REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and the crew of the Black Pearl join forces with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to find Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and make their final stand against their enemies.

I enjoy At World’s End and feel it’s a pretty solid end to a trilogy. It’s got a lot of great character moments and very quickly the main trio end up together and when they do they stick together. Or rather, if they do split up in any variation they end up back together a lot quicker than in Dead Man’s Chest. The plot is still kind of unnecessarily complicated with characters having different agendas, or at least seeming to when they really all want the same end result, but the film is more entertaining with it.

Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) steps up and becomes the main villain as the figure head for law and order on the seven seas. His verbal sparring with Jack is brilliant and those scenes help show a different side to both men.

The mythos that’s presented in At World’s End is one of the highlights. With the nine Pirate Lords and the brethren court it’s a great chance to widen the world of Pirates of the Caribbean. The scenes at the brethren court are a chance to show off more great costumes in seeing pirates from across the globe. It would’ve been nice to see more of the other Pirate Lords but really they’re there to serve a purpose – “We must fight, to run away!” is pretty much the motto of all the pirates.

At World’s End, much like Dead Man’s Chest, is a long film. It’s ten minutes’ shy of three hours long and sometimes you do feel that run time. That being said, watching At World’s End so close to Dead Man’s Chest means you pick up on the smaller plot threads or the significance of certain items, Bootstap Bill’s (Stellan Skarsgård) knife for instance, a lot better and it helps make both films more enjoyable.

At World’s End is a great conclusion to a trilogy, all loose ends are tied up and there’s a lot of well-developed character arcs that come to a satisfying end. It’s another great looking film with the sword fights and battles on the sea all well-shot and put together. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – El Salvador: Looking for Trouble by Roque Dalton

A collection of poems from Roque Dalton, a Salvadoran poet and revolutionary.

The thing I really liked about this collection of poetry was it had Dalton’s original work in Spanish side by side the English translation. It’s a great way to see the words that would’ve rhymed in Spanish and it’s nice that the original text isn’t forgotten. Also at the start of the collection there was a short biography of Dalton which was interesting and helped me understand where his poetry was coming from.

Each poem was very short, often no more than a page and many were only ten lines or so. This made them punchy, getting across the ideas and emotions in a concise way. His poems were often sarcastic which was an interesting yet strangely fun way for poems about love, death, revolution and politics to be. His sarcasm definitely shone through in his more political poems and I love sarcasm in writing.

My favourite poems in the collection were the political ones like “Poem XVI” and “My Military III the P.S. (Prodigal Sons)” Thanks to the biography at the start of the book you have a rough idea of the political turmoil going on in El Salvador at the time of his writings, with the ideas of a revolution being rife in the country after the Cuban Revolution in the 1950’s. One of the poems I liked a lot because it made me think and put a wry smile on my face was “Miscellaneous” – this one is about socialism and imperialism and how the two could attempt to shape El Salvador. My other favourite was “On Headaches” which is about the pain different movements cause while Communism is like “an aspirin the size of the sun.” It was an amusing look at different political ideologies and a great insight into the mind of a revolutionary.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read poetry for fun – I think having to learn everything about Seamus Heaney and Caroline Duffy’s work for my GCSE’s kind of put me off poetry as a whole genre for a while – but I found Dalton’s work really accessible. It’s a quick read and reading his poetry was an interesting snapshot into a country’s history. I think I might look for more poetry collections as I continue to attempt to read the world!

May’s FairyLoot Box – Warriors & Legends

My FairyLoot box arrived over the weekend and I was looking forward to seeing what was inside it. I don’t get a FairyLoot box every month (because of the cost and I have the naïve belief that it’ll give me more unread books on my TBR but I do that myself to be honest) but I had to get this month’s box because the theme, Warriors & Legends, sounded fab.

I think the box was really well put together and had a lot of cool stuff in it. There’s an exclusive blend of loose leaf green tea from The Tea Leaf Co – I don’t drink tea so no doubt I’ll be finding it a good home, but I do love the design on the container. I’ve become slightly addicted to candles lately so I love the box included one. There were two different candles you could’ve ended up with from In The Wick of Time, one called Flame and one called Mist. The Mist candle was in my box and I love the scent, it’s warm stone and woodsmoke and it’s a lovely subtle scent.

The box also included an exclusive wooden Lord of the Rings bookmark from Ink and Wonder, a pair of Celtic patterned socks, a metallic feather pen from Flora’s Wonder Emporium and a chapter sampler of Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff which sounds like a feminist fairy-tale.

There were actually two books in this month’s box. The first is World Mythology in Bite-Sized Chunks by Mark Daniel, a cool introduction to different myths and legends from across the world. And the second was the main event – Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh. I’ve heard so much about this book on social media over the past few months but never realised it was a Mulan-inspired story set in feudal Japan. Someone should’ve told me that and then it would’ve been right up my TBR! Flame in the Mist came with a signed bookplate, bookmark and a letter from the author and I do like how FairyLoot put the book in a little bag so it doesn’t get damaged on its journey in the post.

I do like FairyLoot boxes. They always feature cool things that are to a high quality and stuff books that I wouldn’t normally get myself but nearly always enjoy. Next month’s theme is Elementalists and I think there’s still some boxes left if you’re quick.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) races to find the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) to avoid succumbing to Davy Jones’ Locker while Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) search for Jack to serve their own agenda.

Dead Man’s Chest loses some of the fun seen in The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). There’s still moments that are delightful, like the sword fight on a giant wheel between Sparrow, Turner and Norrington (Jack Davenport). While that sequence leaves you with a huge smile on your face, there definitely isn’t as many laugh out moments compared to the first film.

That’s in part to how the main trio spend pretty much the first hour apart from each other, or as a duo and when the third arrives, someone else disappears. There’s still the other members of Jack’s crew like Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Ragetti (Mackenzie Crook) to add to the dynamics but when the main trio’s not together for convoluted reasons it does drag the film down a bit.

Convoluted is a good way to describe the plot of Dead Man’s Chest. There’s a lot of threads that different characters are following and it’s just a little messy at times. This is in part due to the villains. There’s Davy Jones, who doesn’t appear on screen till almost midway through the film but he certainly makes an entrance, and there’s also Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), the Chairman of the East India Trading Company. Cutler Beckett is a different kind of villain, he has power and ties different from your average pirate making him a foreboding presence looming from the shadows.

The effects still stand up, especially the work on Davy Jones and his crew, and the battles between the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl are still exciting and look great. It’s the exposition that doesn’t always work.

Dead Man’s Chest is not a bad film by any means. It just loses a lot of the family-fun/action-adventure vibes present in the first film, making it a bit less enjoyable. 3/5.

REVIEW: Miss Sloane (2016)

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought after lobbyist in Washington D.C. But when she turns down the job of working against a gun control bill and instead joins Rodolfo Schmidt’s (Mark Strong) firm which is working to ensure the bill passes, she finds herself against her most powerful opponent.

Miss Sloane is a gripping political thriller. While it does feature the hot topic of gun control and putting restrictions on who can go and buy a gun, the film uses that to show the tactics lobbyists use to get congressmen onside, and how politics can be corrupted. It’s a fascinating look behind the curtain of American politics and while this story is fiction, it is an interesting look at how bills can succeed or fail.

Elizabeth Sloane is amazing. She’s one of those characters who isn’t a nice person at all and will happily use people to get the result she wants but there’s something about her that pulls you in. She is a master tactician and a thing the film does really well is it not only has multiple characters say how smart and formidable she is, but actually shows you how smart and formidable she is. Jessica Chastain knocks it out of the park in this role, showing there are some very hidden layers to Elizabeth and she has no problem with who she is.

While Chastain stills the show, the whole cast is truly brilliant. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill and John Lithgow all deserve a mention as they all give great performances.

The music and set design make everything about the world these politicians work in look clean and perfect but it really helps hide the truth that there is shady business going on in politics every day. All the costumes are great, with suits and office attire adding another facet to each character.

Miss Sloane is a brilliant film that will have you rooting for the underdog. Jessica Chastain is amazing in the role and it’s a film I can’t stop thinking about. 5/5.

READ THE WORLD – North Korea: The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea by Bandi

A collection of short stories showing life under Kim Il-sung’s and Kim Jong-il’s totalitarian regimes. All the stories are written and set in the early 1990’s and had to be smuggled out of North Korea.

The Accusation is a truly remarkable book. While there has been novels, fiction and non-fiction, from North Korean writers, they’ve been written outside of the country once the author has defected, there’s never been work criticising the regime from inside the country. The story of how the manuscript of this book was smuggled out of the country is as fascinating as the stories themselves.

These short stories were truly eye-opening. They’re about ordinary workers, families, and officials and everything they have to do to stay in line – both the unconscious acts and the conscious ones. The stories show the difficulties of harsh food rations, no fuel to keep homes and workplaces warm and how you must never speak your mind or show you are unsatisfied.

The stories are all well-written in a simple style making them accessible but it’s really the content of the stories that is the most important thing. They each criticise the regime in North Korea in some way, shining a light on peoples suffering and how they either attempt to fight against it or become sadly accustomed to it.

Naturally, there were some stories I preferred to others. One of my favourites was “On Stage” about a Party official’s son who shows him how life in the country is a constant performance, and how you must never show anyone how you feel. If the occasion calls for you to be sad, you must cry. If it is a joyous occasion, you must laugh and smile even if your heart is breaking. I felt this story (along with my other favourite “City of Spectres”) really showed how no one is safe, and how fear of death and banishment keeps people in line.

The Accusation is a great and important insight into life in North Korea. It’s a quick read, each story is around 30-40 pages, and a captivating one. 4/5.

REVIEW: Alien: Covenant (2017)

When the crew of a colony ship discover an uncharted world, fit for inhabitation, they are unprepared for the creatures they find there.

Alien: Covenant is a great looking film. The set design and costumes feel really lived in and real. The score often puts the hairs on the back of your neck up and all the effects, practical and computer generated, are a high quality. Alien: Covenant is also a well shot film, this is something that doesn’t really need saying when it’s directed by Ridley Scott but it is.

There are a lot of expendable characters in Alien: Covenant so you don’t really get to know a lot about them before they meet their (often gruesome) demise. Katherine Waterston give a brilliant performance as Daniels. She’s in pain but has a steely centre that helps ground others, she doesn’t lose her head in a crisis and this all makes Daniels a wonderful character. I was also pleasantly surprised by Danny McBride’s Tennessee. These two along with Michael Fassbender’s Walter are really the core of the film. All give great performances, with Fassbender proving once again how he’s one of the greatest actors of this generation.

Alien: Covenant is a prequel to Alien (1979) and a sequel to Prometheus (2012) so it’s got a lot to live up to and being in this sort of in between, doesn’t always help Alien: Covenant. There’s a lot of tropes anyone familiar with the Alien franchise will know so there’s less surprises while it also continues with this mythos that was set up in Prometheus. The mythos is something not everyone will like but I feel it was handled better here, and was more interesting, compared to what was shown in Prometheus.

There are scary moments (though I might be easily scared) and a lot of body horror as creatures burst from people’s bodies. The alien creatures themselves all look pretty great and it’s always great to see the xenomorph on the big screen again.

Alien: Covenant looks great and has a lot of solid performances. It is thrilling and often scary but it does follow a generic sci-fi pattern that makes it lack any real surprises. 3/5.