Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Peverett Phile Extra: Damn, That Elizabeth Swan Is Hot

Okay, swabbies, we went to the movies at West Oaks Mall (the ghetto mall) and ended up leaving after twenty minutes. These damn teenage kids wouldn't stop talking, and taking pictures. Plus there was no air in the theater and the sound was way to low. AMC gave us tickets to come back so today we went to see it at Celebration's theater. Anyway, here's the low down on the Pirates movie.


Starring: Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Bill Nighy, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Jack Davenport, Naomie Harris, Chow Yun-Fat
Briefly (while there's nothing brief about anything in this movie, I'll give it a go all the same), Lord Cutler Beckett has control of Davy Jones' heart, which sounds sort of gay when you're just reading about it, but it's not — the heart's in a box. And because he's got the heart, that means he's going to rule the seas. But see, all the pirates and their friends call on all the other pirates around the world to battle it out against the dark forces of uncool un-pirate-ness. And they do this by sailing off the literal edge of the world's map. I think. What's the deal? I just said, "I think," because it's very long, with a hundred characters and lots of plot, and most of the pirates, while speaking, actually sound exactly like "Arrrrrrrhh!!" so you're sort of just waiting for action to speak more clearly than words — truth be told. It does, eventually, and it does so in a way that's been designed to deliver maximum sensory blast. It's loud, the effects are cool, there are multiple Jack Sparrows and great Fish People, as well as a fantastic finale battle that'll simultaneously confuse and thrill you. As far as meaningless summer entertainments go, it does exactly what you want it to. The best part was Keith Richards' cameo, obviously. The movie doesn't truly start until Richards pops in for a visit as Depp's dad. Here's how it goes, more or less: Depp: [something in English; I forget what specifically, but discernable as normal speech] Richards: [garble, slur, mush, suppressed belch] It's the best, most inscrutable performance of 2007. And all he did was stand there. And when I use the word "stand," what I really mean is that I read somewhere that they had to help prop him up so they could get that to happen. It's like watching a human being and a special effect at the same time. Biggest Surprise/Least Big Surprise: To start with the latter, Bloom really needs to step up his game if he's ever going to be as memorable in any other film role as he was as an elf in the Lord of the Rings series. It's like he's taking blandness lessons from Tom Cruise. Meanwhile, Knightley comes off as downright tough and Pirate Queen-ish throughout, but that perception could just be the residual effects of my mainlining Pride and Prejudice over and over. I realize I just impugned my own masculinity with that last sentence (and so what?). And a funny pirate monkey. Monkeys will never let you down. 


A is for antediluvian rock star.
We finally get to see Keith Richards — Johnny Depp's inspiration for his over-the-top performance as Jack Sparrow — in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. But don't think the onscreen turn as Papa Grant Sparrow (complete with a sea-turtle-shaped guitar) intimidated the legendary rocker. The 62-year-old Richards, says co-star Bill Nighy, got so blotto waiting in his trailer on the set that director Gore Verbinksi had to prop him up to film his scenes. Richards' retort: "If you wanted straight, then you got the wrong man."

B is for the black spot.
Bootstrap Bill Turner, father of Will (Orlando Bloom), marks Captain Jack with the large black boil-like protuberance that allows the markee to be tracked by the vile Kraken (see K). In fact, the black spot shows up often as a sign of shame or guilt in pirate-related pop culture, including Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the online role-playing game Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates and, yes, even Muppet Treasure Island.

C is for the curse of The Curse of the Black Pearl.
During filming of the first Pirates flick in 2002, a fire sparked on the set and ultimately caused more than $350,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Then later, on location in St. Vincent, a large chunk of the crew came down with dysentery, leaving everyone wondering if The Curse wasn't, well, cursed.

D is for the Disneyland theme-park ride.
The last major ride to have input from Walt himself, the attraction debuted in Anaheim in 1957. After the success of The Curse of the Black Pearl, it was updated to include Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa. The most recent ride-based movie to make it to the big screen was 2003's disappointing Haunted Mansion, with Eddie Murphy in the lead.

E is for the East India Trading Company.
Yes, it was a real establishment, started in 1600 and officially sanctioned by the British government to control that country's trading in, well, India. In the Pirates flicks, it's run by the power-hungry Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) — it's been hinted, as Jack was marked as a pirate by Beckett, that Jack also left some sort of mark on his rival and that mark will be revealed in At World's End.

F is for a fourth Pirates movie.
Says Depp, who's indicated he'd return if a good script materialized, "You don't want it to be Rocky 12, certainly. But you never say never." Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, meanwhile, have said, since finishing Pirates 3, they've thought about writing a fourth, but, as Rossio put it, "I can't say if we'll be able to solve the challenge of making a good fourth film or if our screenplay will be enough to get a film made."

G is for gold teeth.
Depp was so committed that instead of wearing a set of removable gold teeth, he actually had his dentist implant a set for him. Although he eventually removed a few of the choppers, the initial look led to many a panicked phone call from Disney suits. The actor recalls that he finally just said, 'Look, you hired me to do the gig. If you didn't see the stuff I've done before, that's irresponsible on your part … If you don't like it, you can fire me.' … There was one executive in particular who really went out of their way to investigate what the fuck I was up to, and after the release of Pirates, I got a letter from (him) saying, 'Look, I apologize. I was wrong. You were right … I appreciate the fact that you didn't listen to me.'"

H is for Hector Barbossa.
Talk about Method Acting. Jack Sparrow's nemesis, played by Geoffrey Rush, was thought to be dead at the end of Black Pearl. Then, in Dead Man's Chest, when Will, Elizabeth and company ask for Tia Dalma's help in saving Jack from the World's End, she tells them they'll need a skilled captain to navigate their way. Well, the actors had expected, from the script, that Pearl pirate Anamaria was going to show up — so when Rush walked through the door, their faces are showing genuine surprise.

I is for Isla de Muerta and Isla Cruces.
In The Curse of the Black Pearl, the destination is Isla de Muerta, which is where Sparrow's ship has been hidden from him. It's also the scene of the final showdown between Sparrow and Barbossa. In Dead Man's Chest, the magic isle is Isla Cruces ("Crosses Island"), the abandoned area where Davy Jones buried his heart. Rumors suggest Isla Cruces might figure into the action of At World's End

J is for James Norrington.
A member of the Royal Navy, Norrington (Jack Davenport) is in love with Elizabeth and tries to propose to her — except Lizzie faints and takes an, ahem, swan dive into the bay, her heart secretly belonging to Will Turner. Initially gracious about this lack of affection, by Dead Man's Chest he's a bitter drunk, stripped of his honor. He steals Davy Jones' heart and delivers it to Beckett, asking to be returned to post. Does Beckett agree? We find out in At World's End, but a hint: Stills show Norrington in what appears to be an admiral's uniform.

K is for Kraken.
"Krake" is German for octopus, which gives us some idea of what the Kraken actually looks like. In Dead Man's Chest, we never get a full-on shot of the aqua beast, but we do see that its tentacles are giant, its mouth (with circles of huge, spiky teeth) is bigger than Jack Sparrow's entire body, and his breath smells like "a thousand rotting corpses." When the Kraken attacks the Black Pearl, Jack walks into the its gullet, sword raised, and is swallowed by the natatory nuisance. Buzz has it that the Kraken returns in Pirates 3 — but may not be around for any future sequels (wink, wink).

L is for Levi the monkey.
Barbossa has a pet monkey he named Jack, played by two different primates: a 10-year-old Capuchin monkey female named Tara and an 8-year-old Capuchin male named Levi. According to commentary on the Pirates DVDs, the only way to get the little actors to focus was to squirt them with water guns. By the way, they have their fansite, We Named the Monkey Jack, and yes, Jack the monkey does return in At World's End.

M is for missing script.
Production on At World's End was started without a completed screenplay because filmmakers wanted to overlap the productions of Dead Man's Chest and its sequel so they could share sets and shorten the lag time between release dates.

N is for nine pirate lords.
At World's End climaxes with the Brethren of the Coast meeting — a showdown involving a giant whirlpool between nine pirate lords, Beckett, Norrington and the Royal Navy, and Davy Jones and his Flying Dutchman crew. Among the nine pirate lords: Sparrow, Barbossa and newbie pirate bad boy Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat).

O is for opening weekend.
It'll be tough to top the opening box office for Dead Man's Chest, which set a new record with a whopping $135.6 million in its first three days of release in July 2006. It went on to earn more than $1 billion worldwide — only the third movie in history to top the billion-dollar mark (after Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

P is for the Pelegostos.
It's the island where Sparrow lands in Dead Man's Chest while trying to escape an attack by the Kraken. He is thought to be a god by the island-dwelling Pelegostos — unfortunately for him, the Pelegostos believe in honoring their gods by eating them. His escape sequence sparked a bit of controversy when the Carib Indians, who live in Dominica, where the Pelegosto scenes were shot, feared their people were being characterized as cannibals.

Q is for queen of the gypsies, Tia Dalma.
As in the Harry Potter universe, the Pirates universe is rife with wordplay. Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), the voodoo priestess, for instance, is an anagram of Dalmatia, a reference to the Dalmatian Coast, historically a big pirate hangout. Tia returns for At World's End, but as Harris teases, she will turn out to be "not really who she says she is … she is a lot more powerful."

R is for Ragetti and Pintel.
The bumbling crew members Ragetti (The Office's Mackenzie Crook) and Pintel (Seinfeld's Lee Arenberg) have been providing yucks since the beginning — including Ragetti's repeated drama of losing his fake wooden eyeball. In At World's End, Crook says moviegoers "discover that Lee and I are there for more than just comic relief. It turns out that we do have a purpose in the grand scheme of things." The popular pair also were featured in a tie-in Visa commercial, while Ragetti was part of a tie-in for Pirates-themed M&Ms.

S is for Sao Feng.
The mustachioed Sao Feng (Chinese for "howling wind") is the newest villain. Played by Chow Yun-Fat, he leads a crew of supernatural Chinese pirates from Singapore. Little has been revealed about his character, though it is believed that he kidnaps Elizabeth to blackmail Jack into joining the Brethren of the Coast meeting — and that he is in sole possession of the map Will, Elizabeth, Barbossa and their crew require to save Jack.

T is for Turkey Jerky.
Not just a snack food, but a fine substitute for decomposing pirate skin, apparently. When the special-effects wizards wanted to create a realistic look of rotting flesh hanging from cursed pirate bones in Black Pearl, they scanned in turkey jerky and made it look like the decomposing dermis.

U is for unrealized Pirates.
Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have said they originally pitched a movie based on the theme-park ride to Disney back in 1992; the studio passed, and another decade went by before the idea came to fruition. But the wilder bit of what-might-have-been lore involves Steven Spielberg. Rumor has it that the director once got his hands on an early version of the Black Pearl script and wanted to direct it himself, with Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey or Bill Murray in the Sparrow role. But the project got stuck in development hell.

V is for Verbinski, Gore Verbinski, Pirates director.
Real name: Gregor Verbinski. Age: 43. Previous jobs: directing music videos and Clio Award-winning commercials, including the famous croaking-frogs TV spot for Budweiser. First films: Mouse Hunt and The Mexican, then the 2002 remake of the Japanese horror film The Ring. He was asked to helm a sequel to The Ring and passed because he "didn't know where to go with it," he says. But he jumped at the chance to revisit Pirates: "The studio said, 'Could you do two more?' And that was sort of challenging to construct a trilogy in reverse, so to speak."

W is for wheel.
One of the most memorable sequences in Dead Man's Chest takes place on a runaway mill wheel, as Sparrow, Turner and Norrington duke it out in a swordfight while the 18-foot-tall, 1,800-pound hunk of round wood rolls through the jungle. "I think the wheel, going upside down and stuff and sword fighting in there (was the most difficult scene)," says Bloom of the eight-day-long shoot. "I was all harnessed, so I couldn't fall out, obviously, but because of gravity, you're really reachingand at one point, the gravity takes you and you're still reaching, but it's pulling you the other way. That was really difficult … (but) it's fun."

X is for X Marks the Spot.
Pirates may be singularly responsible for the uptick in interest in all things pirate-related. An ep of ABC's "Wife Swap" featured a family who lives like pirates (complete with costumes and plenty of "arrrrhs!"). Pirate costumes have become among the most popular Halloween getups. And there's even a (made-up) holiday called International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19). Wanna learn more? Check out X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy, a tome one reviewer calls "the first comprehensive, scholarly look at the artifactual evidence of real pirates."

Y is for "(Yo Ho) A Pirate's Life for Me."
It started out as the theme song for the Disneyland attraction, written by Xavier Atencio and George Bruns. In Black Pearl, it's sung three times: once by Young Elizabeth (played by Lucinda Dryzek); once by older Elizabeth and Jack; and once at the end of the film, in a solo performance by Jack.

Z is for Zoe Saldana.
Saldana played Anamaria, the only female crew member of the Black Pearl in the first movie. In another bit of wordplay, the character's name is an homage to two real female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who, like the fictional Anamaria, had to disguise themselves as men to land their gigs. Anamaria didn't return for Dead Man's Chest — but she has been rumored to be in on the action of At World's End.


This just in: Foghat's "Slow Ride" is going to be featured in Guitar Heroes 3.

Well, there you go, folks, another Peverett Phile extra. The next update will be on Monday then again on the following Sunday. Spread the word, not the turd.

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