Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Also known as: Pirates of the Caribbean (working title), P.O.T.C. (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: June 28th, 2003 (Disneyland premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Zoe Saldana

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 143 Minutes

Review:

“This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!” – Jack Sparrow

I’ve wanted to revisit the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy for quite some time but as is apparent for those of you who read this site regularly, I watch a lot of stuff and usually cover film series in their entirety with one review per week scheduled in before moving on to another franchise. So since I had a lot on the docket before these pictures, it took some time to catch up and get reacquainted with them. Especially, since I’ve been working through all the major comic book movie film series.

I’ve also already reviewed the Pirates films after the original trilogy.

Revisiting this one was a lot of fun, though. I’ve always considered it the best film of the lot and I still think that’s true. It’s pretty much a perfect adventure movie that really hearkens back to the great swashbuckling films of yore, as well as the live-action blockbusters Disney made in the ’50s and ’60s.

This is highly energetic from start to finish without a dull moment or a wasted frame of film. And while the plot takes many twists and turns, this still feels less complicated than the other Pirates pictures. The objective of the film is made clear and this rich world is established and built up in a pretty effective way.

The film is well-balanced on every level between it’s world building, it’s character development, the adventure itself, the supernatural and fantastical elements, the comedic and jovial tone, as well as its big action sequences.

I generally enjoy Gore Verbinski’s directorial work but this is still his magnum opus. That doesn’t necessarily mean he peaked early, it just means that the guy has immense talent and he really made an exceptional film really early on in his career. Frankly, I’m surprised that he doesn’t actually direct films more often than he does.

Johnny Depp is the scene stealer in this picture but that should come as no surprise, considering how talented the guy has been from day one. Also, for younger fans, it may be hard to envision a world before Captain Jack Sparrow but seeing this character come to life back in 2003 was an incredible experience. Truthfully, no one else could have given us this Jack Sparrow and the character very much is Johnny Depp’s regardless of what was on paper before he took the role.

Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are also solid but my favorite person besides Depp is Geoffrey Rush. It’s like he was born to play a bastard of a pirate. His character, Hector Barbosa, is my favorite in the film series, as he has an incredible story arc despite his “death” in this picture. He grew to become just as important to these films as Depp’s Sparrow and he also became a more fleshed out, complex character with each new chapter in the film series.

Moving beyond the acting and directing, the film has incredible special effects that have aged pretty well, as we’re nearly twenty years into the future from when this was first released. God, that’ll make anyone feel old.

Out of all the movies in the series, this has the best story and it’s the best picture of the lot. It’s a movie that succeeded in what it set out to do and it’s perfect in every way.

I only wish it would’ve brought the swashbuckling genre back to prominence beyond just its own sequels.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.

Film Review: The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Also known as: The Graveside Story (re-issue title, Germany)
Release Date: December 25th, 1963 (Detroit premiere)
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Richard Matheson
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown

Alta Vista Productions, American International Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“To… uh… paraphrase the venerable adage: we shall kill two birds, with one… pillow.” – Waldo Trumball

When I was a kid, I thought that the plot to The Comedy of Terrors was genius. In fact, it inspired a script outline that I wrote in high school for a movie I wanted to eventually make called Cremation.

The plot is about a funeral parlor owner who is about to lose his home/parlor due to not having any business. So he sets out to create business by killing some of the richer people in the community. Eventually, he sets his sights on his rich landlord because that would solve his biggest problem.

While the plot may sound dark and twisted, this is also a comedy and not standard 1960s horror fare.

The film also stars four great horror legends and it is directed by Jacques Tourneur, who helmed some solid horror and classic film-noir pictures in his day.

The humor is great and the tone of the film is superb. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre always had incredible chemistry and this might be the best they’ve ever been together, even though I consider The Raven to be a better film.

I also like the recurring gags in the film with Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, who don’t have as much screentime as Price and Lorre but they still add extra layers of awesomeness to the proceedings. Joyce Jameson is also entertaining and perfect in her role, as the object of Lorre’s affection while being married to the cantankerous and murderous Price.

This is a goofy but solid horror comedy in a time where films like that were rare. In the end, this really just showcases how great these actors were, all around, despite being mostly typecast as “horror actors”.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other pictures Vincent Price did for American International. Especially those co-starring Peter Lorre and/or Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 5

Published: August 7th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 248 Pages

Review:

This right here is the volume I’ve been waiting to get to! This is the collection of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four where everything changes and the Marvel universe expands exponentially!

This edition of the Masterworks series covers issues 41 through 50, as well as the third annual.

Within this collection, we get a great Frightful Four story, the marriage between Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, the full debut of the Inhumans, as well as the first appearances of Silver Surfer and Galactus! There are also cameos from just about every hero and villain from the Marvel universe of the 1960s! This chapter in the saga literally has everyone and everything!

What’s even better than that, is that Stan Lee is absolutely on his A-game with these stories and scripts and Jack Kirby’s art was on-point.

If you can only ever read one Fantastic Four collection, graphic novel or trade paperback, it should be this one.

This is quintessential Fantastic Four at its finest. It’s the epitome of what was so damn great about ’60s Marvel and the work of Lee and Kirby.

Just buy it, read it, read it a dozen more times and cherish it forever.

Rating: 10+/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (Arcade)

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone is the only Double Dragon game that I didn’t play in the arcade and I only had the original Nintendo version to recount from memory.

This differs from the Nintendo version, which had an alternate start to the game and also felt like a wonky rebuild of the two games that came before it. It was also hard as fuck when compared to the other two games and it wasn’t fun to play.

At least with the arcade version, you can just pop in more quarters and keep playing without having to start over. Playing this now on a RetroPie, you have all the quarters you want and don’t have to worry about forking over all your allowance and weekly lunch money.

Like its predecessors, this is a side scrolling beat’em up action game. In this chapter of the series, however, you travel the world hunting for MacGuffins.

Apart from that, the game is really just a rehash of the ones before it. Where the second game altered its mechanics in a fairly shitty way, this game at least tried to make them more like the original. Still, they don’t seem to work quite as well but I think that’s due to this game’s reworking of its weapons system.

As opposed to beating someone’s ass and taking their weapon, you now accrue a sort of currency that allows you to purchase items (and I believe upgrades). The in-game system was a bit of a clusterfuck, so I just ignored it and just kept kicking baddies in the chin.

This isn’t great but it is better than the second game. In the end, though, nothing from the franchise tops the first, original Double Dragon arcade game.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Vids I Dig 406: Whang!: The Wizard of Gore (1970) – Best Bad Movies

Taken from Justin Whang’s YouTube description: I’ve always been a big fan of movies that are “so bad that they’re good,” and most of my all time favorites of this type of film are by a director named HG Lewis. Here is a look at one of his all time classics, The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Book Review: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History Book’ by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer

I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons, even though I was fascinated by it. My mum dumped the religion on me pretty hard and then by the time I was older and didn’t care about that, none of my friends really cared about playing D&D anymore.

I’ve always adored the franchise and everything within it, as I’ve always loved fantasy, especially sword and sorcery fiction and movies. I also dug the hell out of the cartoon when I was a kid, which I was actually allowed to watch for some reason.

This big, thick, hardcover masterpiece is a damn fine book to add to your collection. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, the artwork collected in this alone makes the book well worth the price tag.

One really cool thing about this is that it’s foreward was written by Joe Manganiello. Yes, that Joe Manganiello, who apparently was a massive D&D fan. Sam Witwer, another actor known for a lot of his sci-fi roles, also contributed to this.

This book covers a lot more than even its large size would imply. It shows the history of the property in just about all of its forms from early role-playing manuals to the animated series to video games to comics to books and just about every other medium and product that adorned the Dungeons & Dragons name.

I love this book. Right now, it’s on my coffee table. Granted, I should probably move it before someone with French fry fingers gets it all nasty. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: anything, from any media, about Dungeons & Dragons, as well as other big, hardcover art books on cool nerd shit.

Talking Pulp Update (7/31/2020): My Brain Is Poop; My Body Is Pooper

It’s still July but I’ve got posts scheduled out into September, that’s how far ahead of schedule I’ve been thanks to COVIDMANIA runnin’ wild on Earth.

That being said, I’m really burnt out and I’ve sort of been in a vegetative state the last several days. I feel like this state may continue through the weekend and into the foreseeable future beyond that. But since I’m so far ahead, content may not be disrupted by the time I find my mojo and drive again.

However, and I’ve said this before, I need to slow down my output. What my output will be, I’m not sure yet.

As I said last update, my comic is written. I’ve got to figure out what to do with it next. It’s 96 pages and I’m thinking that I need to break it up or whittle it down.

I’ve also got ideas for other things I want to work on that should probably require more of my time and brainpower, as this site makes no money and these other projects could potentially make a lot of money.

So that’s basically it. If something does indeed change drastically, I’ll give another update.

For now, I’m going to go bury my head in a barrel of something 80+ proof and I’m only planning on coming back up after I lose my vision.

It’d be nice if the Key West strip clubs were fully operational and shit there was back to normal but I guess I should just go apologize to my ex-girlfriend and ride that out again for a few months until her mother starts complaining about my body hair clogging up the shower drain again.

You know, bears have feelings too, Mrs. Wilde!

Film Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

Also known as: Batman Begins 2 (working title), Rory’s First Kiss, Winter Green (fake working titles)
Release Date: July 14th, 2008 (Buenos Aires & New York City premieres)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Ritchie Coster, Michael Jai White, Colin McFarlane, Tom “Tiny” Lister, William Fichtner, David Dastmalchian

DC Comics, Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker

I was a bit apprehensive about revisiting this for the first time in a long time. The reason being, is that I remembered it as being perfect and it was the movie I saw in the theater more times than any other. But with so much time passing, I had worried that my take on it now could have soured a bit.

I’m glad to say that it didn’t, as this is still a masterpiece of crime fiction and social commentary.

As far as superhero films go, I still think that this is the greatest one ever made. I think a lot of that has to do with the realistic approach of the film and just how real and plausible it comes across even though it features a man in a bat costume and a criminal in clown makeup. Not to mention a guy with half his face burnt off and some wonky sci-fi gadgets like the incredibly high-tech sonar surveillance computer.

This is a film where just about everything went right. It was a perfect storm of great writing, great direction, great acting, stellar cinematography and an incredible musical score.

It was well balanced between action and drama and even with its somewhat lengthy running time, there isn’t a wasted moment in the film. Every scene has meaning and every scene does exactly what it needs to without dilly dallying and slowing the pacing down. At the same time, the timing is impeccable and this film perfectly creates tension when it needs to. The whole film is about escalation and the final product is a perfectly curated example of that.

It’s sad and tragic that Heath Ledger died before this was released. It would’ve been cool for him to have seen the final product and to have enjoyed the fanfare and praise his performance as The Joker got. It’s hands down one of the best performances of that decade and even though his death gave the role an added level of mystique and importance, it stands on its own as one of the greatest villain portrayals in motion picture history.

Additionally, I also really liked Ledger’s version of The Joker, as he kind of did his own thing with the character and it forced Nolan to kind of portray the character differently than what was originally intended. And while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the comic book Joker, which no film has done thus far, it kind of exists as its own, great thing and it added so much to this already stellar trilogy.

My only real complaint about the film was how growl-y Bale’s Batman voice was. I much preferred his voice in Batman Begins and I think most people did, as well. I’m not the only person to point this out and in fact, it sort of became a social meme after the movie’s release.

That being said, the Batman voice doesn’t wreck the film and I still think it’s a damn near perfect movie that transcended the superhero genre, forever changed it and hasn’t yet been eclipsed regardless of some of the superb comic book movies that have been released since.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.