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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (**)
directed by Rob Marshall
written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, creators of the series,
with some of the characters (those who return from the first film) created in part by Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert,
and a plot very loosely based on the Tim Powers's novel On Stranger Tides
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Principal Cast
Johnny Depp -- Jack Sparrow
Penélope Cruz -- Angelica Malon
Geoffrey Rush -- Barbossa
Ian McShane -- Blackbeard
Kevin McNally -- Gibbs
Sam Claflin -- Philip
Astrid Berges-Frisbey -- Syrena
Stephen Graham -- Scrum
Keith Richards -- Captain Teague
Richard Griffiths -- King George
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Better than Thor, not as good as Pirates of the Caribbean II and Pirates of the Caribbean III, not nearly as good as the first film in the series, this fourth Pirates movie has good acting, some clever dialogue, but a very weak plot. It's not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Essentially, what passes for a plot is just an excuse to move from one big action sequence to the next. The problem with this story about a search for the Fountain of Youth is that none of the major characters really wants to find the Fountain of Youth. Jack Sparrow, the protagonist, wants his ship back, wants to stay alive, and has an on-again off-again interest in saving the girl. Early in the film, he discovers his beloved ship, magically enclosed in a bottle by Blackbeard. At this point everything about his character suggests that he will grab the bottle, grab the girl, and run away. Instead, he goes along with the plot because -- well, because otherwise there isn't a movie. None of the other characters have any real interest in the Fountain of Youth, either. Blackbeard wants it. Apparently there is a curse predicting he will die, but it is never clear why he thinks the Fountain will offset the curse. Everybody in the movie is chasing after something that none of them really want.

There is a great deal of made up stuff added to the Fountain of Youth legend -- a magic compass, mermaid's tears, anti-gravity, too many impossible things for me to believe before breakfast. In fact, the Fountain turns out not to be a Fountain of Youth at all, just a magical healing potion, that has to kill one person to heal another.

The first Pirates movie had a great surprise ending. In this movie, you see the "surprise" ending coming a mile away.

One of the joys of the Pirates of the Caribbean series is the Roadrunner-Coyote physics. Particularly memorable is Jack swinging back and forth in a cage suspended from a rope. Cartoon physics only works when it shows respect for the real laws of physics. This movie doesn't. I'll give a couple of examples.

Four men carry a tank of water that weighs at least 1500 pounds. Four professional weightlifters might be able to get the tank off the ground, but they certainly couldn't walk with it. Four average pirates couldn't lift 400 pounds. People know from experience that water is heavy, and so they know that the four actors are carrying an empty box and the water is just a special effect.

Two men are tied to a tree by a rope wrapped around and around them many times. Nobody, not even a idiot, ties a prisoner that way. Try to imagine tying a prisoner that way and you'll see why. Given that a person is tied to a tree that way, if the rope is loose enough for him to work himself up the tree, it is necessarily loose enough for him to just slip out of the rope. When Jack pops up at the top of the tree holding the rope, it looks totally fake.

Other examples abound.

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Copyright © 2011 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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