Archive for Johnny Depp

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The fifth instalment of the Pirates franchise hit the screen this week, the big question is: Did anyone other than Johnny Depp really ask for this film?

This is the second of the series not to be directed by Gore Verbinski, the fourth – On Stranger Tides – having been directed by Rob Marshall, who really pared back a lot of the extravagance that Verbinski packed into the bloated Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s EndSalazar’s Revenge has two directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, and as much as there is no real sense of different ‘voices’, it’s not entirely coherent either.

As far as these films go, this is basically ticks all the boxes: Johnny Depp doing his drunken Keith Richards/David Bowie as a pirate impression, implausible CG galleon battles, cursed pirate crews, a score that beats you into submission during the action set-pieces, returning characters, risqué jokes, basically everything you expect. The problem with Salazar’s Revenge is that nothing is quite right.

The CG is a bit ropey, especially the zombie sharks, the film was shot for 3D (which I didn’t even realise was still a thing) so there are lots of pointy things and explody things shooting towards you, and it always stands out when you watch in 2D. The jokes are more suggestive than ever, and the gender politics in the franchises universe are more draconian than ever (anyone remember there were women in high-ranking positions in the previous films? Even Knightly managed to become Queen of the Pirates! Here the single female character is branded a witch time and time again) the cameo from a famous pop star is even more clumsily shoe-horned-in than Keith Richards’ – which actually made sense. And Johnny Depp seems to have been given free-reign to basically just do whatever he wants while having fewer and fewer lines of dialogue. In fact, the dialogue he does manage to spit out is now virtually unintelligible as his drunken slurring has been turned up to 11 in this film, especially during the opening scenes.

Luckily, the talents of Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem manage to serve as balance to Depp’s mad ramblings, although Bardem is basically playing a pantomime villain. Newcomer Kaya Scodelariois a breath of fresh air as Carina Smyth, the woman of science trying to track down her absent father. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner, the son of Bloom and Knightly’s characters, he’s just as wet and weak as Bloom and Sam Claflin’s character from On Stranger Tides. This franchise really has a thing for tepid male supporting characters.

The plot centres around a cursed crew of Spanish pirates(?) who are set free after years being confined to some sort of cave and who are out to get the person who put them there in the first place: Sparrow. Various characters are looking for the Trident of Poseidon (which, the more it’s said, the stupider it sounds) that will break the curse. The list of people included in tracking down the Trident of Poseidon (see?!) includes the English, who want to use its power to rule the sea… but even though they’re set up to be powerful secondary protagonists they seem to get forgotten by the writers halfway through the film. Adventure ensues, a central character is killed-off and that’s about it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge – and the franchise in general – is the movie equivalent of popcorn. It has no real calorific content, it’s probably not good for you, but it tastes quite nice at the time until you have too much of it and you start feeling sick, however you start to feel hungry again soon after finishing. Th film passes a couple of hours, but is completely forgettable and not very good. But at least Mr Depp will be able to pay some of his legal fees with the earnings, if the press is to be believed he’s going to need it, so expect many more adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow in the coming years.


Review: The Rum Diary

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

‘The Rum Diary’ is based on a novel written by the infamous American journalist Hunter S. Thompson and appears to be semi-biographical in nature, as is the majority of his work. Also, like the majority of his work, it focusses heavily on disenfranchised characters who are often dependant on drink and drugs.

It has been a project close to the heart of producer and lead actor Johnny Depp. While living with Thompson in the late 1990s researching a role for the film version of his novel ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’ Depp was shown ‘The Rum Diary’ and urged Thompson to publish it for the first time since it was written in the 1960s. He also negotiated a film deal for it that has resulted in the film coming out this week. Depp also recruited the director and screenwriter Bruce Robinson, who had retired from directing in 1992, after having a torrid time while filming ‘Jennifer 8’. Apparently Depp was adamant that Robinson directed this film because “he had made one of the most perfect films ever”; referencing ‘Withnail And I’, which he directed and wrote, and contains a lot of the same themes as ‘The Rum Diary’.

The plot of the film follows the story of Paul Kemp (Depp), a journalist who has moved from New York to Puerto Rico to work for a small newspaper for US expats living on the island. It is revealed that the paper is failing and has stirred up a lot of tension between the expats and the native population. Most of the employees of the paper are alcoholics and Kemp gets sucked into their self-destructive world of drug abuse and illegal cock-fighting while living with the photographer, Sala (Michael Rispoli), and his feral, moonshine brewing, drug taking, Nazi-sympathising roommate, played with gusto by Giovanni Ribisi.

While working at the San Juan Star, Kemp is head-hunted by the smooth talking PR man and property developer, Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson wants Kemp to write advertising articles for a new hotel development on an uninhabited part of Puerto Rico; neither of his new-found careers seem to be what he is looking for as they don’t appeal to his political sensibilities and, as yet, he hasn’t found his voice as a writer. A voice which he develops in his journeys through his growing thirst for rum, his first taste of hallucinogenic drugs and his growing frustration at the class division and politicians all around him. While all this is going on he also starts up an affair with Sanderson’s girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard), who is scantily clad for the majority of the time she is on-screen.

There is a lot of bile in the script for this film, which is interesting as Robinson re-wrote the entire screenplay, only keeping two lines from the novel in the final script. Which shows what a masterful writer he is. In fact he took up drinking again after years of sobriety just so he could get inside the head of the booze-addled characters, a gamble with his health that has apparently paid off. However, there isn’t quite the anger at the system that fans of Thompson’s work will pick up on, though this is the story of how he finds his voice, so it can’t be expected to be as rank and seething as his later work. Though there are references to it with a snide attack on Richard Nixon while Kemp and Sala are watching the television at one point.

The film buzzes along at a fast pace, but you never get the feeling that you’ve missed anything. There are some funny set piece scenes including a drunken car chase ending in a small stint  in jail, a voyeuristic scene in which he spies on Sanderson and Chenault sharing an intimate moment in the sea and a voodoo blessing of a fighting cockerel. But quite a bit of the film feels more like a thriller with some romantic elements. All-in-all it is a miracle that this film ever made it to the screen, let alone handled with as much love and care as it has been and, I think, cinema is all the richer for it.

Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The forth film in Disney’s ‘Pirates…’ franchise sees Captain Jack Sparrow embark on yet another swashbuckling adventure to find the Fountain
Of Youth.

I was looking forward to this chapter in the saga a lot more than after first hearing about the fact it was being made. My enthusiasm was stoked by noticing that it was going to be the shortest in the quadrilogy, a huge plus point as ‘At World’s End’ was the best part of 3 hours long…and a bit boring to boot. But mainly because the watery Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly were not to be brought back after their storylines were finished off in the previous film.

 Along for the ride this time round is Penélope Cruz as Angelica Malon playing the old flame of Jack, which is strange as she hasn’t been mentioned in the previous outings even though they apparently  loved each other, only for Jack to get cold feet and leave her at the altar.

Angelica appears to be the daughter of the infamous pirate Blackbeard, played brilliantly by Ian McShane, who has been warned that he will be killed by ‘the one-legged man’ and must find the Fountain Of Youth to grant him immortality before his impending death. The one-legged man –  in this case Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), is now in the employ of the King of England as a privateer in the Navy. He lost his leg by narrowly escaping during an attack on the Black Pearl by Blackbeard.

Also in pursuit of the Fountain are the Spanish, for no discernable reason other than that they are Catholic and feel the need to destroy this blasphemous pagan artefact, as only the Lord can grant immortality. And it gives some excuse to place Cruz in the female lead.

As usual there are a number of giant action sequences, though luckily it all seems to be kept under stricter control by Rob Marshall than the films by Gore Verbinski, who couldn’t direct this one as he was working on ‘Rango’, also starring the voice of Johnny Depp. There is a brilliant opening
escape scene after he frees Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from the stocks where he surfs on the top of carriages through the streets of London to escapes the army before being saved by his father, Captain Teague (Keith Richards), who is heavily featured in the trailer, but only appears here for a couple of minutes.

There are lots of sword fighting scenes too, which are well-paced and clear. Though it did seem that a lot of them were made specifically for 3D with swords being thrust into the camera (and Jack swings through trees on a rope confusing matters for his adversaries). I’m sure that it looked great in 3D, but I decided to view the film in 2D (the proper way to see a film). I was not alone. It seems that the greater public has started to finally tire of 3D;  the official figures show that more people have opted to see it in 2D so far. But this is a rant for another occasion.

The best action scene by far though is the mermaid scene, because for an extremely confusing ritual at the Fountain the tear of a mermaid is
required. To this end, Blackbeard uses some of his own crew as bait for the sirens who attract men for their own carnal pleasure before drowning them. Seeing a row boat full of men being picked off one by one by mermaids was a genuine spectacle.

And this is the problem with the continuing franchise: there are only so many times you can see an overblown action sequence or a multi-way sword fight or Johnny Depp pretend to be Keith Richards before it gets repetitive. Also how many extra elements can you squeeze out of an idea based on a boring ride at Disney Land? We’ve had swashbuckling adventure, dark arts, giant sea monsters, sword fights, galleons firing cannonballs through each other (in the third film we had both these last two points happening while in the vortex of a
whirlpool!) – and now mermaids. The films have also covered the myths of Davey Jones and his locker, and Blackbeard, so how much further can it be pushed?

That said, this is probably the best in the series since ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ and is short enough to hold your attention without your mind wandering as to how uncomfortable your seat is. The CG is very good and the script is tight (even if the plot is a little bewildering) with a couple of funny lines including Jack professing to “support the missionary’s position”. There is also a tongue-in-cheek poke at ‘Basil Exposition’ moments with Jack
explaining the story behind a ship he is set to plunder only to turn to camera and exclaim “oh, there’s no one there”.

This film is a return to form for the franchise, but hopefully they won’t devise another sequel or, worse, a prequel.