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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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Pirates of the Caribbean : Curse of the Black Pearl

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man's Chest

 

Pirates of the Caribbean : Curses & Chests

Like just about everyone this side of Fantasyland, I cringed at the announcement that Disney was to make a movie based on, inspired by, in bed with – whatever – one of their major theme park attractions.  I admit that I could not work up sufficient imagination to imagine a scenario that would quell the political distress caused by such a confluence.  Then I remembered Davy Crocket.  In that case, the TV movies came first, then the feature film spliced from the TV episodes, then the Crockett-inspired Mike Fink Keel Boat and Explorer Canoe rides at Disneyland.  Both rides, as it turned out, have been among the more lame attractions at Anaheim, so, I figured maybe all was not lost for the new venture.  When I learned that Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush figured into the picture, I felt an involuntary raise of the eyebrow. 

The first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, beat the hell out of every expectation – and apparently, I was not alone in this.  The sequel, Dead Man's Chest, could only be worse, I assured myself.  It was, but not all that much, nor hardly to the point of distraction.  In fact, my second viewing was much more satisfactory – at least I was prepared for some of the scenes I had thought went on too long.  (Most critics felt that the second sequel, At World's End, went on even longer, so I was again prepared.  Let's hear it for low expectations!  While not nearly up the standards of the first movie, it was not a difficult experience, and quite possibly seeing on video will be even less so.)  My main criticism of Dead Man’s Chest was not so much its length or the length of its action sequences, as it’s relative lack of anything that so grabbed my visual, dramatic and emotional attention as the walking dead in The Black Pearl, who would turn in and out of skeletons as they entered and left a beam of the full moon.

By now, the plot must be familiar enough so that a cursory summary should suffice: Girl meets boy; boy grows up in girl's shadow and falls secretly in love with her (think: Princess Bride); girl is affianced to a decent, politically correct fellow; girl is kidnapped by pirates as grown boy and fiancÚ give chase while girl runs hot and cold about boy.  That's pretty much the thread of the three movies.  The cool part is not the resemblance to the Disneyland ride (of which, if you've never been on it – and you're missing something there if you haven't – you would never miss the connection), but the pirates themselves; for it is they, rather than the aforementioned heroes and heroines, who grab our attention and steal our hearts - in the case of the two sequels, quite literally.

Enter: Johny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, about whose character the worst that might be said is that he seems to be making it up as he goes along.  Of course, it is that very ambiguity – or, if you're so inclined to see it that way, aimlessness - that either fascinates or drives you crazy: in either case, we are never quite sure of Sparrow’s motivation, though we are (at least in the first movie) always intrigued by where he will go next.  In Captain Jack, Depp has created one of the most original and endearing characters to appear on screen in a very long time, rightfully receiving an Oscar nomination for The Black Pearl.  Captain Jack lurches his way from scene to scene, seeming to have urgent (or care-less) business with a medallion; the son of a pirate; the girl; a heart; first one ship, then another; his honor, or lack of it – to name just a few.  It is these motivators that this reviewer tended to focus on through the trilogy even more than the boy meets & loses girl plot, largely because I found Depp so much more interesting than Orlando Bloom.  On the other hand, as the sequellae unfolded, Depp seemed increasingly bored with his role – not so much as to sink the ship, but noticeably less so than in The Black Pearl.

The supporting players across the two movies were pretty much terrific: Geoff Rush as the calculating pirate captain Barbossa; Bill Nighy as the slippery, but formidable Davy Jones; Stellan Skarsgard as young Will’s penitent father, Bootstrap Bill; Jack Davenport as the persistent Commodore Norrington, our heroine’s very British fiancÚ; Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg as a pair of lovable pirates, one of whom kept losing his wooden glass eye; and, let us not forget the very lovely Kiera Knightley, as the one important female, played with that same updated sense of feminine assertiveness she would so unapologetically manifest in Pride and Prejudice.

 

 

Pirates of the Caribbean : Curse of the Black Pearl

Directed by Gore Verbinski

2003

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment [Disney] (USA)

2.35:1 @ 1080p / AVC MPEG-4

2 discs: #1: BD-50 dual-layer.  #2: BD-25 single layer

143 minutes

 

Audio:

English PCM 5.1 Surround

English DD 5.1 Surround

French DD 5.1 Surround

Spanish DD 5.1 Surround

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish, selectable

 

Extras on Disc 1

• Three commentary tracks by: Verbinski and Depp, the screenwriters, and producer Bruckheimer with actors Knightley and Davenport.

• An interactive feature: "Scoundrels at Sea."

• Trailers

 

Extras on Disc 2

• Documentary: "The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean."

• "Fly on the Set"

• Video Diaries

• Deleted scenes, bloopers, wrapping up.

• A tour of the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland.

• Image Gallery

 

16 chapters for the main movie

Standard Blu-ray case with slip cover.

Release Date ex. May 22, 2007

 

Pirates of the Caribbean : Curse of the Black Pearl

The Score Card

The Movie : 8.5~9

What's with this spate of Cursed movies lately. Curse of the Golden Flower, where there was no curse, and now Curse of the Black Pearl, which misidentifies the agent.  The title should be Curse of the Aztec Gold, which would have had just as much cache as the one settled on and not have been misleading in the bargain.  But that's probably the worst that can be said of this relentless amusement.  Unlike the ride at Disneyland – or any ride at the famed park for that matter, when it looks like you're coming into the terminus, there is still more ride left for you to enjoy.  While that may spell a certain distress for a film's architecture, it translates into continual fun for the price of your ticket.

Image : 10

One of the first things we notice about the image is its luminosity and dimensionality.  Even the darkest scenes, where much of the intrigue brews, breathe life and suspense. The color scheme of The Black Pearl tilts to cool blues, befitting the moonlight under which much of its ghostly action takes place.  For some reason cool colors, especially blue, look especially terrific on video - whereas warm colors, especially red, tend to appear a little garish, even when the display is properly calibrated. The Black Pearl is crisp, often to the point of disbelief, it’s very sharpness seemingly a special effect; Dead Man’s Chest is more filmlike, less precise, which makes a certain sense when we realize how much of it takes place on actual locations instead of sound stages.  The technical specs for both films, according to the IMBD, are different, which to my mind suggests that the BD’s sometimes less impressive image of the sequel is likely in keeping with the original source elements.  Even so, I would give a higher score to The Black Pearl.

Empathy : 10

The image and audio is entirely unobjectionable, on a big screen in one’s home theatre it’s hard not to lose oneself in the magic.  Even though the Blu-ray technicals were jaw-droppingly terrific, I found myself at times unable to maintain a critical frame of mind.  Praise indeed.

Audio & Music : 10 & 9

Even in a 2-channel distribution, the sound is engaging, magical, and powerful by turns.  Dialog is always crisp and clear – which is a good thing, since the pirates speak in their own language, based on variants of "arrrgh," and every assist is appreciated.  Considering its length, the score is not all that repetitive, even though its basic themes are recognizable and effective.

Operations : 8

Both Pirates Blu-rays test the loading capabilities of your Blu-ray player, especially The Black Pearl, which takes two minutes before the Disney logo comes up on the first generation Sony BDP S300.  Even then, the Special Feature "Scoundrels at Sea" takes additional load time when activated.  The garrulous pirate skull that we first see on the home page appears regularly on the main menu and becomes tiresome quickly.  Another debit: a scant 16 chapters is all we get for a two and a half hour movie.

Extras : 10

There are only a few Blu-ray titles that are spread across two discs, but this is one that takes full advantage of the opportunity, and without a substantial increase in price.  In addition to all the special features of the SD Special Edition, the main title disc has a feature unique to this high-def presentation entitled "Scoundrels at Sea": You may choose to watch the entire movie with small, but readable pop-ups that tell of historical pirating and their relationship to the colonies, or access more information in about two minute segments, or store them as you go for a whole treasure chest of infobits after the movie is done.  Also on the main disc are three commentaries by various cast and crew.  I found the most interesting to be the one with the screenwriters, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.  The commentary track that included the dynamic duo of actors Davenport & Knightley also had some delightful bits of banter.

MENUS

The second disc includes an item titled "Fly on the Set" which details how various scenes were thought out; three Video Diaries (averaging 7 minutes) from the producer, and various "lesser," but often more accessible, cast members; Deleted scenes, bloopers, wrapping up; and a nostalgic seventeen minute tour of the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland.

Recommendation: 9.5

The SD edition of this movie was only fair to good (I'd have given it a 6 on the full SD<BD scale), so the improvement in luminosity and resolution and the resulting emotional involvement possible makes this BD a must own.  Highly Recommended rating for Curse of the Black Pearl for its being a better film, presented on this Blu-ray with more interesting features all round.

Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

July 8, 2007


 

 

 

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man's Chest

Directed by Gore Verbinski

2006

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment [Disney] (USA)

2.35:1 @ 1080p / AVC MPEG-4

2 discs: #1: BD-50 dual-layer.  #2: BD-25 single-layer

150 minutes

 

Audio:

English PCM 5.1 Surround

English DD 5.1 Surround

French DD 5.1 Surround

Spanish DD 5.1 Surround

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish, selectable

 

Extras on Disc 1

• Audio Commentary with Screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio

• An interactive feature: "Liar's Dice'

• 1080p trailers

 

Extras on Disc 2

• Bloopers of the Caribbean

• Charting the Return (Pre-Production Documentary)

• According to Plan: The Harrowing and True Story of Dead Man's Chest

• Captain Jack: From Head to Toe

• Mastering the Blade: Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport

• Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend

• Creating the Kraken

• Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction

• Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producers Photo Diary

• Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage

• Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man's Chest Premiere

• Animated Java Menus featuring Jolly Roger

 

28 chapters for the main movie

Standard Blu-ray case with slip cover.

Release Date ex. May 22, 2007

 

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man's Chest

The Score Card

The Movie : 7

At least the sequel is not titled "Curse of the Dead Man's Heart."  True, it goes on and on, but so does the first movie.  The action sequences are only a bit longer, but they do seem to weigh things down somewhat instead of giving the movie flight as they did with The Black Pearl.  Still, I think the more significant liabilities are that the villain is short on menace and that its production design does not lend itself to propelling the narrative as much as the first movie.  The idea of seamen indentured to Davy Jones turning gradually into sea creatures is an ingenious one, and more original than pirates slipping into skeletons in the moonlight, but it generates more reflection than action.

Image : 9.5

While the color scheme of The Black Pearl favors cool blues, Dead Man's Chest goes for warm oranges and yellows.  A sensible idea that suits the extended scenes in junglely areas of the second film as well as those on board the rotten, almost certainly fetid Dutchman. Besides the difference in color cast, the two films differ in their photographic look: While The Black Pearl is particularly well-defined; Dead Man’s Chest is more filmlike, less precise, which makes a certain sense when we realize how much of it takes place on actual locations.  The technical specs for both films, according to the IMBD, are different, which to my mind confirms that the BD’s less impressive image of the sequel is likely in keeping with the original source elements.

Empathy : 9

The image and audio is outstanding so that on a big screen in one’s home theatre it’s hard not to lose oneself in the magic.  Just about everything on board the Dutchman was as mesmerizing as it was boggling. The effects department deserves major kudos for conveying a sense of realism to such creatures as I've rarely, if ever, seen before – nor did the Blu-ray scalpel make for anything less than a seamless, no wires, presentation.

Audio & Music : 10 & 8

As in the BD of The Black Pearl, the sound is engaging, magical, and powerful by turns even in a 2-channel configuration.  Dialog is always crisp and clear – which is a good thing, since the pirates speak in their own language, based on variants of "arrrgh," and every assist is appreciated.  Considering its length, the score, which reprises the basic themes of the first movie, and adds some motives of its own (reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back & A New Hope) is not all that repetitive, even though its basic themes are recognizable and effective.

Operations : 8

Both Pirates BD's test the loading capabilities of your Blu-ray player, taking just under two minutes before the Disney logo comes up on the first generation BDP S300.  Even then the "Liar's Dice" feature take additional load time when activated.  The garrulous pirate skull that we first see on the home page appears regularly on the main menu and becomes tiresome quickly.   Dead Man's Chest offers us 28 chapter stops instead of the meager 16 of The Black Pearl.

Extras : 9

Like the BD of The Black Pearl, this set takes full advantage of its 2 discs.  In addition to all the supplements of the SD Special Edition, and like "Scoundrels at Sea" from The Black Pearl, the main title disc has a feature unique to this high-def presentation: "Liar's Dice" where the pirates Pintel (Lee Arenberg) and Marty (Martin Klebba) perform some neatly done bits along the way.   There is also a very fine commentary track by screenwriters, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio concentrating on how they managed the sequel.  On the second disc there are two excellent documentaries on the making of the movie: "Charting the Course" that tell us about pre-production; and "According to Plan: The Harrowing and True Story of Dead Man's Chest" – a suspenseful adventure in its own right.  If you want to learn about how a difficult movie is conceived, panned and executed: look no further.  " Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction" reveals how the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction has been "upgraded" to incorporate aspects of the movie, a sort of art-imitates-art idea.  And finally, we have assorted featurettes dealing with costuming, make-up and swordplay.

MENUS

Recommendation: 8.5

Even though the SD edition of this movie was pretty good (I'd have given it a 7 on the full SD<BD scale), there is every reason to upgrade for the improvement in luminosity and resolution.  Recommended.


Leonard Norwitz
LensViews
July 8th, 2007


COMING SOON:
The Searchers
The Queen
Unforgiven
Casino Royale
Enter the Dragon
Kung-Fu Hustle
Rocky
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