Depp dives into a deep, dark place

Times Staff Writer

albeit quirky -- this Independence Day.

Until “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” three years ago, Johnny Depp was never considered a “family friendly” actor. The majority of his films, including “Donnie Brasco,” “Ed Wood” and “From Hell,” certainly were aimed at adult audiences. But since playing the eccentrically comic Capt. Jack Sparrow, Depp has enjoyed a larger and younger fan base, following up with “Finding Neverland,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and the second installment of “Pirates,” which opens Friday.

Depp was finally seen in adult fare again with “The Libertine” (Weinstein, $29), which was shot in early 2004 but not released until last November for Oscar consideration. It opened wider across the country this spring, but failed to catch on with critics and audiences.

A dark, somber, dank period piece -- it may also be one of the muddiest films on record -- “The Libertine” finds Depp playing the unsavory, debauched John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, who flourished briefly in the decadent London of the 17th century. John Malkovich and Samanta Morton costar.


The DVD includes deleted scenes, a making-of documentary and crisp commentary with first-time feature director Laurence Dunmore.

Pierce Brosnan has been charming, suave and debonair on the small and big screens, especially as James Bond in several “007" box-office hits. But his latest, the dark comedy “The Matador” (Weinstein, $29), is a real change of pace for the Irish actor. He plays an international hit man falling apart at the seams who befriends a middle-class Denver businessman Danny (Greg Kinnear) who is still grieving over the loss of his young son four years earlier. Hope Davis plays Danny’s wife.

The highlight of the added features on the DVD is the snappy -- and R-rated -- commentary between writer/director Richard Shepard and his two leading men. Rounding out the disc are numerous deleted and extended scenes.

The charming little comedy-drama “Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School” (Sony, $27) marks the first film that Scottish actor Robert Carlyle of “Trainspotting” and “The Full Monty” has made in America. He plays a shy widower who fulfills the wish of a dying stranger (John Goodman).


The film weaves new footage revolving around Carlyle with scenes from the short film of the same name that co-writer and director Randall Miller made 16 years earlier.

The complete original film is featured on the disc as well as affectionate commentary with Miller, his wife and co-writer Jody Slavin, and actor Elden Henson, who appears in both versions.

“Dr. Who: The Complete First Series” (Warner/BBC Video, $100): The BBC resurrected the 40-plus-year-old sci-fi franchise “Dr. Who,” about a time-traveling doctor, in 2004. This time around, the good doctor is played with much humor, mischievousness and gusto by Christopher Eccleston. Shortly after the series premiered to good reviews and wide viewership in England, Eccleston said he wouldn’t return for a second season due to typecasting fears.

The five-disc DVD set includes an interview with Eccleston and writer/producer Russell T. Davies and explorations of the special effects and use of miniatures. The fifth disc, “Dr. Who Confidential,” offers several behind-the-scenes features on the elaborate production.


What’s Coming:

July 11: “Basic Instinct 2" and “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”

July 18: “Tsotsi,” “She’s the Man,” “ATL” and “Clean”