Friday, January 16, 2015

Tagged! The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies



I got tagged with this over at Hamlette’sSoliloquy, and since I’ve started at least two Hobbit posts and never finished them, I’ll just start over with these five questions.

R U L E S

1. You Must Be Tagged to take the Q&A quiz
2. You must tag (notify) at least three other bloggers (or whatever they are on) for this Q&A
3. You must answer the following questions to the best of your ability
4. You must have seen The Battle of the Five Armies to be tagged/take the quiz

WARNING!  There's going to be spoilage!!!

Q U E S T I O N S
1. Tell your story of how you came to see the movie(s) or got into Tolkien in the first place.

Read Lord of the Rings back in college after a friend gave it to me.  Loved it.  Anxiously awaited the first movie, fell in love with everything about it and saw it umpteen times in the theater and then anxiously waited for every movie thereafter.  Read Hobbit sometime after Lord of the Rings but did not love it.  For years, all I could remember was the riddle scene.
 
2. Who are your three favorite characters in The Hobbit Trilogy?


1. Bilbo.  I NEVER thought I’d pick Bilbo as a favorite, but The Battle of the Five Armies changed that.  Bilbo is amazing.  Bilbo is caring and fierce and determined and courageous and loyal and smart.  Bilbo stands up to everyone around him, from Gollum, to Smaug (I mean who but Bilbo would risk getting incinerated to step out and tell a dragon that he cannot go to Laketown!), to Thorin, to Gandalf.  He grows so much through these movies.  Without him, the Company of Thorin certainly would not have made it to (or into) the mountain.  It’s his quick thinking and smarts that get them out of more bad situations, and he does this while being criticized and told he does not belong and in constant peril of his own life.  What Martin Freeman does with this character is so amazing.  Every time I watch the movies I see new stuff to love.  There is so much depth to Bilbo, and so much I admire.



2. Thorin.  I NEVER thought I’d pick Thorin as a favorite either, but... not to sound like a broken record but The Battle of the Five Armies changed that.  I fell in love with Thorin in this movie.  Rather ironic because he’s now suffering from dragon sickness and is almost at his worst behavior yet (he goes back on his word! Thorin! How could you?), but I think that’s all part of what worked so well.  Hearing Thorin echo Smaug word for word... shivers.  Annnnnd, he defeats it.  He is not his grandfather (just like Aragorn is Isildur’s heir, not Isildur himself) and he pulls himself out of the madness.  Love.  And then he turns just plain awesome.  Going to help Dain fight the orcs, going to fight Azog... My b-i-l objected so strongly to Kili/Fili’s deaths in the movie compared to the book, but I had the opposite reaction.  I needed things to happen this way.  I needed Thorin to continue to redeem himself.  Instead of Kili and Fili dying to defend him (which, honestly, he hadn’t really earned), he dies trying to save them.  When Fili is killed, and Kili storms up to kill orcs, it is Thorin who rushes over to try to save his nephew.  Dude, I am soooooooooooo onboard with Team Thorin when he does that.  This is what I needed to really root for him.  Fili and Kili don’t need to prove their loyalty or nobility, they’ve already done that multiple times throughout.  But Thorin does.  And this movie gave me exactly what I needed to approve of Thorin.  I LOVE his fight with Azog, and I love how he dies. It is one of the best death scenes, and I love how he smiles at Bilbo.  Oh, that death scene is just perfection.

And now, going back and re-watching the first two Hobbit movies, I can see Thorin in a different light.  Now instead of an arrogant jerk, I see a very bitter man who’s been dealt a bad hand and been betrayed left and right.  Watching how he changes towards Bilbo is a highlight.  When Bilbo is trying to convince them to get in the barrels and is hearing nothing but complaints, he looks at Thorin for help, and Thorin backs him immediately.  Thorin would not have done this in the first movie, but he is finally learning how to trust someone again who is not a dwarf.  Each time I watch the first two movies again, I notice new things in the character arcs, and it just fills me with joy.  But I had to get to that third movie for it all to make sense.  Even in the midst of dragon sickness, it is Bilbo with his acorn that can almost break the spell, and at least earn a rare smile from Thorin.  No one else has that affect on him.


Third favorite?  Um... LegolasTaurielKiliThranduilBardFiliDwalinAzogBeornElrond.  In other words, I cannot pick a third, because after the first two clear favorites, I really love all of these characters about the same, and I honestly can’t put one about another. This is one of the only movies I've ever encountered where I love so many characters equally that I cannot rank them.
 
3. Did you cry during The Battle of the Five Armies, and if so, which scene(s) and what type (sniffling, sobbing, choke-crying)?

Hah.  Of course I did.  Because there are EAGLES.  And whenever the eagles appear, in every single blooming Middle Earth movie, I sob.  Fellowship, Return of the King, An Unexpected Journey, Battle of Five Armies... all have eagles, all make me sob when they appear.  This is not sad sobbing, of course, it is... I have no blooming idea what it is, actually.  The eagles are so beautiful, so awesome, so... I-have-no-words-only-feelings.  They continually provoke an overwhelming, emotional response in me, and all I can do is cry whenever I see them because I have no other way of expressing how much seeing them affects me.  I will even get teary when I hit their music while listening to the score to Battle.


The first time I saw Battle, I sobbed (a good 30 seconds at least) when the eagles showed up, and my eyes welled up when the elves leaping over the dwarves to fight the orcs, and my eyes welled up when Bilbo reacted to Thorin’s death, and that was it.  The second viewing, I got more emotional, and tears spilled out over a few additional moments.  On my fourth viewing, I was just... well, I got teary over the previous scenes and then some.  I got teary when Bard told his son to look at him, in the beginning.  The elves leaping over the dwarves again.  When the dwarves burst out of Erebor led by Thorin and charge the enemy -- that is a moment!, when Thorin and Kili react to Fili’s death, those darned eagles, when Bilbo reacts to Thorin’s death, when Tauriel reacts to Kili’s death, when Thranduil talks to her, when Bilbo tries to say he was Thorin’s friend to Balin and can’t...  Good thing I am never without Kleenex. 

4. Were the deaths compelling to you, and if so, whose?

Yes.  All of them.  Although I admit, Smaug’s death made me laugh on the first viewing.  It is no secret that I adore dragons, just not talking ones.  (I fully blame Dragonheart for this, which soured me forever on talking dragons.)  I’ve gotten used to Smaug in Desolation (as one does with repeat viewings), and fortunately, he doesn’t talk much in this one, but I wanted some full-on dragon roar when he was wounded and flailing about and... I was disappointed.  I have since gotten used to that too, so now I’m fine with it.

Fili, Kili, and Thorin were all compelling to me, particularly Thorin (see above for reasons).  I’m also very saddened by the death of Thranduil’s elk.  And Thranduil walking among the slain elves is very compelling as well.


5. Overall, were you satisfied with the movie itself?

Dear me, yes.  YES!  I loved this movie!  It was my favorite movie of 2014, in a year filled with all kinds of new movies I really loved.  But this movie trumped them all.  It gave me all kinds of characters I wanted to be.  It gave me satisfaction at every turn for everything it set up in the previous movies.  And it has one of the best endings of any movie, ever, where it leads straight into Fellowship and makes me want to start all over again.  Where I had not been particularly fond of An Unexpected Journey when it came out, and I had really liked the second but not loved it, I have now re-watched the two first ones, and NOW everything makes sense, now it all flows together, and I can now honestly say I love all three movies.  (Minus the trolls and the goblin king and the Master of Laketown’s eating... which makes Denethor’s eating scene look positively neat and fussy – but those are tiny complaints.)  There was nothing I’d change about the third movie, except to ask for more!  Also, the extended editions of the first two films are soooooo much better than the theatrical.  What they put into An Unexpected Journey added so much to that movie.  The Desolation additions were not so key to the plot for me (with a couple exceptions, like Bilbo giving his word (why was that cut??), but they were still fun.  More Beorn is never a bad thing.  I can’t wait to see what else we will get in the extended version of Battle.

The third film just really satisfied me so strongly, gave closure in the best way I could have asked for, that I just want to move into the movie and live there for awhile.  The third movie also has the best score, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop since I got it.



6. Describe the movie in one word.

Satisfying.

I left the theater happy and charged up and ready to go on my own adventure.  It gave me all the escape I crave from my entertainment, with a whole mess of characters I came out loving.  It doesn't get much better than that.  The Battle of the Five Armies is now my second favorite Middle Earth movie behind The Fellowship of the Ring.


Now to tag 3 other bloggers.  This is kind of rough, as I don't actually know many people who have seen it!  So, if you want to join in, I tag Charity, and Carissa.  If anyone else wants to be tagged, either comment here saying so, and I'll add your name, or you can consider yourself tagged and just do the meme :-)

Friday, January 09, 2015

January goodbyes

Yesterday, I found about the passing of two actors who played formative characters from my youth.

Terry Becker, who played Chief Sharkey on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  And Rod Taylor.

Voyage was my favorite show growing up, and Sharkey was a big part of that.  He also got most of the quotable dialogue.  "Don't just stand there with your teeth in your mouth, jump!"  "You missed a spot over there."  The show would not have been the same without him.  RIP, Terry Becker.


 (his lucky shirt!)


The Time Machine has been part of my life as long as I can remember.  It was one of my parents' three favorite movies, and we watched it whenever we could.  I've seen it in the theater more than I've seen quite a few newer movies, because, fortunately, revival theaters used to play it a lot.  Usually as a double feature with Forbidden Planet, or This Island Earth, or various other movies.  Rod Taylor played George, the time traveler, and he was one of my first movie heroes and role models.  I wanted to be like George.  Build my own time machine, go off adventuring into the future, fight Morlocks, protect the Eloi.  Choose three books.



I loved Rod Taylor in other movies as well, like The Liquidator, 36 Hours, The Glass Bottom Boat, The Birds.  Even the short-lived television series Masquerade, which my family watched just for him.  But The Time Machine was the first and most loved.  RIP Mr. Taylor.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes!




Hamlette over at The Edge of the Precipice is having a Sherlock Holmes birthday bash today, with the following questions.  My answers will be more movie related, because I have not read all of the stories. 


The Good Old Index of Questions

1.  When and how did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes?


I first encountered Sherlock Holmes in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies, which my dad still loves to this day.  We watched them a lot when I was young.  My dad gave me the Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes book back then as well, but I don't believe I read very far.  The only story I remember from the books is "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," which I loved.

2.  Please share a fact or two about yourself related to Holmes.  (You've read the whole canon, you've been to Baker Street, you're an official BSI member, etc.)

I am not actually a fan of Sherlock Holmes, but every close friend I've had has loved him!  It's very interesting.  But a couple of the Basil Rathbone movies scared and scarred me so much that I still get creepy vibes whenever Sherlock Holmes is mentioned. (Pearl of Death and The Scarlet Claw, I'm looking at you two!)

3.  What are three of your favorite Holmes adventures?  

Mine would not be the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but various movies:  The Seven-Percent Solution (1976), Without a Clue (1988), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011).  I am also quite partial to the 1959 Peter Cushing version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

4.  What draws you to the Sherlock Holmes stories? 


Not much, although I greatly admire Sherlock himself and his intellect.  Mystery stories in general do not appeal to me. 

5.  If you were going to give Sherlock Holmes a birthday present, what would it be?

A new pipe and some Old Toby.

6.  If you could climb into a Holmes story and replace any one character for a day, who would you like to be?

Holmes himself, of course!  I would absolutely love to be able to see the world the way he does.

7.  Please share some of your favorite Holmes-related quotes!


I'm fond of the classic ones...

"You see, but you do not observe."
"When you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
"The game is afoot!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISTP: How I write

Charity over at funkymbtifiction has been exploring the writing processes each the different personality types uses.  This blog was originally a writing blog, though it's mostly switched to movies. Since I've been kind of burnt out on movie review blogging lately (hence the large gaps between post, sorry about that), I thought I might start sharing more about the writing side of my life here.  This seemed a good place to start.

My sister and I recently became fascinated with the personality types defined by the Meyers Briggs tests, particularly when we found they helped explain why we did things a certain way, and why some of our family members with occasionally inexplicable behavior did what they did.  Learning about the cognitive functions associated with each helped make sense of things and helped us learn to change how we communicate sometimes.  

I am an ISTP.  It took me a little bit to figure this out, (even though it was really obvious in retrospect), and it was the funkymbtifiction site, and her comparisons of how the personality types work that helped clarify things.  She also does an incredible job typing fictional characters and providing reasons for choosing that type.  Some famous fictional ISTP characters are Indiana Jones, James Bond, Aragorn...  (Indy was my nickname for years, and I still get called that by my sister sometimes.) 

But anyway, on to writing.  How do I, as an ISTP, write?


First:  reasons I write.  I have always written stories to escape, to do in fiction all the exciting things I wasn’t allowed to do in real life.  In high school, I wanted to be a submarine captain more than anything.  Even applied to Annapolis.  Only to find out women weren’t allowed to be on submarines at that time.  There went my sub captain career dreams.  So, I wrote stories about submarines instead.  My favorite author, and the most influential writer on my own writing, is Alistair MacLean.  His characters had the skills I wanted and they got to do everything I wish I could do in real life.  If he could write exciting thrilling stories about spies and make a living, then so could I.  If I couldn't becomes James Bond in real life, then I could write stories about spies.  I’ve been writing stories to entertain since the fifth grade.  I’ve been daydreaming forever.

Writing habits:  I don’t know if it’s laziness or if I’d just usually rather be outside hiking or doing something, but I have had to build discipline habits for writing regularly.  I’ve been pretty successful at this over the years.  Deadlines are my best friend.  I am most productive right before a story is due, and I haven’t yet missed a deadline.  I also do really well at Nanowrimo because it’s such a rush.  I’ve successfully completed seven nanos, though I haven’t done it for a few years because my needs are different now than they used to be.  Nano itself, I found, is not hard to complete, but I’m at a point in my writing career where my first draft needs to be on track and usable from the get-go.  If I don’t have a project that I understand well enough to keep on track for the full 50,000 words in one month, then I would end up wasting my time.  Time is way too precious to throw away on reaching the necessary word count just because.

I am both plotter and pantser.  I have to know certain things before I can begin a story (characters, character needs, setting, the ending, at least a couple carrot scenes) and I will plot things out in rough terms.  Too much plotting in advance and then I’ve already lived the story and have no great need to write it.  At the same time, as I get ready to write each day, I tend to think through/plot out the scene I’m writing that day.  A scene isn’t a scene unless something changes by the end of it, so this is just my own personal double-check to make sure I know what the scene is supposed to accomplish, and what the twist is in that scene before I begin, otherwise, I’m not ready to write that scene yet and I need to do some more thinking.  But, there’s still much room for surprises, and I have yet to write a book where the characters didn’t surprise me with unexpected actions or reactions.  The plot will often surprise me, but usually the development is something I’ve subconsciously set up and just haven’t realized until I get there.  I almost always have to know how the book ends, and that ending rarely changes on me through the course of writing the book.  That ending is usually the reason I'm writing the book in the first place, to get to that special point.

I’m a very visual writer.  The story I want to tell unspools like a movie in my head, complete with camera angles, cuts, etc.  I’ve read stories back that I wrote years ago, and I still see the scenes with the original “camera” angles.  My writing is usually described by others as visual, as well.  At the same time, I usually have to be able to get inside the head of the character’s point of view I’m writing.  I have to feel what they’re feeling in order to tell the story the way I want to be able to tell it.  Capturing the emotions is extremely important to me.  I was quite verbose in my youth, but my writing these days is concise and as tight as I can make it.  I have learned to say more with less words.

I have only written fanfic for two television shows, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Combat!.  I write fanfic to give myself more episodes of my favorite show.  Brand new adventures.  I have ZERO desire to explore parts of existing episodes, fill in holes, or answer questions episodes left unanswered.  I really don’t care to explore what a character might have been thinking in Z episode when he made that horribly wrong decision.  I don’t like reading those type of fanfics either because they mess with my concept of the original episode.  Once an ep (or movie) is shown, that’s it.  That’s how it goes.  Why would you want to change or add to it or fill in gaps?  I don’t understand this need.

I do not deal well with symbolism and am a literal reader and writer.  Do not make me guess what happens at the end of a story or I will get pissed off.  I was very good in English and literature class, except when I was asked to analyze the meaning of something.  Oh man, torture.  1) I don’t care!  2) I have a very hard time thinking about a story in those terms.  I can give you plot analyses, character analyses (looking at character motivation is much easier than symbolism/theme), but story as metaphor or things like that... I’m outta there.

I do not like to write or read or watch mysteries, either, mostly because they encourage a reader to guess and figure out the mystery with the protagonist, and I don’t want to guess or figure out anything.  Suspense is fine, mystery is not.  I want action and excitement, not whodunnits.  My goal as a writer is to provide escape to the reader, to take them on a wild adventure with people they care about, and to keep them up until two in the morning to find out what happens. 

These days, I mostly write fantasy (short stories, novellas, and novels), although due to commitments to various anthology series, I’ve written a surprising amount of horror short stories.  I’m not actually a fan of horror, so I’m not quite sure how that happened!  My fantasy stories tend to be dark, suspenseful, heroic, and violent.  I have no problems hurting or killing off even my most beloved characters.  I suffer no pangs of guilt about making my characters’ lives as miserable as the plot requires.  Rather the opposite, I’m afraid.  No character is safe.  However, mayhem and destruction must serve the story the same way romance does, or anything other part of the plot.  I do have quite a few themes that matter personally to me, and I tend to revisit those in my stories.

I also have no problem with criticism, and I need my beta readers really to tear my stories apart.  I do not take critiques of my stories personally.  I don’t feel like my baby is being attacked.  I won't cry myself to sleep.  Everything can be improved, but I can’t fix my story if no one points out that glaring logic gap in chapter 12.  If that means I have to rewrite all subsequent chapters, I am soooooo fine with that!  If the ending doesn’t work, tell me!  I can just rethink and make it better.  Nothing is more annoying than a beta reader unwilling to be honest and give it to me straight because they’re afraid of hurting my feelings.  Dude, my feelings can’t be hurt that way.  They can be hurt in plenty of other ways, but not when someone’s trying to give me info to make something better.  (I finally have the best beta reader ever, so this isn’t a problem anymore, but it used to be before I met her!)


(very similar to my first typewriter)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We have a winner!

Of the least favorite movie category, that is.  Or a loser, depending on how you look at it.  I just got back from seeing Interstellar, and boy, those are three hours I am never ever getting back.  This if officially my least favorite movie of the year, probably the last decade, and it might end up as my least favorite movie of all time.

Spoilers follow... you have been warned.

Let's mention the good stuff -- alien planets!  They are very cool and those waterworld/ice landscapes are amazing and awesome.  They are, in fact, what got me to see the movie in the first place.  Too bad there's not much more to them than what they show in the trailer.  I could have saved myself those three hours.  The only other good thing was Matt Damon's short section. When he was there, there was movement, there was action, there was something halfway entertaining!

And that's it.  The rest sucked.  I'm a big fan of long movies.  Bring on Lawrence of Arabia, and The Lord of the Rings marathons, and all those other epics I love.  This one was interminable.  Ponderous, weighty... it's one of those films that likes to linger over things it considers important, cuz you know, we in the audience might be stupid and not pick up on Important Things.  It dragged, it lingered, it wallowed in its self-importantness, it would not end. 

I don't even mind predictable plots.  Predictable can be nice and comforting, and when done right, very satisfying.  But those movies tend to know they're predictable, and have a much faster pace, and so it isn't an issue.  This one has the pace of an inch worm and seems to think it's not predictable, and so things like Murph's poltergeist (really? Is there anybody in the audience who did not know this would be her father sending cryptic messages back to her? really? (and also, why can no EVER EVER EVER send back a non-cryptic message?)) gets emphasized unnaturally.  Anne Hathaway's character picking which planet to go to based on love rather than on facts, which you just know is going to end up being the right decision, cuz this movie has a Message.  The minute they mention there's a black hole by a couple of the planets, you just know we're going into it, and the black hole segments were even lamer than I could have imagined.

Cuz really, did no one see The Black Hole back in the late 70's?  I remember seeing that sucker in the theater, and my whole family came out going whaaaaat? when it ended.  Time has not improved black hole movies.  Seriously, they rank right up there with the "it was all a dream" movies on the scale of stupidity.  The Black Hole was a silly cheese fest with robots and a John Barry theme I can still sing today after never seeing the movie again after that theater viewing.  Interstellar was a pompous cheese fest with robots and the worst (and loudest) Hans Zimmer score I've ever suffered through.  Yes, I know.  I am not a Hans Zimmer fan.  Quite the opposite.  His name has actually kept me from going to see certain movies in the theater in the past.  And this film has only reinforced those opinions... when the king of repetition gives me a score like this, it's just plain painful.

And that's the problem.  For me, this movie was just plain painful to sit through.  I didn't like the characters, except for Matt Damon's character, and I'm guessing he was supposed to be insane despite seeming rational?  Cuz dude, he could have just said, "Yay!  You rescued me!  Let's get outta here!  My robot went glitchy and recorded bad info and this place really sucks!  Can we leave now?"  And we all would have happily left his planet and that would have been that.  But no.  He'd flipped his wig at some point.  Which, like I said, still provided the only interesting part of the movie.

But the rest of it... it isn't a happy movie, it isn't a sad one.  It isn't scary, it isn't humorous.  It isn't tense.  It isn't exciting.  It really isn't anything at all but three hours of unbelievable boredom.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to come away with.  I was hoping for a fun, exciting adventure in space.  I sure didn't get it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Tolkien party and giveaway!

If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings, head on over to The Edge of the Precipice, where Hamlette is having a really nice giveaway to celebrate Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!  Check it out.


And now for some questions and answers...

1.  Who introduced you to Tolkien's stories?  A friend.

2.  How old were you when you first ventured into Middle Earth?  I was in college.

3.  Did you read the books first, or see movie versions first?  Read the books first and wouldn't have it any other way in this case.

4.  A dragon or a balrog -- which would you rather fight?  I rather prefer a dragon!  I don’t think anyone but a wizard can fight a balrog!



5.  Who are three of your favorite characters?  (Feel free to elaborate on why.)  Aragorn – who is the character I most relate to and the one I most want to be.  Frodo – who is just amazingly determined and gets the ring all the way to Mt. Doom.  I admire that immensely.  And Boromir, because he is noble and honorable and looks after Merry and Pippin and takes out all those orcs. Sure, he gets tempted by the ring, but that just makes his redemption cooler.

6.  Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character?  No, but the family was just talking about how awesome it would be to dress up as the fellowship for Halloween, since we all like different characters.

7.  If someone asks you to go on adventure, how do you respond?  When do we leave?

8.  Have you read any of the "history of Middle Earth" books?  Er, I've read the Silmarillion, is that what you're referring to?

9.  Would you rather drink a bowl of Ent Draught or a glass of Old Winyards?  Ent Draught.

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies. These are all from Fellowship, as that is my favorite, and the only one I watch when any regularity.  I don't think I actually know any lines by heart from any of the other movies.

"I would have gone with you to the end, into the very fires of Mordor." - Aragorn
"They have a cave troll." - Boromir
"What is this new devilry?" - Boromir
"What was that?" - Merry
"It comes in pints?" - Pippin
"Watch your feet." - Aragorn
"Men are weak." - Elrond
"Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?" - Boromir
"One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, and ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly."  Boromir
"What are you looking at?" - Haldir. Okay, he doesn't actually say this, but one day, we had the movie muted and my family each had a character and were providing the lines (this is a highly amusing thing to do on those movies you've seen a million times and think you know by heart... highly recommended for the amusement factor), and my sister said this when Haldir's looking at Gimli in the woods of Lothlorien, and... it stuck.  It is impossible to watch the movie without hearing that line.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Cutthroat Island (1995)

This is my entry for Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon.  This oft-maligned movie needs a little love.  I saw this movie in the theater when it came out and quite enjoyed it.  Is it a great movie?  No.  Is it good?  That probably depends on what you want out of a pirate movie.  Treasure, sea battles, betrayal and mutiny, a little romance, walking the plank, the British navy, tropical islands, a monkey, swordfighting... Those are things I look for, and this movie has them all.  Is it entertaining?  For me, absolutely.

This is a straight-forward treasure hunt movie.  A pirate hid a vast fortune on an island (Cutthroat Island) and gave each of his three sons one part of the map that identified where the treasure was.  Only with all three pieces can you find the treasure.  The sons, Douglas (Dawg), Harry, and Mortecai, of course, don't remotely get along.  We start the movie with Morgan, Harry's daughter.  When her father is killed, she gets his portion of the map, and the race is on to get the other map pieces and beat Dawg to the treasure. Morgan has to prove herself as captain of her father's ship and men who are skeptical she can fill her father's shoes as their leader.  She also picks up a thief along the way who speaks Latin, William Shaw, when she needs her portion of the map translated.



The ships, locations, costumes, and sea battles are fantastic.  Actually, everything about this movie looks unbelievably fantastic.  I felt like I was back in time.  I wanted to own all of Geena Davis's costumes.  Ms. Davis was criticised as being miscast... and yet she really isn't.  You need a woman who's believable as leader of a bunch of pirates, and she fulfills that.  She's a tall, brawny lady -- taller than quite a few of the male members of her crew, and you need someone physically strong like that to handle the many fist fights, sword fights, climbing up ropes, swimming, etc.


What I think can make her seem miscast is not Geena Davis... but the dialogue in the movie.  The dialogue is one of the weakest points.  Not always, there's a lot of good dialogue mixed in there too, but they seem to have given the cheesy lines mostly to Morgan.  This does her character a grave injustice.  When the dialogue is good, she rocks this role.  When it's cheesy, it can pull you out of the movie. But despite those moments, I still really enjoy her, and it is always fun to see a woman get a role like this.


There's a bit of gender reversal between her and Shaw's character.  He's the one who ends up getting rescued by Morgan more than once, not vice versa.  It's very refreshing. And Shaw (Matthew Modine) is a cool character, even if he does keep getting into trouble.  Thief, liar, speaks Latin, wheeler dealer, but ultimately loyal to Morgan.  They're great fun together, each trying to outplay each other before they finally admit they're on the same side. I had a bit of a crush on him.  Maybe it was just the nice arms!



Frank Langella is perfect as Morgan's tough, villainous uncle, Dawg.


I really like how he admires Morgan and her courage and cunning more than he did his own brothers.  When he offers her a partnership, he means it because he recognizes that she's a good captain and pirate.  One of my favorite moments is when he sees her ship creeping up on his and realizes something is not right.  He very quietly goes to general quarters and takes action.  Morgan's doing the same on her ship, and it's just fun to watch them cat-and-mouse at sea before the ships erupt in full scale battle.


When I first saw this in the theater, I knew from the opening scene I was going to enjoy the movie.  Why?  The music.  Music makes or breaks a movie for me, and this film has one of the best action adventures scores ever.  John Debney's score is outstanding.  That opening scene that sucked me in so much, with Morgan Adams galloping her horse across a partially submerged sand spit while John Debney's awesome theme soars.  That is just plain satisfying.  Cutthroat Island is one of my most-listened to scores of all times.  It never gets old, and even better, the complete score was released a few years back.




Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – A Conversation

As part of Hamlette’s Piratical Blogathon, Hamlette and I reminisced about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies while simultaneously listening to the soundtrack for POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl.  We both love the original Pirates movie and thought it would be fun, rather than either of us writing a review of it, to discuss the movie instead.  Our favorite scenes and characters, why the first movie was so great and the second and third failed to capture that same magic.



Hamlette:  I remember buying this album -- so desperate to just keep the piratey joy alive once the movie left the theater.  I have track 3 up on my CD and ohhhhhhhhhh, I love this song, this bouncy, poundy sailing theme.  I had a hard time finding this soundtrack, actually, and I would listen to the Gladiator soundtrack because it has a teensy bit that sounds somewhat like this.  I had to wait for like a week for it to be in, and then once I got it, I think it stayed in my CD player all summer.  Listened to absolutely nothing else.

DKoren:   awww

Hamlette:  I remember seeing the trailer for this like five times before it came out, and just being so crazy excited for a Johnny Depp Pirate Movie!!!!  There was that swooshy thing where he holds the rope and flies up onto the boat, and I was in looooooooooooove with that moment in the trailer.

DKoren:   I remember going back and seeing this movie four or five times.

Hamlette:  I think I saw it three times.  What's your favorite moment in the movie?

DKoren:   In the end finale, when Jack shoots Barbossa and goes all serious.

Hamlette:  I'm not entirely sure if I have One Favorite Moment.

DKoren:   With Jack, I absolutely love his serious moments.  When he goes serious, I swoon.  When he's his normal fast-talking self, he’s amusing, but not a character I really care about.

Hamlette:  "So there is a curse.  That's interesting."  That's another of my favorite moments.  I love how he says "in-tres-ting."

DKoren:    "This shot is not meant for you."  That's another one of mine.  It’s another serious moment, that pleading with Will to "please move!"

Hamlette:   yes

DKoren:    But that whole moment in the finale where he slices his hand with the coin, tosses it to Will, and shoots Barbossa... that is THE reason I watch this movie.  I wait and wait for that.  And then it's over in ten seconds.

Hamlette:  Well, that's the way of Perfect Moments.

DKoren:   There're plenty of other parts I love too, just not with that intensity.

Hamlette:  If you were writing it, it would've been your Scene of Scenes.

DKoren:   Yes, the ultimate carrot scene.  That first shot of him on the rigging (where he’s again looking serious)... totally amazing moment.



Hamlette:  I think now, after four movies, it's hard to remember just how Different his Captain Jack was -- I mean, I remember sitting in the theater thinking, "DUDE!  This is all so completely new!"  I never knew what to expect one moment to the next.  Which I loved -- because it wasn't just another actiony kid-oriented movie, it was clever and devious and tricksy and... yeah.

DKoren:   That's a good way to put it.

Hamlette:  I have to say, I think Elizabeth Swan is another of those roles I would love to play, or characters I'd like to be.

DKoren:   I can see that.



Hamlette:  I remember just going, "I want to do that!  And that!  And that!"

DKoren:   She's really cool.

Hamlette:  She's very collected -- she doesn't freak out easily.

DKoren:   She's a character I wanted to be friends with.

Hamlette:  She thinks on her feet really well:  I'm going to hide here, I'm going to ask for parley, I'm going to pretend I'm not the governor's daughter.

DKoren:   Yeah, she's very smart.  I love that about her.

Hamlette:  She's not a damsel in distress at all.  Which was also refreshing, along with Captain Jack's unpredictability.

DKoren:   "She'll be insufferable now."

Hamlette:  Indeed.

DKoren:   I wanted to be Will Turner.

Hamlette:  Well, we'd make a fine pair, then!  Okay, so what makes you want to be Will?  Cuz I honestly -- like Elizabeth -- get impatient with him at times.

DKoren:   He makes swords, he practices with them, he's willing to do anything to rescue Kiera, he breaks a pirate out of jail and yells at Norrington.  He figures things out and doesn't want to be Jack's leverage.  He does everything I would do, were I in his shoes.

DKoren:   The way he thinks... I relate to that.  Like figuring Jack would be his best bet for tracking pirates.  And, of course, rescuing Jack at the end from execution and being willing to die for his actions, conscious clear.  I would totally do that.

Hamlette:  I do love the ending.

DKoren:   The swordfighting scene in the blacksmith shop is probably my second favorite scene in the movie.

Hamlette:  Oh, it is splendid!  It might actually be my favorite overall scene.  It could go on another ten minutes and I'd be happy.

DKoren:   Yes, I can watch the two of them cross blades for hours.



Hamlette:  He's more cautious and... circuitous than Elizabeth, which is probably why I identify more with her -- I just want to confront things and be done.  As long as I have a plan, I'm good.  Even if it's not a great plan.  Let’s talk a little about why Curse of the Black Pearl is splendid and the others range from meh to okay?  I think the reason Black Pearl works and the others are silly is because of the writing.  Specifically, how Jack is written. They wrote him straight in the first one, and Johnny twisted him to his own ends.  For the others, they wrote him silly, and so he became a caricature.  That's my take, anyway.

DKoren:   They assumed because Jack was the most popular character that if they took his character and blew him up to larger proportions, it would be even better.

Hamlette:  Yes.

DKoren:   Forgetting that what made him work so well is what you said, he was written straight.

Hamlette:  I mean, he does have some silly lines, the whole thing about the sea turtles... But he delivers the silly lines straight, and the straight lines off-kilter, and so it's just... unbalancedly brilliant.  But if it's all written silly, then it's too balanced somehow, and it just gets ordinary.

DKoren:   Yes.  That.  He also worked so well because Will and Elizabeth counter his personality perfectly in the first movie.

Hamlette:  They're all earnest and he's -- deadly earnest, but hiding it.




DKoren:   There's also a decided lack of a good villain in the second and third.

Hamlette:  This is true.

DKoren:   Davy Jones... sorry, but he's just silly.

Hamlette:  I think, also, in the fourth one... Jack has dignity again.

DKoren:   Yes, quite a bit more.

Hamlette:  What makes him so funny in the first one is he is so dignified!  And in the most ridiculous moments!

DKoren:   But he has to clash with a much better villain in On Stranger Tides, so that helps.

Hamlette:  Yes, that helps too.  Worthy adversary is important.

DKoren:   Also, 2 & 3 had the most ridiculous action sequences.

Hamlette:  I haven't seen them since the theater either, so memory has faded.

DKoren:   I mean, I love action, but that stupid rolling wheel...

Hamlette:  Oh, yes!  I remember the wheel.  That was atrocious.

DKoren:   Nothing in the first one is really beyond the scope of reality.  They don't defy physics.

Hamlette:  Or, a reality where there are skeleton pirates.

DKoren:   Well, yeah.

Hamlette:  But yes, people can do those things.  Boats behave that way.

DKoren:   And then it goes all unbelievable and silly.  (But Norrington gets scruffy and demoted, and that's a bonus point for 2 & 3.)

Hamlette:  (True -- he got a lot more interesting.)

DKoren:   (And Stellan is a bonus.)

Hamlette:  (Stellan!  Yes!)  About the only thing I remember really clearly from 2 & 3 is the very end, the final stinger on 3, where Elizabeth and the son were on the island, ready for Will to return.  I loved that moment, and the rest of it was just... there.

DKoren:   I do remember when we saw 2 in the theater, my sister came out and said, "Wow, I can't believe how happy I was to see Barbossa show up."

Hamlette:  Lol!  Yeah, Barbossa was a breath of stale but refreshing air.

DKoren:   Because he was such a good villain in the first one, and there was nothing like that in the second one.

Hamlette:  It lacked a tree, as I recall -- no good structure.

DKoren:   And was very convoluted for lacking structure.

Hamlette:  Turns out that just More Jack Sparrow doesn't make up for Not Enough Good Writing.

DKoren:   yep, very true.



And that's it for our reminisces for today.  Don't forget to check out the blogathon for reviews of other pirate movies and books.