Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Swimming On Stranger Tides

My kids started swimming lessons this week. It's been bad for blogging. More bad than I would have expected. I mean, generally speaking, I don't get a lot of anything productive accomplished in the mornings, anyway, because my daughter spends that time of the day doing her best to drive everyone in  the house crazy, because none of her friends are available to play. This, in itself, is a mystery to me. I was like my daughter at her age. As soon as the sun was up, I was out the door. Unless there were cartoons, but that was only on Saturday. My daughter is the same. Her friends, however, don't seem to share that same enthusiasm for playing and must only go outside once they are forced out by their guardians like baby birds being pushed out of the nest. At any rate, I was sort of assuming that going to swimming lessons with the kids would just be using that unproductive time in  the mornings in other ways, but, no, not really... It just hasn't seemed to work out that way.

However, surprisingly, swimming lessons have been good for Brother's Keeper. That, also, is interesting. I need a pretty quiet space for writing. The TV can't be on. Music can't be playing. The kids can't be making noise. That includes noise from video games. Basically, if I'm trying to write, they need to be somewhere else. Or reading. And even though I'd like to, I can't make them read 4-6 hours a day. Not to waste the time I'm sitting around while they have lessons, though, I take a notebook with me. And a book. Maybe it's because the chaos there isn't specifically directed at me. Maybe it's because the tables are at the back away from  the pool. Whatever it is, the chaos is sort of like TV fuzz, and I've been getting a fairly good amount of work done on the new manuscript while I sit around and they flop in the water. Or, maybe, it's just that I've had this stuff buzzing around in my head since February, and it's just ready to get out.

There was also a movie. I've been getting some one-on-one time in with the kids by taking each of them to a movie they pick out. Of course, it's not really that simple, because it all started over some drama with my daughter about her not getting to go see a movie she didn't want to go see. Yes, you read that right. She did not want to see a particular movie. She was given the option of seeing the movie, anyway, and declined. She became upset that  one of her brothers got to see it with me. Yes, I deal with that kind of thing every day. The oldest child chose to see X-Men: First Class (which I reviewed here). The daughter chose Judy Moody (You may, now, notice that I did not review this one. Yes, there is absolutely nothing to say about it. Neither good enough nor bad enough to really say anything.) The middle child chose Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Not because he really wanted to see that movie in particular but because none of the movies he wants to see are out yet, and it was the one he most wanted to see of what's available.

I feel a little bad for taking him to it, at this point, because he would have liked X-Men a lot more. But I had no way of knowing.

Pirates 4 is a lot like Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer; however, because it's such a big deal (as opposed to Judy, which you're not likely to even know about unless you have a, what do you call it now, a pre-tween girl in your house), I'll give you the scoop. Even though it is coming rather late.

There are two main issues with this newest installment of the Pirates franchise. The first one, I'm just going to gloss over, because I actually have an upcoming post dealing with this issue as it's not a problem specific to this movie but a growing trend, not just in movies but in, well, everything written coming out these days.

Pirates is a long movie. Too long. And, yet, not long enough. The writers wrote this long, rambling script with lots of extra stuff in it. Stuff that, really, has nothing to do with the actual plot. I'm assuming it has an actual plot, although I'm not convinced the writers had agreed on one specific one. At some point, they realized it was too long. Cuts needed to be made. Instead of carving out the non-essential elements, they just chopped off the first third of the movie, leaving something that was still too long but without any kind of foundation. At least, that's what it felt like.

For instance, the movie opens with Mr. Gibbs on trial. He's being tried as Jack Sparrow. How did he come to be on trial and why do they think he's Jack? We don't know. And we don't get to know. Of course, Jack is there to rescue him. Gibbs is surprised to see Jack, because Jack had nothing to do with why he's on trial, Jack just happened to hear about it and decided to rescue his old friend. Because, you know, Jack is prone to thinking about other people before himself. During all of the action revolving around the rescue, we find out we're already in the midst of the story, "I hear you've been looking for the Fountain of Youth." "Why, yes. Yes, I am." Something close to that, at any rate. And there we are in the middle of the story without any of the reasons for it. Of course, in the end, the "story" isn't even the story, because, well, as I said, the writers didn't know which story they were telling. The rescue of Gibbs and Jack's escape is the best part of the movie, though, and that, actually, has nothing to do with any story. It's just a bit of fun. Think car chase with no cars.

There's also a completely non-essential sub-plot, or, maybe, it is the plot, between a missionary and a mermaid. I think they were probably trying to recapture the romance between Swan and Turner from the previous movies, but, in truth, they are who the previous movies are about, so it worked. This movie, Jack is the main character, and we have no reason to care about the missionary and the mermaid, so we don't.

I could go on about the plot issues. For instance, there's the inclusion of the Spanish, who are there as no more than a deus ex machina device except not. There's Blackbeard. Why? I don't really know. Theoretically, he's important to the plot, but, unfortunately, he's also unnecessary. Anyway...

The other central issue to the movie is that the actors, over all, don't give the parts any life. It felt like watching a dress rehearsal. Hmm... no, not a dress rehearsal, a last run through of the dialogue while in costume. Oh, there are moments, but not enough of them. Johnny Depp even falls flat for much of the movie, but it may just be that the script kept trying to force him out of character. Like rescuing Gibbs when he was getting nothing out of it. Geoffrey Rush almost pulls off Barbossa, but he, also, is frequently out of character because of the script. It's like the writers had a basket of characters that they plugged in whether they should have been there or not. Well, actually, they had characters they needed to put into the movie and stuck them into the best places possible even if they didn't quite fit.

The biggest disappointment was Ian McShane. If I had never seen Deadwood, I probably wouldn't have given him a second thought; however, I have seen Deadwood, so I know what he's capable of. His rendition of Blackbeard was not it. Flat as a cardboard cut out. If they hadn't told us in the movie that Blackbeard was supposed to be scary and evil, I never would have known. And don't get me started on the cheesy scenes of him and his sword that they put in just for the 3d effects even though they didn't do anything for the actual story (no, I didn't see it in 3d, so they were doubly wasted on me).

The biggest surprise was Penelope Cruz. That may be because I was expecting absolutely nothing more than a piece of eye candy from her, but she was actually decent. As decent as the script allowed, at any rate.

Oh, and they stuck Keith Richards in just so he could be in the movie. Sort of like the random old guy that wanders through and says "Beware...!" the whatever and then is gone. Yeah, that was his bit.

What it comes down to is that I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone. At least, not for seeing it in the theater. It's probably worth a rental, but it has nothing to make it worth seeing at the theater. Not unless you just want to pay the 3d price in order to see a few swords and ropes flying out of the screen at you.


  1. My son saw Pirates with his cousin and said he liked it. I do some of my writing when my son is in the pool. There is something about the water they really gets my creative juices flowing.

  2. Andrew, you hit everything directly on the head with this review of Pirates. What happened to these wonderful movies? What happened to a plot that makes sense? Characters that stay IN character? No idea. I do believe the absence of Will Turner & Elizabeth Swan had something to do with it, but that is just me speculating. And yes, the mermaid and the priest thingie made the cut, because we women like a good bit of romance. But it's almost as if they forgot that part, and said, "Oh, bugger! We gotta put some romance in it, don't we? Where to put it... where to put it..." PLUNK! "That'll work."

    I don't think so. I'm almost certain we'll purchase the movie when it comes out on BluRay, but only to feed that weird ocd need we have to complete the collection.

    As far as writing, I cannot write with noise, either. Neither can I work with people in the room and ESPECIALLY people looking over my shoulder. Yikes. But I'm happy to know you're able to get some measure of creativity goin' at the pool. I'm rather jealous, actually. ;)

  3. I was disappointed with Pirates but the kiddos enjoyed it. Oh well. I got to eat popcorn so it's all good ;-)

  4. I was SO excited for this movie, but yeah, it fell a bit flat. Sad sigh. Like Alyssia, they'll probably get a movie sale off us because we'll want the whole collection. I know, I know, it's just feeding the monster.

    I really enjoy Depp as an actor. I think a lot of people don't give him enough credit. He's been pigeon holed a bit and I wonder why he hasn't kissed the Pirates franchise goodbye for now. That surprises me.

    You're right that everyone seemed out of character, the plot seemed thrown together, etc. It's like they tried to make it a feel-good movie. Hey everyone, Jack is a super good guy, and so are all the other pirates. Yay! Super-de-dooper!

    Cue another sad sigh.

  5. Jennifer: Well, I didn't dislike it. I mean, I didn't hate it. It had some good moments, just not as many as it should have had. And my son did like it. But that was it. No enthusiasm about it. There was no, "That was awesome!" at all.

    Alyssia: The problem was that they could have just handled the romance part by developing the story between Jack and Angelica. That could have been interesting.

    I was actually surprised at being able to get anything done at the pool. I fully didn't expect to be able to work there, hence the notebook -and- the book.

    Sam: Unfortunately, I never get the popcorn anymore. It's so sad.

    Shannon: As far as Depp goes, I actually think he's done this one to himself. He has made the choice to continually work with Burton, so that's kind of become who he is. It's unfortunate, because I love Depp. I think he's a great actor. Top 5, at least. But I can't stand Burton. He's, mostly, been making the same movie over and over again for 20 years.

    (also to Alyssia): I've already made the determination that I'm not buying this one on DVD when it comes out. We do own the other 3, but I just can't support this 4th one by buying it.