Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Mind Dribblings

Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

The reviews for this movie were surprisingly good. By refusing to take itself at all seriously, and concentrating on the roast pork performances of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, it is just too damn bright and cheery to dislike.

The film runs slightly long at 2:23, but breezes by owing as to the constant barrage of action and humor. The film favors comedy above all other genres, and always makes itself clearly understood, despite thick plotting in the latter half of the movie.

Director Gore Verbinsky packs each frame with entertaining details (the film was apparently shot in actual anamorphic Panavision, rather than the grainy Super 35 format that is currently plaguing the motion picture industry today, and is a much brighter, crisper and grainless image) and the special effects (most of which involve evil pirates revealed in moonlight to be monsterous corpses) are really good.

Frankly, this is one film that delivers, with a panache not quite expected, what it promises. It is a thrill ride, and unapologertically so. If it eschews any sort of deeper message, well, what did you expect from a movie made from a Disneyland ride? If you want escapism, good stuntwork, thrills, good special effects and a lot of fun, than the purpose of the film becomes clear. It is as unpretentious an offering as could be.

Now for the performers. Johnny Depp has been getting the most attention as the Fey pirate Jack, whose limp wrists and light tome have implied, to many viewers, a sexual ambiguity (The New York Times referred to him as the "Lavender Pirate"). While this is true (and adds immensly to the humor of many sequences), what makes his performance so interesting is that he uses his natual charm and formidable screen presence to keep the audience with him, no matter how dubious his character's actions become. And they do become dubious.

Geoffrey Rush is the film's other main acting coup, a vicious and yet wonderfully assured turn as the pirate captain Barbossa. Clearly having a great time as the deliciously evil ghost, Rush evokes some of the great scenery-chewing cinematic villians while maintaining his own, distinct identity.

Orlando Bloom is the person who is sidelined by these two scene-stealers, although it is not his fault as an actor; he has the thankless role of the straight-faced hero, Will, and the effect is that his character comes across as the only one not in on the joke. Nevertheless, he satisfies the physical requirements of the role quite easily.

If Bloom's character comes across as being out of the loop, Jonathan Pryce, as his love interest's father, makes it clear that if the character doesn't really know he's in a comedy, the actor certainly does (a great moment with him includes an oblique reference to Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn). The film is rounded out by rather colorful additional characters, usually anchored by pairs of comic relief. Ordinarily an annoying gimmick, here it is dealt with quite well.

Only two caveats:

Fencing is like martial arts; the more that is seen in unbroken shots, the more impressive it is. The staccato editing style undercuts some of these scenes' best elements, although it is nowhere near as obnoxious as your usual Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drek.

The score by Klaus Badelt is painfully simple, standard Media Ventures by-the-numbers horseshit, just without the usual battery of synthesizers to obscure the fact that it consists of the same three themes, slightly altered, that have been plaguing every Hans Zimmer/Media Ventures score since Black Rain. Someone really needs to firebomb those talentless hacks before they do any more damage to the art of filmscoring. Worse, this film was originally to have been scored by Alan Silvestri, who excells with large-scale orchestral adventure scores. I weas looking forward to another classic score by the composer of the Back to the Future trilogy, Predator 1 and 2, Judge Dredd (bad movie, great score) and others. Unfortunately, what we are left with is horrible.</list>

Josie and the Pussycats

To my surprise, while there are many elements of this film that were the kind of light, frivilous comedy that is okay if one is channel surfing through cable late at night (but never sought out on its own), there is also a scathing black comedy at work here about the music industry and pop culture in general. It reminds me a little of Michael Moore's film Canadian Bacon, a spiky satire grafted to a forgettable comedy.

The Pussycats' rags-to-riches story is the stuff of fluff comedy (although the Pussycats themselves are quite cute, except for Tara Reid's Melody - one of the few times times a vivacious dumb-blonde stereotype actually works - Rachel Leigh Cook's Josie and Rosario Dawson's Valerie are fairly standard archetypes) but the film is surprisingly subversive in its approach to product-placement and fashion trends.

You see, for years record companies have been placing subliminal messages into pop music in order to program fashions and stimulate unneccesary spending. The evil Alan Cumming (who is so highly creepy in this role that were the film more popular he might have been typecast) is the manager for the popular boy-band Du'Jour. His task, it seems, is to smooth the myriad of ruffled egos and ensure the proper promotions are in place... until the band discovers a strange signal embedded in one of their tracks.

Cumming has them offhandedly murdered - "Take the Chevy to the levy" he informs their private jet pilot before they parachute out - and before he even lands he has speed-dialed his boss explaining that he needs to find a new band.

Enter the Pussycats, who are in the right place at the right time.

It is Cummin that makes this film so compelling, whether auctioning off Josie's time in 15 minute increments, or carefully eliminating a goth chick raising a countercultural opinion, Cumming is ready for any eventuality with his cellphone ready, a wry smile, a malicious twinkle in his eye and a lexicon of music references. Cumming is a much more effective villian than the arch-bitch Parker Posey. Whenever he is on screen, there is a prickly wierdness about the film that enlivens it.

Another brilliant touch in the film are the songs Du'Jour perform; "Backdoor Lover" and "Around the World With Du'Jour." The former is a dead-on parody of N'Sync or the Backstreet Boys singing about anal sex. The opening scene of the film, showing young, screaming girls obsessed with Du'Jour reminded me, uncomfortably, of the time I had a job in Times Square when the Backstreet Boys were on TRL, and I had to thread my way through a throng of sluttily-dressed 9-year-olds ready to give it up to the right Backstreet Boy.

The latter song is perhaps the most self-important and obnoxious song a band could sing about themselves (they sing that they always figured that it would be like this, that fame is what they expected, etc.). While the Pussycats' songs are pretty straightforward girl-rock (very effective), the Du'Jour tracks add an additional level of parody that reaches Spinal Tap levels of accuracy.

The central conceit of the film that consumer culture is governed by a mastermind making carefully calculated decisions to introduce totally irrational trands ("Orange is the new pink," and everybody previously seen in pink is now seen in orange) forcing the public to buy more works well with the self mocking prevalance of product placement (apparently the producers didn't get paid for any of the myriad of logos in the film) that becomes an intergral part of the movie's visual design.

It also has a kick-ass DTS soundtrack that emphasizes the humor of the film.
Tags: cinema, reviews
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