Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
by Brian Savage

The latest installment of the Pirates franchise delivers a solid performance of everyone’s favorite pirate: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.  The story is filled with the normal fantastical pirate lore and search for the lost fountain of youth (complete with mermaids).  Penelope Cruz was wonderful in her role as Captain Jack Sparrow’s foil.  There was more humor, about the same amount of action, but I find the zombie routine a bit dated.  It was great in the first movie, but now four films deep, seems a bit tired. I think the problem with most pirate movies is that the lore is fairly shallow, so after seeing the same forumla in the search/battle/port/island several times, it just isn’t cutting new ground.

Overall it is an entertaining film that doesn’t drop out of the action long enough for you to lose interest.  It is a good edition to the franchise and is fun to watch.

What is most interesting about this release is that the Blu-Ray version now uses an emerging technology called “Disney Second Screen” where you can download an app to your iPad and sync it to the movie for additional content.

This was interesting but I found it was a bit distracting if you were really watching the movie.  I never could get the two devices to sync via my LAN but when I switched over the audio sync it finally worked. Most of the content on the second screen seems to be diagrams of sets, stills of the movie and an occasional factoid.  The one thing I didn’t like was when I tapped on a particular frame to give the picture a closer look; there was no way from that page to advance to the next frame. You have to go back to the timeline (which makes all the images smaller) and tap the next picture or tap the incorrectly named “sync to movie button” which catches you up to the current frame. At first because of my syncing issues, I thought that button was to sync the screens together, not catch up to the current frame.  I think this button needs to be renamed.

For many of the images, there is no text explaining what you are looking at. It also seemed that some things were a stretch for content. This is an enormous body of reference material and I can see where it would be very difficult to have everything relevant. The best content is the behind the set pictures and the up close pictures of the costumes. This resource is a reenactor’s gold mine!

Overall, this was an interesting feature but I’m not sure it is worth the work of the producers. Sometimes, less is more…

The version I reviewed was the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD. What happened to the digital copy? I think for distribution that all Blu-rays should come with all three versions, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital. This release also comes in a 5-disc set, which has 2 Blu-rays(?), 1 3D Blu-Ray, 1 DVD and 1 Digital disc. There is also a 15-disc (all movies) collector’s pack and it will be available for download in High Def and 3D.

The Two Discs: Blu-ray + DVD includes...

* Bloopers of the Caribbean.

* LEGO Animated Shorts: Captain Jack's Brick Tales.

* Audio Commentary by Director Rob Marshall.

* Disney Second Screen.