This week: Captain Jack Sparrow and friends search for the Fountain of Youth, Cameron Diaz flunks as an educator and director Kevin Smith's exercise in torture.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Johnny Depp has smeared on the black eyeliner and dressed up in pirate drag again to play Captain Jack Sparrow in this fourth Pirates of the Caribbean adventure for all ye maties who can't seem to get enough. This time everyone seems to be involved in a race to the Fountain of Youth, with Jack onboard the Queen Anne's Revenge with Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), while Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his British vessel commissioned by King George II race alongside as do the Spanish. All crews need to find two magical chalices once owned by Ponce de León and obtain a single tear from a mermaid to use the Fountain to steal the remaining years of life from another person.
On Stranger Tides is less convoluted and easier to follow than the previous two installments and is the first one shot natively in 3D, making the Blu-ray 3D version the real pirate's booty. The effects—even in the darker scenes that usually don't translate well in 3D—really pop, especially in the centerpiece mermaid battle, which is one of the best sequences in any of the Pirates films with its amazing combination of live actresses and CG enhancements.
As for the acting, Depp is still having fun playing his Oscar-nominated role of Sparrow, Rush's Barbossa is a pirate hungry for revenge this time out, McShane makes an ideal Blackbeard, and Sam Claflin is the strapping missionary with a soft spot for mermaids meant to distract you from the fact that Orlando Bloom sat out this sequel. Only Cruz, with her shrill accent and goofy costuming, seems out of place, and you'll giggle when she prances on the screen and shrieks out a line. You can almost imagine her saying, "You want the lime with the Captain Morgan, senor?" This isn't serious stuff, though, so the unintentional humor she brings adds to the silly swashbuckling.
Best extras: The two-disc combo pack (one Blu-ray, one DVD) contains “Bloopers of the Caribbean,” commentary by director Rob Marshall, “LEGO Animated Shorts: Captain Jack’s Brick Tales” and Disney Second Screen functionality if you want to explore extras on a portable device while synced to the movie on your TV screen. The five-disc combo pack (one Blu-ray 3D, two Blu-rays, one DVD and one digital copy) has all of the previously mentioned features plus “Legends of On Stranger Tides,” “In Search of the Fountain,” “Last Sail/First Voyage,” “Under the Scene: Bringing the Mermaids to Life” plus deleted and extended scenes with intros by Marshall.
Verdict: Buy Me (if you own the previous Pirates trilogy), otherwise Rent Me
Bad Teacher is not Bad Santa, but it sure wants to be a raunchy, R-rated black comedy along that vein. Cameron Diaz plays the titular educator named Elizabeth Halsey, a booze-loving Chicago middle school teacher who smokes too much pot and takes naps in class, during which she shows her students lots of movies instead of, you know, teaching. Elizabeth's real agenda is to land a wealthy man, who arrives in the form of substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Seducing the goody two-shoes new guy won't be easy, especially with prissy teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) also setting her sights on the new man candy. While Elizabeth is busy being hot for teacher, she brushes off the advances of the nice-guy gym instructor (Jason Segel).
Diaz is occasionally funny as this coarse end product of two decades worth of partying, but for as outrageous and edgy as this comedy would like to be you end up wishing that its creators would have pushed it even further. Like Bridesmaids, underneath all the crude humor is a story about women scrambling around like idiots to get a guy but, unlike Bridesmaids, the lead character in Bad Teacher is completely unlikeable so you don't have any interest in seeing all of her girly scheming pay off.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes, outtakes, "Way Behind the Scenes with Jason and Justin" and a closer look at the car wash scene. The BD adds an interactive yearbook, an interview with screenwriter Lee Eisenberg, a closer look at the principal character and interviews with the cast and crew about what they think makes a good teacher.
Verdict: Rent Me
Kevin Smith might be "too fat to fly," which he loves to discuss after being booted from a Southwest flight, but that theoretically shouldn't affect his ability behind the camera. Although his hardcore cult of trench coat-wearing followers will lap up his latest, everyone else should steer way clear of this unbearable so-called thriller in which three teenage boys are lured to the town of Cooper's Dell with the promise of a sex party. Instead, they are plunged into the nightmare of Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his Five Points church. When word of the boys' disappearance gets out, ATF Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) is called in for a standoff at the holy rollers' complex.
Everything is ugly in this movie: the crass banter between the characters, the scenery, the color palette and the subject matter. Yes, extreme evangelical bible thumpers are a scary lot, but can't someone make a movie about them that is more compelling? A plodding, tedious affair, Red State is one to fly over.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a making-of documentary, commentary, Smith's Sundance speech, deleted scenes and a poster gallery.
Verdict: Forget Me
Also New This Week: Cape Fear (BD), The Crow (BD), Darkness Falls (BD), The Guns of Navarone (BD), Hellraiser: Revelations, The Howling: Reborn, The Last Circus, V: The Complete Second Season, Monte Carlo, Zombie (BD), Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (BD) and Baaria