Film Review: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Release Date: November 17th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker, Kevin Yagher
Based on: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Marc Pickering, Christopher Walken, Ray Park, Lisa Marie, Peter Guinness, Martin Landau (uncredited)

Mandalay Pictures, American Zoetrope, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” – Ichabod Crane

This is one of my favorite Tim Burton movies and every time I watch it, it just makes me wish that he did more straight up fantasy horror films.

This is Burton’s take on the famous story by Washington Irving but it takes the Sleepy Hollow legend and makes it a lot darker and more badass than other adaptations. For many, the classic Disney animated version is probably the one they’re most familiar with. This Sleepy Hollow is very different.

I love that this is gothic horror at its core and you can see the influences of Hammer Films, as well as those Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price. In fact, Burton does more than homage Hammer, here, as he also includes some Hammer legends in the film: Michael Gough and Christopher Lee, to be specific.

This also features Ian McDiarmid and a visually obscured Ray Park, making it the only movie to feature Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and Darth Maul: Star Wars can’t even claim that.

Anyway, the film is led by Johnny Depp and I love him in this. He plays a sort of whimsical, awkward character and his version of Ichabod Crane shows early signs of what Depp would later create as his most famous character, Captain Jack Sparrow.

I love the humor in this movie and I don’t think that it would’ve worked quite the same way without Depp. Here we have a great investigator that has to get down and dirty… and often times bloody. The humorous bit is that he’s a germaphobe and winces every time he has to do something unsettling or gross. It’s a reoccurring gag throughout the film but it works every time and it isn’t overused.

Depp also has Christina Ricci to play off of and I always like when these two are together. I honestly wish that they worked together more often, as they have real chemistry and always tend to accentuate each other’s performance.

The rest of the cast is padded out with some immense talent between Christopher Walken, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Martin Landau, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Lisa Marie and Casper Van Dien, who had just come off of the cult classic Starship Troopers.

I enjoy the look and tone of the film and my only real complaint about it is that it seems a bit too drawn out. The story is too complex and should have been refined and tweaked to bring the film down to around 90 minutes. It doesn’t really need more than that but at the same time it could’ve also used a bit more head chopping and action.

Apart from that, the only other negative is that the CGI looks cheesy in two parts but both of those moments happen really quick and it doesn’t wreck the film. I just found it a little bit jarring in those split seconds and it does pull you out of this period piece setting.

In the end, this is still pretty solid and it’s one of the highpoints of ’90s horror, as the decade came to a close and gave us a new millennium full of subpar, mostly shitty horror.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other gothic horror films around 2000, as well as other Tim Burton films with Johnny Depp.

Vids I Dig 450: Filmento: ‘The Lone Ranger’: How to Build the Biggest Flop of All-Time

From Filmento’s YouTube description: 2013 Disney summer blockbuster The Lone Ranger was directed by Gore Verbinski and starred Jack Sparrow himself Johnny Depp, and they clearly tried to recapture the success they found with Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, for some reason this time it didn’t work and The Lone Ranger ended up becoming the biggest box office bomb of all time, costing Mickey Mouse over 200 million dollars of lost cash. One of the biggest reasons for this is that they seemed to have forgotten the core qualities you need to keep in mind when making a massive blockbuster meant for all general audiences. In today’s Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see what those qualities are in order to see where The Lone Ranger went wrong. Here’s how to build a box office flop.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Also known as: P.O.T.C. 3 (promotional abbreviation), Pirates 3 (informal short title), Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (working title)
Release Date: May 19th, 2007 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun-fat, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Keith Richards

Second Mate Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 169 Minutes, 128 Minutes (censored Chinese version)

Review:

“You will listen to me! Listen! The other ships will still be looking to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead, and what will they see? Frightened bilgerats aboard a derelict ship? No, no they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see, they will see the flash of our cannons, and they will hear the ringing of our swords, and they will know what we can do! By the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs and the courage in our hearts! Gentlemen, hoist the colors!” – Elizabeth Swan

One of the three films had to be the worst one of the original trilogy and well, this is it. Regardless of that fact, it’s still one hell of an adventure movie that hits the right notes and sends these characters off with a well-deserved bang.

Had this been the actual end, people would’ve had a much brighter and appreciative view of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. However, Disney’s gotta be Disney and they couldn’t leave well enough alone and stop while they were ahead.

Regardless of the films that followed, this was a close to prefect ending to the original three pictures and it brings everything full circle in a great way and finished the job of developing the main characters stupendously, making them some of the greatest characters in motion picture history, especially in regards to blockbuster cinema.

Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is just as good as ever but the real treat of this movie is seeing the story of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan come to a close. Sure, they have a cameo years later, but this really ends their story, as I’m assuming the cameo won’t lead to anything now that Disney wants to do a female reboot of the franchise. *cough* Good luck with that, Disney.

I liked seeing how the characters of Will and Elizabeth evolved from children in the beginning of the first movie, to a solid, badass couple that essentially saved the oceanic world by the end of this picture. It’s especially great seeing how perfect Elizabeth evolved, as she leaves this chapter as an incredibly strong, independent woman that an entire armada saw as a real leader.

The original Pirates trilogy should be a primer on how to make a great female character that isn’t a cookie cutter Mary Sue. Maybe J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson should’ve watched these films before farting out the Disney Star Wars trilogy.

Anyway, this is the most over-the-top, insane Pirates movie of the lot but it all leads to an incredible final battle that sees the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman go to all out war while being sucked down into Calypso’s maelstrom a.k.a. a massive whirlpool. 

I also really liked how they explored Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones even more, getting into his personal turmoil that shaped him into a monster and set him off on an extremely dark path. His story is handled with such great care, though, that it’s hard not to relate to him and his pain. But it’s also fantastic finally seeing him meet his end.

Additionally, I loved how this movie built up the already established mythos and expanded the Pirates universe pretty immensely. I didn’t necessarily dig every new thing they tried to do but it worked for this story and how it ended.

The thing that hits me the hardest in these films, however, is the story of James Norrington. What a fantastic and spectacular character arc! The guy goes through so much over the course of the three films, trying to do what he thinks is right, only to sacrifice himself, quite selflessly and courageously, for the woman he loves but knows he can never have. I fucking love that guy and he doesn’t get enough respect due to how he’s never really the biggest thing onscreen.

In the end, this is one solid movie (and trilogy) that is probably much better than it should have been. I have to tip my hat to Gore Verbinski’s superb direction, as well as just how great the actors were. I wish we could have more Pirates movies as good as the first three but that ship has most assuredly sailed.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Also known as: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (working title), P.O.T.C. 2 (promotional abbreviation), Pirates 2 (informal short title)
Release Date: June 24th, 2006 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Geoffrey Rush (uncredited) 

Second Mate Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 151 Minutes

Review:

“There will come a time when you have a chance to do the right thing.” – Elizabeth Swan, “I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by.” – Jack Sparrow

Man, this movie was so good and I found myself asking myself, “Why the hell don’t you fire up these movies more often, dummy?!”

While the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick is the best of the lot, this one is still a damn fine adventure movie with the right balance of swashbuckling, really cool lore and fun, complex characters that have immense chemistry with one another and superhuman levels of pure, unadulterated charisma.

The only real downside of this film is that Barbosa is only in it for about 5 seconds but if I’m being honest, you really don’t notice because everything before that ending cliffhanger is great.

The film picks up where the last one left off and we see Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan have their wedding day ruined by a government douchebag that wants to have them executed for helping Captain Jack Sparrow escape at the end of the first movie. This sets Will on a mission to find Jack Sparrow and to retrieve his magic compass for the shitty bureaucrat.

Pirates films can’t be that simple though, so we see our characters chase multiple MacGuffins for multiple reasons and we get a well-layered plot where everyone wants this film’s treasures for their own reasons. Jack wants to escape the curse of Davy Jones, Will wants to save Elizabeth and his father, Elizabeth wants to save Will, Norrington wants to redeem himself and Barbosa’s former stooges just want the treasure because they’re f’n pirates.

The film also introduces Bill Nighy as the physical embodiment of Davy Jones, one of the coolest onscreen villains in motion picture history, as well as the kaiju-like beast, The Kraken.

I’ve heard some people complain that the plot is too complex and hard to follow but I disagree. Each character is well-defined and their personal motivations are made pretty clear. And even though you feel you know them and understand them, there are still some surprises, twists, turns and double-crosses that only enrich the story and the series as a whole.

The film also has incredible special effects and it’s obvious that Disney didn’t waste a penny making this movie. Just the amount of time that had to go into Davy Jones and his crew must’ve been insane and a really painstaking process. But that hard work and time paid off, as the effects are near perfect and help to make this a more fantastical picture than the previous one.

This chapter in the series also brought in Hans Zimmer to score the music. While he uses the iconic themes of the previous movie, he builds off of them and provides his own brilliant original compositions that don’t betray the work done by the previous composer and in fact, enhances it.

There are so many stellar sequences in this film but the three-way sword fight between Jack, Will and Norrington is, hands down, one of the greatest swashbuckling moments in motion picture history.

Additionally, the whole cannibal island segment of the film was cinematic perfection. While it does get pretty slapstick-y, it doesn’t feel out of place or too hokey. I’ve said elsewhere that Depp’s Sparrow is his generation’s version of Chaplin’s The Tramp and that comparison seemed even more clear to me after revisiting this chapter.

Dead Man’s Chest is a great film. While it falls short of The Curse of the Black Pearl, it does so just barely. In fact, the only thing that really works against it is that it’s the first part of a two-parter and isn’t its own self-contained story.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.

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.

Vids I Dig 393: Filmento: ‘On Stranger Tides’: The Impostor ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’

From Filmento’s YouTube description: With the recent news of Disney dropping/firing Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and rebooting it with Karen Gillan, let’s take a look back at a movie that even though did feature Jack Sparrow, still didn’t feel like a true Pirates movie but more like a rebooted spinoff: On Stranger Tides. Let’s see what the problems with On Stranger Tides are that make it seem like not a true Pirates movie, and then at the same time find the dangers of what happens when you try to make a Pirates of the Caribbean film that isn’t a Jack Sparrow film. The short answer is: nothing good happens.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Also known as: Pirates 4 (informal alternative title), P.O.T.C. 4 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: May 7th, 2011 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Sam Claflin, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths, Greg Ellis, Keith Richards (cameo)

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney, 137 Minutes

Review:

“[comes out of his quarters and glares at Sparrow] Gentlemen. I be placed in a bewilderment. There I were, resting. And upon a sudden, I hear an ungodly row on deck. Sailors abandoning their posts, without orders, without leave. Men before the mast, taking the ship for themselves. What be that, First Mate?” – Blackbeard

I haven’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie since the theater and frankly, back then, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s not that this is a bad movie, it’s just a pretty boring one that feels smaller than its predecessors and seems to spend more time dilly dallying than getting down and dirty.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of action sequences, there are. But with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan not appearing in this film, it just feels like it’s missing depth and narrative richness.

I guess the trade off is that you get to spend a lot more time with Jack Sparrow, as he has to fill in the blanks and carry this picture without his familiar co-stars.

But, at least, Geoffrey Rush returned as Barbosa and honestly, he’s my favorite character in the franchise.

Apart from that, we get Penelope Cruz, whose role is pretty forgettable. Especially, since she didn’t return for the fifth film.

The villain is played by Ian McShane and while I love him in just about everything he does, he doesn’t seem to do much in this movie until the end. He sort of avoids action until the final fight and just spends most of his time giving speeches and orders to a slew of one-off, disposable characters.

I like that this tapped into the Fountain of Youth story but it gets a lot of that legend wrong. I guess the plot is based off of an ’80s swashbuckling novel but I’ve never read it and I’m not sure how close this film’s story is to it. But I was anticipating seeing the characters romping around Florida, as opposed to Caribbean caves with magic gravity-defying water.

Anyway, this is an okay adventure film to kill a few hours but it pales in comparison to the trilogy of films that came before it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Vids I Dig 338: Filmento: ‘At World’s End’: How to Build the Perfect Action Sequence

From Filmento’s YouTube description: With Birds of Prey Harley Quinn failing at being an impostor Jack Sparrow, let’s travel back in time to take a look at the real Captain Jack Sparrow, this time in the trilogy conclusion, At World’s End. While this movie might not be the most flawless movie overall, when it comes to the maelstrom ship battle action sequence at the very end with the Black Pearl going against the Flying Dutchman and Davy Jones, it does shine bright. Not only is it a great action set-piece, it’s one of the greatest action set-pieces of all time. In today’s Film Perfection, let’s see what narrative elements it uses to make that happen. For a brief moment, let’s return to a better time when Johnny Depp was still Captain Jack Sparrow and things were great. Here’s hoping for one more, Pirates of the Caribbean 6 with him.

Vids I Dig 189: Filmento: ‘Dead Man’s Chest’: How to Build the Perfect Plot

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Turns out Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is the original Avengers Infinity War, in more ways than one. But if there is a single thing that connects these two films the most, it’s the incredibly strong way they handle plot. In today’s family friendly episode of Film Perfection let’s return to the one and only Jack Sparrow (and not the Dead Men Tell No Tales impostor Jack Sparrow) and Pirates 2 to see what plot is exactly and how to handle it properly. And returning is all we can do, because looks like Pirates of the Caribbean 6 isn’t coming fellas/fellarettes.