Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

The title here in Singapore (as in many places) is: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge.

In North America, it’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Possible reasons for the shorter title are that it’s:

  • easier to say
  • available for trademark
  • less idiomatic, thus easier to translate
  • more sensitive towards deaths in the news

(My money’s on the explanation involving trademark.)

I re-watched the movie because my husband wanted to go see it. I still like the bank robbery scene best; he liked the scene with the guillotine best.

Some of the dialog was heavy-handed. Several lines like, “We’ve got to find the trident!” reminded me of a particularly badly written scene in fantasy television series The Legend of the Seeker. The heroes burst into an obviously empty clearing and quite unnecessarily say, “They’re gone!” and “They took the horses, too!” Yes, yes, I can see that, thanks.

“Look! The trident of Poseidon!” Yes, yes, I can see that. Enough already!

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman captured the attention and approbation of hordes of moviegoers interested in seeing a heroic female fantasy character. It wasn’t personally meaningful to me the way that it seems to have been to a lot of people. I think the movie was pretty and entertaining but that, like many others that don’t have a well-crafted core story, it could have been thematically stronger.

Keep reading for more on the movie’s many possible themes and some questions I had (possibly because I’m not familiar with the source material) and things I liked, along with a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Wonder Woman (2017)

The Snow Queen (1985)

This version of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale isn’t exactly authentic, but it’s closer to the original than Disney’s Frozen—not that authenticity is necessarily what I’d want a film version of an Andersen tale to aim for, given how didactic and depressing the stories can be.

I remember seeing this short live-action production when I was little. The sets all look more than just a bit fakey-fakey now, but they were real enough to a kid with an imagination, and the snow queen’s ice palace still gives me a palpable sense of cold. Her glittering makeup makes her look dangerous, beautiful, and otherworldly.

See below for a plot summary.

Continue reading The Snow Queen (1985)

Thumbelina (1984)

“It’s just that I’m always the bride and never the bridesmaid…”

Thus quips Carrie Fisher in her 1984 role as Thumbelina, the diminutive heroine of one of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre productions.

After Thumbelina escapes the mother toad who kidnaps her as a bride for her son, she lives alone in the woods until winter, when she is rescued by a field mouse, whose neighbor the mole falls in love with her. Her host believes her marriage to the mole is a foregone conclusion; thus her frustration.

I watched this Faerie Tale Theatre episode after I saw the truly awful Don Bluth movie and re-read the original Andersen tale, both of which include yet another suitor (a beetle whose friends find Thumbelina ugly).

More details about this version below.

Continue reading Thumbelina (1984)

Thumbelina (1994)

“Let’s get out of this stinking weather before we’re statistics. I can’t even feel anything in my feelers anymore.”

That’s a brilliant pun. It’s the best line of dialog in the whole movie, and like all the best lines in Thumbelina, it belongs to the beetle, who sounds like Iago in Disney’s Aladdin. (Both characters were voiced by Gilbert Gottfried.)

Unfortunately, “can’t feel anything” describes the effect the movie had on me. In spite of all the supposedly empowering messages in it that could have been meaningful, it left me numb.

If you saw and enjoyed Thumbelina when you were little, maybe you can see and enjoy it now. Otherwise, I’d say the odds are slim to none.


Keep reading for more (MUCH more) on why I didn’t like the movie, along with a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Thumbelina (1994)

Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)

Herbie befriends a thieving street urchin in Mexico and gets his new owners in trouble when he smuggles the boy aboard a cruise ship and breaks loose in the cargo hold. Some treasure hunters searching for hidden Inca gold must recover stolen film that the boy accidentally transferred from one stolen wallet to another.

I like the car’s tricks, and his friendship with the orphan is suitably heartwarming, but the other characters and plot are nothing special. Moreover, poor Herbie keeps getting more and more decrepit-looking throughout the movie. They patch him up at the end, but we never get to see him race!


Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Nearly ruining his driver’s chance to qualify for the Trans-France Race, Herbie falls in love with another race car in Paris, one driven by a woman who resents discrimination against female racers. Meanwhile, Herbie is being chased by two bumbling diamond thieves, who have hidden a fist-sized gem in Herbie’s gas tank.

There’s a fight scene in the Alps that reminds me of the one in Speed Racer, though this one involves fewer people than that one; the diamond thieves have brought a helicopter to intercept Herbie and they hold the driver and his mechanic at gunpoint to try to get the diamond back. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking…


Herbie Rides Again (1974)

In this sequel to The Love Bug, the characters are totally different, except the car himself. The settings overlap, though: Herbie’s owner, a delightful little old lady played by Helen Hays (who I recognize from the Disney movie Candleshoe), still lives in the same house in San Francisco.

The plot revolves around whether the house (what the Chinese call a “nail house”) will be torn down so that an insensitive rich guy named Mr. Hawk can build a huge, H-shaped skyscraper on the site. Everything nearby has already been demolished. In Hollywood, the underdog wins and the wealthy antagonist loses; private property rights are upheld. (In China, sadly, that’s not always how the story goes, though supposedly things are improving.)

In part because the connection to racing is lost, in part because the real-estate developer is so explicitly Machiavellian, and in part because the lead male is pretty dopey, I liked this movie less than the original. That’s normal for sequels, though, and it was still cute.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

The best part of Dead Men Tell No Tales was the hilarious dry-land bank robbery scene. The runner-up was the failed-execution scene, which was also, notably, a scene on dry land. The CGI was impressive and all, but the ocean consists of entirely too much water, albeit fake water, if you ask me.

This is a tough movie to summarize in that there are five main characters, all with their own goals and conflicts. It’s an easy movie to summarize in that the whole plot is basically just “get control of the magic stick”. (It’s best not to think too hard about how the magic stuff works.)

Keep reading for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

The Love Bug (1968)

When I was little, I loved movies where stuff moved by itself. I loved animate inanimate objects like Herbie the VW Beetle, talking animals like the cat in The Cat from Outer Space, and people who could do telekinesis, like the siblings in Escape to Witch Mountain. These days I enjoy racing car movies, like the Fast and Furious series, Speed Racer, and even Death Race, despite how bloody it is. The Love Bug is a family comedy that features a racing car that moves by itself. What’s not to love?

I watched it with the audio commentary on this time, so rather than hearing the film’s dialog, I was hearing comments from the three main actors years after the filming.

One thing the commentators pointed out was the matte backgrounds. I tend to think of fake sets as being CGI and very artificial, but movies have been artificial a lot longer than computers have been around. The methods we use to trick the eyes have changed, but the effect is the same. A backdrop created with pixels isn’t necessarily more beautiful or realistic than a backdrop created with paint. The actor who was describing scenes set in foggy San Francisco couldn’t remember, and couldn’t reliably discern, which scenes were filmed on location and which locations had been painted in.

The movie is more impressive if you think about how many of the simple-looking special effects had to be done in real life with physical tools and props, such as the scene on the DVD cover where the car is bouncing across the surface of a pond. They had a plastic car on wires attached to poles on either side of the pond, and they bounced the car on the water. It’s much simpler, and much more complicated, than it looks!

Memorable moments in the movie: Herbie getting drunk on Irish coffee with whipped cream, which I don’t think I understood very well when I was a kid; a phone in a car, which must have been devilishly expensive at the time; diverted race cars zooming through a  mine, and then Herbie getting in an elevator sideways to exit the mine at the top of a hill.