On Shallower Tides…

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Dir. Rob Marshall, 2011)

Never believe the hype.

The word was that this was supposed to be the movie that got the franchise back on track. Even Johnny Depp was on record about how bloated and convoluted the last couple of PIRATES movies were, so the fourth film was set to right those wrongs.

Not so much. This installment is just as messy and murky as the last 2.

In fact, looking back – I felt exactly the same way I did after seeing the 3rd one (AT WORLD’S END). In my review of that I wrote:

“All the lame jokes, un-affecting fight scenes, and pointless attempts at romaticizing map-mythology with supposed sacred artifacts holding eternal power just left me bombastically bored.

I did however like the Keith Richards cameo (as Jack Sparrow’s father no less). I heard there was a bonus scene like the other PIRATES had after the credits but at the 2 hour 45 mark I was dying to get the hell out of the theater – bet you will be too.”

Except for the remark about the running time (at just over 2 hours this is shorter) I have the same reaction. This time I did stay to see the bonus scene though.

A lot of the cast from the series doesn’t return – there’s no Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, or Bill Nighy so the film offers a lot of Depp sparring off with Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane as Blackbeard, a real missed oportunity as a character.

ON STRANGER TIDES is a noisy film full of groaners (Keith Richards has the funniest line, but I won’t spoil it here), poorly plotted set-pieces, and Johnny Depp just swishing through the motions. It also doesn’t take any pleasurable advantage of having zombies in it!

The last half takes the plot mechanics of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE substituting the Holy Grail with the Fountain of Youth and re-writes them over and over again to no great effect.

Penélope Cruz and Depp have some mad chemistry but when she’s reduced to a screaming b**** and Depp is just an ambitious cad they join the entire cast of people it’s impossible to care about.

The 3D did nothing for me either.

I have to say though the audience around me seemed to love it all (there was even applause at the end), and my wife enjoyed it saying that she loved “the costumes, the detail on the sets and the ships,” “how dark it was” and that “Johnny Depp appeals to all ages.”

Judging from that this movie looks pretty critic-proof. It’s an event movie that people will feel obligated to see so I’m sure it’ll be a big hit. To me though it was another failed fourth and a big waste of time.

More…

THE KING’S SPEECH: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE KING’S SPEECH (Dir. Tom Hooper, 2010)

When Prince Albert, the Duke of York, steps up to the microphone to deliver the closing speech at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925, we sense his extreme trepidation.

As portrayed by Colin Firth, the Duke is a dignified yet nervous man – nervous because he’s suffered his whole life with a debilitating speech impediment.

His audience at Wembley cringes at his painful attempts to oratate in which the awkward gaps between words (or more accurately word fragments) seem to stop and start time.

The Duke’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) desperately wants to help her husband and after much looking for a qualified speech therapist finds Geoffrey Rush as the erudite and sharply eccentric Lionel Logue.

Rush, who doesn’t make house calls, doesn’t want to take on the patient until he finds out who it is.

Firth is also hesitant thinking that his stammer is beyond repair, but after a short session is convinced otherwise because of Rush’s recording of the Duke speaking almost normally while music plays through his headphones.

When the Duke’s brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicated from the throne for marrying a twice divorced American woman (Eve Best), Prince Albert becomes King George VI and is set to give a crucial radio address as war is looming.

Although it has a highly capable supporting cast including Michael Gambon as King George V, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, it’s mainly Firth and Rush’s show. As good as Bonham Carter is here she’s considerably just decoration on the side.

Firth dives into Rush’s treatments involving breathing exercises, untangling tongue twisters, and a hilarious spouting out of a string of profanity in a scene that alone gives the film its R-rating.

Even as it can be seen as largely a filmed play (much like FROST/NIXON) there’s an elegant film surrounding the 2 excellent actors.

It’s mostly set in Rush’s study, but director Hooper allows for a nice amount of visual splendor. In a rare break from the indoors the therapist and his royal patient take a walk together in a sunbathed park that fades behind them. It’s arresting imagery that draws us closer to the leads and greatly enhances our emotional investment.

An investment that really pays off.

Firth takes on a difficult role – that of a stuttering man of stature – and infuses it with a living breathing fully realized performance, but it’s Rush who truly steals every scene he’s in. Rush is an absolute delight as the confident commoner speech therapist who fancies himself an aspiring actor.

A winner in every way, THE KING’S SPEECH was made for awards season, but unlike with such Oscar bait as “Conviction” that’s so not a bad thing.

It’s witty, wise, and wonderful – well deserving every bit of recognition it will definitely get.

It feels cheesy to use such clichéd critical accolades as “uplifting”, “inspirational”, and God forbid “the feel good movie of the year”, but dammit if the shoe fits…

More later…