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Just barely misses the mark.
The eight-star score is generous. Dead Man's Chest is definitely not a bad film, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed a little. It's always tough to create sequels to successful blockbusters and have them live up to original's name. The first "Pirates" film had a rare charm that most other Hollywood pictures would envy. Fantastic characters, a great story, amazing special effects, and an all-around "fun" feel. It's not hard to understand why it became so popular.
On paper, nothing really seems wrong with Dead Man's Chest. It has the same elements that made the first film a hit. Yet at the same time, something felt missing.
Two of the "main three" characters (Sparrow, Turner, and Swann) seemed to have experienced a personality makeover. Initially, all three characters are likable and you found yourself rooting for them through both good and bad intentions. That's not the case in DMC. Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann both show their dark side and become devious, cowardly, and double-crossing individuals. Their actions are so despicable that even a movie audience will have a hard time justifying them. Will Turner, however, is still the same honorable and loyal gentleman that is the fish-out-of-water among cutthroat pirates. This leaves Turner as the only remaining likable character out of the "main three." On the other hand, there is one character change that I was pleasantly surprised with. Commodore Norrington. In the first film, he was a snobbish stiff that dedicated himself to capturing criminal scum and bringing them to justice (or execution). In DMC, an unfortunate twist of fate causes his character to do a 180* and become the very same scum he once fought to destroy. This spin is very amusing and one of the highlights of the film.
A great amount of the storyline felt like filler, as if they were just there to set up the next action scene. This formula works for B-movies and martial arts films, but for a big budget film like DMC, it feels awkward.
The humor is hit-and-miss. It's impossible not to smile Johnny Depp's performance, even at his most outrageous moments. However, it often feels that the writers tried too hard to squeeze in humor at inappropriate places just so they can meet their humor quota. This sort of bad timing is another element that sets DMC below COTBP in terms of quality.
Davy Jones and "Bootstrap" Bill Turner are two terrific additions to the "Pirates" cast. They both add to a very dark atmosphere that the overall story focuses on. While the dark tone is a welcome change for the series, it also makes the story a bit depressing. You can't help but pity Bill Turner, trapped in a world that he can never escape.
Though far-fetched at times, the action/sword-fight scenes are a ton of fun to watch and help make DMC an all-around solid film.
The ending is not 100% satisfying, but that was done intentionally to build up anticipation for the third (and perhaps final) film. I hope that the third film improves on what I didn't like about the story and ties up all the loose ends so it can leave audiences feeling thrilled and satisfied. If they do, The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy has the potential to be remembered as classics worthy to sit by the legendary Back to the Future and Indiana Jones series as great timeless adventures for everyone to enjoy.
Pirates of the Plain (1999)
"Home Alone" with Pirates
Yep, that title pretty much sums it up. Just substitute the burglars with pirates and you have your movie. It's probably too cheesy for most adults to sit through, but I'm sure that most kids will enjoy this film. Especially if they like pirates.
The plot involves a boy by the name of Bobby who spends most of his time imagining himself in different adventures instead of concentrating in the real world. He's left alone at his Nebraska house while his mother and grandfather are away. It is then that a real adventure comes knocking on his door. An infamous pirate by the name of Jezebel Jack (Tim Curry) escapes the clutches of his crew-mates who just declared mutiny on him. Somehow, he winds up in the present day outside of Bobby's house and he struggles to fit in with the modern lifestyle. Meanwhile, Jack's shipmates follow his trail into the modern world and Jack forms an alliance with Bobby to defend his home against Jack's former crew. It's as ridiculous as it sounds. As long as you're able to not take it seriously, there is some fun to be found in this film.
With that being said, it's safe to say that Pirates of the Plain is a carry job by Curry. Without him, the film would have collapsed under its own ridiculousness. He brings credibility to something that otherwise would have failed miserably. I'm convinced that he is incapable of a bad performance. Whether it's big budget pictures, cult classics, Broadway shows, or direct-to-video stuff like this, you can always count on Curry to deliver the goods.
As I stated earlier, Pirates of the Plain is not for everyone and will mostly appeal to children. At the very least however, Curry is always fun to watch and should offer enough reason for the casual viewer to give this one a try.
Not for the Pan Purists
Let's make one thing clear first. This film was not meant to be a direct follow-up to J. M. Barrie's famous novel and some of his rules are discarded so that the story can fit the filmmakers' vision. If you believe that Barrie's work is sacred and should not be tampered with in any way, then avoid this film at all costs. If however, you can accept the changes and are in the mood for an exciting adventure, then "Hook" is more than worth your time.
The film offers an alternative vision of Barrie's novel and a side story of what might have happened if Peter Pan decided to abandon Neverland and live a life in the normal world. The story introduces us to Peter's alternate life (now adopting the name of Peter Banning) with his two children, his wife Moira (Wendy Darling's granddaughter), and his hectic lifestyle as businessman. Though Peter's days in Neverland are long over (so much that he's lost all memory of them), his old nemesis Captain Hook still seeks to obtain his revenge and finish the feud once and for all. When Peter and his family visit Wendy at the Darling household, Hook somehow finds a way to enter Peter's world and kidnaps his two children, holding them hostage in exchange for one final showdown. After Wendy reveals the truth of Peter's past to him, he reluctantly finds himself back in Neverland on a quest to settle his unfinished business and return his kids safely home. And that's when the fun begins.
The all-star cast is outstanding. Dustin Hoffman is nearly unrecognizable as the devious Captain Hook and has an awesome on-screen presence. Even the toughest of critics will admit that Hoffman nailed the role perfectly. The casting of Robin Williams as Peter Pan/Banning was more controversial, but as usual, Williams exceeded expectations and was brilliant with what he had to work with. Bob Hoskins almost steals the show as Hook's right-hand-man, Smee, and provided a good portion of the film's comedic relief. The only major drawback is Julia Roberts who didn't provide anything unique or special to the character of Tinkerbell. That's not to say that it's her fault, but in all honesty, her absence wouldn't have made much of a difference.
I have read reviews that bash this film left and right, saying it's an embarrassment to Spielberg's legacy, should never have been made, and is an example of his limited manipulative style. What a manipulative style means is something that I'll never understand. Isn't that the whole point of movies? To be manipulated into seeing something that you're not? Anyway, some of these film snobs need to do some growing up themselves and give this film the credit that it deserves. Hook is a fun fantasy adventure that illustrates the importance of staying young at heart and I would recommend it to anyone seeking a good time.
Creating a worthy follow-up to a major blockbuster is no easy task. But if all the pieces are in the right place, it is not impossible. Four years after the enormous success of Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg took control of the director's chair once more in an effort to enhance the franchise and add on to his already spectacular legacy. Did he succeed? In the eyes of most critics, no. However, I applaud Mr. Spielberg for an admirable effort and creating another crowd-pleaser, even if it didn't match up to the high expectations.
On another personal note, I was very happy to see Jeff Goldblum reprise his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm as he has always been my favorite character in the series. Since Malcolm is now more aware of the dangers of John Hammond's activities, his personality is less goofy and more serious this time around compared to his previous adventure.
It took several viewings for me to appreciate this film to its fullest. At first, it seemed weak because it sacrificed the philosophical messages that helped make the first film great to fit in more action. The philosophy is found in one of the key quotes by John Hammond. "Life will find a way." There *is* a point to all the chaos because it is all caused by the humans and their relentless desire to interfere with nature. Every tragic event seen in the film could have been avoided with sensibility and that is the message that is echoed throughout the entire series. Don't attempt to control the uncontrollable.
If there's one thing that makes the film worth watching, it has to be the special effects and the dinosaur animatronics. The infant T-Rex featured in this film is so lifelike that I often had to remind myself that it wasn't a real dinosaur. It was *that* convincing.
Also be on the lookout for Vince Vaughn (before he became the mega-star that he is today) as one of Hammond's researchers and a humorous scene involving a T-Rex in the modern world.
Made me feel like a child again
Growing up, my favorite films tended to involve ordinary people thrust into unordinary situations. Part of the fun was the hope that someday, somehow I would become one of those people and explore places that were deemed impossible to exist. As I got older and became an adult, I accepted the harsh realities of the real world and that I would never end up like the heroes that I cheered on screen. The innocence and the warm feelings of my youth became extinct.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe brought those feelings back, if just for the two and a half hours of the film's running time. This is the best fantasy film released since 1984's The Neverending Story. Any relation to the real world and the logic we have all become accustomed to should be discarded upon viewing, because that's not what the film is about. The audience is in the shoes of the four main heroes of the film as they explore and discover all the wonders of this new world and its strange mysteries for themselves.
The story is often hailed as a representation of the Christian belief and is well-acclaimed by its followers. However, there is no reason for Atheists to discard this film, by any means. It is not a retelling or adaptation of the story of the life of Jesus Christ. It merely makes references and borrows ideas from the bible to help develop their own characters. And it all works. By the time the film ends, the audience will care deeply for the heroes and cheer for them all the way through the many exciting turns and situations they encounter.
Terrific film. Highly recommended.
Better than it's given credit for.
I'm a bit surprised at the heavy criticism this film received. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that this sequel didn't live up to its predecessor. However, it's not nearly as bad as it's made out to be.
Before I continue, I should note that I have not yet read Micheal Ende's novel, so I can only judge this film as just that, a film. Not as an adaptation.
Many have complained that the personality of the characters from the original movie were contradicted and the film had little continuity. I disagree. In this film, Bastian is older and wiser, yet still has a lot to learn. That is not a flaw. He is *supposed* to be this way. As for his father, we didn't get to know him well enough in the first film to understand his personality, so the audience needs to give him the benefit of the doubt as well. Kenny Morrison was a fine Atreyu replacement for Noah Hathaway and Xayade is a villain that you'll love to hate.
This film goes the "Temple of Doom" route by offering a darker tale than before. In fact, some of the scenes might be a bit frightening for anyone at pre-school age or younger. I know that those giants used to scare me when I first saw this film at the age of eight. There are some humorous moments regarding the clash of cultures as Bastian and Atreyu often find it difficult to understand each other's vocabulary. A few thrilling moments, a dramatic twist mid-way through, and some nice visual effects round out a solid film.
On the negative side, some of the humor seemed a bit forced at times. *Cough* Spray can. *Cough* And while the dialogue was passable, it often sounded too plain without any real motivation behind it.
On a final note, and this is overlooked by the earlier reviews, Robert Folk's musical score is spectacular. It's a shame that it'll probably never be released in the mainstream ever again. The score alone makes the film worth watching.
All in all, this is an underrated film that needs to be viewed with an open mind instead of a quest to find as many flaws as possible. It's no fun using the latter way. It may not be the best sequel one could hope for, but it certainly could have been a lot worse. Just watch Neverending Story III to find out how.