Wednesday, May 5, 2010

'Pirates' No Longer of the Caribbean.............

Remember "Smokey and the Bandit"? Not to say the first two films of that series were examples of cinematic glory, but the dismal "Smokey and the Bandit 3" -- which had to cut its two leads as well as the director because of insufficient funding -- made it quite obvious what cuts in the budget can do to a film franchise.

Whether or not you recall the lesson imparted by this early '80s Burt Reynolds movie sequel, the news that "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," had its budget cut by more than a third doesn't exactly bode well for what we're going to see next.

The good news: Captain Jack Sparrow, the breakout star of the film franchise played by Johnny Depp, is back. Also, Penelope Cruz has signed on to play a love interest for Sparrow. The not-so-good news: director Gore Verbinski and the overwhelming majority of the big-name cast is not returning -- including Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.

Perhaps most devastating (at least from the perspective of a "Pirates" purist), is the news that the fourth installment of the franchise will not be shooting in the Caribbean (you know, like the title says) or Los Angeles. Those locations have been scrapped for the less expensive Hawaii and London. Perhaps the film should be renamed, "Pirates of the Thames: Maybe We Can Also Use the 'Lost' Set." And for the crew hoping to get a tropical suntan -- or perhaps acquire a Madonna-like accent -- they're out of luck: shooting has been cut down from 145 to a lean 90 days.

Like the "Pirate" predecessors, the fourth installment is being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer -- producer of films such as "Armageddon" and "Top Gun" -- someone who isn't necessarily used to budget cuts. The cuts stem from the new studio Chairman Rich Ross who has tightened the budgets considerably since taking over for former Chairman Dick Cook, who was fired from Disney in September of 2009.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" will be directed by Rob Marshall. Though Marshall won an Academy Award for "Chicago," he's not exactly known for being a director of action films. Other films to his credit include "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Nine."

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