Thursday, 30 June 2011

Bean: The Movie Review

I need to start by saying I really like Mr Bean.  The sketches from British television are some of the best physical comedy that you will ever see.  Rowan Atkinson is brilliant in playing the ultimate buffoon.  The problem is that their genius is limited to the physical.  It's funny when there is little to no talking and Bean can just do his thing.  Interaction with other people is actually limited to them being stunned by his idiocy and trying to get away from or ignore him.  that is why it does not translate well to the big screen.

In order for the whole Mr Bean idea to make a movie, there is going to have to be dialogue.  You cannot rely on Atkinson wearing a turkey on his head for a whole 90 minutes.  Therefore, they have to bring in a plot, other actors, etc.  And that makes the whole thing fall flat.  Don't get me wrong.  There are times when Bean is engaging in his buffoonery that you do laugh.  But as soon as there is any interaction or plot development, it becomes quite a boring film.

That isn't to say that it is all the fault of trying to make a movie out of comedy sketches.  The film suffers from a weak story (A misrepresented Bean introducing a painting at an elaborate ceremony) and even weaker acting.  Aside from Atkinson just being Bean, there is not a good performance in this movie.  Even Atkinson's attempts at dialogue and non-traditional Bean antics seem forced and that's because it is out of character for Mr Bean to do those things.

Ultimately, do not see this movie.  If you want to laugh at Mr Bean, watch the church sketch or the one where he changes into his swimwear without taking off his pants or any other Bean sketch.  Those are pure gold.  The movie just isn't worth it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Johnny English Review

This movie can be summed up in two fantastic lines: "Oh, pull yourself together.  It's only a bit of poo" and "Alright, so I was wrong about the Arch Bishop's bottom."  It's got that British comedy "sophistication."  By that I mean that it takes the sophisticated and makes it low brow in a funny, snooty way.  It really is a ludicrous cross between Get Smart and James Bond.  There is actually an eerie similarity between Johnny English and Maxwell Smart.  Both are actually smart agents who know their stuff and finally get their shot.  They are just accident prone buffoons who seem to get things just a bit wrong.

All in all though, I really like this movie.  Never once are you supposed to take it seriously.  It is meant to be a ridiculous romp that has a lot of gags and buffoonery.  It does a good job of combining physical comedy with dialogue humour.  While it will never make any "Best Ever" lists or anything like that, it is a solid comedy.  At times though, it does feel like not much more than an excuse to have Rowan Atkinson act like Mr. Bean while being able to talk.  But, really, what's the harm in that?  Rowan Atkinson is arguably one of the greatest comedians around and this allowed him to flex those muscles a little bit.

There are just two things about Johnny English that I must say needed to be improved upon.  First, John Malkovich.  Everything non-verbal in his performance was OK.  But the French accent was one of the worst to ever be in a movie.  It was absolutely pathetic.  Second, the resolution was absolutely ludicrous.  The writers could have added 10 minutes to the script and given it some legs that would have fit the movie better.  Instead, I felt like I was all of a sudden switched over to King Ralph (a movie I do love, by the way).

However, those are the only two things that I disliked about this movie.  If you want a quick little feel good comedy, see it.  If you're looking for anything cerebral or intelligent, don't.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Stand By Me Review

It's probably been over twenty years since I've seen this movie and the same thing bugs me about it now that did then.  He never got the Yankees hat back.  It was a priceless memento for Gordie, stolen by a thug and he never gets it back.  I know that is unbelievably minor but it still bugs me.  Now, on to the review.

This is probably the ultimate coming of age movie.  The story is just fantastic.  That isn't surprising seeing as how the story is written by one of the 20th century's finest writers: Stephen King.  It is one of those stories that makes you feel like you actually have a stake in all of the character's lives.  You laugh and cry with all four of the boys and, if you're like me, you can see a little of yourself in each one.

Some of the acting does come off as a bit forced and cheesy (especially from Jerry O'Connell).  I think that is a combination of the fact that the actors are all kids and haven't perfected their abilities yet and that they were really trying to go for the fifties feel.  I am way too young to know anything much about what life was like for kids back then so I don't know if the melodramatic acting was realistic or not.  Even if it that isn't realistic, it does work in the film because it is actually Gordie's memories that make up the story.  Most of us remember things in our own way and many of us have a tendency to exaggerate the good and the bad in our own experiences.

See it.  It's the perfect length and it is just one of those movies that makes you feel good through the whole thing.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Green Lantern Review

My knowledge of the Green Lantern franchise is quite limited.  For the most part, I kind of thought that he must have been near the back of the line when they were handing out super powers.  A lantern to save the universe?  Come on!  But, if the movie is faithful to the comic books, then his power isn't that bad because the whole thing of will vs fear is quite poetic.  Part of the problem with comic book movies is that, if you stay faithful to the comics too much, it comes off as completely cheesy due to the fact that comics are a little cheesy by nature which will hurt the cinematic value of the film.  But if you don't stay faithful enough, the geeks will ruin you with their Internet powers.  So you have to find that delicate balance.  Green Lantern does just that.

Visually, this movie is fantastic. The CGI and sets are done very well.  Jordan's suit is great and the Lantern Corps looks fairly realistic given that they are computer generated.  I thought the story was a little bogged down with all of Jordan's demons and background.  The whole thing with his father comes off cheesy as does his relationship with Carol.  But that isn't due to Ryan Reynolds.  His performance is great.  He is born to play "Cocky Smart Ass" and does it to perfection here.  The cheese comes from Blake Lively.  Lively's performance in this film is anything but.  Hollywood is full of these attractive women that come from the same cookie cutter mold and they just cannot act.  Fortunately, their battery charge only lasts a movie or two and a couple of Maxim covers.  But then they are replaced with more of the same.  Sadly, it gets butts in the seats and sells in the action genre and you don't have to pay them as much as the good actresses so there is no end in sight.

I was pleasantly surprised by Peter Sarsgaard.  He played the role of the geeky outcast quite well.  this is even more impressive when you get the feeling that the director told him to channel John Malkovich and that he was going to wind up looking like Ken Griffey Jr on Brain and Nerve Tonic from the Simpsons.  He even ends up in a wheelchair for crying out loud!

Finally, there was an air of Inspector Gadget with the Green Lanterns.  When in trouble, they seem to think "Go Go Lantern" and wind up with what should be the right object for the job but sometimes the ring doesn't take logic into account (ie. using a suspended pool of water to catch a falling Angela Basset instead of, say, a giant airbag.  She could have drowned.).  But they do address that Jordan is new to this and would have to learn the full potential of his will.

All in all, this is one of the better comic book movies of recent memory.  I would say it's about the same as Thor.  So see it.  My recommendations of a comic book movie are largely based on the visuals over the actual story.  The 3D isn't worth it as there's never any stuff flying in your face.  And do stay through the first part of the ending credits.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The French Connection Review

I sometimes have to remind myself that, in the 1970s, blood was a lot lighter in colour and had a much creamier consistency.  In watching this film, I constantly had to keep thinking, "it was made forty years ago and was cutting edge for its time."  By today's standards, this would have been received much like the American was and with good cause.  For most of the film, nothing happens.  It's not much more than one long stakeout until there's about a half an hour left.  The difference between it and the American, though, is that I was never really bored watching the French Connection.  While it seems that nothing is happening, it also seems to move along.  The plot progresses without much dialogue for most of the time.

Performance standards in the industry were also different 40 years ago.  This movie won best picture, director, editing, writing and lead actor for 1971.  Watching it now, one might wonder why.  There is really nothing spectacular about any of it.  In fact, it even had that shaky camera work that I just find irritating.  But, 40 years ago, that would have been seen as groundbreaking.  Hackman's performance, while solid, wasn't really worthy of a huge award like that.  I can only think that the movie did very well, got all that buzz from the industry and had weaker competition.  Don't get me wrong, it isn't bad.  It's a solid story with solid performances.  I just didn't think that it was a "five oscar movie."  But, again, I am watching from a 2011 perspective.

Lastly, I was led to believe that the French Connection has one of the best car chases of all time.  I'm still waiting to see it.  Even for the time, I don't think there is anything really innovative about Gene Hackman chasing a train.  After all, there's only one place the train can go.  So there's no real unknown element of surprise with it.  The best car chases have cars getting cut off and making crazy turns and such.  While the car vs. train is interesting, it is far from one of the best of all time.

If you like crime thriller movies, it might be worth seeing for its historical value in the genre.  Otherwise, don't see it.  You'd probably be bored.  Watch the Bourne Identity instead.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Blade Runner Review

Each person who makes a pick for movie night has to give a little introduction before we watch.  I'm glad David had to introduce this movie because, if he hadn't, I probably would not have liked it.  Keep in mind that I had never seen it before tonight.  I always thought Blade Runner was an action movie.  However, in David's introduction, he referred to it as Sci-Fi Film Noir.  Once I knew that, I knew what to expect and could enjoy it a lot more.

Film Noir is a good way to describe this movie.  It takes many elements from those old detective movies and combines them with modern, futuristic elements to create something that was quite unique at the time.  Watching Blade Runner for the first time almost 30 years after it was released gives one a different perspective on the movie.  First, I was surprised at how well it aged.  They did not rely too much on special effects (something you wouldn't expect in a Sci-Fi movie) and, instead, let the actors and the story do the work.  Second, you can really see how this film influenced the Sci-Fi genre.  There is definite foreshadowing to movies like Total Recall, The Fifth Element, Demolition Man and even the Sixth Day.

There were things that did disappoint me though.  For instance, I thought it took way too long to get the villains involved in the story.  I know the movie is supposed to focus on the Deckard character and his personal battles.  However, I had a hard time getting into that without fully understanding what he was fighting.  Secondly, there were times that it felt like Ridley Scott was trying to be a bit too artsy and allegorical with his shots and certain symbols (the dove and the nail through Batty's hand are good examples).  I felt that they were trying to make a moral statement about society but never really got there completely.  Had some of that stuff been let out, I think it would have actually made the film tighter.

All in all, though, you should see this movie.  Chances are that you've already seen it; especially if you are a Sci-Fi fan.  But it would be good to watch again just to realize how influential it has been on modern day movies.  If you have not seen it, it's worth watching because, as I said, it aged very well.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The American Review

I wanted to see this when I first heard of it.  After all, what's not to like?  George Clooney plays a spy who wants out of the game and there's espionage in Europe.  Sounds like my kind of movie.  I didn't get to see it when it was in the theatre and now I know why.  It was just too boring and uninteresting to make it past a couple of weeks.  I knew it wasn't an action film but I thought it might actually go somewhere.  The film starts off confusing and doesn't let go.  Right from the shot of the train station sign saying "Munich" and him being inexplicably in Italy, this movie is really not good.

Clooney does give a decent performance.  He is a professional and a good actor after all.  But I think the director and writer may have been on a large dose of valium for this one.  All it really is is Clooney brooding and walking around.  What little dialogue there is is unintelligible and bounces from Italian to English and back too much.  Any character development stalls before it gets going.  For example, the priest is completely unnecessary.

If you want to watch George Clooney, watch either O, Brother, Where Art Thou? or Ocean's 11.  If you want international intrigue, the Bourne movies or even the Statement will do.  But, whatever you do, do not watch this movie unless you are having trouble sleeping.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Cedar Rapids Review

This movie was not at all what I expected.  I thought I was going to get something a bit more "awe shucks" and heartwarming like Tommy Boy or even Paul Blart.  The poster is very misleading.  It makes it look like a delightful romp in the same vein as the Vacation movies.  Instead, I got a dark cross between the heartwarming story and The Goods and Pineapple Express.  I'm not upset.  I was just taken aback a bit.  Ed Helms plays a small town insurance agent who goes to a conference in the "big city" of Cedar Rapids and finds out about the seedy underbelly of the business and life in general.  It's a coming of age story in a sense but with the main character being much older than you would typically find.  That, in essence is the comedic hook.

The movie is funny.  The crude humour did add a bit to it.  Without that, it would have lost its legs quite quickly.  Instead, it was able to push the envelope a little further and keep me entertained for the whole length of the movie.  The acting performances are quite well done.  Nobody is too over the top and they all seem quite real with the exception of John C Reilly.  He can only play one character: the over the top jackass friend.  While he may be typecast, he does play it well.  I get tired of most one trick ponies quickly (ie. Zack Galifinakis (sp), Will Ferrell, etc.).  But Reilly, for some reason, doesn't grate on me as much.,  And, in this film, he's quite funny even if his character is the only unbelievable one.

The rest of the movie is really nothing to write home about.  There's nothing really surprising.  It also has quite an indie feel to it that would turn off the masses.  I guess the only word that can fully describe it is "average."  It isn't great but it also isn't terrible.  If you're looking for a little entertainment with a bit of an edge but nothing as out there as the Hangover, you may want to watch it.  Otherwise, don't bother.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Trotsky Review

I saw promotions for this movie a while back in the theatres during the Cineplex pre-show and thought it looked kind of cheesy the way they promoted it.  But, when I saw it available on Movie Central on demand, I thought for free it cannot be a bad decision.  The story actually has a lot of potential to be a good film that has a message.  Regardless of your politics, it could have made quite a statement about unions and solidarity.  Instead, it tried to be a heartwarming story with any political message sent to the background.  In doing this, it kind of fails in both.

It is the story of a Montreal teenager who believes he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky and, as a result, he feels he has to live his life exactly as Trotsky did.  He does this to the point of forcing "Trotsky" events in his own life.  He starts by trying to unionize his father's factory and ends up trying to unionize his school.  This would have been a really good film if it had stayed with the factory story and the struggle between Leon and his father.  Not only would it have made a good sociopolitical statement, but it would have been able to exploit strong acting from Jay Baruchel and Saul Rubinek as their interactions are quite good.  Instead, they make Leon try to unionize a student body.  This comes off as laughable and not in a good way.  While this is a comedy, the story should not be the humorous part.  It should rely on good comedic writing and acting.

Technically, the film is OK.  It has that indie vibe with the lighting and camera work that most Canadian movies have.  But it also stays grounded and doesn't get too weird like indie movies so badly always want to do.  So I have to give Writer/Director Jacob Tierney credit for that.  The acting however, is sub par.  With the exceptions of Baruchel and Rubinek, everyone seemed to be fresh out of acting school and I would have expected better than that from Colm Feore.

The film really only succeeds in one thing: it is funny.  But they take it in such a disappointing direction and tack on a lame love story.  If I knew more about the life of Leon Trotsky, maybe it would have made more sense to me.  But I don't and would imagine that most of the people who read this will not as well.  The pros just do not measure up to the cons.  Don't bother seeing it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Hell Comes to Frogtown Review

Well, what can I say?  It was Darren's choice for movie night and this is what he picked.  I actually considered not reviewing it so I wouldn't have to admit I watched it :-).  I sure hope they were trying to make a comedy B-movie with little to no cinematic value because that's what they ended up with.  It's a post-apocalyptic story about a libidinous guy named Sam Hell who's tasked with rescuing five fertile women from mutant frog people in order to impregnate them and perpetuate the species.  The fact that Hell is played by former pro wrestler Roddy Piper should indicate the quality of the movie.  His in ring performances were more convincing.

The script is bad.  The effects are bad (even for 1988).  The acting is bad.  Everything about this movie is bad.  That's probably why it got a bit of a cult following and even spawned some sequels.  I can see why it got that following.  It is one of those films that is so bad that it can entertaining.  The only redeeming quality is that it supplies ample fodder for you and your buddies to sit around and make fun of it.  And that's exactly what we did for almost 90 minutes.

Even though it does have that little bit of entertainment value, I cannot, in good conscience, give this any kind of a see recommendation.  Even though we all laughed quite a bit, it was mostly at each others jokes and the absolute absurdity of some of the happenings on the screen.  It was not due to any clever dialogue or anything like that.  I did spend my time feeling quite sorry for the film makers because, as one member of movie group mentioned, nobody sets out to make bad movies.  But sometimes they just come out that way.  Don't see it.  It just isn't worth it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Matter of Size Review

I love Saskatoon's Broadway Theatre because it allows me to learn about movies like this.  Having never seen an Israeli movie before, I did not know what to expect.  What I ended up getting was a very entertaining and heartwarming story about four overweight friends who are tired of being ridiculed in society so they form a sumo wrestling club because Sumos are revered in Japan.  I may have liked this film more than many others for the simple fact that I could relate well to the characters.  Being a very overweight guy myself, I could really see where they were coming from and I know their frustration.  I also know that much of that frustration is self-inflicted which is addressed in this film.  So I wanted nothing more than to see them succeed and find their acceptance.  While Size does show the societal prejudices towards overweight people, it also reveals that anyone can find acceptance for who they are and that the prejudices are not universal.  There will always be people who will accept you for who you are.  You just have to be willing to find them.

Anyways, back to the movie.  As I said, I didn't know what to expect from a cultural standpoint.  As it turns out, this could easily have been a North American indie film.  There is none of the cultural confusion that usually comes from films from other countries.  The four friends carpool and hang out at a restaurant that just happens to specialize in shawarma rather than coffee or alcohol.  The whole sumo story also is not much more than Cool Runnings.  It has the four guys trying to bring a non-traditional sport to their country by using a reluctant coach.  It did not stylize the story in a Hollywood fashion because it isn't a Hollywood movie.  Instead, it interspersed intelligent humour with an underlying message which made it all seem more realistic.  (Ironically, Cool Runnings is the one based on a true story.)

This isn't a landmark movie.  There is nothing earth shattering about it that will make it a classic.  But, it is an excellent feel good movie.  If you like heartwarming stories with down to earth characters, see it.  It is one of the better ones in that genre.  Even if that is not your favourite genre, I say see it if you get the opportunity.  You will come away with a good feeling.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Date Night Review

I hesitated to see this movie because I figured it would be another one of those run of the mill romantic comedies that looks like its going to be good but all of the good stuff was in the trailers.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Don't get me wrong, it isn't a fantastic movie and it didn't blow me away.  But it is much more entertaining than I anticipated.  A lot of that has to do with the large number of big names that I didn't know were in this film.  It has James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg and Ray Liotta.  And they all seem to work well in this setting.

As I mentioned, it isn't a movie that you'll want to watch over and over.  It is rather predictable and quite unrealistic.  Overall, the acting isn't fantastic but it isn't hard to watch.  This is especially true for the dynamic between Tina Fey and Steve Carrell.  Carrell is especially funny with his understated one liners.  Unlike many Will Ferrell or Zach Galifinakis movies, Date Night doesn't rely on that hook for all of its entertainment value.  You get enough of it to satisfy and that's it.  Finally, the film is the perfect length for the genre.  Everything gets wrapped up and you don't feel like it's dragging.

Because it is no longer in theatres and is available in a wide range of cheap to free options, I say see it.  It wouldn't be worth the money but it is worth the time.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

X-Men: First Class Review

As far as prequels go, this is as good as it gets.  They take a successful franchise and explore the beginnings of the whole thing.  They explain a lot about the characters and the whole underlying story of mutants vs the rest of the world.  And it's all done very well.  Not only do they do all of this but they also throw in some brief references to the X-Men movies that we all know in kind of a fun way.  Normally, stuff like that comes off as a bit cheesy but in here, it works.  While it isn't the best in the series (I still think that is the second one), I think it was actually better than the first one.  There are a couple of things that bugged me but I will deal with those later.

The one thing this movie needed to deliver on was the action.  Without that it could have the best acting, directing, etc. and would have been a failure.  With this, it delivers in spades.  It is over two hours long and it does not feel like it.  The film moves quite quickly and I found myself with a bit of a "wow" feeling during every action sequence.  But, while First Class delivers on action, it also delivers in story and acting.  The story is cool because it takes an event we all know (the Cuban Missile Crisis) that has many wild conspiracy theories attached to it and brings forth a tongue in cheek alternate theory as to what all happened.  Secondly, for an action/comic book movie, I thought the acting was quite decent.  If it was a serious dramatic piece, I would have thought it was average but I try to judge based on what kind of film it is.  There was one performance that was above the rest and that was Kevin Bacon.  I didn't even know he was in it (I did literally no research other than seeing a preview at the theatre) and, when I saw him, the first thing that went through my mind was, "please don't let his junk be in this movie."  Rest assured, it isn't.  And his performance is flawless.  Another good casting choice was the nerdy kid from About a Boy.  Turns out, he makes a good nerdy young adult too.

Now, to the things that bugged me.  Keep in mind that none of these are enough to make me not like the movie but I feel they need to be said.  First, I'm confused as to how an eastern European can come to have a North American accent only to have it become vaguely Scottish when he's about to confront his tormentor.  Then, 40 years later, it becomes very English.  That notwithstanding, Michael Fassbender was well cast because he is the only one who actually looks like he could grow to look like his future X-Man, Ian McKellan.  Second, if you are going to set a movie in the past, you'd better be ready to make it look like it is in the past.  That means that even if the actor is a pretty boy, flavour of the month (Lucas Till), he has to have a hairstyle that fits the time period and not look like an ad for Axe products.  Further to that, the clothes also need to look vintage and not retro hipster (Azazel and the Tornado Hands dude).  So, for the whole time, I had a difficult time really believing the setting and, in a comic book movie, that should be the only believable part.

Finally, I want to say that the whole thing did have a bit of an old school James Bond feel to it in the fact that the villains are a bit too into their own luxurious surroundings.  If you see it, you may see what I'm talking about.

All in all though, this is a definite see recommendation.  It is a great action movie that stands well on its own or as part of the franchise.  And see it at the theatre that has the best sound around you or pay extra for Ultra AVX.  It adds to the experience.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Duck Season Review

Remember when you were a teenager and you had one of those days with nothing to do?  You'd get really bored trying to find something to do.  Well, that's what this movie is about.  It follows two 14 year old boys who don't know anything about life other than Coca Cola and video games, a 16 year old girl who is entering her experimental phase and an older pizza guy who has missed life.  It is one of those coming of age stories about finding your way.  But it doesn't just follow the path of the younger kids.  The interesting thing about Duck Season is that it also shows that it is never too late to change your path.

Overall, this film is kind of weird.  It seems pretty disjointed and doesn't follow any given path or story like, say, Stand By Me.  It is kind of reminiscent of those artsy films that seem to be just random scenes where you say, "what the f is going on?"  But it doesn't go that far.  In doing the film that way, the film makers really capture what it feels like to be a bored teenager.  There are moments where everyone is just staring off into space and then they get an idea to do something and everything moves forward for a little bit.  It's got some humour, some heartbreak and some confusion.  But it all seems to fit well together.  While it often doesn't seem to have a point, when it is over, you feel like things are resolved and life can move on.

It's hard for me to give a recommendation for this one.  It didn't blow me away but I also did enjoy it.  If you are in the mood for something artsy and not at all preachy, it is worth your 91 minutes.  You can probably find it on NetFlix or in a $5 bargain bin like I did.  If you do, take the time and see it.  But I wouldn't recommend seeking it out.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Burke and Hare Review

All in all, this is a fun little movie.  It is a comedic retelling of the Burke and Hare murders in Scotland in 1828.  I was skeptical about how they could turn such a story into a comedy but they did a pretty good job.  After all, by today's standards, the idea of murdering people to sell their corpses for medical research seems preposterous.  When you realize that it's a dark comedy that turns the leads into morons and not cold blooded killers, it comes off pretty well.

The best part of this film is the dynamic between Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg.  When they are doing their schtick together, you can't help but laugh.  Both do the physical comedy quite well.  I also really like the montage.  Having Tom Wilkinson give his monologue to the students and interspersing it with scenes of Pegg and Serkis doing their thing and Ronnie Corbett investigating was very well done.  Speaking of Ronnie Corbett, he is really good as Captain McKlintock.  He brings a bumbling buffoon quality that is needed for the character in a comedy.

So, the comedic effect was very well done but there is one aspect of this movie that bugged me a little bit.  They should have either delved deeper into the medical research rivalry between Wilkinson and Tim Curry or focused a little more on the relationship between Pegg and Isla Fisher and their production of Macbeth.  It seemed that the efforts in the movie were split between the two and both stories suffered for it.

Overall, though, I say see it.  It has enough laugh out loud comedy to make it entertaining.  I expected it to be deeper but should have known better given the story.  So, know that it isn't deep at all and just have some fun for an hour and a half.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Review

I'm having a difficult time finding the right words for this movie.  So I guess I'll just start by saying I liked it.  And not just because they finally removed Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley from the equation.  But I would be lying if I said that wasn't a factor.  Overall, I thought this movie was really well done.  The acting was strong all the way through.  The effects and action were right up there with all the other movies in the franchise as well.  I especially liked the chase through the streets of London.  Depp's antics weren't quite as insane as they have been in the past but his reactions and dialogue was still enough to make me laugh; especially right at the end but I won't spoil this one for you.

Still, there is something else about this movie that just makes it feel different.  I'll chalk that up to the fact that it is the first one not directed by Gore Verbinski.  That in itself is probably enough to explain the difference in Depp's performance.  But I will admit that I don't know enough about the nuances of directing to really tell a difference.  There are only a handful of directors whose work I could discern from anyone else (eg. John Woo).  But the subtleties in the difference between Verbinski and Rob Marshall are probably just enough to make the difference.  I think the writing was also better.  This was the first in the franchise where the exposition did not confuse me.  As a result, I was able to enjoy it more.

That all being said, here's a few bullets I noticed regarding On Stranger Tides that I feel are worth mentioning:
  • I am normally not an Ian McShane fan.  I don't mind him but he's not a favourite.  However, in this film, he is gold.  He made Blackbeard a really believable and human character.  Blackbeard had some of the supernatural quality that the other villains have had but he just seemed more human evil rather than cartoon evil.
  • Penelope Cruz is much pointier in 3D than in 2D.
  • I could do without a King that makes me want to gag.  The rest of the movie came away from the caricature tone from the previous three except for that.  It just didn't fit.
  • You should not drink pop during a 2.25 hour movie.  I missed a little bit.
  • Mermaids in this one are WAY different than those portrayed in 'Splash.'
  • The Missionary character was unnecessary save for one Jack Sparrow zinger opportunity.
Taking everything into consideration, see this movie.  While it is different from the first three, it is still true to the franchise in action, scenery and general tomfoolery.  It is worth your time and money.  You don't even need to see the third one to know what's going on.  It's all explained enough.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Review (Spoiler Alert)

As I mentioned in my review of Dead Man's Chest, At World's End could be where they explain what happens to everyone because it is a full on continuation of the story of Davy Jones and the conflict with the East India Trading Company (EITC).  They do a decent job of explaining what happened to Jack and how Barbossa is still alive.  However, as per usual for the Pirates franchise, they do a sub par job of explaining the story as a whole.  The exposition in the entire series is convoluted and quite confusing.  I believe this is due to a lot of Pirate Speak.  The confusing nature of World's End is compounded by the whole plan to draw in the EITC.  You never know who is where and where anyone's allegiances lie or even what their motivation is.  The whole notion of the Pirate Brethren could have been scrapped.  Ultimately, they don't do anything and in the end reminded me of all those countries' ships surrounding Homer Simpson's submarine in the Simpsons' Simpson Tide episode.  Some writing changes would have given the same end results with Calypso and the whole plan and made it a lot less confusing.

In the previous two movies, I noted that the whole dynamic between Chris O'Donnell (oops, I mean Orlando Bloom) and Kiera Knightley just didn't work.  Well, in this movie, nothing has changed.  Their performances are still forced and wooden.  Neither of them has what it takes to play a character that can demand allegiance from people.  Neither is really a leader and their speeches and orders to crews really suffer for it.  And don't even get me started on that ridiculous wedding ceremony during what was otherwise a very cool sword fighting scene.  Ridiculous.  Fortunately, we may have seen the last of William Turner and Elizabeth Swann.  But these movies keep making money so you never know.

Another mistake they made in this film was to go too artsy.  I do believe it was planned as a continuation much like the Kill Bill movies.  And it seems like they tried to do the same thing in filming them with two very distinct styles.  (If I ever watch the Kill Bill movies again, I will review them too.  I just don't know if I can handle the gore and violence again.)  It worked in Kill Bill.  It did not in Pirates.  All of the scenes with Jack Sparrow hallucinating were just weird for the sake of weird.  It's almost as if they felt they were running out of goofy things for Depp to do so they said, "let's have him talk to himself."  It never seems to fit.

There were, however, some good things about World's End.  The action is top notch again.  The fights are great and the effects are superb.  While I didn't enjoy the artsy method they tried, I did enjoy Depp's antics once again.  His visual reactions to odd things happening are great and his one liners are still strong.  Finally, I really liked the Gibbs character.  He makes a great first mate to whoever is Captain of the Pearl.

The only reason I would say to actually see this movie is if you want closure from Dead Man's Chest.  Although that one stands on its own as a great movie, it has too many loose ends and you'd probably want to see it through.  While I haven't seen the fourth one yet (going tonight), I don't think it would be necessary to see this one first.  Just in case, I'll bring you up to speed: Barbossa is Captain of the Pearl and left Sparrow and Gibbs behind at port.  Both Barbossa and Sparrow are after the Fountain of Youth.  Barbossa has the Pearl and its crew but Sparrow has the map and his magic compass and a very small dinghy.  There, you don't have to watch At World's End.