The 3-D adventure gives the franchise its own youthful boost, one sorely need after the last entry, “At World’s End,” proved to be as gloomy as its title.
“On Stranger Tides” is strengthened by the addition of Ian McShane as the dastardly Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz as his voluptuous daughter Angelica, a manipulative former lover of the wisecracking Sparrow. Other newcomers include Sam Claflin as the strapping missionary Philip and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as the gorgeous mermaid Syrena.
Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) takes over the directing reins from Gore Verbinski, who piloted the first three “Pirates” movies, and re-energizes Depp, Geoffrey Rush and other series veterans who looked stale in “At World’s End.”
Seeing it in 3-D (not available at all theaters) makes the action scenes even more vivid, though I think they’ve just about run out of new ways of staging swordfights.
The fourth “Pirates” story by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio follows Sparrow’s perilous journey to the mythical spring that’s supposed to restore youth to anyone who drinks from it. Along the way, he faces killer mermaids, grisly zombies and Blackbeard, envisioned here as a ruthless black leather-clad biker who orders his own daughter to play the potential victim in a game of Russian roulette.
Another deadly segment involves mermaids who drag sailors underwater and drown them. The combination of live action (using synchronized swimmers) and computer-generated images produce scary creatures that are a far cry from Disney’s cute princess version.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” from Walt Disney Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***
‘Midnight in Paris’
“Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s sumptuous love letter to the City of Lights, is a nostalgic movie with an anti- nostalgia message.
The briskly paced romantic comedy is a clever story with lush cinematography and an international cast that includes Owen Wilson (U.S.), Rachel McAdams (Canada), Michael Sheen (U.K.) and Marion Cotillard (France).
Wilson plays Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter struggling to complete his first novel. During a visit to Paris with his henpecking fiancee Inez (McAdams) and her parents, Gil enters a time warp that takes him back to 1920s Paris, where he meets Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and other artistic giants of that Golden Age.
Gil idolizes his new friends and the time and place they live in. They are more circumspect, pointing out the temptation to romanticize the past. The portrayals of these legendary figures are sharp and funny, especially Corey Stoll’s haughty Hemingway, Kathy Bates’s no-nonsense Gertrude Stein and Adrien Brody’s foppish Salvador Dali.
France’s first lady, Carla Bruni, has a minor role as a tour guide at the Rodin Museum who puts Sheen’s boorish egghead in his place. She’s probably had lots of practice with those types in her current job.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.