Film Review: Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

Also known as: Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie (UK promotional title)
Release Date: December 8th, 2000
Directed by: Courtney Solomon
Written by: Carroll Cartwright, Topper Lilien
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Justin Caine Burnett
Cast: Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne, Jeremy Irons, Tom Baker

Silver Pictures, Sweetpea Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 107 Minutes

Review:

“I got a new name for “dumb”: “Ridley”! This is the Ridleyest thing I’ve ever heard!” – Snails

I never wanted to see this. When I saw the trailer over twenty years ago, I knew for a fact that this would bomb, be an embarrassment and that we’d possibly never get another Dungeons & Dragons film because of its shittiness.

Let me be clear, I wasn’t cheering for its failure because I’d definitely love a good D&D movie that features some of the most famous monsters and better represents the game but I knew this movie wasn’t that.

Granted, it does form a team of heroes that are all different with unique skills. So it at least tried to create a good party of diverse character types. However, other than that, it failed in just about every other way. Also, the party didn’t really get used in the story correctly or all that effectively.

The worst thing about this movie is the special effects. The CGI is some of the worst I’ve ever seen from this era. It’s worse than Sci-Fi Channel TV movies and considering that New Line Cinema, the same studio, released the first Lord of the Rings movie just a year later, makes this picture a complete embarrassment.

Even if smaller indie studios made this and New Line just distributed it, it’s still baffling to me. If their thought was to use this to whet the public’s palate for the upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy, that was an awful decision.

Beyond the atrocious CGI, the acting in this is also terrible. There are fairly talented people in the movie but none of them really tried except for Jeremy Irons, who was the best thing in this movie, as far as acting goes.

Some of the sets were actually cool. I liked the labyrinth that Justin Whalin’s character had to try and survive. It was about the only enjoyable sequence in the entire film, though.

Dungeons & Dragons was just a fucking mess. It had annoying, unlikable characters. As well as, an overabundance of unnecessary silliness that helped make it miss its mark completely.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really bad video game film adaptations.

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.

Film Review: RoboCop 3 (1993)

Release Date: May 1st, 1993 (Japan)
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Written by: Frank Miller, Fred Dekker
Based on: characters by Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Robert John Burke, Nancy Allen, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry, Rip Torn, Mako, John Castle, CCH Pounder, Stephen Root, Jeff Garlin, Shane Black, Bradley Whitford, Lee Arenberg, Daniel von Bargen

Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Well, I gotta hand it to ya. What do they call ya? Murphy, is it?” – The CEO, “My friends call me Murphy. You call me… RoboCop.” – RoboCop

RoboCop 3 should not exist. Well, at least in the form that it does.

For one, Peter Weller left the series and Nancy Allen’s Lewis gets killed off pretty early on, leaving us with a movie mostly devoid of the actors and characters we’ve come to care about except for a few minor side ones like the the police sergeant and Johnson.

Not even Dan O’Herlihy came back to play the Old Man in charge of OCP. I guess his absence was explained by OCP being bought by a Japanese company. So instead of the great O’Herlihy, we got a bored looking Rip Torn as the new head of OCP. Johnson was still there though, even if he felt out of place hamming it up with new office buddies.

The story deals with a bunch of poor people getting violently thrown out of their homes so OCP can steal the land and build Delta City, which has been an overused plot point since the first movie. RoboCop catches feelings for the poor people, especially after meeting a four year-old girl that hacks ED-209s and watching Lewis get gunned down by a private military company hired by OCP. There’s also some terrible cyborg ninjas in this. Oh, and RoboCop gets a pointless gun arm and a lame as shit jetpack.

The special effects in this are laughably bad, even looked at within the context of the era this was made in. This is a much cheaper looking movie than RoboCop and RoboCop 2 by a wide margin. ED-209 looks about the same but I’m sure they just reused one of the robots from the first film. RoboCop himself is a new actor but he’s wearing Peter Weller’s suit, which was too short for the new actor and caused him a lot of pain.

RoboCop 3 is just one costly shitshow that has nothing redeeming hidden within it. I’ve only seen this one a few times but I’ve watched the first two at least a dozen times each. This is just really hard to sit through and pretty much a pointless film, overall.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the first two RoboCop movies but they’re far superior and I guess any bad RoboCop ripoffs with an extremely low budget, hokey effects and crappy acting.