The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
Top Story: Halle Berry File for Divorce
Actress Halle Berry has filed for divorce six months after separating from her husband of three years, R&B singer Eric Benet. Berry's publicist confirmed the filing Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, The Associated Press reports. The couple met in 1999 at an HBO party for the premiere of the biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, in which Berry starred as the first black woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar with 1954's Carmen Jones. They married in January 2001. At the time of their split, tabloids speculated Benet's faithfulness was an issue in their marriage. In a statement issued by her publicist in October 2003, Berry said: "Eric and I have had marital problems for some time now and have tried to work things out together. However, at this point, I feel we need time apart to reevaluate our union." This is the second divorce for Berry, 37, whose previous marriage to Cleveland Indians outfielder David Justice ended in divorce in 1996.
Jackson Personally Terminated Lead Attorneys
Michael Jackson said in a statement posted on his Web site Monday that he personally "terminated" his two lead defense attorneys--Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman--in his child molestation case. The statement was made in defense to press reports that the two legal eagles had stepped down. On Sunday, Brafman told Reuters Sunday he and Geragos had resigned from the case over "complicated legal and practical issues" that he could not discuss. Jackson, however, did not come out and say why he dismissed his two lead attorneys, but hinted: "It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me. My life is at stake. Therefore I must feel confident that my interests are of the highest priority."
Godsend Web Site Causes Controversy
Web surfers have started petitions to close a Web site to promote Lions Gate's upcoming drama Godsend, in which a couple clone their dead son. The site, www.godsendinstitute.org, promotes a fertility clinic run by a Dr. Richard Wells, billed as "the top genetic engineering researcher" in the United States. The problem seems to be the fact that the site doesn't mention the film or that the Godsend Institute is fictitious and its Dr. Wells is actor Robert De Niro. "Almost everyone who goes to the site thinks it's real, but by the time they leave, most have figured it's fiction. Some even applaud it," Tom Ortenberg, president of film releasing for Lions Gate, told Reuters. He added that the studio is getting several hundred phone calls a day to the fake clinic's toll-free number, but none have been from people actually looking for help.
Blake's P.I. Won't Testify Before Trial
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp ruled Monday that prosecutors in the Robert Blake murder trial couldn't take pretrial testimony from a private investigator hired by actor to dig into his wife's past. Blake allegedly hired Jordan to investigate Bakley during a custody battle for the couple's 3-year-old daughter daughter. According to Reuters, prosecutors had wanted to examine 77-year-old William Jordan, a former police detective, under oath before the trial starts because of his age and the importance of his testimony. But Schempp rejected the motion because it is too close to the trial date. Blake is scheduled to go to trial in Sept. 9 for the May 4, 2001, murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. The Baretta star is free on $1.5 million bail
Stern's Ratings Soar Despite Crackdown
Even though federal regulators have recently tighten restrictions on indecency, specifically targeting shock jock Howard Stern, his radio show's ratings have only gone up. Reuters reports the show scored major gains in listenership during the winter quarter ended Mar. 31 in the three biggest U.S. markets--New York, Los Angeles and Chicago--according to figures made public on Monday by the Arbitron radio ratings service. In Stern's home market of New York, where his show is broadcast on WXRK-FM, he topped all morning drive-time competition with a 7.2 share in total audience, up 22 percent from the fall quarter and 18 percent from last winter, Arbitron said. Stern's show had dipped slipped to No. 2 in total audience last fall.
Blanchett Becomes Mommy for Second Time
Oscar-nominated actress Cate Blanchett and husband writer Andrew Upton welcomed their second son, Roman Robert, last Friday, Blanchett's publicist told Reuters. The couple have a 2-year-old son, Dashiell. The 34-year-old actress will be seen next in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, portraying screen legend Katharine Hepburn.
Pointer Sister Faces Drug Charges
June Pointer Whitmore, the youngest member of the '70s hit-making group the Pointer Sisters, was charged Monday with cocaine possession, Reuters reports. She was arrested last Thursday with two other people outside the Hollywood apartment of her older sister, Bonnie, but was released on bail. Details of Whitmore's arrest were sketchy, Reuters reports, but a spokeswoman for prosecutors said she and her co-defendants were confronted by police officers who responded to citizen complaints and found them in possession of cocaine and cocaine pipes.
Role Call: Polanski Finds His Oliver Twist
Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, who is helming an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel Oliver Twist, has found the right young actor to portray the title character, after a search of London's drama schools. After a screen test in Prague, where Oliver Twist will be shot, 10-year-old Barney Clarke won the role. Ben Kingsley will play Fagin. Shooting begins July 12.