Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

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Has Jack Sparrow met his match? He’s in London, facing piracy charges, has no crew, no ship and – seemingly – no hope. But, of course, keeping Jack behind bars wouldn’t make for much of a film and so, following a beautifully-choreographed escape through the streets of London, a scene-stealing cameo from Keith Richards as Jack’s worldly-wise father and reunion with feisty former love Angelica (Penelope Cruz), Jack is soon ensconced on the ship of the legendary Blackbeard (Ian McShane), on the hunt for the fabled Fountain of Youth. On his tail is pirate nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) but, as the journey gets increasingly dangerous, the old foes may find that they need to work together if they are to make it home alive…

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Surviving Summer (DVD)

Angst in her pants

Released as Greta in the USA and re-titled for its straight-to-DVD UK release, Surviving Summer occupies an awkward space between (young) adult drama and tween coming-of-age fable. For while it’s clear that star (and co-producer) Hilary Duff is keen to move on from her squeaky clean Hannah Montana Disney poster-girl image, this film is not accomplished – nor edgy – enough to entice an older audience, while at the same time being near enough to the mark to alienate much of Duff’s fanbase. And a 15 certificate, brought about by strong themes and a smattering of foul language, has cast Surviving Summer adrift in a demographic where it is going to struggle to find a foothold.

One thing is for sure; this is Duff as you’ve never seen her before. She is 17-year-old Greta, a smart-mouthed teen who, upon being dispatched to her grandparents’ (Michael Murphy and Ellen Burnstyn) for the summer, immediately declares her intention to commit suicide when she turns 18. Living by her own ruled, Greta ignores all boundaries and rides roughshod over the locals, her rudeness and selfish behaviour knowing no bounds. When she meets restaurant chef Julie (Evan Ross), however, Greta begins to realise that life may be worth living after all, and the stage is set for a journey of self discover and redemption.

Unfortunately it’s a journey that follows a dot-to-dot path of cliche and platitudes, with each step feeling more tired and well-worn as the film progresses. There’s no attempt to mine new territory or give the film its own identity; it’s as if the filmmakers are content to bet the farm on the shock value of seeing the squeaky-clean Duff play such a bad girl – albeit one couched in MTV-inspired terms of inoffensive rebellion – to carry the movie, rather than rounding out the narrative or the characters. And what such great players as Burnstyn and Melissa Leo, who turns up in a small cameo as Greta’s despairing mum, are doing in this dross only adds to the confusion. One for die-hard Duff fans only; and even they may find her riot grrrl turn a tough act to swallow. 1 star

Extra Features
Nothing

ROLL CREDITS…
Stars Hilary Duff, Ellen Burnstyn
Director Nancy Bardawil
Format DVD
Distributor Icon Home Entertainment
Released June 21

Robin Hood (2010)

This is England…

Most of us will know the story from our childhoods. The hero outlaw and his band of merry men, living outside the law as they fight against the injustices of the rich and for the rights of the common man, preyed upon by the corrupt local lawman and making their home in the leafy sanctuary of Sherwood Forest. A well-worn tale, it endures thanks to its ageless traits of morality, humanity and adventure – not to mention its enthralling central figure – and has found its way to both big and small screens many times.

But never like this.

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