Monday, June 30, 2014

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Three-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD) (2012)

The Pirates! Band of MisfitsThe book is great. The movie is great. That doesn't usually happen. I guess it is because Gideon Defoe, the author of the book, also wrote the screenplay for the movie, intending one not to be a "spoiler" for the other. The movie was definitely more of a kids' movie, where the pirates were the ragtag underdogs struggling to keep up in the increasingly competitive pirate world (you are judged for your "booty"--double entendre?). The book has different characters and a completely different villain! That is how much the stories differed. The book also contains more grown-up humour more people being run-through by swords, more blood, more walking the plank, more steely pirate bad-assedness. Queen Victoria is one crazy woman in this movie, enough to get PETA up-in-arms for ages. The other pirates the Pirate Captain competes against for the Pirate of the Year Award (Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven) are swashbuckling good fun, even if they are more than a little rude toward the beloved Hugh Grant's character. Also, Hugh Grant gives a surprisingly different performance than the one he's known for in his rom-coms; his pitch is deep and fierce and his performance is touchingly funny without any over-saturated fluff. Gideon Defoe is spot on for creating a movie that is appropriate for the kiddies and a book that has humour for the older kids. See the movie because Aardman's stuff is always funny, but definitely read the book to get the original story.

After years of disappointment the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) resolves to finally win the Pirate of the Year competition and so embarks on a series of raids on passing ships in the hope of earning sufficient booty to compete with the his rivals Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and Black Belamy (Jeremy Piven). However he is still plagued by bad luck with the best produced by a succession of raids being the capture of Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Still at least Darwin is able to identify that Pirate Captain's beloved parrot Polly is in fact a dodo, supposedly extinct for over a hundred years. This gives them both an idea...!

Pirates! is a gloriously hilarious, exquisitely produced movie. Its very much a children's movie but with plenty of sly asides to keep adults on their toes as well. The sets are stupendous and almost beg a second viewing in themselves to allow the viewer to try to aborb all the teeming detail. Both the voice performances of the cast, and the painstaking detail of the stop-motion animation are flawless.

I thought it as close to perfect a piece of film-making as I have seen in many years and I hope for more adventures of the Pirate Captain and his crew in the not to distant future.

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The Pirate Captain yearns to win the Pirate of the Year award. Not if Peg-Leg Hastings, Cutlass Liz, or Black Bellamy can help it. The Captain's adventures cross paths with a geeky Charles Darwin, who observes that his parrot Polly is actually a dodo. So it's on to London for a science competition, only it turns out that Darwin isn't the only one after Polly. I love stop animation, and it's beautifully done here. The movie is ok enough, but it's not exactly Pixar magic. Cool soundtrack, with the notable exception of Supergrass. Screw them.

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I'm really picky about kids' movies. If my daughter enjoys it, fine, but she isn't what you might call discerning. This is one of the few that I actually enjoyed watching with her. Sharp humor, clever writing and fantastic to look at. It even has David Tennant! What else could you want?

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Pirates have become cool again with the trilogy of films made by Johnny Depp but those films might be just a tad too intense for the youngest of children. With that in mind the folks at Aardman studios, the stop motion group responsible for Wallace and Gromitt among other things, have come up with some pirates of their own. They've just been unleashed with this film.

The story follows a group of pirates that aren't quite up to snuff in the pirate hierarchy. Sure they have the peg legs and eye patches, but this ragtag group just doesn't seem to pillage near as much as most. They're led by the Pirate Captain who does his best to keep his crew happy and content (hey, don't forget ham night!). But Pirate Captain has dreams of his own, of becoming the Pirate of the Year.

The only problem is the amount of pirating he and his crew does. With Cutlass Liz and Black Bellamy always bringing in more booty they win the competition every year. Rather than allow him the chance to do better, the group always ridicules him as well.

That could all change when Captain Pirate and his crew board a boat stocked with all sorts of stuffed animals and body parts. The boat belongs to Charles Darwin who's been seeking a special scientific discovery so that he can become the Scientist of the Year award back in London. He too has had a tuff time but when he sees Captain Pirate's parrot he recognizes it is not a parrot at all but the extinct dodo bird. Darwin convinces Captain Pirate to take him to London along with the bird where they will win all sorts of treasures for their discovery.

Even though the queen has placed a bounty on the heads of every pirate to sail the seven seas the group heads for London. Once there Darwin attempts to steal the bird from Captain Pirate to claim the award for himself. He fails and Captain Pirate wins the award, stunned to find that it isn't booty at all but an award along with the chance for time with, of all people, the Queen! Darwin failed to mention the reward would be time spent with the woman of his dreams.

The Queen also wants possession of the dodo bird for her private zoo but Captain Pirate doesn't give in easily. After discovering he is a pirate and nearly decapitating him, she stops and pardons him in the hopes he will turn over the bird. When she offers treasure as well, Captain Pirate sees the chance to return to Blood Island with more booty than anyone has ever claimed and win the prized Pirate of the Year award. But all doesn't go as planned, something that always seems the case with this group.

The story may seem pretty well straight forward but in truth there is more beneath the obvious here. It's not just about Captain Pirate winning the award and gaining some self esteem. Instead the story is more about discovering who you really are and what is really important in life. For Captain Pirate that boils down to winning the award he's cherished for so long or remaining true to both Polly (the dodo bird) and his crew.

As with all Aardman Studio films this one is chock full of sight gags that run from beginning to end. Each one may be a small portion of the film seen but they all will garner laughs from adults as well as children. They do a nice combination of jokes that older viewers will get but won't offend the young crowd.

The stop motion animation is as always amazing. In a world where computer animation seems to have taken over, it's nice to see someone using this technique and not allowing it to fade away. Somehow just watching it makes you realize how creative and artistic it is in comparison.

The final word about this film though is that it is truly entertaining. It's a movie that both young and old will enjoy and have fun with. Topping that off is the fact that it offers something that youngsters will not realize they are getting and that is a set of morals to accompany the tale. They'll learn that wanting something and doing anything for it at the sake of losing everything that is truly important isn't quite worth it. And for a movie to entertain and get that point across is truly an amazing feat. So hoist the rigging and set sale for the high seas with this film that the whole family can enjoy.

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