Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides The first in this swashbuckling series was terrific fun back in '03, and Johnny Depp's weird take on Captain Jack Sparrow was so off the wall it earned him an Oscar nomination and guaranteed sequels. Well, the law of diminishing returns applies. By the incoherent, massively long (two and a half hours for a pirate movie?!) third in the series, Capt. Jack seemed to be the only one—barely—not phoning it in.
The good news is that writers Ted Rossio and Ted Elliot gave the first three movies' bloated story arc the old yo-heave-ho, basically starting the whole thing over with director Rob Marshall replacing Gore Verbinski at the helm and giving the characters one main task: find the Fountain of Youth--first. Depp, amazingly, still makes his manliner-and-dreads privateer fun to watch and old favorites like Geoffrey Rush as Capt. Barbossa thankfully stuck around, while Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom (also thankfully) have sailed off to other shores along with their cumbersome storyline. Penelope Cruz as Sparrow's ex-lover-or-something in her big floppy hats and heavy accent doesn't add a whole lot to the proceedings, but that's okay in this saber-rattling caper that has everything from spectacular mermaid battles to Blackbeard's (Ian McShane) chilling black magic to zombie pirates. Production design and effects are first-rate, as are the effects. Does it reach the level of Curse of the Black Pearl? Not a chance, but it's a worthy installment thanks to a more straightforward story and unhinged performances. Extras: 2 disc (1 DVD/1BD) – bloopers, Rob Marshall commentary, LEGO shorts, Disney "second screen" to check out extras on your portable device as the movie plays; 5-disc Ltd. Ed. – those features plus deleted/extended scenes and featurettes on the mermaid scenes, the fountain of youth, and more. Superfans of the series can opt for a 15-disc, 4-movie collection that includes a never-before-seen short "Wedlocked" and comes in a pirates chest with collectible map and skull disc case.
Bad Teacher Cameron Diaz stars as a rude, crude schoolteacher hoping to beat her mousey coworker to the punch and land the affections of a wealthy substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake), and thus escape the throes of middle school. Vulgarity and politically incorrect humor ensues. Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, behind the scenes with Justin and Jason (Segal), "Raising More than Funds" featurette (DVD/BD); the BD adds an interactive yearbook, gag reel and three additional featurettes including one with the cast and crew answering the question of what makes a good teacher.
Red State Kevin Smith put this mysterious Sundance release first On Demand, then gave it a one-night-only theatrical release in Sept., and now it's on DVD/BD. Well, some promising buzz from graphic early trailers proved misleading—it's a clumsy, long-winded, sermonizing, unfunny Tarantino rip-off featuring a trio of teens that give you absolutely no reason to root for them and a (surprisingly) un-engaging and humorless John Goodman as an ATF agent sent to take out a cult of Christian extremists holding the teens hostage. As a horror fan, I was all ready to love this movie that promised bloodshed, horndog kids being tortured, crazy priests and whipsmart dialogue—instead, all I got was crashingly bored. Kevin Smith, that's the last time you clown me. Extras: Making-of, commentary and Smith's Sundance speech, deleted scenes, poster gallery.