Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Video review: "Pirate Radio"

It's a slow time for new films arriving on video -- "Pirate Radio" is about it for the first half of April, until the 800-pound gorilla (aka "Avatar") lands next week.

The name "Pirate Radio" not ring a bell? It's not surprising. This comedy from writer/director Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") barely made it into American theaters, although it did decent business across the pond in its native England (where it was titled "The Boat That Rocked").

It's a hilarious, edgy and thoroughly enjoyable comedy about a forgotten bit of rock 'n' roll history.

In the mid-1960s, it was the golden era of music in Great Britain -- The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones -- but public radio outlets were only permitted to play two hours of it a week. So it was left to a bunch of outlaw stations to pipe the music of rebellion into the nation from ships moored just outside territorial waters.

This highly fictionalized version tells the story of Radio Rock, the leader of the ocean-going music brigands.

A motley ensemble of DJs lead the way, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris O'Dowd, Rhys Ifans and Nick Frost. Bill Nighy is the free-willed boss, Tom Sturridge plays the innocent young recruit, and Kenneth Branagh is the prig of a government minister tasked with shutting them down.

It's as entertaining as it is unlikely, with the boys (and one lesbian) hosting a non-stop soundtrack party.

Video extras are top-shelf.

The centerpiece is 16 deleted scenes totaling 68 minutes of screen time. In the intro, Curtis describes them as self-contained little vignettes. He even jokes that if he'd swapped the scenes that remained in the film with those left out, the movie "might have been more successful. Alas!"

The deleted scenes are quite good; it's almost like getting a whole other bonus movie. Don't miss the one in which Midnight Mark, the DJ whose sex appeal is legendary, is caught with 35 naked women crammed into his cabin.

The DVD comes with the deleted scenes and a funny commentary track by Curtis, O'Dowd and Frost. The Blu-ray also has six featurettes totaling 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes action.

Movie: 3.5 stars
Extras: 3.5 stars

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