‘Pirates' fares better second time around

McClatchy-Tribune Johnny Depp appears as Capt. Jack Sparrow in this scene from “Pirates of the Carribean II: Dead Man’s Chest,” now playing.

The most anticipated film of the summer &#8220Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest” has arrived - delivering an overstuffed adventure that manages to be a slight improvement over the original.

Johnny Depp returns as Capt. Jack Sparrow, the notorious pirate who seems to find danger at every turn.

Jack has a history of getting out of jams, but he may have met his match this time - when he comes face to face with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), captain of the ghostly Flying Dutchman. Jack made a pact with Jones several years ago and the menacing Jones has returned to collect the debt.

With time running out, Jack must figure out how he will pay the debt or be doomed to eternal damnation and servitude in the afterlife.

Jack's problems manage to wreck the wedding plans of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who are forced to join Jack on yet another misadventure.

I wasn't much of a fan of the original - mainly because I felt the film was too long and went in circles, with Depp's comical performance the film's saving grace.

&#8220Dead Man's Chest” is still pretty lengthy, but this time I felt like the story had a purpose and didn't go astray.

Depp is great, making Jack a cross between Jim Morrison and Dudley Moore, but this film has a lot more going for it.

Nighy is great as Davy Jones, giving the film a very strong villain.

&#8220Dead Man's Chest” also features several action sequences that are the pulse of the film. The three-way sword fight that culminates on a huge water wheel in the final act is one of the coolest and well-choreographed action scenes I can remember. It is easily the best action scene of the summer - and perhaps the year.

Some may feel cheated by the ending (which is more of a lead into next summer's third installment than an actual resolution), but it heightened my anticipation of that next chapter. If No. 2 is any indication, this franchise has found its stride and can only get better from here.

Short & Simple

&#8220Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”

Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images

Playing at: Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow), Franklin Drive-In

Grade: B

DVD dud of the week

This week's dud is &#8220Basic Instinct 2” (F), the absolutely preposterous sequel to the 1992 original that lacks any of the thrills or sexiness of its predecessor.

Sharon Stone is the only link to the first film, once again playing the bisexual serial killer Catherine Tramell. This time, Catherine is in trouble after the death of her latest lover in England.

Scotland Yard appoints a psychiatrist named Michael (David Morrissey) to evaluate her, but Catherine soon becomes the object of Michael's obsessions and desires.

This film isn't just bad, it's howlingly bad - with more laughs than &#8220Date Movie,” &#8220Just My Luck” and &#8220Big Momma's House 2” combined.

Morrissey is so bland as Michael that I bet people had to keep checking his pulse during filming to ensure he was still among the living.

Stone vamps and desperately tries to capture the sexy playfulness of Catherine that was so effective 14 years ago, but the performance is actually pretty sad - only emphasizing the fact Stone is way past her prime.

It may be tempting to rent this joke of a film as a lark, but avoid that temptation. It's not worth your time or your money.

&#8220Basic Instinct 2” is rated R (imagine that) for nudity, violence, language and drug usage and is available on DVD.