Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is caught in the middle of a race to find the Fountain of Youth between Britain and Spain. But when it comes to choosing between his own life and that of others, which side of his personality will win out? Okay, the thing is, On Stranger Tides isn't exactly what I would call bad; it has some fun moments, Johnny Depp is always entertaining, and who doesn't enjoy a good sword fight? The issue with this movie is that it's just completely unnecessary. Neither of the previous Pirates films came anywhere close to measuring up to the first installment and this one really doesn't come close to the quality of the sequels, let alone the 2003 original. Simply put, On Stranger Tides represents a Disney (and Depp) money grab that worked out tremendously well, thanks to an absurd overseas take ($798 million). I guess it's too much to ask a studio to commission a decent script when putting up a $250 million production budget.
In Home Viewing Recommendation: If you liked the first three Pirates films, there's enough in this installment to make your DVD rental worthwhile. Just don't expect a lot.
Bad Teacher (2011) - Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake
A gold-digging elementary school teacher (Diaz) breaks every ethical and moral rule in the book in order to get what she wants before discovering that what she really wants was right in front of her the whole time. With movies like Bucky Larson and the up-coming Jack and Jill to consider, there's no way I could argue that Bad Teacher is the worst movie of 2011. So I won't do that. But I will say, of all the films I've seen this year (which fortunately does not include the aforementioned Larson), this is my least favorite. I HATE this movie and the more I've thought about it, the more I hate it. Not to get on a high horse, but I have a really hard time rooting for a miserable, disgusting, morally bankrupt character like the one Diaz portrays in this film which, by the way, offers no redemption while literally every life around her is ruined by her selfishness. Absolute crap.
IHVR: I am not easily offended by films but Bad Teacher was up to that challenge. Stay away.
An illegal immigrant (Bichir) attempts to provide the opportunities he never had for a son (Julian) who slips closer and closer to gang involvement. The critical reception for A Better Life was mixed but what almost everyone agreed on was the strong heart that this film brings to the table. It seems like the type of film that misses the mark slightly but still provides some inspirational value. I haven't seen it but I anticipate seeking it out at some point.
IHVR: Would be great on Netflix Instant but could make a trip to your local Blockbuster (haha, like that's even a thing) worth your time.
V: Season 2 (2010) - Elizabeth Mitchell, Charles Mesure, Morena Baccarin
The final season of ABC's potential-laden-but-unsatisfying alien drama brought the human race closer to an all-out war with the Vs along with a few twists that made for interesting viewing. Somewhere within the 22 episodes of V, there's a really good show just dying to breakthrough; unfortunately, that good show was too often overshadowed by a number of classic network TV screw ups. The plot was too swollen with off-shoots that no one cared about (how many ridiculous love stories do we really need in a show about aliens taking over our planet and harvesting our bodies? I think one is enough, personally, but then again, I'm not a network executive at ABC.), the actors in the cast were too often stiff and robotic, and the writers clearly didn't know where they were going because the show sputtered and spun its wheels more than half the time. By the end, despite my love for sci-fi, I was openly rooting for the show's demise because I couldn't quite bring myself to stop watching new episodes. This long-winded paragraph just serves to remind me of my desire for HBO or AMC to take on a real sci-fi series because, man, V might have been great at one of those networks.
IHVR: If you're a sci-fi fan and V pops up on Netflix Instant, give it a whirl and try to enjoy it for what it is.
Now on to the documentary portion of this week's DVD release collection.
Pearl Jam 20 (2011) - Eddie Vedder, Cameron Crowe
Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) - David Carr, Tim Arango, Carl Bernstein
Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011) - Michael Rappaport, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg
I looovvveee documentaries and all three of these films have my interest. PJ20, directed by the great Cameron Crowe, intersperses concert scenes with interviews and little-seen backstage footage in celebration of Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary. Page One takes a behind-the-scenes look at The New York Times. And BRL documents the strange journey to stardom and the subsequent breakup of one of rap's most influential groups, A Tribe Called Quest. Documentary+Pearl Jam+Cameron Crowe=an immediate viewing for me but both of the other films will definitely make it on my TV screen at some point in the near future.
IHVR: I don't like to oversell anything I haven't seen yet but I hope a lot of you will check out one or more of these films because they all look outstanding.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: 40th Anniversary Edition (1971) - Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson
99 percent of humans (made-up statistic) who have seen Willy Wonka fall into one of two categories: those who think this is a classic and really dig it (me) or those who are seriously creeped out by it. If you fall into that second category, that's okay, I can definitely see where you're coming from. But I've always had a real soft spot for this movie and there's something truly special about Gene Wilder in his element.
New to Blu
The Goonies (1985) - Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman
99 percent of humans who have seen The Goonies fall into one of two categories: those who think this is a classic and really dig it (me) and those who are IDIOTS!!! (See what I did there?) Are you kidding me?! What is wrong with you?! The Goonies is the best! (Note: I don't really think you're an idiot if you don't like The Goonies; I just think you're misguided. However, I have found that, like many '80s films, if you didn't see this movie as a kid, you don't understand its greatness. Fair enough. Now back to the extremely biased ranting about how great The Goonies is.) I truly love this film. In fact, I'm headed to the Pacific Northwest next week for a vacation and if you think I'm not going to head to Astoria, Oregon where this movie was filmed to do a Lord of the Rings-like walking tour, you clearly didn't read the beginning of this paragraph. The only reason this isn't the Pick of the Week is that it was the Pick of the Week when the super-ridiculous-incredible-best-box-set-ever edition came out last year.
The Crow (1994) - Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling (Blu-ray)
Cape Fear (1991) - Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis (Blu-Ray)
Guns of Navarone (1961) - Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn (Blu-Ray)Tomcats (2001) - Jerry O'Connell, Shannon Elizabeth (Blu-Ray)
Monte Carlo (2011) - Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester
Red State (2011) - Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 3 (2010) - Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane