Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Buena Vista Pictures

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl set sail in search of a chest that contains an item belonging to the ominous Davy Jones, but this item is also sought after by several other people, all of whom want this item for their own ends…

Review: Pirates, there’s something about these scallywags that cinema audiences certainly seem to like, and enjoy watching, as was evident by the phenomenal critical and commercial success that the first film in this franchise enjoyed. A sequel (or two, or three) was always going to happen. Sequels, however can be the equivalent of cursed treasure, in that if you get them wrong, it can place upon the preceding film a terrible curse that’s hard to shake off. Or it can be like finding a glorious stash of treasure that makes everyone rich and happy. In the case of Dead Man’s Chest, this is perhaps somewhere in between it’s not a curse, but it’s not a perfect stash of treasure either.

We begin when the wedding of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner is rudely interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander) who’s after one man, yes Captain Jack Sparrow of course! After the latter was allowed to escape by the hands of Will, Beckett condems the bride and groom to be to the hangman’s noose. Jack meanwhile is desperately seeking to avoid the debt that he owes Davy Jones (Nighy) and so begins a spiral of events that stretch out this film’s run time to an incredible two and a half hours, that really really could have been trimmed down in one or two places.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio do ensure that there is some fun to be had of course, but there’s quite a lot of meandering as this ship steers its way through some very exposition filled waters that threaten to run the film aground. A common path for sequels to sail, is to make the tone that bit more darker, and this is the route that this film chooses to take, and in doing so much of the wackiness and the fun that the first film brought is replaced by a more serious ominous tone, though the film doesn’t lack some very entertaining sequences that returning captain Gore Verbinski helms to a similar standard as he did with the first film.

The ominous is perhaps best exemplified by Davy Jones, though we don’t find out much about him and why he looks the way he does. Nighy brings a very menacing presence, that is aided by some truly excellent CGI. Being in this creature’s presence could cause even the bravest of souls to quiver in fear.  Though the CGI for some of his crew aboard The Flying Dutchman is very obvious, it is for the most part very well done and the recipient of the Oscar for Visual Effects. Despite the meandering script, there are some rather splendid action sequences to enjoy, and the acting across the board remains at a solid standard.

Not someone you want to mess with…

With Depp again on splendid form as Captain Jack, and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley also in fine form reprising their roles as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Newcomers Stellan Skarsgård and Tom Hollander give the most memorable performances of the newcomers as Will’s father Bootstrap Bill and the pesky Cutler Beckett.  It’s not the swashbuckling adventure its predecessor was, but there’s more than enough rum on this ship to ensure it has the right amount of wind in its sails.

A choppy plot, coupled with some clunky dialogue could have resulted in an unpleasant shipwreck, but an ample amount of fun action ensures it’s steered home to a satisfying conclusion.

 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

curse-of-the-black-pearl
Image is property of Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: When a dastardly band of Pirates seeks a valuable piece of treasure to lift a curse, a blacksmith and a rogue Pirate must unite to help save the daughter of a Governor who happens to be in the possession of said treasure.

Review: Pirates, for a very long time now, these swashbuckling individuals have been almost an ever present in popular culture for about as long as anyone can remember. Some of the most notable being of course Captain Hook from Peter Pan and  of course there’s Steven Spielberg’s Hook, but perhaps no other franchise in Hollywood as left such a lasting impression on Pirates in pop culture than the franchise that began all the way back in 2003, this of course being Pirates of the Caribbean, based on the popular Disneyland attraction.

Enter Jack Sparrow (Depp) a pirate who arrives in the Jamaican town of Port Royal, in rather dramatic and amusing style, on a mission to commandeer a ship in order to exact revenge on his former pirate comrades. During this mission however, his path crosses with Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of a Governor, and the Blacksmith Will Turner and the three become entangled in a mission that involves treasure, swordplay, action, romance, scheming and the supernatural all in one go. If nothing else it’s stylish entertainment at its absolute best.

ARR is it treasure ye be looking for????

Director Gore Verbinski is the captain of this vessel, and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are the first mates if you will, with the cast being their eccentric, and rather brilliant crew! In a role that has arguably become his most well known, Depp is absolutely electric as Captain Jack Sparrow, he’s humorous, witty and extremely charismatic and Depp’s fine work ensured he received a well deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Of course Depp is the shining light of a cast that is packed with excellent performances, Geoffrey Rush is excellent as the wicked and treacherous Captain Barbossa is the primary target of Jack’s vengeance, with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley completing the cream of the crop in terms of fantastic performances, the latter two certainly boast some excellent chemistry.

Verbinski steers this ship like a captain who has been sailing the seas for all eternity. The action is enthralling to watch and the effects are equally terrific, the resulting outcome of the curse that is placed on these pirates  transforms them into utterly terrifying beings that at times really push the 12A rating of the film, it is entirely possible that one or two people might have had nightmares. Throw in an excellent score to boot, composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, with a fantastic theme that is guaranteed to make you hum along to it every time you hear it,  you’ll be entertained right from the get go and will not have any desire or need to go and walk the plank.

When pitching this film, it is entirely possible that studio execs might have just looked at each other in utter bemusement as to how this could possibly mesh and work together. Fortunately Verbinski and crew make it work, and the results are just an utter blast. As one character says near the beginning of the film, during a rather daring heist, “This is either madness, or brilliance,” to which the other character responds “it’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.” Certainly applicable in the case of this film, though it is certainly more a case of brilliance, but a bit of madness is thrown in there for good measure, and all the better for it, savvy?

Here be treasure alright! It is quite appropriate for a film to be based on a theme park attraction to be one hell of an entertaining ride, as that is precisely what this film takes you on. 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

All image rights belong to New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill ,Miranda Otto, Karl Urban

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: While Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli lead the charge against Sauron and his armies of Mordor, Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring and banish evil from Middle Earth, once and for all.

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, SO BE AWARE MY PRECIOUSSSSSS….

Review: The journey to bring The Lord of the Rings to the big screen was one that started all the way back in 1995, and that reached its conclusion in 2003 with this closing chapter of this masterful trilogy. You just did not want it to end, but all good things must come to an end, and there isn’t a better way to close the book on this epic masterpiece than to go and make what is without doubt, one of the best films ever made, and quite possibly the best film of the 2000s. New Line Cinema rolled the dice with Peter Jackson and this adaptation and this gamble paid off big time, with three tremendous movies making one of the best trilogies of all time.

With Saruman and his armies now vanquished, the Iron Fist of Mordor and Sauron’s flaming eye is now firmly focused on Gondor as he bids to topple the world of men once for all. Yet in his path stand the rest of the Fellowship with Pippin and Merry following their victory over Isengard, who briefly rejoin the rest of the Fellowship to celebrate, but that joy is short-lived as the enemy prepares to strike. Gandalf and Pippin depart for Minas Tirith to help Gondor prepare for the imminent war and the rest of the Fellowship to mobilise Rohan and its armies for the grave and massive incoming army that is about to descend on the world of men. Sauron moves to conquer all and only it is in the hands of Frodo and Sam, aided by Gollum who all the while is growing ever more deceitful and treacherous, to stop Sauron consuming Middle Earth in darkness.

Throughout the near ten hour run time of the entire trilogy (not counting the extended editions) Peter Jackson threw some terrific action sequences upon the audience. You thought the Battle of Helm’s Deep was outstanding and a wonder in terms of film-making, the battle of Pelennor Fields is somehow almost on another level. Trolls, Catapults of severed human heads flung at the walls of Minas Tirith, Nazgul, Oliphants, this battle has just about everything, and it’s a cinematic battle of immense quality that could and should certainly stake its claim as one of the finest ever put to screen, featuring among other things, Legolas take on an enormous oliphant all by himself, which leads to one of the best one liners ever said by the great Gimli son of Gloin.

Given the stakes in the movie, the tone is considerably darker here, and this is noticeable from the very beginning with a rather twisted tale of how Smeagol was transformed into the creature otherwise known as Gollum. This dark tone is a recurring one throughout the film’s run time as Sauron’s power seems to be unstoppable for the Fellowship to contain. All the while, the Ring is taking a heavy toll on Frodo as he and Sam move closer to Mount Doom. All the while Gollum, purporting to lead them to Mount Doom, is scheming to try and take the ring back again. The script weaves between the different story lines as brilliantly as it can. Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh again wrote the screenplay and it was this screenplay that won the trio a well deserved Oscar for their efforts. Indeed the film swept the board at the 2004 Oscars, winning all of the ELEVEN Oscars it was nominated for, setting a record in process, jointly tying with Titanic and Ben-Hur for the most Oscars ever won.

Although no one was nominated in any of the acting categories, everyone on screen gives utterly tremendous performances, right from those who were introduced to us in Fellowship and Two Towers, to those who were introduced in this concluding chapter. Of the new cast, John Noble’s Denethor, the father of the late Boromir and Faramir (David Wenham) certainly makes an impression, and quickly becomes a very dis-likeable man due to his mistreatment of Faramir, who he views in a considerably lesser light than his brother. The extended edition of Two Towers introduces the audience to Denethor but it’s here where he shows his utter contempt for Faramir. Viggo Mortensen shone as Aragorn in the previous movies, but here he really steps up to the plate as he accepts his true destiny, to become King. Also deserving of praise is Miranda Otto as Eowyn. “I can fight,” she says in Two Towers before the Wolves of Isengard attacked, and boy was she right. She certainly showed a woman can fight and own a battle scene just the same as a man. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are also tremendous but Astin in particular really shone as Sam battles to support Frodo who is becoming corrupted by Gollum’s influence.

There really is no shortage of superlatives that can describe The Lord of the Rings trilogy in all of its magnificence, but Peter Jackson could and should remain immensely proud of what he and his team brought to the big screen. If Tolkien could see what Jackson did with his beloved book, he would surely be thrilled that his masterpiece was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. If you count the extended edition, these movies are just over eleven hours of pure cinematic joy, spectacle, drama and emotion with so many wonderful and brilliant characters. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has cemented its status as one of the best that has ever been put to screen with three perfect movies that have secured their well deserved place in the record books, and will hopefully be adored for generations and generations to come.

The third chapter in a trilogy can so often be a huge let down. Not a chance of that happening here, this is pure cinematic perfection and glorious entertainment, the trilogy took its well deserved crown. One trilogy to rule them all!

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill ,Miranda Otto, Karl Urban

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: Continuing the journey as the Fellowship breaks apart, as Frodo and Sam continue their journey to Mordor to destroy the Ring. The trio of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli make a stand against Sauron’s puppet Saruman and his armies who seek to destroy the world of men.

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING SPOILERS! YE BE WARNED!!!!

 

 

 

Review: The middle mark of a trilogy, sometimes one  that tops its predecessor in glorious fashion, improving every element and every aspect. Or a miserable failure that is often lost in the movie wilderness, never to be spoken about again. Okay there might be middle ground between these two, but in the case of the second chapter in the trilogy of Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, neither really applies. The first film was a masterpiece in fantasy storytelling, with wonderful characters and a superb adventure that kept the audience glued to the screen for three and a half hours, and that trend continues on into The Two Towers.

The story picks up immediately after the end of the Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship itself has disbanded, with the death of the heroic Boromir and after Gandalf fell into shadow. Frodo and Sam continue onto Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Merry and Pippin are captured by Urak Hai and the remaining trio of Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn set out to rescue them. With three strands of the story line, the trilogy continues to thrill in all of its spectacle and brilliance as our journey into the wonder and yes indeed terror of Middle Earth continues as we explore new parts, in particular the land of Rohan and their battle to stop the treacherous White Wizard, Saruman from exterminating the world of Men.

Fellowship introduced us , for the most part, to our key characters. However, this chapter adds some new and important characters into the picture. Namely, Theoden (Bernard Hill) his niece Eowyn (Miranda Otto), Faramir (David Wenham) and of course, the creepy and sinister Gollum (Andy Serkis). All of these new characters are key additions to the story and all are portrayed excellently, with Eowyn giving the series a strong and very capable female warrior, a rarity in Middle Earth sadly. but the most stand out of all of these is Andy Serkis’ motion capture portrayal of Gollum. Gollum is one damaged and wounded creature, and Serkis generated quite the buzz with his performance, with there being talk of a potential Oscar for his work. Gollum’s arrival splits Frodo and Sam’s relationship in half, as Sam harbours strong suspicions of Gollum’s true motive. All the while, the burden of the Ring is really eating away at Frodo and taking a severe toll, thus meaning Sam needs to come to the fore, and he does so brilliantly. The acting from Astin and Wood goes up a gear here, but Serkis absolutely steals the show for his work as Gollum.

On the other side of the world, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimili, aided by a rejuvenated Gandalf the White, are preparing for the fight to stop the villainous Saruman to wipe out Rohan via a considerable army of Urak-Hai. They’re a very unlikely trio but they have great chemistry between them. Through this we are eventually led to the Battle of Helm’s Deep, and what simply is one of the best and most epic battle scenes ever put on the big screen, though some great action scenes do come before it. Whilst at the same time packing humour aplenty with the increasingly amusing relationship between Legolas and Gimli which culminates in a battle within a battle, to get the most kills. It is uproariously entertaining whilst at the same time very gripping, edge-of-your-seat action.  Yet for all those epic battle scenes the scenes with Merry and Pippin and Treebeard, their Ent, tree like companion, can feel very slow and tedious at times. , However while it maybe slow to sit through these scenes, the pay off is certainly worth it.

The cinematography, visual effects and score remain as brilliant as they were in the first movie. The respective story lines do have some satisfying conclusions and the film closes at a perfect point to set it up for the concluding chapter to this magnificent trilogy. The prospect that Lord of the Rings could have been only two films is one that does not bear thinking about, as who knows what would have been butchered from the story to make it into two films. Luckily for us all it did not come to pass and we got our trilogy. For some, Two Towers marks the low point of the trilogy, but it does not bring the movie down at all from being the awesome and thrilling adventure that it is. There are some great pay offs in the respective arcs, but there is enough hanging in the balance to draw the viewer back. Jackson pulled it out of the bag again, and in spectacular fashion my precioussssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Though not as action packed as Fellowship wasit provides more character development, more heart, and with one of the best battle sequences ever put on the big screen, the journey continues in majestic and magnificent fashion.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

 

fotr
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm,

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: When a young hobbit Frodo Baggins receives the One Ring of Power. He along with eight unlikely companions set off on a quest, to journey to the heart of Middle Earth and Mordor and destroy the Ring.

Review: When discussions about films and more specifically film trilogies rage across film schools, and fans of films in general, several trilogies may get mentioned and debated vehemently. Yet, the name of one trilogy that could and should always be mentioned is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  A project that Jackson considered way back in 1995, but through various deals falling through, and tough negotiations that reached an impasse, with talk of it being two films instead of three. It was a tough challenge and despite the production impasses, it pulled through and the final end product is what many believe to be one of the finest trilogies in the history of cinema. and thank goodness it was three films and not two!

Thanks to the brilliance of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the mastermind behind this incredible world of Middle Earth, came into being, and his trilogy of novels, and it was Peter Jackson who took up the challenge to adapt it for the big screen. With a screenplay by Jackson, his wife Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the land of Middle Earth is beautifully realised and the world is established in all of its glory. On top of that, we are provided with some sweet action sequences within the first 20 minutes. Yet there is much to be built up, events to be established in order to bring those who will have not read Tolkien’s works up to speed. Build up can be a slow tedious process, but not here. The world of Middle Earth is so enthralling, it’s just gripping to watch as the audience is introduced to this vast world and all of its key characters, of which there are many.

The cast is quite extensive, but every single performance on show shines and shines brightly. However, it is the main ensemble of the Fellowship all lead the way with sublime performances from each and everyone one of them. However, there are however some stand out performances among the wealth of great acting on show. Elijah Wood as Frodo, who is the one tasked with the seemingly impossible challenge of destroying the ring. Viggo Mortensen as the fearless and strong warrior Aragorn, who is a key piece of the puzzle, and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey likewise. With the late and great Sir Christopher Lee also showing his tremendous ability and deep booming voice as Saruman the White. Sean Bean also gives a very memorable performance as Boromir the warrior of Gondor. All of the aforementioned give superb performances and the acting from all is of such a top quality, that you do not see the actors any more, you see the characters, and that’s a credit to everyone involved.

The cinematography is beautiful from start to finish. The film is packed with some breath taking shots of Middle Earth AKA New Zealand scenery.   There are plenty of superb swooping shots that to leave the audience breathless. In addition, there is some awe-inspiring visual effects such as the with the battle scenes are also sublime but in terms of battle scenes, the best is saved for later in the trilogy. This isn’t to say that there are some terrific battle scenes here, The score composed by Howard Shore is equally epic in every sense. From the jovial tune that we hear in the Shire to the sinister notes we hear when entering  Isengard. Every scene is accompanied by a beautifully composed tune that captures each scene perfectly. Out of the thirteen nominations received, the film bagged four Oscars for Cinematography, Score, Visual Effects and Make-up, and all were very well deserved.

Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect start for this trilogy and it set the benchmark. There are some great themes packed throughout this film. Friendship, honour, sacrifice and loyalty. It is just simply a joy to behold. Every element of this film hits the spot, and it hits it perfectly. Some may say its too long (not counting the extended edition!) While it is long, it is impossible to deny the sheer brilliance of what Jackson brought to the big screen. We will never know what Tolkien would have made of Jackson’s vision of his beloved trilogy, but one would hope that he would have loved what he saw, as audiences around the world certainly did!

Visually breath-taking, with a riveting and terrific story, some superb action sequences, a fantastic score and a tremendous ensemble cast, the first instalment of this trilogy set in motion one of the best trilogies of all time.

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