Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to our T-shirt Store!
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits
Matt Rowe's MusicTAP

-Established 1997-




page added: 5/21/07
updated: 5/23/07




Hi-Def Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Bill Hunt, Editor of The Digital Bits

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Blu-ray Disc)

1080p - Analog Full ResolutionBlu-ray Disc FormatUncompressed PCM 5.1

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
2003 (2007) - Walt Disney Pictures (Buena Vista)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on May 22nd, 2007

Film: A-
Video (1-20): 18.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Extras (original/new): B+/B


Specs and Features:
143 mins, PG-13, AVC 1080p standard (2.35:1), 2 discs (movie: BD-50 DL, extras: BD-25 SL), Elite Blue HD packaging (2-disc) with slipcase, all video-based features from the previous 2-disc DVD Special Edition are included (480i) as are all of the features from The Lost Disc, new Blu-ray features include Jolly Roger animated menus, the Scoundrels of the Sea programmable/interactive documentary (BD-Java) and Movie Showcase, 5 Easter eggs, insert booklet, animated film-themed root menu with audio/"in-film" menu overlay, scene access (16 chapters), languages: Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (English) & Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French and Spanish), subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish


DVD Features Not Included:
The DVD-ROM features from the previous 2-disc Special Edition are not included, but you don't miss them.


Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is a Captain without a ship, having been cut adrift of his previous command by a mutinous crew. He's also a pirate and he's been captured by the local British Naval forces, so you might say he's down on his luck. Things turn around for him however, when his former crew attacks the port in which he's being held prisoner and kidnaps Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), the daughter of the local governor. Shortly thereafter, the young blacksmith and swordmaker who loves her, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), breaks Jack out of jail on the condition that he help rescue her. Jack agrees, and soon both Will and Elizabeth become entwined in Jack's campaign to recovery his lost vessel, the infamous Black Pearl. But they've gotten much more than they ever bargained for, as the crew of the Pearl are no ordinary pirates. Let's just say... you don't want to run across them on a moonlit night.

Based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name, director Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a thrilling and highly engaging romp across the high seas. It's well cast and acted, and is packed with clever humor and plenty of action. The film is a little on the longish side to be sure, but it never ceases to entertain.

Disney's new Blu-ray Disc release presents the film on Disc One in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, compressed with the AVC codec. The 1080p video quality is outstanding, with exceptional clarity, vibrant color and deep contrasts. There's virtually no compression artifacting visible, even in the most complex and fast-moving onscreen imagery. The audio is available in both standard Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as Uncompressed 48 kHz/24-bit PCM 5.1 surround. The lossless audio track features a tremendous dynamic range and precise spatial imaging, resulting in a wonderfully smooth and immersive soundfield. It's accurate to say that many people didn't experience quality this good even in theaters back in 2003.

In addition to the film itself, Disc One offers all three of the original audio commentaries from the previous 2-disc Special Edition DVD (including Verbinski and Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the actors, and the film's writers). The 50GB disc also includes a new documentary on the history of pirates called Scoundrels of the Sea. This is presented in full 1080 resolution as well. You can view this documentary in one of two ways: First, you can activate a BD-Java option that allows you to select various subjects of interest as you're watching the film itself. These are stored in the player's memory until the film ends, at which point you're able to watch a custom version of Scoundrels of the Sea that includes a look at exactly the subjects you selected. You can also access an index menu for the documentary (via the "Reveal Your Treasure" option in movie or "About Scoundrels of the Sea" from the main menu) that lets you view the complete documentary (there are over 30 segments in all, covering many different aspects of pirate lore) or view individual segments as you please. The feature works surprisingly well. Because of its Java content, Disc One takes about a minute to load, at least on my Pioneer BDP-HD1 (you see a spinning coin animation as it does so), but then it works perfectly once it's finished. The disc is also hosted by the CG animated Jolly Roger, who introduces the various options.

Disc Two is also Blu-ray format, but it contains only 480 resolution material. Disney has used the storage capacity of the BD-25 disc, however, to include not only all of the video-based features of the previous 2-disc Special Edition DVD, but also all of the additional bonus features that were included on The Lost Disc (that was later bundled with the original 2-disc DVD to form a new 3-disc gift set) - a very cool touch that I didn't expect. You get the complete multi-part An Epic at Sea documentary, the complete multi-part Fly on the Set documentary, the deleted scenes, the gag reel... you name it. Without posting the complete laundry list, know that I've compared the discs and virtually everything is here. The only thing that's not included as far as I can tell is the previous DVD's ROM content (which included a more in-depth look at the original theme park ride). I'm not a big ROM extras fan though, so I certainly didn't miss it.

[Editor's Note: I've confirmed with the studio that the Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray includes 5 hidden Easter eggs features (some on each disc), which is 2 more than were on the DVD version. If you find them, let us know and we'll update the review to include access instructions.]

About the only thing I dislike about Disc One of this set, aside from the load time, is that Buena Vista includes WAY too many previews and warning screens up front. These all play automatically, and while you can skip through them individually, you can't hit "menu" to bypass them all in one shot. This REALLY needs to change on future BVHE Blu-ray releases, because it makes accessing the movie easily a 5-minute process.

This one fault aside, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is an outstanding Blu-ray experience - easily the most comprehensive special edition released to date on the format. Unless you really loved the ROM content, you can safely get rid of all of your previous Black Pearl DVDs without fear of losing any special features - the new Blu-ray Disc edition gives you virtually everything you already had, along with a few new features to boot. And the high-definition video and high-resolution audio quality is absolutely top tier. It's not to be missed.



Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Blu-ray Disc)

1080p - Analog Full ResolutionBlu-ray Disc FormatUncompressed PCM 5.1

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
2006 (2007) - Walt Disney Pictures (Buena Vista)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on May 22nd, 2007

Film: B-
Video (1-20): 20
Audio (1-20): 19
Extras (original/new): B/B+


Specs and Features:
150 mins, PG-13, AVC 1080p standard (2.35:1), 2 discs (movie: BD-50 DL, extras: BD-25 SL), Elite Blue HD packaging (2-disc) with slipcase, all features from the previous 2-disc DVD Special Edition are included (480i) as are all of the features from the Best Buy-exclusive bonus disc, new Blu-ray features include Jolly Roger animated menus, the Liar's Dice interactive game (BD-Java) and Movie Showcase, 5 Easter eggs, insert booklet, animated film-themed root menu with audio/"in-film" menu overlay, scene access (28 chapters), languages: Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (English) & Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French and Spanish), subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish


Picking up the story shortly after the first film ended, Dead Man's Chest finds Will and Elizabeth about to be married, when Lord Beckett of the East India Company suddenly arrives and has them both arrested for helping Captain Jack Sparrow to escape British custody. But Beckett has an ulterior motive for wanting to find Sparrow... he's after the fabled Dead Man's Chest, which is said to contain the powerful heart of Davy Jones himself. Beckett holds Elizabeth in custody while sending Will to find Jack's compass, which can locate the prize Beckett seeks. But Elizabeth manages to escape and sets out to find Jack and Will on her own, soon learning that Jack has tricked Will into becoming an enslaved part of Davy Jones' crew on the Flying Dutchman. Loyalties are tested and strained to the breaking point as the race to find the Chest ensues, with Jones determined to stop them using all the dreaded deep sea forces under his command.

Director Gore Verbinski's follow-up to the original Pirates of the Caribbean is not a bad film, but it's not great either. The film is hampered by the fact that it is truly a middle chapter, and therefore contains little in the way of setup or resolution. It's also clear that special effects and set-piece action has taken the place of much of the heart of the first film. Gone is most of the character development of the original, as well as much of the mirth and fun interplay of the characters. This sequel also introduces the idea that Elizabeth has a romantic attraction to Jack as well as Will, something that I didn't buy at all and which seems to come out of left field. Still, there is some great action here - the Kraken in particular is fun to watch. And there are moments that remind you why you liked the original film so much to begin with, including a clever and funny scene in which Jack, Will and the Black Pearl's crew must escape from a village of cannibals. When all is said and done, it seems likely that the success of this film will hinge largely on how well the third film in the series, At World's End (which hits theaters this coming weekend), can deliver the dramatic and emotional payoffs fans of the trilogy crave.

I going to say this right now up front: Disney's Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray delivers the best looking 1080p video I've seen yet on any HD format. Nearly the entire 50GB of Disc One is devoted to the film data alone, giving the AVC compression plenty of room to breathe. The clarity and detail visible in the imagery here is sublime, with not a hint of artifacting or other unwanted defects. The colors are rich and accurate, with contrast that reveals deep and detailed shadows as well as bright-lit scenes. The audio quality is also outstanding in both standard Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as Uncompressed 48 kHz/24-bit PCM 5.1 surround. From the soft creaking of wooden-hulled ships rolling in the ocean tides to the rumbling screech of the Kraken tearing those same ships in half, the audio here is a sonic delight. Dead Man's Chest is easily THE demo disc to best show off what Blu-ray is capable of. Who says you don't need 50GB?

As with the first Pirates on Blu-ray, Disc One here contains the same audio commentary with the writers as the previous 2-disc DVD release. Again, the disc is hosted by a CG-animated Jolly Roger, who introduces everything. Disc One also offers a BD-Java interactive game, based on the game of Liar's Dice played by Will and Davy Jones in the film. The idea is that you and your opponent each roll 5 dice in a cup - your dice remain covered from the view of the other player. Once you see what your own dice are showing, you make bets as to what you believe ALL the dice (yours and the other player's) will show - 3 fives, 4 twos, etc. If you think the other player's bet is false, you can call him a liar (he can do the same to you). The loser of this bet loses one die, and the player who loses all his dice first loses the game. What makes this feature interesting, is that you're actually playing against characters from the film - a couple of the pirate actors were brought back to shoot new HD footage of dozens of original lines and responses to each possible outcome in the game. Better still, the game's AI learns how you play and reacts more effectively as you continue. Liar's Dice admittedly falls into the category of one of those "bells and whistles" we usually eschew here at The Bits, but it works well enough (and is actually fun enough) that it's worth your time. I should note here that Liar's Dice required a firmware update to my Pioneer BDP-HD1, a beta version of which Pioneer was kind enough to provide for this review (the public release will happen in the next couple of days - we'll post the link here when it's online). Before the firmware update, the game was extremely glitchy, but afterwards it worked almost flawlessly. Just be aware that your particular brand of player may also need firmware updating in order to function properly with the game.

Again, the only thing I really disliked about Disc One were all those damn Buena Vista previews and warning screens that play automatically before the movie starts. As with Disc One of The Curse of the Black Pearl on Blu-ray, you can skip through all these individually but you can't hit "menu" to bypass them all in one shot (at least you couldn't on my Pioneer player). It's really, really irritating, especially after the lengthy load time required by the disc's BD-Java content. Disney really needs to make these previews optional and not mandatory. It was one thing on mass-market DVD, but it's really not appropriate on a high-end format like Blu-ray. 'Nuff said.

Once again, Disc Two is a Blu-ray but offers only 480 resolution content. The good news, however, is that it again contains all of the special features that were on the previous 2-disc Special Edition DVD - every single thing is here. But that's not all - not only do you get all the extras from the previous DVD, you also get all of the features that were on the Best Buy-exclusive bonus disc as well (including more Pirates on Location and Inside Dead Man's Chest featurettes, as well as trailers from around the world and an image gallery). This again makes the Blu-ray Disc a complete archive of everything that's been released on DVD previously, in addition to the all new features created just for Blu-ray.

[Editor's Note: I've confirmed with the studio that the Dead Man's Chest Blu-ray includes 5 hidden Easter eggs features (some on each disc), 2 more than were on the DVD release. If you find them, let us know and we'll update the review to include access instructions.]

Simply put, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest delivers what is arguably the best looking 1080p video available yet on any HD disc format, and it adds audio quality and extras to match. A few minor issues aside, this 2-disc set remains an absolute must-have for any serious Blu-ray Disc fan.

Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com
E-mail the Bits!


Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2002 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com