Archive for Orlando Bloom

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.

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Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The-Hobbit-2

The Oxford Dictionary definition of the word desolation is: Desolation; noun [mass noun] 1. a state of complete emptiness or destruction: the stony desolation of the desert. 2. great unhappiness or loneliness: in choked desolation, she watched him leave. Remember this, it will become important later.

So, the plot picks up with the band of dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo evading the Orcs that had attacked them in the last film, and so they run, then they hide, then the run, then they hide and then they run and the run some more. And this, like all these Peter Jackson films is how they continue.

There is nothing new this film does that any of his Tolkien-based films have done for the last 12 years, except there’s more of it. For example; the dwarves and Bilbo must go through an evil forest, that Gandalf tells them is about 600 miles in diameter. He also explains it is very dangerous and will try to get inside their heads. Then he promptly ups and leaves them as he always does to go off on his own adventure. In this wood the evil in the air does confuse the group and there are a few clever Escherian camera/CGI tricks that work quite well to convey this (in fact the design of most of the sets are a mix of M.C. Escher and H.R. Giger, possibly a hangover from the art direction started by Guillermo del Toro before he dropped out of the project as director.) Lots of big spiders attack the dwarves and carry them all away to be eaten later which is reminiscent of the Shelob scene in Lord of the Rings, except there are more… and they are easier to kill off, it seems. Although, they are helped out quite heavily by Elves, including Legolas, who appears to have put on a few pounds, has a lower voice and a scary photoshopped looking face, even though he’s supposed to be almost half a century younger.

The dwarves are then imprisoned by the Elves after some faux-Shakespearean dialogue has been exchanged that, due to all the place names and lineages that all but the most avid Tolkienophile could surely follow and understand; “I am Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thrir, son of Thrinddly Thran from under the mountain of Biddly Bong…” You get the picture (apologies for ripping off Mark Kermode here). But Bilbo manages to evade capture and set them free because he wears the ring that makes him invisible so he steals the keys to the cells while the Elves are all passed out from celebrating some festival and they escape down a river in a load of empty barrels.

This section is supposed to be quite exhilarating and action packed but just came off as stupid looking (I know Elves are supposed to be light-footed, but try telling me that Orlando Bloom standing with one foot each on the head of two Dwarves doesn’t look ludicrous!) and devoid of any sense that these characters were in any danger of being slain by the Orcs chasing them as, even though the fat Dwarf leaves the river and smashes his barrel to pieces he still manages to fight off three or four Orcs before jumping back into an extra barrel that just so happens to be there. Perhaps it was just the heavy dialogue that didn’t seem to be moving the plot forward that lessened the excitement of this bit, or perhaps it was just because Jackson’s films have done these big set-pieces too many times for it to feel exciting anymore, I’m not sure.

The point of the matter is this; we’ve seen derivations of everything in this film four times already which means just repeating dialogue or having Orlando Bloom surf on a few Orcs while firing arrows or giant spiders wrapping up Dwarves is fine, but it’s been done with greater pomp, flair terror and originality before. Also, the characters aren’t developed enough, who knows all the Dwarves’ names,? Old characters are brought back in needlessly and new characters are introduced without the explanation you got in the LOTR films and this is a problem. The only way you know whether the characters are trustworthy or not is whether they are handsome or ugly, even Stephen Fry’s cameo as the Mayor of Laketown is a damp squib thanks to not enough time being allowed to build a back story for him, even though he has more than most. This is because, by two hours into a film you’re bored by the sheer weight of new people to try to remember the names of. The most interesting new character was Evangeline Lily’s Elf who falls in love with one of the Dwarves (Kili, I think), but I’m damned if I can remember her name!

The draw of this film is the titular dragon, Smaug, who gets about 30 minutes of screen time, which is impressive bearing in mind the scale of him and the amount of extraneous detail that has been squeezed in to the rest of the film. The last 45 minutes of the film where Bilbo tries to flatter his way away from Smaug is the first time you feel properly engaged. It’s just two characters having a conversation, trying to figure each other out and neither trusting the other, no action, no flowery language, just tension. Brilliant acting by Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Benedict Cumberbatch as the enormous reptile help greatly too, Freeman’s performance throughout the film is top-notch. This is followed by the best action scenes in the film where the Dwarves storm in to take back the mountain Smaug lives in by force (apart from the crappy, cartoony looking molten gold).

It’s a shame that The Hobbit films aren’t actually just based on the single book, otherwise they would be tighter and, more importantly, over by now. They suffer from Peter Jackson’s obsession with packing in all the detail from Middle Earth’s history as he can, which I understand – he’ll never be able to do another Middle Earth film from assorted appendices. But wouldn’t it have been better being released as a director’s cut later on for the die-hard Tolkien completests? What we have is two hours of drawn out and often seemingly needless scenes that don’t engage and 45 minutes of a riveting mixture of narrative and action.

But, returning to my dictionary definition of the word ‘desolation’, Smaug is not lonely, empty or unhappy, he seemed quite content asleep among his vast riches, but neither does he cause any desolation, unless you count knocking over a few pillars and a gate, nor is desolation brought upon him. So the title is a misnomer in the first place. Oh, and I still think it should be pronounced ‘Smorg’ not ‘Smaowg’, you don’t pronounce ‘exhausted’ ‘exhaowsted’ do you? But that’s exactly what this film (and most of Jackson’s films in the last 12 years), this review and this reviewer are. Stop, please.

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.