PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL
(2003) Broad comic turns rarely score Oscar nominations, yet Johnny Depp clearly deserves to be in the running for his inspired work in this summer blockbuster that emerged second only to Finding Nemo
in the box office race. Aided by the scripters of Shrek
and The Mask of Zorro
, director Gore Verbinski provided notable visual panache to this rollicking yarn about an eccentric pirate (Depp) and a stalwart blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) who attempt to rescue a governor's daughter (Keira Knightley) from the clutches of a band of supernaturally affected pirates. Bloom and Knightley are suitably striking, while Geoffrey Rush adds the proper degree of hammy menace as the captain of the cursed pirate crew. Still, this movie wouldn't be half as memorable were it not for the patently bizarre turn by Depp, who transforms a conventional anti-hero into a fey, garrulous scoundrel whose antics constantly keep the other characters (and us) wondering what he'll do next. Advertised as containing "over 10 hours of bonus material," the two-disc DVD certainly isn't lacking for content; among its attributes are audio commentaries by key cast and crew members (including Depp), a plethora of deleted scenes, comprehensive "making-of" documentaries, a blooper reel, and a look at the original Disneyland theme park attraction on which the film was based.
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1985) Looking like a Michael Mann production but bearing the name of William Friedkin as director, this stylish drama casts CSI's William Petersen as a no-nonsense federal agent hell-bent on taking down the counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe) who killed his partner. There's not really much substance here, but the film looks great, offers a startling plot development toward the end, and showcases a grabber of a car chase that compares favorably with the classic one from Friedkin's The French Connection. Extra features include audio commentary by Friedkin, a worthless deleted scene, an interesting bit on the alternate ending that was filmed (and immediately discarded by Friedkin) after the studio balked at the original ending, and a photo gallery. The DVD loses points, though, for blowing a no-brainer -- i.e., not including the music videos (or at least an audio-only option) for the Wang Chung songs (the title track and "Wait") that propel the soundtrack.