Archive for May, 2011

The fourth PIRATES film is the first big disappointment of the summer

Posted in Festival/awards on May 19, 2011 by Steve Mesa

It seemed like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was over with the conclusion of the overstuffed and bloated third entry, At World’s End. However, Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow along with some new and old faces for the fourth entry in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Jack (Depp) finds himself on trial for piracy after when he learns someone has been impersonating him to put a crew together in search of the Fountain of Youth. The imposter turns out to be Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a love interest that Jack had feelings for a long time ago and the daughter of the notorious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Jack, Angelica and Blackbeard soon embark on a quest to find the Fountain, while Jack’s nemesis Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is sent by the King of England to get to the Fountain before the Spaniards.

This movie does get points in telling a comprehensible plot unlike the last two installments; however, the problem is that the “search for the Fountain of Youth” plot is a boring plot for a film of this caliber. The film lacks the fantastical elements that have supported the Pirates franchise as it seems that screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rosario just ran out of original ideas for On Stanger Tides.

Aside from the whole Fountain of Youth plot, we have an unwelcoming and forced romance subplot that involves a minister (Sam Claflin) and a mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), which could easily be a substitute for the “missing” Orlando Bloom/Keira Knightley element and another subplot that involves some Spaniards who are also looking for the Fountain too.

The only true stand-out moment in this bore-of-a-movie is the mermaid sequence. This scene manages to capture the beauty of these stunning sea creatures, while at the same time showcase the mermaid’s vicious brutality that their prey would endure if they fall into the water. 

Being this is the fourth time that Depp is playing Sparrow, it really shows in his performance that he is not bringing anything new to the table. I could be wrong for all I know because maybe next year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association could nominate Depp for Best Actor again for On Stanger Tides. Who knows? The supposed romantic tension between Depp and Cruz is nowhere to be seen as it feels forced and unconvincing. The only two actors that really try to bring anything to their performance are McShane as Blackbeard and Rush as Barbossa.

Like Depp, Rob Marshall (Chicago), who is replacing Gore Verbinski in the director’s chair, brings nothing new to the table. Even though he tries do the best he can with the material given to him, Marshall’s direction for the action sequences seems over-choreographed and over-the-top including one sequence where Jack escapes by climbing a tree, swinging himself from one tree to another and dropping coconuts on people.

As the fourth entry in the franchise, On Stranger Tides is boring especially with the running time being as short in the franchise at 136 minutes. There could have been some fat-trimming done to make this film even shorter like leaving the priest/mermaid and Spaniard subplots on the cutting room floor.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides is not only the franchise’s most disappointing entry, but the first disappointment of the summer. This film should be evidence enough that this tired and fledgling franchise should be put to rest.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides: 2 stars out of 5

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THOR is another entertaining and fun addition to the MARVEL film universe

Posted in Reviews on May 4, 2011 by Steve Mesa

As the official movie to kickoff the summer movie season, Thor sets the bar high for any and all superhero movies to come out this year.

When Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the powerful and arrogant Norse god, reignites an ancient war with the Frost Giants, Thor is cast out of Asgard by his father Odin (Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins) and banished to live on Earth. When he lands on Earth in New Mexico, Thor befriends the beautiful and young astrophysicist Jane Foster (Oscar-winner Natalie Portman) and her colleagues Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings). With their help, Thor must learn the error of his ways and learn what it takes to be a true hero. Meanwhile, Thor’s mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots to kill his father in order to become the king of Asgard.

Sometime when you go watch a comic book/superhero movie, you do not anticipate the acting to one of the best things about a movie like that. However in Thor, the acting is surprisingly good. Everyone in the cast does a great job in reincarnating these Marvel characters on the silver screen, but it is Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth who deliver stand-out performances in the film.  

Loki is not your typical one-dimensional Marvel villain who wants to just rule the world. Hiddleston goes through a transformation in the film where Loki goes from being Thor’s loyal brother to the point of wanting to wipe out his family, but there are logistic reasons why Loki has so much animosity towards Odin and Thor. Hemsworth delivers a star-making turn as Thor just like how Hugh Jackman became a star and Robert Downey Jr. got back on top thanks to their turn as Wolverine and Iron Man. As Thor goes through a transformation of his own, Hemsworth makes its believable when his character goes from being a bratty heir to the throne to the lovable character who kicks some ass when the time comes for it.   

Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet) may be a peculiar choice as the director of Thor, but he uses his Shakespearean background to make the Asgard sequences carry the same kind of dramatic weight and tragedy most of Shakespeare’s play are known for. He uses this recognizable Shakespearean formula to develop character building and dramatic moments that are as exciting as the action sequences, which feature fights with blue giants and laser-shooting giant robots.

The script by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne is not only exciting and dramatic, but it allows each character to fully develop by the time the end credits roll. With the passing references of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, S.H.I.E.L.D playing an important part of the story and Jeremy Renner making a cameo as Hawkeye, Thor is another film that will give audiences a bit of a taste of what is to come in the upcoming Avengers film. There is even a bonus scene after the end credits that will hint at the possible plot for The Avengers.

Thor is an entertaining and fun movie that audiences look forward to in a summer blockbuster that not only delivers on in its action scenes, but in some of its dramatic scenes as well.  

Thor: 5 stars out of 5