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Nacho LibreNacho Libre on DVD

Jack Black is back from his run in with the big ape – and this time out he's the big ape!

Black plays Nacho, a young man raised in a Mexican monastery/orphanage who when the movie opens works there as the cook, though he doesn't have a lot of resources with which to do his job. He loves his job and the life of a friar, but he's restless.

And he has a passion for wrestling, and wants to give it a chance. But of course he can't do that as a friar – so what's a self respecting but frustrated young man with dreams of glory to do? He dresses up, under a mask and cape that not only hides his true identify but which also fits in well with the other rasslers he's about to meet in the ring.

He also picks up a partner (Hector Jimenez), a reluctant one at first, to compete with him in the local Lucha Libre tournament where they can win $200 if they win – money he wants to use to buy supplies so he can create better food for the orphans and better his (and their) lot in life. They lose, but they discover that there's money to be made beyond "pin" money. Life may have taken a turn for the good.

Then there's the new nun, sexy (in a virginal way) Sister Encarnacion, played by Ana de la Reguera. When she show up, Nacho tries to woo her in a kind of celibate way while living the double life he hopes will let him win enough money wrestling that he can buy a bus for the orphan kids.

Jack Black, and Ana de la Reguera, are the best things about this movie. Black uses his flab as a joke (though it wears thin after a while) and his physical acting is good. We'd only seen him in King Kong before Nacho Libre, and liked him a lot as Carl Denham – though probably as much because we loved Robert Armstrong's original portrayal, and Black's is as true to it as Jackson's film is to the Cooper original – which is very true.

But he carries the movie well. Ana de la Reguera, on the other hand, brings a quiet grace with just the right hint of sexiness to her role; she lights up the screen every time she's on camera.

The problem with Nacho Libre is that is just isn't particularly funny! And this is the kiss of death for a film that purports to be a comedy. We only laughed once during the movie, despite the package promising "Big Laughs from Start to Finish".

Perhaps it's the concept, or the screenplay, but the 92 minute running time seems long – as if there isn't enough to keep it going. Not that it drags, much, but it almost seems pointless – especially because you know everyone's going to live happily ever after.

One thing we did like was that Nacho and Sister Encarnacion do not get together romantically, which would have required them breaking their vows and leaving their chosen lives. Instead, they keep the "big picture" in mind and remain true to their religious training and their choices. This was an interesting twist from a Hollywood that seems to treat religion like some kind of mental disorder.

The DVD (also available in HD DVD and Blu-ray) has been given the Collector's Edition treatment for some reason, undoubtedly to make it a more attractive buy. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) (a Pan&Scan version is also available) and the picture quality's actually pretty good, nice and sharp. There's good contrast and the colors are rich and deep.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's also very good.

Extras include a running commentary track featuring Jack Black, director Jared Hess and writer Mike White, some deleted scenes, a "Nacho Libre Comic Book Creator", some behind-the-scenes featurettes and a photo gallery.  

Nacho Libre, from Paramount Home Entertainment
92 min. anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Jack Black, Hector Jimenez, Ana de la Reguera
produced by Mike White, Jack Black, Julia Pistor, David Klawans
written by Jared Hess & Jerusha Hess and Mike White, directed by Jared Hess

Pirates 2Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on DVD

What a disappointment! When the first Pirates movie came out, we figured it would probably suck. After all, a movie based on a theme park ride? C'mon.

We were wrong. The first Pirates - The Curse of the Black Pearl - was a terrific yarn, larger than life (thanks in no small part to Geoffrey Rush's delightfully scenery chewing performance as the bad guy Barbarossa), and a thoroughly enjoyable mix of "historical drama" with fantasy.

We were also treated to fine performances from a cast that included Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightly, Jack Davenport and Jonathan Pryce.

Sequels often don't reach the height of their originals, and to say that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is inferior to the original is an understatement. Where the first film blended action/adventure with fantasy and comedy, balancing them beautifully, "Chest" is more an action comedy than anything else, and the movie suffers because of that.

This time, the plot revolves around the need for charming pirate Captain Jack Sparrow to pay a debt he owes to Davy Jones (of "Locker" fame), who happens to flit about the ocean in his ship, the Flying Dutchman, with his crew of phantoms. The debt involves his soul and servitude, and if he's going to pull off a typically Jack Sparrow escape he needs to find some way to keep from becoming one of them, and suffering forever.

He does this by finding someone else to pay that debt for him - none other than his "friend" from the first movie and son of Bootstrap Bill, Will Turner (Bloom).

But before we get to that, we have the pending nuptials of Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), interrupted by the British government and its sleazy representative - a capitalist (zounds!) in the tradition of so many Hollywood villains.

There's plenty of action and lots of really good special effects - but it takes more than that to make a good movie. And, alas, the script seems excessively padded as if the writers, knowing they were doing two movies at once, only had enough material for one and had to stretch.

For example, there's a long bit where Will tries to rescue Jack Sparrow (sorry, Captain Jack) and discovers him and his crew are captive on an island. We then spend an interminable time on the island as Will is captured and imprisoned with the crew of the Black Pearl and go through their own larger than life - and, in the end, silly - escape attempts.

And they never do rescue Jack (sorry, Captain Jack), because he makes his own escape after all. The whole episode could have been done in five minutes, though with the loss of ludicrous action and effects.

Then we get back to the main plot, finally - and it meanders along until at the very end we discover the whole thing has basically been a setup for episode 3. Fortunately, it looks like our favorite character from the original movie, and who was missing from 2, will be around big time for 3, so maybe there's hope.

Another problem we had was Depp's performance. We liked him in the first movie, but here he seems to just mug his way through the screenplay waving his arms and acting effeminate.

We're ambivalent about the big monster, which takes its name from both Ray Harryhausen and John Wyndham (though in function it's more like the Harryhausen creation). It's also very well done and, perhaps in a hat tip to classic Disney, reminds us of the giant squid scene from the terrific Richard Fleischer-directed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

We hope the next film takes the franchise - let alone the audience - a little more seriously.

The Disney DVD's good, though. Our copy was of the 2-disc Special Edition and it features a 3D package that's more interesting that much of the film. The movie itself is presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Audio and video quality are excellent, which is typical of Disney.

Then there are the extras. The package crows about more than five hours of special features that let you "immerse yourself in pirate lore" and there's certainly a bundle of stuff here.

First up is the usual running commentary, this one from screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio. There's also an hour long documentary on the film's preproduction process as well as a preproduction diary, some "Bloopers of the Caribbean" which are fairly lame, and "Creating the Kraken."

There's also "Captain Jack: From Head to Toe," "Mastering the Blade," which is about training the actors for their sword fighting, "Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend," "Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction, "Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage," which looks at one of the movie's least necessary scenes, "Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer's Photo Diary," and "Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man's Chest Premiere."

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, from Walt Disney Home Entertainment
150 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, directed by Gore Verbinski

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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