Monday, July 24, 2006

Coming Soon

I'm not referring to previews or movies I want to see with this post, but rather two movies I've already seen. Confused? Let me clarify.

The "Friends" section, and thusly the "$0.02 Review" function, at NetFlix has been temporarily unavailable for going on two days now, and I do not feel like waiting for its return to comment on the two films I have seen in the past 48 hours.

To recap (and explain my subject), expect Tw0-Cent reviews for the following movies sometime soon. In the meantime I offer expanded thoughts on Clerks 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

In order of viewing I'll start with Kevin Smith's latest effort (and forgive me if I get lazy and just boil down these next few paragraphs into my subsequent $0.02 review when NetFlix finally allows for it). My first, and I'm somewhat sad to say most honest, feeling about Clerks 2 is this: Kevin Smith is a one-trick pony. By that I mean that no matter what he does he is never going to escape the View Askewniverse (i.e., the Jay and Silent Bob franchise). It's not going to happen. He has seven real films to his credit and the only one that doesn't fit the loosely (and sometimes blatantly) related series is the one I -- and many of his fans -- never even bothered to see.

Smith can do the Jay and Silent Bob thing, and he can do it well. And lest anyone think I am unfairly pigeon-holing him, I will add that even if his pony has just the one trick, it's still a pretty damn good one. Sure, Clerks 2 is a movie that probably didn't need to get made. What more could he get out of these two sometimes-loveable losers? It doesn't matter, because it's not Jay and Silent Bob that carry this movie; the two unloveable losers -- Randall and Dante -- do, and for that reason alone I'm very glad that this film did get made.

This film has a soul buried beneath its veneer of juvenile humor. It manages to capture the Kevin Smith essence while reflecting a maturity unseen in any of the previous Jersey films. Clerks 2 explores friendship and love on a level that shocked me almost as much as some of the punchlines and chatoic happenings that, despite its sincerity, repeatedly remind you that you're watching a Kevin Smith movie. While I don't particularly like either Randall's smug superiority or Dante's incessant pity-whoring, I empathized with both in the way they finally let down their guard and showed that they have grown up a little bit. It was endearing, and should Smith decide this was indeed the final chapter in his saga, he went out on a great note. If not I hope he doesn't ruin this film's legacy by going back to a two-hour assault of inside jokes, Rick Derris references, and Mark Hamill cameos in the next installment. I could like with more Alyssa Jones, however.

My thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, are not nearly as extensive. I think, though, that the best compliment I can pay is simply: I was left wanting more. Believe me -- that's higher praise than it at first may seem. For a movie that stretched to two-and-a-half hours, it seems ludicrous to suggest that it should have lasted longer, so take note in realizing that's not what I'm suggesting. What I do mean is that for all of its ups and downs, POTC:DMC ends on a perfect note, with one of the most brilliant segues to a sequel that I've seen. It blows away the lame suggestion of another X-Men movie (see: final scene, X3: The Last Stand), and director Gore Verbinski doesn't force the viewer to sit through ten minutes of credits for a ten second tease.

Verbinski takes a while to get the ball rolling -- or the cage, or the wheel (there are a lot of things that ultimately roll in this movie) -- but when he finally does he makes it fun. Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow picks right up where left off in the original, and both Orlando Bloom and the scrumptious Kiera Knightley reprise their roles with flair. In short if you enjoyed the first POTC odds are you'll find this one just as satisfying. And even if you begin to feel underwhelmed, and believe me if you do you're right where I was at about the 2:25 mark, Dead Man's Chest finds a way to redeem itself. Because while I'll readily admit that I could have done without a good 30% of the 150 minutes, I'm hard-pressed to cite specific examples in the wake of the ending.

Congratulations Mickey Mouse; you've -- if nothing else -- assured that I will go to see the third Pirates of the Caribbean when it comes our next Summer.

And for you, dear reader, I hope I've not disappointed you by not discussing the character development or "deeper meaning" of POTC here in the second half of this essay. But we're talking about a popcorn movie, matey. That's what it is -- that and a lot of swashbuckling, rum-running fun. Arrrrggghhhh...


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