Let's face it the world of Hollywood pirating — with its peglegs eyepatches shoulder parrots and bounty of other swashbuckling tropes — is pretty silly. Even a high seas adventure like Pirates of the Caribbean has the ridiculous Jack Sparrow to help it hobble along. Pushing the comedy can only work in pirate movie's favor and Aardman Animation's Pirates! A Band of Misfits goes all out seizing the absurdity with a flare only British sensibilities could conjure. The film is a treasure trove of design and technical wizardry but for those less interested in the intricacies of stop motion animation Pirates!'s simple story packs plenty of low-key laughs that viewers all ages can pick up.
The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is at wit's end. While he's enjoyed his time leading a ragtag group of wannabe pirates including Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin) Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson) Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) and his number two Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) a lifestyle of eating ham and barely making ends meet is losing its luster. When Pirate Captain shows up to the annual Pirate of the Year submission day he's once again outdone by Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) who rides in on a whale full of gold. Driven by competition Pirate Captain reassembles his crew hits the open waters and begins a new wave of pillaging. It's all for naught until the pirates cross paths with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) who identifies Pirate Captain's "parrot" as an extinct dodo bird. Suddenly the pirates have a new (and lucrative) calling: science.
There's an unexpected intelligence to Pirates!. The movie based on a children's book of the same name centers on Pirate Captain's mid-life crisis delves into the world of 18th century science and pegs Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) as the mastermind bad guy behind the elimination of the pirate occupation. That gives the accompanying adults plenty to chew (and laugh) on but director Peter Lord doesn't stray away from an ol' fashioned slapstick routine. There's a marvelous stray bathtub sequence halfway through the film a wild ride through Charles Darwin's old tudor house that's a true spectacle. But even a simple gag involving baking soda and vinegar exploding sud bubbles is expertly crafted and executed by Lord.
The stop motion technique never feels limited in Pirates! even with a great deal of walking and talking scenes. Gideon Defoe's script is elevated by the vocal performances; Grant is perfectly cast as the faux-burly Pirate Captain while Martin Freeman's perfected "timid skeptic" routine from The Office and Sherlock is once again on full display. The Aardman team continues to have a knack for gesturing their puppets uniquely natural and human. Even with all the enormous pirate ships detailed cityscapes and dazzling action Pirates! is at its best when it focuses on the sillier calmer moments.
The tangibility of Pirates! A Band of Misfits comes through in its physical stop-motion animation techniques but also its genuine heart. There's a rare reality to the storytelling even at its most fantastical. While the film doesn't hit the same emotional chords as some of Pixar or Dreamworks' best you would need an X-marked map to find a Hollywood cartoon as sweet and heartfelt. So don't walk the plank on this one — board with kids in tow immediately.
Large gray clouds loom over Le Grand Cannes. It adds to the drama, the chaos, the delayed plane flights … But that isn't stopping our favorite heroes -- Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman -- from bursting on the scene today for the out-of-competition screening of "Under Suspicion." Yes, the Cannes Film Festival gets serious today with the unfolding of some tres (there's that French again) tough dramas.
British director Ken Loach is famous for getting to the emotional heart of prickly social issues and is very popular in Europe (with many American fans, too.) "Bread and Roses," his in-competition entry here, is an against-all-odds true story is based in Los Angeles (which he shoots in sequence!), and the first film he's set in America.
In the same deep vein, "The King Is Alive" takes place in Africa and is directed by the Danish Kristian Levring. Two of its stars, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Janet McTeer, were escorted from their lavish ateliers at the Martinez Hotel along the famous Boulevard de la Croisette.
Today's screening of "Jacky" is the first of seven Asians films selected this year. China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea are all represented. In "Jacky," the title character is a smart, but lazy 25-year-old Chinese kid living in Amsterdam who gets kicked out of his comfortable parental nest when a Chinese bride is found for him. (Slackers are global!)
What's more dramatic than the never-ending battle of the sexes? Not much. That's the treacherous territory Neil LaBute ("In the Company of Men") lays bare in "Nurse Betty." In it, Morgan Freeman co-stars with the pixyish Renee Zellweger, funnyman Chris Rock and the engaging Greg Kinnear.
Overall, nearly 1,400 films were submitted for screening here at Cannes, but only 681 features chosen. (Who says statistics couldn't be dramatic?) Of those, a mere 23 are actually competing for the Palme d'Or. This means just being here makes you a winner -- which might explain the constant popping sounds of the opening of champagne bottles at all times, day and night. Every morning the cork litter is swept away.