Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End: Two-Disc Limited Edition
(Disney, 2007). D: Gore Verbinski, w/ Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
Disney plans to pull this off the shelves September 30, 2008, and wants a hefty $41.99 for it, $29.39 at amazon.ca. Is it worth it?
The movie certainly is. It's every bit as fast, funny and polished as the previous two entries. It ups the ante on spectacle with a tremendous battle in a maelstrom and brings all the ongoing stories to satisfying conclusions while our pirate horde battles the evil East India Trading Company, which has gained supernatural control of the seas.
The entire cast is back. Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow remains fresh and funny, particularly when he's trapped in the afterlife with multiple copies of himself. Chow Yun Fat has big fun as an Asian pirate chief. Even Keith Richards acquits himself well, looking quite at home and more cruel and depraved than the movie's villains.
The dialogue is as witty as before and continues to celebrate betrayal as a way of life, which, when you think of it, is an odd set of values to find in a Disney movie.
The extras give a detailed look at the movie, with particular focus on the design elements, one vital piece is missing: the commentary track. The original Pirates, Curse Of The Black Pearl, carried three, all very good. Odds are Disney has some stashed for a later release. At this price, I'd wait for it.
EXTRAS Disc one: bloopers. Wide-screen. English, Spanish audio and subtitles. Disc two: eight making-of docs, Keith Richards and Chow Yun Fat docs, deleted scenes. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
The Nanny Diaries
(Alliance, 2007) D: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, w/ Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
This is more a tragedy of privilege without responsibility than the light comedy it's being marketed as.
A mild-mannered young woman (Scarlett Johansson) can't figure out what to do after university and falls into a nanny job for an over-monied Upper East Side Manhattan family. Mrs. X (Laura Linney) is a pampered, self-centred bundle of nerves who takes it all out on the nanny and Mr. X (Paul Giamatti) an absent workaholic. The kid is starved for affection, and naturally the nanny becomes emotionally involved.
This would make for fine farce if it were played that way, but Linney's Oscar-worthy multi-layered performance reveals the smugness and cruelty that hide behind her social mask, and the agonized anxiety hiding behind that.
Equally effectively, Johansson delivers the cringing, hunch-shouldered misery of the downtrodden. Together, they're a portrait of suffering that easily overwhelms the mild humour.
Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini do a lovely job with their Manhattan locations, but their touches of whimsy - lots of Mary Poppins references - fall flat.
Best part of the extras is the chat with Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, authors of the original novel. They have some good things to say about their writing process and the facts they drew on for their fiction.
EXTRAS Making-of doc, authors' remarks, bloopers. Wide-screen. English, French audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
(Alliance, 2007) D: Alain Desrochers, w/ Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge, Lucie Laurier. Rating: NNN; DVD package: N
Not all action thrillers have to be Die Hard. Cars crash in Nitro and, wonder of wonders, they don't blow up. People have relationships and spend time on them. So do we, and thus come to care about Max (Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge), who's left his gangster/street racer life behind but goes back to it when his beloved wife needs a heart transplant. Of course, it all goes wrong, and before long Max is on the run from the cops and the mob with his old flame Morgane.
Lucie Laurier as Morgane and Martin Matte as the mob boss match Thivierge's high-focus energy, creating a nice sense that maybe he does belong to the criminal world after all. On the family side, Myriam Tallard brings a bit too much sugar to the ailing wife, but Antoine Desrochers makes up for it as Max's quiet, tense son.
Alain Desrochers, who's mostly directed Quebec TV, handles the drama scenes and his fights and foot chases well, but the car work is occasionally incoherent. That may be intentional. It's clear from the clever plot changes that Desrochers has more on his mind than big bangs. Exactly what I cannot say, since the extensive making-of doc that fills most of disc two is without subtitles, despite a menu promise to the contrary.
EXTRAS Disc one: wide-screen. French audio. English, French subtitles. Disc two: making-of doc, organ donation doc. Full-frame. French audio.
All Or Nothing At All
(BFS, 1993) D: Andrew Grieve, w/ Hugh Laurie, Caroline Quentin. Rating: NNN; DVD package: N
For those of us who can't get enough of Hugh Laurie on House, this three-hour English miniseries puts him front and centre in almost every scene and keeps the story firmly focused on his emotions. It's his first starring dramatic role and, while his chops aren't quite as refined as they later become, he's already an amazingly magnetic actor, fully able to deliver warmth, charm, thoughtfulness, desperation and chilling darkness.
Laurie plays Leo Hopkins, a happily married London stockbroker who slides gradually into fraud out of a strong need to be liked. The story is simple and simply told in conventional television visuals with leisurely pacing. There isn't much subplot, and the other characters mostly exist only as they relate to Leo. Despite the thin drama, the story achieves considerable tension as Leo makes one bad decision after another and we wait for it all to come crashing down.
The dialogue is sharp and several of the actors have a good time with it, notably Pippa Guard as Leo's acerbic but loving secretary and Bob Monkhouse as his equally acerbic but not at all loving boss.
The extras are weak. You'll get a better biography of Laurie with Google.
EXTRAS Laurie and Caroline Quentin print bios. Full-frame.
Coming Tuesday, December 11
Harry Potter And The Order Of the Phoenix
Latest in the ongoing saga sees Harry and his pals caught in a sinister power play.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Matt Damon returns as the amnesiac secret agent, still hunting for his past and dodging government assassins.
(Peace Arch, 2007)
Writer/ director Steve Buscemi c0-stars with Sienna Miller in a U.S. remake of a 2003 Dutch film about a burnt-out journalist forced to interview a movie star.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
(Anchor Bay, 1984)
Nothing says Christmas like a psycho in a Santa Claus suit.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb