adventure

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is coerced by old flame Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and her father Blackbeard (Ian McShane) into a quest to find the fountain of youth. They aren’t the only ones after it though with the Spanish and the British, led by Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), searching for it too.

While On Stranger Tides continues the trend in this franchise of having great costumes, music and set design, it unfortunately doesn’t have the fun or emotional-heft of the previous films. This may be in part as it’s the first film not to feature Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom), two central characters in the previous three films, and instead you have a new villain, new crew-mates, and a new love interest for Jack.

Blackbeard is a decent villain. He’s menacing and has a very clever ship, though this is probably down to Ian McShane’s performance more than the script. Blackbeard is set up to be a fearsome pirate but after you initially meet him, he’s not that fearsome. He’s by no means a nice guy and is incredibly selfish but he’s not terribly threatening after the initial reveal.

There’s a side romance with missionary Phillip (Sam Claflin) and mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) that could have easily been done without. In many ways, they are both plot devices, Phillip especially, and there’s not enough insight into their character for the audience to become attached to them in anyway.

On Stranger Tides is just a bit bland. It’s moves from one event to another and because there’s no real character development nor many interesting characters full stop, the times these characters are put in danger you don’t really care. Jack Sparrow, while still a bit mad and full of plans that unbelievably work, isn’t enough to make this film enjoyable. 2/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

I wasn’t planning on rewatching and potentially reviewing all the Pirates of the Caribbean films in the run up to the fifth film’s release but I’ve seen trailers for Salazar’s Revenge every time I’ve been to the cinema recently so it gave me the craving to rewatch the series.

When governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is kidnapped by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) of the Black Pearl, blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) teams up with eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save her.

The Curse of the Black Pearl is Johnny Depp’s first outing as Captain Jack Sparrow and it’s clear to see why Sparrow and Depp’s performance has kind of become iconic over the past ten plus years. Jack Sparrow is one of those characters who’s become a favourite to so many people. He permanently appears drunk and clueless but he often surprises everyone by having a mad plan all along. He’s funny, somewhat charming and good with a sword.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is such good fun. It’s full of action, epic duels and it does that magical thing of balancing action and comedy superbly. It’s also a very quotable film and I spend most of my time mouthing the lines along with the characters. Depp, Knightley and Bloom all have great chemistry and it’s wonderful when they’re on screen together. Everyone gives it their all, Barbossa is a formidable villain and Norrington (Jack Davenport) is surprisingly sympathetic.

I can’t not mention the score. Composed by Klaus Badelt with input from Hans Zimmer, the Pirates of the Caribbean score has become one of the most recognisable scores in recent years. It perfectly captures the fun and excitement of the film and has kind of become the theme for anything pirate related.

The special effects used on Barbossa’s crew still look pretty good over a decade later and perhaps that’s because they are used sparingly. The film waits to reveal the secret of the curse and even once it has, it still makes the moments when you see the effects of the curse truly count.

I just love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl! It is such an enjoyable film that I do not get tired of rewatching. I honestly think the word fun is the best word to describe, The Curse of the Black Pearl. It is one of those classic, action-adventure, fun for all the family kind of films and over the years it hasn’t lost its charm. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

FullSizeRenderBeing a skilled vet who specialises in reptiles, CJ Cameron is difficult to faze. When the Chinese government invite her and some other respected guests to the unveiling of their magnificent, top-secret zoo, CJ is intrigued but not expecting anything too different. Then the Chinese announce what is really going to be in the zoo. For decades, they’ve been breeding deadly creatures believed to be the stuff of myth. Despite the danger, the staff at the zoo stress that everyone is safe and they’ve prepared for every eventuality. But CJ spots flaws in the zoo’s security and believes it’s only a matter of time before the beasts break free.

The Great Zoo of China is a thrill ride from start to finish. There’s a great build up of anticipation as CJ and the other guests, including her photographer brother Hamish, arrive at the zoo and finally realise what the Chinese have on offer for the public and soon after all Hell breaks loose. Once the inevitable happens and the animals break free, the action is non-stop and the book speeds along as you’re with this group of characters and you just know that it’s not particularly likely that they’ll all survive.

Now I don’t think it’s a spoiler considering what’s on the cover and how the books been marketing but the deadly creatures in question are indeed dragons. These creatures are described as terrifying and deadly animals akin to the dinosaurs because that’s what they are. They are smart creatures and are described so vividly you can picture all the different types of dragons in your head easily. The Great Zoo of China doesn’t hold back when everything goes wrong. There are people torn or bitten in half and blood is splattered everywhere when the dragon attack.

CJ is a badass and a great protagonist. She’s calm under pressure, especially as she’s already had some experience of being in a struggle with a deadly creature with a lot of teeth, and she’s good at making the best out of a bad situation. Some might think she’s a Mary Sue but you could say the same think about Indiana Jones.

While I’ll admit The Great Zoo of China is no literary masterpiece, the science side of it is semi-plausible which is always a plus and it is a lot of fun and exciting. If you love Jurassic Park then this book will be right up your street. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

conspiracy of usAvery West is sixteen years old and knows nothing about her father until a boy comes into her life saying he works for her father’s family and they want to meet her. Soon she’s on an adventure in Paris, learning about her so-called family that is a part of a secret society called the Circle that seems to be able to control the world and her part to play in a prophecy. Two boys who work for Circle are Jack and Stellan and Avery isn’t sure if she can trust either of them as she discovers the prophecy is more like a conspiracy and it could destroy her life, along with the world.

The Conspiracy of Us is a great adventure story. It incorporates secret, world-controlling societies (think of the conspiracy theories about the Illuminati) with historical figures like Alexander the Great and how they relate to what’s going on today a bit like The Da Vinci Code. It’s a fast-paced book as you follow how all these clues are connected together and how it relates to a prophecy that Avery appears to be the centre of.

Avery is your standard YA heroine but a lot of her actions make sense. Thanks to her mother’s job, they’re constantly moving around the country so she’s never really made any long term friendships or connections meaning she’s quite closed off. What she’s always wanted though is to know who her father is so when that opportunity comes along she’s almost painfully naïve as she impulsively follows Stellan abroad in the hope to find him, not realising how reckless her actions could be.

Jack and Stellan are both intriguing characters. They both clearly have painful pasts but the way in which that has shaped them is different. There is a bit of a love triangle in The Conspiracy of Us which isn’t so great (not a fan of love triangles) but the way it sets it up means there’s interesting character moments.

One thing I really liked about The Conspiracy of Us is that it throws you pretty much straight into the action, there’s no long set up or world-building so with 30 pages you’ve met the three main characters and the plot is really kicking off. While the starting point of the book might not be that fleshed out, when it comes to the descriptions of cities like Paris and Istanbul, they were very vivid.

The Conspiracy of Us is an action-packed ride and would be great for people who like stories about treasure hunters. 4/5.