Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Hope springs eternal – or so goes the saying. Despite not being overly impressed with Pirates offerings 2 and 3 I was hopeful that this 4th installment would capture some of the sharp wit and pure silliness of the original “Curse of the Black Pearl”. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, I was disappointed.

It must be difficult to make successful sequels – not successful in terms of box office numbers but ones that preserve the heart and spirit of the originals from which they spring. I loved the first Pirates film – it was clever, the characters were well realised and for the most part brilliantly played, and Johnny Depp created a new legend in Captain Jack Sparrow.

Taken out of their perfectly realised roles in the first film, the characters in this fourth installment seem as though they are parodying themselves, with no real depth of feeling apparent anywhere. Except perhaps between the missionary and the mermaid, although neither were given the chance to grow into their hinted-at roles properly. The soundtrack was almost completely recycled – not just the main themes – I realise with reoccuring characters there will be reoccuring themes – but the music as a whole brought to mind scenes from the first film when I heard it which cannot have been the composer’s intent. Also, several of the highlights of this film -in particular the fight between Jack and Angelica in a room with lots of ramps and cross beams – was very, very similar to the duel between Will and Jack in the first film. Except not as good.

As a final nail in the coffin for this hopefully last installment of the Pirates franchise – the 3D was awful – a lot of the film appearing out of focus to the extent that it was often hard to tell what was going on in a scene and who things were happening to. I realise this is probably a problem specific to my cinema, but it didn’t help with my overall enjoyment of the film!

To conclude – unless you loved the second and third Pirates films, I wouldn’t bother going to see On Stranger Tides. To me it continues the degradation of the gem that is the original and proves that no matter how much money they make, in terms of a satisfying cinema-going experience, sequels rarely live up to their promise.

Attack the Block

This film was brilliant – there’s not much need to say anything else!

The central concept was interesting and well executed – the aliens don’t get a lot of screen time but that’s fine – they’re the means by which everything else happens! And when they do show up – well there are plenty of moments that make you jump, and the lack of a really clear view of the aliens makes their threat all the greater.

The kids are the best part of this film – managing to walk that fine line between cliched stereotype and convincing realism. They are exactly how you think and fear “hoodies” to be, and yet pretty soon become real people too – kids trying to deal with the circumstances and situations they find themselves in. Even through the hardships of their lives, their sense of belonging, and the affection in which they hold their community is illuminating – especially when contrasted with nurse Sam’s (Jodie Whittaker) entirely reasonable wish to leave “the block” as soon as possible! Director/writer Joe Cornish spent a long time working with children in London prior to writing and it really shows – the characters seem very authentic and utterly believable.

The “Shaun of the Dead” tag is only really warrented by Nick Frost’s presence; Attack the Block stands firmly as a film in its own right with a very different feel and type of humour to Edgar Wright’s breakout zom-com.

Attack the Block is an excellent film, all the more outstanding as it’s a debut effort. I’ll definitely be watching the development of Cornish’s career with interest.

Water for Elephants

Let me just say this – I was unprepared for this film. From the trailers and from other reviews I read I expected a fairly gently romance set amongst the bright lights and glass-into-diamonds sparkle of a Depression-era circus. What took me by surprise almost from the get-go was the intensity of the drama and depth of feeling that the characters evoked in me as a viewer.

Christoph Waltz (as anyone who has seen Inglourious will attest) can create a sense of almost unbearable menace simply from polite conversation, and as circus-manager August is simply terrifying. Switching from smiling affability to brutal, muderous rage in less than the blink of an eye, his unpredictability and capacity for violence provide much of the tension in the film. Robert Pattinison is much more than a pretty face here – giving the viewer an eye on the inside of circus life. He brings vet-student Jacob fully to life and with such empathy that his every action becomes fully believable. Only Reese Witherspoon’s Marlena seemed a little under-done to me, existing more a catalyst and lynch pin around which the story develops than a completely fleshed-out character in her own right. Her back story is briefly visited, and her strength comes through clearly, but Marena felt like much more of a by-numbers character than the other leads.

The story rolls along at a respectable pace, unfolding organically without ever feeling like it’s marking time until the big finish. The disaster – referenced at the beginning of the film so we all know it’s coming – is suitably horrifying and satisfying, well-deserving of its status as “the most famous circus disaster of all time”. The sights, smells, sounds, boredom, garishness and violence of life in a travelling circus at that harshest of times is brought vibrantly and beautifully to life. And it is violent. The grittiness of life as portrayed here was surprising, and very much approved of as it grounded the story and characters in reality and stripped it of the fairytale element that would have made it so much less remarkable. Animal lovers be warned though, a lot of the film serves as a good reminder as to why circuses involving animals became so controversial.

All in all, this is a very good film, and definitely one to go and watch – especially if you saw the trailers and shrugged it off.

Dipping a toe…

…into the sea that is the World Wide Web!

Welcome to the first official blog here. If you are reading – thank you for doing so! This blog, and my registration on Twitter, represent the second time that I have proved my own prophecies wrong, and proved that you really should “never say never”.

Me at sixteen, looking for a part time job: “I’ll never be a waitress, I can’t think of any worse job.”

Me sitting writing this post some years later, having worked full time as a waitress for several years and generally enjoying it.

I point blank refused to join the masses jumping on the myspace/bebo/facebook/twitter bandwagon – “Why would I want to tell random strangers on the Internet about my life?”

And yet, here we are. In the future I might as well not bother declaring my intentions either for or against anything, save as a pointer to Fate as to which direction she should weave my life (obviously to the opposite of anything I plan!).

Anyway… the ensuing blog will feature my mainly unconnected musings and discoveries, and previously referred to random strangers could likely care less about any of it, but I will faithfully post things and muse about my motivations and the ensuing degradation of my moral integrity at a later date. No doubt bringing you updates.

Check out the review section for (surprisingly) reviews of films/music/gigs/books – anything really that I form an opinion of and think I should share – and there may follow snippets from pieces of writing that I’m currently noodling over.

Please comment on anything and everything but be warned, plain nasty or rude/offensive comments will be deleted before seeing the light of day.

Enjoy! :-)