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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pop Culture Round Up

It's not Pop Rocks and Pepsi, but just a general take on some of the latest developments in my world of pop culture. 


Finally watched Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Yar, beware! Here there be Spoilers!

I'm still scratching my head on this one.  I initially dismissed the Pirates franchise when it first came out.   Thanks to Cutthroat Island, the genre hasn't seen a good film since I don't know when although; I will give props to Muppet Treasure Island and Yellowbeard.   I finally gave in and rented The Curse of Black Pearl on a whim.   I was pleasantly surprised.  At first, I was hesitant because this was a Disney Movie based on a Disney Theme park Ride.  I had visions of fat man in red and white striped shirts singing and dancing.  I should have known something was up when I saw Gore Verbinski was the director.  This guy scared the bejeezus out of me with The Ring.  I refuse to watch anything on VHS because of this.  After viewing the film, I was converted and Pirates were fun again.  If only the same could be said for my hometown baseball team.  They've had a longer losing streak in terms of years versus the Pirate movie genre.    The music was great and the visuals were spectacular.   With the sequel it took a greener turn. I say greener instead of darker because it seems as if the color palate used a lot more green and grays than blacks as with the first movie's name sake ship.  Davy Jones' became a formidable opponent with his attack dog, the Kraken, at the ready.  Bill Nighy, always a treat, pulled off a Gollum role where CGI could have drowned out his expressions and emotions.  Yet, he chews up scenery like Tako which would be considered cannibalism, I guess.  I digress.  The cracks begin to show in Dead Man's Chest as the movie tries to cram subplots and arcs like sardines in a can.  It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, dash to the finish line as four different characters seek the chest for their own purposes.  In a cliffhanger style ending, witty Jack goes down with his ship to the Locker and we are left to reminisce over our other favorite rascally film character that gets the short end of the stick by the middle film of his respective trilogy.  Hello, HanSicle?

Our heroes get a reprieve and have a WTF OMG moment a scene later as Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa reappears to help find Jack at World's End.   My problems with the film exist in that it seems to depart from the style and formula executed rather well in the first films.  The film should have been named Double-crossed Swords because it was more like a British heist film than a Pirate film.  Everybody is stabbing each other in the back with a cutlet.  I kept losing track as to whose plan was being thwarted or played out as every scene started with an "Aha" moment and the tables get turned.   Secondly, while watching Depp play various parts of Sparrows psyche was fun to watch, Sparrow has become a shadow of his former self.  My take on Sparrow is that while he plays the fool and drunkard, behind that thick eyeliner is a genius at work.   Sometimes it seems as if he is making it up as he goes along but there is always an angle to be played and he seems quick on his wobbly feet.  Will and Elizabeth run the gamut of new young love, misunderstood betrayal, and miscommunication that leads them to spend most of the film apart.  Too much soap opera not enough chemistry. 

Now, my biggest complaint, THE KRAKEN IS DEAD!    I don't mean they kill the Kraken in a showdown.  I mean it's dead from the get go, washed up on shore.  I feel bad for the behemoth.  His master turned on him and killed him.  The poor bastard was probably like, "Hey, Dad, what are you doing?  That hurts."  Squidley's demise only serves to show Becket's subjugation of Davy Jones and I think we all got that from the end of the film.  .   No need to rehash with dead calamari seagull buffet.  Sure, they throw in metaphors relating the Kraken's death with the end of piracy and the shrinking world having no room for mythical sea monsters but that's window dressing. It seemed like a budget constraint rather than plot choice.  Perhaps they had too much other business going on and didn't have room for beastie beating.    The other misuse of casting is Chow Yun Fat.  They kill him off after only a little more than a half hour of screen time.   Keith Richards had a bigger impact on the story and he was only around for a brief scene and towards the end. 

The final twist, which we could see coming since Tia Dalma was included in the movie beyond the first ten minutes, comes with Tia being Jones' reason for fishiness.   She screwed him over.  He screwed her over.  They both end up trapped.  All of a sudden it's revealed that she is Calypso and before the final showdown they "Mekka-lekka hi mekka hiney ho" her into the 50 foot women and she reveals her big secret.  She's got crabs.... I mean she turns into crabs and flees leaving a giant maelstrom that only the Tidy Bowl Man could navigate.  Then it's all Slash, Slash, Dodge, Parry, and in a pseudo Mexican standoff Jones' shows why he's the badass of the sea by stabbing Will.  Nothing left to do but make him the new captain of The Flying Dutchman, a plot point that would have better suited his father seeing as how he was already a part of the crew.  He could have made Will first mate and then freed him of his debt.  But no, Will is left to ferry dead folk to the other side only being allowed on land once every ten years....which technically he could work out a commuter schedule with a bucket of water like Jones did at the coin toss scene.  By the end of the film, we have a return to the roots.  Barbossa steals the Black Pearl.  Jack is left to search for treasure in a dinghy and what of Will? There is a bonus scene at the end which doesn't explain a lot but after reading more it makes sense.  Turns out if Calypso would have not stood Jones' up he would have been freed from servitude and a career at being a really good organ player.  So, since Elizabeth, with Will the third (?) showing up for their date, he is probably allowed to leave the ship for more than just a 24 hour booty call.

There is probably room for more movies but it seems as if the franchise has run its course.  Video games, graphic novels, fan fiction, and paperback books will fill in the edges of the map on this world but it seems as if all, except Knightley, would be willing to return if the wind and script was favorable.  I think it needs to be a little while before we have another film.  It's hard to imagine having a film without the original cast that made it great but there are probably other great storied fish in the seas as the trilogy was driven by a newly created character that was not associated with the theme park attraction previously.  I must say that it's unusual for a movie based off of anything, whether it be a video game or whatever, to be successful.  Just look at any video game movie adaptation. The source material is usually tossed aside and the basic structure is picked apart and plugged in certain areas.  Here, the first two films managed to incorporate elements from attraction fairly well yet the third lacked any references that I could see.  Still, Pirates are fun again and I'm sure there will be imitators and challengeres for the mantle.


Boston Legal

When Boston Legal premiered, I promised myself that I wouldn't watch it.  I was distraught over the decline and disappearance of Boston Public and I've never really been a big fan of shows about lawyers, although, I was a loyal fan of Night Court.....ironic since John Larroquette is now on the show.  As big of a fan of David Kelley and James Spader I am, I couldn't see investing more time that I didn't have into watching more shows when I had already maxed out all forms of recording to watch later.  However, I would catch the occasional episode and I viewed our relationship as casual... sort of a friend with benefits arrangement.  My wife, on the other hand, who refuses to embrace certain things because on the surface they seem ridiculous or asinine, is the one who hooked me on this show.  To give you a brief background on my wife's point, she usually sees all the things I find joy or amusement in as dumb or unworthy.   I began watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer during the second season, catching up on Season One during the summer hiatus.  She felt I was a dork.  By Season Four, she was hooked.   So, I didn't find it too odd that she would eventually come to her senses when it concerned her utter dislike for the Shat.   William Shatner is one of those people that you either love or hate.  Even if you hate him, you have to respect his bank ability.  His caricature of his own ego and self imposed celebrity status among the elite of Hollywood make you realize that, while never achieving the status of say Hanks or Clooney, his cult following for years before mainstream success seem almost planned as a prologue or back story to his greatest role since Kirk.

My wife also has a problem with James Spader's character and basically to know Spader is to know that this role was a perfect fit.  Looking back at some of his previous roles as slimy and smarmy snakes he had little to do but just flex his acting muscles a bit and this role was perfect.   Watching him argue in the courtroom is like watching what Aaron Sorkin used to do with The West Wing and Sports Night.  Unfortunately, Studio 60 couldn't approach the same types of posturing that Boston Legal could because of the given environment in which the characters existed.  Here, Kelly preaches just like Sorkin, but under the guise of opposing council both sides get a say, although it always seems that CP&L's arguments are longer and always tailored to win.  Only Denny Crane can point it out as Shatner has mastered the ability to break the fourth wall without being corny.  This is a feat that only he and Burt Reynolds have mastered.  Bruce Willis has tried in the past and failed.  Keep trying Bruno, you'll get it.   A recent episode tackled tabloid television and I wish I could find a transcript of Spaders closing argument because it is very well written and well acted I must say.  The decline of quality television is a topic near and dear to me as I was raised in the days of great television.

The last point of contention my darling wife has with the show is the relationship between Shore and Crane.  Granted, it doesn't stop her from watching but she doesn't quite get the whole sleep over, scotch and cigar, man love that goes on between two outwardly heterosexual males.   Not being familiar with the show, I didn't understand it either because Shore comes off as somewhat a flamboyant and prissy character.  However, I love the fact that these two alpha males can bond the way they do over one of Freud's biggest symbols of male anatomy and still find time to bed their way through the halls of Boston Legal.  This is truly a great show and I am now damned to watch it every week from here on out.

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