Tag Archives: swashbuckling

The Three Musketeers – Review

6 Sep

There have been more versions of Alexander Dumas’ classic book that I can really even believe. Critics go for the 1973 version of The Three Musketeers, but I grew up with the 1993 Disney version, so I have a special kind of love for that one. Why not take another shot at it though? It seems to be quite popular nowadays to take a classic novel or story and blow it up with craziness and special effects. With a name like Paul W.S. Anderson in the director’s chair, it seemed like this version of The Three Musketeers was doomed, and I was more than ready to hate it with every fiber of my being, but the truth is, it isn’t as bad as you might think.

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D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is a young man with the sole dream of becoming a musketeer for King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox). Upon arriving in Paris, he soon meets three of the most famous musketeers: Athos (Matthew McFadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans). They accept him as one of their own, but regret to inform him that the musketeers have been disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), who is seeking to take the throne from the king with the help of Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich). The Three Musketeers and their newest member soon learn of this nefarious plot and decide that it is solely up to them to protect the king and stop France from going to war with England.

Like I said, I was so ready to watch this movie and hate every bit of it. In the beginning, I really was not enjoying it at all. The acting was pretty bad and nothing was really jumping out or engaging me in any way. Between a quarter of the way to the half way mark things of interest actually start happening and continue up until the end of the movie. I use the term “of interest” pretty loosely. I’m pretty much saying I started to get entertained. This movie isn’t really good in terms of depth and character, but as much as it really pains me to say it, I had some fun.

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I really need to say that this version of The Three Musketeers is completely different than any other version that exists. Take the original story and then mix in a bunch of steampunk technology, and you get this movie. This is what really sold the movie to me, in my opinion. I love steampunk style and it was a pretty interesting choice to incorporate it into this classic story. It also gave everyone a lot of room to tweak the story. There’s a really fun aerial battle involving ships that are part zeppelins and part clipper ships. Is this anyway in the original Dumas book? No way, but as far as entertainment goes, I was having so much fun watching this play out onscreen.

So the special effects and swashbuckling action are all well and good, but that really doesn’t excuse a lot of the negativity that I actually recognized in this movie. First of all, the movie just up and ends faster than you even have time to blink. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I didn’t feel like the resolution had what it takes to really wrap up a movie. Also, there were some bits of acting that were just God awful. From the uninspired to the over the top acting, it hit the entire spectrum. Christoph Waltz was great as the Cardinal and the only other actor who seemed to really be enjoying his part was Ray Stevenson as Porthos. The other musketeers weren’t memorable at all. Orlando Bloom was pretty fun to watch, even though it’s kinda hard taking him too seriously as a villain.

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Don’t go into The Three Musketeers expecting anything that resembles the Alexander Dumas novel. The characters are there, but everything else is pretty much its own thing. This isn’t a good movie in the objective sense. It’s full of bad acting, silly story contrivances, and an ending that doesn’t really wrap things up. But, the action was over the top and flashy enough that it kept my attention for most of the time. The good thing is that this movie never took itself too seriously. It always had a light hearted attitude and a sense of self awareness. There were even some small historical quirks that made me chuckle. All in all, it’s not great, nor is it really good, but it provided me with a silly afternoon escape.

Pirates of the Caribbean Series Review – The Curse of the Black Pearl & Dead Man’s Chest

25 Dec

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are modern day Hollywood masterpieces that hearken back to an adventurous time of swashbuckling film making. One can not help but think of adventure classics like Sinbad, the Sailor when watching these movies. They’re a lot of fun, but the series itself can be labeled as uneven, so this series review will take a look at the ups and downs of this billion dollar franchise.

Let’s start with The Curse of the Black Pearl.

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The city of Port Royal gets flipped upside down once the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives. After the mysterious Black Pearl attacks the city in search of a missing piece of cursed Aztec gold, the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is taken by the ship’s Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Swann’s love interest, blacksmith William Turner (Orlando Bloom) breaks Sparrow out of jail and the two of them set out to find this cursed crew and save Elizabeth, but as a pirate, Jack has an agenda of his own.

This is one of the most fun movies I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and it seems to get better every time I watch it. I watched it for the first time in a couple years for this review, and it was such a fun ride. The action and comedy play off each other so well with the help of an excellent cast and crew. Jack Sparrow has become one of the most famous characters of all time, thanks mostly to Depp’s fantastic performance. Rush is also a great villain and seems to love saying his ridiculously over the top pirate sayings. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom do just fine, but nothing within the realms of Depp and Rush.

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The effects are also really fantastic and was made in a very interesting way. Whenever the cursed crew of the Black Pearl enter the moon light, they become these decaying skeletons. In order to get that effect to match the actions of the actual people in the scenes, shots were filmed with the pirate actors and then without them so their skeletons could be digitally added for the final product. A lot of work to match facial features and movement was another challenge that had to be overcome in order to get the best looking animation. It’s a scientific art form that I can’t even begin to understand and it makes me respect this movie and the work that went into it so much more.

The entire tone is reminiscent of modern films like The Mummy. It’s action packed, but it’s light hearted and has good intentions. There are some pretty scary scenes on the Pearl but the movie in entirety is a great family adventure. Hollywood doesn’t produce classics like these all the time any more, at least, not like they used to. This is a fantastic effort by Disney and Bruckheimer Studios of making a big-budgeted classic that nearly everyone can enjoy. If you haven’t seen this by any chance, check it out. I guarantee your entertainment.

Of course, there has to be a sequel to something that makes loads of money at the box office, but this isn’t really a bad thing at all. In fact the sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, is a good movie. The bad news is that even though it is a top notch second entry, it’s plagued with a very big problem.

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Some time after the events of the first film, William Turner and Elizabeth Swann are finally to be married. That is, until Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) arrests them both and sentences them to death unless Will can find Jack and bring his compass back to Port Royal. Will soon finds Jack, but gets caught up in Jack’s mission to kill Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and be free of a debt he made Jones years before. Add Elizabeth and the disgraced Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) and you’ve got a mosh pit of motives that all clash and bring about an end to the solidity of alliances.

This is a very difficult movie to summarize in a paragraph. There are so many characters with different plots and subplots that, if you don’t watch out, you may lose track of. I wouldn’t call this movie confusing, but it is packed. There’s a lot that happens in the broad range of two and a half hours, and even that’s not enough time. This is really the only problem with this movie, but it weighs the movie down big time. Not enough time is spent on certain parts of the story because if it was, then the movie would stretch on for a very long time.

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I will say that everything else about Dead Man’s Chest surpasses its predecessor. This movie is a lot darker and adult friendly. Bill Nighy is absolutely menacing as Davy Jones and really brings the myth to life and more. The CGI and special effects in this movie add to this as well, and not just with Jones. The crew of the Flying Dutchman looks fantastic in their different stages of transformation into whatever it is they are becoming. Barnacles and shells make up most of their bodies giving them a look that I’ve never seen before.

Although I’ve complained about how the story is presented, it is a lot better and complicated than The Curse of the Black Pearl. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have much more time to make their characters more than just the audience’s eyes and ears, and actually get to really be involved in the piracy of the other characters. Like I said before, alliances are shattered and some are strengthened, making this a movie you must pay attention during or you’ll lose who wants what and who is in league with who.

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While Dead Man’s Chest has the opportunity to be the superior movie, the presentation and pacing bear too much weight to surpass The Curse of the Black Pearl. It has a great story and a lot of characters that are getting more and more fleshed out, but it just becomes a mess. It’s certainly not a movie to be missed and is a good effort by Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer, but don’t expect the joy you had watching the first movie.

So we got a start to the series, but we still have two more. Look out for my review of At World’s End and On Stranger Tides.