Friday, May 20, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates 4 should likely have been titled "Scavengers of the Florida Marshlands," as the Spanish historically believed that the Fountain of Youth was there. Additionally the first part of the film prior to reaching this area is incredibly dull. There is no ship combat throughout the entire film and there's about 45 minutes of exposition that could have been cut down to 5-10. One thing I always liked about the first couple of movies was the speedy transition between expository scenes, always with a good deal of humor and action throughout. This film fails pretty terribly in comparison, as there's about 20-25 minutes aboard a few ships wherein nothing occurs apart from sailing and more character introductions.

The director of this film must have wanted to introduce his characters in the weirdest ways possible and line them up as though it would be humorous, unfortunately only a couple of them are even slightly better than yawn-inducing. While Pirates is sort of known for having convoluted plots that wind up going nowhere and plenty of different factions you could cut out one of the factions entirely and make this film a lot more brisk and entertaining than the present 2 hours and 20 minute length. Humorously enough I believe it is the shortest of the Pirates movies but it feels almost as painfully slow as the third installment.

When the factions start landing at "White Cap Bay" and encounter the Mermaids the film finally starts to get more interesting. The best action scene in the film follows and for the rest of the film it is both more humorous and entertaining. Johnny Depp is still pretty good as Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard (when he finally actually does something) isn't too bad either. Barbossa is oddly placed as comic relief though I guess he's deemed relevant by the in film prophecy. I actually liked Geoffrey Rush in the very first film as an entertaining and reasonably creative villain, and while his character arc isn't as interesting anymore he's still reasonably fun to watch. The priest in the film had a great deal of potential for being a great character but ultimately falls short by the end.

The 3 primary factions in the film are the Spanish, the English (led by Barbossa), and Blackbeard's crew. Jack wanders between the latter two but obviously acts in his own interest throughout. When the factions clash it makes for brief yet vaguely entertaining action scenes, but the Spanish who are first introduced in a fairly lengthy scene have absolutely no impact on the plot by the end of the film. They don't fight in naval combat, they don't really attempt to kill Blackbeard or Barbossa, and while they do something in the final scene it doesn't actually affect the end result in the slightest. They are completely irrelevant, humorless, and worthless in every way.

This film is about an hour and a half of good action scenes and humorous plot sequences with 50 minutes of exposition and padding, if they managed to cut out the 50 minutes and replace it with another 20 minutes of good action then this would be just about as good as the second film (perhaps slightly worse). As it stands it is still much better than At World's End but substantially worse than Thor. It might be the worst of the 6 or 7 movies I see in the next 3 months but there's no way it's worse than Transformers is going to be.

Final Score: 7/10

Friday, May 13, 2011


Chance is Divine
Chance is not ruled by the hand of man
A fool sits and wonders what wrongs him
A prudent man assures himself it was no wrong
The outcome certain is ill founded
The result unclear is pure
A thousand darts are thrown
Two or three selected
What purpose is given to the rest
Content to exist in a paradigm
Rather than exist without they persist
Let fate decide what happens next
Chance is not ruled by the hand of man


Thursday, May 12, 2011


Most super hero movies have a very similar setting, the vast majority of them occuring in an urban setting with tons of city skyline shots and moving around within the city in question. This is all well and good and doesn't really detract from the great superhero movies like Spiderman 2 and The Dark Knight, but it is nice to see some variety once in a while. Thor embodies that sort of variety, the movie begins in Asgard, the Norse realm of the Gods wherein unique sets of golden armor and a shining medieval future city are proudly exhibited. The costumes look great when they're in Asgard and the art direction in this film is fantastic as a result. One of my favorite games exists in the Norse Mythos so I was pleased to find the same crystal bridge guarding the gates of Asgard alongside Heimdall.

Which brings me to my next point, the supporting cast in this film is outstanding, every Earthbound character is excellent (save possibly Kat Dennings) especially Agent Smith (of Shield and massive forehead pedigree) and the Norse scientist helper of Natalie Portman. Heimdall, Odin, Laufey, and Loki are all fantastic as well. Assuming you know Norse mythology at all you can probably figure out who the villain is, and he is outstanding in almost every scene. Kenneth Branagh, the Shakespearean mastermind, directed this film and it shows as the Asgardians all talk in pseudo-Shakes lingo and the villain is quite similar to the much beloved Iago. He is (for the most part) genuinely motiveless and acts simply to fuck with people, much like Anton Chigurh and Heath Ledger.

Thor winds up on Earth rather quickly in the film, having been cast out by Odin (pretty easy to gather this from previews) after he fucks up and starts a war with the Jotunheim, Frost Giants. There he meets Natalie Portman and goes to find Mjolnir. Now even without his powers Thor is basically a human Super Soldier and tosses around security like Arnold in Commando, thus making this part of the film highly entertaining. Chris Hemsworth has some humorous lines even though his character is essentially one dimensional (as are most super heros to be fair) and looks like 2001-2004 Barry Bonds. At one point he does find his now cratered Hammer Mjolnir and goes Metal Gear Thor for about 5 minutes, tossing around Shield security guards like mall security. I won't spoil what happens after that but suffice to say I like this scene quite a bit.

In general the film does very well when it's action scenes are either purely CGI or purely not, when it tries to blend them in one rather important scene the effect looks kind of silly and Michael Bayish, it's not exactly crippling to the rest of the film but they probably should have made that entire scene CGI so it doesn't look so incongruous with all the rapid camera cuts. Just a few random notes: The previews for this movie were amazing, it basically had every good action movie listed and avoided Transformers 3 like the plague, which makes me want to see each and every movie essentially. Even the X Men preview looked outstanding (though the movie will probably be meh at best) despite January Jones' robotic acting abilities.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Novak Djokovic's Streak

Djokovic just beat Rafael Nadal for the first time on Clay, ending Nadal's 37 win streak on Clay and further enhancing his own win streak up to 32 matches in a row over the course of 6 tournaments (including the Australian Open). I've seen 4 of his matches during the streak (against Nadal or Federer each time) and he has won rather handily during all 4 matches. For the first time he appears to be unilaterally superior to the other two now legendary players.

For Tennis in general this is quite interesting, and if Djokovic's streak is still in tact going into the French Open it will further heighten the anticipation of that event. So apparently I was wrong about Federer starting to fade endangering the interest in Tennis. If Djokovic maintains this level for several years we might have yet another great in the vein of Sampras, Agassi, Federer, and Nadal. While it's doubtful he'll reach either Nadal or Federer's level (greatest on Clay and greatest of all time respectively) I could see him getting 6 or 7 more majors including at least the US Open this year.

As to the match itself the tennis therein was quite good, and for about a 4 game stretch between the end of the first set and the beginning of the second gave me recollections of that finest brand of tennis played between Federer and Nadal in years past (last revisited at the 2009 Australian Open). However Djokovic was clearly superior to Nadal on essentially his home court in Madrid on his favorite surface. Nadal is only 1 year older than Djokovic but he has had much worse signs for wear over the years, as there's always been a question of whether his knees can hold out over the year round tennis season.

Nadal actually replicated Juan Carlos Ferrero's famous shot between the legs mid match (I'll link to a highlight reel some time later) that happened five or six years ago in the US Open. Federer has worked on that shot as well and pulled it off 3 or 4 times (against Nadal even) though it is largely a silly shot that rarely works in practice but somehow lends itself to miraculously working in reality. Unfortunately the extremely high level of Tennis didn't sustain itself for more than a few games as Djokovic was clearly the better player today, but perhaps we will yet have another Wimbledon 2006-2008 streak of majestic finals in the future (2008 Wimbledon being regarded as the greatest match of all time and 2007 being only slightly behind).

Novak and his crazy eyes and fanatic Nationalism alongside his glorious shirt wearing father now embark on a journey to beat McEnroe's 42 win streak to start the season and to achieve the calendar-year Grand Slam. I always root for Federer but maybe I'll make an exception for this fine specimen of silliness and random yelling. He's like Lleyton Hewitt if Hewitt didn't suck! Amazing.

As for Women's Tennis: Caroline Wozniacki has Tits, Serena Williams is on Steroids, and Kim Clijsters is good. Actually assuming I write a French Open post I might discuss the women's game more but they essentially have the same plight as 3 months ago, no truly great players and certainly no amazing rivalries.

This post is dedicated to the Mighty Light, may he live forever.