Tag Archives: Pirates of the Caribbean

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor the dark world

Though I enjoyed Marvel’s first Thor film (my review) well enough, I didn’t like it as much as I did the first Iron Man film or Captain America: The First Avenger and especially not as much as The Avengers (my review). That being said, the high quality of The Avengers and the altogether decent Iron Man 3 (my review) had me excited that Thor: The Dark World would be at least an improvement on its predecessor – and, thankfully, it is.

Thor: The Dark World opens with an introduction to the film’s villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a Dark Elf set to destroy the universe with an evil substance called the Aether. We witness Odin’s father defeat Malekith and hide the Aether, but Malekith and other Dark Elves manage to escape in suspended animation. The film then picks up after the events of The Avengers, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) being imprisoned for his crimes against Earth. Meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, and Tadanobu Asano), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) are fighting to make peace in the Nine Realms. On Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), along with her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), is still searching for a way to make contact with Thor again after their last encounter. Her research leads her to the discovery of some sort of magic portal, through which she is accidentally teleported to another world, where she is infected by the Aether, awakening Malekith and threatening her life. Thor returns to Earth and seeks to find a way to save her life, eventually turning to Loki as his only hope for saving Jane, Asgard, and the universe itself.

Marvel has done an excellent job of casting people perfect for their roles, with the prime example being Tony Stark as Robert Downey, Jr. Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark. Chris Hemsworth is no exception here, as he really falls into his stride and wields the god of thunder’s hammer perfectly. The return of Hiddleston as Loki is also a welcome addition to the film; Hiddleston’s ability to be simultaneously charming and sinister is put to good use as Thor turns to him for help…can he really be trusted? The character brings a couple of nice twists and plenty of humor (including one particular scene in which he jokingly morphs into a certain Captain who we all know and love), though I fear that the character almost turned into too much of a good thing, similarly to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Now, fear not, he never fully crosses that line, but in true Loki fashion he toes the line carefully, with a few jokes becoming a bit annoying for me because they came all at once. Still, Loki’s presence here was overall a good thing, and it would have been a much less entertaining film without him. Part of the reason why the return of Loki is so satisfying is because it gives him a chance to be brother to Thor again. Thor doesn’t know whether or not he can trust his brother, which in one scene he reveals is hard for him to accept. The two were raised together, and it’s difficult for Thor to accept that the person who he spent so many years with has no good left in him. It’s an interesting dynamic that is explored pretty well, however briefly.

Other faces are back in varying capacities. At least a brief mention should be given to Idris Elba as Heimdall, who is simply lots of fun – and he even gets his moment to shine here! Natalie Portman as Jane does a better job here than she did in the first film…but I still don’t believe that she’s a scientist. Thankfully, her relationship with Thor is a bit more believable this time around, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still think she’s an awkward character. The role of her assistant, Darcy, played by Kat Dennings, contrasts with her role in the first film in the sense that I actually liked her here; rather than simply being the comedic relief for the film, she played a definitive part in defeating the villain in the end, and the moments in which she WAS comedic relief played off better this time around. I like that Stellan Skarsgård is back as Dr. Erik Selvig, though you could say that his role here has been switched with Darcy’s in the first film. You could make the argument that the silliness/eccentricity of the character here (he spends more than half the film not wearing pants) is a result from Loki spending too much time in his head during The Avengers, but the fact of the matter here is that Skarsgård would have been put to better use as someone who could convince us that the science in the film is actually believable, rather than using Jane as the throwaway scientist. Either way, he’s at least moderately entertaining here…just a bit of wasted potential. Anthony Hopkins returns as Odin, but he’s gone from bad father in the first film to bad king in this film, making decisions based less on good judgement and more on pride. He even calls Jane a goat…it just seems odd. Eccleston as Malekith makes an appropriately menacing villain, but there is little explanation as to why he is the way he is or any sort of reason for his actions. Again, it just seems like a wasted opportunity.

The visuals of the film are on the whole better than in the first film, which relied mostly on CGI and often looked pretty cartoony. The CGI that is used in TDW is on the whole much more tasteful and refined, but it otherwise relies more on actual sets rather than on a green screen, which I really appreciate. I also really admire the ties that it makes to The Avengers; like Iron Man 3, the implications of Loki’s war crimes on Earth and the effects that they had on our heroes are explored here, from Loki’s imprisonment to Selvig’s eccentricity to various other small examples. It just helps the film to feel a part of the greater universe that Marvel has compiled, and it’s done without making it seem like TDW relies on the events of The Avengers to make sense. 

Since I’m the music guy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brian Tyler’s score for the film. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I first learned that Patrick Doyle wouldn’t be returning to score the sequel, since I generally appreciated his work on the first film, but that disappointment has disappeared since listening to Tyler’s score in full. The energy that he also brought to Iron Man 3 is just as present here without feeling like a rehash, and, while his music is almost entirely his own creation, he doesn’t completely abandon the main theme from Doyle’s score, an act that I appreciate for continuity’s sake. The score is definitely worth picking up and listening to if you’re interested in those sorts of things!

This film leaves us with some interesting questions that I won’t spoil here, but just know that the future of Thor and friends should hopefully be a great ride. On the whole, Thor: The Dark World takes what was good about the first film and improves on it, and it also flips around much of what made the first film, shall we say, less than stellar, to make a film that feels fun, adventurous, and even weighted at times, all in the best of ways.

-Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content


Despicable Me 2 (2013)

despicable-me-2

With the surprising heart and incredibly potent humor found in the first film (my review), Despicable Me 2 was one of my most anticipated animated films of the year. Thankfully, it largely entertains and rises up to the bar set by its predecessor.

Despicable Me 2 picks up after the events of the first film with Gru (Steve Carell), having given up on his life of crime, now in full-time father mode to Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). However, things might change when he is approached by Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) of the Anti-Villain League, who need Gru to help them stop another villain who has stolen an entire secret research facility with a giant flying magnet. Deciding to help, Gru must discover who this mysterious villain is while struggling with his new role as protective father to three girls, and he might even find love along the way!

This film leaves me with a few disappointments. I am a bit saddened by the diminished role of the three girls here, especially by the lack of lines from Edith. As the middle child, she’s not the focus of the three; Gru is wary of Margo growing older and becoming interested in boys, which plays a significant part in the film, and Agnes as the youngest wants to have a mother, leaving Edith to only occasionally comment. If that seems like a lot, throw the girls trying to get Gru in the dating game and a plot involving Gru attempting to catch a villain into the mix as well, making this a short film with three significant plot points. I think the movie could have stood to be longer in order to fit all of these in without it feeling rushed (as it sometimes did); all of these are important to Gru’s character growth in the film, but it was sometimes too much. The final confrontation with the villain felt a little rushed as well, with the conflict resolving just a bit too quickly (and easily) for my liking.

All of these issues are forgiven, though, because, in spite of all of that, I had quite a bit of fun while watching. The humor present in the first film is back with a vengeance this time around, with the antics of the Minions being even funnier without it being too much of a good thing like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow has been in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Kristen Wiig is a welcome new presence as Lucy, with her slightly off-kilter character bringing a lot of fun to the screen and allowing Carell as Gru the opportunity to have a new character to play jokes off of. The relationship between these two characters builds well, with the chemistry working out quite nicely. Elsie Fisher is back as Agnes, and, though you can hear in her slightly older voice that it has been a few years since the first film, she’s as adorable as always.

Despite my disappointments and thoughts on the film being a bit cramped, this film is just too much fun to hold its problems against it too harshly. My screening of the movie was packed with children, and, although I was a bit wary at first, it made my watching experience even better…there are few things better than hearing lots of kids having so much (appropriate) fun at the movies. The jokes are still hilarious, the characters are still lovable, the heart is still present, and the music by Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira is just as lively, making Despicable Me 2 a worthy sequel.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for rude humor and mild action


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) – Hans Zimmer

This was one of the few soundtracks that I didn’t buy on my own, waiting instead to receive it as a gift. Why? Because, after Zimmer’s score to At World’s End, I didn’t think that it would be good. Christmas rolled around, I got it, and I listened to it…and guess what? I was pleasantly surprised.

The best part of this album is the addition of Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Their flamenco guitars add a wonderful Spanish influence to the whole album, giving a new spin on some classic themes. “Angelica” is a blend of the duo with some Zimmer orchestration; it’s infectious and fun and manages to be one of the more original themes heard in Pirates of the Caribbean since Dead Man’s Chest. “The Pirate That Should Not Be” features the duo alone, and it’s fantastic, with both conventional and non-conventional guitar techniques adding uniquely to the mix.

Even Zimmer brings some new stuff to the table. “Blackbeard” contains some familiar themes but is on the whole pretty original, with lots of dark, brooding stuff and an almost march-like ending reminiscent of war, and even “Palm Tree Escape” is worthy of being called one of the better tracks of the franchise.

Unfortunately, not everything on this album is new and original. “Mermaids”, which I first thought was really cool – also, it features choral work done especially for the film by composer Eric Whitacre – before realizing that I had heard it before…in the FIRST Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Compare “Mermaids” to this brief moment in Klaus Badelt’s “Fog Bound”. Yes, it’s brief, and, it may even be intentional, but still. Aw, heck, I’ll go ahead and say it’s intentional. Zimmer is smart.

So, yes, there are some moments when you’ll be thinking “this is just the same ol’, same ol’ Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack!”, but it’s worth it solely for the Rodrigo y Gabriela features and to hear some of the classic themes done on flamenco guitar. Also, seven of the eighteen tracks are remixes, and guess what? Those were a pleasant surprise too…I enjoy most of them. Overall, this is a fairly good film score with lots to like and less to hate. A good purchase.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow”  1:42
2. “Angelica” (Feat. Rodrigo y Gabriela)  4:17
3. “Mutiny”  2:48
4. “The Pirate That Should Not Be” (by Rodrigo y Gabriela)  3:55
5. “Mermaids”  8:05
6. “South of Heaven’s Chanting Mermaids” (feat. Rodrigo y Gabriela)  5:48
7. “Palm Tree Escape” (by Rodrigo y Gabriela)  3:06
8. “Blackbeard”  5:05
9. “Angry and Dead Again” (by Rodrigo y Gabriela)  5:33
10. “On Stranger Tides”  2:44
11. “End Credits”  1:59
12. “Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow” (Remixed by DJ Earworm)  2:45
13. “Angelica (Grant Us Peace Remix)” (Remixed by Ki: Theory)  3:08
14. “The Pirate That Should Not Be” (Remixed by Photek)  6:26
15. “Blackbeard” (Remixed by Super Mash Bros & Thieves)  5:26
16. “South of Heaven’s Chanting Mermaids” (Remixed by Paper Diamond)  3:32
17. “Palm Tree Escape” (Remixed by Adam Freeland)  5:28
18. “Angry and Dead Again” (Remixed by Static Revenger)  5:49

Total Length: app. 78 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) – Hans Zimmer

I’ll be straightforward: on the whole, I’m not a huge fan of this score. Dead Man’s Chest set a VERY high standard as far as Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean scores go, and At World’s End simply falls short of the mark.

The opening track, “Hoist the Colours”, acts as a sort of anthem for the film, but, aside from that, its only purpose is to exist so that it can be used at later points in the score, such as in “What Shall We Die For”. Most of the tracks are just re-hashes of stuff we already heard in Dead Man’s Chest, so the overall feel of the score is pretty bland. And “Multiple Jacks” is just weird.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some good to be found, though. “Up is Down” is one of my favorite tracks from all four Pirates of the Caribbean films (the awesome French horn rips help with that). Additionally, “Parlay” is super cool because it’s a direct reference to a track by renowned composer Ennio Morricone from the score to Once Upon a Time in the West; compare “Parlay” to “Man with a Harmonica” from the Morricone score. Cool, eh? Lastly, the track “I Don’t Think Now is the Best Time”, despite being mostly comprised of re-used material from the second film’s score, is exciting and acts as an almost suite-like track that combines just about every single theme from the trilogy so far.

Other than that, there’s not much to look forward to listening to. Sure, it’s enjoyable, but that doesn’t matter for much to me if it’s not new and different. Like I said, Zimmer set the bar for himself when he composed such an incredible score for Dead Man’s Chest. If you’re looking for just one Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack to buy, get the second one.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Hoist the Colours”          (1:31)
  2. “Singapore”          (3:41)
  3. “At Wit’s End”          (8:06)
  4. “Multiple Jacks”          (3:52)
  5. “Up is Down”          (2:42)
  6. “I See Dead People in Boats”          (7:09)
  7. “The Brethren Court”          (2:21)
  8. “Parlay”          (2:10)
  9. “Calypso”          (3:03)
  10. “What Shall We Die For”          (2:03)
  11. “I Don’t Think Now is the Best Time”           (10:46)
  12. “One Day”          (4:02)
  13. “Drink Up Me Hearties”          (4:32)

Total Length: app. 56 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) – Hans Zimmer

Zimmer Week continues!

Hans Zimmer takes the reins from Klaus Badelt in composing the score for the second film of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Dead Man’s Chest.

Every single track on this album is outstanding…something I don’t usually say about a Hans Zimmer score, but it’s well-deserved in this instance. The opening track, “Jack Sparrow”, is fitting for the Johnny Depp character, with a drunken cello solo taking up the first minute and a half before it shakes off its stupor and takes off into a swashbuckling, adventurous pirate theme – something that Mr. Zimmer certainly seems to have a knack for.

Perhaps the best thing that this album has to offer is the use of the organ. While it may seem a bit strange to use an instrument like an organ so liberally in a film score, Zimmer puts it to good use. In “The Kraken”, we hear a brooding bass line that is almost reminiscent of John Williams’ theme to Jaws; it takes its own slow pace before building into a full orchestra playing just about as loud as it can, which then dwindles back down to a simple, haunting organ line. The rest of the track simulates the kraken’s hunting of its victims and their impending doom. It’s a terrific backdrop for such a terrifying creature.

The organ also features pretty heavily in “Davy Jones”. The opening of this track is very ethereal and music-box like, showing the more tender side of the character that the track is named for. However, this doesn’t last long before the organ takes over and turns the innocent theme into the inner turmoil that Jones feels inside. It ends the way it starts, but the theme is now slower…almost heartbreaking.

Other standout tracks on this album include “Dinner is Served”, which is aggressive and tribal before transitioning into a waltz that sounds more delightful than the part of the film it is featured in. The joke is, I think, that the swinging cages are meant to represent trapeze artists, an image that the music fits fairly well. “Two Hornpipes (Tortuga)” is raucous and fun, while “Wheel of Fortune” could be used as the definition for “adventure”.

I could go on naming tracks that I love, but let’s face it: I’ve already mentioned more than half of them. If you couldn’t tell, Dead Man’s Chest is my absolute favorite Hans Zimmer score, so go and give it a listen. Every single track on this album is fantastic…minus the DJ Tiësto remix of “He’s a Pirate” from the first film, but it doesn’t count.. Though I’m giving it the same rating, know this: this film’s score is better than Inception‘s. Enjoy!

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

  1. “Jack Sparrow” (6:06)
  2. “The Kraken” (6:55)
  3. “Davy Jones” (3:15)
  4. “I’ve Got My Eye on You” (2:25)
  5. “Dinner is Served” (1:30)
  6. “Tia Dalma” (3:57)
  7. “Two Hornpipes (Tortuga)” (1:14)
  8. “A Family Affair” (3:34)
  9. “Wheel of Fortune” (6:45)
  10. “You Look Good Jack” (5:34)
  11. “Hello Beastie” (10:15)
  12. He’s a Pirate (DJ Tiësto Remix) (7:03)

Total Length: app. 52 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad