre grandeur.

Valkyrie movie posterSynopsis
Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is recruited by a secret organization trying to overthrow Hitler’s Germany and end World War II.

Valkyrie‘s trailer makes the film seem like it is more of a thriller than it really is. The film starts with an action scene on a German military base in Africa that gets ambushed. It is during this attack that Stauffenberg sustains his injuries. Before hand, we get a glimpse into his character and the angst he feels towards Hitler’s Germany. After this initial action sequence the movie slows down. A lot. Although the next hour and a half may move slowly, this time is used to great effect, building the major characters.

When the coup finally begins, it is the most exciting part of the movie. That’s when the movie becomes a thriller. Since this is based on a true story during World War II, the final outcome of the events is known, but the film still manages to keep me on the edge of my seat, wondering if Stauffenberg and his crew can somehow pull it off. When the movie is in the midst of the excitement, it just fizzles and all of a sudden the action is over. For as dramatic as the actual coup is, the action abruptly ends. It’s pretty jarring.

Part of why Valkyrie is ends up being fun despite its pace is because of the cast. I recognized many faces from the Pirates of the Caribbean series (Bill Nighy, Kevin McNally, Tom Hollander, and David Schofield) and most of the cast from other films. There were only a handful of the main cast I had not seen before. The entire cast does well with their parts, but I think the stand out is Carice van Houten as Nina von Stauffenberg. Although she doesn’t have much screen time, she shows a great range of emotion to her character in what little time she is on screen.

One of my complaints with this movie is that most of the cast speaks in their normal accents rather than German accents. With several different accents prominent in the film, primarily British and American, it can be difficult to get into the German setting. In movies like K-19: The Widowmaker, the actors use accents of the country their characters’ are from (in K-19‘s case, Russian). I know it’s small but I think it adds that extra special touch to a film.

Valkyrie may not be the thriller it’s advertised to be, but it still manages to shine because of the great cast, particularly van Houten. Even though I knew the final outcome, I found myself hoping that maybe, just maybe, they could still pull it off.



Cast & Crew
Bryan Singer – Director
Christopher McQuarrie – Writer
Nathan Alexander – Writer
John Ottman – Composer

Tom Cruise – Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg
Kenneth Branagh – Major-General Henning von Tresckow
Bill Nighy – General Friedrich Olbricht
Tom Wilkinson – General Friedrich Fromm
Carice van Houten – Nina von Stauffenberg
Thomas Kretschmann – Major Otto Ernst Remer
Terence Stamp – Ludwig Beck
Eddie Izzard – General Erich Fellgiebel
Kevin McNally – Dr. Carl Goerdeler
Christian Berkel – Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim
David Bamber – Adolf Hitler
Tom Hollander – Colonel Heinz Brandt
David Schofield – Erwin von Witzleben
Werner Daehn – Major Ernst John von Freyend
Mathias Schweighofer – Lieutenant Herber
Kenneth Cranham – Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel