Current Weekend, Previous Year is a new column I’m starting in order to look back and reflect on previous tentpoles released during the particular time. ‘Cause, you know, it’s fun and shit.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Last year, this weekend saw the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth entry in the wildly successful POTC series.
Gone was three-time director Gore Verbinski (off to direct his best movie yet, Rango) and actors Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley.

In their places were director Rob Marshall and actors Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Sam Claflin. The story picks up with the quest for the fountain of youth, teased at the end of At World’s End.

Even as someone who enjoyed At World’s End as much as, if not more so than, the original, messiness of it and all, this movie convinced me it was about time they put this series to rest. Nobody seemed like they wanted to still be doing this gig anymore. Had it not been for the staggering 50 million dollars they paid him, Johnny Depp would have disappeared faster than the rum.

The apathy from everyone involved finally carried over and influenced my viewing experience. I honestly can’t say more than “meh” when I discuss it with others. I had some actual expectations this time: it had been four years since #3, they were bringing in some fresh talent, and they had an actual script ready at the time of shooting.

Alas, it ended up more of the same, mostly in a bad way. If they truly want to make a better movie, they need to ditch the two writers. There’s just no need to continually over-complicate matters with endless double-crosses and bog things down with lame clergy/fish-person love stories. My favorite part of the movie was the ending 15 minutes where they set up several threads for the next film, but I’m not at all excited for a Pirates 5 because I already know they’ll royally fuck it up if they stick with those writers. Apparently only one of them would return for a proposed fifth installment. So now they only have half a problem, it seems.

The movie received the most tepid reviews of the series (according to Rotten Tomatoes at roughly 33%), but, thanks to 3D ticket prices, still manged to gross over a billion dollars internationally and currently sits at the number 9 of the all time highest grosses with $1,043,871,802. However, American audiences grew more tired of the swashbuckling  shenanigans and the movie only pulled in $241 million domestically, the lowest domestic gross for any of the Pirates movies.

Angels & Demons

This weekend in 2009 saw the release of Angels & Demons, the cinematic sequel to The DaVinci Code, based on the book that came before DaVinci, by Dan Brown.
The story this time involves Tom Hanks’ Prof. Robert Langdon travelling to Vatican City to help prevent the murder of four cardinals by the Illuminati, much less an anti-matter bomb from decimating the entire city. The sequel also adds Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgard, who plays Snarly McRedHerring.
The general consensus on Ron Howard’s adaption of The DaVinci Code was…not good. At all. The reviews on this one were more positive, but still not by a large margin.
To be honest, I had a lot of fun with this one. Dan Brown’s writing isn’t anything to jump for joy over, but the thing this one has over DaVinci is a better pace. DaVinci got dragged out by it’s plodding exposition which  sucked a lot of life out of it. Angels & Demons, while still a long movie (like most adaptions of novels) takes a cue from The West Wing and delivers its info on-the-go. The pacing, along with a far more sinister tone complemented by Hans Zimmer’s dark, bombastic score was enough for me to look beyond the flaws of the source material.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Right around this time in 2005, the final chapter of Lucas’ “legendary” Star Wars Prequel trilogy was finally unleashed on the world.

The final film brought about the fall of the jedi and republic, rise of the empire, and Anakin’s turn to the dark side of the force.

The Star Wars prequel trilogy is one of the most reviled pieces of pop culture, mostly by the fans that so fervently supported the originals a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away). With the disappointment poured on thick, people tend to write off all three movies. Which is a shame because I don’t believe Revenge of the Sith deserves to be lumped in with I & II.

Episode III was something it’s two predecessors weren’t: fun. Focusing on the mythos of the saga instead of political disputes and an unbearable love story brought back the interest.

Yes, it still has the terrible acting and (more importantly) writing, and occasionally baffling plot inconsistencies of the last two, along with some others that have become more apparent over the years (thanks to Mr. Plinkett for pointing out that 95% of the movie looks artificial, having been shot almost completely with blue/green screen).

But, hey, maybe it was because I was thirteen at the time, but I totally got swept away with all the visual dazzlery and the finality of it all. To this day, it’s still one of the most memorable theater experiences I’ve had.

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