Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

You’re still with me? Good. I was afraid I’d lost you all after the complicated plot twists of the last film.  Those paths of prose are windy indeed and one is liable to get lost if one isn’t careful. Fortunately, they leave out a few little breadcrumbs of coherency so you can follow along in the right direction. At any rate, we’re back for another swashbuckling adventure in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. No, the world doesn’t end. It’s not a movie about any sort of apocalypse. It’s about voyaging to the ends of the world in search of truth, justice. . .oh, who am I kidding? Where’s the rum?

At the end of the last movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) had received a kiss of death and a one way ticket to Davy Jones’ Locker through a dubiously consensual act of vore, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) had made a promise he intended to keep, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) was filled with guilt over her part in Jack’s death, Norrington (Jack Davenport) betrayed them all, and Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) brought Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) back from the dead so they could rescue Jack. Yeah. It’s complicated. This seems to be a trend with these films.

In any event, the plot is more complex and more convoluted this time around. Everyone wants something. For Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), it’s complete control of the waves and, by extension, the world. This runs against everything that pirates and their ilk stand for: life, happiness, and freedom.  This calls for gathering all of the nine Pirate Lords together in order to have a violent staff meeting to decide where to go from here. Fortunately, this side-trip into piratical diplomacy ends up introducing us to Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) and Jack Sparrow’s father, Captain Teague (Keith Richards).

There are more magical elements,  a goddess imprisoned in a fleshy body, and at least one unfortunate death by deep-throated tentacle. There are sea battles and inspirational speeches. There’s a quick wedding, a sudden death, and fulfilled destinies. Sure, it gets a little bit crazy, but that’s what I signed on for when I went to see it.

In writing these reviews, I’ve realized that I’m in the minority as I am one of the few in my circle who actually enjoyed these movies. Sure, they’re on a sliding scale of quality. The best was the first, the second was just a stepping stone to get us to the third. Still, though, I love them anyway. They’re not Oscar-worthy, but they’re fun for an afternoon of popcorn and laughter on the high seas.

One last note, though, before you go. Just remember: Calypso, the sea goddess, doesn't have a raging case of crabs - she is a raging case of crabs. Food for thought.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

When a film studio and a movie love each other very much (and by love, we mean the movie makes a huge wad of cash for the studio so it’s more like the love between a prostitute and a pimp, but I digress), they get together and make what we call a franchise. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a resounding success. So much so that Disney signed on to make more of them. They had a fun challenge: making a trilogy out of thin air. This is where things get interesting.

The second film is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The chest in question: actually a box. The dead man? I guess that’s connected to the mythology about where dead sailors, pirates, and seamen (get your minds out of the gutter) go. Davy Jones’ Locker (which should not be confused with the lockers that nerds get shoved into at school).

We start the film with a typical Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) entrance and find out that he’s in search of a unique key that opens a special chest. After a quick verbal tango with his skeptical crew, the movie continues and we find out from a surprisingly not dead Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgård) that our rum-soaked pirate made a deal to be Captain of the Black Pearl. His time as captain is up and the one who holds his debt is coming to collect.

Jack’s first thought? “Run away!”

Pirate.

Meanwhile, back on the island, Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth’s (Keira Knightley) wedding has been interrupted by men with guns. Both bride and groom are under arrest for assisting in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow. Their jailer, Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), offers Will a deal: get Jack’s compass and free himself and his ladylove. Of course he takes the deal and goes off on that madcap quest. After a futile escape attempt, Elizabeth ends up taking off after him in order to ensure their freedom.

With me so far? That’s great. I’d explain the rest of the movie, but it gets complicated. To make it easy on you, I’ll just say that as long as you keep the character’s end goals in mind, you’ll be able to keep up. I will warn you that there are tentacles, cannibals, eunuch jokes, ridiculous sword fights, more tentacles (not in a hentai way), and some awesome scene chewing. Captain Tentacle-Face himself, Davy Jones, is played by the ever awesome Bill Nighy. They also introduce the enigmatic, creepy-hot Tia Dalma as played by possible-future-Bond-Girl Naomie Harris.

It may not be as great a movie as the first, but I still love watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. As long as I’m entertained, it’s all good. Your nautical mileage may vary.

Underworld

It probably will come as no surprise to any of you reading this when I say that I'm a geek. After all, I write for a website dedicated to B movies, I read about B movies, and in my spare time I even watch B movies. Furthermore, and I know this must come as a shock, but I even read comic books and play video games. I am hereby sacrificing my potential future sex life so that you know that when I say that when this film was released in 2003, I was the full embodiment of its target demographic.

So when I say that this is one of the dumber movies I've ever had to sit through, then you know it's not because of some high-handed thought process. I mean, when I hear there's a movie that's all about Werewolves (or "Lycans", rather) and Vampires (err-"Death Dealers") kicking each others asses, I get all kinds of excited. And to be fair, the movie does deliver on the monster mash, at least in terms of the Werewolves. Very cool transformation sequences, coupled with the fuzzy whirling dervishes of death walking on walls and ceilings makes for one cool dog.

The vampires don't come off nearly as well, however. As near as I could make out, being a vampire in this universe means that you have sharp pointy teeth, pale skin, and have to wear freaky fetish gear. They are only as strong as a human, and be killed as easily as any human. The only time they demonstrate any kind of abilities is when they jump really high and occasionally stick to ceilings. Oh, and while they do drink blood, it seems to be more for plot related reasons than for sustenance. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out why the werewolves, who are stronger, faster, and a hell of a lot more durable, didn't wipe out the vampires years before the movie takes place.

I had the time to think about this because while the action set pieces are reasonably impressive, and the movie is certainly pretty, there is absolutely nothing going on in the plot that is interesting, or even makes much sense for that matter. Kate Bekinsale plays Selene, who is the big bad-ass Death Dealer in the movie, though that seems to be more for her ability to look hot in a leather catsuit and the fact that she doesn't just stand there and scream when the werewolves come a-knocking than anything else. She ends up in a Romeo-Juliet situation with Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). When I wasn't wondering why the vampires weren't already extinct, I was trying to figure out why Selene felt the need to sacrifice everything for Michael, as it went from one scene of "I don't care about you" to the next, where she suddenly loves him and is therefore gonna kill every motherf#$ker that gets in her way. It doesn't help that they have about the same chemistry as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman did in the Star Wars prequels.

Scratch that. Mother Theresa and Ghandi have more chemistry than those two. This movie's central romantic story is pure Remains of the Day in comparison.

Director Len Wiseman (who also co-wrote the script) managed to put together a stylish looking movie, of that there is no doubt. But it's stretched so thinly over a plot that has a more interesting backstory than actual story, so that by the end, you don't really care what happens to anybody in the movie.

You know, I was getting worried there. After quality screenings of 28 Days Later, and An American Werewolf in London, I was worried that an "A-List blockbuster" like Underworld might be yet another good film sneaking it's way into the Cavalcade. It turns out there was nothing to worry about. It's perfect for talking over, since nobody says anything of interest, and as already stated, it can't really make much less sense, so nobody will feel especially lost watching it. Be sure to include this one!