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.

28 Days Later

When a movie opens with a montage of violent revolts playing on monitors and pans over to a chimpanzee strapped to a table with electrodes and wires stuck on its head in a laboratory, you know it's not going to end well.

Nothing good ever comes from chimpanzees strapped to a table.

By the time the PETA hugging eco-terrorists are mauled by the very animals they're there to rescue (much to the amusement of the meat-eaters in the audience), before turning on each other in a blood-soaked rage, you know we're in infected human zombie territory.

In 2002 Danny Boyle , the director of Trainspotting and the under-appreciated Shallow Grave , decided to tackle the end of the world in 28 Days Later. The resultant movie is a film that both pays homage to Romero's original Dead Trilogy (and movies like The Omega Man ) and updates the whole spiel with a nifty twist here and there.

The first change from the classic Zombie formila is the fact that they aren't "Zombies" at all, in the traditional sense. Here there is an outbreak of a "Psychological Virus" that turns those infected into rampaging flesh-mongering homicidal maniacs who vomit gore and scream alot. Being as how they aren't reanimated corpses, the infected here can run, jump, play hop-scotch, and tear you to shreds in a matter of moments. The flip side is that, while they are stronger and faster than the non-infected humans, they are every bit as mortal, so there's no special considerations to killing them... other than making sure you don't get any of their infected blood in yours, which leads us to the other change in the formula.

Another cliche in zombie cinema is the human that gets bitten and slowly dies from the infection, only to turned into a zombie at a dramatic moment. The change here is that a single drop of blood is enough to transform anyone into an infected in a matter of seconds, which leads to a few intense moments in the picture where allies become enemies in the course of a few moments.

Being a Danny Boyle picture, this movie is filled to the brim with slick visuals and great music. The ten-minute sequence where the main character (played by a then-relatively-unknown Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins and Boyle's own Sunshine fame) walks shell-shocked through a desolate and deserted London is incredible. The infected attacks are equally well shot, filled with intensity and energy.

As a matter of fact, with great dramatic turns by Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, and Naomie Harris, one could be legitimate in the concern that 28 Days Later might not be suited for a gathering dedicated to Schlocky pictures. But I will argue that the energy, intensity, and the sheer rocking quality of the infected attacks stacked with the sheer creepy atmosphere throughout the rest of the picture make this a good addition to any marathon.  However, if you're going for more carnage, and want to stick in the 28 XX Later universe, 28 Weeks Later had more appearances of the howling masses, and was a solid pic that, for the most part, lived up to the original's quality.

But if you're simply looking for a fantastically stimulating flick that hits all the high points of the zombie genre, while still stimulating reinventing it, you can't go wrong with 28 Days Later.

You know, it isn't often we actually get a "good film" in the Cavalcade, and I'm still not entirely sure whether that's good or bad.