Rango – Movie Review

Rango starts when a pet chameleon (Johnny Depp), after trying to orchestrate a very fancy looking play with a plastic fish and beheaded doll, gets stranded in the Mojave desert after he falls from his owner’s car. There, the chameleon (who is still nameless at this point), dazed and confused narrowly avoids getting killed by a hawk. Then, the chameleon meets an iguana named Beans (Isla Fisher) who takes him to the desert town: Dirt.

In Dirt, the chameleon finds the opportunity to be whatever he wants. He chooses to be Rango, a westerner marksman, and moments later, when the hawk comes back to terrorize the town, Rango kills him by firing a lucky shot that gets an empty water tower to squash the hawk.

However, soon after their arrival to Dirt, Beans discovers that the water reserves are dangerously low, which prompts her to ask Rango, who gets appointed sheriff, to investigate the matter. Rango undertakes her request and as the movie progresses, you find out the water issue is more complex and twisted than any of them first imagined: control the water and you control everything.

Rango is not your typical animated movie. It is definitely not something for the kids. After all, how many times do you hear the words “prostate exam”, “I’m ready to mate” and so on in a cartoon? The movie is a celebration of everything that is Western. There’s even a Clint Eastwood sort of appearance, just to top it all.

Johnny Depp is brilliant as the voice of Rango. The chameleon who embodies many personalities, depending on how he sees fit, needed an actor as versatile to give him life. And Johnny Depp does not fail at this. He plays well on screen with Isla Fisher, who has come a long way from being a shopaholic, with her impeccable western accent.

Director Gore Verbinski, known mostly for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, strings this movie together as an overall tribute to the western genre. There are hints from many famous western movies in Rango that anyone who’s a fan of the genre would pick up. Add to that the brilliant work of Hans Zimmer on the score, as well as screenwriter John Logan, and the movie becomes a very strong movie overall.

Rango is not a very pretty movie in the sense that animated movies are almost always aimed at providing audiences with a cute looking hero/heroin before anything else. Here, even the good people are cringe-worthy when it comes to the cuteness element, which goes to show how much the creators of Rango did not waver in them wanting to make an animated movie that’s not addressed to a particular audience, but one that fit their vision. Rango is a movie with many firsts. This the animators’ first animated movie and the director’s first animated movie as well. But you don’t feel that it’s a movie of firsts when you watch it because everyone involved gives it their all to make it as good as it could be. And yes, it is good.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Movie Review

The first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was a strong opener for the franchise, which reached its peak with its second installment: Dead Man’s Chest, a movie that was awesome all around: great acting, great storyline and an awesome cliffhanger, the likes of which you only see in certain TV shows where the wait is simply a few months. So the expectations for the third installement, At World’s End, were very high. But the sophomore slump expected for Dead Man’s Chest apparently skipped a generation and landed on At World’s End, making the movie a total disappointement.

So it’s safe to say that I wasn’t too excited about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise reboot, with their fourth installment: On Stranger Tides. With most of the cast returning (the only people missing are Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, not that I care that much) and adding new faces in the form of Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, the franchise was set to restart anew.

And restart it does. Not only is the movie an immense enjoyment, it is also engaging and visually stunning.

Starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, On Stranger Tides is the three-way race to the Fountain of Youth between the English, led by ex-pirate Barbossa, the Spaniards and the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, which is Blackbeard’s (a rival captain portrayed by Ian McShane) ship. Each one of those three has their separate knowledge of the path to the Fountain of Youth and their own agenda for going there. But the path to the fountain is filled with dangers and in order to harness the fountain’s powers, one needs to collect a mermaid’s tear, two chalices of the ancient ship Ponce de Leon’s wreck, both of which are not as easy to get as it seems.

Penelope Cruz portrays Angelica, one of Jack’s old flames and Blackbeard’s daughter. I thought she was an interesting addition to the franchise, becoming, yet again, the only woman on a crew of pirates. She’s quite safe in her role, not presenting anything groundbreaking on screen, but it works in the space she’s allowed to have in the movie.

On Stranger Tides also welcomes newcomer Sam Claflin, a Christian missionary, whose role as Philip in the movie is essential on two accounts: crucial advancement of the plot and some comic relief at particular tense moments.

On Stranger Tides begins with a set of duels and escape attempts. It isn’t until after the first thirty minutes that the movie starts to bite into its plot, with the characters well off at sea. It is then that you are presented with a truly magnificient scene involving mermaids and the movie starts running full throttle till the end.

Johnny Depp, whom I believe did the last Pirate movie of obligation more so than passion, is back in force for this installment. It’s refreshing to see Jack Sparrow be his regular self again: playful, never serious and uncannily witty.

The special effects in On Stranger Tides are brilliantly executed as well. If the overall acting ensemble didn’t engage you in the movie, the whole effect of this “other world” will do the job. There isn’t any part that looks unrealistic and everything is executed with the utmost care for details. Moreover, Hans Zimmer is, yet again, a genius at what he does. The score of On Stranger Tides is chills-inducing, especially when the Pirates of the Caribbean theme gets played inside the cinema and you get that warm feeling of epicness inside you.

Overall, On Stranger Tides is a breath of fresh air in a franchise I thought had lost its way. It’s an enjoyable movie that, despite its many flaws, manages to entertain you and, at least for two hours, make you forget about the things you left at the theater’s door. It immerses you and you can’t help but be thoroughly enjoyed by whatever’s taking place on screen. You don’t need to have watched the previous installments to understand what goes on in this one, just go as you are and watch!