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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Jack's back, and he's swishier than ever.

But before I proceed with the review, I must give you advance warning regarding the movie itself so you won't groan and throw your popcorn at the screen. Here it is - it's the second in a trilogy. This means there's a cliffhanger. Now as to what that cliffhanger happens to be, well, that would be telling tales, wouldn't it? And seeing the first movie is not a prerequisite, but it helps.

Jack Sparrow is a rogue, a self-proclaimed lothario with proclivities toward the seedier ladies, and an all-around scoundrel - a lovable one at that but nonetheless a scoundrel - and he's a pirate to boot. He's just not any run-of-the mill pirate, scurrying about raising havoc with the British Navy in the Caribbean seas as it says to do in the pirate manual. No, this pirate deals with cursed captains, skeletal remains, and sassy monkeys. In his latest adventure, he deals with a 'Dead Man's Chest.' And in this case, chest literally has several connotations.

I had the fortune to attend the July 6 midnight opening to 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' at the Cornelius Stadium Cinemas.

Judging by the crowds and given that six of the nine theaters were pretty much sold out, I would say this movie is destined to be a hit or else there are a lot of insomniacs. But, before hastily jumping to any obvious conclusions, let's talk about why.

First, it's old-home week in the Caribbean. Every single major cast member from the first Pirates movie is back - down to the mute pirate with the talking parrot. The continuity of characters is definitely a plus in bridging the story line from the first movie to the second and, we hope, the third.

Second, it has a killer plot. It combines two well-known characters from lore - Davy Jones and his famous locker and the love-struck Flying Dutchman - into one character, thus framing the foundation of the story.

Legend has it that whoever controls the beating heart of Davy Jones rules the Caribbean. Alas, poor Davy - his face is an octopus with tentacles; he has no heart (a love affair gone awry); and his crewmembers are the walking dead with barnacle faces. It's hard to find good help these days.

Toss in a couple of cross-torn lovers whose wedding plans were thwarted by a greedy British Lord, and you have the makings of an exciting derring-do to pursue the aforementioned chest.

Third, it has great special effects. Fortunately, the filmmakers read and tossed out the 'just because it's the second film, you gratuitously must have bigger, splashier, and louder' special effects chapter from the Filmmaking 102 textbook. Yes, the special effects are bigger and splashier but it's to the film's merit that it works.

Fourth, it has Johnny Depp. That alone should persuade you to spend an exhilarating afternoon at this movie. He ably encapsulates the bravado of a warrior captain with that of a sneaky double-crosser. But, gosh, you love him.

The cast includes Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, Jake Davenport, Billy Nighy as Davy Jones, and Stellan Skarsgard as Barnacle Bill.

I recommend you see this one not once but a couple of times just to savor the film's richly nuanced plot and hidden gems.