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Eleanor Ringel Cater

Johnny Depp carries new ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie — eyeliner and all

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Boy, how I wish I owned the eyeliner franchise on Disney’s newest treasure chest, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is, of course, already famous for his kohl-circled eyes, reminiscent of the cat’s eye look from the mini-mod ‘60s (check out an old James Bond movie or “Blow Up” if you don’t know what I mean).

But now, his new leading lady, Penelope Cruz, lays on the liner as thickly as Depp does, as does Ian McShane as her father, the infamous Blackbeard, whose eye-rims are as black as his beard and his temper.

Eyeliner or not, Depp is still the reason to see the movie…. to see any of the “Pirate” movies probably. His slurring, half-stoned Keith Richards (he’s in the flick, too, for about 16 seconds) imitation has an unexpected staying power.

However, this incarnation is directed by Rob Marshall who’s better known for musicals (“Chicago,” “Nine”) than mythological mayhem. So, no skeleton crews, no multi-tentacled kraken, no end-of-the-world whirlpools.

What “On Stranger Tides” does offer is a brand-new storyline — having jettisoned several stalwarts from the initial trilogy (Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Jonathan Pryce).

Thankfully, this also makes it a bit less confusing.

Granted, like its predecessors, the picture is still overlong, overdone and generally too jam-packed for its own good. But at least we don’t have to remember who was doing what when the previous movie ended

Still, I’m not going to attempt a summary of all this film’s swashing and buckling. Long, confusing story made short: everybody’s searching for the Fountain of Youth. Finding it involves a scavenger hunt for…let’s see… some silver goblets, a mermaid’s tear and, I think, the little finger of a “Glee” cast member.

I have no idea where this FOY is supposed to be; it’s not, apparently, the one Ponce de Leon thought was somewhere near St. Augustine (he should’ve tried a little north — the much more upscale Ponte Vedra).

But it certainly doesn’t look like any part of Florida I remember (and my mom’s from Jacksonville.

I have to admit the seductively murderous mermaids (the movie’s most effective sequence) may remind you of certain single women who haunt certain beachside bars when the wealthy male customers are at least three sheets to the wind.

But otherwise, the landscape is pretty unrecognizable — though I do admit the FOY itself looks a tiny bit like some sort of religious icon you might find in front of a Miami Beach place of worship.

Still, I tend to enjoy these movies. Cruz, McShane (“Deadwood”) and Geoffrey Rush (his scurvy Capt. Barbossa is one hold-over from the previous movies…. better agent??) get right in the spirit. Plus, gorgeous galleons, with all their ornate rigging and grand sails, have always appealed to me more than the sleek soullessness of outer space or the “they’re fast, I’m furious” (furiously bored) franchise.

Who knows what water-logged legend Cap’n Jack and crew might pursue next. Maybe Moby Dick.

I’d love to see the White Whale with eyeliner.

And for other pirate movies….

Has Johnny Depp made you hungry for your inner “aaargh?”

You could search out a few of these ship-shape flicks:

“Captain Blood” and “The Sea Hawk”—Word is, Errol Flynn and director Michael Curtiz couldn’t stand each other. Still, they made several movies together, including these classic swashbucklers. I

n both films, Flynn, whose flair for roguish heroes remains unequaled, (even by Depp who tends to throw a few serious movies in between “Pirates’ cash cows) plays a “reluctant” pirate, i.e, the good-guy bad guy. Ironically, “Captain Blood” the movie that MADE Flynn, was initially intended for another actor. Sometimes, timing is everything.

“The Black Pirate” —- This silent film, released in 1926 and starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is the template for every twinkle-in-his-eye pirate flick to follow.

The money scene (and that’s actually Fairbanks): he sticks a knife in a main sail and rides down it as if he were on one of those sky-hooks tourists try in places like Costa Rica.

“The Crimson Pirate” and “The Flame and the Arrow” — In both movies,Burt Lancaster (likewise, a reluctant pirate) showcases his circus-acrobat background.

Plus, he stood up to Senator McCarthy’s infamous Blacklist by hiring Waldo Salt (one of the banned) to write the script of “The Crimson Pirate” (hmm, waving the RED flag, literally?) Pauline Kael called it “a wonderful travesty of the buccaneer film” in which the more obvious fun contained some subversive messages. For instance, one pirate snarls, “All my life, I’ve watched injustice and dishonesty fly the flag of decency. I don’t trust it.” Were you listening Senator?

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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