In addition to the flaws I mentioned earlier this week, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: On Stranger Tides (2011) suffers from generally just being bland: Without being an actual comedy, the real focus is on Jack Sparrow’s wacky doings, with elements of the source novel awkwardly squeezed in. Ian McShane is a bland Blackbeard (and where the ghost pirates of the first book were chilling, magic in the Pirates universe is so routine now that crewing his ship with the living dead is actually dull), Penelope Cruz is wasted as his spitfire daughter and Geoffrey Rush makes a pointless return as Barbossa (now rather warm and fuzzy instead of murderous). Avoid! “I was wrong—some souls cannot be redeemed.”
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984) is another of Woody Allen’s Bob Hopeish vehicles, with Allen as a small-time talent agent whose efforts to help a rising star with his tangled love life result in mobsters marking Allen out for death, forcing him on the lam with Mia Farrow. While the plot would work for Hope, comparing it to Love and Death or Sleeper, shows Allen’s on-screen persona has changed away from that—I could see Hope saddled with these inept acts, but he’d be trying to dump them, not build them into successes. Entertaining. “Believe me, Lou is not the sort of man who would cheat with more than one woman at a time.”
SLEEP, MY LOVE (1948) has wealthy Claudette Colbert Wake Up Amnesiac on a train with no idea what she’s doing there—which we soon learn is part of husband Don Ameche’s plan to knock her off and enjoy her wealth with his surly mistress (Hazel Brooks). Colbert and good guy Robert Cummings seem a little too normal for noir, but Ameche is startingly creepy as an unnatural calm villain, as is henchman George Colouris; overall, worth the watching. Keye Luke has a supporting role as Cummings’ buddy “I want everything she’s got—a house, a name, a man—and I want them tonight.”
THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (1979) was Miyazaki’s directing debut, taking anime protagonist Lupin III into a quest for foolproof counterfeit bills that leads him to the title fortress, a helpless princess and the scheming Count Cagliostro himself. An outstanding adventure, thoroughly entertaining even if you’ve never seen the anime series (which I hadn’t at the time I watched it first). “Do not forget, damsel, to always trust in your thief.”
Much of James Branch Cabell’s fiction is in a series called the Biography of Manuel, centering around friends and kin of Manuel the ruler of Poictesme. It wasn’t until late in the series that Cabell wrote the actual biography of Manuel, FIGURES OF EARTH: A Comedy of Appearances, telling how an ordinary swineherd ambitious to see the world finds himself increasingly dragged down by hot women, domesticity, children and the need to keep up appearances. Manuel comes off as even more manipulative than Jurgen, though his cynicism is ultimately a lot darker—Jurgen can at least embrace his squabbling marriage as a happy ending, but Manuel finds himself doubting whether anything in his life has meaning (as he explains in some annoyingly long speeches). Good, but not Cabell’s best.
After The Unknown Ajax and Black Sheep, it was a pleasure to a read a first-rate Georgette Heyer novel: THE GRAND SOPHY is a flamboyant young woman who arrives at her relatives while her father is overseas and immediately starts sorting out their unsatisfactory love lives, despite the objections of one cousin who finds her Obnoxious and Irritating (and we know what leads to in romances). Although the scene with the Evil Jewish Moneylender doesn’t age well, this is otherwise a great romp that could easily be tweaked into a screwball comedy.
LAND OF UNREASON by L. Sprague decamp and Fletcher Pratt has a Yank in England kidnapped by a drunken brownie who mistakes him for a potential changeling, then dragooned into the service of the faerie court and getting strange hints as he sets out on his quest that he has a Mysterious Destiny … Very much in the mode of the authors’ Harold Shea series, but not as successful. Part of that may be because this is an expanded short story and some of the elements (like a run-in with a Yankee farmer) don’t really fit with the rest of this (so I’m guessing they’re what filled it out).
And one last recommendation: My friend Katherine Traylor has a short story up on her blog for Halloween. She’s good.