Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The state of the American blockbuster: Thar be the cast of "Blow"!

Tis a rare occasion indeed for me when I get to travel to a friend's house to watch a movie. But every once in a while the stars align just right, and that very thing did just happen, as this friend of mine happened to buy the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. An expensive 2-pack, no less! They got the Blu-Ray AND the DVD. Can you believe they're already predicting the obsolescence of the DVD? Apparently the internet's going to conquer our TVs or something, and provide streaming movies to our TVs wherever and whenever, blah blah blah. Personally, I think they might as well try to get DVD commentaries coming into our cable boxes. That's the state of the American cinema at this point: why watch the sick and twisted Death Wish II when you can listen to the even sicker and more twisted minds behind the making of it?
Unfortunately, this friend of mine didn't have a 3D television yet, so I didn't fully appreciate the various gratuitous 3D moments that are apparently going to become commonplace. Personally, I'm not as against them as Roger Ebert is. Most of the great movies have some kind of 3D gimmick in them already. Anyone remember that Buster Keaton film where he's sitting on the front of a train that emerges from the horizon and stops just short of hitting the camera? That would probably be his vanity logo if he were alive and filming today... or maybe the thing where the front of the house falls on top of him. Yeah, probably that one.
This film cost 250 million dollars. Let that sink in for a while. I guess that's small potatoes these days, actually. Quantum of Solace cost around 225 million. Spider Man 3 also sported a 250 million price tag. Lord knows what the next Batman film's going to cost. I'm thinking probably 210: they should stick with the 30 million step increases just to be safe; of course, they're feverishly changing Catwoman's costume digitally, so there's another 20 million or so. But Pirates of the Caribbean 4 cost 250 million, 55 of which went to Johnny Depp. I'm assuming he didn't have points; otherwise, he would've gotten screwed. Disney's the real pirate, am I right? Whatever Geoffrey Rush got, it obviously didn't go towards makeup. He's looking a bit pale these days. Well, some people are a rougher 60 than others, but he's still got that true pirate spirit, and a hearty laugh to boot.
Unfortunately, there isn't a digital marvel here quite like the squid-faced Davy Jones. But make no mistake about it, we're not short on alpha male pirates here, and Ian McShane as Blackbeard will do rather nicely. Unfortunately, he's not allowed to run free at the mouth like his Deadwood character. This is PG-13, for God's sake! Speaking of which, his ... I'm sorry, the demise of one of the characters seemed to push the PG-13 rating pretty good. The 250 million is nothing if not up on the screen, I give 'em that.
As for the plot, well, I think it was sufficiently complicated enough. That's the way plots are these days: they try to insure repeat viewings through complicated plots, but I think I got the gist of it the first go-round. They wisely trimmed the Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom characters from the fat, and broadened the pic's scope a bit. Pintel and Ragetti are gone too; I guess they wanted too much money. I haven't read the novel that this installment's based on. I just hope it's not like the Twilight series at all. I'm probably giving it away, but I'll make the comparison nonetheless: probably the most direct comparison I can make is that this smacks ever so slightly of Indiana Jones 3. This time, however, there's two chalices instead of one... and the retrieval of a mermaid tear to boot. The mermaids this time seem to have arrived more or less out of the FHM/Maxim/Michael Bay casting vortex, with a vampire twist, if I may be so bold. The mermaids are rather bereft of cleavage, which is where Penelope Cruz comes in. Gotta love that hat. Why, is that a tattoo? I don't know much about tattoo etiquette, but a breast tattoo probably shouldn't be much larger than hers. I'm old fashioned that way, what can I say. Barry Sonnenfeld adopted a similar strategy with Wild Wild West and beyond: production values. Well, what do you expect from the director of such hits as Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Nine?... that WAS Judi Dench! Lucky girl... I missed it, but Keith Richards returns as Jack Sparrow's dad, and he's got a classic line: "Does this face look like it's been to the Fountain of Youth?" I guess not, but does he still goes to Switzerland to get his blood changed?
Well, I guess I hate to admit it, but I was entertained. What can I say? The way movies are made today, there seems to be a lot of science poured into their making. Computer graphics, probably computer-enhanced screenwriting. Do they use word clouds to double check everything? Something's going on, I swear. Of course, I couldn't help but think that computer-enhanced screenwriting was at work in Terminator 3 when Ah-nold appears nude in the world once again, but ends up going into a Chippendale's themed strip club. Maybe it's focus group-based screenwriting, who knows. But no matter how fancy things get (in the Pirates movies), there always seems to be a moment when Jack ends up at one solitary island. It happened in the first one, and he was out of rum. No time to stop and smell the rum in this one. Also, he doesn't get decked in the face, only to turn and stick his big mug right in the camera's lens. See? 3D before it was 3D. Why, one might go so far as to say that the entrance to the fountain of youth was a teeny bit of an homage to Depp's big death scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street, both more or less involving fluids defying gravity. They even manage to work in an homage to ships in a bottle. Even better than that, because of Penelope Cruz, they throw in a quick nod to the tempestuous nature of Spanish/Mexican women: they apparently love and hate you in equal measure. So much feminine mystique summed up in one 10 second exchange... A toast to the new science of movies; may they never have to reveal it to us.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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