Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Video Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise long ago walked the plank of artistic semblance. After the daffy fun of the first flick, due mainly to Johnny Depp's, tipsy off-kilter take on pirate Jack Sparrow, the series quickly devolved into bloated CGI fests lacking any wit or reason for existence.

The fourth installment, "On Stranger Tides," doesn't do anything to change this score. But at least the story is somewhat comprehensible, and they keep the number of characters trackable.

Alas, new director Rob Marshall -- subbing out for Gore Verbinski -- doesn't have the same flair for action scenes. The sword fights and other set-pieces tend to be murky and disjointed.

Sparrow runs across an old enemy/lover, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), who turns out to be the daughter of legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). At least that's what she's telling Blackbeard. Part of the meager enjoyment of this movie is discerning the intersecting lines of betrayal, as every major character is either actively conning or being conned by another.

The finish line is the veritable Fountain of Youth, which every king and scallywag wants for himself. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) pops up again, having lost a leg but gained a writ of clemency from the British crown.

In the end, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is another fancy treasure chest filled with leaden doubloons.

The video release of this movie was handled oddly. It debuted on Blu-ray last month, but is only coming to DVD now. Video extras are rather scant on all versions except the most expensive one, the 3-D Blu-ray/DVD combo. That includes a feature-length commentary and a number of featurettes.

It's a disturbing trend, this idea that only those willing to shell out for the top-line edition deserve the goodies. It's this sort of thinking that is causing DVD sales to plunge, as more and more consumers would rather stream a quick fix than shell out for a disc package that contains few or no extras.

Movie: 2 stars out of four
Extras: 2 stars out of four

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