Yo ho ho. 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,' the fourth entry in the Disney franchise, heads up the list of home video releases this week, offering pure fun and adventure as Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz swash buckle their way across the screen. If 'Pirates' gives you scurvy, there's always 'Bad Teacher,' a rather disappointing comedy starring Cameron Diaz that basically offers up a female version of Jack Black from 'School of Rock' (though she's a lot easier on the eyes). And, for fans with a sweet tooth for 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,' Warner Home Video has put together an impressive 40th anniversary set. Read on.
'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'
What It's About: Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in this action-packed sequel. Sparrow crosses paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a former lover and the daughter of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who's using Sparrow's name to mount an expedition to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. She forces him aboard the "Queen Anne's Revenge," Blackbeard's vessel, and they set off on an adventure that pits them against the Spanish and the English, the latter headed up by Jack's old nemesis, Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), along the way encountering mermaids, all sorts of treachery, voodoo and magic.
It's Kinda Like: 'Treasure Island' meets 'The Crimson Pirate'
What We Say: This edition of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' breathes new life into a franchise that -- by the time of 'At World's End' -- had degenerated into slapstick comedy and foolishness. With a sigh of relief, we can safely say that 'On Stranger Tides' has reverted back to the original's wit, sass and emphasis on adventure. Depp is surer than ever in his role as the amoral pirate (is there any other kind?), Cruz makes the perfect female foil for Sparrow, and McShane and Rush are as bad as pirate-bad can be. Hoist anchor and enjoy this buoyant ride. And me hearties, shiver me timbers, they've left the door open for 'Pirates of the Caribbean 5.'
• Extras: Commentary, bloopers, behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews | Buy DVD | Save DVD to your Netflix queue
Watch a trailer:
What It's About: Cameron Diaz plays a foul-mouthed and morally bankrupt teacher in this comedy that's short on laughs but long on snark. Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is a scheming and coarse-tongued middle school teacher who can't wait to marry her meal ticket so she can give up her day job. When he dumps her, she reluctantly goes back to work at the school, where she shows movies instead of teaching. She soon sets her sights on a handsome substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) and puts into motion a plan to earn extra cash to save up money for a boob job, all the time competing with the school's overzealous but most revered teacher (Lucy Punch) and fending off advances from the sarcastic, irreverent gym teacher (Jason Segel
It's Kinda Like: 'Bad Santa' meets 'School of Rock'
What We Say: Take one promising concept (a very bad teacher running amok in high school), add a fairly hot actress (Cameron Diaz) in the lead, give her a male and female foil, then mess it up with dumb situations, gratuitous sexual jokes and innuendo, and a lame plot twist, and you have a film that is never as funny as it should be. Remember how nasty 'Bad Santa' was? We had hoped that this film would be at least as nasty (based on the one-sheets and teasers) but -- despite Diaz's at times brazen performance -- we were let down. There is a good Cameron Diaz-car wash sequence, however, which might be worth the price of a DVD rental -- but just barely.
• Extras: Some fun deleted scenes and outtakes, and a couple behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews | Buy DVD | Save DVD to your Netflix queue
Watch the car wash clip:
'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory'
What's the Deal?: This is the 40th anniversary of a film that by now has charmed (and frightened) a couple generations of kids and -- even though a Blu-ray of the film was released just last year -- Warner Home Video has decided to go all out for this birthday celebration. They've packed a Blu-ray and DVD of the film, along with a third disc of bonus features, in an oversized 8 1/2 by 11 1/2-inch box that also contains some nifty Willy Wonka mementos: 'Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,' a 144 page behind-the-scenes production book; 14 pages of replica production correspondence; a Wonka Bar Tin with scratch-n-sniff pencils and scented eraser; and a facsimile Wonka Bar Golden Ticket. It's a collector's delight
Special Features: Warner has ported over several features from previous 'Wonka' editions: Commentary by the 'Wonka' kids, a behind-the-scenes documentary, sing-along songs, and a vintage featurette from 1971. New to this edition (on the second disc) is 'Mel Stuart's Wonkavision,' a new featurette in which the director reminisces on the production, and 'A World of Pure Imagination,' a recently discovered vintage featurette that has an interview with author Roald Dahl.
Is It Collection Worthy?: This set is definitely for die-hard 'Wonka' fans only, given its price tag: it retail's for $64.98, though discounts abound ($43.99 at Amazon). If you are a 'Wonka' fan, you'd be hard-pressed to pass it up; the production book alone is worth the price of admission. Newcomers to the world of 'Wonka' might want to rent one of the previous versions before popping for the set; if you have a youngster in the house, this will make a great holiday gift (just grab the production book for yourself).
Buy 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory'
Watch an exclusive clip:
Other New October 18 Releases:
- 'Attack on Leningrad': (2009) A British and an American journalist are trapped within the devastated city of Leningrad during the infamous Nazi siege in the winter of 1941. Stars Gabriel Byrne, Mira Sorvino.
- 'A Better Life' (2011) An illegal immigrant, struggling to make a better life for himself and his son, has his world shattered when someone steals his gardening business truck. Directed by Chris Weitz.
- 'The Captains' (2011) A feature-length documentary written and directed by William Shatner that takes a look at the 'Star Trek' franchise and its roster of captains.
- 'Freerunner' (2011) A freerunner desperately tries to break free from a mobster who controls a stable of street runners for a nasty sporting event; the freerunners, with exploding collars locked around their necks, have one hour to make it across town ... or lose the race and their lives. Stars Sean Faris, Tamer Hassan, Danny Dyer.
- 'The Howling: Reborn': (2011) Direct-to-video sequel has a high school student discovering that he is heir to a powerful line of werewolves.
- 'Monte Carlo': (2011) Three high-spirited high school graduates vacation in Paris and Monte Carlo. Stars Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy, Leighton Meester, Andie McDowell, Cory Monteith.
- 'Page One: Inside The New York Times': (2011) Documentary reveals the inner-workings of The New York Times newsroom by following the reporters for the paper's Media Desk as they work through a tumultuous time in journalism and face new players and platforms (such as WikiLeaks, Twitter, tablet computers and more).
- 'Red State': (2011) Kevin Smith riffs on religious fanatics in this tale of three boys lured to a fundamentalist group that has a stockpile of weaponry and a deadly moral agenda. Stars Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano, Anna Gunn, Kevin Pollak.
- 'Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption': (2011) Zombies and humans team up in a post-apocalyptic world to battle maniacal raiders who kill or kidnap everybody in sight. Stars Johnny Gel, Fred Williamson, Alicia Clark.
Check out more October 18 DVD releases at OnVideo.