So it’s been quite a while since I had a good old-fashioned rant about JK Rowling, hasn’t it. But now, only a few weeks after JK Rowling and David Yates caused a stir by brushing off the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s continued presence in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the Harry Potter author is pissing off her fans once again. Over recent years, I’ve sort of become disillusioned with Rowling. Yes, she does a lot of great things and has used her money to aid some fantastic causes. That doesn’t mean she can get away with anything, though. Whether she means to or not, she has allowed herself to gain a certain sense of entitlement that only goes with becoming the world’s richest author. Just look back on the moment when she acted like a victim when it was revealed she had written The Cuckoo’s Calling.
When I first heard about Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express I was super excited. I mean why wouldn’t I be? I adore Agatha Christie, love Hercule Poirot, and will watch anything starring the legend that is Kenny B. Then I saw the first picture of him as the Belgian detective and my excitement started to wane somewhat. That fucking moustache man! It looked like it had been drawn on his face with soft-serve ice cream. I’m all for new interpretations of familiar characters but David Suchet’s moustache is a classic. So slick and proud. I agree that Poirot’s moustache needs to be an impressive statement but I don’t think he’d have made the statement that Branagh appears to be making. Still, it wasn’t enough to put me off wanting to see it. What put me off more was the casting of Johnny Depp. I realise we’ll never know the true story of what happened with him and Amber Heard but I still think Hollywood has brushed it aside too quickly. I’d have preferred him to get a bit of downtime after the accusations… just to let him know he’s not infallible. So I wasn’t really in a rush to see it anyway but then I heard a cavalcade of negative reviews. Although, I knew I couldn’t resist the lure of Kenny B forever though.
- Classic gothic fiction – where to start?
In my new series of, hopefully, helpful bookish posts, I wrote a handy guide to early gothic fiction. I’ve encountered a few people over the years wondering where to start or having trouble getting into The Mysteries of Udolpho. I use my years studying these novels to suggest a way into these novels.
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- Vintage Penguins
Another week and another batch of new, old books. This time I’ve found the classic Penguin copy of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, the iconic Milton Glaser cover of Run, Rabbit Run by John Updike, and, finally, a rare (ish) edition of Island by Aldous Huxley. They’re all gorgeous and I can’t wait to see them in person.
- Netflix Binges: Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
I watched this for the first time in years for my latest TBT review. Find out what memories it brought up in my review here.
It’s weird to think, especially after just watching Dead Men Tell No Tales, that Johnny Depp was nominated for a ‘Best Actor’ Oscar for the first POTC film. Yep, Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow was deemed so brilliant and original that it earned the actor his first Academy Award nomination. I guess it’s difficult to think about this now, particularly considering that Depp and Disney are basically just flogging a dead horse with every new outing for the pirate Captain. Sparrow no longer feels like a breath of fresh air but a pathetic attempt to cash in on families and super fans. I guess it’s not just the character either. Back I 2003 I was a huge fan of Johnny Depp. The man was the indie darling who had done so much great work with Tim Burton. His Keith Richards impression single-handedly made pirates sexy again and made it okay for men to wear eyeliner. He showed that he had what it took to be a big Hollywood star and that he could bring in the big bucks. Since then he’s gone further and further off the rails. Look at the films he’s made over the past few years. Loads of over budget passion projects, major flops that he should have passed on, and lots of other forgettable roles. Of course, there’s the accusations of domestic abuse on top of it but it’s not like that’s stopped him. He still managed to land a role in the Fantastic Beasts Franchise and is set to star in the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express even with that cloud over his head. I’m not about to make any moral assumptions about a man I’ve never met but it just sits ill with me that he got no negative feedback from it. Anyway, with this in mind, I think it’s time we go back to a time when Johnny Depp was still an actor that you could love.
Nobody ever expected Pirates of the Caribbean to be a success. I mean, let’s face it, a film based on a super old theme park ride was starting off in a bad way and then there’s the pirates. Prior to its release, there hadn’t been a decent swashbuckling adventure in forever. Then you had the fact that Johnny Depp wasn’t the bankable star back in those days. He was an indie kid who was never expected to be able to carry off a huge blockbuster. Nothing about this film was really playing it safe. Even Orlando Bloom, fresh off his LOTR popularity, was a risk in the lead role. However, as we all know now, the film became on of the highest earning films of 2003. It was loved by audiences and praised by most critics. My friends and I certainly adored it. I mean we were mostly 15 year old girls so the sight of Johnny Depp in eyeliner was something we could all get on board with. This and LOTR definitely helped me become pretty obsessed with men with facial hair.
So the film that was expected to flop ended up creating 4 sequels; most of which made an awful lot of money at the box office. However, none of those films captured the brilliance and fun of the first. The sequels tried so hard to be different but, in doing so, managed to steer away from what made the first one so good. Everything just became bigger, bolder and longer. The plots became even more of a stretch and the characters got lost in the action. Plus, Captain Jack, by then a money making machine, slowly started to edge away from the pack and become more prominent. He’s always been best as the comic relief that works alongside the lead roles. That has never been more apparent than when rewatching the first one.
After all, that film is still incredibly entertaining after 14 years. It is essentially the story of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) turbulent romance, which has to overcome other suitors and a bunch of cursed pirates. When Elizabeth is kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity by the Captain of the Black Pearl (Geoffrey Rush), Will teams up with recently captured Captain Jack to track the ship and rescue her. Turns out, the crew stole a chest of Aztec gold that has left them neither alive or dead and unable to enjoy any of life’s little pleasures. In order for the curse to be lifted a blood sacrifice must be made by all of the crew. Unfortunately, the pirates sent one of their crew to the bottom of the sea before they realised. So they’ve been searching for his child ever since. That’s where our lovebirds step in.
There’s no denying that the first film in the franchise is the best and most entertaining. It may have its flaws but it is the most consistent of the 5 films. I’ll admit that it goes on too long and there is a lot of unnecessary time getting to know supporting characters. I mean I love Jack Davenport and Jonathan Pryce but really don’t think they needed as much screen time as they got. There is too much bloat in this film and the narrative could definitely have been streamlined. There is also a problem with the swashbuckling side. It’s hardly the most exciting sword fighting that we’ve ever seen on screen. It needed to be more spectacular. Instead it’s just forgettable.
Still, there are moments in this film that are just superb. Elizabeth’s first night on the Black Pearl has one of the most entertaining sequences of the entire film. It’s also lovely to go back to a time when Geoffrey Rush actually seemed to be having fun in this role. I know his Captain Barbossa has died numberous times by now but it was just sad looking at how tired he looked in Dead Men Tell No Tales. In Curse of the Black Pearl Barbossa is a terrifying villain who you love to hate. But this film is in no way too scary for its younger audience. Yes, there are a lot of skeletons and references to death but there is much more in the way of humour to keep them on board. After all, this film was all about Johnny Depp unveiling one of the greatest pirates that we had ever seen on screen. Captain Jack is charming, sneaky and hilarious. It’s a shame he’s been worn so thin by every subsequent film that he’s become a sort of parody of himself. Rewatching Curse of the Black Pearl was a bittersweet experience because it reminded me how good this franchise can be but also showed how far it had fallen. I hope Disney have the good sense to just leave it be now but, if history has taught us anything, I highly doubt it.
Let’s be honest, even leaving the possible domestic abuse to one side, Johnny Depp has well and truly gone rogue in recent years. No offence to the man but he’s kind of a walking parody of himself these days. I mean I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that the actor genuinely believes he is Captain Jack Sparrow. It’s the only thing that explains the fact that he won’t stop making Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Watching the 4th film was painful enough; those fucking mermaids man. Then we have to suffer the indignity of a 5th. It just stinks of desperation. This has been a dying franchise since the 2nd film because, let’s face it, there was only so far you could go making films based on a fucking theme park ride. Yet, Disney keep flogging that dead horse and are back with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. A film that, for some unknown reason, was renamed Salazar’s Revenge in the UK. Now, it was bad enough that I actually watched this film but to have to watch it with this god awful title? That’s too much. So I’m defying my geography and referring only to the superior title. Salazar’s Revenge? For fuck’s sake, that sounds like a really terrible soap opera or something. This is the POTC movie that, basically, nobody asked for so to give it such an underwhelming name for its European distribution just seems like a super bad idea. Although, with the news that a 6th film is dependent on DVD sales it may actually pay off for us in the long term.
It seems to me that there are two types of people in the world. There are those who have slowly but surely grown sick of the same Captain Jack Sparrow shtick that has become so tired and predictable over the last 4 POTC movies. Then there are those with brains so tiny that they’d be endlessly amused just from looking at their own hands. Since the first Pirates of the Caribbean film wowed audiences in 2003 very little has changed about the character. There has been little, if any, development over the span of 4 films and he feels less like a character than a series of mannerisms at this point. We saw, from the disappointing On Stranger Tides, that Jack cannot hold a movie on his own so, to try and reinvent the wheel, the franchises 5th outing is going back to its roots. We see the return of original stars Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush as well a carbon copy of the plot. All wrapped up in a package that is nowhere near as polished as any of the Gore Verbinski’s three films. So, it was never going to go well.
The powers that be have clearly decided that too much of Captain Sparrow can be bad thing and have, once again, placed him as second fiddle to a couple of bright young things. In this case it is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), offspring of William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer and horologist on a quest to complete her father’s work. Just like the first film, Will and Elizabeth 2.0 are both searching for some sort of mystical McGuffin (in this case it’s Poseidon’s trident) that will, supposedly, solve everyone’s problems. To do this they must ask for the help of everyone’s favourite rock star pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). At the same time, Jack is trying to outrun an old enemy (Javier Bardem) who is seeking both bloody vengeance and an end to his death curse. There’s also the inevitable appearance of the British navy who decide to get mixed up in everything. Dead Men Tell No Tales is clearly trying to recapture the excitement of the first but the ride isn’t as much fun this time round.
The main problem lies in the fact that, the more you examine the plot the less it makes sense. I mean how does Salazar know that Jack’s compass holds the key to his escape? Why, when they do escape, are they unable to step on land? What exactly is Barbossa’s motivation for anything? Why the fuck do British sailors go after the trident? There is so much included in the plot that, when you think about it, doesn’t add anything to the narrative. David Wenham turns up as the face of the British Empire but he has absolutely no impact on anything that happens. This film isn’t a well-crafted masterpiece but is just a series of events that come together to make the ending possible in the most dramatic way. Things need to happen so we can have the cycle of double-crossing that has become a requirement in this franchise. It’s just the most convenient and laziest way of making the story work.
Which, I guess, really isn’t a problem in itself. It’s just that there isn’t enough to distract us. Johnny Depps’ Captain Jack has become super irritating in the past few years so no amount of his weirdness is enough to keep you on board. Even Javier Bardem, who is the greatest Bond villain of recent years, doesn’t feel as invested in the character of Salazar as he should be. The character may be a triumph of CGI but he never feels like the most terrifying of foes. Of course, there are some fine action sequences at the start of the film but as time moves on these become more absurd and confusing. An early sequence that sees Henry save Jack and Carina from being executed is a fabulous sequence in the same vain as the Gore Verbinski era but it quickly just descends into madness. The final showdown is just a mess of CGI with no elegance or coherence.
I was genuinely shocked to discover that this film is actually the shortest in the franchise. It definitely felt longer than any of the previous films. Watching it from start to finish seemed like a fucking marathon. There simply isn’t any life in this franchise anymore. Or at least in the franchise as it once was. I think the days of Johnny Depp doing his Keith Richards impression are well and truly over. If this is going to continue, and really I don’t think it should, there should be a change of direction. People will try to defend Dead Men Tell No Tales as being mindless entertainment. I defy that statement. This film isn’t mindless entertainment: it’s just mindless.
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Vintage Penguins
Instagram is both a wonderful and a terrible thing. It makes me so happy to share my book collection with other, interested people and I love seeing other people’s books. However, it does make me more aware that I’m lacking certain things. When planning a recent post I discovered that I didn’t have any purple Penguin books. I decided it was time to rectify that as, now that I’ve also stumbled across a couple of the hard to find grey ones, I only need Purple to complete me Penguin rainbow. The purple are also pretty rare to find these days so I’m extremely excited about this purchase and regret nothing. Despite my new plan to try and stick to a ‘one in one out’ rule that will only let me buy a new book when I finish one. The rate I’m going it’ll be months before I can buy another book!
- Netflix Binges:, IT Crowd, Green Wing,
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Yesterday I finally saw the next stage in JK Rowling’s plan to dominate the word of literature and film. I mean I have nothing against the woman but everything about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has just screamed of “how can we squeeze more cash out of our loyal fans?” I mean the decision to release the screenplay may be no-nonsense from a financial standpoint but it just seems like a shameless tactic to earn more cash. It kind of feels as though Rowling and her backers just see the Harry Potter fandom as bags of cash and are doing everything in their power to exploit them for continued financial gain. You know me by now; I think Harry Potter should have ended at the final book. It was complete and it was satisfactory. Rowling herself once said she wouldn’t revisit the world again but has continued to prove that was a huge fucking lie. Yes, she gives loads to charity and helps people and I admire her for that. However, her constant flip-flopping on this and inability to leave well alone just makes me lose respect for her. She’s like the literary world’s George Lucas. So I wasn’t exactly convinced I’d come out of Fantastic Beasts feeling much love… especially when the Rogue One trailer showing beforehand gave me literal tingles. I mean my legs actually went numb. I haven’t felt that kind of emotional response to anything Harry Potter related for years. I’ll always be a fan but I’ve been over it for a while now. At least Disney don’t try and pretend that you’re anything but bags of cash in their eyes.
Just a few months ago, Quentin Tarantino was showing us exactly how you can update the old Western for a modern audience. However, it would show questionable parenting skills if you happily took your 10 year old with you to enjoy the bloody revenge saga. So this can only mean there is a gap in the market for a good, old fashioned family friendly narrative set in the Wild West, right? Well maybe but even if audiences were crying out for a new cowboy hero it certainly can’t have been the Lone Ranger. The original radio series started in 1933 and the television show was popular in the 50s. Not exactly the typical Disney demographic. Nobody has been patiently waiting for this character to get a new outing and, quite frankly, it was always going to be difficult to translate it for a modern world. This isn’t like getting the same freedom you would making a film out of a pirate theme park ride. With something like the Lone Ranger you are forced to stick to certain traditions… even the questionably racist ones. You have to ask who exactly were Disney creating this film for.
Although the answer to that is painfully obvious: Johnny Depp. After director Gore Verbinski put the idea into his head that he could play the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick there was no stopping him. We sat on the sidelines of a production full of drama with its apparently limitless budget, expanding schedule and almost free reign for one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. It’s a horrible example of everything that’s wrong with the industry: throwing money, CGI and big names together with the aim to make nothing more than a bucket load of cash. I’ll admit there was always a part of me that hoped this film would fail as it might start a chain of events to change all that. It is with only a slight amount of joy that it seems my wish was granted. The Lone Ranger was torn apart by critics and opened to disappointing numbers in America. So have audiences simply fallen out of love with Johnny Depp or was it that the Lone Ranger, unlike other recent rebooted franchises, simply has no place in the heart of a modern audience?
“I think he’s already married to that actress who always turns up in his movies.”
“Of course he bloody is. Who can even remember how many films the two of them have made together anymore?!”
And there was so much potential. The trailer suggested this would be a dark, vampire-based comedy with an amazing cast and fantastic Burton-esque visuals. He cites the television series as one his first major inspirations and the film is full of opportunities for Burton to work his magic and pay homage. Opening in 18th Century Maine where Barnabas Collins, the only son of a family of fishing tycoons, spurns the affection of Angelique (Eva Green) who, unfortunately, turns out to be not only pissed off but also a witch. Needless to say she vows revenge on Barnabas and sets about ruining his life. Once his parents are out of the way she brings about the demise of the true object of his affection, Josette (Bella Heathcote). As a final insult to injury she prevents Barnabas from following his love to the afterlife by turning him into a vampire and burying him in a crate for 200 years. As opening sequences go, this sets the audience up for a great ride. The gothic styling is perfect and the performances by Depp and Green are exaggerated but on target with the necessary sensibility.