Trains, Planes, Cars, and Pirate Ships Coming to a Theatre Near You

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Summer and fall movies are coming from land, sea, air, and rail this year. Look at some real-life inspirations behind these movie modes of transportation. Image collage: Lisa Tate

It looks like summer will be the time for many of us to amp up our family movie-going, and there are several films I’m looking forward to this year coming to theatres from all angles.

One of the things I’m personally intrigued by this year is getting to see how many historic modes are transportation are being interpreted by the filmmakers in movies not only based on real-life events but in worlds of pure fantasy.

This summer’s hopeful blockbusters are bringing with them state-of-the-art race cars, historic warbirds, and infamous pirate ships.

Pirates of the Caribbean’s Black Pearl and other ghost ships were inspired by the Disney parks attraction, but Queen Anne’s Revenge comes straight out of history. Images: © Walt Disney Pictures and Public Domain.

By Sea: The Pearl and the Queen in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

 Johnny Depp’s now well-defined alter ego Captain Jack Sparrow has faced cursed skeletons, zombies, Davy Jones’s army, Blackbeard, and an undead monkey (also named Jack) in his past adventures, and Dead Men Tell No Tales finds Jack in the midst of some hard times. This includes being the main target of a ghost ship led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), seeking to kill off the pirates.

From what we know by the trailers, Jack’s beloved galleon, The Black Pearl, is still in a bottle (as it was in On Stranger Tides) at the start of this adventure. The Pearl, known by its black sails and hull, was practically a character itself, and if you’re a Pirates fan, you know she is awesome. Also, you might know she was once named the Wicked Wench (yes, the ship seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction), which Sparrow once captained for Cutler Beckett for the East India Trading Company. Sparrow was eventually betrayed by Beckett who sunk the ship, and it took a bargain with Davy Jones for Jack to raise it from the deep, renaming it The Black Pearl. The rest of this history, of course, played out in Pirates I through IV.

As much as we all love the Black Pearl, it’s Hector Barbossa who has the bragging rights to a real part of pirate history: Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge. Barbossa “acquired” this ship from Blackbeard in the fourth Pirates movie. He is still behind the wheel of it in this latest film and is apparently doing pretty well for himself.

There is so much legend, speculation, and fictional accounts mixed with history surround the legacy of Blackbeard (aka Edward Teach or Edward Thatch, depending on the pirate enthusiast you ask), it is hard to separate the fact from the fiction. I’ll try my best to share some actual factoids. Queen Anne’s Revenge was originally an English merchant vessel named the Concord, built in 1710. It was later used for the horrible purpose of carrying slaves, but it was captured by a pirate named Benjamin Hornigold in 1717 near Martinique. Blackbeard was one of Hornigold’s men at the time. He was given this ship and made captain. There is much speculation as to why he named it Queen Anne’s Revenge, possibly out of sympathy to the last of Stuart monarch, Queen Anne. Long story short: after terrorizing sea travelers for a couple of years, Blackbeard ran it aground during a blockade in 1718 off the shores of Charleston, South Carolina. He himself never lived to see 1719.

Since 1996, there have been excavations and discoveries of cannons and other pieces of what may be the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and the actual wreck site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

The release date for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is May 26.

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Ford’s website lets you design your own GT, like the one I created above, which looks pretty close to Pixar’s new bad boy Jackson Storm. Inset: ©Disney/Pixar

By Land: Jackson Storm’s future of racing in Cars 3

 This latest Cars sequel is giving Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) another chance in the spotlight, as he finds himself losing relevance to a new generation or modern racers, including the ultra-fast, state-of-the-art Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer). He turns to the inspiration and help of friends old and new (including race technician Cruz Ramirez) to stay in the race.

It won’t be easy, as anyone who has seen the trailers knows; Storm is one intimidating beast.

This poses an interesting question. What kind of car is Jackson Storm? We know from the description first revealed in January he’s a custom-built “Next-Gen” Piston Cup Racer with “Maximum Performance V-8 with 850 horsepower,” a hydroformed alloy and steel chassis, carbon fiber and metal composite body, and a top speed of 214 miles per hour. Those are some pretty specific stats for a fictional animated car.

We also know from Pixar’s history of excellence that they do their homework. Creating an original “race car of the future” like Jackson Storm took some research and imagination, but the Pixar team knew they wanted him to be more angled than Lightning’s roundish body, more stealthy and aggressive, and lower to the ground for speed. Some of the people Pixar consulted for approval included a former Hendrick Motorsports Crew Chief Ray Evernham and others in the NASCAR racing world.

Pixar even enlisted the help of former Ford Motor Company chief of design J Mays with some initial sketch designs for Jackson Storm. This seems appropriate, as Storm could easily be the twin sibling of another Ford, the 2017 GT supercar. This car has a 647 horsepower 3.5L EcoBoostV6 engine, carbon fiber body with aluminum structures, and seems to like itself as much as Jackson Storm does. The GT is currently hoping to bring another 24 Hours of Le Mans victory to Ford in June.

No, you can’t purchase one of these limited edition cars (only 1,000 were put up for sale at $450.000 a pop), but you can design your own virtual GT on the Ford Website. It’s much less expensive, and I even love the color.

Some lucky people might have been paid a visit from a life-size version of Jackson Storm (as well as Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez) on their cross-country “Road to the Races” tour concluding in late June at California’s Sonoma Raceway.

The release date for Cars 3 is June 16.

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Christopher Nolan’s war epic made sure to use real warbirds in addition to practical and CGI effects to capture the planes which fought in Operation Dynamo (like Lockheed pictured at right). Images: © WarnerBros and Public Domain

By Air: The World War II Warbirds in Dunkirk.

 The story of the evacuation of thousands of allied and British troops from Dunkirk, France during an aerial assault from Germany, code-named Operation Dynamo, is a pretty intense moment in World War II. This summer is director Christopher Nolan’s turn to tell it.

Nolan is behind my favorite Batman trilogy, so when he decides to stick Tom Hardy in a vintage warplane, I’m springing for the large popcorn. Also, there will be lots and lots of warbirds for those who love planes or history.

As with any war-themed movie, the details surround the event are likely to be mixed around, condensed, or embellished for dramatic purposes, but Nolan made sure to give the planes in this film a worthy tribute. As indicated from his past movies, Nolan likes to use as many practical effects as he can, so expect to see several real and remote-controlled replica planes.

Filmed in Britain, France, and other European locations, this movie has gotten attention from those who love wartime aircraft. One writer from Warbirds News got to witness a day of filming and historic aircraft like RAF Spitfires and other planes decked out in full WWII paint jobs (some details are done more to capture the overall look of the era rather for historical accuracy). Some Spitfires were even cosplaying as German Messerschmitt fighters. There will also be several remote controlled replica drones flying to resemble many of the historic planes, as it would be nearly impossible to gather all together in flying condition.

One note on the history of Dunkirk; although thousands were rescued, there were also thousands left behind as war prisoners or killed. There were also a couple thousand aircraft from British, French, and German forces lost in these battles. A museum devoted to this event, the Dunkirk 1940 Museum, is currently being expanded for a reopening in July in Dunkirk, France. If the movie gives a glimpse of these sacrifices and events, it should be both devastating and impressive to see on the big screen.

The release date for Dunkirk is July 21.

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Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (left), and a close-up of a vintage travel poster featuring this luxury train’s routes. Movie image: © 20th Century Fox

 By Rail: The Orient Express in Murder on the Orient Express

Once the summer weather cools, we’ll be ready to cozy up with a good mystery this fall while experiencing some luxury rail travel.

Everyone’s a suspect in this latest adaptation of the classic 1934 Agatha Christie mystery set on a 1920s luxury train ride through Europe.

The Orient Express passenger train was created by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits in 1883, and went as far as Athens and Constantinople (soon to be Istanbul), although the original run was from Paris to Vienna. This luxury train’s journeys gave passengers and writers plenty of inspiration to concoct adventures, and several fictional characters from literature to movies have hopped on board including Dracula, James Bond, and Phineas Fogg.

Christie’s story isn’t set on the original Orient Express, but rather the Simplon Orient Express (one of Wagons-Lits company trains that used Orient Express in its name), which begin running in 1919. It still traveled from Calais, France to Istanbul, so it counts.

When I was in high school, I binge-read many of my murder mystery-loving grandma’s old Agatha Christie paperbacks. When I finally got to see the original 1974 movie version starring Albert Finney and Sean Connery—which I still highly recommend—I developed a strong urge to take a cross-country rail trip on this Art Deco masterpiece. That urge hasn’t ceased, but, unfortunately, the Orient Express’s original full European train trips did in 2009.

However, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, using original carriages from the 1920s and 1930s, is once again making short overnight trips from the United Kingdom to France, as well as longer trips farther east to Istanbul and Budapest. I better start saving up.

This latest adaptation is directed by Kenneth Branagh (who also plays Christie’s recurring Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot), boasts a big cast including Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, and Judi Dench, but once again the train looks to be the best dressed of the production.

If you can’t wait until fall, the original motion picture is making its way from home to home, thanks to Netflix.

The release date for Murder on the Orient Express is November 10.

However, you get to the theatre this summer—or fall—you can be sure to ride will get pretty interesting once you arrive.

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