Movie review

  • 2006-07-19
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Dark

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
As the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" was so surprisingly delightful, the bar for the sequel was set quite high.  Reuniting most of the original cast, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" sees Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) doggedly pursuing Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to secure the release of his imprisoned fiancee Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) while barnacled boogeyman Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) closes in on Sparrow to claim an unearthly debt. There are wonderful computer-generated effects, as the film glances back to the Technicolor Sinbad films of the 1950s in which the swashbuckling sailor battled giant island creatures. Ultimately, however, this is a convoluted film.  Its numerous thin story threads weave together a plot as dense as a fishnet.  Depp's portrayal of swaggering rapscallion Jack Sparrow is, as in the first installment, charming but is somehow lost in the numbing succession of sequences with savages, soothsayers, spectral sailors and sea monsters.  I was left feeling lost at sea hoping for a lifeboat.  Assisted by an armada of computer animators, Nighy's slithery squid-faced sea captain Davy Jones steals the show.  Indeed, many of the creatures on display here are marvelous. At least Disney will be able to fill their treasure chests by licensing Halloween costumes. 
1/2( Sherwin Das )

While the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" had a certain likeable charm to it, thanks mostly to Johnny Depp's amusingly quirky turn as Captain Jack Sparrow, "Dead Man's Chest" is cynical, overblown and unspeakably tedious. It's cynical because the entire exercise is a carefully contrived prelude to the 2007 sequel (which was shot back to back with "Dead Man's Chest"). It's overblown because the entire film is a relentless, mind-numbing barrage of spectacular special effects and set pieces. And it's unspeakably tedious because it is more than a sane mind can endure for 150 minutes. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom reprise their roles as the fresh-faced lovers, while Bill Nighy plays Davy Jones, a ghoulish creature to whom Sparrow owes his soul. Depp is the one good thing in the film, but his character is effectively capsized amid so many special effects. The story is also unnecessarily convoluted. I had a hard job keeping up with all the keys and compasses and maps and chests that everyone was madly running around after. Quite simply, "Dead Man's Chest" made me feel a little queasy afterward. It is a disturbingly vapid spectacle posturing as family fun. The only treasure here is for Disney, which is spectacularly raking it in.  
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )

The Dark
"The Dark" is a suspense film which injects a measured dose of supernatural horror to make a spooky celluloid stew. Adele (Maria Bello) and James (Sean Bean) play a divorced couple who lose their daughter Sara (Sophie Stuckey) at sea during a visit to James' home on the Welsh coast. Apparitions of another young girl, Ebrill (Abigail Stone), soon haunt Adele and lead her through the dark, dusty chambers of the old house where unspeakable secrets and ancient Welsh legends lie buried. Shunning gratuitous gore in favor of psychological suspense, director James Fawcett has made a compelling enough film despite the occasional trashy scene which is, I suspect, more homage to classic horror films than anything else. Hint: look for the wicked girl with her eyes rolled back inside her head. The film moves along at a healthy pace and is restrained compared to many others films in this genre. The actors deliver fine performances, and the remarkably beautiful cinematography of the Welsh coast and countryside contrasts starkly with that of the eerie, suffocating rooms inside the house. It's not Hitchcock, but it's certainly not your common horror flick. 
(  Sherwin Das  )

Although "The Dark" is a fairly standard horror film, there is something genuinely creepy and unnerving about it. The story of a dead child coming back to haunt the living has been a recurrent theme in a lot of recent Japanese films, but "The Dark" makes excellent use of the stunning Welsh coastline and interesting use of Celtic mythology to bring something different to the formula. Adele (Maria Bello) is a messed up mother who can barely take care of her moody teenage daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey). So they go to stay with Sarah's father James (Sean Bean) in his old house on the Welsh coast. When Sarah apparently drowns in an accident, a young girl appears who bears a striking resemblance to her. "The Dark" works so well thanks to some strong performances, but mostly because the breathtaking coastal scenery evokes such strong emotions. The eerie use of sheep also adds to the overall sense of fear. The film cleverly draws you into a pagan world of sacrifice and ritual, while awkwardly juxtaposing it with the rational, modern world that supplanted it. It's certainly a bit trite at times but the ending is definitely dark. 
( Tim Ochser )

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